Historical Jesus and Mokmin hermeneutics with reference to the description of Jesus in Minjung theology in Korea
The quest for the contextual meaning of the life and teaching of the historical Jesus seems to be a perennial question. Given the religious, cultural and social situation in Korea as well as in Asia generally, any theological reflection should be both contextually relevant and faithful to the Gospels. This thesis attempts to articulate the Jongshin ('Spirit or Teaching') of the historical Jesus, the Master of Christianity, using the concept of mokmin ('to serve the people'), which comes from the intellectual heritage of the Korean people, as a hermeneutical key. In the endeavour to present a mokmin perception of the historical Jesus, it is necessary to respond to minjung theology in Korea. Developed in the 1970s and 1980s in Korea when people suffered under political oppression and economic exploitation, minjung theologians found the biblical basis for their theology of liberation in their description of the historical Jesus. They perceived Jesus' status as a minjung, who identified himself with the minjung and denied himself any leadership role among the minjung. This thesis argues that we should not confuse Jesus' being and the character of his ministry. Jesus was not a minjung, but a royal figure. The perception of Jesus' mission as a minjung movement or as a minjung revolt is also refuted. Jesus' mission is characterised by his mokmin praxis in that a royal figure sided with the lowest people in the society. The mokn1in praxis of Jesus is grasped in three aspects: solidarity with the poor min ('people'), awakening the social responsibility in Jesus' community and pedagogy of the oppressors, i.e., the Jewish religious leaders and the rich in the society. First, we observe that there should be no question about Jesus' mission for the poor min. Jesus broke the social and religious barriers in Judaism to reach out and side with the poor and suffering min, which is most dramatically demonstrated in his healing ministry. Jesus became the source of hope for the poor min by taking the initiative in releasing the han ('the accumulated grief') of the people. Secondly, Jesus envisioned a society in which no status distinction among its members exists and social justice is established. For this, Jesus selected the twelve disciples as representatives of the community and as transmitters of Jesus' Jungshin, and inculcated them to embody mokmin praxis. Thirdly, Jesus demonstrated his intention to be the pedagogue of the oppressors. Jesus consistently challenged the Jewish religious leaders and the rich members of the society to accept his teaching and side with him for mokmin praxis. We perceive that Jesus' mission as the pedagogue of the oppressors was even more radical than his gesture to side with the poor min, for the cost of Jesus' pedagogy of the oppressors was his life. What we attempt to demonstrate in the thesis is not only to present an authentic and contextual perception of the Jongshin of the historical Jesus but also to expose the failure of minjung theology to present a holistic image of the historical Jesus to the Korean people. (Its historical contribution in Korea to the democratisation movement in the 1970s and 1980s is beyond the scope of our discussion.) The theological significance of this study is that the perception of the historical Jesus as mokmin Jesus provides both a biblically faithful and a contextually relevant understanding of the historical Jesus. The broader theological implication of this study is linked with the concerted effort to discover Korean questions and, furthermore, to build a Korean and an Asian way of doing Christian theology.