§ 78. Controversy about the justification of Jesus

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 3



§ 78.

Controversy about the justification of Jesus.

Mark, 11, 27-33.


1. The question of Jesus’ opponents.

If Matthew already let the Pharisees come forward with their doubts after the temple cleansing when Jesus was surrounded by the rejoicing children, and then the cursing of the fig tree follows, and upon arriving at the temple, Jesus is asked by the high priests and elders (C. 21, 23) in what authority he does these things, then theologians must, as they actually do, argue about which action of Jesus this question refers to, as if it were doubtful. As if it does not refer to the temple cleansing. As if the mistake does not only lie in the fact that Matthew, already after the temple cleansing, let the opponents of Jesus come forward with a question that was also very inappropriate, and before the other question of the priests, he set the whole story of the cursing of the fig tree.


Luke has not even earned praise as a copyist. After the cleansing of the temple, he notes that Jesus taught “daily” in the temple, that the priests tried to destroy him, but found no means because the people were devoted to him. One day, Luke continues, when he was teaching in the temple again, the opponents asked him about his authority. Luke 19, 47. 48. 20, 1. 2.

The priests heard what Jesus did – as Marcus notes at the same moment when he performed the temple cleansing – and sought to destroy him, for they feared him – so it is beautiful and fitting for the beginning! – how appropriate is that note that they found no way to carry out their revenge, as now a whole series of attacks follows, meaning that they thought they had found a way to destroy him in the following questions! – they feared him because the people were strongly moved by his teachings, meaning – as the original evangelist wants to say – they did not dare to openly attack him under these circumstances, but sought to catch him with cunning. Now, while Jesus goes home in the evening and until he appears in the temple again the next day, they have agreed on an attack plan, the whole army: “the high priests, the scribes, and the elders” – all of them, because judgment is to be pronounced on the keepers of the vineyard – everything is unleashed against Jesus, and they seek to catch him with the question, in what authority he does this, meaning as a judge, reformer – temple cleaner.


In his pragmatism of miracles, the Fourth has given the question, which he immediately raises after the cleansing of the temple, the twist that the Jews demand a sign to convince themselves of his authority!

2. The dispatching of the opponents.


Jesus rather sets a trap for the opponents by declaring that he will only answer their question when they have first told him whether John’s baptism was from heaven or from men. In how far the question was a trap for them, the opponents – for they are clairvoyant, since Mark pushes this insight into their heads – must themselves pronounce: if we say – so they discuss among themselves – it is from heaven, he will say, why did you not believe the same, or shall we say: from men? That was enough! Now Mark can complete and explain this incomplete second member himself, by adding: they feared the people, because all took John for a prophet.

Matthew added this second part of the priests’ question very clumsily: “But if we say, ‘From men,’ we are afraid of the multitude, for all etc.!!” Matt. 21:26. It’s not so inappropriate, but unnecessary, and it obliterates the beautiful turn of phrase with which Mark portrays the people’s embarrassment. On the other hand, Luke added to the question in a prosaic manner, blurring the nice turn of phrase with which Mark depicts the people’s embarrassment: “But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet etc.” Luke 20:6. —–

The whole narrative could only be formed later, when the connection between the Baptist and Jesus had been dogmatically worked out.


3. The two sons of the vineyard owner. 

Matth. 21, 28 – 32.

The parable which Jesus now, after exposing his opponents in their embarrassment, commends to their consideration, namely, the parable of the two sons of the vineyard owner, is known only to Matthew: of course, he, the last of the synoptists, invented it first. The one son, after being told by his father to go to the vineyard and work there, declares himself willing to do so, but does not go to work; the other, in response to the same request, declares that he does not want to go to work, but changes his mind and goes. Matthew himself says where he got the theme for this parable: at the end he lets Jesus speak of the behaviour of the rulers and the tax collectors and fornicators towards John’s mission, i.e. he has exaggerated the contrast that Luke sets up between the “people and the tax collectors” and the Pharisees in their behaviour towards the Baptist (Luk 7, 29. 30) – “fornicators and tax collectors”! – into a parable, but here very untimely.


When Jesus has dispatched the priests and exposed their embarrassment, he can still destroy them completely by means of a parable – as he does in the writing of Mark by means of the parable of the labourers in the vineyard – but then the parable must be appropriate, as is the case with that of Mark. The one about the two sons of the vineyard owner is inappropriate. First of all, the matter of John’s mission is settled, sufficiently and perfectly settled: why bring it up again? And why so inappropriate? Why the ironic contrast of fornicators and publicans, to whom the priests and rulers do not necessarily form the contrast? And if the people were contrasted with the priests, the matter would still be inappropriate, since the priests now come under guard as labourers in the vineyard, which is God’s church. The people, the congregation, cannot be contrasted with the priests, the people are presupposed as innocent, indifferent, and only the true guardian and worker in the vineyard, entitled by God, is involved when the priests have asked Jesus about His authority.

In short, the only parable that was in its place here is the one we find in Mark, the parable of the master of the vineyard whose servants rebelled against him, even killing his son after they had killed his former messengers, and who finally found their punishment so that the vineyard was entrusted to better workers.


4. The workers in the vineyard.

Mark 12, 1 – 11.

Just as Jehovah in that parable of the vineyard – in which, however, the behavior and fate of the people in general forms the interest, which Mark has thus adapted to a new turn – suddenly, after presenting the legal case, calls on the people to decide the dispute between him and his vineyard, thus pronouncing his own verdict (Isaiah 5:3-5): in exactly the same way, after describing the behavior of the disobedient workers, Jesus asks his opponents what the owner of the vineyard will do, that is, he invites them to consider what their own judgment will be, but he himself pronounces this judgment: rightfully so. Since this is what the Old Testament type commands, and since it would be too absurd to assume that the opponents did not understand the tendency of the parable and should fall into the trap. (Mark 12:9)

Matthew was therefore very clumsy when he really let the priests answer and speak the judgment that the Lord himself pronounces on them in Mark (Matth. 21, 40. 41). Yes, already in the previous parable of the two sons of the vineyard owner he committed the same imprudence.

Luke has made a mistake in a different way: after Jesus announced the fate of the disobedient workers, he lets the listeners – as if they were the ones affected – very naively say: “That be far from us!” even though it was he who twisted the matter so that Jesus spoke the parable to the people.

Because the son of the owner of the vineyard is also mentioned in the parable among the messengers sent to the disobedient workers, something would be missing at the end, after the punishment of the workers has been announced, if it remained that the son of the Lord was killed. A remark must follow, which also contrasts the miserable end of the rebels with the change in the fate of the Son. A deep intimation follows when Jesus asks immediately after the threat against the workers: have you not once read in the Scriptures: the stone which the builders rejected became the cornerstone? – very hosanna cry of the rejoicing people.


It was not particularly fortunate that Luke, because he mentions the stone, combines the proverbs Isa. 8, 14 and Daniel 2, 34. 35 and lets Jesus speak of the stone of offence and of the stone that crushes the one on whom it falls, Luke 20, 18; for the miserable fate of the rebels is already indicated in the parable. But Matthew was even more unfortunate if he really, as it seems to him, copied this addition from Luke, after he had just let the Lord pronounce the end of the rule of the Jewish priests with dry words (Matth. 21, 42 – 44).

The fact that the Lord says: the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will bring forth the fruits of it, is also extremely inappropriate because – as has been noted – the vineyard is the community, which is presupposed to be innocent and indifferent, and only the leaders of it are concerned. Yes, in the parable (Matth. 21, 34) it is even assumed that the vineyard has borne fruit – so where does the saying come from about a vain people who know better how to prepare the fruits of the kingdom of God? Matthew wanted to prove to us that it is impossible for an evangelist to carry out a thought purely and humanly, and the following parable was already in his mind, in which, of course, it is about the congregation and its members themselves. But he should not have used this parable of the wedding, at least not here, where it is not about the congregation itself, but about its members.


5. The Royal Wedding 

Matth. 22, I – 14.

Matthew never fails to show us how far the confusion of his view goes. After the parable of the labourers, he gives the concluding remark of Mark, that the adversaries perceived that Jesus spoke of them, and that they sought to catch him, but feared the people. But how may a new parable now follow? The matter is now at an end. He must now in any case omit the closing words of Mark: “and they left him and went away” – for the people are to hear a third parable – and finally, since he has put the note of the rancour of the rulers out of connection with what follows by means of the stuck parable, the note that the Pharisees sought to catch him by an utterance, this note, which introduces the story of the
tribute to Caesar (Matth. 22, 15), is also deprived of its necessary setting.

And why a new parable, when the priests had already noticed that Jesus spoke of them in the previous one? How ridiculous is the remark that the priests noticed that he meant them, in a scripture in which the publicans and fornicators were held up to them as an example and contrast, and in which they were told in bare words that the kingdom of God was to be taken from them? Matt. 21, 32. 43.

And if only Matthew had at least properly copied Luke’s parable of the wedding! No! Over the one point, that instead of the high guests who refuse the invitation, lowly riffraff is brought from the fences and street corners, he not only builds – as if a new tower could be built on the top of a church steeple – the other, that one of the riffraff is rejected again because he had not put on a wedding garment: but, as the preceding parable is still in his mind, in which the disobedient are punished, he lets the king overrun and spoil the guests who had not accepted his invitation with war! !


Luke formed his simple parable of the servants who were gathered together for the wedding after the invited guests did not respond to the call, when the Gentiles had already taken the place of the Jews. He formed it according to that Old Testament view, according to which Jehovah prepares a meal at the time of the final consummation, specifically according to the view that Wisdom (Proverbs 9:2-3) prepares her table, sends out her servants to invite to her meal, and also lets her voice be heard on the way, at street corners and in the squares (ibid. 8:2-3). Finally, according to a saying of Jehovah, that those whom he called did not obey him and that he will prepare a meal for his true servants, while the disobedient ones, which of course only Luke has reported, shall receive nothing from the meal (Isaiah 65:12-13). (Luke 14:16-24.)

That Luke has the Lord himself recite this parable at a banquet – at a banquet which we have already mentioned above – on the occasion that one of the guests sighs: “Blessed is he who eats bread in the kingdom of God! that this sigh comes because Jesus said beforehand that one should not invite friends and rich neighbours to the table, but the poor and the crippled, for blessed is he who acts accordingly, for he will one day be rewarded accordingly, that finally this advice follows the other, that one should not watch for the first seats at a banquet, In short, Luke has all these conversations take place at a banquet, because the banquet is the theme, and in this way he presents the theme of the reversal of the human order one after the other in three different sentences (Luk 14:7-11, 12-12). 14, 7-11. 12 -14. 15 – 24), that he makes the transition to the last sentence by means of that shocking sigh, we do not want to give him too much credit. He is no Homer!


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