Saturday, December 14, 2013

Blogging with Barth: CD 1.2 §14.3 "The Time of Recollection" pp. 101-121

The Leitsatz (thesis statement) for §14 states: "God’s revelation in the event of the presence of Jesus Christ is God’s time for us. It is fulfilled time in this event itself. But as the Old Testament time of expectation and as the New Testament time of recollection it is also the time of witness to this event."

In subsection §14.3 ("The Time of Recollection"), Barth wants to talk about the second aspect of "fulfilled time" which is "post-time" (he talked about "pre-time" in the previous section). Barth calls "post-time" the "time of recollection." The record of the "time of recollection" is the New Testament.
Fulfilled time is followed by a very definite time that is bound up with it. This definite subsequent time as little coincides with the time post Christum datum [after the birth of Christ] as preceding time does with the time ante Christum datum [before the birth of Christ]. We are concerned here with the time of a definite history taking place in this new era of time. This is history which is derived from the revelation that has happened in the same individual and unique way as the pre-history we spoke of runs to meet it. Like that pre-history, it is quite different from fulfilled time, but like it, too, it is wholly related to fulfilled time and bound up with it. This subsequent time is the time of the New Testament, or the time of the witness to recollection of revelation. It belongs to the time of fulfilment. It is bound up with it. We cannot speak of the time of revelation without also speaking of it. That there is this subsequent time and a witness to the recollection of revelation, that Christ as the recollected One was also manifest in the time of the New Testament and is recognisable in the witness of the New Testament, seems more illuminating and comprehensible than the corresponding statements which we had earlier to draw up and ponder regarding the preceding time of the Old Testament (101-102).
The New Testament is a witness - documents which testify to a recollection of One in particular, Jesus Christ:
The New Testament makes no claim at all in favour of the religion documented in it, but it does claim to be heard as witness, as witness to the recollection of a revelation which is just as much beyond the factual condition and content of the New Testament as it was beyond the condition and content of the Old Testament, but with this difference that the completed event of revelation does not lie before but behind the witness to it. In the New Testament, too, revelation breaks in from above, from an altitude which is not that of a so-called historical peak. Moreover, the condition and content of the New Testament are to be understood in terms of their own peculiar alignment, their formation on the basis of revelation, and only in view of this formation or alignment, not in view of itself can we speak sensibly of revelation in the New Testament. Along with the New Testament itself we must stand within the perspective of revelation in order to achieve the act of recollecting the revelation that happened, which its witness demands of us. And this understanding from the perspective of revelation, which constitutes the genuine act of recollection, and which is the prerequisite for anyone reading the New Testament in the right way, i.e., participating in this genuine act of recollection, lies in no one’s power, but only in the power of revelation itself. It must not only speak itself, it must also fashion our hearing, the obedience of faith. In other words, even in relation to the New Testament’s claim to revelation, we are pointed to Jesus Christ Himself, to the act of lordship in which He gives the Holy Spirit of hearing and obedience to whom He will. The Evangelists and apostles are only servants of His Word; they cannot substitute their word for it. The truth of His revelation is grounded and proved solely by Himself. Here, too, theological explanation cannot take the place of this basis. Here, too, it can only think of offering a subsequent description (102-103).
Barth then states that "this theological explanation we shall also have to show to what extent the recollection attested in the New Testament really corresponds with the expectation attested in the Old Testament" (103). There are then three things to consider:

1) First, that the New Testament points to the revelation in the incarnation, in this name Jesus Christ, born in space and time, who is more than just a sign or symbol:
"The New Testament, like the Old Testament, is the witness to a togetherness of God and man, based on and consisting in a free self-relating of God to man. What in the Old Testament, in the expectation, was God’s covenant with man, is here, in the fulfilment, God’s becoming man. 
This is shown chiefly in the fact that recollection as compared with expectation points back, not only implicitly and not merely with the ambiguous explicitness of the Messianic hope in the Old Testament, but with such explicitness that now everything can be expressed by a particular name, the name Jesus Christ, circumscribed by particular space and particular time. Thus recollection points back to one centre at which God’s free, utterly unique, concrete action has taken place. In the Old Testament God’s action is history, in the New Testament it is just one history (103-104).
We will, therefore, if we sink to the level of the Jewish attitude to the Old Testament, again regard Christ as a mere sign or symbol, a mere witness to the real togetherness of God and man. There are signs and witnesses, because there is a thing signified. If there is no thing signified, the signs and witnesses do not exist as such. If we reject the thing signified, we certainly reject, too, the signs and witnesses, just as Israel confirmed by anticipation its rejection of Christ by rejecting more or less clearly all its men of God. Just because the signs and witnesses of the Old Testament point to the real togetherness of God and men, unlike the symbols and symbol-bearers of heathendom, they do not point to the empty space of metaphysical ideal truth, but to coming history. And it is to this history as history achieved that the signs and witnesses of the New Testament point back. But the common object of the two testimonies does not point anywhere but says: I am the way, the truth and the life. In a way different from Israel’s kings He exercises with His right the right of God, with His power the power of God. In a way different from Israel’s priests He forgives sins and creates reconciliation between God and men. In a way different from Israel’s prophets He is not there to receive and transmit the Word of the Lord, but He speaks Himself, in fact He is this Word. He accomplishes a plenipotentiary representation of God in which God Himself is the witness for man before Himself and the witness in man for Himself. He is not an   p 106  instrument of divine action. He acts Himself divinely and therefore as a true Mediator. This is the tenor of the witness of recollection in the New Testament, the sole intention of which is exclusively to confirm the Old Testament witness of expectation (105-106).
2) Second, the New Testament is a witness to the revelation of the hidden God. The story it tells is a witness to One who suffers, the man Jesus Christ, who takes away the sins of the world:
The New Testament, like the Old Testament, is the witness to the revelation of the hidden God. The conclusive proof of this is the circumstance just touched upon, that it sees revelation, the revelation expected by the whole of the Old Testament, at the very point at which one might well have seen the contradiction and annihilation of it, in the rejection and crucifixion of the Son of God by His chosen people. Here, too, essentially, the New Testament asserts nothing that differs from the Old Testament. On the contrary, we shall have to show that it is in the New Testament that the hiddenness of God in the Old Testament is first disclosed in all its completeness (106)
The New Testament answer to the problem of suffering—and it alone is the answer to the sharply put query of the Old Testament—is to the effect that One has died for all (109). 
As regards the great centre of New Testament witness we must now emphasise the moment, without the consideration of which it cannot be regarded either as the centre or as anything else. This centre is the passion, the suffering, the crucifixion and death of Christ (110). 
The resurrection is the event of the revelation of the Incarnate, the Humiliated, the Crucified. Wherever He gives Himself to be known as the person He is, He speaks as the risen Christ. The resurrection can give nothing new to Him who is the eternal Word of the Father; but it makes visible what is proper to Him, His glory. It is in the limitation, illumination and verification of this event and not otherwise that the New Testament views the passion of Christ. That is why in the passion it sees so powerfully the hiddenness of God. That is why it speaks so inexorably of the passing of this æon. That is why it is so naturally aware of the necessity of the sufferings of this time. That is why above all it binds man so strictly and universally under the divine accusation and the divine threat. The power of revelation is the power of God’s hiddenness attested by Him in this way. Therefore it is not just the passion and energy of a protesting, critical, resigned human No to man and his world that is operative here. It is really the passion of Christ. And it is the passion of Christ lit up and made articulate, made a real “word of the cross” (1 Cor. 1:18) by the supremely wonderful story in the background, which passes all comprehension and imagination, that “Christ is from His agony arisen, whereof we must all be glad; Christ will be our comfort.” (111). 
If it is true that this did happen and was consummated through Him who could actually do it, if it is true that as true God and true man He intercedes for God with us and for us with God, then we are in fact no longer the object of the divine accusation and threat. It is then the burden which is taken from us by God Himself and is laid entirely upon Christ. But for us remains life in a freedom for which we have to thank the compassion that became event in Christ. This whole alteration in the witness to God’s hiddenness takes place in so far as it is the witness of recollection to revelation which has happened, and is therefore New Testament witness. But, of course, the hearer of this witness will have to say at once that in this alteration there is disclosed only what, rightly understood, had already been said by the Old Testament witness (113).
3) Third, the New Testament is a witness to the revelation in which God is present to humanity as the coming God. To the recollection of Christ's birth and the Passion event we add the Resurrection event, which is a recollection of the pure presence of God.
The New Testament, like the Old Testament, is the witness to the revelation in which God is present to man as the coming God. In this statement, in the real agreement which it expresses in spite of every difference, the full circle of our deliberations is closed in a most extraordinary way. We had no right to expect it, yet the fact remains that the New Testament, the explicit witness of recollection, is also itself witness to the coming God. And that is really much too jejune a statement of the reality. We speak of an expectation explicitly unfolding itself in the Old Testament, of a specific eschatological line in the Old Testament. As regards the New Testament that would be much too mild a statement. Where in the New Testament is the eschatological line simply one line parallel to others? Which of the New Testament pronouncements, because they are the pronouncements of a definite recollection, are not implicitly or explicitly eschatological? (113).
A big exception must, of course, be made here, an exception which  proves the rule. I mean the Easter narratives of the four Gospels, together with that of Paul in 1 Cor. 15. In the slender series of New Testament accounts of the disciples’ meetings with the risen Lord we are dealing with the attestation of the pure presence of God. Obviously, the previous narrative of the life of Jesus is still pure expectation, even according to Jesus’ own words. Even the miracles of this life purport only to be signs of the presence of God. Only the transfiguration on the mount, in face of which Peter immediately wants to build tabernacles, seems formally to prepare for the great exception. And the sequel to Easter, the birth of the Church of Christ, is again the clearest and most consistent possible expectation—again perhaps with the exception of Christ’s appearance at the conversion of Saul. But the Easter story (with, if you like, the story of the transfiguration and the story of the conversion of Saul as prologue and epilogue respectively) actually speaks of a present without any future, of an eternal presence of God in time. So it does not speak eschatologically. The Easter story, Christ truly, corporeally risen, and as such appearing to His disciples, talking with them, acting in their midst—this is, of course, the recollection upon which all New Testament recollections hang, to which they are all related, for the sake of which there is a New Testament recollection at all. This very exception, then, deals with something of the utmost importance (113-114).
Why does this particular story receive this central place? We recall its direct relation to the passion, how it is the resurrection of Jesus that makes His passion manifest as the saving happening from God’s side, how in virtue of the resurrection the glory of the incarnate Word was seen by His followers. But how far does this resurrection possess this power to reveal? Because in the recollection of these witnesses the fact that Christ had risen actually points to a time, a real part of human time amid so many other portions of time, which, as it cannot become past, neither needs any future, a time purely present because of the pure presence of God among men. In this way the Easter story—which is quite indispensable to the whole, impossible to think away, the subject whose predicate is all the other narratives—signifies the event which is the proper object of all other narratives and teachings in the New Testament. The whole historical difficulty occasioned by the Easter story itself has its foundation in the fact that in it the New Testament witness touches the point at which as witness, i.e., as human language about and concerning Christ, it comes up against its true object, against the point where everything else depends upon this object, which in itself contains the Word of revelation. Little wonder human language begins to stammer at this point even in the New Testament (114-115).
How could it be otherwise? Recollection of the pure presence of God, recollection of a time which cannot be the past and has no future before it, recollection of eternal time, as this recollection obviously purports it to be—what sort of recollection is this? This fact, that the New Testament witnesses have this very recollection, and not just incidentally, but as the recollection which underlies and holds together all others—this fact is the amazing circumstance which can never be overlooked or denied in these texts, nor directly or indirectly overlooked anywhere else in the New Testament. The difficulty of grasping how this recollection of theirs was created, a difficulty which manifestly goes back to the fact that the New Testament witnesses themselves scarcely found language (and did not find it at all at the critical point) to transmit this recollection—this difficulty reflects the uniqueness of that to which their recollection is related, that which they manifestly had to say, and which manifestly had to be heard (115).  
But the Easter story, though it is a happening that once became an event in datable time, does not merely belong to the past (116).
With regard to expectation in the New Testament the change that has taken place as compared with the Old Testament consists in the fact, and only in the fact, that the coming Christ of whom New Testament witness speaks is now the object of recollection as He that has come. This cannot be said of the Messiah expected in the Old Testament, although Old Testament expectation refers only to Him that came according to the New Testament witness. As distinguished from Old Testament expectation, New Testament expectation knows concretely and explicitly who it is that is expected. It is simply recollection turned at an angle of 180 degrees, the recollection of the Word come in the flesh, whose glory the New Testament witnesses have seen. Similarly, the Christ it expects is none other than He whom it already knows as very God and very man, from whom also it is already derived. His coming is in fact only His second coming. Of course, this means a change. But the change is not a weakening of the alignment of this witness. What it means, rather, is that because of the concreteness and explicitness proper to the latter the Old Testament hope is also related to that of the New Testament as the question correctly put is to the answer correctly given. He who makes both question and answer correct by the fact that He comes, as the prophets hoped with the apostles and the apostles with the prophets, is the Lord to whom both testify as His servants (119-120).