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Johannine Christology According to Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger ). Rev. Mr. Eric F. Olsen. The idea of relation and of relativity “is the dominant theme of [John’s] theology, at any rate, of his Christology.”

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the main idea

The idea of relation and of relativity “is the dominant theme of [John’s] theology, at any rate, of his Christology.”

Ratzinger, Concerning the notion of person in theology, Communio 17 (Fall, 1990), 446.

The Main Idea
what does this mean

It means that Jesus’, that is, the Son’s, most central characteristic is his loving relationship with the Father.

He receives his life in eternity from the Father and he receives it in time from the Father.

He also gives himself back to the Father in eternity and in time.

This amounts to saying—the Father and the Son love each other totally and give themselves to each other totally.

We see one example of this understanding in his account of “word” in the Gospel of John…

What Does This Mean?
a word

“A word is essentially from someone else and toward someone else” (Ratzinger, 446)

My teaching is not my teaching (John 7:16).

Augustine: isn’t this a contradiction?

A Word
a word5

“Christ’s doctrine is he himself, and he himself is not his own, because his ‘I’ exists entirely from the ‘you.’”

“What belongs to you as much as your ‘I,’ and what belongs to you as little as your ‘I?’”

(Ratzinger, 447)

A Word
what does all of this mean

The essence of Jesus’ teaching is not some new rule, but he himself. He proclaims that the Kingdom of God is present because he is here. He is God among us.

Yet, also, his teaching is not his teaching (he is not his own), because he recognizes that his being is something that he has received from his Father.

What does all of this mean?
two more johannine texts


The Son cannot do anything of himself (John 5:19).

I and the Father are one (John 10:30).

  • Examples:
  • But Jesus answered them, "My Father is at work until now, so I am at work." (John 5:17)
  • Jesus answered and said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also. For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does. (John 5: 19-20)
  • For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself. (John 5:36)
  • I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me. (John 5:30)
Two More Johannine texts
the upshot

“This means, precisely because he has nothing of himself alone, because he does not place himself as a delimited substance next to the Father, but exists in total relativity toward him, and constitutes nothing but relativity towards him that does not delimit a precinct of what is merely and properly its own—precisely because of this they are one” (Ratzinger, 445).

The Son accepts himself entirely from the Father and gives himself back entirely to him. Because there is no part of what he is that he has not received, and no part of what he is that he does not return in love to the Father, what he is is the same as the Father (ie, the one divine Being).

As Traditional Catholic teaching would explain, who he is (the Son) is the only thing different in him from the Father.

Because they give themselves to each other totally, they coincide, in a way.

The Upshot
and its relation to us

“This structure is in turn transferred—and here we have the transition to anthropology—to the disciples” (Ratzinger, 445).

Without me you can do nothing (John 15:5)

At the same time he prays “that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:7).


Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. (John 6: 57).

Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me. (John 12:23-26)

If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. (John 13: 14-15)

And its relation to us???

“In God there are three persons—which implies…that persons are relations, pure relatedness.

Although this is in the first place only a statement about the Trinity, it is at the same time the fundamental statement about what is at stake in the concept of person.

It opens the concept of person in the human spirit and provides its foundation and origin” (Ratzinger, 447).


“The origin our own being” has “once and for all [been] disclosed in the word of Jesus the Christ” (Ratzinger, 454).


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