Thoughts on Book #6: Authority and Passion

My interaction with the Orthodox church has been rather limited in the time I’ve known it to exist. I’ve had the privilege of visiting a few of their churches, one of which allowed me to sit in on a Bible study (which actually was studying the book of an Orthodox nun; pretty neat stuff, really), but no real dialogue has taken place. I find the church fascinating, albeit with a few misgivings on my part with regard to their designation of the ambiguous term “heterodoxy” on all non-Orthodox churches.

Therefore, the book Authority and Passion by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios Trakatelleis is really my first crack at anything involving Orthodox though, in this case regarding the Christology of the Gospel of Mark.  The author sets out to demonstrate the themes of authority and passion in relation to Jesus the Christ as present in Mark’s gospel, accomplishing this by going through the Gospel itself step-by-step, pointing out both themes in each story (pericope) as the Gospel progresses.

Th first of the five chapters of this book was pretty painful to read, not because it was poorly written, but because exploring the theme of authority in Jesus’ life is really nothing new at all.  I admit that I had the benefit of attending a Christian education and a lifetime in church, but pointing out how each miracle demonstrates Jesus’ authority over sickness, demons, nature, and even the grave isn’t something the average congregant hasn’t already heard in a hundred sermons from the pulpit. I was glad to move on past this point, and hoped to find something a little more meaty in the chapters regarding the Passion, but I unfortunately found more of the same.  It’s a lot of talk about things I already knew a lot about and understood.

I couldn’t peg who the target audience is for this writing. The language used is very academic, so it’s not for the newcomer to Christianity, but the subject matter is relatively basic, so it’s not really for anyone who’s spent much time studying theology or even simply the Bible. Perhaps this book exists for those who want to press deeper into understanding who Christ is, at least in the context of being divine. The Christology present here takes what’s known as a  “high, descending” approach, beginning with Jesus as being divine and showing how that plays out in Scripture and tradition.  This is opposed to a “low, ascending approach,” which begins with Jesus as a man and, through historical research, arrives either at his divinity, or perhaps a bit lower.  Being that Demetrios is a bishop in the Orthodox church, I wouldn’t expect anything less than the former.

In all, the content of this book is great; it’s just things I’ve already learned and read about.  Definitely a good read for the more curious Christian who wants to understand Jesus a little bit more.

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3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Book #6: Authority and Passion

  1. I’ve had the same basic experience dealing with my own religious upbringing. I’m not anti-religion or anything like that, but I’ve found it very hard to attend any congregation regularly because it’s usually just the same stuff I heard as a child being repeated over and over. I’ve never had any dealings with the Orthodox Church, and I find it fascinating to read about others’ experiences which end up being very similar to mine.

    • I think part of it was also what got left out. Many traditional churches either don’t know or leave out entirely the political overtones in the Gospels, even in Mark. Any time that an apostle was saying “Jesus is Lord” or was expressing his authority over anything, he was also saying that Caesar was not (one of the major phrases of the day was “Caesar is Lord” and is where the apostles took that phrase from, most likely). While you still get a good message and content without it, it’s rather dangerous to NOT talk about the politics behind Jesus’ teachings and miracles as presented in the Gospel narratives.

      Thanks for the comment, man!

      • That’s really interesting. I didn’t know about the “Jesus is Lord” thing. I think you hit the nail right on the head here. There’s so much stuff that’s just NOT said, and it inhibits the worshipers’ ability to completely understand their own religion. I know I learned a lot about the religion of my youth after distancing myself from it. It’s a new dynamic today though with information on the internet and in books so readily available for anyone who wants to go look. I think for churches to survive in the new world they’re going to have to start opening up to teachings about all the other stuff behind the scenes.

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