17 PROLOGUE 7 André Paul, Croire aujourd’hui dans la résurrection (Paris: Salvator: 2016). The present prologue also owes much to the book by the same author, Jésus Christ, la rupture: Essai sur la naissance du christianisme (Paris: Bayard, 2001). 8 This word refers not only to a reality inaccessible to human knowledge, but also to infinite realities that are the essential component of the human being, what he tends toward, what he is ordered to, his reason for being. Every human person is therefore open to the mysteries and is himself or herself a mystery. condemned Jesus to death. But now they feared nothing. When they were released, they would never cease proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus, despite the persecutions against them. Between five and thirty years after that, they would all be tortured and die, without ever having wavered in their testimony. Thus the truth—“tobebelieved”—about theResurrection of Jesus appears to be settled fromthe very origin of Christian preaching. Twenty years later (around 55), the apostle Paul—a leading Phariseewho had converted—wrote to the Christians in Corinth, who were already very numerous: “For I delivered to you what I myself received, that Christ died and that he was raised on the third day” (cf. 1 Cor 15:3-4). And he added: “If Christ has not been raised, our faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14). Fundamentally, the teaching of Jesus about the meaning of human life is intelligible only from the perspective of death which is merely a passage to life regained, welling up abundantly in an infinite space. According to Jesus, every human being, together with his body and everything that constitutes the proper identity of his person, is destined, after death, to infinitely augmented conditions of life and existence, under new forms that are inconceivable to us because they are divine. For Jesus, death is the supreme baptism, the passage toward a rebirth. The earthly existence, teaching, and passion of Jesus are facts that the historian can claim tomanage to reconstitute to a great extent, with more or less accuracy, of course. The Resurrection is a historical event that belongs to the truth of the faith, which is a subjective act of adherence. “And the faith would not be faith if someone succeeded in ’proving’ that it speaks accurately rather than that it ’sees’ the truth. For faith has eyes before it has words, and its words emanate from its eyes.”7 The Resurrection of Jesus, and consequently the resurrection of every human being, is the inexhaustible challenge that unceasingly rings out when the question is asked: “But who was that man, then?” THE REASON FOR BEING OF EACH ONE OF US The Gospels are not works by historians, in the modern sense of the term. However, in many respects, they can be likened to the classical vitae, “biographies” according to the current idea that people had of them in Antiquity. There is an essential difference, however: in taking up a pen to write, the authors of the final versions of the Gospels intended to make of them much more than “biographies.” The first intention of the evangelists was to reveal to human beings in all times and in all places the ideal objective of life to which everyone unceasingly aspires, often without knowing it and sometimes without willing it. An objective whose name is “beatitude,” in other words, “a life of happiness for eternity.” For this purpose, their authors structured the Gospels, not primarily to relate the life of a famous man, but to deliver a dramatic instruction about the reason for being of the human race. It was a matter of creating in each reader an intimate dialogue between “existence,” on the one hand, which is subject to all its vicissitudes and which will end in death, and, on the other hand, the “Life” revealed by Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ in all the potential of its eternal prospects. Thus the Gospels claim to offer to every human being the power to open himself to the infinite dimension of his own destiny. “Behold the man!” Pontius Pilate had shouted while showing Jesus to the crowd as a man condemned to death. “Behold theman!” the greatest artistic geniuses of humanity proclaimgraphically in this book. Most of themwere believers, and so they invite us not only to admire their own vision of the exceptional man that Jesus was, but also to follow after them and to enter into contemplation of the mysteries8 of the One who is forever the Risen Lord, the firstborn to eternal life of a multitude of brothers and sisters.