§ 60. Jesus in Nazareth

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 2



§ 60.

Jesus in Nazareth.

Matth. 13, 53-58. Mark 6, 1-6.

After the account of the reception of Jesus in Nazareth, Matthew immediately tells us how Herod heard of Jesus; for he had to omit the account of the instruction and sending of the Twelve, which Mark has placed between the two pieces.

So far we had always found that the sections which Mark formed were homogeneous within themselves and contained a single tendency, or rather that Mark always carried out and elaborated the various tendencies, interests and situations in individual sections. “Outside of the groups that were distinguished from each other as distinct wholes, but were easily and fairly appropriately linked together, we never found isolated figures that separated themselves from the groups and either lagged behind in the movement of the whole or proved resistant to the connection with a single group. Now, suddenly, it seems to be different.” The fact that the disciples went out, preached repentance and performed miracles could still be connected with what follows, or rather it must be connected with it, for the activity of the Twelve should finally explain how the name of Jesus became more and more known and finally attracted Herod’s attention; but how the rejection of Jesus by the people of Nazareth could be inserted into this section as a homogeneous link seems more difficult to determine. Yet nothing is easier. Before Jesus sets out for Jerusalem, all the ties that bound him to Galilee are to be broken, the conditions in which he has hitherto moved are to be shaken, and the ground beneath him made unsafe. Ahab, whose weakness had been abused by his Jezebel to destroy the Baptist – the new Elijah – was shortly to meet the resurrected John, Jesus was henceforth to roam the northern provinces in disguise: how could this catastrophe be more thoroughly prepared than by the hardest blow that could strike Jesus, namely, that he himself was rejected in his native city? If his fate had been decided here in Nazareth and the last place of refuge had become inaccessible to him, he was now the Elijah who had to wander homeless and could only spread his blessings and prove his zeal for the truth by fleeing. This last test, this hardest blow had to happen in Nazareth, the home town, because Capernaum only accommodated the Lord on his journeys from time to time and this blow, if it had happened here, would not have had such great significance. But also this city should not see the Lord from now on, instead Bethsaida is mentioned, and when the Lord really visits Capernaum again shortly before his departure for Jerusalem, it happens quietly, without any noise and the former life, which otherwise awoke with his arrival in the city, has died: No crowds of people come to meet him, no crowd surrounds the house where he enters, no one emerges from the crowd to make a request to him: nothing of the kind happens, for the Lord has now become Elijah, the wanderer, who is not at home in a particular city and can only be found by the people out in the desert and on the shore of the lake when he returns from his wanderings.


In short, Jesus had to be rejected in Nazareth because of the tendency of the following section, and the report of his misfortune among his countrymen arose here, where it introduces the following section, and the proverb that a prophet is not respected in his hometown provided the theme for its elaboration. Only here in this ideal world, and only here in this specific context, does the report make sense, value, and significance; in the real world, however, it would have been highly insignificant if a small locality, even if it was his hometown, refused to acknowledge the prophet; the memory that deemed such a tiny incident worth preserving, and the tradition that carried such an insignificant story around and ensured that it came to everyone’s ears, both must have been very poor, meager, and unfamiliar with higher, more general interests.

When the origin of the report has been explained, we can unhesitatingly point out a contradiction that Mark was guilty of and leave its solution to the theologian. When Jesus, says Mark, appeared and taught in the synagogue of Nazareth on the Sabbath *), the people were astonished and said: “Where does such a thing come from? And what wisdom is this that is given to him, and what acts are done by his hand?” i.e. they spoke like believing Christians, and we do not understand how they should now again not acknowledge the wisdom which they acknowledged as such *).

*) Only Luke still has this provision (C. 4, 16.), because he was moved to keep it besides Mark 6, 1 also Mark 1,-1. Matthew was indifferent to this provision, he did not pay attention to it and left it out.

*) Matthew C. 13, 34 has the same recognition of Jesus’ wisdom and miracle-working, only abbreviated: ποθεν τουτω η σοφια αυτη και αι δυναμεις. Luke elaborated the contradiction into the objective C. 4, 22: και παντες εμαρτυρουν (!) αυτω και εθαυμαζον επι τοις λογοις της χαριτος τοις εκπορευομενοις εκ του στοματος αυτου. Compare Joh. 7, 15: και εθαυμαζον οι ιουδαιοι λεγοντες πως ουτος γραμματα οιδεν μη μεμαθηκως.


Only in passing do we recall the following change which the account of Mark has suffered under the hand of the later author. Mark (C. 6, 3.) only lets the Nazarethans exclaim: “is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of Jacob, etc.? And are not his sisters here with us?” Mark did not yet know Joseph and makes Jesus himself the carpenter, perhaps on the basis of a tradition. Luke merely lets the people ask: “Is this not the son of Joseph?” **) Matthew combines the two and, taking offence at the fact that Jesus himself is said to have been a carpenter, has the people ask: “Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary, and his brothers James, etc.? And are not all his sisters with us?”

**) C. 4, 22: ουχ ουτος εστιν ο υιος ιωσηφ. Cf. Joh. 6, 42: υχ ουτος εστιν ιησους ο υιος ιωσηφ ου ημεις οιδαμεν τον πατερα και την μητερα; One thing is said here twice.

The prelude to the following drama of Elijah will end immediately when we consider the account of the beheading of the Baptist.


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