“Jesus was born, lived, preached, and died in Asia. Yet he is often seen as a Westerner” (p. 1). With these opening words, Indian Jesuit theologian Michael Amaladoss takes up the challenge to “make my own effort to look for images of Jesus in the context of Asia today,” a continent that is marked by significant “cultural and religious pluralism” (p. 6). Readers looking for a systematic Asian christology, a comparative theology, or an Asian restatement of classical dogmatic christological formulations would be sorely disappointed. Instead, Amaladoss has chosen to weave together a rich tapestry of diverse images from the Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian traditions, revealing the power of symbolic imagination for understanding Jesus’ soteriological significance. In particular, he invites all Christians, Asians and non-Asians, to join him in contemplating on, and unearthing new insights from viewing Jesus through different evocative Asian images.
In choosing to focus on Asian images of Jesus, Amaladoss makes it clear that he is eschewing a deductive and dialectical analysis in favor of an inductive and contemplative reflection. In his own words: “I am exercising my right as an Indian and Asian to speak of Jesus in my own language and culture and their symbols and images” (p. 7). On the one hand, Amaladoss does affirm the validity of traditional dogmatic christological statements (ibid.). On the other hand, he insists that “images do not deny dogma but complement it at another level,” bringing “a new perspective that makes Jesus relevant to us today. Dogmas tend to limit themselves to the exploration of what Jesus is in his ‘ontological and personal’ constitution in the context of heresies in the early centuries of Christianity” (p. 8).
In the ensuing nine chapters, Amaladoss explores the images of Jesus as the Sage, Way, Guru, Satyagrahi, Avatar, Servant, Compassionate, Dancer, and Pilgrim. Of these nine images, I personally find the image of Jesus as Dancer par excellence an apt and evocative symbol, bringing together ecstasy, creative movement and powerful emotions that characterize the traditional classical dances that are found throughout different Asian cultures. Scholars, students, and readers who are interested in Asian theological reflections would discover this book to be a profoundly spiritual and meditative work, and a worthy complement to an earlier book, Asian Faces of Jesus (Orbis, 1993), as well as a more recent book, The Jesus of Asian Women (Orbis, 2006).