Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer
The interrogation before the high priest.
1.The interrogation before Annas.
John 18, 12-14. 19 – 24.
The fourth would have to know the matter quite well and his report would have to be the most reliable, if he really is that other disciple who was known to the high priest Annas and through whose mediation Peter succeeded in penetrating into the vestibule of the high priestly palladium.
But before we believe him that Jesus was brought into the palladium of Annas, who was only the father-in-law of the real high priest, Caiaphas, he would have to prove better than he has done that he is at home in the area he describes and with which he is so anxiously familiar, and he should not speak as if he were less acquainted with nothing than with the Jewish constitution at that time. Caiaphas, he says, was the high priest of that year. About this new enrichment of our knowledge of history, i. e. about the note that the high priests in Jerusalem changed annually, we do not want to come out of joy or displeasure, we prefer to note immediately how the fourth came to this note: in the writing of Mark he finds the category “the high priests,” misunderstands this determination of the majority, misunderstands also the other note in the writing of Luke, that Jesus appeared when Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, (C. 3, 2) thinks that the dignity changed annually between the two, or perhaps they followed each other in dignity at that time, and finally imagines that because Annas was the father-in-law of the reigning – – – but let us leave that!
The interrogation that Jesus has to undergo is very short, but also meaningless; yes, if we consider how Annas’ question about Jesus’ teachings and disciples and his answer that he has always taught freely and publicly arose, the interrogation dwindles to a minimum, or rather, into nothing. The only new thing that the fourth Gospel adds to Jesus’ speech is the rather abrupt remark: “Why do you ask me? Ask my listeners what I have said to them; they know what I have said.” One of the servants then strikes Jesus in the face because he answered disrespectfully to the High Priest’s question, and after Jesus has fairly sentimentally defended himself against the servant (“if I have answered badly, prove it; but if it was appropriate, why do you strike me?” … if it wasn’t important to him to say a few more words, he should have expressed himself more fully to the High Priest) – the matter is settled.
Annas now sends Jesus bound – already before the Roman cohort, their colonel and the servants of the Jews had bound him when he was captured – to Caiaphas, from where he was led to the praetorium in the morning without any further action being taken with him. Or rather only up to the Praetorium, since the Jews, in order not to defile themselves for the enjoyment of the Passover lamb on the evening, do not want to step into the Gentile house: Pilate must therefore step out of the government building, and after he had had to take a very defiant answer in return for his condescending favor, he must in addition so far forgive himself his dignity as to take Jesus into his custody as a capital criminal, before he can learn from the Jews why he had forfeited life (C. 18, 28-32).
However, we have not heard that Jesus was found guilty of death after an interrogation, nor why he deserved to die. Therefore, when the Jews answer Pilate’s question about what charges they have against this man by saying, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you,” it is not only ridiculous, arrogant, and audaciously disrespectful towards the authorities, whom they should have tried to win over, but it is also tantamount to saying nothing, as all the prerequisites necessary for such a statement are missing.
All those novelties that the fourth Gospel reports – and everything he reports consists of novelties – All that we do not want to list again has left no room for him to report on the main thing, the actual interrogation, and he had to bring in these novelties because he did not dare to report on the main thing. Why? It will become clear when we look at the original report.
2. The original report.
Mark 14, 53 – 65.
Mark does not yet know the name of the High Priest to whom Jesus would be brought, and out of obedience to Mark, Luke does not mention him, although he did name the names of Caiaphas and Annas in the opening of his work, which is his own creation. Matthew combines the earlier information from Luke with this last part of the Gospel, and on his own account, names the High Priest as Caiaphas. Peter had also followed his Lord to the palace of the High Priest.
Mark knows of only one interrogation. The synod had tried to find false witnesses, but could not reconcile their testimony. Some of them testified that they had once heard Jesus say that he would tear down this temple and erect another one in three days; but even their testimony could not bring anything to a decision, since it was not true. In vain the high priest asked Jesus to answer, and only then, when he asked him the decisive question, whether he was the Son of the Blessed One, the accused answered: I am He, and from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest tore his garment and said, “Why do we need witnesses?” and the assembled council pronounced a sentence of death for blasphemy.
Now follows the mocking and maltreatment of Jesus by the servants, the denial of Peter, and the statement that the priesthood came in the morning and handed Jesus over to Pilate – Mark does not yet know anything about that ridiculous scruples of the Jews regarding impurity, of course also because he does not need to impress upon his readers so anxiously that tonight only the Passover lamb will be eaten.
Matthew tells the same and has strictly kept to the original report, while the report of Luke already forms the transition to that of the fourth, namely is just as incomplete and confused.
3. Luke’s Report.
Immediately after the notice that Jesus was led “into the house” of the high priest, the report of Peter’s denial follows, and immediately after that the report of the taunts and mockings that Jesus had to suffer. There is no mention of an interrogation yet.
Only in the morning the Sanhedrin gathers, Jesus is summoned, asked if he is the Christ, and although he now makes a lot of dodges: “If I say it, you will not believe, and if I ask, you will neither answer me nor let me go”, although we should therefore expect him to abstain from all answers, he nevertheless adds, not only without any motive – for it would then have to be: yes, I am! – but also in contradiction to the motive introduced: from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the power of God. Now we should think that the questions would be over, but no! As if it were a different one from the first, a second one follows: if he is the Son of God, Jesus answers it in the affirmative, his opponents shout: why do we still need a testimony, and he is led to Pilate.
It is clear: the anxious confusion in Jesus’ first answer, the anxious appearance of a twofold question, came about because Luke knew that the interrogation had to be longer, and because he was unsure how to accomplish this extension. It is equally clear that the mockery of Jesus, if it occurs before his declaration that he is the Lord of Glory, has lost its basis; and that Peter’s denial, only after Jesus’ condemnation, as the incident that completes the measure of the sufferings of this night, requires no explicit proof.
The report, however, is not only highly deficient in its arrangement – namely completely confused and shifted, but that an important component of the interrogation is suppressed by Luke and yet the structure of the original report is maintained, is evident from the question (Chapter 22, verse 71): what need have we of further witnesses? What kind of question is this if it was not previously reported that efforts had been made in vain to obtain witness statements! Luke wanted to reserve that testimony, that Jesus had uttered blasphemies against the temple – “the holy place”, Acts 6:13 – for the story of Stephen. Hence the incomplete nature of the report and its convoluted arrangement.
Luke had shown the fourth how to do it, if he wanted to use the statement of the false witnesses otherwise. On the occasion of the cleansing of the temple, the fourth had really put that saying about the temple into the mouth of the Lord and used the note of Mark that the testimony of the accusers was not the same to ascribe a misunderstanding to the people concerning that saying (John 2, 19 – 21) – reason enough to do everything to fill the gap that arose in every possible way. But he should not have made the gap even more unbearable by completely omitting to inform us that and how the synod condemned the Lord to death!
4. Release of the original report.
Trifles – which, however, are not trifles at all for history as well as for a proper history book – as e.g. that the synod could be assembled immediately in the night, since one did not know whether the attack of Judas would succeed today or when at all; the other, that the synod had to meet again in the morning, since the matter had already been decided – but it happened only because Mark needed a transition and a starting point for the following – whether finally the synod could admit that the servants were allowed to exercise their crudities on the accused so unguardedly, we will not mention.
But this is not a trifle, that the saying of the temple, if Jesus, as it is the premise of the original evangelist, had really recited it once before the people, would have been understood by no one. The temple that Jesus wants to found in three days after the overthrow of the old one is the church that is founded with the resurrection: but who would have understood this among the people? Who will present things that no one among the listeners understands? But no one can recite such things either: sayings always come into being only when, and where, they are understood.
The elements out of which this saying and the whole situation is formed are the following.
That false witnesses stand up against the righteous is taught by many Psalms (e.g. Ps. 27, 12); but just one conclusion about a statement concerning the sanctuary Mark learned from the writing of Jeremiah. This prophet also once prophesied the downfall of the temple and was therefore accused by the priesthood of being guilty of death: “he is worthy of death, say the accusers and judges of Jeremiah, he has prophesied against this city, as you yourselves have heard with your ears” (Jer. 26:11) much as in the writing of Mark the priest says: “You have heard blasphemy, what do you think?” and how the others now reply that he is guilty of death. The only difference is that, while Jeremiah knew how to justify himself and was protected by the princes, the testimony about Jesus’ statement could not decide the matter, which here had to end in death, and only Jesus’ declaration that he was the Messiah had to bring about the verdict.
The hardships that Jesus had to endure after his redemption were absolutely necessary and could not be spared to the Messiah, so that what the Holy Spirit had dictated to the prophet long before (Is. 50, 6) about the fate of the Messiah would be fulfilled.
5. The Denial of Peter.
In the usual manner of the fourth gospel, in which the words only have value and are worthy of the Lord, when they are quite vaporous floating or cretinous bloated, Jesus says during the last meal to the disciples (C. 13, 33) that he must now tell them the same thing that he once told the Jews (C. 7, 34), that they were looking for him, but where he was going, they could not go. Of course, the disciples must not understand these words as much as they understood the Jews at that time. Peter therefore asks very curiously: where are you going? Where I am going, Jesus answers – but Peter has hardly become wiser now – you cannot follow, but later – Jesus adds, having in mind the legend of Peter’s death on the cross – you will follow me. Again, in the manner of the fourth, it is natural that Peter does not understand a word of what Jesus said, but rather wonders why he cannot follow the Lord now, since he would lay down his life for him. You? Jesus answers, you will lay down your life for me? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. (V. 36 – 38.)
Luke also inserted very improper reflections into the original text. Once, after he had settled the childish contest of the disciples about the precedence, Jesus remarks (C. 22, 31-34), “Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired you, that he may sift you as the wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not, and when you are converted some day,-thus also a reflection to the future, but what reflection! is “some day” so far off? Shall it not be concluded with the cockcrow? – so strengthen your brothers. Peter declares that he will follow the Lord to prison and death, whereupon he must then hear that he will rather deny him three times before the cock crows today.
Luke has set a threefold machinery in motion and each of them makes the other superfluous or an illusion. If the shocking impression of the cockcrow is completely paralyzed and canceled out, when Jesus’ prayer is supposed to bring about the decision, then again the prayer has become superfluous, when Peter is brought to himself immediately after the third denial by the fact that the Lord – we do not know how it was possible, since Jesus was inside in the palladium, Peter outside in the courtyard – turned to him and looked at him.
Matthew, who remained faithful to the original account, makes the Lord – and it is only right and appropriate – remark on the way to Gethsemane (Chapter 26, 30-35) that all of them would be offended because it is written: “I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” Peter – note the progression! – declares that even if all the others were to be offended, he would not, and he insists on the opposite even after Jesus had told him that he would deny him three times that night before the rooster crowed. The other disciples also assure that they would remain steadfast — —
just like Mark (C. 14, 26 – 31), only that the original character of his report is revealed in his entangling antithesis: “this night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times!”
We already know what is meant by the marvelous historical knowledge of the fourth, that Jesus is led into the palace of Annas, that in the same palace, into which he gained entrance through the mediation of the other disciple, Peter denies his Lord, what is meant by this admirable vividness. First Peter has to deny his Lord before the door of the palladium, when he gets entrance through the mediation of the other disciple (C. 18, 15-17) – how inappropriate it is that here, where Peter has to stand alone, another disciple appears, which either repulsive or meaningless role this other plays, while Peter falls and rises again from the fall, that, then Peter denies his master in front of the servants with whom he warms himself at the fire, and he repeats his denial when a relative of poor Malchus speaks to him about having seen him in the garden! Then the cock crows (v. 25-27).
We recover immediately at the primal account (Mark 14, 66-72). Peter, who had followed his master into the palladium of the high priest, warms himself in the courtyard at the fire, one of the maids addresses him as one who had also been in the company of the Nazarene Jesus, he denies, retreats into the porch and the cock crows. The same maid, seeing him again, decouples him to the bystanders, he denies and – note this connection! – denies again, when shortly afterwards the bystanders remark that his Galilean dialect betrays him. With an oath Peter denies this time, then the cock crows, he remembers the words of Jesus and – for all this the fourth one had no more thoughts after his great efforts – cries. This is coherence and simplicity of presentation, economy of means and all the greater effect.
Luke has already violated the law of parsimony by not letting the maid appear twice, but instead introducing “another” to Peter the second time and letting another, very loosely even, affirm that Peter is one of the group for the third time, because – but how did he know? – he is also a Galilean. Luke has also overlooked how the two crowings of the rooster hold the whole development together. The same has also been overlooked by Matthew, and he has no less disregarded how beautiful and simple it is if the same maid who recognized Peter first and alone shows him to the other person the second time: the second time, he introduces another maid.
Mark was the first to form the entire story and formed it to enhance the impression of the abandonment in which the Lord stood after his condemnation. Jesus must also predict Peter’s fall to make it certain that he not only stood above the collision with the calmness and certainty of his spirit but was also not surprised by any incident of it in any way. –
Peter will not hold it against us if we add a critique of the reports on the end of the traitor as an appendix here.
6. The End of the Traitor.
In his Gospel, Luke remains faithful to the original type of the evangelical story to the extent that he tells nothing about the fate of Judas. Only in the Acts of the Apostles does he know how to tell that the traitor bought a field with the blood money, but suddenly — how floating and unstable the report is fabricated! — fell down and burst in the middle, so that — glorious imagination — all (!) his entrails spilled out, and that now, when it became known to all inhabitants of Jerusalem, the field was called Akeldama, the Field of Blood.
So because (Acts 1:18-20) the villain’s entrails were lying on this field, it was called the Field of Blood! And all the inhabitants of Jerusalem hear that news! And they take so much interest in the long-gone story, perhaps take so far for Judas and against the murdered Messiah, that they baptize that field the Field of Blood. But no! They only call it the Field of Blood because of the entrails!
This time, Luke had the interest of completing the number of twelve apostles and, at the same time, to emphasize vividly the gap in the story by establishing the end of the traitor. He cites the two prophecies that had to be fulfilled now. The heritage of the evildoer must become desolate, and he himself must perish (Ps. 69:26) — of course, this time the heritage that the evildoer acquired with his sin money — and, Ps. 109:8, his office must be given to another. Another, however, must be chosen by lot this time so that, when this other disappears without a trace, the truly other, the true replacement, Paul, later appears even more significant.
Whether Matthew became acquainted with the field of blood from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, or whether this field already existed in the circle where he learned the Gospel of his predecessor, detached from the written letter and discussed, cannot be decided here. Enough, he includes it, and to make the matter more melodramatic and to introduce the new melodrama in his Gospel, he breaks the original structure of the Gospel history and separates the note that Jesus was brought to Pilate from the other, that he now stood before the governor. If the end of the betrayer were to be reported in a Gospel, it must now happen immediately, not later as in the Acts of the Apostles. This new arrangement can even be called an improvement compared to the one made by Luke, who does not let much time pass between the ascension of Jesus and the election of his replacement, yet speaks as if Judas had possessed the field for a longer time, as if the death of the betrayer had already occurred for some time, and as if the field had borne the name given to it by all the inhabitants of Jerusalem for a longer time. Luke had the first agony of invention; Matthew does it better, even if he had to slow down the development of the Gospel history to make it better. (Chapter 27, 2-11)
Immediately, as Judas sees that Jesus has been condemned by the priests, he feels remorse etc and brings back his, that is, the prophet’s, silver coins to the priests so that they could be sent to their true destination, commanded by the prophet. Judas even helps with this. When the priests respond to his complaint that he has betrayed innocent blood by saying that it is none of their concern, his and the evangelist’s desperation helps him so much that he succeeds in throwing the silver coins into the temple, after which he hangs himself. The priests must now take care of the expedition of the silver coins. As blood money, they think they cannot keep them in the temple, so they purchased the Potter’s Field – which was therefore very cheap! – and designated it as a burial place for strangers, and the field itself was called the Field of Blood from then on. The confusion of this world: to call or even prove all of this and everything that follows as confusion or chaos, such as that Judas could enter the temple, that the priests immediately found the silver coins in the temple, and guessed their former owner immediately, would be a deliberate waste of time, since we have already seen that these silver coins are only given to Judas by Matthew.
We have only to explain the prophecy which Matthew provided for its fulfillment.
That shepherd, Jehovah himself, whose earnings have been estimated at thirty pieces of silver, says indignantly to the prophet (Zech. 11:13): “Throw the glory of the price at which I am valued by them into the treasury” (Treasure ! this is here יןצר). The prophet knows immediately what kind of treasure is meant, he “takes the pieces of silver and throws them into the temple, into the treasury. ” If Jehovah’s glory otherwise dwells in the temple, then it should now , where he breaks with the people, instead of him the ridiculous price at which his people valued him can be found in the temple. Tooth for tooth! mockery for mockery!
No one knew it better than Matthew — after all, above C. 26, 15 he literally formed his text after that, where the prophetic passage about the pieces of silver is. Nevertheless he now quotes Jeremiah (C. 26, 9). Why? Because he wants to remind the reader that the moment has now come when his prophecies will also be fulfilled, and because he borrowed the note from the potter’s field from his writing, the note which he immediately weaves into the quotation from the writing of Zechariah. He already understood the word יןצר in the writing of Zechariah to mean potter, and Jeremiah teaches him what the potter means here. He was once commanded by Jehovah to go down to the potter’s house and to learn from the arbitrariness with which he dealt with the clay how arbitrarily Jehovah could deal with his people (C. 18, 1-6). . Even more! In front of the brick gate in the valley of Ben Hinnom, where the potters are working – that is the connection that connects both prophecies! — shall Jeremiah go, buy himself an earthenware jar from the potter, break it in front of the elders of the people and the priests, and say: Jehovah also will break this people and this city in pieces! (C. 19, 1-11.)
Matthew has now made sure that the priests, through their purchase on the potter’s field, carry the pledge that Jehovah has to redeem in the fall of their city.
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