Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross at the hands of Roman justice around the year 30 CE. Thousands of others perished in the same way, and many people before and since have suffered far more gruesome torments. Why then is Jesus, Gerard Sloyan asks, uniquely and universally remembered for his suffering death? How has his death brought solace to many millions?
To answer this question, Gerard Sloyan in this powerful historical tour de force tracks the legacy of the cross across two millennia of Christian reminiscences, piety, art, speculation, and mythicizing. Beginning with New Testament accounts, he shows how Jesus’ death came to be seen as sacrificial. He then plots the emergence and development—in theology, liturgy, literature, art—of the conviction that Jesus’ death was redemptive, as seen both in soteriological theory from Tertullian to Anselm, in the Reformation and modern eras, and in more popular religious responses to the crucifixion.
Sloyan’s impressive scholarship and keen theological insights bring to light both the historical realities of Jesus’ death and the many and profound ways in which the cross has been received in the hearts and minds of those who profess Jesus’ name.
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Gerard S. Sloyan is an emeritus professor of religion at Temple University and a visiting professor of religion and religious education at Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. He is the author of numerous books, including Why Jesus Died and Preaching from the Lectionary: An Exegetical Commentary.