There is another element, namely the esoteric character of these mysteries. You must learn the words esoteric and exoteric: the former is derived from the Greek eso (inner, internal) , and the latter is from exo (outer, external, public). The mysteries were esoteric: you had to be initiated. You can enter them only after a harsh process of selection and preparation. In this way alone, the mystery of the mystery performances is protected against profanization, and later on, in the Christian congregations, against betrayal to the pagan persecutors.

So we have in these mysteries a lot of elements which the early Christian church accepted. But of course all this is preparation, is potential. The decisive preparation is the event which is documented in the New Testament. And therefore we must say that the decisive preparation of Christian theology is the New Testament. Now I cannot give you here a New Testament theology, but I can show, with a few examples, how early Christian theology used the New Testament. I can speak about the method: it is the reception of New Testament categories of interpretation, and their transformation in the light of the reality of Jesus as the Christ. This means Christian theology used the New Testament always in two steps: reception and transformation. It received the categories which developed in the surrounding religions, in the Old Testament, in the inter-testamental period, and used them in order to interpret the event Jesus. But in doing so they also transformed the meaning of these categories, or symbols, however you want to call them. For example, with respect to Christology: Messiah is the old prophetic symbol.

What happened was that this symbol was applied by the early disciples, perhaps in the very beginning of their encounter with Jesus, to the name “Jesus.” This was a great paradox. It was, as we can say adequate because He brings the New Being , and it was inadequate because all the connotations of the word “Messiah” go beyond the actual appearance of Jesus. Therefore Jesus himself, according to the records, realized the difficulty of this double judgment. He himself had this double judgment.”Messiah” (“Christ” in Greek) is adequate; it brings out the new reality which appears in him; and it is inadequate: it brings it out in a way which necessarily produces misunderstanding. Therefore He prohibits his disciples to use this term at all. Now it might be that this is a later construction of the records, but however it may be, it mirrors the double judgment about this concept whether Jesus himself had it or the early congregations, which we never know, with certainty, in any case: namely, it mirrors the fact that such a category is, on the one hand, adequate, and on the other hand is inadequate.