Trudy Pert suggests that the crisis of modern Christianity deepened when mid-nineteenth century Protestant theologians embraced the higher criticism. Especially in Germany, the traditional devotional approach to the Bible was replaced by the “objective” techniques of historical and literary criticism. As a consequence, educated Christians turned their attention away from the “supernatural Christ” to the “historical Jesus.” A new sort of Kulturprotestantismus, or cultural Christianity, was born: Jesus Christ became a teacher of ethics rather than the incarnation of the divine. The crisis was real enough; it reflects a continuing failure by Christians to recognize the pivotal moment when the “supernatural Christ” burst back into human history to avenge both the crucifixion of the “historical Jesus” and the persecution of his faithful followers during their forty year mission to the ends of the earth.
In AD 70, Roman armies under Titus besieged Jerusalem to crush a long-running Jewish rebellion. Their triumph was a bloody affair; not only was the city sacked and pillaged but, according to the contemporary Jewish historian Josephus, the dead, most of whom “were pure and holy” Jews, numbered over one million.[i] The Romans also systematically destroyed the massive Temple complex. In doing so, they ripped out the redemptive heart of Old Israel. The massive Temple complex was the hub around which revolved the ritual observance of the Mosaic Law underlying Israel’s covenant with Yahweh. For Jews and Romans, alike, the destruction of the Temple was an act of world-historical significance. But the meaning of that cataclysmic event was not confined to the realm of secular history. Read more