Critique of the Gospel of John
by Bruno Bauer
§ 16. The unity of Jesus with the Father.
On the feast of the dedication of the temple Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s hall. The Jews surrounded Him, asking how long He would keep their minds in suspense and demanding that He tell them freely if He was the Messiah.
How often had Jesus declared loudly and publicly and without any restraint who he was! But they did not want to believe even the clearest speech, the reluctant ones!” So even Lücke must exclaim *), but he knows how to cover up the screaming contradiction with his complaint about the unwillingness of the people. As if the question of the Jews only presupposed their unbelief and not rather a reticent language of the Lord when it was important to speak out about the significance of his person. If the apologist no longer knows how to help himself, if he is already close to admitting that the evangelist was wrong in his pragmatism, then the Jews must atone for it with their unbelief **). But if we only take up the question in its true sense, the Jews want the Lord to explain himself more clearly than before about his person, for up to now he has only spoken about it in a vacillating way or rather avoided and evaded any definite explanation. This is the meaning, but the meaning that puts the whole structure of the Gospel in contradiction with itself, for from the beginning the Lord never failed to call himself the Messiah in the most definite way. The Jews had already asked him the same question: who are you? (8:25) and also then as now he only answered that he was what he constantly said about himself. Admittedly, now as then, the Lord complains of the unbelief which the people have opposed even to his clearest declarations, but this complaint is so far from serving as a support for the apologists’ talk of the people’s unwillingness that it is only the same contradiction with which we have just become acquainted. The evangelist must let the Lord complain about the unbelief of the Jews, for according to his account all the Lord’s speeches are only sermons about his person, the evangelist must come to this complaint, although the question of the Jews would only be possible if the Lord had rarely and then always only spoken vaguely about his person. The question of the Jews is therefore only a pragmatic irritant, which is instantly forgotten as soon as he has exerted his effect and set the Lord’s speech in motion *).
*) Comm. II, 363.
**) Olshausen, on the other hand, says of the Jews who called upon the Lord to make an open declaration, that they were “attracted by the wonderful appearance which the Saviour presented to them, and full of eagerness to understand the same.” (Comm. II, 250) But the Lord has done everything in our Gospel so that this understanding could come to a conclusion. He has not only given the impression of a miraculous appearance, which could be interpreted by others, but has himself constantly given the interpretation. Olshausen must of course also come to the reproach of “unbelief” because it is once written, but he can only do so by removing a difficult presupposition; for people who occupy themselves with the miraculous appearance of the Lord and its interpretation cannot surely be accused of unbelief, they are rather on the best way to faith and a kind guide would easily bring them to it. The Lord could only punish the unbelief of the Jews if His appearance was not only vaguely a miraculous one, but had long and often been interpreted by Him.
*) Gfrörer, therefore, has no other basis for his pragmatic argument about Jesus’ teaching of Himself (d. Heiligth. u. d. Wahrh. p. 2ü. 27) than only an accidental contradiction into which the pragmatism of the evangelist has fallen.
The point, by the way, which the evangelist has in mind already at the beginning of this passage and to which he only wanted to bring the Lord, is his saying that he and the Father are one, v. 30. But if the decision about his historical character can lie in what leads to this saying, then the verdict will be very unfavourable. For apart from the question of the Jews, which is impossible in this way, the Lord’s answer preceding this saying is also of such a nature that it shares the same fate with the question which gave rise to it, namely, the fate of proving its impossibility. Is the Lord, then, like the apologist, who is limited to a narrow circle of proof, always to refer only to his works (v. 25)? This would also contradict his conviction that the people do not believe this testimony of works (v. 26). And now the reason of unbelief! You do not believe, complains the Lord, because you do not belong to my sheep, as I have said; thus he refers to an earlier discourse, which can only be the likeness of the true Shepherd (10:1-18) *). But at that time the Lord had said nothing about a contrast of the sheep, he had rather spoken only of the contrast of the shepherds. The likeness therefore also receives a completely new turn through this new contrast, it is developed and expanded; but it can only be drawn into this new direction if it still occupies the mind of the present hearer with the freshness of the first impression and stimulates him to follow this new turn. After a quarter of a year, this stimulus has waned and the first vibrations that the simile aroused in the mind are over, so they cannot be carried on to further circles. The stone had to be thrown into the depths anew if it was to set the water level in greater oscillations. And then the very same persons should now call upon the Lord to make a clear declaration of his dignity, to whom he had so fully revealed a quarter of a year ago that he was the true Shepherd, who would suffer sacrificial death on behalf of the flock and also lead the nations into the Kingdom of God? This can only be seriously asserted by the apologist who, caught once and for all in the letter and the circle of vision of his protégé, thinks he has achieved everything when he paraphrases his protégé’s statements with a few more words. But if we only break through this fearfully confined circle of tautology and no longer fear the question of how the writer could entangle himself in contradictions as if it were a frightening image, then the view will be different and we can finally breathe freely. The evangelist has transferred the closeness that the Lord’s speech has for him and the reader to the point of view of the people who surround Jesus at the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple, the crowd has received for its view the identity that is characteristic of the drama’s chorus, and now Jesus only had to allude in a new scene to what he had said in the previous scene or to change it with a slight twist in a new direction.
*) De Wette, of course, thinks that the Lord is only referring to earlier reproaches, e.g. 8, 47, where he rebukes the people’s insensitivity. But he rather refers to a speech in which he made this reproach in the context of a parable of the shepherd.
The saying: “I and the Father are One” now stands alone and is left to its own fate. We must not let it share the fate of the preparatory speech from the outset, since it can be a real piece itself, even if in an unobservant environment. According to the evangelist’s view, the saying is supposed to express the unity of the Lord’s and the Father’s essence, for precisely this unity of essence is the reason for the Lord’s power, which reveals itself in the fact that one can no more snatch His own from His hand than from that of the Father. This reasoning, however, is only in the form of speculative observation, and the living fullness, the immediate being, in which the self-consciousness of the Lord and his perception were held, is drawn by it into the abstraction of the reflective determination, which was, however, only possible from the later standpoint of observation. Through the historical dialectic that the person of the Lord experienced, the immediacy of being had to be transformed into the past and into the ideal content of consciousness before the world of essence could open up to speculative reflection. The thought of the unity of essence is not rendered unstable by this result of criticism – on the contrary, it must prove its truth from within itself; nor do those words of Jesus’ life, in which it is in itself contained, thereby in any way lose their force and significance, but are only placed on the standpoint to which they belong.
We can easily disregard the attempt of the Jews to stone the Lord and the subsequent interjections in verses 31-33 as they fall short of their purpose and cannot deny the pragmatism of the evangelist as their origin. For he does not know how to resolve a collision with the Jews other than by allowing these stubborn and hardened enemies of the Lord, these stone-like people, to pick up stones *). It is also his standing formula that the Lord refers to his works when he is called to account (v. 32). We can therefore immediately move on to the new point, namely the saying in which the Lord proves that it is not blasphemous for him to sit with God, since in the scripture God himself calls others besides him gods (v. 34-36).
*) Tholuck knows the ground of evangelical history so well that he can tell us at once where the Jews got the stones so easily (Comm. p. 208). Since the building of the temple was not yet finished, the Jews were able to scrape together the stones lying around.
As this saying is detached from the presupposed occasion, so now, of course, its consequence must also be detached from it. Nothing else follows but the same appeal to the testimony of the works, vv. 37, 38, and that attempt of the Jews, repeated over and over again, to catch the Lord, v. 39. So much the better! now the saying stands alone, and it is possible for us to put it back into its true environment. When a mob of people is in a rage, and is already grasping at its last argument, stones, then there is no time to argue with it, and to prove to it from scriptures that it is wrong. Such a discussion requires a calm situation, and if we are forced to change the scene, we will also have to bring other people onto the scene, for the Lord could more easily give this proof from Scripture before the scribes than before the angry crowd. Because of the similarity of this proof with the argumentation reported by the Synoptics (Matt. 22:41-46), because of the purity and skill of the turn the proof takes, we consider it possible that the Lord really did reject the accusation of blasphemy from this passage in the Psalms and proved His right to ascribe divine dignity to Himself.
Up to this point, the fourth gospel could be considered on its own and it was possible for us to get to know its peculiarity from the criticism of its pragmatism and its presentation of history, since up to this point it stands alone and only comes into contact with the synoptic gospel circle at individual external points. From now on, however, when he moves on to the presentation of the last part of Jesus’ life, the fourth evangelist cannot take a step without coming into collision with the synoptic reports. Even with the report of the raising of Lazarus, although the synoptics do not know anything about it, he is not alone, since this miracle, according to his view, brings the struggle of the legal authorities against Jesus to a final decision, while the first gospels convey this decision in a completely different way. But it is not only this last part of the life of Jesus that is subject to comparative criticism, but also the whole account of the public activity of the Lord, which the fourth evangelist has delivered, is to be considered again, if we examine the parallel account of the first three gospels. Up to now, although we have always drawn the final judgment of criticism from the inner pragmatism of the fourth gospel, we have also opposed the synoptic accounts to it, but we have not yet taken this opposition in the highest degree of seriousness: we have only brought them into the circle of vision in the way one makes demonstrations with an enemy power in order to bring the opponent to his senses and to a decision. From the distant heights, on which we left the synoptic power only in a threatening position, we will now bring it down to the plain; now the hot battle between it and the fourth gospel will begin, and only now will it be possible to solve the question of the historical character of what we found as the last basic material in the latter gospel.
Before the battle breaks out, however, we must once again examine the forces of the fourth gospel and bring them back into the proper order of battle, especially out of the confusion and crooked position into which they have been placed by the apologists.
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