Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer
The last supper of Jesus.
The meal which, according to the fourth evangelist, Jesus enjoyed with the disciples at the end, is not the Passover meal of which the Synoptics speak, but that it is nevertheless said to be the same meal is evident from the fact that the very scene with Judas is said to have taken place at it, of which the Synoptics report as an intermediate incident at that Passover meal.
1. The preparations for the Passover meal.
All three synoptics tell us how Jesus made the arrangements for this last supper. Luke has understood the matter in such a way that Jesus took the initiative, that is, he sent Peter and John to make arrangements for the Passover meal, and only when they asked him where he wanted the meal to be prepared did he instruct them, they should only go into the city, where they would meet a man with a water jug, whom they should follow into the house where he would enter, and tell the master of the house that the Master would ask him where the inn was, where he could eat the Passover with his disciples.
According to Matthew, on the other hand, who thus remained faithful to Mark, the disciples first come to Jesus with their question as to where he would eat the passover, and he then gives them his orders.
This is much simpler and more natural. Therefore, when Jesus gives the disciples the order to prepare the Passover meal without telling them where and how, this means sending them into the wilderness, and this intentionally, in order to make them feel afterwards, in their embarrassment, how splendidly and wonderfully he knows how to provide for all cases in advance. This is affected, pretentious, embarrassing: it is later, intentional exaggeration.
Furthermore: While Mark and Matthew immediately get to the point and both report that Jesus spoke of the traitor and instituted the Lord’s Supper after the beginning of the meal, Luke has prolonged the matter and slowed down its rapid movement by letting the Lord say at the beginning of the meal: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). He has thus added a sentimental touch, and in order to make it quite significant, he has already arranged it so that Jesus takes the initiative and sends the disciples off to order the meal from the beginning, i.e. into the blue.
It is very easy to explain why the Fourth does not report anything about these arrangements for the meal and, what is more, about these wonderful arrangements. For he has – with what intention will become apparent in the course of this investigation – changed the chronology. The last supper of Jesus does not take place on the holy evening of the Passover, but on the evening before (C. 13,1). So it was self-evident that he had to omit those events, those wonderful events, which only had meaning and significance when the meal was the Passover meal, when it was the meal where Jesus shared the mystery of the Lord’s Supper with his congregation.
Yes, in wanting to tell what happened on this last evening between Jesus and the disciples, the fourth only mentions in passing – as if one already knew something about it! – thus most unattachedly, that it happened at a meal. In a very large and rambling sentence he tells (C. 13, 1 – 4) that Jesus got up from this – casually mentioned – meal and washed the feet of the disciples, and he states why Jesus did it – and how many reasons does he give? 1) Jesus knew that at last his hour had come to depart to the Father, 2) Jesus had always loved his own in this world and loved them to the end, 3) he knew that the Father had given everything into his hands, 4) also that he had come from God and was going to God! In short, the evangelist digs out all his dogmatics to give the reason why Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. How? He washed them because he knew that God had given everything into his hands? Nice reason. Because he knew that he had come from God and was going to God? Good reason! The only other reason could be that he loved the disciples. But must one wash the feet of one whom one loves? The evangelist has not understood Luke’s sentimental remark about Jesus: This expression of tenderness was incorporated into the long remark that Jesus always loved the disciples and loved them to the end, and with this remark, which he also embellished with his other dogmatics, he introduced the story of the washing of the feet, i.e. he used Jesus’ remark in Luke as an introduction to something completely foreign. If, because he had such important dogmatic matters on his mind, he could only casually mention that the following took place at a meal, it is clear that he was not allowed to report anything about the miraculous arrangements for the meal itself.
We now turn back to the Synoptics.
Essentially, apart from the false introduction that Luke gave to his account, it agrees with that of Mark. However, Matthew knows nothing of this miracle; Jesus simply tells the disciples, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house'” (Matthew 26:18). They did so and prepared the Passover.
What a report! What an instruction: “Go to a certain man”! Who says, when sending others to someone they don’t know, “Go to a certain man”?
Matthew had – who doesn’t understand this? – Matthew had a report before him in which the unknown person was mysteriously made known to the disciples. But since he does not love detail and does not know how to appreciate it, nor does he know how to compress the omission briefly and skilfully and to hide the gap from the eye, he omits the main thing precisely by abbreviating the report, and therefore does not say how the disciples would find the man they did not know, but calls the man a “certain man”, that is, leaves him completely indefinite and assumes – the contradiction is immeasurable – that the disciples would find the “certain man” as this “certain man” who still remains a “certain man”.
In contrast, the original account (Mark 14:12-16) seems to be a model of clarity, and relatively it is: the two disciples whom Jesus sends, when they ask him where they should prepare the Passover (Matthew carelessly only says “the disciples,” while Luke on his own identifies Peter and John as the two, to give the most respected ones the honor of this wonderful task), these two disciples, Jesus says, would find that homeowner if they followed a water carrier whom they would encounter in the city. However, this clarity is only illusory. Not to mention that in a city like Jerusalem, one must encounter many water carriers – was that homeowner known to the Lord and his disciples beforehand or not? He is an unknown person who, through the message of the disciples – “The Teacher says: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” – should be met and offered assistance in a wonderful way. But then Jesus already knew him beforehand as someone who was to be met through a miracle, Jesus knew him as such by virtue of his wonderful insight – so why this wonderful confusion that the disciples should find the man themselves only through a miracle, and even as a result of a miracle that is enormous, as all the water carriers had to be blocked from the streets of Jerusalem except for one single individual?
The miraculous event of the Passover was to throw upon the Supper itself that light in which it is certainly distinguished from every other Supper – – thus the course of events at the Supper itself, the conversations of Jesus, the institution of the Supper, if they are in themselves great, dignified, and important, were not in themselves sufficient to consecrate the Supper and to distinguish it from every other Supper? No! it is also to be glorified by the very first preparations, and by the manner in which these arrangements were made. But Mark did not succeed in forming this marvellous entrance in such a way that we could pass through it without damaging our heads. We must therefore break it down, tear it down, or rather declare that it has already collapsed because it lacks a reasonable foundation.
It is formed after the manner in which Samuel gives Saul landmarks from which he is to recognise that he has given him kingship by divine authority. Mark has extracted from this Old Testament jumble 1) the intention underlying his report, even if it is not emphasised with reflection, that the God-sent should prove his authority through miraculous distant vision, and 2) the trait that those whom the God-sent meet men who carry the means of life. The water jar is taken from the story of Abraham’s servant who went out to fetch a bride for the son of his Lord. Here, however, in both Old Testament models, these things still – i.e. even in their fairy-tale world – have meaning, support and connection. Here, in the second case, the servant is already at his destination, at the well of the city, the daughters of the city come to draw water, and in the one he wants to recognise the bride, who voluntarily agrees to water his camels, too, if he has previously asked her for a drink of water. Mark has formed a chimera of miracles, when a miracle leads the disciples to the goal, which must first be conquered again by a miracle.
Before we can decide on the core of the report and its historical basis, we must first seek it out, that is, to peel away the strange shells that initially conceal it from us or may be mistaken for it.
We begin with the fourth Gospel, which does not even have a part of the core, the so-called institution of the Lord’s Supper, but instead knows how to report on another action that the Lord committed at the last meal, an action that should be repeated by all of his followers in the future.
2. The washing of the feet.
John 13, 1 – 17.
Jesus “got up from the meal, took off his clothes, took a towel, girded himself with it, poured water into the washbasin – what a dreadful sight to be taken out of every chamber! – and now begins to wash the disciples’ feet and – really? How graphic! – with the towel with which he had girded himself.
In that account, Jesus also comes to Peter, who exclaims in surprise: “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” We can still accept that. But when Jesus replies, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” – and when this “later” occurs, it is not said, it remains in the mysterious, meaningless suspension that the Fourth [Gospel] loves – and when Peter, with exaggerated emotion, vows that Jesus shall never wash his feet, and Jesus responds, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” – we don’t need to hear any further how Peter, with affected vehemence and moody, not even humorous outburst, demands that Jesus should wash his head and hands, and how Jesus replies that only the feet need to be washed if the washed one is to be completely clean – we don’t even need to hear how the Lord adds: “You are clean, but not all of you,” with a sidelong glance at the traitor, so as not to plunge headlong into the most immense confusion, as the Fourth has already acquainted us with such things, but to turn away from a work of this kind with reluctance. So this foot-washing has so many meanings? So many? And they are all mixed up so haphazardly, and only the capricious whims of Peter provide the thread on which these valiant pearls are strung? Or rather: none of these meanings is – as it deserves to be if it were viable – carried through purely or even identified as such, as something special? The confusion is too senseless. The author has considered all sorts of things and made nothing of them.
First, the washing of the feet is based on the love of Jesus. So be it, inasmuch as love is also condescension, although it is impossible to understand why condescension should prove itself in just this form, why just this ornate form should stand so high, why love and condescension should not prove themselves in other far more dignified and difficult forms of devotion, of thinking into, feeling into, and acting for another person!
But now the fact that the disciples’ feet are washed is supposed to be the condition without which they cannot partake of the Lord! What kind of connection is supposed to take place here! And the poor, whom Jesus later did not come to wash the feet of! The Lord’s Supper is something else; not only the disciples who enjoyed it on that Passover evening, but all the later members of the congregation enjoy it.
Yes, that the feet of the disciples should be washed is the condition of their purity. At the Lord’s Supper it is something else; there they drink the blood that was shed for the world.
And what is the point here of the spiteful sidelong glance so often cast at the traitor? In the Gospel of Mark it is something else, for according to his Gospel Jesus only once declares during the Passover meal that his betrayer is sitting at the table with him. But here in the Fourth Gospel the betrayer must literally run the gauntlet. Who will always condemn a man’s crime? Even against the criminal one has to fulfil duties of morality and humanity, as Mark knew very well, and the writer has at the same time to fulfil duties which the laws of beauty prescribe for him. That constant sideways glance at the traitor and, what is more, that contrast with the virtuous haste is therefore not only spiteful and inhuman and immoral, but also tiring and repulsive from an aesthetic point of view. Already earlier, after the conversation about the enjoyment of His flesh and blood, Jesus (C. 6, 70) had called Judas the devil among the twelve, later (C. 12, 6) the traitor had to appear as a common thief, and now in the introduction to the account of the washing of the feet (13, 2) the Fourth could not refrain from remarking that the devil had already put his plan into Judas’ heart. If only this virtuous evangelist had learned from Mark how to present evil humanly and aesthetically: Mark had simply told that Judas had gone to the priests and promised to deliver up his master to them – that’s enough! The contrast is strong enough to require even the expression that Luke first used, and from which the Fourth borrowed, in order to apply it more than once. For Luke, in reporting the betrayal of Judas, says that Satan entered into him, C. 22:3. And yet the Fourth would rather have reported that Judas made an agreement with the priests; but for all his talk about the devil Judas, and for all his delight in his inhuman contrasts, he has neither space, nor time, nor even thought left for such trifles.
Finally, at the end, after having washed the disciples’ feet, Jesus gives a new interpretation of the action, the one that most preoccupies the author and that was probably first in his mind when he described this action, which was so badly introduced. “If he, who is their Lord and Master, has washed their feet, they must also wash each other’s feet. He has given them an example, so that they may follow what he has done. For the servant is not greater than his lord, nor the apostle greater than he that sent him. Also a blessing will be attached to the imitation of the act which expresses mutual submission.”
Yes, with the Lord’s Supper, we exclaim again, it is something quite different. If the new commandment *) of which Jesus speaks after the washing of the feet, as it certainly is, is to refer at the same time to the commandment of this action, then it is, we cry out again and again, something quite different with the new covenant which Jesus gives in his blood.
*) John 13, 34 : εντολήν καινήν. Mark 14, 24 : της καινής διαθήκης.
“So you must also wash one another’s feet!”
No real person acts or speaks like that. Such abstract and thoughtless demands can only be made – if we may misuse the noble word – in an ideal world, and even then, they can only truly be carried out when this intellectual world has already acquired such a hard solidity and man is so captured by it that he has lost reason and sense for the real world. The inverted world of the Church had to already exist before it was possible for a person like the Fourth to imagine such an adventurous, abstract demand for any reason, and that inverted world had to fully acclimatize people before this demand could be implemented.
The Catholic Church was right to take Christ’s commandment as seriously as it is written, although with the best will in the world, which cannot be denied her, she has not gone far in carrying it out. The senseless nature of this commandment is itself to blame for the fact that its implementation in the Church appears only as a fake article or as a showpiece. If Protestantism has declared that this commandment does not belong in the real world, we do not wrong it, but then it should not make so much of the obedience it has pledged to the holy Scriptures.
3. The basis of the account of the washing of the feet.
The occasion which induced the Fourth to form this story just here lies in the Gospel of Luke. Luke reports that during the Passover meal a quarrel arose among the disciples as to which of them was the greatest, and Jesus saw himself compelled to reject them seriously: only in the world do kings rule over others, but it must not be so among them; the greatest among them must rather be the least, the superior of the servants, as he himself proved to be their servant in their midst. (Luke 22, 24-27).
Luke himself has already gone so far as to describe the present situation where he was waiting for them at the table, handing them bread and wine! – The fourth went even further and, as if Jesus had not sufficiently performed this service during his life and even in death, dared to present his Lord as a servant and as a model of condescending love during the washing of the feet. Mark 10: 45 knew better how Jesus proved that he did not come to be served but to serve, namely by giving his life as salvation for many.
The idea that the Lord had only truly and seriously demonstrated his willingness to serve when he served the disciples as a servant, and especially during a meal, was reinforced for the Fourth Gospel by the parable in Luke of the master who serves his faithful servants at the table *) (Luke 12:35-37), a parable whose point Luke had already made by the time he composed the later saying (Luke 22:27).
*) The Fourth Gospel made much more out of the simplicity of Luke’s (verse 37)!
All of those adventurous claims – that foot-washing is the condition for having a share in Jesus, that the disciples are not clean without it, that it is a new commandment that must be repeated – are explained when we see that the Fourth Gospel has transferred the attributes that Jesus ascribes to the new covenant in his blood to his newly invented sacrament.
The question now, whether it was possible in all the world that the disciples could now come up with this absurd question, when the Lord had just given them his body, which was given for them, and his blood, which was poured out for them, especially now that he “opened” to them that he would be betrayed by one of them (Luke 22, 20 – 25) – – it would be ridiculous to treat this question seriously, since it can be seen with one’s own hands, with the eyes of one’s own body, that Luke did not take note of the quarrelling of the disciples, which he already mentioned above (C. 9, 46) to Mark (C. 9, 33), and as an answer of Jesus to Mark he rewrites the rebuke of the two sons of Zebedee (Mark 10, 35) with their rash request and the disciples who were again indignant about the request of John and Jacob, a rebuke that he had omitted before with its cause.
But only that rebuke of the ten he gives here quite literally, the rebuke of the two sons of Zebedee he has significantly changed. When Jesus rebukes them in Luke by asking them if they can drink the cup that he drinks (namely the cup of suffering), Jesus presupposes in the rebuke of the foolish disciples in Luke, which he only admits in Mark after the affirmative answer of the Zebedees, as a certain fact: “you have persevered with me in my temptations” (Luke22, 28). But could they then still be so childish and argue about precedence?
Indeed, it seems highly inconsistent that Jesus would dismiss the request of the sons of Zebedee for seats at his right and left hand in a suitable manner, as seen in Mark’s account, only to then suddenly promise in Luke’s account that they would eat and drink with him in his kingdom and sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. It is a striking contradiction, especially coming from people who had just shared in the cup of suffering.
Only because Jesus uses the image of the cup and speaks of drinking in his rebuke of the Zebedees, did Luke feel justified in excluding these sayings from their true context in his account of the Lord’s Supper, because they also speak of the cup and drinking.
Even more! After Jesus (Mark 14, 22 – 25) had given the disciples the blessed bread and the blessed cup, he said that he would no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when he would drink the new fruit in the kingdom of God. So there is always talk of drinking and the cup: should not a thorough evangelist have collected all the sayings that deal with such things, and especially, in order to prove the unity of the sayings, should he not have included this instruction on future drinking in his rebuke of the jealous disciples?
Of course, he could no longer give those statements the same context as Mark did with the request of the sons of Zebedee for the nearest seats. Rather, the necessity of submission had to be emphasized. Therefore, the context of the disciples arguing about rank in general was more appropriate and relevant. —-
It will do no harm and will not increase the confusion through which we must navigate, since it is only the evangelists who drag us into such confusions, if we remove the following inappropriate element from the account of the Last Supper as we pass by. Suddenly, without any motivation, Jesus says to the disciples (Luke 22:35-38), asking if they lacked anything when he sent them out without a purse, bag or sandals: now things will be different. Whoever has a purse or bag should take it, and whoever has none should sell their cloak and buy a sword. But why this new, striking equipment for people who had previously even come into the world without a purse, bag or sandals? Is it because the prophecy “he was numbered with the transgressors” is now to be fulfilled in him? Are they now supposed to wield swords, now that they have just tasted the new covenant in the blood of the Messiah? By understanding the matter as it should be understood if words have meaning, they say, “Lord, here are two swords!” and he replies, “That is enough.” But now we must again wonder why Jesus, after such a pompous entrance – “sell your cloak and buy swords!” – suddenly finds two swords sufficient.
Everything falls apart. Luke used Jesus’ instruction concerning the equipment of the messengers of faith, which he exaggerated only with regard to the shoes, to speak of a different equipment in contrast to it, because he wanted to introduce the following, that at the arrest of Jesus one of the disciples cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, and to motivate the question of the disciples, who on this occasion reminded the Lord of his earlier commandment: Lord, shall we strike with the sword? (Luke 22, 49. 50.) In one word: he committed the imprudence of attributing to a plan what should only happen in sudden haste, and he even goes so far as to let Jesus say to the brave heroes, as before: “It is enough!” – let it be good with that. At least what the bravest one did finds no disapproval. Everything is crooked and wrong!
4. The word of Jesus about the traitor.
We are gradually coming to the core of the reports, but will still have to free it from very useless embellishments.
We have already seen how spiteful the sideways glance is that Jesus throws at the traitor after the foot-washing. He says to the disciples (John 13:18), “Not all of you are clean.” He adds, forgetting the rest of the sentence because of his eagerness and many other thoughts in his mind, “I know whom I have chosen.” Then he quickly adds, “But to fulfill the scripture, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.'”
Even now, Jesus continues in v. 19, I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you will believe that I am Him. So the Lord always has to think of himself, always has to be pushy, always has to be concerned about his person and authority! It would have been better and more humane if he had thought of others for once, had taken the feelings of the disciples into consideration, and had said, for instance: so that you will not be too much shaken by the monstrosity when it happens. But religion! Religion! The fourth has reflected religiously correctly.
“Henceforth,” says Jesus, απ’ αρτι, “he speaketh unto them of the wicked man, and yet he hath already above called him the devil among the twelve (C. 6, 70).
What is immediately supposed to follow this side-glance with the affirmation “truly, truly I say to you” – with an affirmation that gives the appearance of being the finishing touch to that remark about the traitor – is the statement: “He who receives the one I send receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.” The Fourth Gospel once again offers us an example of the obscurity and mechanical superficiality that its associative ideas are capable of. In that synoptic passage, the relationship to Jesus is considered only as one that is mediated through the relationship to others, the messengers of faith or the little ones. The thoughtless combination that now, even if only an immediate relationship to Jesus is in question, did not even lead the Fourth Gospel to this passage. His combinations are even more mechanical. It is possible that the synoptic lament over the Baptist and the saying that it would be better for him not to have been born – perhaps with the help of the lament over the one who causes offense in Luke 17:1 – led him to the saying about the person for whom it would be better to have a millstone hung around his neck and be cast into the sea, and thus to the saying about the reception of such a person, in whom one receives Jesus himself (Mark 9:42, 37). However, it is more likely that he took the opportunity of the note in Luke 22:24 about the disciples’ argument about rank at the time of the Last Supper to immediately look up the original passage in Luke 9:48 and Mark 9:37 and to rework the saying about receiving a little one in the way that had already been sanctioned for him by Luke 10:16 and Matthew 10:40. —-
Actually, the Fourth Gospel has Jesus say everything necessary about the traitor, as well as something inappropriate and something that doesn’t belong here. In fact, the Fourth Gospel even makes a pause and a break when it says (v. 21) that Jesus was shaken by this revelation – but no! Immediately, it sets Jesus in motion again to have him say the same thing he just said, even presenting it as something new and unexpected.
Of course! After bringing up the traitor during his metamorphosis of the Last Supper, that is, during the footwashing, the Fourth Gospel must now turn to Mark if he wants to portray the traitor being identified in a way that is prompted by the fact that they are sitting at the table. “Truly I tell you,” Jesus says in Mark 14:18, “one of you will betray me.” Jesus says the same thing in the Fourth Gospel, now that the table scene is being presented (13:21).
Of course – we must now notice further – the other confusion arises from this, that now all at once the banquet begins again from the beginning, whereas before we should have thought it was over when Jesus got up to wash the disciples’ feet. Of course, the Fourth jumps so unconcernedly into the synoptic track that he does not even tell us a word about the fact that the company sat down again quietly at the table after the washing of the feet. He lets Mark see to it that they sit at the table during the following scene.
To thank Mark for saving him so much trouble, he enriches his report with many new discoveries. How beautiful, for example, is the remark in the beginning that the disciples (v. 22) “looked at each other” after Jesus’ opening, “since they – wonderful remark! – they did not know whom he meant. “How interesting is the note about the curious Peter, who beckons to the disciple with his eyes that he should ask the Master who it is. Ha! As if every reader did not know – for that is all that matters in this world – who it was; as if it were not enough if the Lord only showed that he knew the traitor, and if he spoke of the blackness of the deed!
The contrast is terrible, that the beloved disciple nestles against the Lord’s breast just to learn more about the devil. The beloved disciple nestles against Jesus’ breast just to ask about the rejected one! At the breast of Jesus! Yes, if he had hugged the Lord in pain, smothered him with kisses, to show him that he still had faithful followers! No, at the breast of his Lord and Master, he knows nothing else to do but to satisfy his curiosity. What kind of people!en!
The following contrast, that Jesus says to his favourite disciple: it is he to whom I shall give the morsel which I am about to dip, not only carries to extremes the disgustingly secret and hidden character of this whole situation, but is even completely useless in so far as the Evangelist completely forgets Peter and lets him, like the others, find out about the matter – for so we may express ourselves according to the interest which these creatures of the Fourth have – only afterwards, but soon thereafter in the Garden of Gethsemane. Admittedly, however, that police signal was only intended to blatantly secure the statement that Jesus was not mistaken about the person of his traitor
Because if he did not do it – perhaps even to make this theatrical coup that the devil entered the betrayer’s body with that bite – then when he now says, “The evil one went away,” when it is now night, and Jesus immediately goes into the Garden of Gethsemane, we do not understand how Judas could have quickly gathered the priesthood, brought them to a decision late in the evening, and sent a cohort of soldiers and the priests’ servants to that garden. The confusion is as wild as possible, and in its tumult, we will let Jesus’ words to the betrayer, “What you are about to do, do quickly!” (v. 27) fade away. Because it does not deserve more. It is disgusting enough to be destined to paint calm spiritual calmness, but it only shows an irritated mood and forms a resentful and at the same time splayed-out challenge.
However, no one knows who the betrayer is, no one knows what these last words of Jesus mean. The beloved disciple is enthroned above all the others as omniscient and tickles himself over his omniscience, while the others grope in the dark. To them, Judas is still simply the treasurer – a dignity from which we have finally freed him! So when they – how curious! – speculate back and forth whether Jesus may have given him orders to make purchases for the feast or to give alms, we hear from these conjectures of the curious children nothing more than the disguised voice of the Fourth, who wants to remind us once again under this mask that this last meal of Jesus was not the Passover evening meal. Tomorrow is the Passover evening.
Now the Synoptics! Matthew as well as Mark let it be the first thing immediately after the beginning of the meal that Jesus speaks of the betrayer – rightly so! for this contrast, that the hand of the betrayer is over the table, must be settled as soon as possible, so that afterwards the banquet proceeds without disturbing thoughts. Luke only brings up the betrayer after the distribution of the blessed bread and cup (Luke 22:21), but why did he also let an intruder and outsider take the entrance, i.e. the only suitable place, with that sentimental remark (v. 15)?
Matthew presents the matter in such a way that Jesus initially says indeterminately, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples become sad and ask, “Is it I?” But we do not understand how they can still ask such a question. For Jesus had said two days before that he would be crucified at the Passover feast (chapter 26, verse 2), so now, with the festival approaching, the innocent ones could no longer ask so uncertainly. The betrayer must have already been decided and – taken steps.
Jesus answers: he who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me – we should think: just now – will betray me – a designation that is as indefinite as it is useless. Which guest will pay attention to which of the thirteen sitting at the table dips into the bowl; and do all see this movement, a movement even, which, as soon as it is noticed, is forgotten again? And if the mark, which is supposed to look so definite and clear, were really so infallible, could Judas still ask afterwards: is it I Master? (v. 25) so that Jesus would have to say to him again publicly in front of the others: you said it?
However, if this had really exposed the betrayer, it would have been embarrassing and unbearable.
However, Judas’ question, “Is it I?” is not only incomprehensible if that sign – as it is supposed to be – was clear and accurate, but it is also inappropriate in terms of the context, given that Jesus had just said, “Woe to the man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for him if he had not been born!” After such a statement, would Judas still have dared to ask that question? Historically impossible and aesthetically repugnant!
In the account of Mark, which Luke has only drawn together, we find everything in order. First Jesus says: truly I say to you, one of you will betray me *), and then when the disciples ask: is it I? – but they are allowed to ask this here, since Jesus had not said anything before that he would be crucified on Passover – he replies: yes, it is one of the twelve, one who dips into the bowl with me. This is not a police signal, but the intensifying repetition of the terrible fact that it really is one of the twelve – an expression of pain borrowed from the lament of the righteous Ps. 41, 10, that his neighbour, his house- his table- comrade is persecuting him. Only Matthew made his police signal from it, which the Fourth has made even more specific.
*) The addition: “who eats with me” ο εσθιων μετ εμου Mark 14, 18 is of course, as Wilke p. 274 remarks, from a late hand. The Psalm passage Ps. 41, 10 ὁ ἐσθίων ἄρτους μου Mark first worked into Jesus’ answer v. 20: εμβαπτομενος μετ εμου εις το τρυβλιον. The later glossator did not notice in what the progress in the two sayings of Jesus lay.
In this, too, Mark has shown a wise skill, that he holds back the matter in general and with the contrasts that Matthew and the Fourth painted so glaringly: the traitor does not appear with an insolent brow, he is not mentioned at all.
The whole scene arose from that Psalm word. In order for the Lord to become like the righteous man of that psalm, he had to be betrayed by his closest comrade; in order for the blackness of the betrayal to be heightened by the contrast, the Lord had to complain about it at the love feast, and he had to signal the betrayal in general, so that it would not seem as if, contrary to his suspicions, he were surprised by it afterwards.
5. The attitude of the betrayer.
As soon as one raises the question why Judas betrayed his Lord, and raises it in the sense that he is not satisfied with the statements of Scripture, and supposes other motives by which the betrayal can really be explained, he is very unbelieving.
Is it not enough that Luke says that Satan entered Judas, or is it not explanation enough when the Fourth defines this note in more detail, that the entry of Satan happened at the moment when Judas swallowed that morsel?
Furthermore: when Mark reports (C. 14, 11) that the chief priests, out of joy over the unexpected request of Judas, promised him money and that he now sought opportunity to betray his Lord, when Luke then (C. 22, 6) reports in more detail that Judas accepted the offer of money and agreed to the proposal, when finally Matthew presents the matter in such a way that Judas immediately goes before the priests with the question: what will you pay me to deliver him into your hands and agrees to their proposal that they want to give him thirty pieces of silver? of the betrayal become viciously clear? And one still ponders over motives? O hypocrites!
We did not want to remember the ridiculous unbelief of the theologians in any of these passages. We shall also remain true to our resolution, and here, in a passage which is based on a specifically religious view, we shall only remember the view of a philosopher who has made this very religious view his own, albeit in a somewhat modernised form.
Religion only achieves its fulfillment when it dissolves all determination and finds its true element in an indeterminate rushing. If Christianity was already the fulfillment of religion, as it killed the moral and vital interests of other religions, it still increases in perfection when even the small determination that it still possesses is dissolved.
Therefore, the discussion of the matter will not lead us anywhere if we forget the devil and the thirty pieces of silver. For the critic, for humanity, there is no longer a devil who leads his chimerical life over the ruins of humanity and governs over these ruins at will, especially not a devil who enters the mouth of a person with a bite of bread. The bestial and shameless question of Judas, “What will you give me?” and the offer of the priests to give thirty pieces of silver, no longer impress us, because both, and especially the former, which is very bad, were copied by Matthew from Zechariah. In the scripture of the prophet, the shepherd of the people demands his reward and is given, as a mockery, thirty pieces of silver. *) Mark was smart enough to see that the sum, which in the Old Testament was a contemptible mockery, could not have tempted Judas to his actions. He borrowed only the notation from the prophet that the Messiah could be sold for money if he was to prove himself as the promised one.
*) Zacharias 11, 12: δότε τον μισθόν μου- και έστησαν τον μισθών τριάκοντα αργυρούς , Matth. 26, 15. 16: τι θέλετε μοι δούναι και έστησαν αυτώ τριάκοντα αργύρια.
It even does no harm that we have now dissolved the whole report; all the better for religious consciousness, which feels better nowhere than in a vacuum. Now that the levers of money and the devil have been broken, Weisse can say all the more freely that the motive of the betrayal was a thoroughly evil one **). But no matter how much this view, which Weisse does not even do this time, may be embellished, i.e., no matter how novelistically the intense effort of the ego, which belongs to such a decisive opposition to what is absolutely good, may be painted: – it is still in vain, because the thought that there could be “an absolutely malignant character, an absolutely malignant motive” is just as chimerical and hollow as the thought of an absolutely good character and motive. But this chimera is specifically religious, but only because it is a chimera: in reality this vacuous and uneducated opposition of understanding has no validity, no life, no existence and instead of this, the selfish and the general interests of human life interpenetrate in all characters, motives, and actions. There is no absolutely good man who would be nothing and further nothing but a little lamb, as little as something purely evil, i.e., for instance, an action in which the ego as a purely special – filled with no other interest – ego revolts against the general as such – as if there were a pure, abstract general! – rebelled. Only religion knows these bottomless contradictions. Even in the extreme – romantically inflated – case that an individual rebels against another purely and solely because the latter is good, this is only appearance; the rebellion is not directed against the good as such, but against the fact that this individual happens to be good or is supposed to be good or claims to be good or purely and simply good. Rather, the one who only wants to be a little lamb insults the dignity of humanity, and whoever wants to be simply and purely good mocks the specific moral obligations.
**) I, 451
The question as to how it came about that Jesus accepted a “thoroughly malignant” character among the Twelve, and that Judas joined the Lord, we answer by deleting it, for we no longer know the absurdity of a thoroughly malignant being, and the conception of this circle of disciples known to us in the Gospels has long since dissolved.
But perhaps it is worth the effort to see how Weisse has perfected the religious answer to this question *).
*) I, 395 – 397.
“He says there is a moral relationship between good and evil individuals.” But are the evil still simply evil if they are capable of a moral relationship, even if it is only in the form of tension? “There may also be a moral duty or obligation of the good towards the evil. Jesus did not deceive himself about the character of Judas at the beginning. However, he did not reject the man, because otherwise discord could have been aroused among his disciples and followers, and because he would then have had to forego the support of Judas.” — Nothing but meticulous cleverness on the part of the purely good and nothing less than a moral relationship! But! “Jesus included Judas among his own as a testimony and example of the divine work and as a memorial to that world destiny which happened during this earthly existence – – what a pity! – – does not lead to a sharp external separation between good and evil” etc. etc. — still not a moral, not even an inner relationship, but the opposite, when a person is mechanically used as a “monument”, and as a monument to a chimera at that! Certainly, good and evil are mixed in this world, but not so that pure saints and anointed ones and pure evil, pure sheep and pure goats are mixed together, but rather so that both powers of the antithesis rest and struggle together in every human soul, and so that evil is only a moment in the development of good itself. Finally, when Weiße says that the mind of the evil is no less susceptible to the spiritual power of great personalities than the mind of the good, and when he now adds, according to his theological assumptions, that such a power exerted the personality of Christ on Judas, we grant him the latter application and its historical presupposition, and in relation to the intention we only ask: why all the fuss beforehand?
6. The institution of the Lord’s Supper.
The critic has no more material interest which could make him biased, if it depends on explaining the mottoes with which Jesus hands over to his disciple the blessed bread and the blessed wine at the Passover meal, appropriately and correctly in their sense.
In Mark and Matthew these words agree completely, i.e. Matthew, because he knew the importance of them and because he rightly believed to have to give them in the authentic form, has copied the report of Mark verbatim – and who will not copy a testament exactly? According to him, as well as Mark, the Lord, as he distributed the bread, said, “Take and eat, this is my body,” and as he handed the cup, “Drink all of it, for (Matthew could not resist changing this; when Mark reports that the disciples drank from the offered cup, he gave this fact in the form of a command and made the transition to the interpretation of the miraculous wine with “for,” while Jesus according to Mark only says what follows further in Matthew: –) “This is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many” — as Matthew adds, but which is not added by Mark, who rightly aimed for brevity and simplicity of the formula: “for the forgiveness of sins.”
The critic must not allow himself to be impressed by the fact that a religious conception is difficult, hard to carry out, mystical, mysterious or excessively transcendent, or that it violates all perception and sensual certainty too much. Rather, he knows that no contradiction is too great for the religious view, none is nearly great enough, and his task is not to mitigate those contradictions, or to make them plausible to the mind, or to stifle them by force, but to understand them as contradictions and to explain their origin.
By offering the disciples bread and wine, Jesus does not instruct them on how they could remotely relate these foods to his body and blood, nor does he say that even the components of the Passover meal remind him of his sufferings – in this case he should rather have thought of the Passover lamb. Rather, by handing bread and wine to his people and asking them to enjoy them, he tells them what both are to be for the enjoyment and in such a way that the request to eat and drink refers in one moment to the sensual substrates and to what they actually are, to the body and his blood.
Therefore, it is clear that Jesus did not speak these words. A person who sits bodily and individually cannot come up with the idea of offering his body and blood for others to consume. It is impossible for him to demand that others have a certain understanding while he sits bodily, that they consume him in the bread and wine. It was only later, after his bodily, individual appearance was removed, and even then, only after the community had already existed for some time, that the belief could arise that found expression in that formula.
The anachronism and contradiction that arises from the fact that these words are attributed to the Lord becomes starkly evident when it is said, “This is the blood that is shed for many *).” This could not have been offered by Jesus before his death because blood becomes true sacrificial blood only after it is shed. Before it is sacrificed, before it is shed and served as a sacrifice, it is not sacrificial blood and cannot be referred to or consumed as such, meaning Jesus could not have offered the blood that was shed for many before his death.
*) Mark 14:24 το περι πολλων εκχυνομενον. Compare Luke 11:50 το εκχυνομενον απο καταβολης κοσμου.
Moving on to Luke, we find that the remark made by Jesus, which is placed at the end in Mark, namely, that he will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine, is not placed there at the end by Luke because he had too many other things to report, such as the word about the traitor and the story of the dispute over rank among the disciples. He used it as a sentimental introduction and doubled it by having Jesus say the same thing twice, first in reference to the Passover meal — “I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God”!! — and then in reference to the cup, which Jesus blessed and handed to the disciples for distribution. However, since he also read elsewhere that Jesus distributed the wine only after the distribution of bread and called it his blood, he could not make this explanation at that first wine distribution. He had to come back to the matter after that inappropriate introduction: Jesus distributed the bread, and then “after the meal” he handed the cup, which he called the new covenant in his blood. (22, 14-20.)
Luke has Jesus say, “This is my body, which is given for you,” as he hands the bread to the disciples, a statement that corresponds to the other statement, “which is poured out for you.” Then, when it is said of the cup, “This cup — the verb is missing — is the new covenant in my blood,” it is not so different from the formula in the earlier gospel that it is worth discussing, but it is more important when the explanation is added: “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Instead of asking whether this addition explicitly requires a figurative interpretation of that formula, we must rather note that, in connection with the preceding words, “This is my body!” it has no meaning, and therefore it cannot truly influence its interpretation. However, it has no meaning in itself and only gains any sense at all if we relate it back to the presupposition that underlies it.
“Do this in remembrance of me!” But what? Celebrate the Passover annually in his memory? It is not said!
The bread and wine of the Passover and in both his body and blood to partake in remembrance of him? But when? How often? Is wine and bread the main thing at the Passover? The bread perhaps as the unleavened one is important, but – if the words were really spoken at a Passover meal – where is the lamb? About all of this, nothing is said. Nothing is said at all. Rather, it is spoken in such a way that the assumption of the celebration, the assumption of all that they usually enjoy in this meal, is already established, so spoken in such a way that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is already assumed, and under this assumption those words should only command them to use this celebration as a remembrance of the Lord. But even this assumption is not even explicitly stated, because Luke is not copying the whole passage from a letter of Paul that he has in front of him now, but only borrows the key points that are important to him at this moment. *)
*) That Paul lets the Lord say: this is my body, which is broken for you (χλωμενον) I Cor. 11, 2i. we would not mention, if it were not important for the criticism of Luke’s account. For when the latter writes: which is given for you, the anachronism of the words: which is shed for you, seems to be avoided. But the matter would still remain in its confusion, if at one time the sacrifice is described as imminent, at another time as past and offered. Yes, the confusion would even be brought about most unnecessarily, since Luke, when he (v. 20) copies Paul’s words: “this cup is the new covenant in my blood” (I Cor. 11, 25), not only omits the tense word, but also borrows from Mark the addition: “which is poured out for you”, thus giving a sentence that is without any context and lacks any sense of structure. Only in the explanation of the bread Paul used a participle: “this is my body which is broken for you”, the explanation of the cup he gives with the words: this “is the new covenant in my blood”. Now Luke arrived at his participle of the present tense, “which is given for you,” only by substituting for the expression Paul used (which is broken for you) another that could not have been more inappropriately chosen in this context, within this construction, within the presupposition that dominates this passage. The anachronism, which could not be misunderstood in the account of Mark, has also received its pure expression in the words of Paul; for is not the expression: which is broken, formed only after the late custom of the breaking of bread and at that time, when the celebration of the Lord’s Supper at all was briefly called the breaking of bread? And don’t those words speak of the Christian to whom the breaking of bread was a prevailing custom, present to him? And is not the same in the words: “the new covenant in my blood” the covenant, the very covenant consecrated by the sacrificial death of Zesu, is already presupposed as made?
According to Paul, Luke notes that Jesus distributed the cup after the meal. However, this pragmatic remark in Paul’s account is not very satisfying as it separates the distribution of the bread and the presentation of the cup, rather than connecting them. It is even more inappropriate in a historical work where, later, when Jesus says (Luke 22:21) “The hand of him who is betraying me is with me on the table,” it is assumed that the meal has not yet ended. While Wilke has argued that the second cup distribution in verse 20 is a later insertion, Luke is responsible for this confusion. As we have already explained, the confusion arose from the lack of a clear and complete account of the Last Supper in the earlier sources. Therefore, the second cup distribution in verse 20 is essential and cannot be omitted. Luke would not have neglected to include it.
In the words that Paul puts in the mouth of his master and teacher, however, the same contradiction is contained, but it is not as glaring as in the writing of Luke, because it is more developed and not so much compressed into one point. When Jesus distributes the bread and declares it to be his body, he says, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:24), but later, when he distributes the cup, he says more specifically in verse 25, “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” It is certainly better, but the contradiction remains, as the new instruction that the disciples should repeat this action was not commanded or explained beforehand, nor was anything said about the manner of repetition. In short, these words were only formed under the assumption of an already existing practice, an assumption that was so familiar to Paul that he did not notice the anachronism.
In any case, Paul is not inclined towards a figurative interpretation of the words of institution. He simply wants to remind his believers that they should celebrate and partake in the holy meal in the proper manner: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come,” the apostle immediately adds as an explanation of those words, in verse 26. “But this bread is the body of Jesus, and remains so,” because whoever, in verse 27, partakes of this bread or cup of the Lord unworthily, has committed a sin against the body of the Lord and eats and drinks judgment upon himself, as he does not handle the body of the Lord (μη διακρινων) discreetly.
We hear nothing in the first history of the community about a usage of the formula during the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Paul, least of all, thinks of citing his own usage at this moment as one that was in use among the community. On the contrary, he has just formed it according to the assumptions of the community. But he did not form it successfully, insofar as he wove an exhortation and reflection into it that refers to later usage and even presupposes it as already existing.
Mark gave the formula that brevity and simplicity which it must have in a work of history *), Lukas has taken away the strength and conciseness of the lapidary style which the first gospel writer had given to the formula by adding the appendix that he took from the edifying treatise of the apostle Paul. But the fourth gospel writer went infinitely further: he had the Lord give a sermon on the consumption of his flesh and blood, just as he had already identified him as the one who could provide the true miraculous wine. Both times when Jesus demonstrated himself as the wine and bread provider, the Passover was near; this supply was intended to be in an inner relationship to the last Passover supply, which the fourth gospel writer only did not explicitly mention because he knew that it was already known to everyone at his time, and because he thought that he would only give it true consecration when he had the Master prophesy it, typify it, and speculate on it. For a similar reason, when he departs from his disciples, Jesus cannot just institute the baptism at that moment; no! He must already speculate about their necessity in conversation with Nicodemus, and he must already baptize himself, even if only through his disciples.
*) The form he has taken from Exod. 24, 8: λαβὼν δὲ Μωυσῆς τὸ αἷμα κατεσκέδασε τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ εἶπεν- ἰδοὺ τὸ αἷμα τῆς διαθήκης, ἧς διέθετο . . .
That the thought from which the account of the wedding at Cana arose is not carried out purely by the Fourth, that strange tendencies again cross the account, can no longer surprise us: the lack of plastic force has now clearly revealed itself to us in all sections of the Fourth Gospel. Even the miraculous feeding of the people has to be put in a skewed, unfavorable light in the following discussion about the bread of life.
Now it is also time to notice that the blessing and thanksgiving that Jesus pronounces over bread and wine, here in the Gospels, where the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is already presupposed as existing, is no longer to be understood in the sense of the Jewish passover rite, but rather as that blessing with which one in the community initiated this celebration in order to distinguish this wine and bread from any other.
The question whether Judas, the Berean, also took part in this meal and ate the judgment, is now finally answered.
Nothing is left to us as historical. Jesus did not institute this meal. It is a gradual transformation of the Jewish celebration of the Passover meal that arose in the community. The idea of the atonement and covenant sacrifice that is already inherent in the Passover sacrifice had to become increasingly important to the Christian consciousness as it developed in opposition to the Jewish one, until it finally became simply the prototype of the true sacrifice, gaining significance only as this prototype, and finally the conviction took hold that in the bread and wine – the lamb as an organic food item receded into the background – one no longer had to do with only the shadow of the future, but actually consumed the true sacrifice itself, his flesh and his blood.
Earlier, in our criticism of the fourth Gospel, we were satisfied with the observation that it would have contradicted the infinity of Jesus’ self-consciousness if he had wanted to establish a positive statute himself. Now, however, we must finally take away the transcendental character of this turn of phrase, which still presupposes and presents the principle as an empirical person. We must now express ourselves in such a way that the principle could not immediately create positive statutes such as the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the Christian sense at the beginning; before it gained the strength to do so, it had to develop itself and especially develop within the forms of Jewish life in order to gradually break them up and draw a new growth from the core in the new world.
Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)
- How Moving Jesus’ Cleansing of the Temple to the Beginning of the Gospel of John Rebuked the Gospel of Mark - 2024-02-14 03:33:48 GMT+0000
- The True Tale of How an Eagle, a Lion, a Man, and a Lot of Bull Entered the Church - 2024-01-31 02:28:53 GMT+0000
- Where does John the Baptist fit in History? — The Evidence of Josephus, Pt 7 - 2024-01-28 00:55:08 GMT+0000