Jesus-Buddha-Krishna: still present?

Knitter, Paul

The intent of this article is to elaborate a more adequate understanding of the presence of Christ in Word and Sacrament, which will then make possible a more productive dialogue with Hinduism and Buddhism. Foundational to this investigation is contemporary theology's understanding of symbol-myth. First it is shown how, on the basis of what is being said about myth and symbol, the real presence of Christ in the Christian community can be understood meaningfully and coherently as a mythic-symbolic presence. This refocuses the problem of the relation between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith. It means that Christianity must move beyond "historicism"-the attitude that equates the real with the factual. More precisely, it implies that the experience of salvation is not mediated through historical events in themselves but insofar as they are "mythified": symbols save; historical events (as events) do not Christianity therefore can be said to be based on "mythistory," not just history. Various objections to this apparent mythification of Christianity are considered; the abiding importance of the historical Jesus is maintained. Such an esteem for the mythic Christ requires Christians to modify their claim that Christianity's uniqueness is based on its historicity. More precisely, Christians are called upon to recognize the real and salvific presence of the mythic Buddha and the mythic Krishna (and other Avatars) to their followers. Particular significance is given to the process in which Gautama--not unlike Jesus--was glorified and mythified after death.



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Journal of Ecumenical Studies

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Union Theological Seminary
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April 11, 2012