Author: Graham WARD, Regius Professor of Divinity, Oxford University
This essay argues for the importance of the Ascension of Christ both in the Scriptural narratives and the theological task today. It explores a movement in the Gospel narratives towards the displacement of the physical and historical Jesus of Nazareth, that is the gendered body of a Jewish peasant. Particularities of gender, ethnicity and class that mark that historical body are theologically refigured in the Ascension, when that body is removed from the historical frameworks and the socio-theological expectations associated with being the Jewish Messiah. The removal opens a space of transfiguration and transposition that the Church comes to occupy. The essay traces this theological transfiguration of the new community that Jesus as the Christ brought to birth through that new community’s theological reflections. It traces the economy of the deferred and destabilized body of the Messiah in the Scriptural accounts, examining a number of displacements that occur before the final and ultimate one, the Ascension itself. In doing this, the essay demonstrates how the old question of “Can a Male Saviour Save Women?” misreads what is happening to the body of Christ throughout the Gospels such that the displaced body becomes the body of Christ as the Church.
Body, Ascension, Displacement, Gender, Messiah
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