Fall 2003

The Suffering Servant and the Passion of Jesus

Christoph Dohmen

“In Isaiah 53, the bond between act and worldly fate begins to dissolve. The speakers come to recognize and confess that what the servant undergoes—grief and sorrow—is not bound up with his deeds but rather with their own.”

For Christianity, the philosophical axiom of God’s impassibility (apatheia)1 first became relevant to the issue of Jesus’ Passion and death during the controversies surrounding christological (trinitarian) doctrine in the early Church. However, it is well to remember that the biblical tradition was already long aware of the problems inherent in any human speech about God,2 as Scripture’s reflective use of anthropomorphic or metaphorical literary figures confirms. Nevertheless, the violent end of Jesus’ life posed a huge problem for the first disciples, who evidently had trouble reconciling his fate with their own hopes and expectations, which culminated in their faith that this Jesus was the Messiah of Israel.3


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1.Cf. F. Meessen, “Leiden Gottes,” LThK3 6: 787.

2. Cf. C. Dohmen, “Vom Gottesbild zum Menschenbild,” LZ 50 (1995): 245–252.

3. For the background of this confession, cf. F. Mussner, “Der Messias Jesus,” Die Kraft der Wurzel (Freiburg, 1997), 75–88.