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The Personality Of Jesus
From an ordinary person we can expect only ordinary things. From an extraordinary or unique person we can expect extraordinary things. To put into perspective the sayings of Jesus, we must first determine what sort of person he was. If he differs little from the common run of humanity, we cannot expect to find a hidden depth to his message, but if he proves to be unusual in his personality, we must look for the unexpected in his teachings.
It may seem audacious to try to sketch the personality of Jesus in a meaningful way when this has already been tried many times in more complete texts, Few personalities have been as frequently and variously treated as that of Jesus of Nazareth. In innumerable "Lives of Jesus" many writers have described to their own satisfaction what kind of person he must have been, but the tendency to oversentimentalize Jesus and the ease with which we can project into the figure of Jesus our own idealized images raise the question of whether it is possible to talk of a personality of Jesus at all. Add to this the paucity of the Gospel records, the complete lack of any physical description, and the debatable nature of some of the passages, and the task may look hopeless.
On the other hand, the basic historicity of the personality of Jesus cannot be doubted. Not only do we have the recorded events of the Gospels no mean historical data as ancient documents go but we have the very existence of Christianity as a testimonial to the existence of a remarkable person who launched a radical and enduring new religion. It isnot that we are without grounds, then, for believing that there was a person called Jesus of Nazareth, nor are we devoid of facts about him; the difficulty has been in finding some kind of yardstick by means of which an accurate sketch of his personality may be made.
Fortunately, we now have such a yardstick. The Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung devoted most of his life to the description of the whole, or total, human being. He has given us certain categories by means of which the range of personality may be described. It is valid to take Jung's insightful description of what makes up totality and apply these categories to what we know of Jesus of Nazareth. The results are most interesting and revealing.
Jung's most basic category is that of extraversion and introversion. Extraverts' center of interest and sense of personal identity are found in the world outside of themselves; here is where they find what is most appealing and valuable to them. Introverts, on the other hand, ultimately measure their values by what is taking place within and find that their chief interests and sense of identity lie in their inner world. Most people are well developed in one area of life at the expense of the other. So extraverts function quite well as long as life calls upon them to deal only with outer realities but fall into confusion if they are forced within themselves. Introverts may be quite at home with their own inner realm but feel overwhelmed by the world outside themselves. A whole person, however, has achieved some development in both realms. Without some development within, the life of the extravert may be shallow; without some capacity to function in the world, the insights of the introvert may prove ineffectual. Only if a person has some development both inwardly and outwardly can he or she be said to approach wholeness.
When we apply these categories to Jesus of Nazareth, we find that he appears to be equally developed in both the extraverted and introverted realms. We see his extraverted development in a life that involved him with people. Jesus met people constantly and confronted them both individually and in large crowds. In the Gospel of Matthew alone we read of twenty-four separate encounters between Jesus and a large multitude. Such a capacity for outgoing relationships, for functioning competently in the world, is a characteristic of extraversion. Jesus' introversion is equally well developed, however. Often we read that he retires alone in order to pray (e.g., Luke 5:16). He initiates his ministry by spending forty days of solitude in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-2/ Mark 1:12-13/Luke 4:1-2), something that no extravert would think of doing. At crucial moments in his life he retires into solitude again in order to reorient himself and discover his inner direction, as, for instance, in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his arrest and crucifixion (Matt. 26:36-46/Mark 14:32-42/Luke 22:40-46). It would be impossible from the evidence of the Gospels to say that Jesus was an extravert or an introvert; the only conclusion we can draw from the scriptural evidence is that he was both.A second set of categories by means of which Jung describes wholeness is the four functions of the psyche. In addition to being either extraverted or introverted, Jung says, the ego orients itself to life by means of four basic psychological functions. Two of these functions, thinking and feeling, have to do with arriving at conclusions. Two others, sensation and intuition, have to do with perception, or the gathering of information. These four functions are of such a nature that the development of any one of them is ordinarily possible only at the expense of its opposite, so that we may represent the four functions schematically like this:
Let us take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each of these functions. The person whose thinking function is well developed is called a "thinking type." It may be either extraverted or introverted thinking, depending on which is that person's basic orientation. A thinking type is at his or her best in dealing with situations that can be resolved through a process of abstract thought or conceptualization, at worst in a situation that requires feeling rather than thinking.The Kingdom Within copyright © by John A. Sanford. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All Rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.