BRUNO BAUER: Theological Explanation of the Gospels – II. Strauss’s tradition hypothesis

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by Neil Godfrey

Theological Explanation of the Gospels

Die theologische Erklärung der Evangelien


Bruno Bauer



Strauss’ tradition hypothesis.

Topic headings in the text below are my additions to Bauer’s text.


The proposition that language is the man and the word is the thing remains valid even when the language of a point of view is so unfounded and and deviates in such strange and arbitrary directions from the object of investigation that there can no longer be any mention of a substantive debate, and the engagement with this standpoint can only exist in a representation of chance, which governs its language.

The truly substantive debate is then the portrayal of language – the essence manifests itself in the indeterminacy and confusion of language – in the thoughtlessness with which this language throws together the most contradictory things, the soullessness of the standpoint.

“The apostles, Strauss says,*) gradually die off in the second half of the first century; the evangelical proclamation gradually spreads in the Roman Empire and increasingly takes on a specific form; but soon this tradition was interpreted in various writings, to which one apostle or another perhaps also provided the basic outlines – writings that initially had no fixed shape and therefore had to undergo various transformations, as shown by the example of the Hebrew Gospel and the quotations of Justin.”

*) I, 82. 83.


This is Strauss’s general view on the origin of the evangelical historiography – every word an uncertain assumption – the whole a tangle of chimeras.

“The evangelical proclamation” – what is it?

It “gradually spreads” – as a fluid or through specific organs?

It “spreads” – where does it come from?

However, we know what it is according to Strauss’s opinion – the continuation of apostolic preaching and proclamation – the oral gospel; we know its premise, understand it, but must also, in order to reproduce it, renounce any specific thought.

It “fixes itself more and more to a certain type” – but if it originally emanated from the apostles, should they not already have provided for such a type? If such a type is missing, can we still speak of an ״evangelical’ proclamation – of the life of a historical person?

Only one turn of phrase is needed, and this proclamation, which is proven by nothing and about which nothing can be conceived, stands firm and secure as “this tradition” – a simple “soon,” the relationship of which to the preceding “gradually” and “more and more” remains a mystery, captures this tradition in writings, immediately in “various” writings – this written interpretation of the tradition is supported by “basic outlines,” perhaps provided by an apostle, thus reduced to a superfluous thing, since the transition of the tradition into writing was not necessary if basic outlines already existed at the same time, perhaps provided by an apostle – yes, if perhaps an apostle had already provided the basic outlines for “one or the other” evangelical history book, then not only is the bold turn that translates the tradition into “various” writings exposed as meaningless talk, but also the initial assertion of the gradually progressing fixation of the evangelical proclamation.


The worthy conclusion of this discussion is formed by the writings that “initially had no fixed form” – a chimera about which nothing can be conceived – a determination that doesn’t even serve the purpose for which it appears, as even writings with a very fixed form can undergo “various transformations”!

Rather, it is a law and inherent in the nature of the matter that writings in which the first attempt is made to fix and shape general views have a fixed form, that their authors feel the necessity of order, coherence, and motivation the most, and that the later ones, who have the written letters before them, lend their assumptions, their knowledge of the connection and the motives to their readers without really working out or even expressing these assumptions in their writings, and thus can produce writings as formless as those composed by Luke, Matthew, and the Fourth [Gospel].


However, Strauss believes that in the Hebrew Gospel and in the apostolic memoirs from which Justin derived his quotations, he possesses the evidence that the earliest evangelical compositions were writings that had no fixed form. However, the actual Hebrew Gospel, that is, the one we learn about from the references of Origen and Jerome, had a very fixed form – a form that characterizes it as a later work, for which the present Gospels of Matthew and Luke, as well as the fourth Gospel, are used. As for those apostolic memoirs of Justin, I have also demonstrated that where they intersect with our Gospels of Matthew and Luke, they contain the evangelical material in its original, solid form.


Strauss also incorporates myths, in the “tradition” of the actual life of Jesus, as fabulous additions, mythical elements. Here, at least, he had to address the question of the influence of self-consciousness on the formation of religious beliefs. However, once again, he relies on general phrases that he takes from those sections of “Prolegomena O. Müller to a Scientific Mythology” in which they still fall into exaggerations that the initial attempts of a scientific foundation are subject to.

A phrase that can only intimidate anxious minds and satisfy theologians is the expression that a “artificial system of deception, whether it be self-serving or philanthropic, if the entire impression is not deceptive, is very poorly suited to the noble simplicity of those times” *) as the earliest products of Greek (and Christian) thought impress upon us.

 *) I, 101


By means of a parenthesis, then (“and Christian”), he achieves the equality of the times and circumstances that Müller speaks of and that he has to address. This parenthesis grants him the right to apply the inherently empty phrase of “noble simplicity” to a time from which one can rather assert, if one does not want to exhaust the characterization with it alone, that it was a time of intellectual madness, of frivolity.

“So we come to the conclusion,” Strauss continues with Müller, “that even an inventor of myth in the true sense of the word is inconceivable” — really? Because the “noble simplicity” of the first — I add: and the second — century of the Roman imperial era contradicts the assumption of deliberate deception? Is it because the question is initially posed in an extreme and erroneous manner, and therefore it is “evident that the entire concept of invention is inappropriate and should be removed”? Is it because it is “the concept of a certain (!) necessity and unconsciousness” (in the formation of ancient myths) “that we must emphasize”? **) Is it because “the debate about whether the myth originates from one or many, from the poet or the people, is not the main issue”?

**) 1, 102.

Therefore, rather, all dispute ceases — but the investigation has also reached its end from the very beginning because it is not reflected upon that what the individual shaped and could shape only as such (for the multitude as such cannot do it and has never done it) could not be known beforehand to the many as that which was shaped — in other words, that the shaped entity did not exist before its shaping as such.


“The One, the narrator, Strauss continues with Müller״ is only the mouth through which all speak” – that is, he is no longer a real, an actual mouth.

When Strauss himself says (again with Müller) that this chimerical mouth first gives form and expression to ״what all would like to say,’ he is only saying himself that this form did not exist before, that therefore the One gives something new and that his effort during the forming must teach him himself how far his creation is something new. What all would like to express” (but all cannot) is essentially different from the preceding earlier attempts and even in its pre-existing conditions and prerequisites is still hidden from all. What does not yet have form and its own expression does not yet exist for the world. The happy one who possesses it in his own sense of self and recognises it in its preconditions must first create it.

“The myth, Strauss lets Müller further say *), is not based on an individual consciousness, but on a higher, general people’s consciousness.”

*) 1, 104 

Certainly! Certainly! Quite well said in his time – at a time when the Enlightenment hypothesis, according to which religious ideas were only priestly inventions, still occupied an important place. But Strauss should have explained it better, proved it better, than he did with his monotonous presupposition of a Jewish messianic dogmatics – i.e. with his constant reference to Bertholdt’s Jewish Christology.


After letting Müller speak so far, he himself appears: ״However,’ he remarks in his own person somewhat more timidly, ״However, the line between the unintentional and the intentional is not easy to draw here” – but not impossible?

But that line of demarcation that is not easy to draw – Strauss does not want to get involved in the attempt to draw it, he does not even want to acknowledge it seriously: ״It is almost impossible for our understanding and critical contemporary education to put itself back into a time and education in which the imagination worked so powerfully that its creations could solidify into realities in the spirit of the very person who created them. But what is “almost impossible” for the ״critical formation of time” need not be so for the critic who possesses in the works before him the result of an intellectual work which represents in itself the degree of freedom of self-consciousness from which it derives and is affected.

Strauss believes that he is examining and determining when he immediately introduces some kind of attenuation or digression from a thought whose elaboration “seems almost impossible”: however, he explicitly states *) that this unconsciousness and “lack of intention” should by no means be extended to all narratives—But—here comes a new digression—”a work of fiction, even if not unintentional, can still be innocent”—but—I ask—what about the composition of the fourth Gospel—what about the parallel between Peter and Paul, which forms the interest of the Acts of the Apostles—what about the historical antithesis that the author of the Galatians has juxtaposed with his historical notes regarding the relationship between the Gentile apostle and the original apostles in the Acts of the Apostles?

*) I, 110 



I will return once more to the side of tradition according to which it produces nothing new, but only repeats the historical material with its inexhaustible breath.

Tradition and ״the evangelical proclamation,’ which gradually spread ״in the Roman Empire,’ are therefore one and the same, and through this uninterrupted, lengthy, always and forever repeating historical narrative, the Roman world has become a conquest of Christianity.

But not even the author of the Acts of the Apostles, who was already aware of a well-developed literature of the Gospels, dared to elevate himself to this level of historical perception — although he often presents his apostles as proclaimers of the Lord, he did not stoop down to the trivial notion that they had presented their listeners with the complete “evangelical history” — rather, it is always the turning point, manifested in the resurrection of the one whom the Jews had killed, thus the proof guided by God that the victim of Jewish hatred is the Messiah, and the apologetic proof that he is therefore the Promised One of the prophets and as such had to suffer, which forms the sole content of the apostolic preaching.


Even if the New Testament epistles, according to the early ecclesiastical view, are allowed to derive from the authors to whom they ascribe themselves, they cannot, with their few isolated and accidental allusions or references to individual data of evangelical history, be regarded as witnesses to the tradition.

But after my proof of the late origin even of the so-called Pauline Epistles – what new and decisive force is thrown into the previous struggle against the tradition hypothesis – what confirmation at least does it give to all that has hitherto been carried out against it.

Not only in the letters of Peter and James, but also in the writings of Paul, the sparse references to the evangelical history, instead of tradition, rely primarily on the written Gospels. The authors of the Pauline letters, too, draw their accounts of the Lord’s history solely from their Gospels.

The author of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (C. 11, 23) says, when he wants to reproduce the words of the Lord at the institution of the Lord’s Supper, ״he received it from the Lord’ – but the truth is rather that he has everything he gives from the Scriptures of Urlukas; – that formula is nothing but a sought-after expression which is supposed to vouch for the independence of the apostle.

The self-glory of the Apostle to the Gentiles in the Epistle to the Galatians (C. 1, 12) is only an imitation of the passage in the First Epistle to the Corinthians – just as the phrase that immediately precedes it – “But I declare to you, brethren, that the gospel which I preach is not after the manner of men” – is only an unfortunate imitation of the correctly executed phrase of the last Epistle (C. 15, 1).


I do not need to repeat my evidence here that the phrase in the Galatians letter, chapter 5, verse 14: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,'” is simply a free interpretation of the main point from the evangelical narrative on the greatest commandment. Likewise, the statement in the first Corinthians letter, chapter 7, verse 10, that the command of the Lord refers only to the evangelical prohibition of divorce, is also a free interpretation of certain passages. Furthermore, in the next volume, I will demonstrate that the Apostolic Fathers, meaning the later authors of the writings of Barnabas, Hermas, Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp, did not draw their quotations from the words of Jesus from either oral tradition or the proclamation of the Gospels, but rather from their written Gospels.

Even where tradition alone could serve as a means of preservation, in the area of doctrine, one always wrote down what one possessed and had gained – one sought not only to secure but also to expand one’s possessions through written elaboration. The First Epistle to the Corinthians, for example, is nothing but an attempt to systematise the whole doctrine.

The assertion of the Church Fathers that the rule of faith is entrusted not to parchment, but only to the spirit and hearts of believers, is merely one of their declamatory exaggerations and rhetorical flourishes. In fact, they themselves have documented the development and growth of this rule gradually in their writings, recording its various versions over time.

But theologians invoke the power of memory in antiquity, emphasizing the advantage that antiquity bestowed upon the living and enduring scripture of the heart over the dead scripture of parchment!


On the other hand, we need only refer to the facts at hand.

The saying: ״I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners,’ Luke communicates in that later weakening which he has suffered through the subsequent addition: ״to repentance,’ Matthew brings together with a strange saying belonging to a quite different argumentation. If writers proceed in this way with a saying which they read written, what should be the fate of a saying which wanders around in the memory of a scattered congregation made up of the most heterogeneous components for years – many years? But we need not be seriously concerned about it, since in every head, in every particular circle, it becomes a different one, takes on new forms, so that there can no longer be any question of a definite saying.

If, as I have demonstrated in almost every gap in the narratives, with the alterations that Luke has already found in his sources and the errors and disruptive combinations of Matthew—if the letter itself can be so mutable, how can it remain intact and endure in tradition, that is, in the minds and hearts of thousands, preserved in vessels of such diverse forms, and written down on tablets that assimilate it in various ways?

Who can reproduce a work of art, a circle of parables, a work such as the realisation of the antithesis of the old and the new law in the Sermon on the Mount, thus explanations which are the revelations of an absolutely new spirit and in all respects contradict the usual and existing presuppositions, literally and intactly in a single hearing? No one! But instead of blaming this impossibility on the modern weakness of memory, first prove that the ancients possessed a better memory – only do not refer to the testimonies of writers of antiquity who were themselves theologically minded and sentimental admirers of prehistoric times and barbaric conditions!


What the peoples of antiquity really knew, they wrote down with great difficulty; as soon as they had brought something to clarity of conception, the organ which served to elaborate and fix it was also ready, and if they wrote nothing, the reason was only that they had nothing worth the trouble. More, for example, than what the ancient Egyptians expressed in their monuments and hieroglyphics, they did not possess in their inner view of history and the world of the gods.


Infancy narratives

I shall now follow Strauss into the details of his work and first touch upon his explanation of the infancy story in order to show how his view of the origin of the same basically agrees with the apologetic justification of the miracles which, according to the Gospel account, announce and surround the birth of the Saviour.

The external suitability, the external naturalness, in short, the category of external coherence, is for both Strauss and the apologists the instrument through which they connect the individual miracles to the main event. Neither the latter nor the miracle itself has an inner soul for either of them—both are deaf to the harmonious interplay between the dominant and subordinate elements.


When the religious perspective, in the angels who served the divine purpose in the history of the New Testament and now announce the birth of the consummator, groups the mediators of the past as servants around the consummator, the apologist, for example Neander, pleads—or rather threatens—that one must recognize how “in the vicinity of the greatest miracle in human history, by which it was meant to be brought into the closest connection with heaven, the rays of an otherwise hidden invisible world that shine into humanity appear as something harmoniously related.” However, only to the dark and God-forsaken theological mind is the heavenly world veiled, while it remains open and vividly shared with the religious spirit, just as history with its rich life and the activity of spirits that prepared the future opens itself to the positive perspective. The positive perspective sees throngs of servants in its domain, whereas the religious perspective must content itself with a few characterless angels.

One must admit,” exclaims Lange, “that God can also have a court, as noble in birth, as spiritually pure and elevated, as befits a king” — “can!” — the theologian negotiates with his poverty over this “can” and fails to see the court that surrounds the epoch-making heroes of real history — the court that is not composed of angels who are all equal in their insignificance, but of the earlier historical spirits, each of whom, in their own way and through a unique struggle, made possible the advent of the hero and the turning point of the epoch.


Can! ״The religious (!) spirit, pleads Olshausen, can be be surrounded by religious (!) spirits when it enters the world” – it can only? Were not the spirits of the whole past really standing around the cradle of Christianity, cheering the birth of the spirit that “hovered before” their still unclear works and struggles as the ultimate goal?

When shepherds, Simeon, Anna hear of the newborn Messiah or see him with their own eyes, Neander pleads: “it is in itself in the analogy of history that great phenomena and epochs are met by the longing of many a receptive mind, by many a prophetic presentiment” — as if the critic needed to plead for the recognition of this possibility that a later spirit could already be felt in advance and in the presentiment! He, too, accepts the anticipated enjoyment of the later, the anticipated happiness through the later in the earlier forms of the spirit – but precisely in these other forms of the spirit – an infinitely richer and more blissful enjoyment than when a pair of people stare at a newborn child.

When, finally, the apologist, like Lange, for example, in order to bring the star of the magicians to historical recognition, haggles with Jewish busyness and importunity: ״It is only a question here of a single bonfire in the heights, of a shining signal with which the earth, in the middle of its world history, is saluted out of the universe to which it – (the Jew becomes sentimental!) – belongs so intimately” – then this hard-hearted avarice is put to shame by the wealth of the positive view, which in the great historical heroes up to the Baptist, in the premonitions and flashes of light of the old religions, in philosophy and law and in the fire of the struggles of the nations, possesses and points out a sea of fire of stars and signals with which world history has saluted the rise of Christianity.


Now – this mindless expediency of the apologetic – “it could, it was proper, it had to” corresponds to the tautological necessity which, in Strauss’s explanation, connects the Christian myths with their Old Testament and Jewish originals. ״The Messiah could, says Strauss among others *), according to the prophecies, only come from David: how conceivable, therefore, if a Galilean, whose descent further up was not known at all, and therefore no one could prove that he did not come from David – how conceivable, if such a one had acquired the reputation of being the Messiah, that the legend of his Davidic descent soon developed in various forms”.

*) l, 179.

Regarding the evangelical perspective on the birth of Jesus, Strauss states **), “One particular factor that contributed to the development of the birth narratives in the Gospels was the prevailing title given to the Messiah: Son of God. Because of the nature of such initially figurative expressions, they tend to be taken more literally and strictly over time. Especially among the later Jews, there was a tendency to interpret what was previously meant spiritually and metaphorically in a more literal and sensual manner.” Thus, two factors—time and later Jewish customs—created one of the highest and most distinctively Christian perspectives. Let us leave aside the matter itself and consider how even the story of the Magi and the star follows the Jewish prototype. Strauss also notes that “the new Christians, coming from a Jewish background, could only justify and establish their belief in Jesus as the Messiah by attempting to demonstrate that he fulfilled all the attributes that Jewish eschatological expectations ascribed to the Messiah.” *) Finally, let us congratulate Strauss on the rich treasure of historical material he has already found in the accounts of the birth and childhood of Jesus. For example, it seems likely to him that “the detailed description of Anna may have been taken from an actual person who was known for her piety during the time of the origins of Luke’s prehistory.” **) Regarding the account of Jesus’ appearance in the temple, he finds that “criticism has no right to deny its historical significance.”

**) I, 229-233.

*) l, 304. 305. 

**) l, 326.


If he is already so happy here, how great must be his happiness when he enters the sphere of Jesus’ public life! – How poorly, rather, and anxiously will he beg the theologians and let them give him historical data on the real life of Jesus! Every step he thinks he is taking into real history will lead him from one lack of support to another, from one theological commonplace to another.



John the Baptist

For example, his assumption that the Synoptics attribute only a brief period of activity to John the Baptist is unfounded—a short-sighted bias, according to Neander, when he argues *) in favor of the Synoptics by stating, “It cannot be proven that the significant impact that John the Baptist had on his contemporaries and future generations can only be explained if he had been active in public for more than just about six months.” It is a meaningless truism to say that “the Spirit does not always conform to the measure of time” – it is a vacuous vagueness into which he ultimately retreats by acknowledging that “the Gospel account is insufficient to elevate that possibility (the short duration of John’s activity according to John’s Gospel) to historical certainty.”

*) I, 381

He speaks of an “evangelical” portrayal, distinct from the synoptic account, and it is only the compiler of the current Gospel of Luke who, through his combination of the infancy narrative, which places the precursor’s birth half a year before the Messiah, with the Gospel of the earlier Luke, which chronologically determines the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, has weakened the power and force with which the original Gospel progresses from the ministry and preaching of John the Baptist to the appearance of the Savior, and has destroyed the ideality of the original perspective. It is this compiler who has prompted the question of whether it is possible for a world-historical figure to accomplish their public work in just half a year. And truly, “Does the Spirit not always adhere to the measure of time?” Rather, it is in the struggle, with its profound dependence on time, in the intense battle against the brevity of the time allotted to humans, that the fortunate and powerful individual who carries within them a contribution to the collective treasure of humanity is able to extract, process, and present this personal treasure for recognition. Instead of seeking refuge with Neander under the shelter of a lifeless phrase about the independence of the “spirit” from time, Strauss should have cited at least one world-historical hero—a real fighter—who, in fighting with themselves and with the sluggish historical material that even resists the discoverer’s efforts to establish and secure their findings, needed “only about” a year.


If the question is whether Josephus is right when he lets the Baptist appear with the belief in the intrinsic value of his work, or whether his account must be inferior to the premise of the Gospels, according to which the Baptist described himself and his work from the outset only as provisional, then fortunately for Strauss, religious and theological interest have put the larval nature of the historical heroes so much beyond all doubt, the messianic dogmatism of the Jews, which had prescribed its larvae for the Saviour, the forerunner, as well as for all persons of sacred history, stands so firmly for him that *) he agrees with the Gospels against Josephus, since John’s baptism ״cannot be explained properly if one may not” – think of Berthold’s Christology and presuppose the Christian dogma for Christianity as its larva, which has long since been formed in advance. Furthermore, he is so happy to be able to cite the statement ״of the apostle Paul’ *) that John (Acts 19:4) baptised into the Coming One, in order to confirm his assumption – i.e. he allows the view of a Scripture which reproduces the presuppositions of the Gospels on which it is based, and can only reproduce them, to bear witness to the historical reliability of its original.

*) I, 386

*) I, 415


Theology has been unable to answer any of the questions it has grappled with because the elements it used to form those questions were inherently chimerical from the start. The rabbinical dispute among theologians has always been conducted over a non-existent entity, and since Strauss shares the same material interest as them, he cannot put an end to their dispute or the chimera that it revolves around.

When theologians debate the relationship between Luke’s account and that of the Fourth Gospel regarding the testimony of John the Baptist—how to reconcile the fact that Luke presents John giving his testimony to the people before Jesus comes to him, similar to the other Synoptic Gospels, while the Fourth Gospel has John speaking of Jesus as if the baptism has already taken place, in his response to the priests’ messengers—when Lücke, in order to do justice to both the Fourth Gospel and the Synoptics, agrees with the assumption of two separate incidents, while de Wette considers the accounts as different representations of the same event, leaning more towards mistrust of the Synoptics and favoring the Fourth Gospel, accusing Luke of inaccuracy—Strauss must allow this unfruitful predicament to continue endlessly and leave the spiritless “dilemma” unresolved. At most, it can be decided *) “based on the general view of the relationship between the Fourth Gospel and the Synoptics in terms of their historical credibility,” thus allowing each individual to reach different conclusions according to their unique assumptions and the nature of their interests.

*) I, 420


Fortunately, the quarrel of men of honour who, for equally noble and equally valuable reasons, have decided in favour of one of the two sides of this dilemma, and who therefore have every reason to spare each other their decision, will come to an end when research has provided the means for finding in the accounts of the Fourth and the Synoptics the means which need only be used to enable them to determine their relation to each other and to the Gospel itself.

The theological interest which commands him to extract the historically credible core from a Gospel passage or to use one passage for the historical authentication of the other, his veneration, furthermore, for the friends of truth who have treated the Gospel accounts with the same tact and with the same gentleness – both make Strauss a prisoner of the first best report and the first best theologian at the same time. He believes he is examining the historical presupposition of an account, and yet he only stares at it – he believes, according to free decision, that he agrees with one of the theological findings of truth, and yet he cannot do otherwise – he cannot break through the powerless magic circle of the tautologies of a de Wette or Neander.

For example, in the case of Jesus’ testimony about the Baptist (Matth. 11, 7-14), he exclaims **): ״Here, however, we must say with Neander, if John had not formed the idea of the Messiah and his kingdom in a clearer and more spiritual way than the prophets *), Jesus would not have called him greater than all the prophets’, whose creator had before him the primal gospel, in which the Baptist announces himself as the forerunner of the Mighty One, and could not even doubt the premise that the God-sent forerunner had correctly grasped and described the spiritual power of the Mighty One!

**) I, 421

*) educated! [trained? formed?] – which category, if the Jewish, i.e. Bert-Hold’s messianic dogmatics had long before made their historical larva for him and the Saviour.


Concerning the synoptic accounts of the execution of the Baptist, he notes that one of the differences between them is that ״Mark recounts the scene at the banquet in the most graphic detail, whereas Luke is content with a brief statement, while Matthew is in the middle. It was rather to be examined whether the vividness of Mark was necessary and of such a nature that it could not be lacking in the account which first made the execution of the Baptist an inner member in the development of the Gospel story. The question was whether Luke’s brief account stood in the right relation to the whole structure of the Gospel story, whether Matthew’s middle position was the right one. The critic’s business is not to judge the vividness according to the length, but to examine and present its inner determination, its inner measure, its inner harmony and its relationship to the whole of the Gospel story.


Vividness – the term loses its meaning in the mouth of a theologian, as it is subject to arbitrary interpretation and must serve any desired purpose. This is evident from the fact that, for the apologetic theologian, it is sufficient for a narrative to be vivid in order to praise its historical credibility. On the other hand, when a report appears vivid to Strauss, it gives him the right to infer the involvement of legend or tradition. For example, by assuming that Matthew’s account of the execution of John the Baptist is the norm from the outset, while Mark’s account is traditionally expanded, he considers the peculiarities of the latter to be alterations and embellishments in which one could possibly detect traces of tradition. *)

*) I, 427

Why? Why could one do so? What gives the critic the right to quickly abandon the ground on which the real work should solely be focused and venture into the unfamiliar territory of tradition? Why could one do so?

Strauss responds to the question by saying, “How obvious it was, indeed, to further elevate John the Baptist by creating a contrast: even the ruler who had imprisoned him, upon hearing his words, had a troubled conscience and held him in respect, and it was only due to the vengeful desires of his wife that she persuaded him to issue the order for his execution.” However, how much more obvious it would have been to consider the accounts themselves and pay attention to how the mention of Herod’s grief, which appears isolated and senseless in Matthew’s account, is actually traced back to Mark’s account, where it is properly prepared and harmonizes with the entire passage. In Mark’s account, it takes on a meaningful and significant role, even with broader implications.



Jesus’ Baptism

With the hunger of the righteous and the thirst for theological truth, seeking to extract morsels of historical reality from the evangelical accounts, Strauss searches for a solution to the contradiction that Jesus, with his messianic self-awareness, would have submitted to John’s baptism of repentance. He entangles himself in the intricacies of apologetics, not to resolve them, but to become hopelessly entangled within them.

Although the Jesus of Matthew preemptively responded to all objections when he answered the same Matthew’s account of John the Baptist’s refusal to baptize him as the Messiah with, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,” this response was still insufficient for the troubled conscience of the apologists. It merely restates the question and conceals rather than resolves the difficulty within a general category. The question remains the same: Why did Jesus have to fulfill all righteousness to such an extent that he underwent a baptism that was not intended for him, as he had no sins to confess and was not permitted to acknowledge faith in the coming one unless he wanted to create the appearance of uncertainty about his own identity?

It is worth the trouble to let the spokesmen of the apologetic crowd speak out about this question, in order to show which company Strauss joins and which are the comrades in whose midst he feels comfortable.


Bengel has brought to his general expression all the reasons that the whole society can muster, and has drawn the consequence with praiseworthy intrepidity and certainty. ״The necessity, the proper thing, he says, has in the divine conclusions and works an extraordinarily wide scope’ *); i.e. there is nothing definite about it. i.e. nothing definite is to be thought of under this necessity, it reaches so far that it embraces nothing and cannot be traced to any law – in short, it is in itself pure arbitrariness. If, therefore, Jesus followed this necessity when he went to John’s baptism, if there was no inner relationship between his personality and John’s baptism, then his baptism was an empty formality that had neither meaning nor reason for him. Bengel has also expressed this consequence in all its purity: ״It was not for his sake’, he says, that Jesus allowed himself to be baptised. **) 

*) Decentia in divinis consilils et operibus admiranda latissime patet.

**) non sibi baptizatus est Christus.

All apologetic explanations revolve around this formula: ״not for his sake” and even in their efforts to avoid it, they have to fall back into it.

If, for example, Mr. Hoffmann ***) says: “John’s baptism called all who forsake the law to repentance, to the mere (!) solemn declaration that he would keep the law, the only one who had done no evil” – then this declaration of will is also only an empty formality, since it did not presuppose the serious possibility of evil, a possibility which the apologist denies in this serious sense. And to whom did Jesus declare his intention to fulfill the law? God? The one who sees into the heart? Himself? So, did he not know his own sinlessness? People? Impossible! From him whom no one could accuse of sin, no man could demand that he should declare his mere will to keep the law, especially on an occasion which could not have been more inopportunely chosen, since Jesus, even if he had somehow succeeded in preventing the appearance that he too was in need of repentance, would in any case have had to degrade a significant act to an empty formality for the sake of a presumptuous and untimely demand.

***) in his Leben Jesu (a polemic against Strauss) p. 301-303.


“The concept of divine right, Mr Hoffmann continues, also includes the fulfilment of what God demands.” – But this is rather the difficulty of how an action could be demanded of Jesus that did not befit him.

No rescue anywhere! No peace anywhere! Sisyphus tries again and again and never reaches his goal!

Says Mr Hoffmann: When Jesus’ sense of Messiahship had developed into clear consciousness, the encouragement had to appeal to his holy spirit to do nothing but according to the will of his Father, not to emerge from silence earlier than when he was called; he received this call at his baptism; In this respect it is Jesus’ initiation into his ministry” – Jesus would soon enough have forgotten this demand – “so he was when he went to the baptism of which he could not know that it would become the initiation into his ministry, he would have acted very hastily, for according to the Synoptic account, the divine miracle which makes the baptism the initiation into his office and lets him hear the divine call *) appears in a way unforeseen by Jesus.

*) as already Weisse, evangel. Gesch. I, 275 has correctly remarked. 


״It was necessary, continues Mr. Hoffmann, to certify his inner Messiah. The baptism is thus still not the purpose for which Jesus came to John, but only a mechanical opportunity for the miracle which was to make him certain of his cause, and he himself was mechanically drawn to it without an inner purpose and impulse, without an inner relationship.

Finally, Mr. Hoffmann is hired: ״The spirit that was present and active in Jesus from birth could not yet guarantee the completion of the work of redemption,” the blasphemy that forms the core of this apologetic argument has come forward in all its nakedness and we know as little as before how the sinless man could go to baptism, since he did not know beforehand that it was to become important and significant for him in a completely different way than for the others.

Finally, Neander **) brings this empty rhetoric to a close when he refers to Jesus’ baptism as his “consecration” and asserts that “John was moved by a revelation received at the baptism to inaugurate Jesus as the Messiah.” The theological sense of truth, which seeks a solution in the fourth Gospel, has the right to disregard how, according to its account, the baptism itself—the actual act of baptism—provided the occasion and opportunity for the sign that revealed Jesus to John as the Messiah. Only the theologian, whose sense of truth allows him to recognize the historical truth in the mechanism by which the fourth Gospel presents Jesus’ baptism, is entitled to render this mechanism completely meaningless. Only their love for truth exempts them from questioning how the same sign, to which baptism—the actual act of baptism—was supposed to be the occasion, could have already prompted John to baptize Jesus and consecrate him as the Messiah. Only theological thoughtlessness finds complete excuse and justification for its purposelessness in its good intentions. It even earns the applause of all lovers of truth when it refuses to be misled, simply repeating the difficulty in a cowardly turn of phrase that conceals it (for anything that is consecrated has previously been entangled with the profane).

**) in his Life of Jesus Christ.


And now Strauss also enters the realm of this purposeless discourse when, in an attempt to resolve the contradiction we started with, he welcomes the “account” mentioned by Justin *), which states that according to Jewish expectation, the Messiah would be anointed by the preceding Elijah and thus introduced among his people. Strauss asserts that “Jesus could consider this anointing as the baptism of John and submit to it as the Messiah.” However, he fails to realize that his feeble reasoning is merely a repetition of the old tautology of “it had to be, it was fitting,” and thus he cannot grasp that Justin’s mention of Elijah’s role is nothing more than a product of the same apologetics that created the “it was fitting” in the source text of Matthew, shaped the mechanical pragmatism of the fourth Gospel, sparked Bengel’s audacious thoughtlessness, and established Neander’s exegetical greatness.

*) I, 434



If one, like Strauss, starts from the assumption that both evangelical accounts, the synoptic one in which Jesus only traveled to Jerusalem once, and the one in the Fourth Gospel where Jesus’ public ministry is marked by several visits during festivals, must have some historical correctness, then one must indeed engage in an endless back-and-forth discussion about the arguments for and against each account. If instead of overlooking the difference with an aesthetic perspective, one seeks historical materiality with the hungry eye of a Neander, then it is essentially arbitrary which side one chooses, but it is likely that one would give preference to the more materialistic and cruder pragmatism of the Fourth Gospel. In fact, it is almost inevitable that, like Strauss, one would conclude the uncertain reasoning with the assertion *) “that the Fourth Gospel cannot be denied the predominant appropriateness of its portrayal in this matter.”

*) I, 506

If one, due to overwhelming theological interest, fails to consider the true “appropriateness” that is aesthetic in nature and does not want to trace the transition from the artistic conception of the original Gospel to the glaring mechanism of the Fourth where it alone emerges and becomes apparent in the literary development of the original Gospel, then one must allow it to be obscured in the fog of tradition – then one must “assume, to explain the silence of the synoptics,” as Strauss does, “that in the initial oral tradition, the individual speeches and events were only generally indicated as occurring in Galilee or during the journey or in Jerusalem, but the specifics, such as which visit to the capital etc., were not determined; the later it got, the less means there were to record these distinctions, and eventually the entire evangelical material was thrown together into the categories: stay in Galilee – journey – stay in Jerusalem.”

“Finally!” – and the drama that begins in Galilee, anticipates the catastrophe during the journey, and culminates in Jerusalem, is rather the original work of the first evangelist – it is only the supplementary writings that Luke used that have disrupted the coherence of this drama, and the last one, the Fourth [Gospel], has completely destroyed it with its pragmatism.

“Into categories!” – thus, the artistically rounded acts of the original drama are turned into categories, and the categories into which the Fourth [Gospel] has forced the pulsating life of the original Gospel are hailed for their “appropriateness.”

And there were no “means” available later to add those distinctions? On the contrary, the Fourth [Gospel], which had before it the development of the Gospel literature up to the present-day Gospel of Luke, found in the richness of its vision more than enough means to present the appropriate division of the life of its Lord to the world and the admiration of later apologists.



The chronological information provided in the Fourth [Gospel] is so unquestionably firm in Strauss’s view that he primarily relies on it when seriously considering the question of the duration of Jesus’ public life, determining the minimum and maximum period to be assumed *).

*) I, 515-520.

Tradition serves as such a reliable witness for him regarding the statements attributed to Jesus in the Gospels that he seriously believes Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, and he earnestly addresses the question of “what unique conception it was that Jesus embedded in this expression **)”.

**) I, 533. 

He also seriously assumes ***) that Jesus used and transformed the expression “Son of God” for himself. Indeed, his accounts of the life of the Lord go so far back into his childhood that he confidently asserts that even in the “twelve-year-old Jesus,” the “emotional aspect” that he attached to “his divine sonship” was already evident. As for the Lord’s reflections on his preexistence in the fourth Gospel, he †), given that the idea of the Messiah’s preexistence was present in high Jewish theology immediately after Jesus’ time, suggests that it was also present during the time in which Jesus developed, and thus, when he eventually conceived of himself as the Messiah, he could have transferred this resonating aspect of the Messianic conception, which was unique to his religious consciousness.

***) I, 535. 

†) I, 612.


“The presumption is plausible – if he could have once” – indeed, these are valuable and powerful expressions that truly lead into the secret workshop of history, as they find themselves lost in Berthold’s Jewish Christology.


Presentation as Messiah

The theological-material interest with which Strauss raises and addresses the question of how soon Jesus presented himself as the Messiah and found recognition must, in turn, lead him astray in the tangle that the reports present to an uncritical eye.

For example, if there is wavering conviction and recognition on the part of the people in the Synoptics, he finds *) that it is “not unlikely.” Instead of taking the reports as reports, he finds facts everywhere – instead of explaining the relationship of the reports to each other, he seeks to make sense of the disordered heap of facts they presuppose – instead of calming the tumult of the reports by separating the original perspective from its mixture and combination with later perspectives and interests, he seeks help from hypotheses with which theologians have elevated the monstrosities of chance, the offspring of those later combinations, to historically probable, even certain factsbecause all the evangelical acts stand on the same level of historical ground for him, he naturally cannot consider examining and explaining the internal contradiction that is already inherent in the original perspective.

*) I, 543.


That the people in the Synoptics are uncertain and wavering is certain to him – he does not pay attention to the fact that the praises the people of Matthew offer to Jesus as the Messiah, before Peter’s confession, contradict the report of the disciples that precedes this confession, and that only in the original Gospel preserved by Mark do the preceding sections and that report of the disciples align in the assumption that no one had recognized Jesus as the Messiah until then.

Just as he found that wavering of popular conviction “not unlikely,” he finds the unfortunate work of the Fourth [Gospel] where the people, after the feeding miracle, want to make Jesus their king and immediately afterwards (John 7:40) are not in agreement whether he is the Messiah or the Prophet *). Of course, this is because Lücke and Tholuck have already “perfectly” explained all these things, so it would be a denial of all sense of truth to let that episode of the people’s enterprise already find its pitiful end in the contradictions of the section on the feeding miracle and to consider the supposed wavering of the people in the following section (Ch. 7:40) as a failed application of the report provided by the disciples in the original Gospel regarding the popular opinion. Strauss has no attention left for examining the overall pragmatism of the Fourth [Gospel] and its relation to a more original perspective that emerges even from its wildest dissonances, as he is preoccupied with the works of Lücke, Tholuck, and the whole enlightened group of noble apologists who know how to occupy him and throw heaps of evangelical facts and their excellent explanations at him with every step he takes.

*) I, 544.


Thus, he allows himself to be led by the weight placed on Peter’s confession in the Synoptic Gospels and by a couple of critical apologists (Fritzsche and Schneckenburger) to distinguish between two sections in Jesus’ “public life,” in the first of which he did not present himself as the Messiah *).

*) I, 546.

Assuming that this view is correct, he finds that the immediate question now arises as to whether Jesus initially refrained from presenting himself as the Messiah because he only later came to the conviction of his messiahship, or whether he indeed had this conviction from the beginning but concealed it due to certain considerations.

In other words, he now wants to hear the grass grow, the grass of imagination, of chimera. For example, when discussing the question of whether Jesus concealed his miracles, his command to demons not to reveal him, he fails to notice that he is dealing with literary expressions in these specific points of individual Gospel sections. The next question can only be in what context they stand within the composition of the whole to which they belong, especially with the plan of the original Gospel. Instead, driven by his theological-material curiosity, he immediately rushes forward and casts his penetrating gaze “into the depths of Jesus’ soul” to discover its secrets.


However, he doesn’t even need to make the effort himself – the Fourth [Gospel], Fritzsche, and Tholuck reveal the secret to him. The Fourth [Gospel] provides him with a vivid image of the danger the Lord constantly had to contend with when it reports (John 6:15) how “the people, having concluded from the miraculous feeding that Jesus is the Messiah, wanted to make him king immediately.” Tholuck and Fritzsche enlighten him about how Jesus “had to fear the agitation of the fleshly messianic hopes of his time at the dissemination of any action or statement that seemed to proclaim him as the expected Messiah, and the transformation of these hopes into a more spiritual understanding was the task of his life” *) – the fear that his spiritual leaders communicated to him through their explanations clouds his eyes and prevents him from noticing the caricature he depicts in the image of the tormented man who, if he truly had to fear such terrible consequences from every action or statement “that seemed to proclaim him as the Messiah,” should have done nothing, should not have uttered anything that could have led peopArele to consider the possibility that he might indeed be the Messiah.

*) I, 548



When Strauss addresses the messianic plan of Jesus *), he notes: “The idea of the messianic kingdom belonged to the Israelite people; the question is whether Jesus merely adopted it as he found it or also made independent modifications to it.” In other words, he transforms the examination of the combination of the original Christian revolution with the statutory and Judaic elements into a purely personal question. Instead of grasping the revolution inherent in the Christian conception of the kingdom of heaven in its purity and tracing the historical process, presented in the Gospels, that gave this idea its positive, statutory organization, he loses himself in the twists and turns of the flat personal question of whether Jesus “included the political basic element of the Jewish messianic idea in his messianic plan.” Instead of examining the structure of the Gospels and tracing the stages of the struggle in which the revolutionary idea of the kingdom of heaven confronted the worldly empire, he gets lost in the confusion of chimerical possibilities arising from the accidental jumbling of evangelical data. Fortunately for him, he can ultimately take refuge in the haven of meaningless vagueness, which is opened to him by figures like de Wette and Neander.

*) 1, 549ff.


Jesus and the Law

Naturally, his great historical interest, which lies in the struggle and confrontation of the new Christian freedom with the law, once again shrinks into a personal question of whether “the abolition of Mosaism was Jesus’ intention.” Thus, he plunges once again into the labyrinth that owes its origin to the wild combination of sayings that emerged in various stages of that struggle and confrontation, and once again, it is the most skilled theologians who appear to him as saviors in the passages of this labyrinth.


Initially, a whole series of “sayings and actions of Jesus” present themselves to him, which “clearly seem to indicate” that he had that “intention” – he is certain that Jesus said this and that – for example, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” which he “quotes on every occasion” *) – however, the enlightened theologians also enlighten him about the true meaning of these sayings and actions of Jesus. For instance, it has been “properly acknowledged by open-minded ecclesiastical interpreters with an expanded theological historical perspective” **) that Jesus “did not have in mind an overthrow of the old religious constitution of his people” – “when he heals on the Sabbath or allows his disciples to pluck grain, when he does not introduce fasting or washing before meals in his company, this was not against the Mosaic law,” but rather against the “later pettiness” that considered healing and plucking a few grains to be forbidden Sabbath work – Lücke has long made it clear that Jesus (for example, with his statement in John 5:17) does not want to touch the Sabbath law itself but only the abuses that the fleshly mind of the Pharisees permitted themselves – Lücke, Tholuck, and all the “unbiased” interpreters have long relegated the question of whether a law that subjected the will of natural determination was already carnal itself to the realm of frivolous wittiness – and if the thunder of the revolutionary battles in which the innovator of the original Gospel fights against the law, the thunder that even mocks the statutory turns of Matthew’s scripture and echoes in the abstract formulas of the Fourth [Gospel] – if this thunder impresses the disciple Tholuck, the disciple Lücke, so much that they must at least admit in a feeble turn of phrase that Jesus “recognized what relates to morality and spiritual worship as the only essential in religion,” then Neander presents himself as a savior to him and tells him how it can still be imagined that Jesus, solely focused on this aspect, did not engage in a closer examination of the other ceremonial aspects; that due to his deep-rooted respect for the holy law book of his nation, he would have honored the insignificant aspects for the sake of its essential content *) – or he saves himself on his own accord in the final refuge **) by claiming that Jesus “hoped that with the growth and maturation of his ideas, the husks and shells surrounding them would naturally fall off, which still surrounded them at that time.”

*) I, 557. 

**) I, 559. 

*) I, 562-563. 

**) I, 565.


In my previous works, I presented and interpreted the efforts of the second Christian century to confine Christian freedom within legal boundaries as the manifestation of the eternal Jew, who had found his dwelling in Christian consciousness.


I will now add a counterpart to this depiction in a brief reminder of the struggle between “unbiased ecclesiastical” interpreters and the biblical passages in which Christian freedom contends, triumphs, or organizes itself. I do this not only to show Strauss that his teachers and authorities only recognize and listen to the inner Jew within the Christian, but also for a more objective interest. I will demonstrate that while early Christian Judaism, with its mitigation of the original contrast, made the new accessible to the masses and provided the Church with its indispensable foundation, the fear with which theologians seek to silence the testimonies of the original Christian revolution and the groundlessness of their cowardly turns to escape recognition of the contrast represent the ultimate culmination of ugliness and cowardice inherent in Judaism. If the Jew in the ancient Christian era participated in a real formation when he helped erect the edifice of the Church, I will demonstrate, at the very least, the weakness and dissolution of the language employed by the apologists in their struggle against evangelical sculpture, revealing the fragility and lifelessness of this phase of the eternal Jew.

In that masterpiece of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, whose original form, when freed from the compiler’s additions, speaks again of the greatness of the spirit that thoroughly organized the Christian revolution – that is, stabilized it within the law – Tholuck says that Jesus dealt not only with the Old Testament but also with the Old Testament doctrine in the form given to it by Pharisaism. The opposition “You have heard that it was said to the ancients… But I say to you…” – the opposition that always deals only with the legal commandment and its Christian fulfillment – cannot be formed more clearly and purely, cannot be executed more rigorously. But the fear – the fear of the eternal Jew! Can he admit that his law has truly succumbed to history? Can he die? No! He is more powerful than the mightiest opposition. He sustains himself by denying the contrast—his weakness, which cannot grasp the sculpture of contradiction, prolongs his unhappy existence!


In these parallels, Tholuck continues, “Christ, in essence, *) does not form a contradictory opposition to the Old Testament, but rather everywhere provides its fulfillment” – what bargaining! What haggling! What intellectual wheeling and dealing!

*) After demonstrating the late age in which this organization of the Christian revolution became possible, I can, without harm to the matter at hand, leave the apologist to his usage of language and assumption regarding the authorship of this and all subsequent statements.

By silently admitting that, in words, the opposition exists, Tholuck wants to persuade us to concede that, in essence, no opposition takes place.

He offers us the mere word “fulfillment,” hoping that it will satisfy us, and counts on us not thinking about the painful operations that are inevitably necessary in history to achieve the fulfillment of a form of life.


The Jew does not desire a plastic completion, for he does not want to relinquish the limited and obstinate determination that prevents completion from reigning supreme. He does not want the penetrating soul, for he would then have to put an end to the spell that the piercing gaze of the law casts upon his subjects. He is sentimental and wishes to convince people that history cannot be so cruel as to shatter outdated forms of life and generate new plastic forces. But in reality, if he had the power, he would be truly cruel and sacrifice the new forces that provoke his envy to his rigid and spiritless laws.

But then, “an inappropriate sense would arise,” responds Olshausen, “that Jesus set himself and his teaching in opposition to the Mosaic law”—an objection that, in the mouths of those who find every creative truth inappropriate, is indeed powerful!

If these modern Jews spoke honestly, like the ancient ones, they would explicitly state, as Bengel does, that Jesus did not declare the Law of Moses to be imperfect *), that there is no difference between Moses and Christ, and that the preaching of the latter did not surpass the law of the former **), or like Calvin, that while God promised a new covenant for the time of Christ’s coming, He also showed that it would in no way be different from the first. ***)

*) Imperfecta. 

**) Nulla pugna est inter Mosen et Christum. Mosis legem non excedit sermon Christi. 

***) Pollicitus quod erat Deus novum foedus Christi adventu, sed simul ostenderat, minime diversum fore a primo.


When Jesus opposes the Old Testament commandment, “You shall not murder, and whoever murders shall be liable to judgment,” with his own words, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire,” and when it is necessary to truly highlight the Pharisaic determinations that Jesus is contending with, de Wette responds that the phrase “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment” is an addition by the scribes, and Paul even calls it a “weakening addition”—as if the law did not command that judgment be passed on the murderer! As if this determination were not simply excluded from the law as a starting point for the escalation from judgment to the fires of hell in the second part of the opposition!

When Jesus opposes the legal prohibition of adultery with the statement that even the involuntary rising of lust is equivalent to adultery, de Wette remarks that “the scribes only focused on the committed, external adultery”—well then! They thought as the law did!

When Jesus asserts the complete indissolubility of marriage, one would think that the apologist would despair of finding an addition by the scribes that would form the opposition to this new law, since the law itself legitimized the man’s discretion to the utmost degree. Nevertheless, Olshausen claims that Jesus is opposing the Pharisaic interpretation, which included the legal permission for divorce as part of the essence of marriage—as if the law did not derive its authorization of the man’s discretion from its fundamental understanding of the essence of marriage! This cowardice, which fears acknowledging the opposition between the law and the gospel, finally degenerates into such horrendous statements as those of the same apologist, who claims that “the correct view of marriage as an indissoluble spiritual union was the basis of the Old Testament”—referring to the law that exposed women to the barbaric discretion of men!


While older interpreters like Bengel, without concern for how their interpretation aligns with the text, simply write that the retaliation, which Jesus opposes with voluntary submission to injustice, is the most appropriate punishment *), the modern apologist must make more serious efforts to eliminate the appearance that Jesus is opposing the Old Testament law. Tholuck is the fortunate one who has succeeded—he has truly discovered that Jesus is “not addressing the authorities” here—(for him, Jesus is not speaking about positive law and legislation)—he believes that in the “assumption” that “the carnal understanding of the scribes has made that judicial norm of retaliation into a norm for everyday life, even for the satisfaction of unruly revenge,” he can find help and rescue against the terrible opposition. In the enjoyment of well-deserved peace, the thorough researcher forgets that it was his duty to at least provide some form of historical evidence for his adventurous finding that the scribes made daily life a constant fistfight through the abusive application of that legal provision!

*) tallo poenarum convenientissima

Unfortunately, in my critique of this section, I have spoiled the triumphant joy with which the apologist points to the parallel between the Old Testament commandment of neighborly love and the Christian commandment of enemy love.


You shall love your neighbor! Yes, that is commanded in the law, but where, asks the triumphant apologist, does it say that you should hate your enemy? Tholuck answers that hating your enemy is rather an “addition of the scribes,” a conclusion “falsely added by the Pharisees,” according to de Wette, or “a conclusion drawn by the Pharisees from the Mosaic command,” says Paul.

The whole matter boils down to the fact that this statement is nothing more than a correct inference from the legal perspective, but an inept and feeble trailing addition by the compiler from whom the present Gospel of Matthew originated.

The contrast between the old and the new law remains!

“The strong,” says Jesus, when the Pharisees criticized him for associating with sinners and tax collectors, “do not need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Even this revolutionary statement, which completely overturns the world order, was not safe from the numbing activity of the apologists. “The Pharisees,” for example, as de Wette says, “are, albeit comparatively, the righteous and found, because they did not live in such unrighteousness as the tax collectors; Jesus acknowledges legal righteousness.” Thus, the religious artist who crafted this statement in vain brought forth the entire subversive irony of the Christian principle in its simplest expression. The apologist has failed to grasp the essence of the Christian revolution, which destroyed the privilege of the righteous and made the outcasts the object of divine favor.

He must also tackle the parable of the lost coin and the lost sheep. “The idea that the joy over one repentant sinner is greater than over ninety-nine righteous ones,” says de Wette, “is understood in human terms. Humans rejoice more in what is regained for the moment than in what they possess peacefully.” In heaven, this joy is rather eternal. “The preponderance” of that joy, says de Wette, “cannot be attributed to God. Rather, it will take place in heaven” (Luke 15:7). “Of course,” de Wette replies, “that is said ‘only in figurative speech.'” But what is natural is rather that the natural person understands nothing about heavenly things.


As Strauss says, Calvin also states that Jesus did not oppose the Sabbath law, but only fought against the pettiness of the Pharisees *) and their self-invented traditions. When Jesus justifies the disciples who were accused by the Pharisees of plucking grain on the Sabbath by saying that David did something that was not lawful according to the law, Calvin knows better: he says that David did nothing against the law **) itself. Or when Jesus refers to the priests who desecrate the Sabbath because of their temple service, which requires work from them, Calvin says that Jesus is speaking indirectly and accommodating himself to the listeners—the listeners—the opponents, who are struck down by this cleverly invented turn of phrase!

*) their superciliousness. 

**) except for the law — an example of the imprecision of theological language. Calvin merges the two perspectives involved. The question is not only whether David did nothing against the law—which can appear different according to various opinions—but whether he did something that the positive law prohibited.


Another expression of hostility with which the natural man pursues the freedom of the new spirit!

Even if Matthew had not given his inappropriate conclusion to Jesus’ explanation about the only defiling thing (Matt. 15:20) and mentioned again the eating with unwashed hands, after having moved on to a much broader dialectic from this occasion, the theologians would still have gotten lost.

Even the question of whether Jesus declares himself against the Mosaic dietary laws, de Wette considers “improper,” as the context does not lead to it and it is clear from Matt. 15:20 that Jesus is only thinking about eating with unwashed hands. Instead of being moved by the power of the statement about the only defiling thing to investigate whether there is really coherence in Matthew’s compilation, de Wette uses the incoherence of this compilation to stifle that power.

“Not what goes into the mouth defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a person” (Matt. 15:11) — this is a contradiction whose pure tension imparts an equally unrestricted universality to each of its two sides. Only that which is of spiritual origin can defile a person — no food (thus, the statement is not just about food that is brought to the mouth with unwashed hands) can defile a person, as it is merely natural.

Despite the clear execution of the contradiction, Fritzsche dares to claim that Jesus does not want to deny outright that food defiles a person but only says that evil thoughts defile him much more.


To the Jew, who only loves spiteful or feeble antitheses, a substantial contradiction is abhorrent — a contradiction that confidently strides forward in the proud self-awareness of its content is considered godless and blasphemous. Therefore, he must see if it is possible to sever its sinews.

Olshausen is even daring enough to venture the claim that, in truth, there is no contradiction at all, and that it only “seemed” so to the disciples who, in their weak understanding of the height that theological interpretation could reach, did not yet grasp the supposed contradiction between the statement about the only defiling thing and the Old Testament, which teaches the distinction between clean and unclean foods.

No! There is no substantive, real contradiction present — Jesus could not and should not have dealt this deadly blow against the positive law. “Since he acknowledges the divinity of the Old Testament, he must also see something significant in the dietary laws,” says Olshausen. Thus, the sentimental Jew, the cowardly and cruel protector of the most oppressive and outdated antiquity, hopes to make us forget the fact that it concerns the positive validity of the law by pointing out its significance.

No! The Redeemer does not mean to say that the dietary laws are “completely empty and arbitrary.” He simply emphasizes the contrast between the internal and the external, and notes that food, as something external, can never touch or defile the internal. But does that not put an end once and for all to a perspective that ascribed spiritual and moral power to the natural order itself, thus presupposing that it could directly impact and influence the spirit?


The rabbi speaks of significance and pretends to be capable of discovering the internal basis of the Oriental view regarding the defiling power of the natural world. But as a Jew, he is just as incapable of grasping the inner soul of a viewpoint as he is of freeing himself from it. While the Orient believes that the spiritually defiling power of nature can be seen in those phenomena where it seemingly lives a life of its own and defies divine will — thus, in all manifestations where its rebellious forces contradict the harmony of the divine or no longer obey the soul of the organism — for Olshausen, the “significant” ordinance, which the Redeemer also found highly significant and continued to uphold for his community despite his “emphasis” on the contrast between the internal and the external, shrinks down to the commonplace notion that “external things can externally defile, and therefore, it does matter what a person eats.”

The eternal Jew no longer understands the meaning of the laws to which he obeyed in his Oriental homeland — but he also fails to understand the freedom of the world through which he travels and in whose new legislation he nevertheless constantly seeks to interfere as an old, experienced master.


Gentiles and Samaritans

I return to Strauss.

Even in the question of the extent of Jesus’ messianic plan and his relationship with the Gentiles, he struggles with the sayings of the Gospel Jesus and weighs his possibilities, all of which are chimera-like and remain so since they are based on the assumption and will remain dependent on the notion that tradition truly carried Jesus’ expressions on this matter. Nowhere is there a force that puts an end to the boredom of this swinging movement — no solace in this hell, except occasionally when Neander and de Wette appear and uplift him with their revelations!


He owes his enlightenment, for example, to the way out that the prohibition given to the disciples to approach the Gentiles can with all likelihood be presented as one that was intended to be temporary. Jesus found it advisable to establish the Gospel primarily among his compatriots during his lifetime and only later, once the ideas of his followers would be purified through his death, to let it spread further *).

*) I, 571.

In an equally uninspired manner, he obscures the difficulties that arise from the contradiction in which the Gospel statements of Jesus about “the relationship of the messianic plan to the Samaritans” find themselves. He presents one possibility after another until Neander convinces him that “reasons can be imagined for which Jesus found it unobjectionable to proclaim himself as the Messiah to the Samaritans—a branch severed from the trunk of the nation with less intense national sentiment, whose Messianic expectations, although politically colored, seemed to encounter less resistance than from the Jews and even from the disciples as long as Jesus was still alive” *).

*) I, 581.


Truly a successful character portrait. He was truly a man who always had to fear resistance—even among his closest followers—and “found it unobjectionable” to personally “confess” himself **) once to a circle that “seemed to offer less resistance!” Indeed, a hero who did not know how to fight!

**) I, 584. 



To prove that the fishing miracle of Peter in the Gospel of Luke is a transformed account of Jesus’ initial calling of the disciples, Strauss asks ***), “Since when has it been the nature of legend to spiritualize the real, to transform a miracle story into the realm of the ideal, or mere speech into something else?” On the contrary, he argues that it is the opposite that is inherent in the nature of legend.

***) I, 603.

By inserting this stake, the concept of legend, into an investigation that deals with entirely different factors, it is effectively killed from the outset. The nature of legend is not relevant to this particular inquiry. Rather, what needs to be examined are the reports themselves, their mutual relationship, and their relationship to the writings in which they are found, as well as the relationship between these writings. This is the sole focus of the investigation. At first glance, this inquiry may appear more complex than determining what is inherent in the nature of legend. However, in reality, it is much simpler – as simple as sticking to what is truly in accordance with nature.


After examining the threefold relationship mentioned above, it becomes evident that the author of the present Gospel of Luke used the writings of a man who had utilized Jesus’ words to his first disciples to create a narrative of miracles. If one were to draw the conclusion from this result, following the style of Strauss’s criticism, that it is in the nature of later writers to transform the ideal, such as mere speeches, into the real, namely into miracle stories, then the Gospel of Luke itself would strongly protest against such a claim. This is because the Gospel of Luke, through its transformation of the story of the cursed fig tree into the parable of the fig tree, actually demonstrates that a writer can also be inclined towards the opposite approach.

The fourth Gospel also tells of a miraculous catch of fish that took place after Jesus’ resurrection. “That this is a different story from the one told by Luke,” says Strauss, “is hardly conceivable due to the great similarity; undoubtedly, the same story has been attributed to different parts of Jesus’ life through tradition.” *)

*) I, 604.

For the critic who considers the phrase “without a doubt” as a highly inappropriate tool for research, one thing is undoubtedly certain: they must ascertain from the internal structure and mutual connection of two accounts whether they are related to each other in a literary sense. The differences that accompany the similarities will inform them which of the two accounts is original and which is a copy. “Without a doubt,” they will then discover that it was not tradition but the author of the fourth Gospel who utilized Luke’s account of Peter’s fishing miracle for their composition, while also incorporating an interest that permeates Luke’s narrative of the appearance of the resurrected Christ.


I will present one piece of evidence. When the risen one appeared to the Eleven, Luke reports, and they were frightened, he allows them to touch him to convince themselves that he has flesh and bones and is not a spirit. But even though they still doubted, he asked them if they had anything to eat and ate the food they gave him before their eyes. This is clear, sensible, coherent, and formed in this context. However, in the fourth Gospel, when the disciples are on the sea and the risen one stands on the shore, and before they recognized him and without any apparent motivation, he shouts to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” it is “undoubtedly” certain that the Fourth Gospel has taken a cue from Luke’s account, torn it out of its natural context, and detached it from all natural motives.


When Strauss, as a result of his vacillation over the Sermon on the Mount, puts forward the statements *) that “the weighty discourses of Jesus could not be dissolved by the flood of oral tradition, but often they were torn out of their natural context and placed in locations where they did not actually belong,” that Matthew was “a skillful collector,” and that finally in Luke and Mark “some small pieces remained where chance had left them,” he has, in fact, allowed himself to be carried away by the chimera of tradition and determined by chance, instead of investigating the only available facts and allowing reality, when appropriately questioned, to testify most willingly to its order.

*) I, 604.


If the Gospels are considered not as a reflection of tradition, but as what they truly are, namely, literary compositions, then the contrast between the original Gospel, in which the concise, impactful and world-changing responses and utterances of the Lord are in harmonious relation to the narrative structure, and the later compilations becomes evident. The later creations, which the compilers have thrown together with foreign elements, can be separated again. Finally, the sequence of historical developments and struggles that the community life had to undergo in order for these later creations to become possible comes to light.

In short, the sequence of historical stages, the course of literary creation, composition, and compilation—life and reality—form and individuality take the place of vague phrases.



Problems with Oral Tradition

It is true – when Augustine *) explains the different positions given by the evangelists to individual events by stating that each one “believed he had to narrate in the order in which God pleased, inserting into his memory precisely what he narrated,” the naivety of the tautology, which believes that by attributing it to God’s pleasure, it explains a difficulty, can hardly be surpassed.

*) in his work “On the Harmony of the Evangelists” Book II, chapter 44, 51, and others.

The obtuseness of consciousness that Schleiermacher demonstrates when he derives the peculiar order in which Luke narrates the events from the fact that he used the works of collectors of anecdotes who combined the events in the order in which they had experienced them is hardly capable of further escalation.

But what was still possible, Strauss has actually accomplished – his theory of tradition has enabled him to compete successfully with the naivety of the great church father and the modern holy dullness, and he has truly succeeded, just as devoid of spirit as the latter, in deriving the pragmatic arrangement of the gospel material from chance and, at the same time, just as believably as Augustine did, attributing chance to a higher power.

The evangelists write down their anecdotes in the form and order in which tradition dictated to them. However, significant variations occur among their works, and it is the nature of oral tradition itself that allows for the emergence of different versions of the same material and the alteration of the usual sequence. In contrast, the ordinary tradition – and here we must risk this tautology – preserved the usual form and order more firmly. These differences can be easily explained by the fact that the evangelists either followed the general tradition or adhered to the specifics of the oral tradition. For instance, when Luke presents Jesus’ saying about his spiritual relatives in two versions, he was influenced by both traditions. *).

*) I, 761


Even the Fourth Gospel, for whose rescue from his earlier doubts Strauss feels infinitely indebted to Neander and de Wette, owes certain fragments to the inspiration of this tradition – he too was subject to that chance – for example, **) “the traditional dictum” (Arise, let us go from here, John 14:31) has “unintentionally slipped in” into the discourse that forms the farewell speech of Jesus.

**) I, 729


Nowhere is there a soulful gaze that reveals the inner life of an evangelical creation! Never does a spark of life shine from the eye that could reveal the life that flows through the original structure of evangelical history. No sense of plan, rhythm, and harmony – therefore, no sense of confusion, dissonance, and the combination of discordant tones!

Life, spirit, and the sense of form and soul cannot emerge in the hunger of theological interest.


For example, it concerns the different placement that the Fourth Gospel and the Synoptics give to the cleansing of the temple. According to Strauss, the only difference is that the latter “place this event in the one Jerusalem visit of Jesus, of which they are aware,” while the former allows it to occur during the first festival visit. The only question for him is which of these assumptions is historically correct. No! The difference already contains the answer. “Since the specific time indication of the Fourth Evangelist is juxtaposed with the others, which are actually without time determination, the appearance of greater internal difficulty on the side of time determination in the Fourth Gospel cannot authorize us, concludes Strauss, *) with our imperfect knowledge of the temporal circumstances and specific details, to reject it in favor of another that has no specific testimony for itself.”

*) I, 773

But what testimony does the Fourth Gospel have for itself? Must only one assumption be rejected? And if, correctly framed, it concerns both assumptions simultaneously, does anything change if they are both rejected? Should the theologian, with his false craving for historical data, dominate research to the extent that it believes its task is solved when it has resolved the contradiction between two evangelical assumptions in their mutual demise?

No! Because this resolution of the contradiction can only be achieved if, in the freedom of its theoretical interest, it does justice to both sides of the contradiction, seeks their souls, and explains their origins.



Strauss presents the question regarding the accounts of the anointing of Jesus as follows: “If the four narratives can only be reconciled under the assumption that several of them have undergone traditional modifications, then the question arises as to which of them is closest to the original event.” *)

*) I, 783

Only? Is that the only assumption under which the accounts— (not to “reconcile,” because that is still the language of theological interest seeking to harmoniously unite the accounts, but) —are to be placed in their internal relationship? Accounts that, in every sentence, in every turn of phrase, provide evidence that they originated from one another?

And the next question would be which of the four accounts is closest to the original event?

It is rather the question of which is the original account, in what sequence the others originated, and what interest led the later ones to make changes. Once this question is answered, the soul that received its body in the original account will no longer remain a mystery.

After the usual back and forth, such as “it is not advisable to accuse the Fourth Gospel, which calls the anointing woman Mary, of an unhistorical naming,” and that “the relationship between Jesus and the family in Bethany” is instead “a point at which this Gospel likely has more detailed notes than the others,” Strauss arrives at the conclusion that the reports of Matthew and Mark about Jesus’ stay in Bethany, Luke’s account of his visit with the sisters Martha and Mary, and the reports of Mark and Matthew about the anointing in Bethany— “these scattered details are as many signposts pointing to a point of convergence in the narrative of John.” *)

*) I, 786, 787


Very natural! After the Fourth Gospel borrowed these details from its predecessors and united them in its own way.


That the Jewish people in Jesus’ time expected miraculous deeds from the Messiah,”**) Strauss is “certain from the Gospels.” However, whether the Gospels themselves are allowed to testify in their own matter, that is, whether their assumption of a Jewish dogma that prescribed to the Messiah what he had to do, can withstand the forum of historical criticism — he thinks as little about this question as Bertholdt, his Christological authority.

**) II ,1

What misfortune must befall him, then, when he enumerates the Gospel testimonies one by one and attempts to use them for his tautological proof!

When Jesus once healed a demon-possessed blind man, the people were led to speculate whether he might be the Son of David. Unfortunately, it is only in Matthew (12:23-28) that this belief is presupposed among the masses so early, before Peter with his God-given faith and the blind man of Jericho appear as harbingers of the approaching popular belief. “John the Baptist, prompted by rumors of Jesus’ deeds, questioned whether he was the Coming One. To which Jesus, in order to affirm that he was, referred to his miracles”—but in what world did this Baptist and this Jesus live? Not even in the world of the original Gospel, but rather in the world later created, for which one of Luke’s precursors is responsible.


So Strauss actually assumes—and he wants to prove—that Jesus performed miracles? Indeed! Otherwise, the speculation prompted by witnessing these miracles would lack persuasive power for his hypothesis of the messianic dogma of the Jews. Otherwise, the apologists who painstakingly sought evidence for the credibility of the Gospel miracle accounts would have worked in vain on his behalf!

For example, *) he states that “the gift of miracles continued in the apostolic Church even after Jesus’ departure. This is not only attested by the Acts of the Apostles, whose testimony could possibly be invoked, but also by the indisputable witness of the Apostle Paul in his letters, where he ascribes to himself a power of signs and wonders bestowed by Christ (Romans 15:19), and attributes an efficacy in signs and wonders among the gifts of healing and miracles distributed in the community” (2 Corinthians 12:12).

*) II, 5

I, on the other hand, have proven that the miracles in the Acts of the Apostles are a literary copy of the miracles of Jesus and that the so-called Pauline Apostle, including those main and foundational epistles previously regarded as unquestionably Pauline, is a late product of the second Christian century.


Strauss continues: “From here, a conclusion applies not only in the sense that we do not have an absolute right to accept something in one place and reject it in another, but even by reasoning from the minor to the major, we must find the extraordinary more believable in the case of Jesus than in the case of his disciples.” Therefore, I would have even more, since I can start from a proof, the right to infer from the literary origin of the copy to the same origin of the original. However, I do not need this inference—I have let the copy and the original speak for themselves and render their own judgment.


Regarding the specific types of miracles, Strauss strongly argues that Jesus should be attributed “such an elaborate demonology” as is evidenced by his statements and words about demons. When he discusses specific stories, he divides them according to what suits his interests, distinguishing between the factual and the legendary. For example, he states about the story of the Gadarene demoniac *): “While there is little reason to doubt that the healing of one or two individuals with particularly severe forms of illness by Jesus is a factual basis, there are serious doubts **) that must be cast on certain details of the narrative ***), particularly the inclusion of the incident with the swine, *)  which is likely to be legendary.”

*) II, 47

**) but certainly not by the account itself. 

***) which, however, the account considers as just as necessary elements of itself as the components of the supposed basic fact.

*) even if the report so earnestly wanted to claim him as the last printer to finish his night piece.


Indeed, a great notion of criticism! A thorough decision that separates the two components in the accounts, which one has “no cause to doubt” as the historical core, and which one is “urgently compelled” to consider as mythical additions!

However, if the structure of the accounts, their grouping, and their relationship to the overall plan of the Gospels are truly examined, the question will assume a position that surpasses that theological curiosity about the historical facts and that arbitrary distinction between the historical core and the mythical additions. It will then become evident why the Fourth Gospel, about which the apologists have speculated uncertainly until Strauss, knows nothing about this struggle of Jesus with the demons.

The original evangelist, who designed his narrative so that Jesus was only recognized as the Messiah by the disciples and the people at the end of his Galilean ministry, could not bear it and still felt the contradiction in nobody recognizing the Messiah in the Mighty One and confessing him as such. He even had to present confessors from the very beginning, who testified to how powerful and compelling the impression of his personality was. According to the overall structure of his work, people could not immediately interpret this impression, so they could only be supernatural spirits who recognized the Son of the Most High in the Exalted and Unique One and testified to his superiority in their defeat.


The Fourth Gospel does not mention anything about this struggle, not because it was unaware of it, not because, due to its presumed high education, it wanted to know nothing about these companions of the devil. On the contrary, it had the current Gospel of Luke and partly the source texts of the other synoptic Gospels in mind. It deliberately chose not to mention that struggle with the ruler of Satan because it depicts the Lord engaging in a broader, more abstract way in a battle against Satan and his children. Perhaps it also felt the service that the demons provide in the original design of the Gospel narrative. In its writing, at least, which includes different heralds of the Messiah and presents the Lord asserting his messianic identity to the people from the very beginning, the demons were unnecessary as the betrayers of the secret.


Regarding the “healings of lepers,” Strauss remarks *) that whether a healing power similar to magnetism, which we assume Jesus possessed, could also have a healing effect on disturbed nerves (referring to the so-called demon-possessed individuals) or on corrupted bodily fluids, remains uncertain. In any case, the insertion of an intermediate period would be necessary to make the reported success conceivable.

*) II, 79


Fortunately, the Urevangelium (original Gospel), which only reports one healing of a leper and allows the significance of this event to clearly emerge in its thoughtful pragmatism, frees us from any medical investigation that genuine Gospel criticism will never be called upon to undertake, as well as from resorting to a tool whose application is left to the author of the “natural history of the great Prophet from Nazareth” and its apologetic followers.

Let physicians, if they wish to compete with theologians, address the question of whether “a healing power similar to magnetism can also act on corrupted bodily fluids,” and so on. Let theologians, to satisfy their limited interests and establish the historical credibility of an evangelical account, enrich the medical field with the hypotheses born out of their anxieties. However, the critic requires theological enlightenment, just as little as the physician needs theological hypotheses or the theologian’s medical knowledge. The critic solely engages with the literary pragmatism that connects the apologetic interpretation in the final words of Jesus to the healed leper with the revolutionary struggle that immediately erupts against the law. It is a pragmatism that, unlike any theological medicine or medical theology, determines the fate of the apologetic introduction and the revolutionary section that precedes it.


Enough of Strauss’s theory of miracles and explanations of the miracle accounts!

For research, it is indifferent from which further or closer point the insertion of natural intermediate links no longer seems feasible, where he no longer follows Neander’s hints, disregards Paulus and Venturini, where he no longer considers it possible to separate the fabulous additions from the underlying factual events, and finds the “historical interpretation” of the accounts gradually so difficult that he finally resorts to “Jewish folk legend” and the messianic dogma of the Jews to burden them with the responsibility for the entire “miracle” at hand.

The Resurrection

I will only add a few remarks to his elucidations regarding the facts underlying the resurrection accounts in the Gospels and then counter the false conclusions of Weisse’s reasoning on the same matter with a few words based on the actual facts.

After another endless and haphazard discourse, Strauss reaches a conclusion, of which he is certainly unaware that it is merely a condensed expression of the aimlessness of this back-and-forth and at the same time its starting point and inner foundation.

Considering the contradictions among the Evangelists, he says, one would have to be intentionally blind not to acknowledge that none of the narrators knew what the other reported and assumed, that each had heard the matter in a different way, and that therefore, only fluctuating and often confused rumors were circulating early on regarding the appearances of the risen Jesus.


On the contrary, because criticism opens the eyes, it leads to the certainty that among the authors of the present Gospels, Matthew had the work of Luke in mind, the Fourth Gospel knew both writings, and the reviser of the original Gospel, whom the Church calls Mark, borrowed some of his additions from these predecessors.

Because criticism truly opens the eyes, it leads out of the haze of ignorance, from the simple and cohesive creation of the original evangelist to the later formations and combinations that gradually succeeded one another in the long series extending from the work of the early Luke to the final compilation of Mark.

What the honest fragmentist accomplished in ten paragraphs and what Lessing defended so thoroughly, criticism achieves—it explains the contradictions between the Gospel accounts—it traces the origin of these contradictions.

Strauss has accomplished nothing—has explained nothing in his entire work.

“Early on in circulation”—the apologist wants to remain as close as possible to the supposed original factual basis underlying the “fluctuating and often varied rumors,” to the supposed ecstatic visions in which the disciples believed they saw the risen Christ—he must cling to this factual basis—there must be a factual basis—but the actual factual basis, the present literary works of the Evangelists, above all, the great fact that sacred history is a creation of faith—he cannot, he does not want to see it—because he cannot “intentionally be blind.”


But regarding the account of the “undoubtedly genuine” first letter to the Corinthians by Paul—a letter that was written “around the year 59 AD, thus less than 30 years after his resurrection”—we must believe that “many members of the first community, especially the apostles, were convinced of having experienced appearances of the risen Christ at the time of writing the letter.” *)

*) ibid.

An unfortunate appeal to a letter that was written in the middle of the second century and whose author had no other source for his mention of the appearances of the risen one than that adaptation of the original Gospel, which even the early Luke used for his compilation!


Weisse, who assumes that the actual basis underlying the Gospel accounts are not ecstatic visions of the disciples but actual appearances of the risen one, albeit appearances of a kind for which we can hardly find a specific and indicative word since they lie outside the realm of positive reality, primarily builds his understanding of the resurrection on that mention in the first letter to the Corinthians. Therefore, he chooses an equally unfortunate ground as Strauss as the basis for his argumentation, but he cannot choose a firm ground either when, in the interest of apologetics, he ignores the only positive reality—the Gospel accounts—and the only creative force—the faith that shaped the original formation—and pursues a chimerical reality.


As evidence for the “immaterial, spiritual, or ghostly nature” of the appearances of the risen one described in the Gospels, Weisse, for example, cites the fact that Paul, in his letter, compares the appearance that had happened to him as “similar” to those *)—in reverse: the author of that letter compiles all the appearances of the risen one, except for Paul’s, in this way because he considers the latter to be just as real, marvelous, visible, and physical as the earlier ones that happened to the first believers.

*) Weisse, Evangelische Geschichte II, 367. 

To keep the nature of the risen one separate from all material corporeality and to equate it with the nature of the believers in their resurrection—I cannot express this idea more precisely—Weisse stoops so low **) as to invoke Paul’s appeal to the Pharisaic doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles—to use that appeal through which the apostle aims to win over the Pharisees against the Sadducees.

**) II, 370. 371.

Certainly, Weisse does not knowingly stoop down, for he is unaware that this ugly turn, with which the Paul of the Acts of the Apostles appeals to the agreement between his teaching of the risen one and Jewish orthodoxy *), is only one of those humiliations imposed by the author of that work upon the apostle to the Gentiles—a mere attenuation of the original Christian content, which finds its explanation in his Judaism.

*) Acts of the Apostles 23:6. 


The apologist will not cease to draw the most welcome materials for his construction of the history of the Gospels from the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline Epistles, and those who know him (I am not speaking of Weiße, whose search I also respect in his errors) will not entertain the thought that it will be possible to convince him of the uselessness of these materials. However, in the field of research, with my criticism of that historical work and these letters, I will have achieved enough that the burden of the light-friendly Judaism of the Acts of the Apostles, as well as the presuppositions derived from the Gospels by the authors of the Pauline Epistles, will no longer be imposed upon the Gospels that preceded them, and they will no longer be imposed as witnesses.

I will briefly mention the following: When Weisse, rightly so, claims to know nothing about an appearance of the resurrected Christ to the women in the Urevangelium (the original Gospel), he bases it on **) the fact that the Paul of the first Corinthians knows nothing about it either. This is simply because the author of that letter was not yet acquainted with the Fourth and current Gospel of Mark or the Gospel of Matthew, which provided the Fourth Gospel with the basis for its elaborate account of the encounter between the resurrected Christ and Mary Magdalene. The Gospel literature of his time knew nothing about such an appearance.

**) II, 354. 355.



This description of the tradition hypothesis will finally receive its most fitting conclusion when I present the behaviour of its adherents towards some of the main theses of my criticism.



BRUNO BAUER: Theological Explanation of the Gospels – I. The theological explanation of the fourth Gospel

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by Neil Godfrey

Theological Explanation of the Gospels

Die theologische Erklärung der Evangelien


Bruno Bauer




The theological explanation of the fourth Gospel.


For the German Protestant Church, the Johannine age of disintegration and instability began, if we leave Fichte’s declamations to the past as a prophecy of this completion of the indeterminacy that is inherent in religious consciousness in general, when, in the second decade of our century, religiosity, which had still proved powerful even in the rational cult of the Revolution, turned again to Christian forms and, at the same time, rationalism accomplished one of its most significant deeds in Brettschneider’s Probabilia *).

If this new religiosity was already a broken figure from the outset, since as a mere reaction against Enlightenment it could only repeat the flabby opposites of deism and at most transpose them into Christian formulas, its attitude had to become even more unhappy and sad, since it had to defend its corresponding gospel against Brettschneider’s “two” fels about the origin of the same from an apostle.

*) 1820


Fichte had already correctly sensed that the fourth Gospel corresponded to the new religiosity of which he was the prophet, and had based his edifying speeches on eternal and blessed life on it – the new theology had found its Christian-modified deistic highest essence in the formlessness of the messianic figure that this Gospel sets up, and in its contrast to the world, it had found its Christian-modified deistic highest essence – and now it, the unfortunate one, whose decrepit bones still trembled from the struggles of the Enlightenment, had to enter its career in the wake of doubt – it had to struggle to win back that melting figure from doubt!

With Brettschneider, with the exception of a few counter-writes, no real battle took place. He himself did not pursue his attack, but rather withdrew later with a few unifying remarks. As correct as most of his antitheses of the synoptic and Johannine portrayal of the Messiah were, they still lacked the solid foundation on which they could have developed their strength and become established. He gave the synoptic representation the preference – attributed to it the glory of greater historicity – but time had long since lost real faith in the truth of the synoptic massiveness, had almost lost the memory of the synoptic sculpture – from Ratio nalism and its representative Brettschneider one could not seriously assume that his preference for the synoptic figure would be followed by a real living into it, What, then, was the time to do with a work that wanted to command faith in a figure that no longer had any real life in any of those who were seized by the new religiosity and brought about the new theology?


Brettschneider’s work was a premature attempt which, after the appearance of the independent counter-writings, was only mentioned in the historical textbooks, as well as in the introductions to the Commentaries on the Fourth Gospel, and was rejected as an erroneous hypothesis – its effect was, to all appearances, just as superficial and soon obliterated, as that which the Superintendent Vogel had been able to achieve twenty years earlier with his ״Juvenal Judgement’ on the Evangelist John and his commentators – but it was only so easy for the theologians to come to terms with Vrettschneider’s twists and turns and to ignore them because they themselves carried doubt within them.

They had all fallen prey to unbelief – they wanted to get out of the power of negation, and the whole movement which occupied the German world for twenty years until Straussen’s resignation is nothing more than this last struggle of faith with unbelief, the last attempt of faith to assert itself before unbelief – but how would it have been possible to escape unbelief by a mere turning away from faith and to render harmless a power which had dominated the world for centuries? *

With the same justification with which one calls this turn to faith, one can call it the last, decisive penetration of unbelief into faith.

No! With a much greater right.


This, the complete conversion of unbelief into faith, is the historical reality, the real meaning and fact of the period.

I called the movement of this period a reactionary one – well! just as every historically significant reaction is only the organisation of the revolution against which it is directed and which, in its opinion, it puts an end to, so the theology and apologetics of this period is the Christian organisation of unbelief – an organisation which has received its proper conclusion in Strauss. .

When the hermaphroditism of the newer Christianity and theology suddenly saw this conclusion before it, it could be startled and protest in a multitude that it had nothing in common with this work, which came solely from the spirit of negation – but how much this work, as the consummate marriage of faith and negation, belonged to it, even for those to whom this connection seems incredible, the success must testify, the fact must prove, that theology, after it had not produced a new turn in those protests and had only assured the solidity of its preceding twenty years of work, had to go into eternal retirement and had nothing more to do. Strauss had done all she could in the end.

It is certain that the work of that twenty-year period was the work of unbelieving faith and believing unbelief.

The preference for the fourth Gospel was the result of unbelief that could no longer bear the strict and firm figure of the synoptic Jesus and hoped to be able to assert itself as faith in the melting world of that Gospel.


Weak – vain hope! How can a being that fled from the plastic form and is doubt from the outset, even face the blurring form with certainty and composure? How can it, the unbelieving, uncertain being, grasp and acknowledge the deformity for what it is, as a deformity? It seeks support and salvation against its inner restlessness and insecurity in the dissolving deformity; therefore it must forcibly intervene in the uncertain lines, in the untenable contrasts, in the exaggerated movements of its ideal and try to bring support into the contrasts, moderation into the movements.

So this unhappy being must disfigure the deformity even more, i.e. completely destroy his own ideal, give the lie to his faith in the fourth gospel.

And from where do the apologists, who in the course of that period defended and explained the Gospel of the heart, get the standard which is to bring form, support and measure into its untenability?

From the very Synoptic Gospels which their unbelief had already abandoned.

At the beginning of this period *) Gieseler had for the first time brought the hitherto isolated impulses of the tradition hypothesis to unity and to a kind of consistency, thus providing his contemporaries with what they needed for their explanation and defence of the fourth Gospel. It is true that he still left open the possibility that the traditional view of the origin of the Synoptic Gospels could be reconciled with the assumption of a gradually ordered Gospel tradition; indeed, he even believed that he could not recommend his version of the Tradition hypothesis any better than by asserting that it corresponded to the view of the origin of the Fourth Gospel, that it only provides the most certain support for the view of the origin of the Synoptic Gospels – only the power of faith was lacking in time, which also made it quite clear from Gieseler’s statement that he was not entirely serious about this recommendation of his hypothesis, and appropriated from the latter what corresponded to its love of indeterminacy and could be of real service to it in its treatment of the Fourth Gospel – i.e. the presupposition that it was not possible to find the origin of the Synoptic Gospels. I. e. the presupposition that in the Synoptic Gospels the oral tradition of the Gospel material had received its written fixation.

*) 1818.


If it was now necessary to defend the individual features of the fourth Gospel, its embarrassing detail and its deviating premises against the Synoptic Gospels, the more chimerical, groundless and crude it was at the same time, the more the definiteness of the fourth was a proof of its eye-witnessnessness and it was self-evident that the Synoptic Gospels, as documents of oral tradition, had to take a back seat to its work.

The tradition, however, especially since it had received its basic form from the apostles, nevertheless also led back to the real facts – thus the process of theological explanation and the decision was not as easy as it seemed at first in view of the simplicity of the contrast between eyewitness and oral tradition – in other words: the faith which was preferably due to the fourth gospel was also claimed by the synoptic gospels and penetrated the unbelief with which theology regarded the latter, whereas the unbelief which had affected the synoptics was turned against the fourth.


That is to say, one sought to harmonistically balance the opposing presuppositions, to blur the contradiction, and if for this purpose the presuppositions of the Fourth were forced upon the synoptic view, the theo-logical busyness was at the same time so unpartheistic in its anxiety that it muffled the most glaring detailed determinations of the latter to the benefit of the synoptic view or let them become completely blurred in the latter.

The common work of this unbelieving faith and believing unbelief now consists in those theological acts of violence against the clearest and firmest determinations of the evangelical text, which I had to present in detail as such in the first elaboration of my critique and of which I have proved that they are just as atrocious as they are silly and purposeless – atrocious, inasmuch as they are evangelical views and determinations, which the supposed faith of the theologians venerates as God’s word and threatens to oppose the unbelief of the world, to maltreatment which otherwise only characterises the most brutal struggle to the death – silly and pointless, insofar as they are perpetrated against the clearest text and insurmountable laws of language – futile, since the scriptural word which the theologian wanted to strangle survives all his efforts and in the end only stands there as his accuser.

After this struggle of united faith and unbelief has reached its end in the freedom that criticism has given to the Word of Scripture, – its end at least within the context of historical development, to which theology will no longer add any significant achievement, even if it maintains its status quo for so long with the reminiscence of its painful work – I was able to refrain from any interference in the present implementation of my critique.


The Gospels now belong to themselves, to history, and to that free and happy outlook which has already enriched itself with the bit- world of fetishism and the art world of polytheism, and which, in the bright space of its memory above the tumult of images of the Orient and the ideals of Greek lands, now also sets up the monotheistic image of the One, who, as man — in faith and in the new power that signify the rise of Christianity — has dreamed the dream of dominion over the whole universe and — again as the ideal man of faith — has for the first time grasped the thought of a complete break with the past.

If the ideal is saved and no longer needs to be defended against modern Jewishness, then the battle that the Jewish unbelief of theological faith waged with the evangelical witness also belongs to historical memory. It no longer provokes a counter-struggle, for the object against which it was waged is securely established; – it only needs to be presented and described in its most important turns, just as the criticism of the Gospels has become a pure presentation of their contradictions and of the original form to which these contradictions lead back.

But before I go on to describe the crudeness and cowardice of this struggle of the last 

theologians against the Gospels, I must first remark that it is but the consummation of the ambiguous conduct which the chiefs of Christian science have always shown, and indeed could only show, against the Scriptures. If the greatest organisations of Christianity, such as, for example, the mediæval If the greatest organisations of Christianity, such as the medieval division of spiritual and temporal power or even the Protestant creation of the state church, after a short flowering, only disintegrated again and again very soon, more quickly than the organisations of antiquity, because the vagueness and indeterminacy of their theological basis made it considerably easier for the offended to fight against them and provided the most dangerous weapons, the theoretical elaboration and substantiation of the doctrine was even worse off, since it had to rely on a disjointed collection of writings whose statements all claimed absolute validity and yet pushed their contradiction to the point of serious mutual exclusion. Even the most important organisers, an Augustine, *) Calvin, were therefore already forced to deal with these contradictions and to kill them in the same way as the moderns did, such as a Lücke, a Neander and de Wette, who were determined to drag the end of the tragedy down into the record with their personal anguish.

*) With the exception of Luther, whose plastic and solid nature kept him the furthest away from these theological miseries, which in the end had to bring about the downfall of the whole system.


The inherent power of development which the Christian world of thought contained up to the time of the Neformation did not allow those men of the organisational period to fall so low that they dared to trust the biblical testimonies only after the agonising struggle with those contradictions. But when the power of organisation was exhausted, when the system was complete, when new dogmas were no longer possible, and when doubt and clarification had shaken the world of thought and made it so untenable that the Protestant principle, according to which the Holy Scriptures are the judicial authority, the norm and guide for all teaching, was no longer valid, The theological struggle with the contradictions of the Gospels became serious, ghastly, convulsive and feverish.


And yet only one step beyond this consequence of the pro testant formal principle and the struggle was over, but this one step brought us into a new world in which the Gospels no longer serve personal need, but find themselves subject to personal power and yet at the same time belong to themselves for the first time.

As limited as the Protestant idea was that a form of life which, after the decay of its classical elaboration, already had to struggle with mortal doubt, could really be rejuvenated by the restoration of its historical beginning – as much as this return to the original Christianity was closed as an illusion by the Lutheran and Anglican creation of the state church, and in general by the Protestant submission of the church to the secular dictatorship, a substantial impulse was nevertheless expressed in it, the impulse of historical research.

As ugly and embarrassing as the fear was with which the theologians rummaged through the Gospels in order to find the real historical figure of their Saviour, the suspicion that the historical origin of their faith was different from the idea they had of its origin was nevertheless at work in them.


No matter how violent and futile the theological struggle with the contradictions of the Gospels may be, the assiduity with which the theologians sought out these impulses and strove to eliminate them was nevertheless an expression of the modern striving for “exact knowledge” – research, criticism, exact knowledge were still held only by monotheistic fear and lualism, as they were in alchemy and astrology, before they were superseded by chemistry and astronomy, in the service of an alien interest, greed or curiosity about one’s own future.

In short, confusion was the immediate precursor of the order and freedom that research brought to the world whose explanation it was, and this its historical significance is eS what will justify the remembrance we devote to it in the following lines.


The theologian and the fourth can still be called fortunate at the same time when the business of interpretation is so simple that a tautology suffices to bring it to an end – the former cannot go astray, for he need only render the text with a few more “general words”; the evangelist can be sure that his property is preserved unabridged and that his labour has not been in vain.

It is absolutely correct, for example, when de Wette remarks about the relationship between the questions of the priestly messengers and the answers of the Baptist (Jn. 1:19-27), that ״John does not always let the questions and answers correspond directly.


It is very correct when the same commentator comments on the situation where the Baptist sees Jesus coming towards him and the latter’s coming is kept at a wonderful distance and remains standing so that the latter can point at him with his fingers and recite his testimony (C. 1, 29 – 34) – when de Wette remarks on this inconsequential coming, ״the attention of the evangelist is directed solely to the testimony of the Baptist.

Tholuck demonstrates his mastery of the art of interpretation when he calls the ״nobody’ in the Baptist’s lament (C. 3, 32), that no one accepts the testimony of the one who has escaped from heaven, a hyperbole.

It is a true tautology when Bengel explains the pompous turn of phrase with which Jesus refers the disciples, who asked him about his dwelling, to the mystery of it (״come and see’ C. 1, 29), to the effect that this dwelling bore witness to its messianic owner, that it was worthy of him, yes, of him alone.

It is true what Hemsen remarks, that the word ״woman’ in the abrupt answer with which Jesus at the wedding feast at Cana rejects the admonishing finger pointing of his mother to the lack of wine that had occurred. the very ordinary meaning of a form of address”.

The inner incongruity of the self-tearing lament of John’s disciples (E. 3, 26): ״He of whom thou hast begotten baptiseth,’ Tholuck renders with at least a fairly correct tautology, when, according to him, the disciples of the Baptist say: -He who had to be baptised by thee, and had a testimony״ issued, takes the liberty of baptising himself.”

Enough of these tautologies, which, as it were, form the clear spaces in the wild and confused undergrowth of theological interpretation or the resting places where the exegetes recover from their strenuous struggle with the difficulties and contradictions.


And yet they can find no real peace and rest – the happiness of their tautologies is deceptive – they have well felt the difficulties that the Gospel text contains – with their tautologies they hoped to escape them – but in vain – the difficulties follow them on their heels.

Is the present difficulty not precisely that in that negotiation between the priests and the Anabaptist the questions and answers do not correspond? Is it explained if it is simply repeated, if the contradiction of the text is transformed into a general formula? Is the disproportion between means and ends not rather due to the nature of the end pursued by the Fourth, to its pragmatism, to its position in relation to the preceding evangelical historiography?

Is the hyperbole of the ״Nobody’ in that lamentation of the Täu Is the hyperbole of the ״Nobody’ in that lament of the deceiver not precisely the inadequacy that first demands its explanation? Or is the groundless jnconvenience eliminated when it is reduced to a grammatical formula? Does the meaningless hyperbole become a meaningful turn of phrase when it is only described as hyperbole – does its contradiction with the other presuppositions of the text cease when the theologian closes his eyes to it?

Is not the pomp with which Jesus presents his dwelling as the worthy tabernacle of the Most Reverend precisely the floating and unsubstantial exaggeration that is to be explained above all?

If the address ״Woman!’ is indeed an address, does it therefore cease to be harsh and abrupt towards the mother, and is it not first necessary to explain how the Lord comes to this extreme degree of alienation, which is certainly not motivated in the account of the Fourth and only finds its explanation in a completely different circle, in the synoptic account of events?


In the misfortune of the theologians, therefore, that of the Fourth is also preserved – in that the theologians hope to eliminate or cover up its contradictions and dissonances with their tautologies, they do it an injustice and overturn its text. They misjudge its pragmatism if they want to take away its glaring and at the same time groundless contradictions.

The fourth, however, asserts its tearing dissonances – it scoffs at the means with which the exegetes want to come to its aid.

The congruence of the complaint of the disciples of John: ״He of whom thou hast begotten baptiseth,’ is not raised by Tholuck’s tautological paraphrase, but only becomes more confused, only shifted; — when the Baptist says C. 1, 34: ״I begat,’ that means: Jesus – when the Lord says (C. 5, 33) John begat the truth,” that means: the truth had to have a favourable testimony issued to it by״ John? In whose favour you have testified,” with these words de Wette renders the complaint of John’s disciples somewhat less glaringly than Tholuck – but was not rather the testimony of the Baptist of the kind that he placed the one testified to by it infinitely above himself? Does not the dissonance therefore remain – must not the dissonance remain – that the disciples of John complain about the presumption of him whom their Master himself had described to them as the very greatest?


De Wette’s tautology about the inconsequentiality of Jesus’ coming, which gives the Baptist cause for his testimony that the evangelist’s attention is “solely” directed to the latter, is not yet pure and uninteresting enough; it does not merely reproduce the facts at hand, but at the same time follows its own theological purposes – it would like to persuade itself, it would like to persuade the people, that the fourth man knew quite well what happened afterwards between Jesus and the Baptist – but his attention is rather so exclusively directed to the testimony of the Baptist that he immediately forgets the marvellous scenery, which served only to bring about this testimony, when the latter has taken place – the scenery has vanished when the Baptist has spoken.

It has served its purpose.

If the tautology is really carried out purely and without any theological If the tautology is really pure and carried out without theological secondary intentions, then it is’ no longer tautology – then it is real explanation and understanding. Let the pragmatism of the fourth be recognised for what it is and it is explained – let justice be done to the fourth, let it be given what it deserves – let it have what is its own and it is seen through.

It is also still tautology, but a most impure, a slippery one, when Lücke remarks on the Baptist’s testimony to the Lamb of God that the disciples only understood his ״messianic relationship’.

So a saying whose ״messianic relationship’ is its only content contained more? contained other relationships? other meanings?

Theology does not want to say this, does not dare to assert it – but the whole scene, that the Baptist shows his disciples the Lamb of God in the Lord and the disciples are moved to follow Jesus, has the synoptic presupposition that the Lord only at the end of his ministry is the Lamb of God, that the Lord spoke of the necessity of his suffering and death only at the end of his Galilean activity, and that the disciples could not find themselves in these prayers, has a dangerous neighbour, which insists so firmly on the opposite that it does not tolerate the opposite presupposition of the fourth next to it.


Only the peaceableness of the theologian cannot grasp the thought that the two presuppositions are absolutely mutually exclusive – only the theologian can trust his eloquence to be capable of reconciling the two mortal enemies with one another; – and what turn of his rhetoric inspires him with such tremendous confidence?

Again, the tautology! He repeats the contradiction in a limp phrase and believes that he has thus eliminated it, appeased it. That the disciples of the Baptist, the later disciples of the Lord, at first only understood the messianic relationship in that ״saying’ – with this sentence Lücke finds the fourth; with the addition: ״the inner understanding remained hidden from them,’ he reassures the Synoptics; – For the sake of the fourth, the disciples must hear the “messianic relationship” out of the saying – for the sake of the Synoptics, they do not really understand the saying itself, although the “messianic relationship” is its only content, and the disciples could not understand anything about the messianic relationship of the image of the “Lamb of God” if they did not know to which part of the messianic business it referred.

The theologian wants to do justice to both the Synoptics and the Fourth, and he is wrong against both parties – he impairs both.

As far as the testimony of the Baptist himself is concerned, the apologist must of course weaken it for the sake of Luke, in whose Gospel the Baptist doubts when Jesus had long since proved himself through his miracles, e.g. Lücke must assert that the Baptist had ״not understood the full context of the Christian idea’, i.e. he must not acknowledge it. That is, he must not acknowledge that the image which the Anabaptist of the Fourth sets up as the highest and summarising expression for the destiny of the Messiah is the totality of the Christian idea summed up into a reflected unity.


In the same way, the theologian cannot acknowledge the real historical basis of the definiteness with which this image, this religious category appears, for he would then have to admit that this basis was given to the Fourth in the already existing faith of the congregation in the redemptive death of the Lord. He must not admit that the Baptist of the Fourth proceeds from the assumption that the image of the Lamb of God is fixed as dogma for the listeners – (the readers) – and Lücke, like Bengel, must help himself with the excuse that the Baptist had grasped the image of the Lamb in a ״prophetic’ spirit or as a result of divine inspiration.

Just as Bengel did not feel reassured in his assumption of a sudden divine inspiration and hoped to find a natural cause for the image in the influence of the festive atmosphere, in the proximity of the Passover *), so too Lücke does not dare to attribute the creation of the image to the prophetic spirit alone and he also looks around for a given point of contact. Only he is no longer capable of the naiveté with which the older commentators used the dangerous beistan of the Feast of the Passover – he knows the danger – he fears the unbelief that traces the image of the Lamb of God back to the Passover Lamb and would only have considered its creation possible in that time in which the Redeemer was worshipped as the true Passover Lamb, and now hopes for salvation in the image of the Tolerator, which the second part of Zesaias (C. 53) sketches out. 53), he hopes to find salvation from unbelief and an occasion for the image of the deceiver.

*) Similar to Lampe, who makes the Baptist fall for this image through the circumstance that a herd of sheep lambs was being driven over the Jordan for the upcoming feast.


Unfortunate deception! In order that ״the Lamb of God’ might become the lamb of that prophetic passage which appears only as the image of meekness and patience, he must now assert that in the Gospel saying ״the addition: which bears the sin of the world, does not refer both to the figurative concept of the lamb and to the mesfian subject depicted in it’ – in vain! Rather, through the image of the lamb, the subject of the Messiah is to be united with the bearing of sin, i.e. the bearing of sin belongs to the essence of the lamb – the lamb is the Passover lamb and it could only become the symbol of the Messiah at that time, when he had wrought redemption from sin in the faith of the world through his death.


The theologians, e.g. Lücke, hope to eliminate the contradiction that the first disciples in the synoptic account were called in Galilee, and after the fourth in Judea, by claiming that in the Gospel of the latter Jesus’ word to Philip (C. 1, 43): ״Follow me’ could only be understood by the outer company.


So again a double injustice! In order to unite the two accounts, the thorough researchers have to unnerve them both – they take away from the synoptic account the presupposition that Jesus immediately won over the disciples whom he met for the first time in Galilee by the magic power of his word – from the fourth, which only owes this magic word to the synoptic account: ״Follow me’, they impose the presupposition that the same invitation, which in Galilee emanates from Jesus so powerfully that it draws the disciples into the spiritual realm of his personality, in Judea only aims at their external bondage to his person.

The fourth reports that Jesus also baptised – albeit through his disciples.

While a right feeling prevented the evangelist from carrying out this glaring idea in detail and asserting it for more than a moment, the theologian must take it more seriously and raise the awkward question, ״Why do we not hear more about the baptism of Christ in the Gospels?’ He will certainly know how to give a reason, but since he insists on the presupposition that Jesus baptized, but the difficulty that besets this presupposition is insurmountable, the reason he sets up will at the same time infallibly betray the inner impossibility of the Johannine construction.

“The definite faith in Jesus the Christ, as it was included in baptism, answers Lücke, came forth much less frequently during the lifetime of Jesus.”

Indeed! The original designer of evangelical history, however, is not content with this ״much seltner’ and demands a never – a decisive never, which excludes the precondition of the fourth par excellence. He knew that his Lord first had to open up the infinity of his self-consciousness to the Wett and that before he had accomplished this spiritual, ideal work, he could not think of imbedding his activity in a positive statute like baptism – he knew that a positive statute could only serve as a means of grace when the new Wett was really founded and only required the invitation to enter it – he knew, He knew that the Lord could only institute the gracious statute at the moment when he had completed his work and empowered the disciples as its administrators – he knew, finally, that as long as Jesus was still fighting the battle of the kingdom of heaven with the law, faith could only be an emerging one, bursting forth in instantaneous enthusiasm, but not the positive and determined one that baptism presupposes.


Of course, the theologians could not see the origin of the untenable nature of the two passages in which Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman face the Lord; – that the inclination of Nicodemus and his infinite dullness only stem from the fact that the Fourth could not better reproduce the synoptic narrative of the rich man, and that the synoptic sculpture had to succumb to his love of untenable contrasts – that the Samaritan woman, that the Samaritan woman, the copy of the synoptic Canaanite woman, only proves herself unworthy of the Lord’s participation with every word, because the Fourth has formed her according to the same pattern according to which Nicodemns is created, the theologians must not admit even now, after I have proved it.

Nevertheless, they must explain how it is that the Lord surprises people with the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven who do not know how to use the simplest figurative expression.


But how? How are they to help themselves if they do not seek the explanation where it alone can be found – if they are not allowed to think of the original – of the real desire of the rich man for the bliss of the Kingdom of Heaven, of the heroic conquering power of the Canaanite woman?

False, therefore also impotent means of violence must help.

Nicodemus is the chosen protégé of the apologists, the Samaritan woman their favourite: – For the love of both, the theologian does everything, dares everything.

Even when the ״Master of Zsrael’ raises the first senseless objection as to how a man, who is also an old man, can return to the womb of his mother and be born again, Lücke wants to ״equitably divide the understanding and the lack of understanding of Nicodemus’, i.e. he wants to surpass the evangelist in equitableness, who presents the Pharisee purely as lacking understanding. Afterwards, Lücke tries this form of division by letting Nicodemus understand the ״words’ but not ״the inner meaning’, without making it comprehensible how anyone can understand words whose meaning he does not grasp.

Under Tholuck’s discipline, the old Pharisee becomes even more leacious – only the apologist still finds fault with the strength of his will. At the same moment that the Lord, astonished at the Pharisee’s weakness of understanding, exclaims: -You, the Master of Israel, do not understand this? Tholuck secretly hisses to us that the matter is quite different: -Nicodemus understands more and more clearly what the Lord means״ but he does not feel the strength in himself to make the required change. He also knows Nicodemus better than Nicodemus knows himself – while Nicodemus doubts theoretically or rather does not know what to think of Jesus’ statement, Tholuck explains to us that the Pharisee only felt no inclination to let himself be transformed in the way the Lord demanded.


Afterwards, when Jesus assaults the man who did not understand the first laws of the kingdom of heaven with the highest heavenly mysteries, and when the apologists, despite their initial denial, are brought to admit the Pharisee’s incapacity, de Wette explains the new turn, de Wette explains the new turn from the Lord’s intention, according to which he wanted to ״make an impression by higher revelations’ – and yet de Wette himself says that the Lord had ״abandoned the attempt to make Nicode- mus understand beforehand. “

Lücke even wants to establish a kind of law for this new turn of events: it is also otherwise the procedure of Jesus, ״that he, although he knows that he will not be understood, nevertheless also expresses the more difficult in order to spur the spirits on’ – only then he would really have had to have a spirit before him, which is not the case according to the presupposition of the fourth – then he would have had to be certain, then he would have had to be sure that something definite would stick in the soul of the listeners – then, in order to really seize the soul, he would not have been allowed to get confused into an unclear typology, he would have had to present the matter in its striking simplicity. – – – – – – –

But I break off. That is enough. The purpose which this reminder of the theological attempts at explanation alone could serve has been achieved.

I must break off, for the examples given have amply demonstrated the utter worthlessness of the supposed treasure which the theologians have heaped up with their interpretations – they prove that the whole world to which they belong can no longer be fought, but only forgotten.


If a more detailed recollection of the work which has been 67 If a more detailed recollection of the work involved in founding and establishing this chimerical world can still find an excuse and have an interest, then cS only that of the finisher of this work – Strauss.



BRUNO BAUER: Theological Explanation of the Gospels – Foreword

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Theological Explanation of the Gospels

Die theologische Erklärung der Evangelien


Bruno Bauer





When I appeared with my critique of evangelical history twelve years ago, two years prior, a fortunate and thorough effort had initiated a turning point in research, placing the question that Christian theology had struggled with in an unattainable manner into a position where it had become possible to give it its final form.

Those two achievements, one bearing the mark of deserved fortune and the other the combined work of fortune and scholarly thoroughness, were my historical starting point.

I could directly build upon them since they were the first instances in which the inherent spirit of the subject matter they dealt with had come to life and found expression.*) I had to build upon them because there could be no further limitations apart from the ones still inherent in them, and their removal was necessary for the enrichment of research.

*) Of course, I would have to call Luther’s views an outstanding exception if it were only a matter of the religious, even artistically formed testimony of the Spirit and if the Reformer’s preference for the Scriptures of the Fourth as the ״only, tender, right main Gospel’ did not prove the illusory and unreliable nature of this religious testimony of the Spirit.


The one who first uttered the scientific word on the internal contradiction of evangelical historiography, specifically regarding the contrast between the Johannine and synoptic Jesus, laying the foundation for the correct interpretation of the birth and childhood narratives of Jesus, and who truly brought certain points, cardinal points of evangelical history, to a decision for the first time, is Weisse.

The one who, for the first time, conducted an exact examination of the relationship between the first three Gospels and carried it out so thoroughly, bringing it so close to a solution that it will forever serve as the basis for later research, even if it may deviate in many and essential points from its results, is Wilke.

Regarding Weisse, he opposed the tradition hypothesis, according to which the Gospel authors received their material from the tradition of the community, and which had received its most consistent development from Strauss, with a few fortunate elaborations. Furthermore, he was fortunate enough to make the discovery that the Gospel of Mark is the Gospel that the authors of the first and third Gospels had used.

Thus, it had become certain, or at least accordingly probable—since Weisse had not yet fully validated his discovery in detail—that the historical material of the first and third Gospels was not taken from the tradition of the community but originated as a literary adaptation of the information provided by the Gospel of Mark. However, Weisse still had two questions to answer. He had to deal with the tradition hypothesis when it came to explaining the origin of the Gospel of Mark and also when it concerned the source from which the speeches and sayings of Jesus contained in the first and third Gospels had flowed.


Weisse found the answer to both questions in the well-known notes preserved for us by Eusebius from the writing of Papias. Mark composed his Gospel from the occasional narratives of the Apostle Peter, whose companion he had been. As for the sayings and speeches of Jesus, which the first and third evangelists enriched their writings with, they were taken from the collection of sayings compiled by the Apostle Matthew.

Among other difficulties, there was one in particular that posed a danger to Weisse’s viewpoint. The tradition hypothesis sees the miracles reported in the Gospels as one of the strongest pieces of evidence that it could not have been an apostle, an eyewitness of Jesus’ historical activities, from whom the evangelists received the content of their writings. Weisse eliminates this danger by explaining the most striking miracle accounts as parabolic or allegorical representations that Jesus himself created. He often notes that we still possess the literal presentation of Jesus in these accounts.

Both ways of determining the origin of the Gospels and the source of their content are connected to the entire worldview of their authors.

In the lifelessness of Strauss’s work, Hegelian metaphysics demonstrated its incapacity to grasp the essence of a historical phenomenon. Despite the individual fortunate successes he achieved over Strauss, Weisse failed because his positive philosophy, which he had developed in contrast to Hegel’s, could only offer glimpses of light but could not penetrate and illuminate the entire material.


In the misfortune of both, the bankruptcy of metaphysics was revealed.



It must be fully acknowledged by the disciples of Hegel that the philosophy of their master is the most perfect, the ultimate, the absolute. The world of the individual and the real cannot be more thoroughly and comprehensively subjected to an ideal, that is, a chimerical universality, than Hegel has done—the Orientalism that allows reality to dissolve before divine glory, yes, the fetishism that sees the divine and always the same divine in every single thing, cannot be restored more completely and forcefully.

As a devout student of his master, Strauss recognizes in history only one power, one reality, one active force—the Idea, the reproduction of Oriental substance.

What is the tradition from which the Gospel writers derived the content of their writings? What is the legend in which a large part of evangelical history took shape and which traveled elementally across the world sphere, if not the substance in one of its historical manifestations, where it was the power of the Christian community?


Why is Strauss’s explanation of the origin of evangelical history, specifically evangelical history in the double sense of the substance of our current Gospels and the fixed form it has acquired in the Gospels, mysterious?

Why? Because at every moment when it attempts to bring forth the process by which evangelical history—the evangelical history in that perplexing double sense—owes its origin, it can only produce the appearance of a process. It is mysterious because it is tautological.

And why tautological? Why meaningless?

Because it cannot step out of the indeterminacy of the relation of substance. The statement that evangelical history has its source and origin in tradition repeats the same thing twice: “tradition” and “evangelical history.” It certainly wants to relate them to each other, but it cannot do so because the substance, being incapable of an internal process, is not creative. The substance “is” its attributes and modes, and the Idea repeats itself in its productions, which are only apparent productions, containing only what it already encompasses—the tradition “is” evangelical history from the outset.

This is also just a specific expression of his orthodox-Hegelian disposition when, for Strauss, the difference between Judaism and paganism on one hand and Christianity on the other almost disappears. He considers the alleged Jewish messianic dogma to be the original of the Christian legend that was fashioned after it. He regards the pagan myths and the Christian ones as equivalent and dismisses as superfluous speculation any research that seeks to uncover the difference. He is right because the idea is everything and remains the same.



The indifference towards historical differences that Hegel, in overcoming it at the expense of the coherence of his system, denied in his grand historical perspectives and elaborations, established the popularity of his disciples, who guarded themselves with true religious piety, so as not to disturb the eternal self-equality of the idea even through a significant view of a period of history. This particularly accounted for the extraordinary popularity of Strauss’s work.

This lack of personal[national?] pride, expressed in the parallelization and equating of Christian views, our ultimate educators, with pagan and Jewish notions, makes Strauss a continuation of the Enlightenment of the previous century and at the same time a philosophical precursor of the later friendship of reason. When, with Bertholdt’s help, he explains the “Christian legend” as a mere reflection of the supposed Jewish messianic dogma, he proceeds as thoroughly as, for example, Voltaire, who believed he had grasped Judaism by deriving it from paganism with the assistance of Spencer and Selby, actually only relying on Bolingbroke, thus with equally powerless assistance.

Even Strauss’s philosophical concluding statement: “If we know the becoming human, dying, and resurrection as the eternal cycle, the endlessly repeating pulse of divine life, what significance can there still be attached to an individual fact that merely sensually represents this process?” The idea in the fact, the genus in the individual—our time in Christology wants to be guided by this.*) Despite its metaphysical formulas, it is so popular and its truth so universally attested that one could almost say the “consensus of nations” stands in favor of it against any doubt and against the assault of research. The fetish worshipper stands and approves of it because they also elevate themselves above the “merely sensual” appearance of nature to the universal world soul that lives and weaves within it. The Jewish enlightenment of Preacher Solomon, with its antipathy towards the presumption of history that imagines itself creating something new, and with its hatred towards individuals who are so proud as to believe they possess the power of a new world within themselves, had long ago come to the realization that everything merely repeats the eternal cycle of emergence, death, and rebirth. As the Christian worldview approached its demise, it was discovered (through enlightenment) that its history was nothing but a series of sensual, crude facts, where it matters little whether one designates the life represented in this sensuality as divine or as the eternal cycle of “trickery and deception,” as in either case the real, inherent life of history remains unknown. However, that statement has found its true era in the present, and its true community in the general friendship of reason of our time, which deals with the fact by allowing it to rest and rely upon itself, content with a thought about it. It understands how to subject the historical figurehead and the self-power of personality to the omnipotence and dead uniformity of the genus.

*) The Life of Jesus, II. 770. Third edition.



Just as enlightenment and the friendship of reason were unable to recognize Christianity and thus relegate it to the past, the same goes for Strauss. But he does not want to do so; he is a philosopher and, as such, seeks to rediscover in Christianity only the “cycle” or the “pulse” or whatever the fetishist may call these manifestations of life in the Idea. Therefore, no matter how much he may differ from the orthodox theologian in his doubt regarding the historical reality of the fact in which the Idea is supposed to be manifested, he stands on the same ground, shares the same presuppositions, and lives in the same categories. The immediacy, so to speak, the swiftness with which the idea is translated into its factual representation is the same enchantment that the orthodox theologian venerates in the wondrous manifestations of his Lord or in the inspiration of the Spirit.

The tradition hypothesis is essentially only the transformation of the earlier orthodox view of the origin of the Gospels into an abstract formula—it is its abstract but more complete reflection. Both views, no matter how opposed they may be, are still just the same view in this opposition. The tradition hypothesis aimed to replace the divine inspiration, under whose influence the church places the Evangelists, with a historical power. However, this power itself remains a mysterious concept. For the question of how evangelical history and its portrayal in the Gospels came into being, it is irrelevant whether one answers that the Evangelists wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit or that tradition provided them with the entire material that had already been shaped and dictated by it. Both are equally transcendent, both reduce the authors of the Gospels to selfless masks, and the only, yet significant and meaningful merit of the tradition hypothesis lies in relieving the critique from immediate engagement with the heavenly chimera and assigning it the sole task of unraveling the historical.


Against Hengstenberg, the critic no longer needs to demonstrate the difference between the Old and New Testaments and defend the novelty of the Christian creation. Rather, the critic has done enough, has accomplished everything, by exposing the metaphysical emptiness that is seen to operate in Judaism and Christianity as the same idea.

Against Hengstenberg, the critic no longer needs to elaborate on the shallowness of the historical view that considers the personality of Jesus merely as a tautology, that is, only as the real, sensual manifestation of what the divine promise had foretold to the pious of the Old Testament. Instead, the critic has dissolved the immediate opposition by exposing the metaphysical fantasizing according to which the miraculous content of evangelical history is modeled after the pattern of Jewish messianic dogma. Furthermore, the critic has dispelled the Church’s presupposition by eliminating its metaphysical counterpart and its supposed transformation into a rational historical view through the demonstration of the novelty of the Christian revolution.



Strauss’s metaphysical assumption of the Absolute renders any critical relationship to Christianity impossible for him. The naivety of his assumption that “the content of the highest religion, Christianity, is identical to the highest philosophical truth” prevents him from realizing that this unity of religion and philosophy stems only from the fact that the latter is the artificial restoration of the former from its fallen state, from which it could no longer extricate itself on its own power since the idea of natural law was established.

What is Spinoza’s Substance but the transformation of the natural law discovered by seventeenth-century natural science into a religious, indeed an Oriental God? What else is it but the conversion of positive fact into a universal essence?

What is the systematic unity of the entire universe that modern philosophy sought to create? What is the unity and singularity of the idea, whose establishment and realization were achieved only by the most recent, the completed, the Hegelian philosophy? It is nothing but the final justification of religious monotheism. It is nothing but the reproduction of the ignorant notion that believes it can attain and possess the unity and coherence of the world by deducing everything real from a single being.

What is Hegelian mysticism — this seemingly profound yet only vague and barren statement that religion is God’s self-consciousness in humanity? It is nothing but the forceful assertion of the religious proposition of human sinfulness, which pursues humans even in their theoretical conduct and renders knowledge impossible. What is it other than the religious formula for the unity that humans achieve with themselves in thought?


Strauss’s question, whether the content can exist as absolute in the form of religion, is still too limited. The philosophical conception of the Absolute itself remains religious, and philosophy is not destined for decline because it reduces and confines the Absolute within a finite formula. Rather, it is through the formula of the Absolute that the perception and understanding of reality become impossible.

Equally limited is Strauss’s view when he regards the modern collision as merely a Christological dilemma, juxtaposing the church’s Christology of the community with the “speculative” Christology of the spiritual realm, in which the insight has emerged that, instead of an individual, a Idea, the idea of humanity, should be posited as the subject of the predicates attributed to Christ by the church. For research, both Christologies hold equal value, both lie on the same line of historical development, and the “speculative” Christology is merely a modification of the ecclesiastical one. Therefore, it cannot even be said that research is in conflict with that historical development and its current widespread influence. Instead, research begins a new epoch precisely by explaining this development and reducing it to the past. It is free from the old oppositions, and it remains indifferent to the casuistry with which the speculatively educated cleric navigates and arranges his personal “dilemma,” or to the measures by which the church establishment secures itself against him if it fails to subject him once again to ecclesiastical determination.



The only difference between Strauss and Hegel is that while the latter, in the strict unison of his dialectic, allows the Idea to pass through its manifestations and, when he speaks of a difference within it, does not pursue it seriously. In fact, since it is still the same Idea that manifests itself within him, he treats it with equal indifference both in practice and in theory. He would dismiss the question of the practical validity of subordinate manifestations as frivolous curiosity and as a disturbance of theoretical tranquility. On the other hand, Strauss does ask this question and seeks to solve it using the means provided by Hegelian dialectic.

But what arouses in him this “frivolous curiosity,” for example, about the value of individual facts alongside the Idea that manifests itself within them, or about the significance of ecclesiastical Christology alongside the speculative one? Certainly not the Hegelian system, which is in no way a system where the Idea carelessly and self-sufficiently rolls through its determinations and is content with itself in all aspects, as it always only deals with its determinations.

Rather, it is the development of modern theology, which began with the pietistic opposition between the soul and individual positive propositions, continued through the rationalistic distinction between the temporal and local determinations of early Christianity valid only for the primordial era and Palestine, and its eternal truths, and finally, in the apologetic anxiety about the authenticity of individual books of the New Testament and the credibility of specific Gospel accounts, has become hopelessly confused. It is only this development that drove him, in contrast to the original dullness of the system, to those questions whose formulation and unsuccessful answers initiated the crisis that later engulfed both theology and philosophy.


He himself, however, remained both theologian and philosopher.

While philosophy made it impossible for him to comprehend historical differences— (I must constantly recall the mechanism of his derivation of evangelical myths from Jewish messianic dogma)—he was unable to untangle the confusion in which theology had ultimately become entangled, and he allowed himself to be driven from one exegetical question to another by the same chance under which the apologists worked.

His apologetic position regarding the evangelical material brought him the benefit in the first edition of his work that alongside the so-called myths, there remained a true treasure of historical facts in the Gospels. In subsequent editions, this treasure enriched him even more, eventually granting him almost complete possession of the facts that Neander and de Wette had acquired for him. However, given the weakness of his method, it was initially indifferent and accidental how far he shifted the boundary between the mythical and the historical backward or forward.

The perception of substance, as it emerged from the perception of natural law, is critical of the unnatural, as Spinoza proves. But since it itself is once again the unnatural hypostasis of natural law, it must, as Spinoza again proves, ultimately succumb to the most unnatural ideas, deny its critical direction, and it becomes entirely irrelevant how far it follows its critical impulse and where the driving force of that impulse eventually perishes. It is inherently only an impulse, thus unclear, insufficient, crossed by other impulses, and must eventually succumb to their counteraction.


Thus, Strauss also cannot truly detach the elevation to the Idea from the individual factum—his contemplation of the “endlessly repeating pulse of divine life” cannot render the individual factum completely indifferent. It is impossible—the boredom of that endlessly repeating cycle is too great; continually watching the pure course of divine life is too tiring. Moreover, that cycle of divine life, this “becoming human, dying, and resurrection,” is only a vague, groundless image taken from sacred history—it is a reflection of a religious concept.

Therefore, Strauss must also backtrack, he must return to the religious original!

However, he immediately continues, after leading “our time” to the Idea,*) if indeed scientific Christology has to move beyond Jesus as a person, it will still have to return to him in one aspect.

*) II, 770

Why? He does indeed provide a reason, even claiming to present a historical law as the basis for this return. At the forefront of all actions, including those of world-historical significance, he notes that individuals stand. Particularly in the realm of religion, within the monotheistic domain, all new epochs and distinct formations are invariably linked to prominent personalities—only Christianity should be an exception to this typology? Should the most significant spiritual creation be without a identifiable origin, merely the result of the clash of scattered forces and causes?”


But where does history show a great intellectual creation that would have been accomplished by only one individual? Where in history has there been a groundbreaking content that did not take shape within a circle of conflicting personalities and factions? When has a new form of life emerged in history, standing complete and absolute from the beginning of its era, so that the successors of the creator only needed to receive, perhaps develop, but no longer create themselves?

Nowhere! Never!

Strauss appeals to the natural disposition of the monotheistic domain. However, since Islam, given its inferiority, cannot be parallelized with the Judaism of the Old Testament and with Christianity, and since it cannot be considered a genuine creation, it is permissible to set it aside in this matter until historical criticism sheds light on the historical presuppositions of Muhammad. Thus, the only analogy remaining for Christianity would be the Judaism of the Old Testament. But does Strauss truly provide us with the “prominent personality” to whom the “distinct formation” of Judaism is “linked”? Did someone truly create Judaism? Is Judaism “merely the result of the clash of scattered forces and causes” if no exclusive originator can be identified at its helm? Is it the accidental result of random friction if it cannot be attributed solely to one creator, following the monotheistic, i.e., mechanical and lifeless approach? Are the authors of individual psalms, the second part of Isaiah, or the Book of Daniel not creators? Do they cease to be creators simply because no one can provide their names?


In short, what leads Strauss from the idea to the personality of Jesus is not a genuine historical law, but rather the weakness of this idea and its penetrating entanglement with the belief-based assumption that one – in the monotheistic sense – must have done everything.

In his philosophical turns, Strauss has remained a theologian, not in spite of their philosophical character, but because of it. His Hegelian orthodoxy has so strengthened the theologian within him, has made him such a complete theologian, that in the following account, I mainly need to describe his perplexity and the confusion of his assumptions in order to portray the aimlessness and confusion in which theology has ultimately found its historical conclusion and deserved end.

Therefore, when in 1838 the two men emerged who, like Weisse, spoke the first intelligent words about the looming question and, like Wilke, provided the first exact elaboration, in short, when the first statements and elaborations on the evangelical question were presented that were no longer theological, Strauss could only retreat into the same passivity and indolence to which theologians were condemned from that point on and forever.

Thus, despite Wilke’s investigation of the Gospel of Mark, in the year 1840, Strauss was still able to summarize his judgment on the origin of this gospel in the words that it was “demonstrably written based on the first and third [gospels], even if only from memory” – yet he punished himself for the sluggishness with which he clings to a thoroughly refuted hypothesis and for the certainty with which he speaks of “demonstrable” by presenting such a baseless possibility as contained in his addition: “even if only from memory.”


Weisse had brought forth several cardinal points for consideration – however, Strauss must deny him his acknowledgment and withhold matters that were brought close to complete certainty in the dreadfully tedious vagueness that characterizes his approach.

Weisse and Wilke had already largely refuted the tradition hypothesis regarding the form of the Gospels – yet Strauss continues to speak of tradition as if nothing has happened – but his indolent attitude towards Wilke’s work is rewarded by the scientific nullity that will continue to make his writings appear significant and valuable to theologians.

What have Weisse and Wilke achieved?



I mentioned earlier that it was a well-deserved fortune that Weisse discovered the original evangelical historical narrative in the Gospel of Mark and in several insightful and vivid observations, providing new vitality to the withered criticism found in Strauss’s work.


He earned his fortune in his struggle against the Hegelian system – but it is also inherent in the nature of this fight that he could not pursue his fortunate divinations in the breadth and depth of the domain with which he engaged in his “critical and philosophical treatment of evangelical *) history,” and eventually got lost in a multitude of chimerical assumptions and presuppositions.

*) 1838, in two volumes. 

He was right against Hegelian philosophy when he asserted the reality against its presupposition of the uniqueness of the idea, and experience and perception against its dialectic – but he could not pursue his right and carry it through all instances, as he opposed the system with a different one, opposing Hegel’s monotheism of the idea with his own, the philosophically modified monotheism of Christianity, and Hegelian speculation with his own, that of philosophy which he intended to overthrow.

If he failed to penetrate and gain recognition with the real substance of his opposition, some of his views on evangelical history will justify him against this perceived ill fortune of the time – yet, in any case, it was simply impossible for him to penetrate a system that represented the utmost perfection on the uncertain ground of a priori speculation with a new system or even with the mere demand for such a system. **)

**) He expresses this in Fichte’s Journal for Philosophy and Speculative Theology, Volume 1, Issue 1 (1837), pp. 163, 164, regarding the “demand for a higher standpoint in philosophy.” He considers both going beyond Hegel and attaining a higher standpoint of speculation as equally important and describes this higher standpoint as “the only conceivable one.”


“If one wants to escape nationalism in religious matters,” he notes in his “Evangelische Geschichte” against Strauss and Hegel*), “which hollows out every living and spirit-filled entity into empty conceptual universality, it is important to distinguish that kind of knowledge which is based on perception and can only be acquired through perception from that abstract and a priori conceptual knowledge that stands apart from the individual and concrete nature of perception and extends only over those general concepts that cannot be the object of perception as such” – the remedy is good, but only for the beginning – it liberates from a priori conceptual knowledge, but only by replacing it with an a priori derived image.

*) ll, 496.

Weisse’s perception is itself a priori, as it is based on religious demands that are predetermined – it is again abstract perception that overlooks the real – it is not genuine, research-driven and secure perception, but rather intuition and divination that can hit upon the void but also miss the mark – as aesthetic experience, it is hasty and premature, the anticipated perception, the success or failure of which depends on the greater or lesser scope of the subject’s education, its original natural disposition, yet ultimately it depends on chance as it does not stem from a complete mastery of the material.


Incidentally, Weisse himself recognises the deficiency and precarious position of his view when he describes *) the fact, ״that there is a God’, as ״the great primordial fact on which all other real philosophical truth is based or into which it dialectically goes back’.

*) E.g. in the cited issue of Fichte’s Zeitschrift, p. 176.

So then the rigid formalism ״of the Hegelian system’ **) would be broken if the One Formula, that there is a God, were to take its place? then would really “life be inflated above death” if that formula were erected above logical formalism? The unity and coherence of the universe would really only be assured when the One who governs the world ״according to one great purpose” is established? ״If philosophy wants to express that living unity, in which it recognises everything to be comprehended, briefly and emphatically in one word”, then it cannot do without ״the name of the Godhead”?

**) As Weisse also already did in his writing: Ueber das Verhältniß des Publicums zur Philosophie in dem Zeitpunkte von Hegels Abschei den (Leipzig 1832) p. 48.

Yes, philosophy cannot do without it – its ignorance, its abstraction from the real content of the world and history drives it into the arms of the hypothesis of a ״highest content” – its inability to grasp the real connection of the universe, its hasty acceptance of this connection before it is really experienced, forces it to the hypothesis of the One, who remains a formula, whether one calls him by the religious name or calls him Idea.


Yes, Hegel really completed the proofs of the existence of God and revealed their true meaning when he did not make the transition “from” the being of the finite, not from the thought of man to God, but passed from the non-being of the finite to the general being, from the non-thought of man to the infinite self-consciousness of God. The non-being of the finite, the non-thinking of man are the basis for the idea that offers the philosophers as well as the religious a substitute for their untruthfulness and for the end of their thoughts.

When research takes possession of reality and history, it no longer needs this substitute. When the world and history regain their own inner life, the formula that is supposed to guarantee them life and unity is no longer necessary.

Weisse called his philosophy positive, but it is – (a fine sentence in which the dispute between his religious and the ideal monotheism of his Hegelian opponents finds its solution) – not positive enough – not really positive. If it were indeed positive, then it would no longer be a metaphysical system, but criticism, research – then it would no longer be dialectical, but exact science.

Weisse’s profound look into the evangelical story of the birth of the Messiah, his spiritual explanation of the account of the temptation of Jesus, his successful remark on the presupposition of the Fourth Evangelist that Jesus had baptised, his accurate explanations of the contrast between the Synoptic and Johannine views – these are fully valid testimonies to the positive nature of his aesthetic view, positive enrichments of science, even if they still suffer considerable damage through the presuppositions with which they find themselves entangled or in which they get lost.


However, just as what he considers the most positive in his philosophy, his retreat to the great primal fact that underlies all real philosophical truth, is the unpositive and only an expression of the unpositive character of his philosophy as a whole, so within his treatment of the evangelical history, what he regards as the highest and most positive guarantee of historical reality is rather a testimony to the unpositive foundation of his work.

His philosophical Christology, that is, his image of Christ, whose wondrous visual expressions, insofar as they reveal both his agreement and disagreement, determine the historical reliability or inaccuracy of the evangelical accounts, is a hypothesis based on feeling that has nothing to do with research, but rather relies on arbitrary sympathy and antipathy, accepting some traits suitable to the orthodox view while rejecting others.

Weisse believes he has reached something positively given and final, something that one must unquestionably accept, when he encounters works by individuals in the Gospel of Mark and the collection of sayings in Matthew that vouch for the correctness of what is given. Peter told it to Mark, and Peter even recounted some things in Jesus’ own words, which Mark has faithfully recorded for us. Finally, Matthew has preserved for us a whole series of speeches and sayings of Jesus in his collection of sayings, and the first synoptist has faithfully transmitted them to us. Who could provide a more reliable personal guarantee?


Doesn’t criticism have to acknowledge the pillars of Hercules in these two positive aspects, which forever set a goal for it?

On the contrary, with these supposedly incontrovertible data it had to begin its work in earnest and prove its power by exposing the unpositive nature of these two magnitudes and by finding a new and more positive expression in the historical development of the Christian spirit, as well as in the creative power of men who have given the elemental spirit of the Christian faith. Christian spirit as well as in the creative power of the men who gave the elementary gain of this development its plastic, only historically significant form.

After I have given this critical account in my previous work, all that remains for me to do is the secondary work, the critique of the so-called testimonies of Papias on the origin of the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew. Only in the following volume, however, in the context of my presentation of the historical development of Christian literature of the second century, will this criticism be in its proper place, will I show the chimerical nature of these supposedly positive data, the worthlessness of these so-called testimonies – here I will only briefly indicate what injustice Weisse himself must do to the Gospel of Mark when he calls up these testimonies in its favour.

How, for example, does it fit together that Mark has his material from Peter and yet ascribes such a short period of time to the activity of Jesus and actually limits it to only a few days of miracles?

“He has, answers *) Weisse, in endeavouring to compile the individual narratives of Peter into the solid whole of a history of the Lord’s life, by the manner of his transitions from one matter to another, produced an appearance of continuity of the incidents, thus also of changes in the setting of the incidents, which a skilful narrator, at least one who was at the same time a critical researcher, would undoubtedly have avoided.”

*) Evangelical History, l, 313. 314.


No! Such a one would have avoided such things who had known an eyewitness like Peter and had attended as his companion his supposed treaties about the life of the Lord!

Well! Peter only recited ״individual’ stories – but to his constant companion he never – never said a word about the whole, about the context of the whole, about the real spread of Jesus’ efficacy? The companion was so dull, so indifferent, while he collected all the details literally in his memory, so unconcerned about the overall course of his Lord’s life, that he never once asked the eyewitness about the scope and context of the whole?

And Mark only created “the appearance” of continuity of the events by the way he presented them?

Olshausen, Paulus, Neander, and all the other unhappy workers who have in vain endeavoured to break through the historical transitions of the Gospels with their screwed turns of phrase, and to transform the seriousness of the Gospels into a light appearance with their frivolous assertions – they are no longer alone, even the most zealous champion of positive philosophy joins them and approves the sisyphean work of their unsuccessful turns of phrase!

Weisse seriously assumes that Mark “has meagrely compiled an evangelical account out of the isolated, incoherent narratives of a single Apostle”. *) On the other hand, it is a positive, completely positive fact that the original Gospel, the difference between which and the present Gospel of Mark I do not need to reflect upon here, follows a very definite plan, has through and through a complete symmetry, that its sections close together artistically and that every link within the individual sections serves a strictly pre-drawn plan.

*) I, 31,32.


White’s assertion that Mark had “only composed his Gospel with the intention of not letting the content of the apostle’s narratives get lost” beats it back most brilliantly by pointing to its inner reason and purpose, to the power of the soul that reveals its life in his depiction of the collision between the new freedom and the Jewish privilege, in his vividly pulsating account of the struggle and victory of that freedom.

Yes, for the sake of that senseless testimony according to which Mark did not compile his Gospel in an orderly manner **) from Peter’s narratives, White is able to say ***) to Mark, ״that there is something to be said for the order in which he narrates the events, since he did not hear Peter narrate them in order, but, deprived of the assistance of his master, had to devise such an order himself, as best he could” – at least he endeavours with this paraphrase to render the sense, but nevertheless the tenable and probable sense, of that testimony of Papias.

**) ου ταξει

***) l, 43.

But in vain! his treatment of that testimony, which fits nothing less than the Gospel of Mark or the Primal Gospel, helps him nothing – it does not mean to say that the order of Mark’ composition is one of his own devising, but that this Gospel lacks order altogether.


Finally, is it really positive when Weisse assumes of several miracle reports that they are “self-invented parables” of Jesus, symbolic representations of the nature of the Son of Man, and that the apostle Matthew, whose writing contained nothing but speeches and sayings of the Lord, “told” them as parables, albeit in the tone of historical reports, “after” Jesus? *)

*) E.g. 1,527. II,53.

This prerequisite of a personal responsibility may be positive – this last point, which sets the limits of the investigation, may be positive in the sense that at such presuppositions and last points the stirring and disturbing research has not yet proven its negative nature.

Such presuppositions and final points may be given and welcome to an individual in the circle of his other presuppositions and hypotheses, which demand just such a settlement and such an arrangement with the real difficulties.

In the field of research, however, they are unpositive, invented, excuses, chimeras. For research, positive can only be that which, after the complete penetration of the found facts – after a penetration that measures the facts by their presuppositions, the presuppositions by the presuppositions, and if both prove contradictory, places the facts again in the circle of their really historical, their really explanatory presuppositions – which, after this process, results as a fact.


Furthermore, this hypothesis of Weisse’s, like the others that arise from the presumed positive nature of his direction, proves its unpositive character most convincingly by being useless and least able to accomplish what it is supposed to achieve.

For example, Weisse explains the account of Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman, as well as the other accounts concerning the centurion of Capernaum, as Jesus’ parabolic speeches. He does so because only under this assumption does the harshness in Jesus’ initial dismissive response to the woman’s request negate itself through the overall tendency of the narrative. And it is only in this way that one can avoid the “troubling circumstance” contained in the assumption underlying both accounts, namely that “the faith that prompts Jesus to exercise his miracle-working power is not the faith of the afflicted individual, but rather the faith of a third party.”

As if Jesus, whenever he made himself the historical subject of a parable in this manner, did not inevitably evoke in his disciples the conviction that he was capable of such harshness and that the exercise of his miracle-working power, whenever he chose, was independent of any natural point of reference!



That the current Gospel of Mark is not the original Gospel but a redaction of it, for which the present Gospels of Luke, Matthew, and John were used, I have now proven against Wilke, although originally it was not the main point of contention following the appearance of this researcher.


Wilke made the correct statement that a collection of sayings, such as the one mentioned by Papias as the composition of Matthew, *) did not exist on its own.**) However, when he argued that the Sermon on the Mount of the first Synoptist is “an expanded version of Luke’s,” I have now demonstrated that Matthew, in this instance as well as others, utilized his own sources, later redactions of the original Gospel, and also had Luke’s text in mind. But even that was not the main point that needed to be resolved according to Wilke.

*) I add, at least according to the opinions of Weitzel and others.

**) The original gospel, p. 691.

My earlier work was not affected when I coincided with Wilke in those mistaken hypotheses, just as Wilke’s proof of the originality he discovered in the Gospel of Mark was not affected when, after removing certain interpolations in the current Gospel of Mark, he believed he possessed the original Gospel. The forward-looking gaze and the ruthlessness that demands far-reaching discoveries seem to be possible only through that limitation of vision that overlooks details lying nearby or to the side. The discovery remains valid, even if later works succeed in reconciling it with the overall mass of details and, indeed, provide it with the highest degree of evidence.


The great question that was at issue after the appearance of Wilke’s work was independent of the overcoming of the still unnoticed detail, – it advanced further and could leave this overcoming to the future – it had as its object the final decision.

That the Gospel of Mark *) is of literary origin, Wilke has basically proved. Basically: – in so far as he has supplied the first essential materials of proof. After his thorough work, he may say that the work of Mark ״is not a copy of an oral original gospel, but an artificial composition. **) He may call this work a ״work of art” because of its composition and because it carries out a purpose set with consciousness with equally free consciousness ***). He can finally say (although this sentence already acquires an apologetic, cross-eyed character through the category of semblance), ״that his compilations are conditioned less by historical connection than by pre-conceived general propositions, notwithstanding they have assumed the semblance of a historical connection, this is explained by the fact that its author was not one of the immediate companions of Jesus’. †).

*) We want to leave the name of the Original Gospel for a moment.

**) op. cit. p. 684. 

***) S. 671.

†) S. 684.

It remains unclear, however, to what extent, in Wilke’s view, the material should be taken for granted in the certainty that the form is freely created. It also remains unclear that Weisse, when he announced Wilke’s writing in the Berlin Yearbooks, expressed the certainty that now the highest guarantee for the truly historical character of the Gospel accounts had been given.


And yet Weisse had hit Wilke’s meaning. Wilke says it himself *): ״The guarantors of the message, according to which the creators of the diegesis were guided, were not people who had first inquired of others or who had written out what they had found out in Galilee, but the apostles, and among them those who had been servants of the Word from the beginning, that is, from the time when the report, if it was to become a whole, had to take off”. In Wilke’s view, this original gospel was given in the writing of Mark and with it came Luke and Matthew.

*) p. 657. 658.

In the main, therefore, Wilke still stood on Weisse’s positive standpoint, but in his case, since he had hitherto most evidently proved the authorial origin of the Original Gospel, the contradiction of this standpoint, the unmitigated unification of the critical and the positive **) had reached the point where he demanded its resolution.

**) The positive in the sense of a not yet overpowered presupposition.

In my work, the conclusion of which appeared ten years ago, I had carried out this resolution.

The critique of the fourth Gospel had forced me to recognise the possibility that a Gospel could be of purely literary origin, and had finally convinced me that in that Gospel we possess a Scripture of this origin, while I was still at war with the result of Wilke’s work. But just as this conviction was well founded – just as, in possession of it, I went on to the Synoptic Gospels, in order to test once more by their pragmatism whether they were also of this origin, I had to agree with Wilke, or rather, through the connection of form and content, the question was raised to the height where it was a question of the final decision and the last positive, i.e. the last chimerical presupposition had to fall and the really positive knowledge of the origin of Christianity had to arise.


If the form is consistently of literary origin and gives the original Gospel the character of a work of art, and if artistic activity not only influences the content but also creates content itself, can criticism still maintain any of the traditional assumptions? Can it remain content with a final positive stance?

It was impossible! The content, too, proved to be a free creation of the writer’s art.

Furthermore, by overthrowing the assumption that the followers of the traditional hypothesis closely associated with defenders of the orthodox tradition, namely the assumption that the Jews already possessed a Christology and were familiar with the concept of “the Messiah” before Christianity, thus implying that Christianity existed before Christianity itself, I restored the original significance to the emergence of the Christian community. I made it possible for the Christian community to be recognized as a new creation, and the uprising of its spirit as a revolutionary act.

What was still lacking in the proof, I have supplied in this new work – the darkness of that positive which could still threaten the proof, I have now fully illuminated and brightened up – by finally placing in the wagons in which I had earlier placed my proof of the historical originality of Christianity and the free creation of Protestant history, I have now also placed my critique of the Pauline epistles, I have completely pushed them down to our earth and into our history, and the other one, with all its hypotheses and ״positive’ presuppositions, has forever vanished into thin air.



Modern Judaism.

Already at my first appearance with that statement on the independence of the Christian community from a Jewish Christology, I declared that it was neither necessary nor possible that this statement, like the others connected with it, should immediately win general approval.

The course of the last ten years has only confirmed how right I was when I gave myself this isolated position – when I considered this isolated position to be the only one possible for research with its critical overthrow of the prevailing ideas.

Even now, a general approval of the critical explanation of Christianity is neither necessary nor possible – indeed, it has only become even more unnecessary, even more impossible.

Not necessary – because if the personal conviction of the insignificance of a theory is merely an imagination as long as it is not based on the fact that the theory, despite the general opposition it encounters, is the culmination of a historical development and belongs to the existing state of the world as an interpretation and overcoming of the elements that contained its demands – what need does the critical explanation of Christianity already have for explicit approval, when its work, the dissolution of a perspective and science, to whose elaboration and destruction the entire history has contributed – when the dissolution of theological perspective and science testifies to it?


Can it count on the approval of a circle that it has broken up and dissolved? Is it not enough for it if the theological corporation, having been relieved of its original office and freed from the scientific distress which the explanation of Christianity had hitherto caused it, can no longer produce any decisive work?

Or can it occur to it to expect approval from the meta-physicists, who, through the ghostly beings of their realm of ideas, are bound in solidarity with theology and since the fall of the latter have been condemned for ever to equal barrenness?

Impossible – for the same modern power, whose opposition already irritated me when I argued against Hengstenberg about the difference between the Gospel and the Law and when I found Strauss’s derivation of Christian ״mythology’ from a pre-existing Jewish Christology insufficient, has now attained a dominance that can almost be called autocracy.

This power is Judaism – Judaism in the sense in which I presented it in my work on the history of the apostles as the world power of flattening, as the opponent of definiteness, as the adversary of the original world, as the enemy of all historical differences.


It is therefore not only the Judaism of the synagogue.

Indeed, national Judaism, as a personal enemy of Christianity, has accompanied all its creations with its curse. It has watched their rise, development, and flourishing with a fervent desire for them to succumb to its envious Jehovah. It is true that in antiquity and the Middle Ages, it forced Christians, through the need for refuting doubts, to become acquainted with doubt itself. Even in the Middle Ages, when the Christian world displayed the splendor of its blossoming, it provided the dangerous example that there could exist human beings within this world who, through their skill and industriousness, could establish their own independent existence and be unaffected by any of the conditions of life in that world. However, it could not bring about the dissolution and downfall it yearned for; it had to leave their realization to the struggles and efforts of members of the Christian world itself.

The Jew has corrosive but not dissolving power. He is unfavourably disposed towards the historical forms, but he cannot attack them. He stands outside the historical struggles, but his sceptical attitude is flabby and powerless; – he wonders how one can toil and kill one another for the interests at stake in the flowering and dissolution of the Christian world, but he wonders about it only because he understands nothing of these interests.

With the exception of the Jews of modern times who oppose the Christian world order with their oriental antitheses and literary sarcasms, the skeptic has always been a stranger in the Christian world. He was and remains a foreign entity to it. Therefore, he directs his weak skepticism against it. However, he cannot successfully attack it; he is even less capable of dissolving it.


The dissolution of this world can only “proceed from” and be accomplished by a power which understands it and which, in its self-feeling, in the vibrations of its inner being, despite its completed opposition, so purely and surely imitates the soul and the inner rhythm of Christianity that it has a right to reckon the masters of present-day theology and the heads of the political parties, whose express business is the restoration of Christianity, among the representatives of general Judaism *).

*) In this sense I have cancelled my writing against Hengstenberg (published in 1839) on the contrast between the “Law” and the “Gospel” as a Christian against Hengstenberg as a Jew.

Although the religious and theological form of the dissolution neither originated in the synagogue nor was carried out by the national Jews, it may nevertheless be called the work of the general Judaism, because in the power that carried it out, the specific nature of the Jew attained a kind of world domination and general spread.

It was the foreignness into which Christianity, as its dissolution (already in the last centuries of the Middle Ages), began to fall upon itself that rendered both the opponents and defenders of the outdated system insensitive to its original significance. It gave the initial movements of research and criticism the form of either hatred or apathetic indifference and turned the preservation of the historical system into a political measure or a matter of personal speculation. Finally, from this foreignness emerged the Jewish rootlessness of recent times. In it, the position that the Jew had always held towards the Christian world found its justification.


Those legal scholars who had taken on the role of learned arbiters in the medieval dispute between secular and ecclesiastical power and who regarded the question of the classical existence of Christianity as a formal question in which one could decide for or against at will and without harm to the whole system of life – they were already the forerunners of modern advocates who, for example, believe that they can keep state life going in their dispute over constitutional formulas – were the forerunners of today’s Judaism, which no longer knows any sympathy for a historical form of life and no longer believes that it is possible to decide for or against. They were already the forerunners of modern advocates who, for example, believe that they can keep state life going by arguing about constitutional formulas – the forerunners of today’s Judaism, which no longer knows sympathy for a historical form of life and regards the decision in favour of the pro or con as a business to be regulated according to a supreme formula or according to the rules of its own prudence.

The Christian spirit’s own dullness created those supreme formulas of deism or pantheistic philosophy which subjected the historical formations of Christianity to a monotonous levelling, i.e. to the Judaism.

When the decay of the whole dogmatic system was decided by the overthrow of the dogma of the eternity of the punishments of hell, the Jewish hatred of the aristocracy triumphed and the Jewish principle of equality succeeded in carrying itself through also in heaven and in transforming the Christian organisation, Dante’s world, into a uniform chaos of meaningless zeros.


No matter how zealously the political businessmen of the present day may pose as knights of the Christian world, when they defend the order and inner gradation of the Christian-Germanic world as the direct work of the Godhead – they are and remain Jews, and even their justification of the historical division of the monarchy speaks of the Jewish hatred of historical design, since with their heartless and unfeeling derivation from God they equate the works of art of history with any insect.

It makes no difference whether, like Strauss or Hengstenberg, one makes Old Testament Judaism the original and creator of Christianity – both are the work of Jewish antipathy to their own originality, the victory of Jewish uniformity over soulful form.

Well, this Judaism, into which the development of the Christian world runs, is the expression and consequence of its own flattening and the slackening of its original contrasts – it is a Christian work, even if it is the work of the Christian, to whom his own world has become alien. But when Judaism is established and has become the general element of life, then the weary Christian is forced to reach out to the national Jew and welcome him as his ally.

When the Christian has lost his historical attitude and his historical privilege has expired, the Jew, who always doubted it, has triumphed and demands his recognition.

When the Christian form has slackened and lapsed into shapelessness, when man no longer dares to assert his place in the bosom of the Godhead, and concedes the honour of the Godhead to the One God of deism alone, then the covenant is made between the enlightened and Moses Mendelssohn.


When the one of deism has reduced the world to a heap of equal, i.e. equally worthless things, then the Jew demands equality with the Christian, the latter demands freedom for the latter – when both have become so powerless that they demand freedom as a gift – both are worthy of freedom, which remains a distant being and, as a mere demand, delights and torments.

If the Christian form of life has been abandoned by the plastic power of its soul and has ossified into a formula, then the Jew can even render great service to the Conservative interest, he can do his business, since no one knows better than he how to handle the soulless formula and bring it to fruition.

When an art such as music has been perfected and the source of tones has dried up, when the melodious soul has exhausted itself in its “sweeps” and the Christian masters have fought out their battles of the soul in the contrasts and opposites of their creations, then the Jew gives the public what it wants – a purring tangle instead of soulful melody – thoughtless cries instead of the opposites which, in their proud attitude, express the heroic struggle of the inner self.

Wherever the penetrating soul has disappeared, the Jew appears, finds his world – when faith and trust have long since disappeared from the life of the state and the only thing that governments still have to do, the preservation of order, is secured by military power, then the Jew shines and does his business, When even an aristocracy like the English has lost its power to rule, then the Jew as statesman shows off his inadequacy and the world admires him as the striking proof of how little of his own substance and character is needed to keep the political machine going.


In the field in which I am working with my critique in the present work, Judaism can be called truly complete since theology has lost its counterpart and the confusion that has always been characteristic of its language has dissolved into a babbling slur about it.

This perfected Judaism is the friendship of light – that form of science, theology and religiosity which is only possible after the appearance of criticism.

The friend of light is the Christian who believes himself to be free of the hostile system when he no longer worries about it – his Christianity as well as that which is hostile to him are to him the unspeakable and unthinkable – his and the opposing Christianity offer him so few real and historical predicates any more that he can only distinguish between them by means of their opposition, that he can only describe their opposition by the image of light and darkness or by the mystical formulas of the new spirit and the old evil – he is the servant of an unknowable being and so ignorant of his own religion that, in spite of the great history, he is unable to understand it, that he still wants to realise it despite the great history in which it has attained its realisation and could attain it alone – without the ability to investigate and explain Christianity, he frees himself from the positive forms of it, from its dogmas and sacred history, by leaving them to himself and lying behind his back – he is a stranger in the world that surrounds him, free from it and at the same time its servant, because it is something alien and purely intangible to him – he is a stranger in the world that surrounds him, free from it and at the same time its servant, because it is something alien and purely intangible to him. thing to him –


In short, he has become what the Jew always was.

But the friend of light is not only that bourgeois friend of freedom who declares himself in protests and popular assemblies against the rule of the symbols and cannot be sufficiently enraptured by the supposed arrogance of the church regime, which all of a sudden speaks of doctrinal regulations that rightly exist – but the church regime itself, as well as the crowd of theologians and the corporations that provide a kind of basis and support for its provisions, they also belong to the world of the friend of light and are only one species of this modern genre.

The believing theologian, too, has an enemy in everything that exact science has created for centuries, against which he saves himself only by apathetic confinement to himself and by flight into thoughtlessness – he, too, takes so little part in the work and development of his world, in a development of which even his paralysis and apathy is a consequence, that he cannot comprehend, how the wicked come to set themselves tasks in their obstinacy and, in their diabolical bias, to involve themselves in researches that do not touch practical life and only disturb the enjoyment and tranquillity of the moment, that he can only describe the opposition of the two as the opposition of light and darkness, or his spirit only as the new spirit that has risen above the diabolical apostasy – he, too, knows his religion so little that he would consider himself called upon to actually realise it – if the liberal friend of light frees himself through thoughtlessness from the dogmas of his religion and from the miraculous view of Holy Scripture, the same thoughtlessness is the power of the believing friend of light that preserves these positive forms of Christianity for him – he can only preserve his world by renouncing its explanation and research – he is, like his liberal opponent, the reflection of a history and development that he knows as little as the latter – he is, like the latter, the Judaised Christian.


The world domination of which the national Jew dreams would be certain to him, and the victory which the power of slackness gives him over the Christian sculpture could never be snatched away again, if the same source from which his freedom from Christianity springs did not also spring his defeat.

This dangerous source, which produces momentary strength but permanent weakness, is the feeling of alienation.

Yes, Christianity cannot harm the Jew, because it is foreign to him – but he himself is also a foreigner to the Christian world, and this feeling of foreignness outlasts all the illusions of equality and equal rights which the time of dissolution produces, and, after a momentary revolutionary slackening, draws new nourishment from the whole spiritual and natural world of feelings, views and customs into which Christianity has passed and in which it maintains itself against all immature attempts at dissolution.

The liberal and the believing friendship of light would also be victorious and continue their fruitless struggle into infinity, if the same feeling of strangeness did not protect the world from this fate of semi-decay.

The friend of light may believe himself to be master of Christianity when he takes refuge in thoughtlessness in the face of it and calls the theoretical preoccupation with it a servile bias – it remains, remains as a task for research and after a brief triumph of thoughtlessness the friend of light will stand there as a stranger in the world in whose organisation this task still lives.


Even if the believing friend of light has a historical right to defend the relics of Christianity, which uphold the task of overcoming the whole, against the liberal friend of light, he is nevertheless opposed by an “insurmountable” power which exposes him as a stranger in this world.

No matter how confident the attitude with which the spiritual shepherd behaves as master of the congregation and the theologian relies on Scripture, no matter how confident the political speculator may be of his momentary success, no matter how much the church regime may try to give the appearance of firmness to its language when it refers to the existing ecclesiastical law, no matter how confident the attitude with which the spiritual shepherd behaves as master of the congregation and the theologian relies on Scripture, they may all create for themselves an almost undisputed world dominion, since no one except the protesting light friend considers them worthy of a serious fight any more——-the world, which apparently lies at their feet, nevertheless feels from their confident declamations that they are all fundamentally alien to it, and that it holds their noblest pleasures and dearest treasures in deep resentment. The heart of society remains beyond the reach of their heartless efforts, and their commands, demands, and threats are powerless against the wealth of emotions and perspectives that the positive achievements of art and science have already generated within the fabric of social organization. The ground beneath their influence has been shaken since the arts and exact research of the past centuries have eroded the monotheistic foundation of religious conceptions. While Jewish speculators and devout adherents of enlightenment believe they are ruling society, the position they truly hold is that of foreign adventurers, a mere association.


Nothing can demonstrate the provisional nature of our time more than this pervasive sense of foreignness that separates those individuals, to whom the active role in the present has primarily fallen, from the task at hand, which encompasses both the remnants of the Christian world and the accumulated treasure of positive and exact perspectives for the future.

The general state of the world, the overall unfinished nature and mutual alienation, demand this rule of adventurers that precedes that universal empire which will witness the crisis of Christianity, just as the Roman Empire witnessed its rise. However, the present is also engaged in the development of means that will serve to remove that sense of foreignness from the world. One of these means is criticism, whose main achievement, whose first work preceding all others, despite being accused of biased self-restraint, is to dissolve the contrast between the still existing Christian world and positive, exact science. This means enlarging and securing the treasure of the latter through the positive explanation of Christianity.

Having laid the foundation for this explanation in the previous work on the Gospels, and before I bring the investigation to its conclusion, I will subsequently address what I intentionally did not touch upon at that time—the opposition to the theological interpretation of the Gospels.

But there is no longer any opposition. In the purity and autonomy of my exposition, I have provided proof that criticism has become master over the subject, and therefore, it is no longer in opposition to theology. I no longer have to fight, but merely present the accomplished fact—that the Gospels are a foreign object to theology and that the latter is excluded from their domain, to which it was previously counted.



BRUNO BAUER: Theological Explanation of the Gospels – English translation

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Machine translated by Neil Godfrey from Die theologische Erklärung der Evangelien (1852)

(June 2023)

Foreword (pp 1-44)

        • Strauss pp 4-17
        • Weisse pp 17-27
        • Wilke pp 27-32
        • Modern Judaism pp 32-43

I. The theological explanation of the fourth Gospel (pp 45-67)

II. Strauss’ tradition hypothesis (pp. 68-135)

III. The Original Evangelist (pp. 136-148)




The Memory Mavens, Part 13: The Purpose of Halbwachs’s La Topographie

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Tim Widowfield

Maurice Halbwachs
Maurice Halbwachs, French Sociologist, 1877-1945

After the previous post (The Memory Mavens, Part 12: The Collective Memory of a Halbwachs Quotation), I uploaded my translation of the Introduction to La Topographie Légendaire des Évangiles en Terre Sainte to Vridar. You can find it embedded on this page. I will be adding chapters as time permits. The top-level page will be found here: MAURICE HALBWACHS — Works Translated into English  (which is visible in the Vridar side panel under Pages).

Reading the works of the Memory Mavens (specifically, those self-professed experts in the English-speaking world), you might have the impression that Halbwachs had missed the mark with this book. As I mentioned in other posts, Anthony Le Donne and Barry Schwartz had little good to say about it. Le Donne insisted it was “seriously deficient in many ways” (Le Donne 2009, pp. 43-44). Schwartz wrote:

Halbwachs’s greatest failure is his inability to see commemoration as anything more than an elaborate delusion.

It is not just that localizations distort history; the more they distort the better they work. Halbwachs advances a pejorative conception of collective memory, one that distrusts and works to undermine established beliefs. He assumes that memory, as opposed to history, is inauthentic, manipulative, shady, something to be overcome rather than accepted in its own right. That commemoration is a selective celebration rather than an inferior version of history escapes Halbwachs. He cannot fully grasp what sacred sites accomplish, how they transmute reality to mobilize and sustain religious sentiment and, above all, elevate Jesus and sustain faith in what he did and represented.

(Schwartz 2005, p. 49, emphasis mine)

After several paragraphs of scolding Halbwachs, he proclaimed:

From the social memory standpoint, then, our object of study is not the authenticity of the Gospels; it is rather the Gospels as sources of information about the popular beliefs of early Christianity.

(Schwartz 2005, p. 50)

Are we to infer that Halbwachs didn’t know that? After reading Halbwachs’s introduction (which today’s scholars will not do), we might come away with a different interpretation. In his essay, Schwartz was focused on gleaning information about what happened in first-century Palestine. He chastised both Bultmann and Halbwachs for their skepticism under this section header: The Cynical Discipline (p. 45). He suggested that both men smugly swept aside all gospel evidence, happy to declare any and all traditions as inauthentic.

“Just wait a bit. Soon there will come a new species of men – narrow, hard, and systematic – who will go further in the direction of ruthless criticism and denial. Then you will miss Mr. Renan.”

But what did Halbwachs actually say? First, he listed the various reasons one might wish to take a trip to the so-called Holy Land, and then he said: Continue reading “The Memory Mavens, Part 13: The Purpose of Halbwachs’s La Topographie


Appendix. The Messianic Expectations of the Jews at the Time of Jesus

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey



The Messianic Expectations of the Jews at the Time of Jesus.

All those who have spoken out against Strauss’s interpretation of the evangelical history in recent years also felt it was their duty to protest against the derivation of sacred history from the Messianic expectations of the Jews. But this protest, no matter how earnestly intended or spoken with holy disgust at the supposed blasphemy, was from the beginning powerless and remained so, since it could not prevent Gfrörer from developing the contested view to the extreme that it could reach. But what use was it to recall that this or that Jewish book, which the critic designated as a source for the views of the evangelists, was written six, seven, or fourteen centuries after the composition of the Gospels? What could an argument of this kind achieve, which only focused on individual and few points, if one shared with Strauss the basic assumption that Messianic expectation had already prevailed among the Jews before the appearance of Jesus, and even knew fairly accurately what its nature was? To the same extent, a dispute of this kind had to be futile and useless, just as it was impossible for Strauss to make the origin of the evangelical history understandable, as long as he, like Hengstenberg, considered the Messianic dogma of the Jews as one that had already been fully developed before the appearance of Jesus. Both criticism and apologetics shared the same error, their struggle could only lead to unfruitful quarrels, but not to a decision, and the matter suffered most – it remained buried in prejudices.


Since Gfrörer has now taken uncritical thinking to its peak, it is finally time to come to our senses and to recognize reason, which has not yet come to recognition in this regard after two thousand years of error in history. It is a matter of the utmost importance – who does not immediately sense it? – to bring criticism to its ultimate crisis and to make it the last judgment of the past by elevating it to complete ideality and universality and freeing it from the last unrecognized positive with which it has still been entangled. The last and most persistent assumption that it still shared with apologetics must be addressed – and how extraordinary is the reward that follows the resolution of this uncritical assumption when the creative power is again attributed to the Christian principle, which even the previous criticism had denied.

Apologetics, as it has developed or rather remained the same since the beginning of the Christian community until our day, could not even conceive the idea that it might be possible to question whether the Messiah’s view had become a reflection concept before the time of Jesus and had come to power as such. It couldn’t – because it is already clear to them from the outset that the content of the revelation has always been the same and always the same one object of consciousness *); it must not – because in its limited polemical interest, it believes that the connection of the Old and New Testament is only ensured if it demonstrates the content of the latter as a real object of consciousness in the former. To interpret the preparation of Christianity differently, namely to say that Jesus only had to say: “See, I am what you have been expecting so far” – this is completely impossible for them.

*) The author allows himself to refer to the detailed explanation in his presentation of the Religion of the Old Testament, section 54.


Until now, it was impossible for criticism to free itself and history from the apologetic shackles, as every opposition in its first form shared the assumptions of its opponent and only determined them differently. Hengstenberg and those before him claimed that in Jesus, what the pious had hoped and expected had appeared, while Strauss claimed that in the Christian community, the history of Jesus had been created and elaborated as an image and fulfillment of Jewish expectations.

After having proven in the above criticism that the gospel history has its principle solely in Christian self-consciousness, and that its assumptions, as far as they are contained in the Old Testament, were only used by the community and the evangelists as these assumptions for the elaboration of the Christian principle and the messianic image, we want to provide evidence in outline that the messianic element of the Old Testament view did not develop into a reflection concept before the beginning of the Christian era.

It is not necessary to mention here in more detail that the messianic views of the prophets had not yet been raised by them to the unity and solidity of the concept of reflection; we have proven this in our presentation of the religion of the Old Testament. The interest of the present investigation lies solely in the question of whether the idea of “the Messiah” had prevailed among the Jews in the centuries immediately preceding the advent of Jesus.

If we first examine the Septuagint, whose oldest components are said to date back to the third century BC, and Jonathan’s paraphrase, we have an example of what a translation of the Old Testament must look like when it is written in a time and environment where “the Messiah” has become the subject of consciousness and the view has become dogma. The translator must indicate explicitly the individual passages that can and should be interpreted messianically, and he must state expressly that the passage speaks of the Messiah at that point. A necessary consequence of this reflection will eventually be that even in the translation, the systematic theory cannot be denied, namely that the content of one passage is transferred to another and one view is combined with another – all things that one searches for in vain in the translation of the LXX. Once (in Balaam’s blessing, Num. 24:7), it is indeed said differently from the original text: “A man shall come out of Jacob’s seed and he shall rule over many peoples.” But it is not only not said that this man is the Messiah, it is rather clear that it is to be a man, that is, a future king in general, who (v.17) will wound the princes of Moab and plunder the children of Seth.


Gesenius (*) sees in Isaiah 38:11 a “messianic passage that inserts the LXX.” In the original text, Hezekiah says: “I will not see Yahweh anymore.” The Septuagint, which is known to alter such statements that refer to seeing God, instead reads: “I will not see the salvation of God, το σωτήριον του θεου.” But what messianic meaning could there be in this, if the LXX replaces the more specific “God” with the more abstract idea of God’s relationship to the world, or with a specific type of revelation of the divine? Gesenius (**) says: “Compare Luke 2:30, 3:6, Acts 28:28 for the scarcely misunderstood expression.” But if the general and indefinite categories of an earlier standpoint, which the later one uses to denote – and even to abstractly denote – its more specific content, had already expressed the same content earlier, then the LXX translation is full of messianic passages. Luke modeled his diction after that of the LXX, and did what the later standpoint always does: he gave a new meaning to the earlier general expression by using it to represent the Christian view.

(*) Comm. on Isaiah, vol. 2, p. 62.

(**) Ibid, p. 611.


It is well-known and often said that the Old Testament apocrypha know nothing of the Messiah. This entire literature has only been able to produce the meager product of the Book of Baruch in prophecy, a book in which all the liveliness and power that belongs to the vision of the Messiah has died out. Even though the thought of a better future occasionally appears in the apocryphal writings, in which the enemies of the people are punished or converted, or even when the older formula of an eternal reign of the house of David is used without mentioning the Messiah, this is the strongest proof that the messianic expectation was completely foreign to that time. Only occasionally, when the accidental course of the speech leads to David, is there talk of the eternal duration of his reign (Sir. 47:11, 1 Macc. 2:57) – proof enough that it is not a living faith that looks to the future, but only the habit of Old Testament expression that lends this hyperbolic and indefinite formula to the writer.

A favorable fate, or rather the wisdom of history, the right tact of its readers and its own prophetic power have preserved the Book of Daniel from the fate of being placed in the category of the apocrypha and have earned it a well-deserved place in the canonical literature. Although written in the period of apocryphal literature, after the struggle with Antiochus Epiphanes, it is not only in chronological terms, but also in its inner content, the conclusion of the old prophetic literature. In this book, the two kingdoms, that of the Lord of Heaven and that of the world, are already separated with the most decided reflection, and the heavenly kingdom appears as a firm and certain object of expectation. The Messiah has become a freer subject of contemplation here than with any other prophet; he rides on the clouds of heaven and is brought to the throne of the Ancient of Days to receive all power, glory, and rule. As far as it could be done from the prophetic standpoint, the reflection is completed here; for on this standpoint, it cannot be taken further than to that form of free combination which establishes the Messiah as an independent personality of the heavenly world from the outset and allows him to be clothed in advance with the general power that is destined for him.


The powerful man who wrote the Book of Daniel in such a spiritually barren time as the Maccabean era stood alone with his view, which represented the final transition from prophecy to fulfillment, and the deep content of his work remained unrecognized in the following time, until it was developed and bore fruit in the self-awareness of Jesus and the community. The author of the first book of Maccabees, who wrote at the end of the second century BC and, as several keywords prove, knew and used the Book of Daniel, had no inkling of what a treasure he possessed in this book. If the expectation of the Messiah had been nurtured and the powers of the time had been devoted to the development of the messianic idea, the standpoint of reflection that the Book of Daniel had established would have had to be maintained, at least if we are to forget the demand for further development for a moment. However, the author of the first book of Maccabees knows nothing of a Messiah, only that he lacks the prophetic revelations that had been bestowed upon earlier times, and he hopes for nothing more from the future than their return (1 Maccabees 4:46, 9:27, 14:41).

Although the intellectual work produced by the apocryphal literature of the Old Testament was not entirely insignificant for the development and foundation of the Christian principle.


The idea of divine wisdom, in which this literature has reached its highest point, was excluded again by the Christian consciousness, and even gave it the material and category to attempt to determine the difference in the divine nature in which the personality of the Messiah had its eternal presupposition. What does this mean other than that the idea from the Apocrypha could only become important and fruitful for the Christian principle once it had already entered into reflection on itself through its original form? It was not immediately relevant for the initial emergence of the Christian principle, and even less could it have pushed the consciousness of the people towards messianic expectations. On the contrary, due to its abstract nature and implementation, it had to draw all those whom it influenced away from the specific messianic hope, if it really existed, and give their view a fundamentally different direction. The idea of wisdom is concerned with the past history, the former leadership of the people, and the relationship of Israel to other nations; it wants to grasp the general relationship of the divine nature to the world in the specificity in which the history of the people and its relationship to the rest of the world is grounded. It grasps this specificity of the divine nature itself in an abstract way and cannot bring it to real personality – what significance can the idea of the Messiah, which looks towards the future and has to do with a specific personality, still have? If the idea of wisdom was important for the Christian principle, it was only through the detour that history usually likes to take in transition periods, whereby it made the people forget the limited conception of the messianic idea found in the prophets and gave the consciousness of the people an abstract generality, from which that idea should be reborn in a deeper form, with a more general background and a more substantial presupposition. As long as that idea was being developed and while it was engaging the spirits with the original interest, it was not otherwise possible: the specific idea of the Messiah could neither be present nor could it take shape into a fixed form from the older prophetic views.


He also did not develop in the writings of Philo – if we are allowed to go beyond the time when Jesus appeared. Philo, like Baruch, Sirach, and other authors of apocryphal writings, speaks of a time when the people will return from dispersion to their homeland and their enemies will be punished. But what does he know about the Messiah? Once *) he speaks (according to Num. 24:7, LXX) of a man who will rise up as a general and warrior and conquer great nations. Once! What does this mean for a writer who is as verbose as he is! And in this one instance, he uses the words of the Holy Scriptures and even notes that he is quoting a prophecy. **) He, who is usually so lengthy, who repeats his thoughts so often and in the most varied ways, is so laconic on this point, and when he is led to it once, he only touches on it with the words that the scripture provides? He repeats a view that he cannot give a new turn to? In his system, this view has not received an internal position or gained development – it has only been presented to him by chance once. But it is also outside of any connection with another view, according to which the people will be led by a human form upon their return to the homeland, which is more divine than human nature, and will only be visible to those who are to be saved, but invisible to the enemies. ***) It is likely that the Logos will serve the people as their leader in this way. “The Messiah” is neither this vague, floating, and baseless figure nor the conqueror of nations mentioned elsewhere. For this reason alone, we cannot say that Philo “knows the Messiah” because he allows both views of the warrior and the aerial figure that will appear to the people upon their return to the homeland to stand isolated and foreign to one another. It may be that when Philo came to these isolated views, he was driven by a tendency and followed an impulse that had emanated from the spiritual revolution that had begun in Palestine. It is just as possible that without such an impulse, the prophecy of Num. 24:7 and his view that the Logos led the Israelites out of Egypt in the pillar of cloud gave him the material with which he filled out his view of the final liberation and redemption of the people. But it is certain that the idea of the Messiah was not given to him from tradition. It is certain that he did not take into account any scriptures other than the prophetic writings, except for a few cases, and only dealt with the Law and its explanation. But as soon as the idea of the Messiah had gained some power and life among the Jewish people, the focus was immediately on the prophets, and the study of their writings became alive.

*) de praem. Opp. II, 423

**) έξελευοεται άνθροωπος, φησιν ό χρησμός.

***) de execr. Opp. II, 436


Neither in the last centuries before Christ nor in the beginning of the Christian era were the prophets the subject of general interest or scholarly explanation, nor were their writings read in the synagogues like the Law.
We hear nothing about the messianic expectations being a point of contention between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Both sects diverged in that the Sadducees only attributed legislative significance to the Mosaic scriptures; however, this restriction of the legislative canon was not prompted by the slightest consideration of messianic prophecies – they were not even mentioned. Besides their dogmatic interest in denying the resurrection and existence of angels, their opposition to the traditional development of the Law, which the Pharisees advocated, forced them to this negative criticism. They believed they could not free themselves from these traditions of the Law in any other way than by recognizing only the original Law as the canon of positive religious and legal provisions.


The Law was also the only scripture read and explained in the synagogues according to the sections designated for each Sabbath. Even those who have an interest, based on their assumptions, in pushing the interpretation of the prophets as far back as possible before the Christian era must concede, at least to maintain their hypothesis, that “a general (!) – as if an arbitrary or differently determined one in different places were proven – a general establishment of the prophetic readings had not yet occurred in the third century (after Christ).”*

*) Zunz, Die Gottesdienstlichen Vorträge der Juden, p. 6.

But, it is said, it is clear from the information in the New Testament itself that prophetic readings were already customary before the destruction of the Temple. When Jesus stood up in the synagogue in Nazareth to read, they handed him the book of the prophet Isaiah (Luke 4:16-17). However, if it really mattered to Luke, he would have paid much attention to the customs of the time, and if he knew, he would have recorded it. It was only necessary for Jesus to be given the book of Isaiah to facilitate the miracle of him finding the appropriate passage to demonstrate its fulfillment in his person. Whether the prophets were read in the synagogue or not is irrelevant. In any case, Paul also taught in the synagogue in Antioch “after the reading of the Law and the Prophets” (Acts 13:15). Of course! Because the Gospel rested on both. But what do we learn from this kind of pragmatism, formed only from Christian assumptions, about the organization of the synagogue? Nothing! Certainly nothing reliable!


“Jonathan’s Targum of the Prophets, says Zunz*), provides evidence that the content of the prophetic books was explained to the public either within or outside of the Targumic reading, as a result of studies that produced firm national concepts.” Indeed, if it were proven that the Scripture was already being read in Chaldean paraphrase in Palestine during the time of Jesus, and if it were true that Jonathan was a disciple of Hillel, then the prophets must have been explained in the synagogues long before, and the expectation of the Messiah must have already existed. However, if the age of Jonathan’s paraphrase is used as evidence, it must first be proven that it is centuries younger, and other reliable information must also prove that the prophetic idea of the Messiah existed among the people before the Christian era.

*) ibid, p. 332.

We will soon add to the evidence that it did not have this influence and power, that Jonathan’s paraphrase is far younger than modern scholars assume, after first eliminating another witness to the dominance of the prophetic idea of the Messiah before the time when Jesus appeared.

At least, a work like the Book of Enoch, which can be so clearly shown to have acquired its current form gradually and through various authors, cannot lead us to abandon a statement that is confirmed everywhere else. In this book, the Danielic idea of the Son of Man is executed with perfect reflection; but it should already arouse suspicion that this execution is only found in the middle part of the book, which contains the three parables (Chapters 37-68), which differ essentially from the earlier visions at the point where the Son of Man appears, namely in containing the idea of a universal judgment and no longer strictly observing the limited reference to the fallen angels that had prevailed until then. When the Son of Man reappears after these parables, for example, immediately in Chapter 69 and Chapter 70, the disconnectedness of the presentation and the complete lack of coherence prove that these intermediate sections were only formed and inserted after those parables were added to the original text. Or, for those who are better at patching things together, they may prove that Chapter 104 was conceived and written in one go by the same author as the preceding and following sections.


Lawrence has also pointed out that even the three parables are fragmented by a foreign interpolation, as in Chapter 64-67 a section is suddenly inserted into the third parable, in which not even Enoch, but Noah, the same Noah whose birth is only told in Chapter 105, reports a vision.

A Christian – several Christians must have had a hand in the gradual expansion of the book. The birth of the white calf, which all the animals of the field and the birds of the sky worship and call upon at all times, and whose nature all animals assume (Chapter 89, 45-46), can only be understood as referring to the establishment and spread of the Christian church.
But if it is certain that there are Christian interpolations in the book, it loses all evidentiary value if one tries to infer from its content the existence of Messianic expectations before the beginning of the Christian era. Even in that case, it cannot be admitted as a witness in such an important matter if it were to be true that its foundation was already developed in the time of Herod, as recently claimed by Gfrörer after Lawrence.


However, we also doubt the latter. This absurd literature – its absurd form and content already prove that we should not look for the germinal ideas that developed the Christian principle in it – deserves to be re-examined in relation to the question that concerns us here. For now, we only note that the apocryphal reckoning and chronology of the Book of Enoch and the Fourth Book of Ezra, even if they were to run until the days of Herod – which is not even strictly proven – is not a reason to date the composition of these books to the time of Herod. For example, if Enoch speaks of seventy shepherds who have pastured the flock since the division of the Jewish kingdom, this number is freely formed after the seventy years of captivity, leading approximately to the time of Herod. If it does not lead there – and it does not lead there, it leads into the air and the blue – then the author would have filled in the number as he pleased. The author distinguishes thirty-seven shepherds among those seventy from twenty-three following, after which twelve appear. The thirty-seven are the kings of Judah and Israel. But should the author have possessed such precise historical knowledge that he knew even the most unknown princes of the Babylonian, Persian, and Macedonian dynasties and knew how to indicate their sum from twenty-three*)? He, the rough apocalyptist who thought that each of these princes had fulfilled his vow on time (C. 89, 7.)? No! This work and investigation must be resumed from another point of view, for which the apocalyptist is not necessarily regarded as a learned historian. This man, who has such chronology in his head, did not even know how to count twelve from Matthias to Herod the Great.

*) Gfrörer, The Holy and the True, l, 97.


The eleven (8 + 3) princes that Ezra speaks of (4 Esdras 12:24, 29) will probably only find their explanation in the Book of Daniel (7:7-8). Such apocalyptic numbers had become categories that were freely processed and applied, and they do not shed light on the time in which these scriptures were composed.

But isn’t the Book of Enoch already cited in the Letter of Jude? Well, one must first prove that this letter was written in the first century and provide a better reason than De Wette and Schott, who rely on the fact that in a context where judgment is spoken of against those who deny God and Christ, there is no mention of judgment against Jerusalem. The author of the letter did not need to mention the destruction of Jerusalem, because it was already over and the opposition to the Jews was no longer relevant; however, the absence of this opposition is evident here since the author is actually fighting against heretics who have arisen within the Church.

If we reflect on the New Testament itself, it speaks from all sides against the assumption that before its composition and especially before the ideal foundation of the Gospels was formed, there was a messianic dogma or Christology among the Jews. First of all, the evidence still holds that the evangelical views emerged from the inner determination of the Christian principle and that the Old Testament colors were only used to express them because they reflected the same idea that the Evangelists and the Church were engaged in. Then, when such a coincidence occurs, the Old Testament expressions, as Mark and Luke prove, are repeated verbatim and copied. Mark tells the story of the calling of the apostles in such a way that he literally uses the Old Testament account of how Moses selected the seventy. A whole series of stories*) is modeled in terms of expressions and arrangements on the story of Elijah. But if the Jews had already possessed a developed Christology at that time and if this had been the model that the Evangelists imitated, they would no longer have been so strictly bound to the diction and content of the Old Testament, and their entire narrative would have revealed a richer diversity. However, their only presupposition in their work was the ideal conception set by the principle, which was discovered only in the Old Testament.

*) Wilke, p. 569. 570.


Marcus proceeds with this historical assumption in such a way that he completely intertwines it with his historical representation and does not yet reflect on the content of his presentation. Only Matthew quotes the Old Testament, compares the prophecy with the fulfillment, and directs the reflection to the fact that the holy history had to look just like this in order for the prophecy to be fulfilled. But where do we find in him even one secure trace that leads us to a Jewish messianic dogma? We always find with him only the combination of the ideal world of the new principle and the prophecy, a combination of which he no longer knows how freely it was already accomplished by Marcus before him, which is therefore given to him as positive and which he now makes external. Certainly, when he quotes the Old Testament, there arises in his narration a redundancy that is often disruptive enough; he quotes the Old Testament view, which is already used and processed in the narration that he finds and transcribes. So he gives the same thing twice — but enough: he does not give us a Jewish Christology.

The discourse of Jesus on the last things, as Marcus formed it, is essentially modeled after the prophecies of Daniel, Joel, and Jeremiah: but would not the evangelist have moved more freely if a Jewish Christology and dogmatic expressions of the same had already been given to him? Only Matthew knows specific dogmatic formulas for the last things: of course! Until his time, they had partly formed themselves, partly already gained general acceptance, and he could attribute them to the Lord without hesitation.


Even the narrative pieces that Luke and Matthew have added to the original Gospel cannot be attributed to a Jewish Christology, nor do they have any internal connection with this phantom. But if there had been a Jewish messianic dogma at the time when the community developed its historical perspective and religious reflection of the Gospels, wouldn’t this later addition have been even more boldly held on the basis of this dogma? Shouldn’t we find the strongest evidence of such a dogma in it?

If the Jews had already possessed a Christology at the time when the community developed its historical perspective and religious reflection of the Gospels, the messianic interpretation of the Old Testament would already have passed into a fixed type, and it would no longer have been possible for the same prophetic utterances in the New Testament to be applied to Jesus and his work in such diverse ways as we find them. Not only are the same passages applied to Jesus in different ways in the various writings, but the same writer gives the same passage a different relation to the messianic work. Furthermore, a writing like the Epistle to the Hebrews shows that even later on, as the idea of the Redeemer and his work gradually became dogmatically developed, it was still compared with the Old Testament, and its images were sought in it. However, the rigorous approach in which this comparison is carried out, and the fact that these often remote and only homogeneous prototypes, which could only be relevant to Christian doctrine as such, indicate that the author of this letter knew nothing of a Jewish Christology. The prototype of the Paschal Lamb, whose bones were not broken, or the prototype of the raised serpent, which the fourth Evangelist found in the Old Testament, is remote and coincidental enough. How could prototypes of this kind have found their place in a Jewish Christology? If the Evangelists had received their Christology from the Jews, then Matthew would not have been led to apply the prophecy of the suffering servant of Jehovah (Isaiah 53) to the healing of the sick by Jesus with just the keyword “illness”. In short, if a Jewish Christology had already arisen before the time of Jesus, it would have had to be a priori and firmly closed as an ideal type, and there would have had to be a certain meaning and a fixed relationship to the Old Testament prophecies. Instead, we find only one thing here, the dogma that the prophets have prophesied about the Messiah, i.e., Jesus. But in the execution of this dogma, all indications are that it was the first attempt.


That dogma, however, only arose with the Christian community, or rather, the moment it arose gave life to the community.

Now, only when Bertholdt’s, his predecessors’ and successors’ Jewish Christologies no longer cloud our minds and make our eyes dull, is it possible to explain a circumstance that has not yet found its sufficient explanation. According to the original type of the evangelical view of history, Jesus did not openly proclaim himself as the Messiah before the people and was only recognized by the disciples as the Son of God shortly before leaving Galilee, and even by the people only greeted as the Son of David upon entering Jerusalem. In any case, even this type was a work in which later reflection had its share; but it would not have arrived at this type if it had not been firmly established that Jesus, while working among the people, never directly announced himself as the Messiah and was never recognized as such. For the one who formed this type, it still had to be an undeniable fact that at the time of Jesus, the expectation of the Messiah did not prevail universally among the people, otherwise, when he (Mark 8:28) reports the people’s opinion of Jesus to the disciples, he would have reported at least one party that held Jesus to be the Messiah; he would not have presented it as if Peter only came to the realization in that moment that Jesus was the Messiah, and he would not have written that the Lord strictly forbade the disciples from telling the people who he was.


If the Messianic expectation had prevailed universally among the people, or if it had been the symbol of any specific party or the righteous, chosen, true Israel, etc., then the dead and mechanical relationship would certainly have had to set in that Jesus, at his first appearance, would simply have stood up and said, “See, I am the one you have been waiting for.”

We would then have to assume the only case in history where the man who created a new principle already found the principle – poor language, can you express the unthinkable? – already completed. But where in all of history has an epoch-making man appeared who did not bring with him the specific content by which he made his epoch only in his self-consciousness? Which hero would that be whose essence and person were already expected beforehand, indeed, already existed in expectation, and who now only needed to step forward to say that he was what they had expected? No great historical figure has ever arisen who preached and referred to himself from the outset or at all.

World-historical individuals have only become epoch-making by the fact that the content of their self-consciousness was a new one, not preconceived by anyone, and born only with them. And they only refer to themselves by giving the world a new principle and devoting themselves to and sacrificing themselves for its development. It is only by doing so that they are these heroes, by solving the riddle that had occupied the world in the most diverse forms up to that point in the formula that no one had found.


We can save the honor of Jesus by returning his person from the standpoint of death, to which apologetics has brought it, and restoring to it the living relationship with history that it had, as can no longer be denied. That important transformation of Jewish consciousness, which revived the view of the prophets and elevated it to the essential content of religious spirit and the reflective concept of the Messiah, had begun only in the time when John the Baptist appeared with his message of repentance, but it was not yet complete when Jesus followed him. If a view that unites heaven and earth, reconciles God and man, and resolves the essential opposition was to come to power and become the one point on which all the forces of the spirit would converge, nothing more and nothing less was necessary than the appearance of a personality whose self-consciousness had nothing else as its content and existence than the resolution of this opposition, and who would then develop this self-consciousness before the world and draw the religious spirit to the one point where its riddles are solved. Jesus accomplished this immense work, but not by hastily pointing to his person – rather, he developed before the people the content that was given and one with his self-consciousness, and only by this circuitous route did his person, which he sacrificed to his historical destiny and the idea he lived for, continue to live on in the recognition of this idea. When he rose in the faith of his followers and continued to live on in the community, he was the Son of God who had resolved and reconciled the essential opposition, and the only, the all-important, thing in which the religious consciousness found rest, peace, and the object of its devotion, since there was no other fixed, reliable, and lasting one. Now, the wavering and unsteady views of the prophets came together at the one point, in which they were not only fulfilled by him, but also got their common bond and the support that made each of them important. The Messiah was now given as a concept and a firm idea, along with his appearance and faith in him, and the first Christology emerged. We possess it in the writings of the New Testament.


We would have to return to the apologetic view, according to which the Christian principle already existed as a reflective concept in the expectation before Jesus, if it were true what the newer critics like Gesenius, De Wette, in complete agreement with Hengstenberg and Hävernick, assert, namely that the Chaldean translation of the Prophets, which is attributed to Jonathan, was made at the beginning of the Christian era. According to Gesenius, Jonathan, the son of Uzziel, was “one of Gamaliel’s *) Jerusalem disciples.” De Wette says **) that only “for trivial reasons” has it been doubted that the Talmudic statement that Jonathan was a disciple of Hillel, and therefore flourished before Christ’s birth, is true.

From this standpoint, it must be said, of course, that Jonathan’s “messianic doctrine appears to be older than the New Testament, rather than younger.” Jonathan’s explanation and translation of Isaiah 53 “seems to have become a very important source of messianic ideas at the time of the New Testament,” and so on.***)

*) same source as before, page 66.

**) Einleitung in das Alte Testament, section 89.

***) for example, Gesenius in the same work, pages 88, 78, 79.

In general, it is characteristic of this type of rationalistic criticism to explain and derive the determinacy of a religious principle in such a way that it is assumed empirically and historically self-evident, and then its historical emergence is understood as a repetition of its earlier historical existence. The Christian ideas already existed in Jewish Christology, and particularly in Jonathan’s paraphrase. Clearly, this historical explanation and derivation of a principle suffers from the lack of going back infinitely, and its refutation is simply brought about by pushing it back into the nothingness of its infinity. The rationalistic criticism must be asked to explain how the reflective concept “of the Messiah” came about in Jonathan’s paraphrase. And if apologetics already carries out the infinite regression itself and finally arrives at the original gospel, which was already given to the first human being, we can leave it standing and let it fall in this empty space.


Then, when we have traced this type of criticism back into the past, we can solve the other part of the task and push Jonathan with his paraphrase further forward into the later era in which they belong.

In the point that concerns us here, this paraphrase is based on dogmatic reflection. The idea of the Messiah is finished, stands firm, and connects the originally isolated views of the Old Testament more or less arbitrarily, as the explanation is sometimes arbitrary, as in Isaiah 16:1 – they will bring tribute to the Messiah – or Isaiah 14:29 – from the children of Isaiah the Messiah will arise – in any case, it is very skillful, even sober, cautious and the product of a view that was already very certain of its cause. The Messiah also fights against his hostile counterpart, the Antichrist, who is called the Magog in 1 Samuel 2:10 or the Armillus in Isaiah 11:4. Similarly, the difference between this world age and the coming age in which the Messiah appears is decided in 1 Kings 4:33. Finally, the intentionality with which in the section Isaiah 52:13-53:12 the attributes of glory are attributed to the Messiah, while as much as possible a different direction is given to what is said about the sufferings and low appearance of the Servant of Jehovah and related to the sufferings of the people or the future defeat of the Gentiles – this deliberate substitution of the subject was simply impossible if a specific view of the Messiah was not already firmly established and the opposing one was to be rejected. It is the Christian view that the paraphraser wants to refute and make impossible by withdrawing from it a testimony that was considered its strongest. He has at least betrayed to us the time in which he wrote, so that we can no longer doubt that he produced his translation when the temple was long in ruins, Isaiah 53:5.


If one relies on the Talmudic testimony (Baba Bathra F. 134, C. 1.) that Jonathan was a disciple of Hillel, then one must also recognize the other testimony (Megilla F. 3, C. 1.) according to which Jonathan received his paraphrase from the mouths of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, and ascribe to him an extraordinarily long life. Whoever accepts one testimony must also believe the other, and whoever rejects one must doubt or even reject the other, for both are completely similar and owe their origin to the same interest: the desire to increase the esteem of the translation or rather to justify and establish the veneration of the translator by associating him with ancient celebrated teachers. If one was content with making him a disciple of Hillel, the other went further and made him a disciple of the last prophets, who suddenly became contemporaries of each other.

Gesenius believes he can avoid this dangerous dilemma with the help of a natural explanation. “The legend,” he asserts, *) “that Jonathan received his explanation from the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi themselves (naturally (!) through tradition) testifies to the great esteem in which his work must have stood.” However, it testifies at the same time that it was capable of assigning to him any age that came to mind. According to Gesenius, Jonathan personally associated with those prophets and received his translation from their mouths, just as (in the same work) it was stated immediately before that Onkelos wrote down his paraphrase of the law based on the information (מפי) provided to him orally by Eliezer and Joshua.

*) ibid. p. 68.


If there are indeed passages in the Talmud that can be found in Jonathan’s translation, they are always cited with the words “as Rab Joseph translates. *) ” Even the translation of the supposed Jonathan is cited twice with the words “Rab Joseph says (if we did not have his translation of this scripture, we would not understand its meaning)**).”

This way of citing Jonathan’s paraphrase in the Talmud must be very uncomfortable for those who defend its great age, since Rab Joseph is said to have died in the year 32 AD. Either one ignores ***) the fact that the translation is never cited as that of Jonathan, or one says that the passages are “all cited from Jonathan by Rab Joseph †).” But this would be a strange way of citing if the real author, whose work one possessed and could easily cite under his name, was never mentioned and his property was always introduced under a foreign name. Why cite passages from another’s translation when they could be easily obtained from the original source? This explanation is erroneous in that it attributes a meaning to the word that it never had. It always means “to translate,” never “to cite.” Rab Joseph alone is mentioned as the translator, and without his translation, as those two passages indicate, the meaning of the scripture would have remained unrecognized in some places.

*) כדמחרגם רב יוטף.

**) Sanh. 94, b. Megillah 3, a.

***) such as B. de Wette, Hävernick

†) so Zunz a. a. O. p. 63


Rabbi Yom Tob, who lived in the 14th century, understood the difficulty better. He says *) that Rab Joseph was blind and recited the passages of Scripture in Aramaic, because the Aramaic translation was not yet written down in his time, and only existed in the oral tradition. This would be admitting too much, as it would follow that Jonathan did not write down his translation.

*) Cocerjus, Sanhedr. P. 327

The only solution to the contradiction is to acknowledge it. According to the unanimous testimony of the Talmudic writings, the translation that is now attributed to Jonathan actually comes from Rab Joseph, who lived in the fourth century after Christ. The prestige that the paraphrase gradually acquired led to it being attributed to the last prophets, and if one asked to whom it belonged, it was at least certain that Rab Joseph, whose era was still well-known, could not be thought of. How the name Jonathan the son of Uzziel came about is unknown.

We can, however, explain how the translation of the Law came to be attributed to Onkelos, which has come down to us under his name, and which explicitly interprets two passages, Genesis 49:10 and Numbers 24:17, as referring to the Messiah.

If Onkelos is mentioned four times in the Babylonian Talmud, the most important passage for us is clearly the one in which it is said that he interpreted the Law. Nothing is mentioned of this when he is reported to have been a contemporary of Gamaliel (Avodah Zarah 11, 1), nor when he appears there and in Gittin 56, 2 as the son of Kalonymus, grandson of Titus, and a contemporary of Hadrian. That both refer to the same Onkelos, although he could not have been both a student of Gamaliel and a contemporary of Hadrian, is clear from the fact that he is called a proselyte both times, and even tells how he discussed his conversion to Judaism with Hadrian in the latter case. The third time he is again referred to as a proselyte and is reported to have thrown his parents’ inheritance into the Dead Sea after accepting circumcision (Demai Tosafot 5). Here it is not yet reported that he translated the Law, but now the peculiar thing happens that the Jerusalem Talmud reports the same thing about Aquila, who translated the Scriptures into Greek. Finally, Megillah 3:1 reports that the proselyte Onkelos translated the Law מפי according to the instructions of Eliezer and Joshua, in the first century BC. This reaches its climax, as the same thing is reported by the Jerusalem tractate (Megillah 71, 3) about Aquila the Greek interpreter.


Until the fifth century after Christ, before the Babylonian Talmud, no one knew anything about an Onkelos who had transmitted the Law, and now, if one suddenly knows about him, one only knows what is told about him in the Jerusalem Talmud about the Greek translator Akilas? Should this Onkelos be a historical person? Eichhorn*) rightly said that there is no doubt “that the later Babylonian Gemara has transmitted to its Onkelos the information it found in the older Jerusalem Gemara about Akilas.” Eichhorn will also be right as long as modern critics describe his reasoning as arbitrary without being able to conjure up even a semblance of proof. The matter speaks so strongly against the defenders of the greater antiquity of Onkelos that it is sufficient to simply present the information from the Talmudic scriptures.

Although after Morinus’ example, Eichhorn assumes that the late author of the Chaldean Targum was really named Onkelos. Wolf**) has already observed, however, that both names, Akilas and Onkelos, are the same and have arisen dialectically from each other. Now, Wolf says that the same author of the Chaldean Targum is meant in both Gemaras*), but from the fact alone that the Akilas of the Jerusalem Talmud is referred to as a proselyte, it is certain that the Greek interpreter is meant under him. So nothing remains but the fact that at the time of the Babylonian Gemara, the late Chaldean paraphrase of the Law had gained esteem, that its author was not known, and now believed no differently than that the עקילס, from whom the Jerusalem Gemara reports its fables, is indeed the originator of the Chaldean paraphrase.

*) Einleit. in das A. T. § 222.

**) Biblioth. Hebr. II, 1151.

*) Isaac Vossius (De vitiis sermonis hebraici) said the opposite, that in both Gemaras the same Akilas, the Greek translator, is meant.


In summary, the emergence and spread of the Christian principle, its struggle with the synagogue, and finally the downfall of the temple service and continued interaction between Jews and the Church led to the point where the idea of “the Messiah” became important, significant, and the centerpiece of an ideal world that was previously unknown to Jewish consciousness.



Appendix – The Messianic Expectations of the Samaritans

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey



(To p. 142.)

The Messianic Expectations of the Samaritans.

The question whether the Samaritans were a purely pagan or a mixed people, formed from pagan and Israelite parts, is easily answered, if one appreciates the biblical data, the nature of the matter and the historical analogy. If the strict Chaldean conqueror took away only the most important families from Judah and left the mass of the people in their homeland, it is even less to be assumed that all citizens of the ten-tribe kingdom were transferred from their country to the eastern provinces of the empire after the conquest of Samaria by the Assyrians. It is easy to say that all the inhabitants were taken away, and to pronounce the word “all”, this so often “misused” hyperbole, costs little effort, but in reality the momentum of this hyperbole is very degraded, and to transfer all the inhabitants at once from a mountainous country, which offers so many places of refuge and hiding places, is impossible even for the greatest power. Not a few, but a great many of the Israelites will still have lived in their land when those five pagan tribes were transferred there by the Assyrians, since not even the religious zeal of the Hebrews had succeeded beforehand in completely cleansing the promised land of the original Canaanite inhabitants. It is also an absurd notion and only an exaggeration of the legend to say those five heathen tribes were sent into the completely deserted area of the early ten-tribe realm, in order to take possession of it and to inhabit it, it is much more probable or rather certain that they were sent there from the cities to keep in check the Israelites who had been pushed into the countryside and to render them forever harmless. But if we see in the whole course of world history how always the conquered peoples, when they were on a high standpoint of education and consciousness, spiritually subdued the invading conquerors, it explains to us how by living together with the Israelites the heathen tribes, which they were supposed to keep in subordination, were brought to the recognition of Jehovah. The foreign overlords were also not completely out of all religious relationship with the former owners of the land, their pagan nature service was not foreign to the Israelites and formed very easily the bond which would bring the victors and the vanquished closer to each other and unite them. But now the Israelites, as long as their separate kingdom existed, had united the thought of Jehovah with the figurative conception and with the service of nature, and as this thought, while the pleasure of the conception was satisfied in the natural, had become a meager abstraction, so it could also in the course of time and without effort be excluded from the foreign tribes and at first still merged with their idolatry, until it finally reached a kind of sole dominion. Certainly, it did not take the lions to make the foreign tribes fear Jehovah, and it is only the Jewish legend that sent the ravening beasts against the pagan colonists, because it only knew how to explain their conversion in an external way.


Although the Israelites who had remained behind had gained the spiritual upper hand over those heathen tribes, they were at the same time too weak spiritually to be happy about their victory and to assert it with consciousness. They themselves were not sure enough of their principle; the entire development of it that had taken place in the kingdom of Judah had remained alien to them and could not have had any effect on them, and they had not allowed themselves to be drawn into the movement that had started with David, so that they had only the unfinished and uncertain idea that, before David’s appearance, could only with difficulty hold its own against the hostile powers. They won, but unconsciously, by gradually growing together with the fresher life of the colonists, who now regarded themselves as the nucleus of the new nation-building and gave the newly formed masses the ambiguous consciousness that they were an independent people, originally alien to the law and yet again belonging to Jehovah. When the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity, this transformation had already taken place. The building of the sanctuary on Gerizim softened the feeling of the original alienation from the law and served to strengthen their claims, according to which they, like the Jews, thought they belonged to Jehovah, but it did not prevent them from remaining conscious of their special nationality and from perverting it when it seemed otherwise useful to them. Only in very late times, it seems, after the Jewish folk life had long since perished and a habit of centuries kept the Pentateuch connected with their view, did the idea that they were descendants of Jacob come to reign supreme among them.


When the Pentateuch reached the Samaritans, whether they received it from the Israelites of the Ten Tribes, or whether it was brought to them by the Jewish refugee Manasseh, is not our concern here, since the question of whether they were expecting the Messiah, as we will see shortly, is completely independent of the decision of this question.


The reason why the question of the messianic expectation has always been answered incorrectly is that the essence of the messianic ideas among the Jews has been so much misunderstood until now. That which was a conception that emerged in the utmost spiritual distress, but was again temporary in ordinary life, was regarded as a fixed, positive dogma *) and what even the prophets saw only momentarily, what the prophets never worked out and combined into a comprehensible unity and objectivity, was regarded according to this way of looking at things as a concept of reflection that had already formed the center of the general consciousness of the people long before the exile. Once the living movement of history is included in this mechanics, then it is self-evident that the citizens of the northern kingdom, who remained faithful to the law, also experienced everything that the prophets in Judah prophesied about the Messiah, that they willingly accepted this dogma and that also those Israelites, who remained in their country after the fall of Samaria and let themselves be reformed by Josias, professed the dogma of the Messiah and from now on held it steadfastly **). It is Sanballath who united the native, Israelite population of the northern kingdom and the immigrated strangers to one people by the arrangement of an independent cult on the mountain Gerizim and the people of the Samaritans who arose in such a way took care to derive from the Pentateuch the dogma of the Messiah which was already known and familiar to them ***).

*) Thus Frederick de Chrisologia Samaritanorum, 1821, speaks constantly of a decretum Messianum Judaeorum or of a dogma Messianum. E.g. p. 22- 61.

**) Friedrich, I. c. p. 25, 42.

***) Ibid. p. 61.


It does not change anything in the matter, but remains the same externality and incorrectness of the historical view, if one does not go so far back and lets the “dogma” of the Messiah reach the Samaritans only later *), for example after the establishment of the sanctuary on the Gerizim. The O. T. does not know dogmas, it knows only of commandments and, from the prophetic point of view, of views – but who will call these views, which break forth only momentarily in the highest historical collisions, which are neither fixed any prophet nor united around a fixed point, articles of doctrine, to which it is, however, only peculiar that they dominate consciousness in the form of objectivity and that they can also be communicated because of this objective relation? The transformation of the prophetic view into an intelligible concept of reflection, which we first find in the Chaldean paraphrase, and the appearance of Jesus are not far apart, and even if countless Jewish defectors from the time of Manasseh to the end of the second century before Christ had gone over to the Samaritans, they could not bring them what they did not have at home.

*) Like Hengstenberg, the authenticity of the Pentateuch, I, 30.

It seems very certain, however, that just in the century before the appearance of Jesus, that is, in the time when the most important prerequisite for the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven was being formed and completed, the gulf between the Samaritans and the Palestinian Jews had become so wide that all spiritual contact between the two sides had ceased.

Meanwhile, a colony of Samaritans had come to Egypt through Alexander the Great, and in Alexandria, under the Ptolemies, Jews and Samaritans lived together *), certainly not only in dispute over the legality of their Temple service, but in such a way that both sides were drawn into the freer spiritual movement of that world school of philosophy and criticism. The religious conception of the Samaritans agrees with that of the Alexandrian Jews and Philo in the most important points, but especially in the fact that everything that seems to draw the divine down into the change and into the barrier of the finite is removed **); their dogmatic expression has similarity with that of the Egyptian Jews and their Pentateuch coincides with the Alexandrian translation of the Seventy in the essential features, as well as in a large number of smaller peculiarities. But if Hengstenberg ***) uses this correspondence to prove that the Samaritans had borrowed “the doctrine” of the Messiah from the Jews, he only proves how badly this unhistorical conceit stands. Was not the enlightened point of view of the Alexandrian Jews the farthest away from the conception of the Messiah and what does Philo know to tell about the coming of the Messiah? Nothing! His Logos cannot enter into the flesh and blood of the empirical history.

*) Joseph. Antiq. Lib. XI, c. 8, 6 XIII, c. 3, 4.

**) Gesenius, de Samaritanorum theologia p. 6.

***) ibid. p. 30.


If the Jews could so completely obliterate the traces left in their minds by a thousand years of history when they made friends with the Greek education in Egypt, and if they could bend the movement of the Principle, which was aimed at the condescension of the divine into the empirical present, and lead it into the abstract intellectual world, what could be expected of the Samaritans? What then was to be expected from the Samaritans, who without that historical mediation had appropriated only the abstraction of Jewish consciousness and must always have the feeling of alienation from the concrete Jewish world? The idea of the Messiah not only remained stranger to them than to the Alexandrian Jews, but reflection and enlightenment became even freer and more decisive among them, and when Epiphanius and Leontius say of them that they denied the resurrection and the angels, we have no reason to doubt these reports.


What does it mean when theologians unanimously conclude from the account of the fourth evangelist that the Samaritans expected the Messiah and thought of him as a prophet *)? It means nothing more than that the believing habit can remain trapped in the letter for thousands of years before it first examines it and brings it together with the life of the real events. But while the habit can still be excused by its age and its firmness, the guilt begins where the habit itself enters into reflection and adorns itself with thoughts about itself. For once one has crossed over into the realm of reflection, one falls even deeper into error if one does not seriously strive toward the goal, and one can finally only spread the error sentimentally. This false sentimentality and love is found in its whole development in the assertions that the Samaritans “were less held by the bonds of rigid Pharisaism, and therefore easily turned to the Gospel” **) and that among them “the political element of the Messiah idea, as among the Jews, was not opposed to the Gospel” ***). But Pharisaism was just the last Jewish consequence, the existence of the law developed to the subjectivity of a school, as such it proves just the ability of the Jewish spirit to develop, just as it sharpened the need of redemption in the end, since it drove the minds to the longing for liberation by the burden with which it weighed them down. What do the Samaritans have to show in a similar way? And as for the political element of the Messiah idea among the Jews, it was so far from being an obstacle to the Gospel that it rather prepared the historical place for salvation among this people, since it merged the immediate self-feeling of the nation with the Messianic idea. If it also stood in opposition to the Gospel of the Crucified, it was only what always happens in history, that precisely the closest historical preconditions are also most capable of opposing their higher result, while at the same time they make the historical world more receptive to the acceptance of the result. And how important has not the Jewish conception of the royal office of the Messiah become for the Christian community, since it contained the outline of the image of the Messianic reign, which the Lord had not yet assumed in his lowly appearance, but which he will exercise at his glorious return?

*) Z, B. Gesenius de Sam. Theol. p. 41.

**) Olshauscn, Comm. II, 121.

***) Neander, Gesch. der Pflanzung p. 49.


Simon Magus the Samaritan, his appearance among his countrymen, his preaching of himself as a great man, the Samaritans’ opinion of him as the great power of God (Act. 8, 10.): All this cannot prove in the least that the Samaritans were expecting the Messiah. Since the angels were regarded by the Samaritans as the abstraction of divine will and divine power, and since they were familiar with the image of the angel of Jehovah from the Pentateuch, it could well have happened that they, touched by the Christian idea, saw in Simon this power of the Godhead that had momentarily emerged in the angel of Jehovah in the past. But for this it was necessary to be touched by the Christian idea, and how unstable is this possibility. If we look at how the author of the Acts of the Apostles is familiar with the idea of the “power of the Most High”, how he lets the personality of Jesus be generated from this power (Luke 1:35), how Jesus is also a “Great One” to him (1:32), it is only too obvious how he is the one who used predicates, which according to his view belong to Jesus alone, to paint the false image of the true Messiah. Simon’s view of himself and that which his compatriots had of him have thus become completely unknown to us: and from an unknown greatness one would not want to dare to infer the ideas of the Samaritans? Simon Magus has thus become as unknown to us as if he had never existed, and he can no longer rise above the value of an unhistorical person. Only this much is certain that for the author of the Acts of the Apostles Simon Magus was already the same as he remained for the church, the lying image of the true Messiah and the arch-father of all heretics. Later teachers of the church have only enlarged and more closely defined the person of Simon and his blasphemous fame by themselves with their richer historical experiences. Jerome, for example, tells us that Simon said of himself: I am the Word of God, I am the Glorious One, I am the Paraclete, I am the Almighty, I am the All of the Godhead. It is a naive, but also a fearful – namely all historical view eclipsing – impartiality, with which Olshausen looks at this note of Jerome. “If this statement, he says, admittedly only belongs to the later Christianizing direction of Simon, it still shows what this man was capable of.” *) As if that note does not only prove what the later ecclesiastical writers were capable of when it was necessary to describe a heretic *).

*) Comm. II, 687.

*) Of course, we cannot consider more historical than Jerome’s note what Irenaeus I, 20 and Epiphanius 21, C. I report about Simon, namely that he pretended to be the father among the Samaritans and the son among the Jews. But in this note, as in some others that we find in the Church Fathers, we can see a certain historical instinct that really depicted historical circumstances in the mythical form of historical pragmatism. Thus, the legend of Simon’s sermon is certainly formed with the right tact, which found out that the religious consciousness of the Samaritans was not as far developed as that of the Jews and that the idea of the Messiah remained unknown to them.

424 [corrected from 224]

As a witness that the Samaritans expected the Messiah, Winer **) calls Justin Martyr. However, this apologist, who was himself a Samaritan ***), has no small importance in this matter. If now Justinus places the Jews and Samaritans as One group opposite the Gentiles ****), then this can neither alienate us nor be considered as a special instance for the present question, because as worshippers of the One they were after all closer to the Jews than to the Gentiles. But when Justinus – and Winer refers to this – at the same time describes the Jews and Samaritans as those who “possessed the word of God handed down through the prophets and always expected Christ”: this is a hyperbole which at least does not make us feel as if we were listening to a sober witness. How can it be said of the Samaritans that they possessed the word handed down by the prophets?

**) Biblical Real Dictionary II, -139.

***) Just. Mart. opp. p. 52, 349.

****) Ibid. p. 88.


Whoever speaks in this way immediately proves that his testimony is invalid. If Justinus had a better insight, then he fell at that point only involuntarily into the track of the later conception and language and the same happened to him what happened to the fourth evangelist when he described the stay of Jesus among the Samaritans. Since the law and the abstraction of the one connected the Samaritans with the Jews, since they were the next foreign circle to be opened to the gospel, this success of the doctrine of salvation among them could not be explained in any other way than by the idea that they had also accepted the prophetic promise with the law and were thereby prepared for the gospel. But if Justinus does not fall into the path of a priori talk, if he speaks from empirical experience, then he proves that he had in fact a better insight and that the matter was quite different. In the introduction to his dialogue with Trypho he tells how he himself was led to the prophets and to their testimony of the true God and of the Christ, and he presents this testimony as such, which until then had been completely foreign and unheard of to him *) – proof enough that the Samaritans also possessed no trace of messianic views.

*) Ibid. p. 224. 225.

When in more recent times the Samaritan Pentateuch came to Europe and with the later literature of the Samaritans became the object of thorough investigations, nowhere was there even a hint of messianic expectations. And yet it would have been at least possible that the Samaritans in the course of the centuries would have taken the idea of the Messiah from the outside, as it is certain, for example, that they have appropriated the idea of the resurrection *). As little as one can conclude from the late occurrence of this view a thousand years back, so little one could conclude, if in the so-called book of Joshua or in the chronicle of Abulphatach the expectation of the Messiah would be found, that the Samaritans at the time of Jesus would have hoped for the Messiah. But even later there is not the faintest hint that could lead to such a wrong conclusion. Hottinger, for example, who has thoroughly investigated the literature of the Samaritans known at that time, could not find any reliable information from which it would be certain that the Samaritans had excluded the expectation of the Messiah into the circle of their ideas. Reland knows nothing else to say in this regard than that “in the Samaritan chronicles there is also mention of a great angel and that by him the Messiah seems to be understood”. **). It is right that Reland presents this remark only as an assumption, because it is only too certain that by that great angel only the highest of the forces emanating from the Godhead is to be understood ***) and that Reland only came to this assumption because he could not think of it otherwise than that the Samaritans cherished messianic expectations, and now had to reach for the most remote to see the general prejudice apparently confirmed.

*) Hottinger, dissertationum theologico-philologicarum fascic.1660 p. 11.

**) Reland, Dissertationum miscell. pars II, p. 27.

***) Reland ibid. p. 21.


In the correspondence which some European scholars have maintained with the Samaritans since the time of Scaliger, one believes to be informed now quite definitely about the messianic conceptions of the same ****). But one should consider how dependent and unoriginal that sunk and never truly substantial people have shown themselves to be in these negotiations, how indefinite and vacillating their answers to the questions about their messianic ideas are, and how the questions of the European scholars are nothing but questions of suggestion, which are only repeated in the answer without the question mark.

****) Gesenius de Sam. theol. p. 41.


If the Samaritans were really expecting the Messiah, one would think that they would have spoken about it for sure, but they do not like to explain themselves about this “point” *). Of course, because they do not know anything about it and believe to do a favor to their supposed compatriots and to put themselves in their favor, if they answered them, what these approximately wished. For they certainly do not even know what they wanted to hear, what they thought of the Messiah **), so they can only help themselves with some vague phrases. As soon as the good scholars ask more specifically, the echo also gives a more specific answer and the Samaritans know how to speak in more detail. When, for example, Marshall *) tells them to tell him who that prophet is of whom the Lord spoke to Moses, and when the same scholar describes the Messiah according to the three classic passages of the Pentateuch (Gen. 49, 10, Num. 21, 17, Deut. 48, 15), it goes without saying that the Samaritans do nothing more in their answer than to repeat this description. “You speak, they answer, of the coming of that great prophet of whom God spoke to Moses, he is the one of whom it is written” – and now follow the quotations which they first learned to know through Marshall’s inquiry as proofs of the Messianic promise. But in order not only to repeat the words of the question, but at least to write something new, they say: “This is the very prophet who was promised to our father Abraham, when it is said (Gen. 15, 47) that there smoked an oven and a flame of fire **). One sees, it became hot to the Samaritans, before they found a new place of proof. If the Samaritans had hoped for the Messiah for two millennia and were limited only to the Pentateuch to prove their expectation as a divine promise, then they would have puzzled over a multitude of proofs, so they did not need to be led by European scholars to proofs and more definite ideas and they did not need to make themselves ridiculous, if they now also dared to enter the field of scriptural research.

*) As even Silvester de Sacy must admit. Ueber den gegenwärtigen Zustand der Samaritaner, Franks, a. M. 1814. p. 5l.

**) e.g. already to Scaliger they write (Repertorium für bibl. und moiqenl. Literatur Th. 13. p. 291): Nos vero ignoramus, quaenam sit fides tua, an eadem sit, quam nos profitemur, an illa quam Judaci profitentur. In the letter they sent to Ludolf in 1684, they ask him (Epistolae Samarit Sicbem. ad Jobum Ludolfum Cizae 1688 p. 5): Nunc autem quaesumus a tu, o domine, ut nuncies nobis, quaenam revera tua sit religio? quisuam pro- pheta tuus? Num tu ex nobis Samaritanis? In the same letter they say that there was an exchange of letters between them and their brothers in England, but that they have not continued it for five years, adeo ut nun eerto eognoverimus veritatum religionis eorum et fidei illorum. (Ibid. p. 6.)

*) Repertorium for Biblical and Oral Literature. Lit. Ninth part. p. 12-14.

**) Ibid. p. 27.


If the word Messiah appears in the question, the Samaritan is embarrassed in answering whether he should use the same word. Why? Because the Samaritans know quite well that the expectation of the Messiah is peculiar to the Jews, and because after so many clumsy experiments they had finally become suspicious and uncertain about the views of the inquirers, so that they no longer knew quite what the latter wished to hear. How do they do it now? When their rich, powerful brothers speak of the Messiah, they remark at least casually in the postscript to the answer: “we know his (the prophet’s) name completely, as the rabbis call him ” or another time they indicate this name only by the initial letter ( מ) )*. The meaning of these answers is no other than: we do not really know how we are with you and what your view of the matter actually is, therefore, read out of our answers what you want and what you like – by the way, send us the contribution and the sum of money – these play a large and naive role in this correspondence – which you must send us if you are our brothers.

*) Silv, de Sach, op. cit. p 51.


But what about that Taheb, so celebrated in the biblical commentaries, that Messiah of the Samaritans, so spiritually conceived? In their letter to Scaliger they write: “you have asked about the Messiah: his name is none other than השהכ ” and with it they have given work to the scripture researchers and theologians for three and a half centuries. According to Hengstenberg this name designates the Messiah as the restorer, restitutor **), according to Gesenius as the convert ***), but the Samaritans themselves do not know anything definite about this name and if they are asked to explain, they do with the word secretly like people who do not want to let others notice their ignorance and embarrassment. “It is a great secret, the word of Taheb, who shall come” writes Salameh in the year 1810 *). If Taheb had indeed been the name of the Messiah among the Samaritans, it would have appeared in their writings, it would have been infallibly blackened by the careless nation in their Pentateuch, it would have been used much more often in their letters and they would have known exactly why it was the excellent name of the Messiah. However, they never mention Taheb in their letters when they give a detailed account of their religion and their faith, but only when the European scholars had forcefully pressed them to say what they thought of the Messiah, they touch this matter with a few words. In the first letter to Ludolf, who had certainly asked them very eagerly about the Messiah, because they ask him for information about who his prophet is, they give all the main points of their religion, but do not mention Taheb or Messiah with a single word. How striking it is, however, when in the same letter they rather call Moses their prophet and mediator in this world and on the day of the last judgment **). Only in the third – actually second – letter, after Ludolf had brought up the Messiah again, they write to him: “You ask whether the Messiah has arisen. He has not come yet, but when he comes, his name is Taheb.” *”). On the other hand, in the first letter, which they had sent to England a few years before, they write that one should tell them what the name “Haschaheb”[Taheb?], which is supposed to come, is *) – so perhaps they themselves do not know quite how they should use this word towards their supposed compatriots? Or do they first want to know how they want it to be used?

**) Christol. I, I, 69.

***) de Sam. theol. p. 44: reductorem vel conversorem i. e. prophetam homines ad meliorem frugem revocaturum.

*) About the present Just. p. 50.

**) Epist. Samar. Sichem. Cizae 1688 p. 9,

***) Repector, for bibl. and morgenl. Lit. 13 p. 281.

*) Ibid. p. 292. Nolices et etraits. T. XII. p. 181.


Four times the word Taheb occurs in the letters of the Samaritans – and it is fortunate that it appears more than once, otherwise one could too easily be driven to the suspicion that Ab Sehuta himself had formed the word for the Messiah, in order to be able to write something definite to Scaliger. Four times is not often, but just think how often a Jew of that time, if he should describe the religion of his compatriots, had mentioned the Messiah, how much he would know to say about him. It is true that the four times **) mentioning of the name must lose weight, because the Samaritans prove it too clearly in their letters, that they speak of the Messiah only of necessity, when the Europeans penetrate them too much, and then they know to assign to the Thaheb in the system of their religion much too little a fixed place. But nevertheless it remains striking that a century after Ab Sehuta in the letters of the Samaritans the name Thaheb appears again and then in the newest time in the letter of Salameh it is mentioned even if as an inexplicable secret. If this repetition were not there, one would be allowed to assume that Ab Sehuta had reached for some attribute of Jehovah and let it act as Messiah in a kind of personification. But if it is certain that this word must be of religious meaning, it is just as certain that it cannot designate any arbitrary attribute of the divine, but must contain a relation of the divinity to the world and to history, which is not altogether foreign to the conception of the Messiah.

**) In the Samaritan song in which Gesenius found the Thaheb, Messiah (de Samarit. theologia p. 45), the deity is rather addressed and asked that he may turn to his own. The word, in which Gesenius thought to find the Thaheb, is not the participle, which would then lack the article anyway, but the imperatio. Silvestre de Sacy, in the Notices et extraits.T. XII. p. 29. Gesenius hard also abandoned his explanation again: Berliner Jahrbücher 1830. no 82.


The mysterious word can not designate the Messiah as the return leader, converter or restorer, at least Hengstenberg can no longer want to give this meaning to the word, after he has again correctly noticed that never degenerates in transitive meaning” *). Hatthaheb therefore means the one who turns around, the one who returns.

*) The authenticity of Pent, I, 104.

The Samaritans often speak in their letters of a day of vengeance and retribution, of a time when Jehovah would step out of the distance and alienation in which he now held himself during their miserable, oppressed condition and turn back to them, and as the returning one, as the one who graciously turns back to his apostate and punished people, Jehovah had to appear to them, if they wanted to grasp him in his highest attribute. This attribute of the graciously turning Godhead must have been especially important to every Samaritan and could easily come to his mind when he was asked whether he believed in the Messiah. But it would have been impossible that the answer would have turned out three times always after the interval of a century as it happens in letters, if Hatthaheb == the returning one would have designated pure, so to say abstract attribute and not rather a more vivid manifestation of Jehovah. The idea of such a manifestation of the divine was very close to the Samaritans in their view of the angels, in whom the power of the divinity appeared directly, and if we now read that they believed in a great angel, who had especially protected the people, but had departed from them after the apostasy, then it is as certain as only possible that they expected in the return of the same the appearance of the divinity turning to them again. In the passage of the so-called Book of Joshua, in which this great angel is mentioned *), also Hottinger suspects an analogy with the Jewish messianic expectation: how, he remarks to the word “great angel,” if it meant the Messiah? but like Reland, he dares to express his assumption only tentatively. For there is too great a difference between the fixed reflective concept of the Messiah, as it was held by Jewish consciousness, and this shadowy, fading figure of the Great Angel, which disappears into the impersonal. In that concept of reflection of the Jews, the personality of the Messiah is so securely encompassed and so independent that we could almost say that it is a historical personality, namely historical in the world of consciousness, of which it really unites all relations in it. That great angel, on the other hand, has become so little an independent personality for the view that it rather disappears without inner support and core in the Godhead as its power.

*) If the people falls away from the law, Jehovah will leave it et recedent Angeli de latere vestro et nomen Angeli Maximi destituct vos auxilio, Hottinger, Smegma orieutale p. 491.


If we now summarize what has been said so far, how nothing in the testimonies of antiquity speaks for the existence of the view of the Messiah among the Samaritans, everything rather speaks against it, how in their more recent letters, when they develop their religion in detail, they know nothing to say about the Messiah, how only after the suggestive questions of their supposed compatriots, what they thought of the Messiah… they let fall a few words about a Thaheb, If they let fall a few words of a Thaheb, it cannot be called exaggerated doubtfulness or wilful denial, if that form of messianic expectation, which is usually attributed to the Samaritans, is denied to them.


Even if the Samaritans had great hopes of coming into agreement with their European compatriots, they could not have gone so far as to write them nothing but a deliberate, pure lie. For this reason alone, because they did not really know how they would get along with them, they could not dare to present them with an arbitrary invention as their faith. The only thing they could do, and what they really did, was to reach for that which they could assume would most agree with the ideas of their countrymen.

Since the whole so-called messianic expectation of the Samaritans is based on the fact that they hoped that Jehovah would one day turn to them again graciously, free them from their miserable pressure, and that he would do it in the special form of the returning one, we need neither raise nor answer the question when this expectation was formed among them. For this expectation is nothing more than the simple view, which is found in the Pentateuch, according to which Jehovah turns away from his people, when they fall away from him, but turns back to him according to the counsel of his long-lasting grace. Only so much we would dare to assert that in the first time, which the Samaritan people experienced as such and in which it settled into its own cult with the freshness and with the self-confidence, which was at all possible for it, there was still no special occasion for this view of the Pentateuch to become particularly important to it. It is probable that only the pressure of later centuries and the resistance of the small, narrow family to the constant threat of ruin, along with the feeling of misery, revived the hope of return.



Bruno BAUER — Seven Works Translated into English

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

I have translated six volumes of Bruno Bauer’s works into English and make them freely accessible here. I am not a German speaker and the Fraktur or Gothic font is not my closest friend so I have relied heavily on machine translation tools — Google Translate, DeepL and ChatGPT, often comparing them paragraph by paragraph for the preferable rendering into English. I have made an effort to manually check all pages for accuracy and comprehensibility but unfortunately the complexity and highly abstract commentary by Bauer sometimes stretched me to the limits of my abilities. Most of the text, I trust, is easier to read than those sections, but I encourage anyone who sees errors or can propose better translations to let me know.

Christ and the Caesars is commercially available — or rather it is very difficult to obtain — so I have provided here a fresh translation for open access.

BRUNO BAUER: Critique of the Gospel of John – English translation

BRUNO BAUER: Critique of the Gospel History – English translation

BRUNO BAUER: Acts of the Apostles – in English

BRUNO BAUER: Criticism of the Gospels and History of their Origin – in English

BRUNO BAUER: Theological Explanation of the Gospels – English translation  — Primarily a response to David Strauss and his Life of Jesus and the assumption of oral tradition behind the gospels

BRUNO BAUER: Criticism of the Pauline Letters – in English

BRUNO BAUER: Christ and the Caesars – in English

Albert Schweitzer on Bruno Bauer

One might suppose that between the work of Strauss and that of Bauer there lay not five, but fifty years—the critical work of a whole generation. . . .

The only critic with whom Bauer can be compared is Reimarus. Each exercised a terrifying and disabling influence upon his time. No one else had been so keenly conscious as they of the extreme complexity of the problem offered by the life of Jesus. . . .

For us the great men are not those who solved the problems, but those who discovered them. Bauer’s Criticism of the Gospel History is worth a good dozen Lives of Jesus, because his work, as we are only now coming to recognise, after half a century, is the ablest and most complete collection of the difficulties of the Life of Jesus which is anywhere to be found. . . .

Schweitzer, Albert. The Quest of the Historical Jesus. A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede. Translated by W. Montgomery. A. & C. Black, 1910. pp. 151, 159





§ 17. Concluding remark

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey


§ 17. Concluding remark.

We can now bear it with a calm conscience, since we can easily show the refutation in our work, if the apologist, instead of grasping the possibility of criticism, in holy zeal reviles the critic, insults him, and brands him in the eyes of those to whom the feeling of holy disgust is more accessible than the effort of comprehension. But by taking these vituperations calmly upon us, the apologist must not blame us if we also once more overlook his last general arguments, and by criticizing them finally prepare the solution of the question as to the author of the fourth Gospel.

“One is not mistaken, says Hemsen *), if one thinks that the main reason for these different judgments can be found partly in the nature and character of the Gospel and partly in the individuality of each critic. For the critic has a “narrow and common view” **) and not everyone can grasp the “love” of the fourth gospel like the Christian apologist. As we said, we think that our work speaks loud enough that we cannot remain silent on the accusation of meanness. We can also listen to it with all peace of mind. We can also hear with all composure when Lücke exclaims in moral zeal ***): “it takes a great eccentricity and partiality of heart and mind to misjudge the peculiar charm of the Johannine Gospel.”

*) The Authenticity of the Writings of John the Evangelist p. 117.

**) Ibid. p. 194.

***) Comm. I, 113.


The critical free view has the prejudice against itself that it must misjudge the essence of the gospel: but we refer to our work and only ask: who recognizes the innermost determination of the fourth gospel and who misjudges, screws and twists it, the critic or the apologist? Finally, we are not frightened by the religious hyperbole, when Τholuck zealously says *): “the sanctuary of religious feelings had to be touched in the most disdainful way”, as soon as the critics wanted to look at the fourth gospel with unbiased freedom. The critic has become accustomed to religious condemnation, moral suspicion and civil proscription, he will perhaps become even more so, and he must only regret the point of view for which the free investigation of the truth and the restoration of the true view of the person of the Savior has become an irreligious outrage.

*) The Credibility of Evangelical History 1837, p. 271.

But let us only weigh the condemnation over which the love of truth raises us too surely, and let us rather consider in those apologetic turns what is still worthy of consideration at all.

Thus the “depth” of the fourth gospel is, as Hemsen thinks, what must be closed to the critic. We hope, however, that the philosophically educated critic will no longer be reproached for this; on the contrary, we think that it should be credited to him as cautious abstinence if he refrains from hearing speculative determinations confirmed by the mouth of the Lord. What of really deep determinations is contained in the fourth Gospel is probably recognized by no one more and more unrestrictedly than by the critic as the archetype of the entire ecclesiastical speculative theory, and the only question at issue is whether the Lord has always allegorized and speculated only about his person – a question, therefore, from which the critic must always answer only with the most decided “No!” as long as the immediate certainty and certainty of Jesus’ self-consciousness is of value to him.


“The fact that John *) sometimes becomes obscure cannot be remarkable, since he endeavored to present to his readers the divine in Christ **).” As if the divine in the Redeemer could only be represented darkly! But it does not even occur to the true critics to accuse the fourth gospel of obscurity. The sayings of this gospel are in themselves very understandable, they are not more incomprehensible than any simple abstraction like unity, spirit, flesh, light, darkness, above, below. Criticism claims only that the Lord could not always speak only in abstraction and could not bring the infinite content of his self-consciousness merely to abstract expression. Also in the Synoptics the Lord speaks of his person and of the divine of it, but how clearly, strikingly, determinedly and how removed from all abstract attitude he did it by presenting his person as the living center of a living, historical and all times encompassing world! The ambiguity of the Lord’s discourses in the fourth Gospel lies only in the fact that the most abstract determinations are heaped together without receiving their proper and natural mediation, that the form of the later reflecting spirit is confused with the standpoint of Jesus, that both presuppositions, namely that the Lord speaks and the presupposition of the later standpoint of the congregation, become confused. The reasonable conclusions (ουν), the theological consideration (ενα) and the antitheses and contrasts (αλλα), which all have a given, generally known content as their premise, inappropriately cross the premise that the Lord unlocks heavenly mysteries, and this and only this confusion produces the appearance of darkness or rather of obscurity.

*) Incidentally! Why doesn’t the apologist say: Christ? This substitution of the subject, which is so often found in apologetic commentaries and treatises, is in itself an inconsistency, but a proof of how much criticism has penetrated even into the flesh of its sworn enemies. It is only bad that the apologist is so sure about this stake in the flesh, does not feel it and cannot think about it.

**) Hemsen ibid. p. 127.


” A spirit that exercised its power not only over the simply practical natures, but also over the deeply searching speculative Paul, must have originally scattered elements that were related to such a direction *)”.

*) Thus Neander, das Leben Jesu Christi, (1837.) p. 208.

Yes, the elements, i.e. the general content, were essentially speculative and had to stimulate the deepest spirits to development, but this content, which Jesus would bring into the world of consciousness, was not presented by him in the abstract form which the fourth gospel gave him. Criticism, therefore, cannot be condemned by that appeal to the speculative nature of the Christian elements.

“Something purely metaphysical, Neander continues, does not occur in John, but here too everything has its practical relation to the inner life, the divine community of life to be established through Christ **).”

**) Ibid. p. 209.

Of course! Because the fourth evangelist would bring the content of Christian consciousness to an abstract form, he could not ignore the relation to self-consciousness, to the inner life and to Christ, because of the nature of the subject. But does criticism have to claim that the fourth evangelist wrote only a metaphysics of understanding, does it really claim that? To be sure, the apologist must attribute a meaningless assertion to his opponent if he wants to gain even a momentary and apparent success against him.


About the personal character of the fourth evangelist, as far as it can be seen from his writing, the apologists are very divided. Tholuck *) sentimentally exclaims: “that sensual and intimate, gentle and mild man!” Lücke thinks **), “the gentleness and tenderness, which one is accustomed to praise in him, without being able to prove any particular traits of it, lay more in the general principle of Christian love, which he had grasped with special depth and truth, than in his individual temperament. It was rather fierce and angry.” And did he deny this vehemence in his so “thoroughly individual ***)” representation of Christ? Neander says: “Not a gentle and soft love, but a love that grasped and held on to the object it was directed at with all its strength, and thus abruptly repelled everything that dared to revile this object or to interfere with its possession, that was the predominant thing in his mind ****) “. Neander thinks that this original disposition of John was later “transfigured” in the service of the gospel, so he also assumes that it could no longer emerge in the evangelical writing of the same, but since he himself says that the influence of the Holy Spirit could not have torn the apostle out of his earlier idiosyncrasy *), he will not impute it to others as a crime if they find this oxymoron of harsh love in the gospel itself. It is true that he, like Lücke, denies that the “gentle, soft, mild” which, for example, Tholuck praises in the fourth evangelist, was preferably peculiar to him; but the style of the gospel, the blurred transitions, the matte in the connection of sentences and thoughts, the tautologies that revolve around themselves, the complaint about the insensitivity of the world – if in all this there is not the sign of softness, in what else should it betray itself? Admittedly, we must not, like Tholuck, consider the fourth evangelist to be only a mild, gentle man, nor, like Lücke, describe his character only as a violent one, nor, like Neander, deny him soft gentleness, as if it were incompatible with ruggedly repulsive love: but this ruggedness and that softness and gentleness of spirit are essentially related, the latter is the complement of the former, indeed, both are a whole, are one and the same. The rugged violence is the only weapon with which the gentle character can preserve itself and its own, and it is characteristic of the soft character to go out strictly against the opposition, while the strong, masculine character not only holds on to its content with all its strength, but penetrates it down to the individual and definite and no longer behaves only repulsively toward the opposition, but calmly and surely dissolves it. The manly, strong character never loses his calm and patience in the struggle, he does not threaten from beginning to end, but he works – look at the apostle Paul – he certainly labors with the enemy power in the most detailed and determined way and one can be sure that his polemic never overshoots its target, but hits it. But precisely that softness with which the fourth evangelist complains about the resistance of the world and now feels driven to salvation with all the more touched love, precisely this elegiac mildness is at the same time the greatest harshness. For now he presents the matter so hyperbolically, with such an overflowing polemic, that he always says: No one received the Savior, now the historical ground of the Lord has become an abstract contrast for him, the Jews appear as an utterly rejected, hostile mass, accessible only to murderous thoughts, which no longer knows how to understand anything, not even the clearest, simplest word of the Lord, and for which only the thunder of judgment is kept at last, when nothing more can be done with it. Contrasts and nothing but contrasts, opposites and antitheses are the element in which this gentle gruffness, this gruff mildness, this hard softness can move.

*) Glaudw. etc. p. 294.

**) Comm. I, 13.

***) Ibid. p. 67,

****) History of planting -c. p. 317.

*) History of planting etc, p. 324.


It was a correct understanding of this character, when the ecclesiastical view in the first times, when it became acquainted with the fourth gospel, drew that picture of the author, which is already found in Irenaeus *): when John went to Ephesus into a bathhouse, but saw that also Cerinthus, the heretic, was in it, he immediately rushed out full of disgust and said, he must fear that the house would collapse over the enemy of truth. One will also find that the softest characters in church history were the harshest and hardest, if only one does not confuse harshness and brusqueness with a comprehensive struggle that penetrates the individual and the specific. It may be that the fourth evangelist meant to fight certain opposites when he wrote his scripture, but he himself did not bring these opposites to a definite conception and always has to do only with the general opposition of unbelief and misunderstanding in general. Our time, as far as it is devoted to apologetics, bears the same character of soft indeterminacy and hardness; no apologist has been able to bring it to a definite conception of the opponent, and he always creates for himself only in the image of unbelief and unchristianity or of the Antichrist a self-made opponent, not to be found in reality, over whom he now all the more impudently summons the thunder of worldly and heavenly judgment. Of course – it goes without saying – this newer unclear and indefinite apologetics and polemics is only the brusque softness, the impotent *) power of the dying, while the polemical apologetics of the fourth evangelist had caught the creative power of a new world and had created the basis of an essential view of the church.

*) advers. haer. III, 3

*) although in the secular for the moment still quite palpable.


If the matter were thus settled on both sides, when the apologists speak of a “not insignificant influence of the apostle’s subjectivity on the presentation of the speeches in his Gospel” **) or of a “reflex of the Johannine language and way of thinking” ***) in the speeches of the Gospel and then speak to each other of the “faithfulness and credibility in essence and in spirit ****)”: then the matter would be very easy and would not need the effort and care that criticism devotes to it.

**) Lücke, Comm. I, 201.

***) Ibid. p. 103.

****) Ibid. p. 201.


But it is something else when the matter is taken seriously, when the influence of the author’s subjectivity is traced in detail, i.e., when what the apologists only speak of, what they only speak of before the explanation of the work and what they completely forget when they explain the gospel itself, happens in reality. If they then remembered their concessions, with which they were so liberal before, if they sought out the influence of the author’s subjectivity on his representation, if they really took hold of the “hand” that the evangelist “has everywhere – as they say, at least – in the longer and more difficult speeches between them *)” and if they only determined more closely in what “the individuality of the representation **)” is expressed in the fourth gospel: then they would see how nothing at all is said with vague words like “faithfulness in substance and in spirit. For in fact, one could then no longer call the “Johannine Gospel absolutely individual in its conception and presentation of Christ” and yet still claim that the agreement with the Synoptic Gospels “in all essentials is unmistakable, so that what is different and peculiar appears only as a supplement, even as a correction ***). The idiosyncrasy, which is supposed to “absolutely” determine the fourth Gospel, to permeate the conception and presentation of Christ throughout, itself forms an essential point, turns into content like form in general – the criticism proves it in detail – and the agreement in the essentials now rather becomes a significant contradiction, at least as we have learned.

*) loc. cit. ibid.

**) Ibid. p. 108.

***) Ibid. p. 67.

As soon as the reflective standpoint of the fourth Evangelist has betrayed itself and the individuality of the presentation is also recognized as a continuous one, we are not sure, even with so-called smaller speeches, whether the “author” did not have his hand in them as well, and we have actually found his hand in them too, since they differ from the larger ones in nothing but their extent. For some point of view we would be speaking incomprehensibly if we said the historical material according to its formation, arrangement, grouping and even development is intrinsically connected with the discourses and, if these are reflections, are no less shaped and originated by the author’s reflection. We shall therefore content ourselves with referring to the critical and experientially mediated proof which we have provided above, and merely reminding us that we have not found an atom that would have eluded the work of reflection of the fourth evangelist.


And yet would the fourth ” be regarded as a canon of the first three Gospels?” *) Not for all eternity! In the synoptic gospels the reflection was not absent either, but in the speeches themselves, it was the most abstinent and far from the idea that “we have subjective relations of the speeches of Jesus, only different and from a more distant and lower standpoint **)”, rather the subjective of the means through which they passed was mostly eliminated since they passed through the general spirit of the community. The synoptic relations of the speeches of the Lord stand higher, if we look at the free infinity of the content, the speeches in the fourth gospel stand lower, in so far as they have descended into the entanglements of reflection.

*) As Lücke thinks, Comm. I, 108.

**) Ibid. p. 103.


The fourth gospel brings Lücke together with the weakest point of the synoptics, especially of Matthew, when he says *): “the three first gospels contain no fewer samples of the faithful, partly literal retention of longer speeches of Jesus”. These supposedly longer speeches are, after all, only mechanical accumulations of particular pieces of speech, but even in this, their weakest point, the Synoptics still triumph, since they have preserved the individual pieces at least in their original independence, while the fourth evangelist has substantially changed and edited the basic materials.

*) Ibid. p. 103.

To remind us of one such change! That does not apply to us or any critic when Lücke says, “Whoever completely misses the naive, simple, parabolic, and gnomic in John, must not have read it attentively**).” Who would react so strongly! And now, mixing such different things, from the naive and gnomic! As far as we know, no critic has claimed that the figurative language – because that is what the apologist can only mean – is completely absent in the fourth Gospel, but it has been found that the discourse of parables does not continue here until the completion of the parable, of which the Lord was such a master according to the synoptic accounts. And with this finding, it will remain so forever. Of course, when Lücke says, “entire speeches in the fourth Gospel move in figurative, parabolic language,” he proves that he does not understand what the criticism means. A speech can be figurative without being held in a parabolic manner. On the other hand – one can hear the Talmudic rabbis – a saying can be gnomic without being naive “in an artistic sense of being simple. The parable of the shepherd, as given in the fourth Gospel, is neither simple nor naive nor a parable, but a simile that is extended too far, kept unclear and finally sometimes very nakedly traversed by the reflection that shaped the whole. The speech about living water or bread of life, as Lücke thinks, is also not parabolic but rather simile speeches that are also accompanied by a very painful prosaic contrast and, like the latter, spin on from it.

**) Ibid. p. 100.


If the reflection of the fourth evangelist is already active in the smallest homonymous speech, it is no more proof against the free composition of the speeches that “John does not intersperse longer speeches more often *)”, one would have to think that someone had not been absent at all, if he had not been absent quite often or not always, as soon as there was opportunity.

*) Ibid. p 199.

The apologist finally believes to have a great support for the credibility of the fourth gospel in the ecclesiastical tradition, according to which John almost or really lived into the second century, thus was Jesus’ companion in his younger years. For “the impressions of youth are the most lasting **)”. We do not want to deny or assert the Johannine origin of the Gospel, but this much is certain, the impressions of the youth, although the most vivid, are the most uncertain. They are vivid only in the sense that the youthful spirit moves in vibrations which are boundless outwardly and extend into the innermost, but do not yet encounter a firmly formed world, so that all impressions which fall into this boundless, infinite sea now find the widest scope. But for the very reason that individuality is neither completed nor has gained a firm, inner core, impressions also blur and merge with the indeterminacy of the spirit. Only the finished man, who is something and for whom an objective world exists, knows how to preserve the impression of an appearance purely and to reproduce it as such in a clear, plastic form. The vividness of youthful impressions is actually based only on the infinite indeterminacy; therefore, if we leave youth this kind of lively excitement, we must first ascribe the thorough receptivity to the man, because he is at the same time the most active and the independent is more deeply seized and overwhelmed by the independent and by the shaped infinity.

**Ibid. p. 195.


Tholuck attempted again to step out of the vagueness of the usual apologetics and to give the diversity of the evangelical presentations an objective point of support and agreement. But the way in which he poses the question and looks at his opponent—Criticism—does not promise his attempt any particular success and only proves that he, too, had to pay the unavoidable tribute to apologetics. For the view of criticism he holds that it is “precisely another Christ, that of the fourth Gospel and that of the first three – an Alexandrian mystic the former, a Palestinian rabbi the latter *)”. Can the apologist, then, never conceive his opposition correctly? Does not criticism say that the former Christ is the Saviour in the reflection of a later church member as such, and the latter the Lord in the finitude of his historical self-consciousness? The contrast is also not that of the “manufactured and unpopular” and the “natural and popular,” but it is the contrast of the limitedness created by the reflection and the original infinity. The fourth gospel, too, is no stranger to a kind of infinity/universality, but it is the infinity of reflection, which is always at the same time finite, since it needs the opposition for its support. Only in the Synoptics is the infinity/universality of Christ the true one, i.e., the one that carries and holds itself with certainty and does not first need to be reflected in limited opposites in order to grasp itself.

*) Glaubw. etc., p. 312.


Tholuck admits a difference of the evangelical representations – how he thinks of it in a more definite way, we will soon see – but, he asks *), “does not already the richness of Christ give a sufficient explanation for this difference?” Certainly, if there were a tenable difference, which is not the case and had to be examined first before all other questions. The infinite richness reproduced by the Synoptics testifies against the narrowness of the representation in the fourth gospel, for as soon as the individual is examined in detail in the fourth gospel, it dissolves itself, just as it breaks down against the power of the Synoptic figure.

*) Ibid. p. 317.

Tholuck further refers to the “wealth” of Socrates, to which antiquity traced back ten schools **). But first of all we are dealing with biographical works, which those ten schools did not devote to the master Socrates. The real schools that formed after him did not want to reproduce Socrates’ system either, but through their studies they knew quite well that they developed earlier principles like the eleatic, atomistic, pythagorean, that of Anaxagoras in a more comprehensive self-consciousness and that they had not inherited a system as such from Socrates. The inner richness and real definite content of these schools therefore did not come to them from Socrates, but they took it from the treasure of the entire previous development of the Greek spirit, and that several directions, which took their starting point from Socrates, diverge so easily, was purely and solely due to the indefiniteness and lack of content of the Socratic principle. What does it mean, if the evangelists as historians of Jesus are put together with Plato and Aristotle, in so far as they “drew the basis of their views” from Socrates? Aristotle is, after all, infinitely far from giving his philosophy as that of Socrates, and when Plato in his dialogues lets the son of Sophroniskos develop the deepest dialectical principles or the most difficult positive determinations, he does not mean to say that Socrates taught in this way, any more than Sophocles meant to say that Oedipus spoke exactly as he portrays him speaking. In fact, if this sober and bland fidelity could be discussed further, Sophocles could more easily claim to be in agreement with history, as he portrayed a character with this specific content, in this specific conflict, while Plato knew that he was describing Socrates in situations and with a content that were completely foreign to him.

**) Ibid. p. 319.


So, what is the purpose of these equations of value, since the evangelists wanted to represent this certain historical personality as such, that is, not only to develop views whose basis they would have drawn from their master?

It seems to be more related to the matter when Tholuck *) comes to speak about Leibnitz and exclaims: “where will one find the biographer who represented the whole man? He has not yet stood up for Leibnitz! But appearance remains appearance, i.e. remains the appearance, which is what apologetics always comes to nowadays. Should the evangelists remain in the dark, into which this whole speech ends, and wait with their quarrels until that which is the only important thing here can be demonstrated, namely until different and yet apt descriptions of Leibnitz’s personality have been written?

*) Ibid p. 322.


But the synoptics can be dismissed sooner. “No, it does not belong here at all, because the Synoptics are by no means such people, to whom one side of the historical personality of the Lord was absolutely closed, but they give us just the whole glory of this personality. Anyway, here is not even a field for literary parallels – not only because, as Tholuck thinks, next to Wolf no Leibnitzian Johannes stood up or “in so far Wolf always used the Leibnitzian expressions for those truths whose innermost sense was not open to him *)” – but therefore here is no opportunity for literary finery, because Wolf was the only and necessary consequence of the uncritical dogmatism of Leibnitz. And if Tholuck now places the faithful Wolf above the synoptics already because he at least used the expressions of his master for the deeper truths that he did not understand, then he would have to place him still infinitely higher, because he was the only possible consequence of his master. But we would gladly leave these parallels where they belong, in the realm of idle thoughts, if we did not have to follow the apologist to the limit of his wit.

*) So the synoptics, who are paralleled with Wolf, are not even supposed to be equal to him, nor to Tholuck, in so far as they do not, like the latter, use the expressions of Christ for those truths, whose innermost meaning is to them, etc.?


Tholuck, in fact, returns to Socrates and parallelizes with the Synoptics and the fourth evangelist, Xenophon and Plato, inasmuch as the latter gave “accounts” of their master, “in which a similar relation is unmistakably expressed as in the Synoptic Gospels and in the Johannine *)”.

*) Ibid. p. 323.

But it is impossible to call Xenophon a counter-image of the Synoptics, inasmuch as he is an example **) “that the ideal side of his master can remain so closed to a writer of thoroughly practical direction that he hardly knows how to include a few speculative elements.” The poor Synoptics! But they will easily get over the neglect they have received so far, since the time of their recognition is dawning, and it will be more and more generally recognized that only in them can the ideal be found in its true form. So long as it is not proved that Plato intends to give historical notes of Socrates’ views in his dialogues, so long as other history still proves that in the development of philosophical thought the stages which must really be regarded as such, differ essentially by the distinctness of the philosophy, and that even after an indefinite stimulation by the teacher the pupil can still be regarded as such, while he has gone infinitely beyond the standpoint of his predecessor, so long will the judgment of modern philosophy *) on Xenophon, that he has portrayed the historical Socrates, remain valid. Hegel still says much too much when he says “that in respect of the personal and the method, of the exterior in Plato’s conversation, we can obtain a more faithful, perhaps more educated picture of Socrates!” On the contrary, the personal aspect of Socrates in Plato, because it is connected with a content originally alien to him and with a more abstract formation of the consciousness, is more coy than it was in reality; the healthy, immediate, freshness is missing and the irony has become an insidious, disgusting consciousness, tickling itself inwardly over its separateness. In this, too, Plato’s depiction is mistaken, in that the opposition Socrates has to deal with has mostly become caricature. Men like Gorgias, Hippias were not these vain fools, these unintelligent schoolboys, who are finished with their wisdom at any moment and are sent home ashamed. With such clumsy people, about whom another, who wants to tickle himself, could only make fun, it would not even have been worth the trouble to argue.

**) Ibid. p. 325.

*) Hegel, Gesch. der Phil. II, 125.


Finally, Tholuck wants to dispense with the “esoteric proofs” and only remind **) “how one-sidedly, in the Christian church itself, certain moments” of Christian truth have been developed, depending on the power of the individuals, with the receding of the others. How different, he exclaims, is the doctrinal circle that James and that which a Paul derives from the Christian tradition!”

**) op. cit. p. 325.

First of all, it should be noted that this evidence also places the matter in a strange area – that of doctrine. The doctrine starts from something simple, from the concentrated view of the general essence, condensed into one point, and develops it to its inner determinations. Here there is a reasonable, tenable, and necessary difference, because the development of doctrine, even if it is typically and imperfectly indicated in its first attempts in single individualities, needs time for its full expansion, passes only gradually through its moments, and for the complete elaboration of it needs certain people-priests corresponding to the moments, until later time, when the movement is calmed down, summarizes the result in a system. But this ideal unfolding of the essence is not at all what is at issue in the present controversy, but rather the imprint of something that is historically and positively given, the representation of a life whose endless forms are reproduced by the Synoptics.


Nevertheless, we must add on the other hand – Tholuck, at least as far as the fourth gospel is concerned, has played the matter over into its true territory. For this Gospel is already on the ground of theory, it already proceeds from a general view which it freely shapes in historical form, and it has supplied in its essential content the material which the Greek Church has fully worked up in its Trinity controversies. According to this essential side of his writing, the fourth evangelist does not have his complement both in the Synoptics and rather in Paul, with whom he exemplifies the spirit, questions and interests of the Orient and Occident.

Here, however, in the area of free, reflective doctrinal development, where even the apologist had to move him, even if against his will and without realizing what he was doing, the evangelist will remain from now on and here in his home he can always be sure of the recognition he deserves.


§ 16. The unity of Jesus with the Father

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by Neil Godfrey


§ 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.



§ 14. Continuation of the dispute about the person of the Lord

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by Neil Godfrey


§ 14. Continuation of the dispute about the person of the Lord.



1) The light of the world.


The dispute that he had with the Jews about the dignity of his person in chapter 7, the Lord did not let rest for long, but immediately took it up again at the next opportunity. Now, however, after the collision with the scribes and Pharisees, the best opportunity was given for this; the people who surrounded the Lord and listened to him (v. 2), before the tempters came to him, still surrounded him, so he could immediately resume the speech about his person.

Whether the author has the view that the Lord conducted the following dispute in one go is also easy to answer, since the argumentative speech is referred to as a whole by the introductory and concluding remarks. First, it is said that the Lord took up the speech again and at the end it is stated as the result of the argumentative speech that the Jews wanted to stone him.

The question, however, whether we really have before us a coherent chain of sayings of Jesus, is a different one, no longer has to do with the view of the author alone and can only be decided by the criticism of the content.

The beginning of this discourse must at once disconcert us, for it lacks all occasion. The Lord suddenly says: I am the light of the world. By occasion, of course, we do not mean a circumstance of the kind assumed by the commentators here, that the two candlesticks in the women’s courtyard were burning precisely to glorify the Feast of Tabernacles, or that they were extinguished just as the feast had come to an end *). But to speak of himself and the dignity of his person, the Lord could only ever find the occasion to do so when a spiritual controversy, which could only be solved in this way, had preceded or the people had already been seized and set in motion by a general word of the Kingdom of Heaven. But, as it is presupposed here, to preach from the outset only from his person, that looks as unlike the Lord as it can be, and he would certainly have known that it would be useless **). It must have been so unsuccessful, as even our author must always assume, since the crowd was not led to this point by any particular interest. The person of the Lord would have been presented without foundation in every respect, if the ground, namely the idea of the kingdom of heaven and its general laws, had not been given beforehand. However, for the Evangelist, it is firmly established that the teaching of Jesus must be represented only as the theory of his person, into which theory his entire view of the Lord had condensed itself. His view moved only in the contrast, whose extreme points were the isolated person of the Lord and the world sunk in its sensual interests. Thus, for him, the teaching of the Lord could only be the preaching of his person, and the success of it even among those in the masses who were immediately inclined to believe could only be hostility, resistance, and furious persecution.

*) After this explanation has gone through these two modifications, Olshausen (Comm. II, 190) thinks “it is sufficient to assume that the colossal candlesticks remained standing – after they had served the festive purpose – and that Jesus spoke with reference to them. Nothing, however, would be more “expedient” than for the Lord to call himself the light of the world with reference to these lampstands. Now one speaks only in a tone of reproach of a construction of history a priori! This view of the purposeful is indeed a theory, but we reject it not because it is a theory at all, but because it is a false one, which in its application must lead to the greatest offences. But whether the evangelist himself ever followed this theory of expediency is highly uncertain.

**) Olshausen (II, 189) correctly explains the Lord’s saying when he says: “visibly his (the Lord’s) effort is to attract the attention of the people. But this explanation is correct only in the sense that it is tautology, and only repeats the text in other words; it would be a real explanation only if it were now asked whether such an anxious and uncertain endeavour, such outward importunity, and the effort to attract attention to himself, were appropriate to him of whom it is said: ουκ . . . . . ακουσει τις εν ταις πλατειαις φωνην αυτου.


2) The apologetics of the Lord.


If the Lord’s dogmatic preaching of His person lacked all conditions by which it could find support and recognition, if it always, as now again in v. 13, provoked the objection that it was a one-sided testimony of Himself, then it was always left with only the same apologetic support, which the evangelist could form in fruitless opposition to decided unbelief, but which the Lord, with the certainty of His self-confidence, did not need. I know whence I came and whither I go, says the Lord, to prove the justification of his testimony of himself, but ye know it not (v. ll). To my testimony of myself is added that which the Father bears for me (b. 17-18). I am from above, ye from beneath; ye are of this world, I am not (v. 23). I speak what I have heard from the Father (v. 26). All of these are reflections that could be made from a later standpoint about the relationship between Christian consciousness and its content and the insurmountable stubbornness of the world, and they were inevitable in the perplexity in which a concentrated view in such a situation must be placed. However, all attempts to seriously attribute them to the Lord fail due to the weakness of these reflections and the correct view of the personality of the Lord. For Jesus could never be brought into embarrassment by the resistance he experienced, not alone, but always with the calm certainty of his self-consciousness, which only knows how to help itself through such contrasts. Only a view that had not yet gained a broad and solid foundation in the consciousness of reality or that did not know how to intervene in the world with that irresistible certainty of victory that supported the Pauline self-consciousness, in short, only a view that had concentrated itself in a simple opposition without richer inner development and expansion, could form those apologetic aids for its defense and limit itself to them.


Only at the price of limiting the content of Jesus’ self-awareness to a few points, which were immovable in themselves and were repeatedly presented at every opportunity, can this apologetic be held on to and defended as the Lord’s own creation. For all that the Lord touches here to defend Himself, in order to support His testimony of Himself, has already been completely exhausted on previous occasions and will be exploited again on later occasions. We do indeed find this price too high, and no one will be able to refuse us to free the Lord’s consciousness and language from this extreme uniformity and limitation, as long as the synoptic accounts testify to the richness and inexhaustible fertility of the discourse which the Lord had at his disposal on the most diverse occasions. In our Gospel, this poverty of presentation is connected with the fact that it always knows only one and the same conflict, namely that the opponents do not want to accept the Lord’s testimony about themselves. But that is precisely the fundamental flaw of this portrayal, that the Lord always only speculates about his person and therefore must always give rise to that projection.


3) The mystery of the origin of Jesus.


Let us leave aside the comparison with the synoptic accounts, and here too, as always before, consider and judge our Gospel only from itself. In this way, too, it will be seen that its view is self-evident. To the Pharisees’ objection: you testify of yourself, therefore your testimony is not true *), the Lord replies that he knows where he has come from and where he is going, but it is hidden from them. But are the opponents somehow instructed by this answer? Has the Lord’s testimony now gained more strength for them? Not in the least, for if they do not know which is the true home of Jesus, then this testimony is not justified for their consciousness, and it is only incomprehensible how the Lord could posit such a testimony of himself, if he knew that his authority to do so was absolutely hidden from others. If he once wanted to engage in it and prove his right to testify of himself, then the reason must be accessible to the others as well as to him.

*) Actually, as Olshausen (II, 190) also remarks, the Pharisees should only have said, your testimony as self-testimony is one-sided and not valid, and real men could only speak in this way. Therefore, we must not, like Olshausen, wrong the Pharisees and say that their remark contains an obvious falsehood. Rather, the exaggeration, “Your testimony is not true,” belongs only to the writer who drives the contrasts to the utmost abstraction.


4) The true judgment.


At once the Lord speaks of judgment, in that he reproaches the opponents for judging according to the flesh, that is, according to outward appearance, and not going to the bottom of the matter, that is, the same reproach as on an earlier occasion, when he accused them of judging according to appearance (7:24). What the true antithesis of this reproach is, we have just indicated, and is also definitely expressed on that former occasion, where it was said, rather, exercise righteous judgment. Nevertheless, in our passage it says: “But I judge no one. How does this contrast come about? The Lord did not reproach the opponents for judging at all and questioning his testimony, but he only wants to give them guidance on how to recognise the validity of his testimony, even if the way to this recognition is cut off from them. He wants to give them the guidance to the right judgment and demands of them that, when they judge, they should penetrate to the core of the matter, that is, exercise just judgment. The only contrast to this would be that the Lord does not judge according to outward appearance but according to inwardness. This contrast also occurs in the form that the Lord, when he judges, does not do it alone, but in communion with the Father. Nevertheless, it remains striking that this other side of the opposition is so divided into two halves, the first of which was not even prepared by the entire structure of the opposition. This division – I judge no one and, when I judge, my judgment is just, because I am not alone – only comes from the fact that the evangelist could not refrain from inserting into a contrast, which is quite differently conceived and had to have a different conclusion, the other contrast, familiar to him, of arbitrary judging and judgment in unity with the divine will *). The evangelist, who is always accompanied by the monotonous idea of the opposition of the arbitrary, could certainly combine strange opposites in this way, but not the Lord.

*) Olshausen himself must admit that this interjection: but I judge no one, “seems to be out of context” (II, 191). That the apologist is not at a loss to resolve the pretence at the end and knows how to find advice is natural, even if it is only that he says that the interjection is “best understood as a casual remark that is meant to sharpen their sin. As if that were more than a mere tautological paraphrase. That is precisely the difficulty, that this juxtaposition of the most diverse relations is an overabundance or rather an unclear confusion of relations, which stupefies the listener and even the reader by dragging him in opposite directions without even leading him calmly to one of them.


But if it is as certain as anything can be in this sphere that the Lord will not have threatened judgment on every occasion, it is absolutely impossible that he should have mentioned it in the form in which the Evangelist presents it. In the struggle with the really determined and serious unbelief, he will have threatened with the last judgement in general, with this last day of the Jewish conception, but without pushing himself forward as the judge. His speech was all the more powerful when he presented the Son of Man and himself as the mediator of judgement. In the Fourth Gospel, however, the idea of the Messianic office of judge is either wasted when it is only casually presented as an example of how one should judge, or it only occurs because the apologetics against the obdurate opponents no longer know how to help themselves. It is not the Lord, but the evangelist who reaches for the thunder of judgment against the doubters in such cases.


5) The testimony of the Father.


How His testimony of Himself is confirmed by the testimony of the Father who sent Him, the Lord does not elaborate. But did the opponents, with whom he was dealing at this moment, know how he had once explained this testimony of the Father (5:36-37)? Did they know it so well that no explanation was needed? No, they knew so little that they did not even understand what kind of father the Lord was calling as a witness. But if they were so unbelievably limited that they could not see that God was meant, then the Lord could not and was not allowed to refer to the Father’s testimony in such a brief way. But it is really an unbelievable and impossible limitation, of which the Jews are here reproached *); for they know so well another time (10:30-31), whom the Lord understands by the Father, that they immediately want to stone the blasphemer, who said, I and the Father are One. Certainly, it is again only the love of contrasts which induced the evangelist to drive the Jews into such an impossible misunderstanding. But they did not even have occasion to make such a senseless statement as to ask: where is thy Father, for it is not the Lord who speaks here of the testimony of Him who sent Him, but the evangelist once more heaps together all the apologetic reasons for the truth of the preaching of Christ. But only briefly does he let the Lord speak here of the testimony of the Father, because he counts on the memory of the readers who know the earlier argument, and because he was prevented by an involuntary feeling from extending the repetition further.

*) If even Lücke says (Comm. II, 272): “nothing was clearer than that Jesus meant his Father in heaven”, let us leave aside the apologetic talk of the “carnal-minded opponents” of Jesus, who could not have understood such a clear saying.


6) The Departure of the Lord.


With a new beginning of speech the Lord says: I go away, and ye shall seek me: but whither I go ye cannot come. Does he want to kill himself? say the Jews. We need only mention this misunderstanding, but no longer judge it.

7) The upper and lower world.


It was really not necessary for the Lord to attack the misunderstanding of the Jews more specifically, since it does not belong to the real world. He therefore simply continues in his speech: you are from below, I am from above, you are of this world, I am not. The contrast between the kingdom of heaven and the world was of course familiar to the Lord’s consciousness, but certainly only in this general, grandiose form; but to apply it to his person in this spatial form of above and below was reserved for the view of the congregation, which in the struggles it had to endure here below with the world that had fallen into death, directed its gaze upwards, to the origin of its salvation *).

*) The formula ανωθεν of the origin of Jesus had already occurred above 3:31 in the sermon of the Baptist, in a sermon that was actually preached by the Evangelist.


8) Appeal of the Lord to His preaching of Himself.


After the Lord has spoken at length about the dignity of his person, his origin, and his departure, the Jews ask him, “Who are you?” and he answers simply, “Just what I have been telling you.” But how could the Jews ask him in this way when he had not only just now, but constantly and continuously at every opportunity revealed himself as the Messiah? The answer – “I am what I say” – cancels out the question and itself; for if the Lord so briefly refers to his earlier statements because they are clear and detailed enough, the question of who he is could not have been raised. Rather, we hear from this answer the later apologist who, when all reasons are exhausted, can only say, “It is so, it is simply so,” and then we understand this turn.

9) A collection of strange relationships.


At the end, the Lord says, “I have much to say and to judge about you, but he who sent me is true.” One would expect the following statement: “Indeed, he who sent me will execute the judgment that I would have over you and speak about you.” But nothing follows. It is only later in the fortuitous continuation of the dispute with the Jews that the specific supplement follows, that the Father seeks the glory of the Lord and judges the injustice of the denial of recognition of the unbelievers (v. 50). It is as if the necessary but omitted addition has resonated with the author and secretly troubled him until he brought it to light. Earlier, in the original context, in verse 29, the Lord had indeed hinted that he was not alone, that the Father was with him, but this does not improve matters because the idea that the Father will judge for him is not really expressed, and therefore not really returned to the starting point, and it was indeed hardly possible after the speech had taken a completely foreign turn. When the Lord said that he had much to say and to judge about his unbelieving opponents, he spoke as if he wanted to continue: nevertheless, he himself would not pronounce this judgment over them, for another, the Father, would do it. Instead, the Evangelist lets the Lord fall back into the usual track, namely the speech about the contrast, that he does not speak of himself but only speaks into the world what he has heard from the Father. The Evangelist’s views so dominate him that they insert themselves into his speech even where he had aimed for a completely different contrast. The approach of the speech, “I have much to say about you,” reminds the Evangelist of a theme that recurs in the Lord’s final speeches, where he promises the disciples the Paraclete, who will reveal to them everything he could no longer say to them (John 14:25, 16:12-13). This once-struck tone enticed the Evangelist to that turn that would enter with the death of the Lord into the knowledge of others, and while falling into the other contrast of self-will and divine authorization, he now lets the Lord say: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do not act on my own, but speak only what the Father has taught me.”


What is the point of asking whether it was time for the Lord to speak of His death here, whether He, if He wanted to be understood, could indicate His death so inexplicably darkly in the expression of exaltation by His adversaries, or whether, rather, only for the later believer could the image of exaltation allude to the Lord’s death on the cross? These questions we need neither raise nor answer seriously, since the confusion of the last passage proves to us that it is not the Lord who is speaking, but that the views common to the evangelist, and even his literary turns of phrase, have flowed together so accidentally that even the connection which the author intended has been utterly dissolved. —

These and similar speeches of the Lord receive their true and original meaning when, through the critical process, through this spiritual chemistry, we lead them back to their basic substance and separate the admixture which the same has received through the form as an utterance of the Lord. They then appear in their true form as the first Christian apologetics, and it is not the Lord but the consciousness of the congregation that struggles in them with the objections of the world. If the unbelievers said: you always refer to the testimony of your Saviour with the confession of your faith, i.e. to something which itself first needs proof, the answer was: this testimony is justified in itself, for we know where the Lord is from and where he has gone; because you do not know, you certainly cannot accept this testimony. But we have another testimony, namely, that which lies in the work of the Lord and in the power which is inherent in this work and which could only proceed from the Father, who bears witness in it. You are from below and cannot judge him who is from above. And if you do not want to stop with your questions and objections, then know that the Lord is what he is, he is what he has always said about himself and what our testimony says about him. But your resistance does not go unpunished, for the Father judges the unbelief that resists the Lord. The Lord’s struggle with the Jewish world, the objections of the opponents and his defence, all this had to take on the form of later circumstances.


10) The second section of the discourse.


Through the preceding speech many were brought to faith and it is these to whom the following words of the Lord are addressed and who meet him with their objections.

In this part of the speech, too, we are confronted with several disturbing things: first of all, the context of the speech is torn apart, since the people to whom it is addressed are described in contradictory colours, on the one hand as willing and faithful, on the other hand as evil and wicked, as Satan’s children. Indeed, at the very moment when they are still presumed to be believers and nothing has happened that could have fundamentally changed them, the Lord describes them as those who wanted to kill him because his word does not find its way into them (v 37).

It is not only by accidental inconsistency that the author allows the character of these people to change so suddenly, but the Lord’s consecutive sayings presuppose listeners of a completely opposite character. The first saying: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and the truth which you will then know will make you free” requires faithful listeners who have already immersed themselves in the word of the Lord and are only made aware of the fruits of perseverance. On the other hand, the accusation: “You are not Abraham’s children, but Satan’s” (vv. 39-44) can only be directed against those who do not allow the Lord’s word to enter their hearts, who do not want to hear it. But did these people not know what to do with the Lord’s sermon? Were their thoughts only lies and murder? Many, it was said before, believed in the Lord and it is precisely with these many, it is expressly said, that this speech deals.


Although the author thought that all these sayings, which presuppose such different audiences, have their common bond in the continuous mention of Abraham, this connection and this bond must be very doubtful to us, because the main sayings are not brought about by a collision, which could possibly arise from the relationship of Jesus and the audience to Abraham, but are presented suddenly and without any particular occasion by the Lord. The Lord says without further ado: the truth will make you free (v. 32), he who hears my word will not see death for ever (v. 51), and the Jewish pride of descent from Abraham then finds fault with this. If these sayings are indeed connected with controversy, then the order should be just the opposite, the controversy should precede, the saying that resolves it and closes the dispute should follow. Where this natural order is lacking, these sayings are unprepared, and it is incomprehensible whence they suddenly come, where they are to lead, or what purpose they serve. The dispute that attaches itself to them becomes the unnatural light of implausibility, and far from being a serious controversy, it becomes a quarrel of incomprehensibly obdurate hearers who cannot grasp even the simplest saying. The Synoptics, on the other hand, give us examples of real controversies, which bring the Jewish point of view into pure, simple contrast with the Lord’s inpouring, and are not merely the wrangling of misunderstanding. The answers of the Lord – and it was worth the trouble that he answered here – are decisive, settle the controversy and are so clear and accurate that they “shut the opponents’ mouths”. There appear living figures who express their character to the point of plastic definiteness and betray real life as their origin; their controversy is completely natural and their conflict is not purposeless and endless, but always resolves itself in the harmony of the higher self-consciousness and in the defeat of the finite intellect. In our Gospel, the controversies become a tangle that moves back and forth only in misunderstandings and, in its purposelessness, can only end in tumult. The stones that the people reach for when the confusion of their minds has risen to the highest level make a worthy conclusion.


Let us now consider the main points of the dispute.

11) Freedom and bondage.


The Jews do not want to hear that the Lord told them that the truth would make them free, because as children of Abraham they were never servants and did not need to become free. The Lord replies that he means the bondage of sin, from which the willing knowledge of the truth sets them free. But they must let themselves be freed from this bondage by the Son, for only the Son remains eternally in the house, but not the servant. Who does not immediately perceive the discord that enters into the whole discourse through the different turn given to the idea of the servant? Two utterly different ideas are immediately thrust one into the other, one of which could as well as the other be the centre of a special speech, and must be explained in just as much detail as the other. And yet the one is not explained at all, yes, as if it were absolutely the same as the other, confused with it! When the Lord says that the servant will not remain in the house forever, but the son will, the servant and the son are regarded in the same way, namely in their relationship to the master of the house. The servant can be changed by the Lord, but the son is bound to the master of the house by an indissoluble bond; the thought is therefore similar to that which is set forth in the Epistle to the Hebrews. As the author of this Epistle (3:1-6) illustrates the sublimity of Christ by comparing Him as the Son of the householder with Moses, who only served as a servant in the divine household, so here the Lord Himself as the Son opposes the people as the accepted servant. But it is impossible that the Lord in one breath used the image of the servant in such a completely different sense and at the same moment spoke of the servant of sin and of the servant of God, that he passed directly from one image into the other without preparing or even making the transition, it is impossible that he could speak in such a way with the appearance as if he spoke of the same servant, of the servant in the same sense. The evangelist could only confuse different thoughts in this way without paying attention to their differences.


But if it was so easy for him to make turns of phrase, which go off to opposite points, appear to be of one and the same direction, nothing in the world can guarantee that he gives us the real facts when he reports how the Jews refer to their descent from Abraham against the Lord. This cannot be a guarantee of the so-called historical truth, for the Lord says later (vv. 37-39) that if they were really Abraham’s children, they would not want to kill him. For this contrast which the works form with their vaunted origin was too obvious once the masses’ reference to their descent was interwoven into the controversy. Even the evangelist lets this mention of Abraham pass by without a trace, as if it had not intervened at all when he came to the head of the dispute (vv. 41-50). Here the contrast is quite different, for the Jews boast that they have God for their father, and the Lord replies that the devil, on the contrary, is their ancestor, by ascribing to himself the origin of God with the usual contrast of self-authority and divine authority. Thus, from this side, the intermediate idea of Abrahamic descent is dissolved.

But if it was so easy for him to put phrases that go in opposite directions into the semblance of one and the same direction, then nothing in the world can vouchsafe for us that he gives us the real facts when he reports how the Jews appealed to their descent from Abraham against the Lord. Therein lies no guarantee for the so-called historical truth that the Lord afterwards (v. 37-39) says that if they really were children of Abraham, they would not want to kill him. For this contrast, which the works form to their boasted origins, lay too close at hand once that appeal of the masses to their descent was woven into the dispute. Even the evangelist lets this mention of Abraham pass by unnoticed as if it had not intervened at all when he comes to the climax of the dispute (v. 41-50). Here the contrast is completely different, the Jews boast of having God as their father, and the Lord replies to them that the devil is rather their ancestor, by ascribing to himself the origin of God with the usual contrast of self-authority and divine authority. Thus, from this side, the intermediate idea of Abrahamic descent is dissolved.

But is this double image of the servant really based on a double historical core? I.e., if the Lord, with his power over language and the clarity of his view, could not confuse different things, did he really, on different occasions, describe the truth that lies in his word as the power that liberates from the bondage of sin and himself as the Son who raises the servants of the Father to a free position in the divine household?

As to the former, the idea of the bondage of sin is not unworthy of the Lord, and there is nothing to prevent us from attributing it to him; but as the relation to national pride is omitted, only cease to attach to this saying that multitude of pragmatic and edifying considerations, and to give it the immediate relation to the political condition of the people, as well as to the sensual messianic expectations of them. In itself, the saying contains the idea of the purely ideal efficacy of the Redeemer, penetrating only into the depths of the spirit, but this “only,” this exclusiveness, is not expressly emphasised and need not have been originally inherent in the saying through its reference to a political collision. The situation that gave rise to it is in any case completely unknown to us, and even the evangelist gives us no hint of it, since according to his account the saying is already self-standing and so that its meaning is clear in itself, before the political pride of the people finds fault with it and tugs it to and fro.


The other view, according to which the Lord, as the Son of the House, stands opposite the others as servants, need not therefore be of later origin, because it is so much in harmony with that view in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which certainly arose without external stimulus and purely from the spirit of the author of this Epistle. When we hear how the Lord, when he was asked to pay the temple ransom, calls himself and his people the free sons of the heavenly King, while the people are only the accepted servants of him (Matth. 17, 24-26), the same thought is expressed here as there. In Matthew’s account, it has only received a special emphasis and twist due to the specific occasion; but whether the same saying has been preserved here in the fourth Gospel from the same situation in a faint echo and has only been turned differently by the author, or whether the Lord Himself has gone back to the same view on another occasion and has excepted it again for a different application: that can no longer be decided.


12) The Son of God and the children of Satan.


The argument over the glory of being descended from Abraham leads to the climax of the dispute, where the Lord scolds the Jews as children of Satan. While he only speaks what he has seen from the Father, they, says the Lord, only do the works they have seen from their father (v. 38). When the Lord stops at this assertion, even though they had just called Abraham their father again, and they now sense a deeper accusation behind that charge, the Jews want to secure themselves in a decisive way and now call God their father (v. 41). It does not sound quite right that the Jews should call Abraham and God their father in one breath; heat and embarrassment can indeed lead to sudden leaps in a dispute, but the leap of faith in this case is too violent, and there is no reason why the Jews should not stand by the glory of their Abrahamic descent, even if the Lord had given them to understand that they had another father. But the evangelist knew what kind of father Jesus meant, and he could ascribe the consciousness of the meaning of this reproach to the Jews, so that when Jesus wanted to call Satan their father, they could immediately come forward or rather anticipate with the corresponding contradiction that God was their father. The transition is thus proven to be one made by the Evangelist himself, as is already shown by the starting point from which the transition takes place, the mention of Father Abraham, which is shown to be made up by the Evangelist, as the thoughts and sayings to which this mention is attached have only been converted by the Evangelist into the cause of this dispute.


The contrast between the divine authorization of the Lord and the Jews’ descent from Satan is now freely presented out of its context and must, if it really belongs to the Lord, have a special reason for being and we would not dare to determine it if it had not revealed itself in our account. The Jews accuse the Lord of having an evil spirit in him, that he is possessed, and Jesus finds it necessary to reject this accusation and to appeal to his Father, whom he honors and whose words he hears and proclaims vv. 48-49. This is very reminiscent of the similar accusation made against the Lord in relation to his miraculous power, that he heals the possessed in the power of Beelzebub, the prince of the evil spirits (Matthew 12:23, 24). It is possible that the Lord was once accused of belonging to evil in relation to his teachings, because he dared to elevate his person above the measure of the ordinary human, and that he called his contemporaries Satan’s children on the occasion of such an accusation, as he once simply called them a wicked generation (Matthew 12:39, 45). However, we must add that it is just as possible that the Evangelist, according to the assumption of his entire work, could not present an accusation that originally referred to the Lord’s miraculous power in any other way than by using the Lord’s teaching about his person as the cause for it.

Therefore, at every other occasion, the Lord could refer to the one who keeps his word not seeing eternal death (v. 51) as a defense of his teaching about himself. The evangelist, as he has shown sufficiently, was able to bring up this saying on any occasion, while he has also convinced us that he was able to cite any other saying on those occasions where the Lord had to defend himself against doubts regarding his teaching about himself. Or in other words: the circle of apologetic arguments is very narrow in this gospel, and therefore the same sayings must always reappear very soon after each other. Here again, it is only the evangelist who wants to crush the doubt against the majesty of the Lord by preaching about his life-giving and immortalizing power. Already by the fact that this saying appears in a context where the struggle is against devilish obstinacy, it appears as an inappropriate and mechanically added appendage, and the answer of the Jews falls as well if it is not stopped by themselves. Anyone will call this saying inappropriate and purposeless if the opponents can only draw from it the reinforced conviction that the Lord must be possessed. And what conclusion do they draw to strengthen their conviction? Abraham and the prophets died, so does Jesus want to be greater than their forefather and the prophets (v. 52-53)? But how could they so completely misplace the only turn that could be taken from the starting point of this question? The only objection that was free to them, if they wanted to compare that glory of the Lord with the greatness of Abraham and the prophets, could only be made by saying: Abraham and the prophets could not spare their people from death, and you want to attribute such power to yourself? This is the only way they could have been indignant if they wanted to be, if the Lord had really offended their pride, which was based on their descent from Abraham, and if it were not the evangelist who had Abraham in mind here and in the preceding part of the conversation because he wanted to lead the conversation to a point at which the patriarch had to appear. Because the idea of the preexistence of Christ was fixed in the author’s mind as the conclusion of the dispute, because this preexistence emerged in its highest significance when measured against the ancestor of the Jewish people and the beginning of the theocracy, because the author wanted to sharpen the entire dispute to this conclusion, Abraham’s had to be thought of before, even in a context where this mention was inappropriate and had to be proven to be forced from outside.


13) The pre-existence of Christ.


The only question now is whether Jesus expressed the idea of His pre-existence in this particular way. After stating that he knows the Father and does not seek his own glory, the Lord says, “Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” Jesus would not have had any other information about Abraham than what is recorded in the book of Genesis, and therefore, the patriarch’s joy can only have come from the promise of blessing that would come from his seed to all nations. The only point of contention is when Abraham was given the joy of actually seeing the day of the Lord. The usual explanation is that Abraham saw the Lord’s coming from paradise, where he is believed to live on and participate in the fate of his descendants. *) The Jews, however, understand the Lord’s speech quite differently, they understand it as if Jesus meant that he had seen Abraham and had already had dealings with him in the earliest past. The evangelist himself wants to describe this conclusion as the completely correct one when he introduces it with the words: the Jews said “therefore” to Jesus and the Lord confirms their view likewise when he says: “Truly, truly I say to you – i.e. do not be surprised when I speak like this, because – before Abraham was, I am, so he could already come to see my day in advance, since I could already reveal myself to him in the past. If it were really “a tautology of thought” *) when it is said once: Abraham rejoiced that he should see my day, and then: he saw it and rejoiced, then the evangelist would have to answer for it, and we would not be justified by it if we deviated from the explanation which alone is required by the context. But there is not even a tautology, but a heightening of the speech, in that the Lord wants to improve his words and say that it was not said enough that Abraham had only rejoiced over what he was to see in the distant future, no! his rejoicing over the future had been heightened to joy over the sight of the real and present already in the past. This does not make the idea of the day of the Lord “illusory” just because “it was not the actual day of the Messiah that Abraham saw”, because according to the view – let us say it nonetheless – of the evangelist, the prophetic vision was presented with the future as something present in itself, because it is eternally present. If one misses a “point of reference in the Old Testament and in popular belief” for this thought, one should only remember how the prophetic vision in the Old Testament sees the future as present and how according to the theory of our evangelist the person of the Lord appeared in his full glory to the prophets (Chapter 12, 41). There is no doubt: in the first sentence about Abraham’s joy over his day (v. 56), the Lord wants to say the same thing about himself as he expresses more directly (v. 58), when the opponents force him to. Both there and here, he wants to assert his preexistence before Abraham.

*) Lücke, Comm. II, 310. de Wette p. 121.

*) As de Wette thinks.

334 [corrected from 234]

At least the Evangelist has him assert it. However, it must be very doubtful whether Jesus really spoke in this way, when we see how it lies in the theory of the Evangelist that the Lord, as the Logos, as the eternal revelation of the Father, preceded all special historical revelations, and precisely these special revelations have been mediated in sacred history. It is more likely that the Evangelist formed that statement out of this theory, rather than developing that theory from a single statement of the Lord. For the Lord, it was probably also not the place to teach his pre-existence if he only had the intention to crush the pride of the Jews in their ancestor. Finally, it is contrary to the nature of revelation that it should only serve the purposes of theory and express a speculative determination in one sentence. It has enough to do when it addresses the need of redemption, to expand and fulfil the inwardness of self-consciousness, and without fearing the least for the success and recognition of its work, it can leave it to the reborn spirit to create the new world of theoretical consciousness out of the depth of renewed self-consciousness.

The view of his preexistence is indeed present when Jesus speaks of his heavenly origins. But only in this generality could he himself speak of the assumption of his personality, for only in this way did he connect with the general idea of the Messiah and avoid a danger that would have arisen immediately if he had wanted to teach his preexistence as the evangelist presents it. If he had measured his eternity by the point of a certain historical individual, he would also have given the appearance or even spoken as if he wanted to ascribe pre-existence to himself as this certain historical and empirical individual. But we must never ascribe such a view to Jesus, otherwise we would be transferring the utmost rapture into his self-awareness. Only in the spirit of the later community could this more specific view of the pre-existence of Christ be formed, for now it was something else when faith saw the Lord in eternal pre-historical existence and as the effective content of earlier historical revelations. Just as the empirical uniqueness, which is inherent in the historical appearance of the Lord, is transfigured in faith into spiritual generality and elevated to the eternal present, so faith, when it saw its Principle as eternally active, no longer saw that empirical individual in the past, but that individual in the light of the infinity of a divine power.



§ 13. The adulteress

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by Neil Godfrey


§. 13 The adulteress

7:53 – 8:11.


1) The position of the question as to the authenticity of this passage.

The tale of the adulteress possesses an irresistible power which, by its first impression, excites and captivates the hearer by evoking in him the presentiment of a collision which transcends all real relations and yet is not untenable, and surprises him by the solution of this clash. Even the contradiction that the event takes place in the rough real world, which cannot be easily transcended, and yet exceeds all the heights of this world, has something mysterious for the listener, occupying them in the beginning in a pleasant way instead of hurting them, and it loses the appearance of excessiveness, as the Lord, this real and infinitely sublime personality above empirical reality, unites the two conflicting sides within himself and brings them back to peace in this unity. Without the power of this impression, this narrative would probably never have found a defender, and even those of its patrons who have completely misunderstood it would not have been prompted to make any attempts to defend it.

The question as to the so-called authenticity of this narrative is wrongly posed and its answer not only made more difficult, but impossible, as long as the two questions as to the Johannine composition of this piece and the reality of the incident as it is narrated here are regarded as one and the same question. For this standpoint, the Johannine origin of the piece would have to be immediately proven impossible if it turns out that the incident as reported here could not have happened. Or, if another view of the Bible is hesitant to admit the inauthenticity of a part, the account is twisted back and forth and the reported incident is tamed by force until it knows how to adapt to reality, so that the account appears genuine. Neither of these paths can entice us anymore, since even in the worst case, we must admit that even an eyewitness in a report can violate the real circumstances and exceed their limits.


But the transition to this section (7:53, a verse that still belongs to the disputed piece) immediately proves, the opponents of the authenticity of the same saw, that here comes a section that stands out decisively from the whole. Everyone, they say, went home. Who, one asks, the members of the Sanhedrin, of whose meeting the author has just spoken, or the people who had come to the holy city for the feast? Furthermore, in what connection is it with the foregoing that Jesus (8:1) goes to the Mount of Olives to spend the night there? Is it because it was his usual place of refuge at night? “But how should not John, who shortly before had told all things so clearly and vividly, have given this meaning and connection more distinctly and definitely?” *) Because he could not, we answer, because, as we have experienced not only shortly before, but always up to now, he never brings it to a clear view of the circumstances. But the difficulty is not so great even in the present case: “everyone,” says the evangelist, “went home” everyone, that is, of those who had hitherto stood on the stage, as well the members of the Sanhedrin as the masses. What is meant by “home,” whether it is the home of the foreign festival-goers or the residence of the members of the Sanhedrin, had to remain unclear because the author wanted to speak of everyone and bring all the characters he had brought onto the stage home. And supposing the passage to be obscure, and the report, after having just spoken of the meeting of the Sanhedrin, says: “Again, therefore (8:12) Jesus spoke to them,” the vividness is still more lost, and it requires the greatest agony to see any connection where even the appearance of it is not present. This appearance is at least there if that passage is retained as a genuine part of the whole, and this circumstance alone should be sufficient to confirm its authenticity. The author is not at all afraid of carrying on a conversation of Jesus with the people to such an extent that it becomes an endless quarrel and we can no longer understand that the Lord has not long since broken it off. From the outset, we cannot therefore prove wrong those who imagine the context to be so comprehensive *) that from 8:12 onwards, the continuation of the speeches that were given in Ch. 7 would be provided. Whether the author of the Gospel continues the disputations by a few links or not is irrelevant to the inappropriate character of the whole, as even one link, like the speeches in Chapter 7, goes infinitely beyond all likelihood, and before this infinity of inappropriateness, a new offense sinks to insignificance.

However, the author was unconsciously compelled by a correct feeling to give an appearance of boundary to that unsuitable extension of the disputations and to provide a kind of conclusion that builds up the turmoil of the dispute. In Chapter 7, this movement towards the conclusion is the intensification of the division in the crowd, the decision for a firmer belief, and the more pronounced emergence of the hostile attitude, whose extreme appears in the members of the Sanhedrin, but in such a way that here again the image of the division that took place in the crowd is shown, and thus also the image of the believing part of the masses. With this, however, the interest that runs through this section is completely satisfied, as it is led through all stages and relationships. The dispute that begins in Chapter 8, verse 12, also has its point, namely that it intensifies to the point where the Jews want to stone the Lord *). Both sections have their own conclusion, they are a whole in themselves and if the Lord withdraws at the end of the second section 8:59, the same must have been reported at the end of the first section, i.e. the intervening story of the adulteress, which is connected with the conclusion of the previous scene, cannot be dispensed with and belongs to the whole of the Gospel.

*) Lücke, Comm. II, 220.

*) As Lücke, Comm. II, 242.

*) Lücke (II, 243) also thinks that this view, that the speeches of the two chapters were not held on one and the same day, can be asserted. But the reasons he gives for this are not correct. One day, he says, seems too short for so many speeches and counter-speeches, if one assumes that John “only communicates the main moments from the speeches of Jesus, usually very briefly. However, a writer who reports an exchange of words does indicate that he does not only want to give the main points, but the whole. If Lücke refers to the different contents of the speeches reported here, this is also misguided, for only the dignity of the person of the Lord is spoken of, for only the same interjections are always reported.


2) The collision of the positive and the heavenly law

Now, if we want to understand the narrative according to the Evangelist’s perspective, we must bring our eyes to the point of the narrative where it sees a twofold world, the empirically real and the ideal world of the kingdom of heaven, united. Only by bringing together these two worlds in the point of the narrative that determines its entire perspective can we explain how a collision existed here and how the Lord could solve it in this way. The Pharisees brought to the Lord a woman who had been taken in adultery, presented to him the case and the penalty of stoning prescribed by the law, and asked him for his opinion. They had done this (v. 6) to try him and to have a reason to accuse him. However, the Pharisees had the Lord in mind here, who had said that he had come for sinners, so he wanted to overturn the order of the world, to rescue what was rejected and ruined in the world from disgrace and ruin, and to humble what was exalted and sublime in the eyes of the world. The difficulty in which this question was to entangle the Lord, therefore, consisted in whether he was also determined to protect the sinner, who had been guilty of a certain deed, in relation to this deed against the obvious law of the world. But precisely by turning away from the obvious law and authority to Jesus as this individual person, the collision was already solved by them, and the question was brought before a judge before whom the letter of the law fell silent. They, as this individual, ask for the decision which the Lord, as this individual, is to give, and under these circumstances the Lord could only grant the right of condemnation to him who would know himself to be without sin and stain. When the Pharisees were struck and silenced by this turn that they themselves had taken first, the Lord not only addressed the sinning woman as this individual person but also with the essential significance of his personality.

If He faces her only as this individual, as the Pharisees first regarded the matter, He has no right to judge and condemn, but as Judge of the Kingdom of Heaven He has the infinite right of forgiveness and the authority to declare the offence undone. So now he says to the sinner: “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”


3) The resolution of the collision.

The collision thus seems to be resolved, but it only seems that way, for the resolution is only achieved in that one side, the revealed law and the law of reality par excellence, only dissolves and evaporates in the ideal world of the Kingdom of Heaven. But then a collision is only truly and thoroughly resolved when both conflicting sides have received their right and the general divine order emerges from the struggle in which they abolish their exclusiveness. This has not happened here, when the right of the real world appears only as such, which cannot be executed by the individual person as such, and is abolished par excellence by the personality who is the Judge of the Kingdom of Heaven. But the judge who executes the revealed law of the real world does not act as this individual person, but the accidental definiteness of his personality is reduced to insignificance at the moment of judging, and appears only as a means, and that as the purely transparent means of the law which relates to the particular case. On the other hand, the law of the kingdom of heaven does not carry itself out in such a way that it directly annihilates the claims of the real world and its law: but only in such a way does it establish its world above the real one that it mediates itself through it. The ideal annihilation of the offence in repentance and forgiveness would only be an illusion if the offence were not also annihilated on the side where it had intervened in the real world and in appearance, and by the recognition of the necessity of punishment. In this seriousness of the real punishment and of the suffering that pervades marrow and bone, the inner, spiritual annulment of the offence is first conveyed in a powerful and real way.


Otherwise, the Lord knows how to resolve such collisions in a completely different way. Either he shows how one side of the contradiction is resolved in the other – the Son of Man is Lord over the Sabbath – or he recognises the right of both sides – give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s – and thereby awakens the perception of a general order that embraces both sides. It is therefore not only an arbitrary statement of power when it is asserted that the Lord could not have solved this collision in the way the report sees it. But it is not even foreseeable how the opponents of the Lord could have dared to take a collision out of a case that was so definitely taken into account by the law.

If the incident as it is reported here could not have happened, this does not at all prove that the report is not based on anything historical. The evangelist has already accustomed us to the fact that it can no longer alienate us or lead us to a purely negative judgement when his reports go beyond the measure of the real circumstances. His view, which in itself strives for contrasts, surpasses contrasts where they give him reality, and when he wants to report a collision, it is entirely in his nature to push it so far that it can no longer hold up at all for an understanding observation which keeps in mind the magnitudes of the real world. This disposition of our evangelist is like the spirit of those peoples who still stand on the first standpoint of art and who, instead of creating freely, can only use the figures of the real world and push them beyond their form and their natural measure. Thus it is probable that the report of the adulteress was based on a real incident – even if we cannot trace it back to its first form: in that case, however, the case in dispute did not have to have so much the form of the extreme offence in its kind and did not have to be so expressly decided by the law that no doubt remained, otherwise the thought of a collision would not have been possible.


Those commentators who deny the report to the author of the Gospel conclude from individual formulas that it originally belonged to the oral tradition through which the synoptic reports passed. But it would remain inexplicable if the report were later inserted into the fourth Gospel, why it would not rather have been inserted at that point of the synoptic narrative, especially of the first Gospel, where the scribes and Pharisees are in the best course of presenting trying questions to the Lord. The echoes of the Synoptic account are, however, sufficiently explained by the similarity of the content and the presupposed situation.


In more recent times it has been conceded that the evidence of the manuscripts which do not contain this passage is not decisive against its authenticity, since many, and among them excellent, manuscripts read it. It was too easy that one could not find oneself in the report or even took offence at it *) and therefore excluded it. One has therefore wanted to refer the decision of the question of the authenticity of the passage to the internal grounds **): but this, if one wants to depend on the inner probability of the reported incident, is precisely the skewed position of the question which we have already corrected. If, therefore, the question is more correctly whether the passage corresponds to the whole structure and attitude of the fourth Gospel, one must ask whether it, like the other parts of this Gospel, heightens contrasts to the improbable and to the point of unrelatedness. And since this question must be answered in the affirmative, this would also confirm the authenticity of the passage, at least in this sense.

*) In the circumstance that the narrative is missing especially in the Oriental manuscripts, Bretschneider (Probabil. p. 73) aptly reminds us of how it was precisely in the Orient that monastic austerity first and very early developed.

**) De Wette, p. 103.


§ 12. Echo of the dispute about the first Sabbath violation

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey


§ 12. Echo of the dispute about the first Sabbath violation.

Ch 7.


1) The time of the Lord.


The last time Jesus withdrew from Judea to Galilee, the evangelist, contrary to his custom, omitted to state the reason for this withdrawal. But this time he really did not need to, since he had described the murderous rage of the Lord’s opponents shortly before (5:18). On the other hand, he had (6:1) strangely enough fallen into the language of the synoptics by considering the shore on this side of the Sea of Galilee as the fixed point from which Jesus departed when he went elsewhere. The evangelist does not say that the Lord went from Judea to Galilee and from there he went to the other side of the lake, but from this side, where he is already located, Jesus goes to the other side. But for a long time the evangelist cannot deny his own view, now (7:1) he reminds the reader that Jesus only stays in Galilee out of necessity, because he would be found in Judea if the Jews did not want to kill him. Even his brothers cannot dissuade the Lord from his plan to stay in Galilee for the time being, although they ask him to go to Judea for the Feast of Tabernacles, so that his disciples – namely the followers who are supposed to be in Judea – can also see his works. In vain the brothers tried to provoke him from the standpoint of their unbelief: he replied that his hour had not yet come and that he would not go up to the feast. He stayed in Galilee.


What it means when the Lord says that his time has not yet come is perfectly clear from the context. He could not surrender himself to the hatred of the world, which pursued him, arbitrarily and at will, but in the divine counsel the time was determined when he might surrender himself to the hostile world. The time of the Lord is the time of suffering. This conception is not in the least made uncertain or impossible *) by the fact that the Lord at the same time says that the time of his brothers is always there. For as is customary in the game of such antitheses, the corresponding elements are as much in agreement with a third element when viewed according to their superficial appearance, as they are opposed or divergent for the consciousness that follows their essence. The third element in which the elements of the present antithesis intersect is, in general, the idea of public appearance before the world. The Lord thinks that you can always show yourselves to the world, what you have in mind and what you demand of me, that I should appear freely before the world. This cannot yet be done on my part, but on your part, it can always be done. However, why the Lord cannot and may not do so at all times is justified in his consciousness in a particular way, because his time is entirely different from that given to his brothers every moment, and therefore is not a specific time. It is clear that the Lord is speaking here of the time of his death, just as he had earlier rejected a request from his mother by referring to his time of suffering. The difficulty that arises from the fact that the Lord refers to his time of suffering without his brothers being able to understand him must not tempt us to make artifices, nor does it give us a right to let the evangelist write everything else, except what he wants to write. It seemed to him that the only thing worthy of the Lord was that he should have the last conflict of his life constantly in view; from this point of view he has always let the Lord speak, and even the first revelation of his glory at Cana had to proceed from this point of view.

*) As de Wette (p. 93) and Lücke (Comm. II 157) think.


Another difficulty does not entitle the interpreter to use violent means. Although the Lord says to the brothers: you are going to “this” feast, I am not going to “this” feast, although therefore this particular feast is spoken of, and because of the contrast to the time of suffering, this whole feast must be spoken of, but not only the beginning of it *), the Lord nevertheless goes to “this” feast after the departure of his brothers, as if he had wanted to do it secretly. Whoever wants to add a “now” with Lucke **) when the Lord says, I am not going to this feast, may do so after all, but he does not say that he is explaining a saying which he has long since lost sight of by such an addition. For such an interpreter, the evangelist has in vain made the speech revolve around the purpose of “this” feast. Lücke has another help ready, namely, he thinks that the contradiction disappears if the present tense: I am not going to this feast “is taken quite strictly” *), to which the following: my time has not yet come “gives an indisputable right”; but then one would have to let the Lord put an accent on that present tense with an ulterior consciousness that is unworthy of him. If all the words deny the idea that he will go to “this” feast, the gentleman is supposed to have indicated the opposite by an ambiguous accent, and not only to have gone secretly to the feast, but to have secretly put into his words the inwardly already existing resolution to go there? Assuming the case, impossible without Jesuitism, that the “strict” version of the present tense was able to put a “now” into the words: I am not going to this feast, this explanation is at least certain enough here because of the context, which deals with “this” feast, with “this” par excellence, and – to say it again and to cancel that “indisputable right” – opposes this particular feast as this whole feast to the not yet fulfilled time of the Lord. And the “strict” version of the negated present tense! Does it exist only with an ambush in the consciousness, only in that the near future of the action is silently affirmed **) ? But it is good that we are reminded of the strict version of the present tense: for there is a way of setting the present tense which is also very strict, but which does not merely hint at it secretly and covertly, but is endowed with great force and distinctness, and which we might call the categorical. It is the version of the present tense which, when the present is negated, strictly negates, namely, in such a way that it negates the action for the present because of the essential nature and destiny of the subject from whom it is demanded or expected. And this version is the only possible one here. I do not go to this feast means here: it is my task and destiny not to go to this feast, for it is my destiny to confront the hatred of the world only when the time determined by divine counsel, when my time has arrived; but this time, which is inwardly connected with my being, has not yet been fulfilled. If someone nevertheless prefers the surreptitious path of apologetics to the straight and simple course of evangelical speech, he may and must also assume that overnight, after the brothers had departed, the time of the Lord determined in the divine counsel was fulfilled. For no sooner are the brethren on the road, than he also departs.

*) This artifice is not without a Jesuit reservation, for example when Bengel says: qui primo die festi non inter- erat, non videbatur interesse; or as Bengel continues:: accedit deindc Jesus ad festum, sed quasi incognitus; nec tam ad festum, quam in templum.

**) Lucke (Comm. II, 168). De Wette thinks that the sentence: I do not go (ουκ), is after all to be retained in its simplicity, for it is “the negation limited by the following αυπω (my time is not yet).” How can the fog of apologetics obscure even the simplest provisions, veil the clearest indications! Not limited, but strengthened, justified is the negation. Because his time is not yet here, the Lord does not go to this feast.

*) This is also Beugel’s opinion : αναβαινω striete in praescuti acciplendum.

**) Another time, where Lücke again speaks of a present tense with such “emphasis,” ibid. p. 252, he himself says that “the present tense, which is in itself ambiguous, would then have to be determined by a closer one”!


2) The journey of Jesus to the feast of tabernacles.


But it is evident, says the apologetics, that my help cannot be so proudly rejected; the Lord is really going to the feast, so – So shall we make ourselves a new gospel? Erase what is written in the Gospel? Shall we cut out and add to it as we please, until it has become an altogether poorer one? No! The contradiction cannot be blurred, but it can be explained if we get to the bottom of it and see how it arose with both its assertions. One thing we have already found confirmed by the whole structure of his work, that it seemed worthy of the Evangelist of the Lord when he constantly referred to the time of fulfilment, namely to the time which, according to divine counsel, should bring his work to a decision and conclusion. In addition, the Evangelist held the view that it was not worthy of the Lord to be determined by any external decision. His miraculous activity was not caused by the complaints or requests of the needy: thus he feeds the multitude, he heals the sick man at the pool of Bethesda, and Ch 9 the man born blind without their request. Or if he is asked for help, he first sternly rejects the request, such as the admonition of his mother at Cana or the request of the royal official whose son is struggling with an illness, and he does not respond to the call to the sick Lazarus until no more request for help was to be expected: always only so that the miraculous deed may proceed from his free decision and seem to serve only the revelation of his glory as an end. If in such cases, where request and admonition had been most severely rejected, the deed nevertheless comes to pass, it must finally happen because the evangelist also wanted to report it, for he forgets the Lord’s absolutely negative answer, does not allow himself to be misled by it and unites in his consciousness two contradictory interests, because he was driven by them with equal strength. Thus, here too, he satisfies the interest of giving an example of how the Lord rejected every external impulse, even if it came from his closest relatives, because he only allowed himself to be guided by divine counsel through his consciousness: on the other hand, he lets the Lord go to the feast because he wanted to involve him in the following conversation in Jerusalem and in several collisions with the people’s parties.


It is impossible to determine if there is anything similar in the life of Jesus that underlies the account of that interaction with his brothers, and if so, what it might have been. It may be *) that the Lord rejected a similar request of his brothers on the impulse of an inner voice – although such a daimon can hardly be assumed in view of the clarity of Jesus’ self-awareness; it may well be, but then the evangelist went beyond the goal if he nevertheless let the Lord set out on the journey, and he let himself be determined to do so by the presupposition that the Lord walked to the holy city for the celebration even in the face of the most imminent danger. He forgot that the Lord would then, according to the other conditions of the report, have preached to the murderers of the Jews before the time.

*) What Weisse (Evangelical History II, 237) assumes.

3) The mood of the people’s parties.


It does not seem as certain as the evangelist 7:1 states, that the people of Jerusalem were so murderous against the Lord, and the apologists do not have the right to praise the evangelist for reporting the development of the deadly catastrophe so accurately. On the contrary, since, instead of letting the catastrophe grow, he always regards it as already finished, since the assassination attempt has matured so early, it is in the nature of things that the evangelist himself must betray, by a multitude of individual features, that the thing is by no means so far advanced. If in one moment he stretched everything to the extreme, it could not fail that immediately afterwards he would bring the unnatural tension to a lower level and significantly soften the mood of the whole.


The crowd who missed the Lord at the beginning of the festival, as if it were a matter of course that he would attend every festival, had a divided opinion of him. What judgment would we expect from one party of the people if the authorities were to consider it necessary to go to the extreme? Clearly, it would be an enthusiastic recognition of his messianic dignity. However, the Evangelist only reports (v. 12, 13) that the well-disposed part of the people judged the Lord to be a good man, while others said he was leading the crowd astray. But such an insignificant judgment, that Jesus was a good man, could not provoke the authorities so much that they recognized death as the only solution to the collision. On the other hand, it was not necessary to whisper it to each other in secret, as it was not so terrifying. One thing cancels out the other: either the people had more decisively declared themselves for the Lord, or the authorities could not resort to the means that desperation would have suggested to them.

But not only does one thing exclude the other, but each of the two sides of the contradiction cancels itself out, or at least is cancelled out by the report. When Jesus appeared publicly in the temple in the middle of the feast and taught, his knowledge of the scriptures caused wonder, since, as is generally known, he had not enjoyed a learned education, and those who were thus astonished were the Jews (οι Ιουδαιοι), by whom, according to the context here v. 15, the evangelist understands the authorities as usual. Apologetics, which appreciates so much the fine pragmatic remarks of our author, could easily find here, or rather should find here, the suggestion that only now the rulers and scholars had come into contact with the Lord, while otherwise only the crowd of the uneducated people had surrounded him. For as soon as the rulers were in any way concerned about the Lord and considered him worthy of attention, they had to make this remark and marvel at his learning in the Scriptures. And this fine pragmatism must now dissolve itself! The authorities could only have decided so decisively on the downfall of Jesus if they were completely certain of the danger that threatened them in him, i.e. if they had decided in favour of the Lord’s death, then the power of his speech and the depth of his knowledge of Scripture could not have remained unknown to them. Or if the superiors only now noticed to their astonishment how the Lord knew how to treat the Scriptures, they could not yet have come to the conclusion from the knowledge of his danger and the power of his speech, that it was a matter of his or their downfall.


The author also made sure that the fear of the people, who did not dare to speak out loud about the Lord because they knew the plans of the authorities, was also satisfied. The astonishment of the Jews at his learning of the Scriptures prompts the Lord to make some remarks, and among other things he reproaches them for not keeping the law of Moses, for they wanted to kill him. When the author then has the crowd ask in amazement who would want to kill him, since he is probably not in his right mind to speak of assassination attempts (v. 20), he has of course soon enough noticed the contradiction into which he falls. For at the first opportunity he does not refrain from suggesting that it was only the strangers who knew nothing of the plans of the authorities, but that the citizens of the capital were better informed (v. 25). Only when he lets the leaders speak for a moment as if the lord were completely unknown to them, was it appropriate that he should let the mob wonder when the lord speaks of assassination attempts; then he returns to the original premise of the hostile plans of the leaders, and now he ascribes knowledge of them at least to the citizens of the capital. But the help comes too late, and the contradiction has once been too strong for it to be blurred. The crowd had already been brought to the scene in its entirety, v. 12, 13, and no one from this whole mass dared to speak aloud his opinion of Jesus, because they knew the plots of the rulers. All were warmly informed of it, for all were afraid; but if only the chiefs had been informed, if the strangers, as must be assumed from their statement in v. 20, had known nothing of the plans of the rulers, they would have had to speak out loudly and impartially their opinion of the Lord. So again a ball of presuppositions which, when unwound, falls apart into individual extraneous threads!


4) The mood of the people during the feast.


With great care the author now also reports how the people’s opinion of the Lord developed during the feast. The report seems all the more accurate since he continues, as he had begun in vv. 12, 13, to contrast the opposing opinions of the mass of the people. The citizens of the capital assume that Jesus might be the Messiah, since the rulers let him teach without danger, but they immediately stifle this seed of faith, since they know the origin, which must be unknown in the Messiah, in Jesus,and they even make accusations against the Lord. On the other hand, another part of the crowd, and a large one at that, believed in the Lord and was induced to do so by the calculation that the Messiah, when he came, could not do more signs than Jesus had done (vv. 26-31). Thus the masses are divided. But alas, we cannot acknowledge this division: the multitude of signs is said to have brought many to faith in Jesus, and that just at this feast, for before Jesus arrived, the opinion of the people was much more undecided; but now there is nothing to indicate that even one sign was performed by the Lord in these days. Indeed, there is so little talk of miraculous deeds that this festive talk must revolve around a sign that had happened long before at the Pool of Bethesda. So how can it suddenly be signs that move the crowd to faith! Perhaps the memory, which now ran through the whole of the earlier time and summarised all the miraculous deeds of the Lord in one glance, had brought about this faith? Not even that, for the same memory should have had this effect before, and the better part of the multitude should have thought more of the Lord than is assumed and reported in v. 2. When some of the people here judge Jesus to be a very good man, they do not think of signs, nor do they speak in such a way as if they remembered the excellent works of the Lord. His opinion is only that the Lord has no evil intentions in his dealings with people and does not want to seduce them to evil through the influence of his speech. Where, then, does the power of the signs suddenly come from? It comes from the pragmatism of the author, who once laid out this passage in such a way that he presents the crowd in its relationship to the Lord as a divided one and must now continue and enforce this division in every way.


Finally, on the last day of the feast, when the Lord had invited the thirsty to Himself, because He was able to satisfy their need in a true way, the division among the people was completed. Some said that Jesus was the Messiah, others denied it, because He was from Galilee, but not from the tribe of David and from Bethlehem, from where the Messiah must take His origin, and the third opinion was that Jesus was in truth a prophet (vv. 40-42). The two first opinions are actually the same as those mentioned by the evangelist just before; the only difference is that those who deny the Messianic dignity of Jesus are brought into direct opposition to those who definitely acknowledged it, and that they do not demand an unknown origin of the Messiah but the one prophesied by the prophet Micah. But now the third opinion is that Jesus is not the Messiah, but the Prophet, and it is – to say it at once – to blame for the fact that the whole division of popular opinion disappears altogether, the divided masses flow together again, and the apologists are deprived of the most beautiful opportunity to show their art and to load hypothesis upon hypothesis. The prophet (ο προφητης) in this excellent definiteness must also be something excellent, or rather, as this exclusive person, beside whom there is no equal, he must be the highest thing that can be thought of as the middle member of divine revelation. And so he is also otherwise in the N. T. as the mediator promised in the law, the Messiah. Even our author had to acknowledge this involuntarily when he reported how the crowd, after the feeding, wanted to raise the Lord to the position of king, i.e. as the Messiah to their ruler, he himself says that they wanted to do it because they had recognised in Jesus the promised prophet. Yet he suddenly distinguishes between the Prophet and the Messiah? How could he forget that both were the same to the people, namely the highest thing they expected from the future? That the author forgot is shown by the facts; but how it could have been possible for him is sufficiently explained by his interest in painting the shades of popular opinion. Anything that seemed to produce the slightest shade had to be welcome, and anything that offered only a hint of diversity was used *).

*) It thus becomes evident how futile it is when Gfrörer (Das Heiligth. und die Wahrh. p. 32, 33) wants to prove from the above passage, as well as from 6:14, that Jesus worked so that the people would not take him for the Messiah promised by the prophets, but for the prophet of whom Moses had spoken.


When we have now restored the crowd to its indefinite surging and to the manifold play of waves with which it flows to and fro, that is, to its actual element, we are also relieved of the question of whether the author went around among the crowd and counted the voices or whether the crowd itself dispersed and grouped itself according to the diversity of its opinions. Another gain! We are not obliged to go into the unanswerable question of what the Jews meant when they said in v. 27 that when the Messiah came, no one would know where he was from. The question is unanswerable because the Jews could not think of anything in terms of an idea that they did not even have and for which no evidence can be found anywhere **) Either they thought of David’s tribe as the starting point of the Messiah or, in the strength of faith, they, like many who joined the Lord, did not take offence when such a one made the impression on them of the Promised One, of whom they knew no other than that he did not have the earthly starting point determined by Scripture. In their ideal view, it was always certain that the Messiah would come from God. But: “one does not know from where:” this groundless indeterminacy is not peculiar to the popular view, and it is only the product of a writer who, as in this passage, seeks to set up a series of opposites, and since he needs so many, now also places one in the most groundless limbo.

**) Usually one cites, as also de Wette briefly does, the Dialogue with Tryphon as a witness that this idea existed among the Jews. The dialogue with Tryphon is usually cited as a witness to the fact that this conception existed among the Jews. But first, we saw that the idea of this dialogue of the anointing of the Messiah by Elijah, until which he would be unknown, only took its origin from our Gospel, or from the circle of thought in which it stands, and was a transformation of the view of this Gospel of the baptism of Jesus and its purposes. Then, if it be Dial. c. Tryph. p. 226, the Messiah will be unknown until Elijah anoints him, this does not refer at all to his origin, to his completely inexplicable origin, but only to the fact that his Messianic significance will only be revealed after the anointing by Elijah. The idea of this dialogue and that ascribed to the people in the fourth Gospel are therefore not so closely related as Lücke thinks (Comm. II, 176); only if the people had at least said that until Elijah came, no man would know who the Messiah was; “but whence he came,” then the people would not have been allowed to say at all, because the unknown of the person, not the secret of the origin, forms the point in the view of the dialogue with the Tryphon. The other passage, p. 336, which is quoted from that dialogue, deals just as little with an unknown origin of the Messiah, but with his twofold coming and appearance, with the δυο παρουσιαι, as the dialogue says: in the first, which takes place in lowliness, the Messiah will have to struggle with the resistance of the world, with disregard and misjudgment; only in the second coming will his glory be so clearly revealed that every contradiction will be repulsed. Gfrörer (Das Jahrh, des Heils II, 223) also brings Targum Jonath Micha 4:8 to our passage. Here it says: “Thou anointed of Israel, which art hid because of the sins of the people of Zion, unto thee shall the kingdom be given.” Lücke uses this passage (Comm. I, 363) to prove that the view that the Baptist came with water baptism to reveal the Lord to the people was based on a similar popular view that had already been given. But as far as the latter is concerned, the Targum knows nothing of a forerunner in this connection; but it does not speak of an unknown origin of the Messiah, nor of a hiding place where he is hidden, but it is only said that his arrival is held back by the sins of the people. There is no thought of an unknown whereabouts, but only of his ideal, heavenly pre-existence, from which he would not yet emerge because of the sins of the people. But the people do not even say in the Gospel: we do not know where the Messiah is hiding now, but: when he comes, no one knows where he will come from.


5) The three attacks of the enemies of Jesus.


Again and again, and at every opportunity, we must hear it said, “that John, more than any other evangelist, has revealed the natural connection and the soon hurrying, soon hesitating course of development of that great hour, and has thus skilfully linked the religious view of the history of Jesus with the natural pragmatic one”. *). The “religious pragmatism” is expressed in this passage on an occasion that is repeated three times here: they sought to seiize Jesus, but no one laid a hand on him, because, it says in v. 30, his hour had not yet come. If the danger from which the Lord is delivered were serious, sudden and threatening, then this pragmatism, which finds such incomprehensible things explained only in divine counsel, would not be rejected outright. But where the assassination attempts are commonplace, where the Jews have long (5:18) sought the death of the Lord, and where now again three attempts are made to capture the Lord, that pragmatism explains nothing, because it is supposed to explain too much. The wonderful power of that hour, for which the highest suffering is reserved and which must now thwart the earlier murder attempts, is weakened too much when it is supposed to be proven so often, and we finally do not understand how it happened that it did not collapse when it was continuously strained without interruption. By merely stating, “his hour had not yet come,” the author cannot explain to us the constant alternation of murder attempts and their thwarting time and time again.It is not because it is religious that we maintain that this pragmatism explains nothing, but because it remains in uniform while it is applied to a longer series of changing cases.

*) Lücke, Comm. II, 181, 182.


But let us leave only the religious point of unity in its sublimity, where it may, however, miss many rays and unite in itself an abundance of finite relations, and let us examine the “natural-pragmatic view” of the evangelist. The basis of historical relations, we have already seen, is not the firmest. The relationship of the authorities to the Lord fluctuates between the extreme endpoints of having once recognised the full danger of the Lord and at the same moment behaving as if they had never heard the Lord speak. The crowd, on the other hand, seems to be completely familiar with the plans of the rulers and is careful not to express its opinion about Jesus aloud, and then again it speaks as if it did not even suspect how far the matter between Jesus and the authorities has progressed. Finally – which is not without importance here – the mood of the crowd in relation to Jesus was a purely manufactured one, and if three assassination attempts in succession now emerge from such a nebulous region, then one finds apt pragmatism here?


The first attack (v. 30) comes from the part of the people who are surprised that the Lord speaks so freely and openly, although he is threatened by the superiors. These people even think that the rulers might have acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah and only the one circumstance keeps them from the decisive belief that they know the origin of Jesus, which would not be possible with the Messiah. But this certainly cannot be the mood in which an attempt is made which only the prerogative of the Lord’s actual time of suffering could repel. If the crowd suspected that the authorities might have withdrawn their attack and acknowledged the Lord, and if they were so inclined to do so, they would not have excepted that hostile plan with all the greater zeal. The cry of Jesus, that he knows where he comes from and who sent him (verse 28-29), could not have caused this anger of the crowd, not least because the crowd’s statement that they would not know the origin of the Messiah could not have elicited that cry, as there was no such popular belief.

The second attack comes from the Pharisees who, in connection with the priests, send out servants to catch Jesus; but the thread on which this attack hangs is so weak that it breaks at the first touch. The Pharisees had heard about the murmurings of the crowd, which was moved to faith by the calculation of the number of miracles in which Jesus revealed Himself (vv. 31, 32.). How the miracles of Jesus suddenly came here and had such a decisive effect, we would not be able to explain, if we had not already discovered the hand of the author, who forms and sets in motion the machinery of the whole at his own discretion: but how the Pharisees learned what the muffled murmurings of the crowd meant, can just as little be explained from the first premises of the report, for it is precisely out of fear of the rulers that the crowd is said not to have dared to speak openly of their opinion of the Lord.


Finally, for the third time, the danger breaks loose, and some again want to seize the Lord. Some! namely, some from the crowd (εξ αυτων), which grouped itself in its judgment of the Lord in such a way that some declared him to be the Messiah, while others declared him to be the Prophet, while several believed they could not recognize him as the Messiah because he was not from Bethlehem and from David’s lineage (verse 40-44). In this context, the few who wanted to seize the Lord can only be those who judged him less favorably, but must those who are only slightly less willing to believe immediately go to extreme hostility? Must those who still hesitate to recognize Jesus as the Messiah only because he is from Galilee act as his sworn enemies? They are only swaying, only one step away from full belief, but a deep chasm separates them from bitter enemies who could only find peace in the death of the Lord. But leading them over this chasm does not cause the author any trouble, and this easy task – a stroke of the pen is strong enough to be a bridge over that chasm – he had to use because he had previously let the plots against the Lord follow the judgment of the crowd each time (verse 25-30, verse 31-32). Therefore, if the crowd concludes its judgment, it is also appropriate that the hostile incident is repeated at the end. This is what the pragmatic arrangement demands, even if the strongest assumptions of the report itself must be overlooked at its request.


The apologist allows us one more question. Both times (vv. 30, 44) when the crowd wants to catch Jesus, the evangelist says, “No one laid a hand on Him”: if they did not even try to catch the Lord, how did the evangelist know that they wanted to catch Him both times, i.e. in these two moments?

6) Transition of Jesus’ Speech to the Point of Contention.

C. 7, 16 – 19.

Now the speeches that the Lord gave during the feast remained to be seen.

It is immediately striking that the Lord’s speech not only refers back to a long-past event, the healing of the sick man at the Pool of Bethesda, which had occurred during a Sabbath rest, but also that the main subject of this speech is the same as that which was discussed in detail at that time (in chapter 5). The contrast between self-will, seeking one’s own glory, and the activity that seeks the glory of God, reappears here (verse 18). The Lord refers, just as he did then, to his knowledge of the one who sent him (verse 29). In fact, in order to gather together some other striking repetitions of the speech that was given after the healing of that sick man, it should be noted that later in chapter 8, verses 13-18, the offense of the Lord testifying about himself is dealt with in the same way as it was then, by pointing to the righteous judgment of the Son and the testimony of the Father. It is also reiterated that the Son follows the pattern of the Father (verse 26), and finally, the works are brought up again so that they might bear witness to the Lord (chapter 10, verse 38).

This relationship is so strange that it is not enough to call attention to it and to present it as a fact; but the question arises as to what sense can be made of this fact. Lücke also says *): “A closer look teaches that the first important persecution and defence of Jesus Ch. 5 lies at the basis of the later speeches of argument and defence. The later speeches of the Lord, as reported by the evangelist: that is clear. But is it also a basis in the sense that the Lord Himself took proofs from it on every occasion, as it were, and almost always went back to it? This, of course, is how Lücke understands the matter, and this is how the apologist must understand it, that the Lord later repeats what he presented on an earlier occasion, and that the basic ideas of Ch. 5 “only return expanded and turned differently.” But the first glance at the new but groundless situation, which has already completely dissolved, teaches us that this division of the crowds was not an opportunity to revisit earlier sayings, to expand them and give them a different twist. And in the event that the situation was more settled, and the Lord had wished to give a different turn to thoughts which he had previously expressed, we have in the synoptic accounts quite different examples of the wealth of individual figures at the Lord’s disposal when he developed a substantial idea according to its different determinations. When we first hear those basic ideas of chapter 5 for the first time, they still have the advantage of the first impression they make on us: but if now the Lord, in order to prove his divine justification, always only emphasizes the contrast between the self-authoritative and the self-denial which seeks the glory of God, if he always only refers to the testimony of the Father and the works, then the repetition misses its purpose and takes on the anxious and pleading tone which is peculiar to apologetics when it asks the inclined opponent for concessions. It is not the Lord that we hear speaking in this tone, but the apologist who moves in a few narrow views, who has based his conviction on certain reasons and only has these reasons to draw on on every occasion.

*) Comm. II, 100.


It is also a vain effort if the interpretation tries to breathe some strength into the transition of Jesus’ speech to justification because of the Sabbath violation and to help it up. It is difficult to think of a more weak and laborious transition, and the Lord, after he has proved in the synoptic sayings how well he knows how to introduce a subject, should not also take upon himself the ambiguous glory that he has understood even the weakest transitions?

The Lord wants to give the Jews who wonder about his scriptural learning the touchstone by which they would learn that his teaching is not from him but from God: if they wanted to do the will of God, they would come to understand it. – This is the first turn of the discourse, which goes to the actual point of controversy. – One need only see the commentators of our Gospel at one point busily running to and fro through one another to notice for the time being that it is not quite right and sane, not at all as it should be. Even at this point, they are anxiously trying to bring out an inner coherence of the speech and yet cannot prevent its parts from falling apart. *). Everything would have held together if the Jews had wondered about the content of Jesus’ teaching as a completely new one and not only about the Lord’s teaching from the Scriptures, and if Jesus had answered in the same way as he did in 8:31-32: only receive my teaching into yourselves, make it your life principle, and you will then recognise its truth and its divine origin through inner experience. But the Jews did not say anything about the fact that the teaching of Jesus appeared to them as a new one – and yet the answer of the Lord presupposes this astonishment about the content, yes, it even jumps away from this presupposed subject and even falls apart into two unequal parts when it says: whoever does the divine will will recognize the origin of my teaching. The divine will is here an indeterminate abstraction, the most abstract generality, which stands apart from all living connection for that which is determined, namely for the doctrine of the Lord, and can bear as little witness to it as the barest deism can to ecclesiastical faith.

*) Olshausen, for example, (II, 173) defines the transition thus: “the object of the teaching of the rabbis was indeed essentially the right thing, but their relation to the true teaching was wrong. They taught without a true divine commission and without a divine calling.” Accordingly, the Lord would have to assume that his teaching and that of the rabbis was essentially the same. But he rather assumes that his doctrine is a new one and that the impulse of the new will be removed “if one does the will of God.” Lücke (Comm. II, 161) summarises the connection thus: “Certainly not from you and in your schools I have learned what I teach.” But that his doctrine is only his own, the Jews have said as little of this as that it is a new one.


Suddenly (verse 19), the Lord turns to the Law of Moses and accuses the Jews of not practicing it, for if they did, would they want to kill him? But how does this fit with the previous assumption, where the Jews’ amazement at his scholarship was entirely innocent and harmless? Even though there was talk of the divine will before, it was held in such a wide vagueness that the transition to the positive, Mosaic Law can only be called a leap. And as soon as this leap is made, how sluggish the speech becomes: “And none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” This is not the Lord speaking, but the evangelist has him speak this way because he still wants to add an argument for the legitimacy of that healing on the Sabbath.


If we have to ascribe to the age of the sick man who was healed at the pool of Beth- esda, in Hengstenberg’s sense, a symbolic relationship to the feast time in which the healing took place, that feast 5:1 was therefore a passover, but in the meantime (6:4) a new passover has passed, then a year and a half has passed until the present Feast of Tabernacles. What a coincidence it is that the Lord is immediately surrounded by the same crowd that saw the healing of the sick man and took offence at the violation of the Sabbath! How useless was the long speech wasted, which the Lord gave at that time Ch. 5, if the people, as soon as the Lord came to the holy city, were still in the position of amazement, which they had assumed at that time after that miraculous deed. The changeable crowd must have been of a quite different kind then than it has otherwise been in all the world and in all time: a petrifying spell must have taken hold of the people, so that after one and a half years they still stood amazed at that story and the Lord could immediately address them again after such a long interval: “Why are you surprised at my deed?

A year and a half! A much shorter time is enough to give the crowd new thoughts, interests and attitudes *). But on paper and for later perception, even greater periods of time shrink. The colourful change of reality simplifies itself for the memory, and the changing crowd that surrounded the Lord solidifies into the crowd in the statistical sense, into one and the same crowd that the Lord now always encountered when he came into contact with the people. How far this transformation of the changeable into a fixed quantity can go, we already had a striking but instructive example of it above at the Sea of Galilee 6:36. Finally, the rich interrelationships and interests of the real world merge into a simple circle of relationships and become fixed quantities. But to go so far in the petrification of relations and the mass of the people could only be achieved by a writer who, like everything else, had dissolved the real world into a simple abstract opposition, had already brought history and its collisions to an end at the beginning, and could now only ever have the same decisive opposition repeated. Now, of course, if the death of Jesus had become a firm decision for the Jews on the occasion of the healing of the Sabbath, it was self-evident that later on they would constantly bear that event in mind and that the Lord, after a long time, would have to take up his responsibility again, or rather, as if he had not brought it to an end earlier.

*) Olshausen (Comm. II, I76) explains himself, because of their difficulty, against the relation to Ch. 5. “It is far nearer to say that such a case had occurred again and that it gave rise to the whole conversation. How hasty! Only the innocent astonishment of the Jews at the Lord’s knowledge of Scripture gave rise to the conversation. And then not only would “such a case have occurred again” but it would also have to be reported by the author, yes, not only “such a case” but also the similar impulse to which it gave rise. Olshausen, however, has only given us an example of how facts are formed for sayings.


7) The justification against the Sabbath law.


But what harm does it do to a saying of the Lord that it is placed in an inappropriate context? It always comes to us at the right time, as long as it is otherwise reproduced in its pure originality. However, this is very questionable for this saying about the justification against the Sabbath law. The epigrammatic preparation necessary for such sayings lies in not postponing circumcision on the Sabbath, and the conclusion or the punchline is now the question: Why do you now consider it wrong that I healed a whole person on the Sabbath? Anyone who does not hear the disharmony with which the two parts of the saying are set in a essentially different key instead of harmonizing together has not yet learned from the synoptic Gospels how much the Lord’s sayings, like finished works of art, agree with all their parts and lead the listener to their pure, harmonious conclusion through the charm of rich melody. But this saying draws attention in completely different directions and ends in a dissonance, if that were even worth calling it that, which is a connection of indifferently different tones. The preparation of the saying suggests a different conclusion, and the conclusion is without preparation. The expectation aroused by the first part, when it is said that the Sabbath law deviates from the commandment of circumcision, would find its true conclusion in the fact that it is even more permissible for the Lord, who pursues higher purposes than the commandment of circumcision prescribes, to set aside the Sabbath law. Similarly, at least, the Lord says (Matt. 12:5, 6), if the priests profane the Sabbath for the sake of the temple service, and do not fall into sin, I am still more above the Sabbath law, because I am more than the temple. The fourth evangelist, however, could not in fact provide the appropriate preparation for the conclusion of the saying: “So there is no cause for accusation if I heal a whole man on the Sabbath”; he could not do so if he did not want to fall into the silliness of his interpreters.

It was reserved for them to attribute to the Lord the view that circumcision, which refers to this single member, also has a “medical” purpose *), and thus to place the Lord in the same line as Philo and Johann David Michaelis, who present this neat natural explanation of the purely religious symbol according to the legal view. Certainly, this interpretation has a right as such, since the conclusion of the saying presupposes this preparation. But it is just as certain that, if the preparation is taken worthily, it expects a different conclusion. We know from the synoptic account of a more dignified dialectic of the Lord, and even the evangelist did not dare to put the preparation of the saying in prosaic harmony with the inappropriate conclusion. Therefore, we do not commit a crime if we let this saying pass in its dissonance in honor of the Lord. **) —-

*) Lücke, Comm. II, 174.

**) Olshausen (Comm. II, 177) summarises the saying thus: circumcision refers only to the body, “but Christ’s healing was for the whole man, to which the inner life necessarily belongs. But it is only a question of the healing of this human being, and this encompasses the whole bodily organism, whereas circumcision refers only to a single member of the body. The body as such forms the medium tertium, and Christ’s healing and circumcision only diverge in such a way that the former completely embraces the body, while the latter has only a limited “medical significance”.


As an encore to this sacrifice of honour we would also add the attached saying (v. 24): “Judge not according to appearance, but hold righteous judgment”, if we did not allow the apologists the pleasure of exercising their anxious acumen in finding the most diverse and remote connections. As our evangelist proves, everything can be put into context, and we therefore do not want to trouble his interpreters with the question whether the Jews had judged only according to appearance and not rather according to the revealed law when they imputed the Sabbath violation to the Lord as an offence.

8) The Lord’s Ascension to the Father.


The Lord’s saying that He knew from whom He came and who had sent Him (v. 29), we will only touch upon in passing, since on the one hand it is only a repetition of the contrast between the independent appearance and the divine mission, and since the reason for the multitude saying that it was not known from where the Messiah would come, has already disappeared. We already know enough about how the author loves to make people take offence at the known lowly origin of Jesus. He already enjoyed it when he led Nathanael over this offence to the company of Jesus, and finally, after the people had felt this offence (6:42; 7:41-42) on all sides, he even lets the learned Pharisees mock at the Galilean origin of the supposed prophet (7:52).

But the evangelist now begins to exploit a new theme and to lead it through all the stages of misunderstanding just as diligently as he had hitherto used the mystery of the origin of the Logos to shatter the sensual mind and also the folly of the people. The Lord has always spoken of his death, but from now on he does so more clearly by calling his death the going home to the Father who sent him. In this way he speaks immediately to the servants whom the Pharisees had sent to seize him (vv. 32, 33). A man who speaks as a prophet, who wants to be acknowledged as God’s messenger, cannot refer to God more clearly and understandably than the Lord does when he says: “I am going where the one who sent me is.” And yet the Jews are to understand these words in such a way that this man, who has so often spoken of the testimony of the Father who sent him, might be willing to go into the dispersion of the Greeks in order to teach them. Never. This contrast does not belong to real life, but to a view that takes the contrasts so far that they no longer hold together at all and break like an overstretched string. The Lord’s self-awareness certainly had to struggle not infrequently with the rigid sense of the people, but if the gulf had been as great as we would have to assume according to this statement, then he would not even have been allowed to call out; he had to remain silent. The evangelist has so far exaggerated the contrast between the incomprehensibly dull spirit of the people and the clear self-awareness of Jesus that he has made it appear to his Master as if he had not been very conscientious in guarding the pearls of truth.


But we have one more reason to acquit the Lord of the unwise waste of the pearls, and the people of an intemperate folly, when we see only too clearly by what weak parenthesis that saying of going home to the Father is attached to this occasion. The servants of the Pharisees seek the Lord, and find him among the multitude: nothing but this suggestion of seeking and finding, which lies in the context, has brought this saying hither: later, when I have gone to the Father, ye shall seek me, but shall not find me. The reading αυτοις (v. 33): Jesus said to them, namely, to those servants of the Pharisees, is not quite certain, but if the Lord addressed the multitude with that saying, he must have addressed the servants of his enemies at the same time, since only the historical situation gave him the transition to this saying. Or he may have addressed the crowd in preference, in which case he must have regarded the crowd as complicit in the plan of the Pharisees’ servants, otherwise he would not have been allowed to address the people in this way. “You will seek me later, but you will not find me.” These words only make sense when they are addressed to those who have just sought the Lord and found him. The crowd would therefore have understood this address even less than the evangelist presupposes; they would not even have understood where it came from if they had not known the starting point of it, that they had sought the Lord with hostile intentions, and if they had not for a moment considered themselves to be guilty. But was this the right place to speak of the return to the Father, had it not been the Lord’s boastful revelation of a secret, which would have had no other purpose than to show that he was far above the present danger and would in future be inaccessible to all persecution? This speech is nothing other than one of those surprises to which writers resort when they cannot extricate princes and kings from dangers into which they have fallen through concealment of their rank, except by having them show the signs of their princely dignity. Our evangelist, however, when he reached for this help, was at a disadvantage because he could not even communicate to the crowd an understanding of this revelation of majesty, nor was he allowed to do so, because he immediately wanted to use the opportunity, according to his custom, to contrast the obtuseness of the people and the clarity of Jesus’ self-awareness.


9) The living water.


“In the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, let him that thirsteth come unto me, and drink.” The thought is the same that the Lord spoke to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well when He asked the woman for a drink of water. This time a certain occasion seems to be presupposed, for the attitude of the scene, how Jesus stands there, how he cries out, has something dramatic about it and clearly indicates a stimulus in the environment. The commentators have therefore thought, quite in the sense of the author, that it was a custom at the Feast of Tabernacles to pour out water before the people; but let us add that the Evangelist has here indeed acted in the manner of his commentators, who do not like to let the Lord use an image without showing the sensual material which is used for the image in the actual surroundings. They cannot hear that the Lord calls Himself the light of the world: immediately they must point to the sun or to the lampstands in the temple courtyard of the women, for these the Lord had in mind. When the Lord compares the position of the disciples in the world with the position of a mountain city which cannot escape the gaze, such commentators are immediately at hand to point out to us the particular mountain city whose sight brought the Lord to this image. Yes, who should believe it, if it were not written *), scarcely has the Lord said this time (v. 38), that from within (κοιλιας) the believer rivers of living water would flow forth, then a scholar also shows us the sensual occasion of this image in the belly of the temple-mountain, through which the water, which brought the Lord to the first half of the image, was conducted away in pipes **).

*) Theol. Studien u. Kritik. 1829. I, 138.

**) Bengel sees in the word κοιλια an allusion to the pot-bellied water-jars which had just been carried past. Alluditur ad amphoras, quibus ultimo festi illius die aqua ex sonte Siloah per urbem ad sacrarium ferebatur. Magnum enim ventrem habebant. Apart from the taste of the interpreter, one must also praise his exact archaeological knowledge of the shape of those jars.


There is no reason not to bring method into this kind of interpretation, and indeed we do not know how those interpreters could prevent us from surrounding the Lord with a magazine of sensual things, so that he had the salt immediately at hand when he called the disciples the salt of the earth, or could immediately point to the bushel with a light under it, in order to prove to them by the extinguished light how absurd it would be if they did not want to let their light shine. So – either consistency or the confession that this kind of interpretation misunderstands the figurative way of speaking! “Ye are the salt of the earth, I am the light of the world; come unto me, and I will quench your thirst;” in these images the general definiteness of the matter is indicated; for it is the very nature of the disciples that they are the salt of the earth, and it is likewise the general meaning of the Lord that he is the light of the world. Now, as the thing is conceived in its general definiteness, so also the figurative substratum is excepted in the generality which it has in its nature known to every one, which it has in general, which it always has, in short, which it has as a generic term, and which it can also only raise to the sign of a general spiritual destiny. Not this handful of salt, not this particular spring or bucket of water, not the sun rising or setting today, but the nature of salt, of water, of light in general, is what the Lord has in mind when He designates His or His disciples’ destiny. In the simple image, the general joins the general; any restriction of the natural substrate would give the image the most unbearable appearance and cast an unedifying dispute into its calm parallel. The picture is dignified and sustained when the general nature of the natural substance congruently joins the corresponding general power of the spirit; but when the general spiritual meaning is related to this single piece of the sensuous world, both sides throw themselves over, they quarrel *) and the general spiritual meaning unwillingly tears itself away from this handful of salt, from this bucket of water, points to it not as to a corresponding image, but as to a trifling, contemptible thing, in short the comparison acquires the appearance of grandstanding. The spiritual would then not be satisfied with the view rising of its own accord from the sensuous image to it as the counter-image; it would not expect this self-elevation, but would say from the outset: what do you want to do with this piece of sensuousness? Throw it away and come to me! As if the figurative way of speaking did not know that the spirit rises calmly and safely from the sensual image to its proper home. Our evangelist, however, has thrown into the picture a strife and quarrel which it does not originally know. In order to call himself the fountain of living water, the Lord did not need to refer to the water bucket of the Feast of Tabernacles or to the well of the Samaritans; rather, the invigorating and refreshing power of water in general was sufficient reason for him to see in it the image of his own invigorating power.

*) On occasion, the quarrel between the two sides would not only remain an ideal one and remain in the mind’s eye, but would also become very serious in reality. Just look, for example, how Tholuck Comm. p. 162, 163 describes the procession of priests with the holy water that has just arrived and considers it very probable that the Lord would throw that cry into the midst of this solemn act – would Jesus not in this case at least have interrupted, disturbed and confused the ceremony in a very obtrusive and untimely manner?


The Lord did not even think of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as the evangelist suggests, when he says that streams of living water would flow from within the believer. Even in the way the evangelist presents the saying, without dogmatic distinction, the personality of the Lord and the believers are related.

10) The meeting of the Sanhedrin.


The session of the Sanhedrin has waited a long time before we come to it, it is therefore time that we lift it up. Two speeches of the rulers are brought to us from this meeting; first a word to the servants who were sent to catch Jesus, but returned to no avail. To excuse themselves, the servants said that no man had ever spoken like this man, but the superiors immediately attacked them and said: “Are you also deceived? But do you see that one of the rulers or of the Pharisees believes in him? This answer, says Lücke *), “is so completely in the manner of domineering hierarchs and arrogant guilds of all times that – what do you expect, perhaps: that any writer, even the most ordinary one, could create it on their own? No! – that it is not necessary to develop the meaning of the words further.”

*) Comm. II, 201.


This is especially the fundamental error in the interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, that one thinks to have done everything if one believes to have demonstrated some sense of the words, some connection between the sentences, and has spoken edifyingly about many things. After such work, a passage whose meaning does not even need to be “further developed” provides true Sunday joys. Against this painful explanation that creeps along the ground of the letter, it is finally necessary for interpretation to stand freely, to speak from the heart and to also give honor to the scripture, to look without fear at its foundations and to examine the origin of its individual parts and its letters. The reward is immeasurable: the true core sayings of the Lord, the pure content, the gold, all this imperishable and originally free material is emancipated and no longer serves as a mere occasion for commentators to demonstrate their wit and intelligence – but these sayings become suns, rising to their own element, thundering on in their own revolutions, and now revealing the full power of their rays. Some things that seem like gold may indeed prove to be mere appearances and the work of later reflection, but even that is a gain, because after a thousand years of unsuccessful effort, the human mind no longer needs to fumble around with material that has no original life and can convey none.


Thus, those words of the Pharisees are indeed “so completely in the manner of power-hungry hierarchs and arrogant guild scholars of all times” that any writer of any time could find and consider them to be the true facts and write them down as such. If, therefore, it is at least highly probable that they are the product of pragmatism, this becomes certain when we see that they are nevertheless improper and highly inappropriate to the situation. The words are spoken to the servants who themselves belong to the people; in this case the speech is not natural, but – brutal to a degree that exceeds all measure of the real world. Yes, if it was even an educated man, a Pharisee, who seemed to be inclined to the faith, such a one could then be made aware of it: Behold, only the people can be deceived; but do you see any other of the educated, learned, and rulers inclined to the faith? But spoken to those who themselves belong to the masses, these words are so outrageous that by their very lack of moderation they should have provoked resistance and failed in their purpose. For the next thing after such a throwaway speech would have been the answer alone: Well, we belong to the people and therefore have this kind; you do what you want!

The servants excuse the unsuccessfulness of their mission by saying that no man had ever spoken like this man, so that this man’s speech would have made such an impression on them that they would no longer have been able to think of their task. But what authority, if it is serious about the business it has entrusted to its subordinates, will be content with such an excuse: it would immediately send the sentimental servants back again, so that they could better carry out their task on the spot. Hierarchs, who are so soft-hearted and satisfied by such a message, could not have had the courage to send their servants out into the midst of the crowd, which had even grown by the visitors to the festival, in order that they might seize their enemy from the protective crowd of his followers. And now the servants even say: No man teaches like this one; but all that they heard Jesus speak was only that hint that they would seek him in the future, but would not find him. These are not words of life that must shake the listener through and through, for no one could understand them, at least no one understood them.


Finally, the Sanhedrin disperses after a question directed at Nicodemus, who had dared to try to appease the passion and anger of the leaders. He is asked if he is also from Galilee, and he is told to investigate and see if a prophet has arisen from Galilee. He would soon be convinced of the opposite. And yet several prophets arose from Galilee, which could not have been unknown to the learned assessors of the Sanhedrin even in the moment of the highest passion. The manuscripts which read εγειρεται do not offer the help which the apologetic interest welcomed in them. For if Nicodemus should inquire and see that no prophet arose from Galilee, such enquiry can only refer to the nature of the country and to experience, which would teach him that none indeed “arose from thence.” The difficulty, then, remains the same – a body of scholars could neither deceive nor wish to deceive one of its members with evidence of this kind. The reason for the rebuke which Nicodemus received from his scribal comrades is already known to us: the evangelist wanted to let the entire historical environment of the Lord test their limited intellect against his lowly origin, and finally the scribal authorities also had to have their turn. But, as elsewhere, he let his love for contrasts drive him far beyond all bounds of probability *).

*) Olshausen (Comm. II, 188) thinks that “in the heat of the argument” the scribes could have overlooked a historical circumstance. (Likewise Tholuck Comm. p. 166.). But if the heat had passed away, i.e. if Nicodemus, as the apologists suppose, had communicated the conversation of that meeting to the evangelist, or beforehand to the Lord, then the author, with calm reflection, ought to have noticed it, and also to have told his readers that an oversight had occurred here. But this “heat” is rather peculiar to the author; in writing this speech he does not think of the historical data of the O. T. and is only driven by his love of contrasts.


The same fate that the grouping, the contrasts and divisions of the mass of the people have had to experience, therefore also benefits the meeting of the Sanhedrin – it dissolves. This particular business, at least, which is assigned to its agenda here, could not have been treated with such desperate earnestness, since the presupposed conditions and the speeches that took place in it could not bear the criticism. Especially in the last period of Jesus’ life, the synod will often have spoken of the stir he caused among the people, but not this time, i.e. at this feast; now the high council had to assemble only because the evangelist wanted it that way. For he wanted to portray all the shades of popular opinion about Jesus, and his painting would have lacked a poignant background if he had not moved the meeting of the synod there, which put the favourably-minded in fear and supported and even led the hostile attacks against the Lord.




§ 11. The feeding of the people and the church

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by Neil Godfrey


§. 11 The feeding of the people and the church.



1) The nearness of the passover.


Apologetics, which devotes itself to the service of the letter, has almost nowhere so much to do and so much business as is presented to it in the passage to which we are now passing; for no sooner has it got over one difficulty than, before it can breathe, it is engaged in a new struggle with another. Criticism now does the most unselfish kindness to the direction that opposes it most stubbornly, in that it not only makes the difficulties disappear for a moment in the exegetical fog, but solves them for ever by explaining how they arose; thus it seizes here, as always, the opportunity to gather fiery coals on the head of its opponent. It is only a pity that the latter at the same time becomes too much disgruntled to give room to the feeling of gratitude, since he cannot be freed from the torment of those difficulties without having many a hearty joy of little traits,that serve him as amusing resting points on the field of impulses.


For example, the apologist is immediately pleased with the remark (V. 4.) that at the time when the miracle of the feeding and the following conversation took place, the feast of the Passover was near. From this “it is explained, says Lücke*), that there were just crowds of people wandering about in the land.” But if this remark, as de Wette also says **), “seems to explain why those houses of the people were on the move,” then the evangelist also appears to regard the gathering of the crowds of people around the Lord quite differently from the Synoptics. Only by an accidental circumstance does he set the masses in motion, at least for a reason that lay outside the personality of the Lord, whereas the Synoptics tie the multitudes to the Saviour by an inner bond of need. Matthew (15:30) has the multitude of the sick flock to the Lord so that he may heal them, and when Mark says (6:34) that the Lord felt compassion for the multitude because they resembled the herd without shepherds, and that he taught them many things, he is at the same time saying that the multitude, feeling spiritually helpless, flocked to the Lord to seek counsel from him.

*) Comm. II, 72.

**) Kurz. Ex. of Ev. John p .77.

But it is not so bad, one might object, that our evangelist leads the multitudes to the Lord only by the nearness of the Passover; for he does not mean to explain the presence of the multitudes in general, but only the great number of the multitude; that a multitude of the people followed the Lord at all, he sufficiently explains (v. 2) by the impression which the miraculous healing of the sick had made on the people. Thus the proximity of the Passover feast is mentioned only to explain, at least “in part, the wandering of great crowds”. *) But even this more limited purpose of the time is as disturbing as it is striking. Or is the escort of the crowd not sufficiently and completely explained in relation to the size of the crowd, when it already says in v. 2: a “great crowd” followed the Lord, because they had seen his signs on the sick? Why is it necessary to mention the proximity of the Passover in order to explain the presence of large crowds? The evangelist would have brought the most harmful excess into his narrative if the mention of the time of the Passover really served that purpose; for now he would not have trusted the Lord’s activity and its impression on the masses to have so much power that it alone could gather the multitude around the Lord. The first reason would have been weakened by the second, or actually annulled, even to the point of contradiction with the inwardly more coherent view of the synoptic accounts.

*) Lücke, Comm. 11, 5.


But even if the evangelist may have at least partly connected this pragmatic purpose with this timing – it is not impossible for him to have had such an intention, which would destroy the immediate surroundings of his narrative – we cannot go so far as to attribute to him the unconsciousness that he only noticed the proximity of the Passover feast in order to explain the gathering of a large crowd of people. He must have had another purpose and the apologists will agree with us if they really care about the honour of their protégé. How, namely, if the determination of time had grown together more with what follows than with what precedes? But let us not ask! It is so; the time is not directly connected with the remark that many people have come together, but the crowd is already quietly assembled, the report has already turned away from it in v. 3, because it is sure of it, it has already drawn the reader’s attention to the situation of the Lord, and only now, as it wants to develop the relationship of Jesus to the crowd, does it notice the proximity of the feast of the Passover. So this remark may still refer to the preceding in silence, but its actual direction is turned forward to the following, and in this direction it is supposed to point out how what Jesus did and said is internally connected with the approaching feast. The miraculous feeding, however, is so intimately connected with the following conversation – intimately, let us say, according to the Evangelist’s view – the enjoyment to which the Lord offers his flesh and blood is so much the pinnacle to which the bodily feeding of the people rises, that the near feast of the Passover must necessarily also be related to the content of this conversation. In the enjoyment of his person, the Lord wants to establish the higher image of the legal Passover feast, for his person, whose highest significance is revealed in his sacrifice unto death, is the eternal, heavenly archetype of the Passover lamb. And when could the Lord speak more appropriately of the higher sacrifice of his body and its appropriation than at the moment when the people were preparing to celebrate the Passover sacrifice? Now, if this connection sheds significant light on the following conversation, namely that it is already certain from the outset that the evangelist had the idea of the Lord’s Supper in mind and that he already portrays the Lord as instituting and calling for a celebration here, which the Synoptics only derive from the last Passover evening of the Lord, then the following part of the report also lends an explanatory light to the time determination. For if the criticism of the following conversation will teach us that it could not have been held by the Lord either in the present form or on the presupposed occasion, then that determination of the time proves to be one that was made and pragmatically deduced from the content of the conversation, which seemed to necessarily follow the miracle of the feeding.


2) The introduction to the feeding of the people.


The passages of sacred Scripture which, on closer examination, might cause some offence, usually betray by their torn and distorted appearance the struggle which apologetics has fought with them – it is always a struggle to the death, even if it is the word of sacred Scripture which its patrons kill – or they resemble the proof of that biblical manuscript on which the curious hands have gone to and fro until the distinguishing sign about which one argued has been obliterated. Only criticism brings back peace by allowing the Scriptures to say again freely and unhindered what they want to say.

As soon as Jesus lifted up his eyes and saw the people approaching him, he thought of where he should take bread to feed them *). But did the crowd come to him to be filled, or did he have nothing else to give them, so that he could only think of bread? On the contrary, the crowd was said to have come to him because they had seen samples of his healing power, and according to this, as Matthew says, sick people of all kinds were brought to him so that he might heal them. The Lord, as the same synoptist reports, by no means evaded this expectation; indeed, according to the account of Mark, he gave the people the gift of his teaching before he fed them bodily. And both times, where the synoptics report the feeding, which was repeated afterwards, they give as the reason for the miraculous help, that the people had once been around the Lord beyond the time when they needed new food, and the other time even for three days. There the thought of help was obvious, but in the account of the fourth evangelist it comes before all need and without need. We now ask, is this still an explanation of the evangelical account, when Lücke says *): “the deviation of John lies, as it seems to me, only in the abbreviation of the narrative, which omits the instruction of the people before the feeding”? If the narrative, in the sense in which the apologist thinks, namely, consciously omits something, then it would still have to leave room for the addition, but it rather completely excludes even a moment that could be devoted to another thought. No sooner does Jesus see the crowd pouring in than he thinks of the feeding and, as outcome also shows, with the intention of having it happen immediately **).

*) Correct Bengel: veniente populo jam providit Jesus cibum.

*) Comm. II, 73. Likewise Calvin: omittit Evangelista, quod alir tres referunt.

**) Tholuck, Comm. p. 131 says that the evangelist “draws the narrative together.” But the only one who draws together an account is the one who briefly and summarily reports what lies between the extreme endpoints. Krabbe (Lectures on the Life of Jesus. 1839, p. 365.) regards the account of the fourth evangelist with that of the synoptists as agreeing from the outset, and knows nothing at all of a difference. We mention the latter book only to remark that it can give us no occasion for consideration. It only repeats the old apologetic turns of phrase and differs from the writings of Lücke and Olshausen only in that it presents the apologetic inventions as dogma, whereas those men still had a feeling of difficulty. However, apologetics has indeed come full circle in history! Either it can only maintain its old, decaying supports for as long as possible and present them to the criticism as the pillars of the Church, until it dies from the historical weakness of age, or – and this now seems to be its most compelling argument – it must fight and push back against criticism with external force. But in so doing, as all history teaches, it will only hasten its fall, for spiritual power is only strengthened by external pressure and by the hardships of life, driven and transfigured to ever brighter self-confidence.


The individual features of the report are so arranged and the parts of the plot so placed in relation to each other that the miracle is the only goal from which they are derived. This is also the aim of the question Jesus asks Philip. Where shall we buy bread? Jesus, as the evangelist remarks in between, only spoke to his disciple to test him, for he himself knew quite well what he wanted to do. The question here could only be that the Lord wanted to see whether Philip expected a miraculous feeding through his power the moment he thought of the present crowd. And in this sense, as soon as he looked at the matter intelligently, since no sign of need or distress had yet been given, he must have passed the challenge poorly enough. It has also been asked why the question was addressed to Philip in particular, and the answer has been found in the fact that this disciple, as he also appears elsewhere (14:8-9), “held to the outward appearance and was not quick to believe. **). But as soon as he is interested in a different contrast (e.g. in the scene at Jacob’s well in Samaria), the author portrays all the disciples as being sensual and rational to the utmost degree. The fact that this time one individual must stand out is only a trait that arose from the striving for clarity and was also necessary because the roles in the present scene are distributed in a more definite way, in that one more disciple, Andrew, stands out in order to point out the small supply that could still be found for the need (vv. 8-9). Otherwise, the turn of phrase is essentially the same as our author loves to use in order to make the Lord’s majesty stand out against his surroundings. Here it was the perplexity of the sensual mind, against which the image of the wonderful certainty with which the Lord immediately has counsel and help ready in time of need, should stand out all the brighter. But it is not even necessary for us to remember how no need had yet appeared when Philip was called upon to seek help: even without this, we can say without hesitation that this complacent reflection on sensual thrift and narrow-mindedness was foreign to the Lord and that it was only created by a consciousness that loves movement in exaggerated contrasts.

*) Thus Lücke, Comm. II. 73S.

**) de Wette, too, therefore finds this circumstance “fitting” (short. Explanation p. 78.). Bengel assumes somewhat more prosaically: fortasse Philippus rem alimentariam curabat inter discipulos.


Incidentally, there is something very striking in the relationship between this preference for the depiction of the miracle and the way it is viewed in the following discussion about the bread of heaven. For here the attention is drawn so much to the spiritual living bread that the bread of heaven, with which the fathers were fed in the wilderness, is not only relegated to the background, but is also contrasted with the spiritual bread, which is by no means truly heavenly. With the manna, however, the bread that Jesus gave to the people must also recede as if in a world that has been pushed back and over which the spirit has risen far above in its quest for the true food. This contradiction is the old one that is inherent in the idea of miracles in general and which we have already learned about above.


3) The desire of the people.


The miraculous feeding made such a strong impression on the people that they acknowledged the Lord as the promised prophet, i.e. as the Messiah. But Jesus withdrew into solitude because he realised that they wanted to make him a king by force” This is again one of the features in which one admires the “great care” with which “John recorded everything that increased the hatred of the Jewish world and helped to bring about the last great catastrophe” *). That Jesus withdrew after the miracle is also reported by the Synoptics and is in the nature of things, because he did not want a tumultuous, external recognition, but only that of faith: but in the present case it is already difficult to explain what purpose an instantaneous withdrawal should serve in the presupposed excitement of the people, when several thousands had been witnesses of the expected and now proven Messianic glory. At least the Lord should not have come forward again the next day, for now those people had to worry him anew with their intentions.

*) Lücke, Comm. II, 79.

But do they really worry him, do they really prove that the Lord had seen correctly on the previous day when he feared that they wanted to make him king? Surely they would have conceived such a far-reaching plan only in the highest excitement which the sign evoked: but now the Lord says, v. 26, not because they had seen signs, but had become full, only for this reason did they seek him out. However, the mere feeling of a full stomach would not have brought them to confess that Jesus was the Messiah and to adopt that extraordinary plan, and we cannot degrade thousands of Jews to the point of saying that their expectation of the Messiah was based solely on the natural feeling of hunger. Therefore, if they sought the Lord for the sake of satiety, it is also certain that they did not want to make him king the day before in the midst of their faith. Let us not speak of the instability of the masses, it does not go so far as to reveal itself overnight without anything decisive intervening. Jesus also does not indicate anything that might have made the crowd change their minds or even that they had different thoughts today than yesterday. Instead, he simply says that the sensation of being satisfied drives them to him, but he does not mention anything about them wanting to make him king, which would have been worth mentioning and even required a rebuke. In short, both contradict each other: either the Jews did not merely feel the natural well-being of satisfied hunger when they thought of Jesus, or they did not plan in higher desire to make the Lord king. Of course, both sides of the contradiction throw a detrimental light on each other, and the fact that the contradiction exists at all makes them both suspicious; but it is at least possible that one side – we will begin with the first, and consider the second later – could really exist in itself, that is, that the Jews wanted to make the Lord king after the feeding. But it is just this first side of the contradiction that is least lasting, since it appears from the outset only as a pragmatic explanation of the writer, while the second is nevertheless given as the express word of the Lord. The author created this pragmatic hyperbole: it seemed natural to him that this time, when the Lord always withdrew after a miracle, there was the most urgent reason to do so, since people had seen a miracle and in the midst of their enthusiasm could go to the extreme, to declare the Lord as the Messiah and proclaim him. And the evangelist concludes that they had indeed wanted to do so when Jesus withdrew.


4) Jesus on the Sea of Galilee.


In the sentence: the disciples “wished to receive him into the ship,” when Jesus approached them across the lake and made himself known to them, the ἤθελον should never have been rendered in such a way that it signified more than the actual desire, namely, at the willingness of the actual action. At least the arbitrariness, which is master of all meanings, should not have been thrown beyond the sacred Scriptures, which once had to be accustomed to such treatment, to the classical writers also. Because everywhere in these writings where an action is connected that requires overcoming or against which one has previously resisted, it is only said that one is now willing to perform the action, but whether it has actually been carried out only becomes apparent from the context and is by no means inherent in the word itself. Therefore, in our account, it is said that they immediately wanted to take Jesus into the boat, but whether they actually did so is not stated in the word θελειν itself *). Since it is said in our report that they landed at the very moment when the disciples, having overcome their fear of the Lord, whom they at first thought to be a ghost, wanted to receive their Master into the ship, this is obviously meant to say that it was now too late and no longer necessary to really receive him into the ship. The interest why the word, which only signifies the decision to do an act, was also given the meaning of the actual deed, is clear enough, since, according to the account of Matthew and Mark, Jesus was really taken into the ship: but the contradiction cannot be removed. All the less can it be removed, since the circumstance of whether Jesus was taken into the ship or not does not stand alone in the accounts, but is conditioned by other circumstances: in the Synoptic account Jesus meets the disciples far from the shore, according to the account of the fourth evangelist at the moment when they are about to land. But the detail with which the evangelist emphasises that Jesus did not need to get into the ship seems to reveal very clearly that he was guided by a specific intention in his account. The miracle and the sublimity above the finite mediations appear greater when the Lord catches up with the disciples on the shore beyond and is now so close to land that he no longer needs the boat.

*) As nevertheless de Wette still maintains, c. Explanation p. 79.


However, the contradiction goes even further: as the disciples had traveled 25 or 30 stadia, Jesus is said to have come near their boat. 25 or 30 stadia! This would mean that the disciples were still in the midst of their distress and would also be in line with Josephus’ statement that the sea was 40 stadia wide. And yet, the disciples were said to have immediately landed as soon as they recognized the Lord, which supposedly happened upon his first greeting. In any case, it is an irreconcilable contradiction that the same scene is relocated 25-30 stadia away from the departure point and then again placed close to the shore where they had been sailing. The vagueness that leaves five stadia open and the overall calculation that counts from the departure point and thus still so far from the destination, assumes a great distance from the opposite shore, and yet the disciples were said to be so close to the landing place that it was not worth the effort to take Jesus into the boat when he approached them. This contradiction can only be resolved if we admit that in the mind of the author, two things crossed each other: the power of the actual presuppositions of the basic material and the transformed view for which the miracle had become quantitatively greater.


The report carefully states the circumstance by which Jesus’ miraculous walking on water became an event that not only happened for the disciples’ perception but must also have become known to the people through the simplest deduction *). The people knew (V. 22) that there had been only one boat available for the Lord and his disciples, yet they also knew that the disciples had crossed alone. Now, by chance, the people get means of passage on other ships arriving from nearby Tiberias, and over in Capernaum they find the Lord, where under the given conditions it was actually a superfluous question how he had come here, for how else but by miraculous means had it been possible? Whoever says *): “the miracle is nowhere emphasized and the question of the people about how Jesus crossed the sea is not used to make the miracle valid” or even: “the Johannine account falls short of the synoptic accounts in terms of the miraculous and superstitious”, demands coarseness/heavy-handedness from a writer who has already lost his way so many times by his finger-pointing, before he should ascribe to him the interest in a miracle. After all the individual circumstances that must have caused confusion for the people and led to the miraculous event, is not the miracle empirically certain for the reader? Does not the conclusion, when the reader draws it himself and must follow the people based on the assumptions, gain even greater power and impact? Certainly the author would have weakened everything, if he had gone further and allowed the relation to the miracle to stand out even more starkly or glaringly, if not in substance, of course, but at least weakened the impression.

*) Augustine, tractatus in Joann. ev. XXV, 8: insinuatum est illis tam magnum miraculum. Calvin: Hic Evangelista circumstantias refert, under conjicere posset turba, divinum fuisse Christi trajectum.

*) Like de Wette p. 80.


The pragmatism aimed at the general recognition and confirmation of the miracle has thus gone as far as it could if it were not to betray the subjective intention too much. But the author has not succeeded completely, if we look at the context intelligently, as is our duty. The whole thing is based on the assumption that only one ship, the ship of the Lord and his disciples, stood on the other shore. But the multitude that followed the Lord on his passage, because they had seen his miracles on the sick on this side in Galilee (vv. 1-2.), surely they also followed him by ship, so that on the following day their boats had to be ready to bring them back to this side? On foot, as Matthew assures (14:13), but of which the fourth evangelist knows nothing, will not all of them, among whom there were many users and owners of boats, have gone round the lake? Or, if the last point is that by chance ships came from Tiberias to bring the people back, could not just as by chance a single one have come from there beforehand, which could give the Lord an opportunity to cross over? All this only proves how the author, in momentary forgetfulness of the starting point, created the contradiction that only one ship stood on the shore beyond, in order to make the crowd guess the miracle that brought the Lord back to this side and to testify to it by their question.


5) The sensual desire of the people.


In answer to the question of the people, when he had returned to this shore, Jesus answered that they did not seek him because they had seen signs, but because they had been filled with the loaves. But why were these people able to seek the Lord again, if it was not because they had experienced his divine power in the miraculous feeding? We do not want to mention that the multitude should have acknowledged the Lord as the “promised” prophet because of the sign; but if they were only concerned about satiety, they could have stayed at home, for that the five thousand Galileans all lived in the most helpless poverty is not mentioned, and according to the report of the Synoptics, the lack which the miracle remedied was only brought about immediately by the fact that the thousands had stayed with the Lord longer than planned. The reproach is therefore so highly exaggerated and presupposes such an unbelievably base motive in the people that it must have caused the apologists enough trouble. They do help themselves, but only in such a way that they make the words into nothing, that they do not let the evangelist say what he says, that they let him say the opposite of what he says so strongly, so definitely. If, for example, Lücke *) thinks that the words: not because you have seen signs, but because you have become full, you seek me, should be understood comparatively, i.e., that this motive is stronger than the other. But he must answer for this to the evangelist, who, after all, lets the Lord say it as clearly as possible, so that that the crowd is not being drawn to him by the signs themselves. Or does Lücke**) say: “the crowd consisted of people of different kinds and directions”: well, then the Lord would have done very wrong if he had attacked all without distinction so harshly, although it was not his custom to extinguish the smouldering wick. Or does the same commentator go so far as to say: “Jesus himself had noticed a certain trust in him and his power in the predominant sensual appetite with which they had come to him, and had considered it possible and necessary to stimulate this germ of spiritual life, which the people themselves were not aware of *), then he has to deal with the Lord himself. For the Lord virtually strikes down this “desire to eat”, he does not take it up again in a formative way, he does not want to have anything to do with it, but says: “Away with your low desires!” and with one stroke he wants to lift the crowd into an absolutely different realm where it can procure imperishable food. Now, if this contention of the joy of natural satiety and of the commandment to seek imperishable food appears in all its purity, it also remains with its impossibility, and it is again only the author who formed it, in order to be able to pass from the rejected and limited lust of the multitude directed at the belly to the following conversation of the true food of the spirit.

*) Comm. II, 90. Likewise Calvin: neque tamen negari potest, quin miraculum respexerint; imo prius narravit Evangelista, siguis fuisse commotos sequendum Christum. Sed quia miraculis abutebantur in alienum finem, merito illis expro brat, quod majorem ventris quam signorum respectum habeant

**) Ibid. p. 91.

*) Lücke speaks quite differently, ibid. p. 89. Here he says, “the crowd was only aware of their amazement at the signs they saw. As if the Lord did not miss this astonishment! The astonishment as such has not only to do with the desire to see.


6) The imperishable food.


The Jews understand the word of the Lord about the imperishable food, which they are to receive, to the extent that they understand that it is to be obtained from the works of God, i.e. from works that are in accordance with the divine will. They are therefore much more understanding than the disciples, who earlier (4:33) had understood the word of their Master about His food in such a sensual way. But how is this consistent with the assumption that for the masses to whom the conversation was addressed, the Lord was only valuable for their stomach? Apparently so little that Lücke feels compelled to assume that it was “the more educated and receptive” who understood the Lord so bravely, that the crowd as such was “probably not able to understand Jesus’ figurative speech in the same way” *). So the evangelist always has to please his embarrassed apologists by saying, or rather meaning, the opposite of what he actually says. But everything is so coherent according to the structure of the conversation, everything follows one after the other, that it is always the same people, the same mass to whom the Lord addresses his speech, and who now respond more or less appropriately depending on whether the evangelist wants to continue the conversation without causing offense or introducing new contrasts. Now he lets the conversation flow without interruption because he is about to move on to a new contrast, which will occupy him for a longer period of time.

*) Comm. II, 93.


We have already noted that the figurative words of the Lord are too meager and limited in their interpretation when they are given the position that they originate from a real relationship with a sensory substrate and are spoken with a contemptuous glance at sensory relationships that are legitimate or indifferent to the spirit. The figurative view and way of speaking are essential to the spirit because its peculiar world has its reflection in the natural world and is reflected in a concrete way. But when the spirit uses this reflection for its representation, it is not so noble as to have nothing more important to do than to ridicule the reflection in its insignificance and contemptibility. Instead, it is confident that its reflection will only be taken as a reflection. Or viewed aesthetically: The point of the image is destroyed, corrupted, and the striking meaning is pushed down into flatness, if the natural image is rejected with great seriousness as inappropriate for the spirit. In the language of our evangelist, however, we have seen sufficiently how he does not allow any content to work through its inner, original power, but only believes to have fully developed it when he has separated it from its opposite. The Lord’s figurative words gave him ample opportunity for this movement in opposites, which he also used diligently, but only with the success that he weakened the power of those sayings as much as possible.


Just as the Lord did not have to fearfully reject the sensual image in figurative language in order to seek the true meaning, so he could also use a figurative expression without an outwardly corresponding situation giving cause for it. He did not need to have satisfied the physical hunger of the people beforehand in order to be able to speak to them of the imperishable food of the spirit. By such an outward occasion, which would then always have to be exposed in its vanity, while the sensual in the image is transcended in itself and by itself, the saying would only have been mechanically drawn out and the contemptuous attitude towards the sensual image would have been just as tiring as it was stilted. On the contrary, a pictorial expression is only striking in that it assumes the form of a familiar, generally known and always valid sensual relation. The independence of the image in the present case is already proven by the unnatural manner of the transition, which, however, was only possible and unavoidable even on the presupposed occasion. If it was not possible for the people to seek the Lord after the miraculous feeding merely for the sake of a full belly, then the word of the imperishable food of the spirit could not be attached to such an inhuman and unnatural motive.


7) The Bread of Life.


The misunderstandings into which the author lets the Lord’s listeners fall, otherwise and also now, are only pragmatic supports by which the speech, which would otherwise collapse due to its misguided structure, is needfully helped up again. For the speech would have to collapse in any case, because it is untruthfully motivated and consists of sayings that are supposed to form a whole but never can. The clamps that are to force the mechanical whole together must therefore be unspiritual, or, comparing the whole to an animate organism, be taken from death. The death and extreme loss of the spirit, the death to which the spirit can never again descend, now supplies the spiritless bond, and impossible misunderstandings must now serve to drive the halting speech on. Thus, as the fourth evangelist incessantly presupposes, figurative expressions cannot be misunderstood to the point of senselessness — where they are at home and the daily bread. The Hebrew – just look at the prophetic books – delights in images and still understands them even when they have been stretched to the smallest play or brought from the remotest distance. Jesus was only able to speak so often in images on a ground that brought forth an innumerable multitude of them, and in addition his figurative speeches are so simple, so drawn together out of immensity or playful pettiness into a definite and speaking form, that they make their meaning known directly in them. Yes, if the Lord had spoken among the dullest people, among a people who did not know the “parallelism of heaven and earth”, the parallelism of a spiritual and a natural world, which is otherwise praised in the Hebrew view, then misunderstandings of this kind would have been possible. But only possible – not necessarily, for the spirit would first have to have lost all “ultimate” perception of itself before it should be insensitive to the flash of those images. The apologetic talk of the “carnal sense” of the Jews *) is a play on an indefinite word, a support of indolence which is not serious about the matter, is apparently edifying, but in fact a mindless delight in unnatural contrasts. The parallelism of heaven and earth, body and soul, nature and spirit had not yet collapsed into the dead uniformity of the “flesh” for the Jews at the time of Jesus – how else would the time have been fulfilled? – but vibrated in the most living relationship, both sides were connected by thousands of trembling rays and sought their living unity. But later, when the seeking and fleeing, when the dispute between the two sides had been so decided for the greater part of the people that they had rejected the unity of heaven and earth that appeared in the Lord and had renounced it, the unhappy people had separated themselves from the goal of their historical development and appeared to the congregation as having fallen prey to this world and its meaning. Then, at last, evangelical apologetics came to ascribe to the people in every case, even in those cases where it was impossible, the misunderstanding of the simplest expressions of the Lord.

*) Guerike (Beiträge zur historisch-kritischen Einleitung ins N. T. 1828 p. 65) even says: “the inner nature of the speakers, as we have to imagine it elsewhere and as far as we can, also lets us see that their answers and comparisons had to turn out just like that and not differently. Just to mention one thing – if the opponents had understood nothing at all of the Lord’s utterances, they would not have brought him to the cross.


The crowd, which had shown an uncommon willingness to engage with his words in our Gospel, the Lord had revealed what the work of God was that they should do: it was to have faith in the messenger of God. Suddenly, like a treacherous wind changing direction from just moments before, the crowd asks Jesus: so, what sign do you perform so that we may believe? And from this starting point that the crowd takes, the Lord is led to the declaration that he is the bread of life. It is a malice that even borders on ridicule when the Jews take up the same word “work” that the conversation had revolved around until then, for the purpose of turning it against the Lord. But where does the crowd suddenly get this malicious disposition, when just moments before it seemed so receptive to the instruction about the imperishable food? The wind may change direction suddenly, but the crowd, though rightly accused of being fickle, cannot change its disposition so quickly without cause. Yet, there is no cause here, as the demand for faith in the messenger of God cannot be considered a cause, since the crowd was ready to acknowledge the promised one in the Lord with fervent enthusiasm the day before.

It was the sign of the feeding that had brought the crowd to this willingness to believe. But that they should suddenly ask for a sign to convince them of the necessity of faith, seemed so impossible even to apologists who still have a feeling for difficulties, that they must suppose that it was “probably not those who had experienced the miracle of the feeding the day before” *) who had made this demand for a new sign. But what a torment it is to be an apologist when at the same time the nature of the matter and the author of the scripture must be given their due! For even if we are relieved of the difficulty in the matter by that assumption, we must pity the writer that he is again forced to say the opposite of what he meant and expressed so clearly. So futile, then, in the case of his faithful interpreter, are all the arrangements which he has laboriously enough made, so much wasted effort is it that he translates again to this shore the multitude which was fed over there, that he lets the Lord address them as those who were fed by him yesterday – that he must now, after all, all at once let quite different people speak to the Lord. No! when we interpret, we must not disregard the writer’s words. No, we must not let the transfer of the audience surrounding the Lord happen in vain, so that we, even if it is more convenient, summon a new audience of the Lord from the near shore of the lake. No, and a thousand times no! even if the matter seems petty – but in the matter it is at the same time the word of an evangelist and – in the apologetic sense – an absolute truth. No! it is the same people who yesterday saw the sign of the feeding, who again sought out the Lord because of their “lust for food” and now demand a new sign. At least, what must first lie at the heart of the interpreter is the writer’s word, and we must now say: then the matter falls, then people who saw such a powerful sign yesterday that inspired them to fervent belief cannot start again today and demand a new sign—thus both, the writer and the matter, have received their true right. For we must not deny the matter its right, even if its right and that of the writer cannot be reconciled. But the measure of justice we owe to the writer has been fulfilled when we see how he came to his particular view. The evangelist cannot move forward except in contrasts, but the contrast against yesterday’s feeding was already exhausted when the Lord pointed the people to the imperishable food; now Jesus should designate himself as the true bread from heaven, so a new contrast was needed, and the people provided it by demanding a sign that corresponded to another bread from heaven. Moses had given the fathers manna as bread from heaven: now the Messiah should show what similar or greater thing he could give!

*) Lücke Comm. II, 94.


It seems so certain and appropriate to his self-awareness that the Lord called himself and his person dedicated to redemption the bread of life and the food of faith that it is not open to doubt. But that he did it in contrast to the manna food of the Father is so impossible that all apologetic efforts to give even a pleasing appearance to the opposite must fail *). It is not comparative consciousness in general that contradicts the infinite self-consciousness of the Lord – he compares himself with Jonah, with Solomon – but that form of comparative self-awareness that withdraws and restricts itself in contrast to the image from itself and to its power. It cannot be reconciled with the infinite self-sufficiency of the Lord. When he says: here is more than Jonah, more than Solomon! he is solely concerned with the relationship between the Ninevites and the Queen of the South, who turned to those men with faith and admiration, and the people who turned away from him, unbelieving and demanding signs that he could not grant. But measuring his life force against the manna that Moses gave to the fathers and repeatedly applying this measure (v. 49, 58), he could not and should not have done so, even if the crowd had given him the opportunity through their ignorance. Instead of spinning it out endlessly, he would have cut off or shut down this opportunity. On the one hand, if the Lord had really made the comparison between the manna bread and the food that he is for faithful enjoyment, it would be without proportion, which is never the case with his actual comparisons. But it is also unjust, because Moses gave the fathers not only manna but also the word of Jehovah.

*) In passing, we can call attention to another contradiction, which, however, is only due to the context in which the evangelist has formed it.The signs, to which the feeding of the five thousand also belongs, are to be subordinated to the need and food of the spirit, yet just before (v.26) the Lord had accused the Jews of seeking him for the signs. But there is another “and yet!” for the latter point: the same faith for the sake of signs, which the Lord demands here, he had previously denounced as very reprehensible in the case of the royal official from Capernaum.


One could argue that the designation of the person of the Lord as the bread of life still contains a reference to a sensory foundation, which is thus reduced to being finite and transient. That is indeed the case with every metaphor. In the comparison which presents the natural as the image of the spiritual, the starting point, namely the sensuous and immediate, is reduced to the reflection of the higher, but – learn it only from the sayings of Jesus in the Synoptics – at the same time ennobled, illuminated by the light of the spirit and acknowledged in its justification, which it has as the reflection of the spirit. The Spirit, who is looked upon in his natural image, loses nothing in this mirror, but rather receives a basis which places it in the midst of ordinary, immediate life and enlarges the scope of its power. This was mostly alien to the fourth evangelist, who believed that he had only made the spiritual certain when he had torn apart or dissolved its natural image by laborious denials that it was not the true one. When the Lord called Himself the Bread of Life, He presented Himself and His vitalising power in a natural image, and in presenting Himself in it, He did not allow it to exist for Himself as the true thing, but at the same time He honoured it as His image, for He now considered it so worthy that it reflected Him and His power to the believing view. And what is this thus ennobled image but daily bread? Was it necessary for the creation of that figurative expression of quarrelling over the gift of manna? Did the Jews first have to give rise to it by boasting about the food of the fathers?


If all the internal evidence cannot convince you that the evangelist created the coherent discourses of the Lord, that his discourses are a kind of system in which reminiscences from all the places of his Scriptures themselves naturally come together, you may be convinced by the external evidence which lies in the passage vv. 36-40. We call it external because the evidence can be grasped with the hands and seen with the bodily eyes. The word of the bread of life, which is given to the world, is understood by the Jews in a foolish way, so that they think Jesus is talking about bread, which satisfies the hunger of the flesh. Jesus says that he is the bread of life, but, he adds, “I told you so, that you should see me and not believe. This phrase is so brief and suggestive that it presupposes the most vivid recollection and a firm memory in the people, which still retains the features of a speech heard earlier. “Ye have seen me, and believe not”: this is only to be understood when one remembers how, above Ch. 5, the Lord pointed out to his unbelieving opponents the whole extent of his works, which testify to him and his divine mission. The reflections which the Lord adds to his reference to the earlier discourse lead us to the same discourse, especially the antithesis, that he does nothing of himself, but according to the will of the Father animates the faithful and finally raises them from the dead. But – this is the external proof to which we wanted to draw attention – was the same crowd to which the Lord speaks here also present during the earlier discourse? I.e. was the crowd that hears the Lord here in Capernaum also his audience at that time in Jerusalem, where the Lord held his speech after the healing of the sick man at the pool of Bethesda? Who would seriously say that the same crowd which the Lord had miraculously satiated yesterday, and which brought Him today to this discourse on the Bread of Life, had long ago accused Him of violating the Sabbath? Chance, as they are wont to say, may play marvellously: but think what an effort of chance would be required to this end, if now as then the same multitude should surround the Lord, that He might need but briefly to remind Him of that former discourse. The insight into the method by which our author works frees us from the postulate of so highly miraculous a coincidence. Since the evangelist, because everything can be brought into connection, also really puts much into connection and always works towards a fairly complete system, which embraces everything related, it was inevitable with this arrangement of the larger speeches that they did not come into contact and that some things were repeated more than once. Usually this happens without the evangelist reflecting on it, but here the speech to which he returned was too close, especially the testimony of the works was too prominent, for him not to have had to take it expressly into account. But since the Lord was speaking, he had to refer to the earlier word, to remind the listeners of what they had heard before, and the evangelist did not immediately think of the fact that this earlier speech had been delivered in a different setting before a different audience *).

*De Wette p. 82 considers it “more probable that the evangelist omitted the earlier saying to which Jesus refers”. But this is a probability which is inaccessible even to your loftiest, most outrageous faith. John’s memory must have so meticulously recorded all the turns of the Lord’s speech that even a parenthetical phrase (“as I told you”) could not have escaped his notice – and yet he is said to have been so careless with the main point. The evangelist, however, considered his work to be so much of a whole that, if he included a reference to earlier things in a parenthesis, he would have known and indicated quite well what those earlier things were. Or – to put it more intelligibly – he could only make such a reference if he himself had already written down what he was pointing to. In this case, however, he saw it already written before him, since the thoughts and words of the section vv. 37-40 are the same as those in the speech Ch. 5.


8) The procession of the Father.


If the speeches which the fourth evangelist gives us were not to lose their relation to the presupposed hearers altogether, and either not to falter or not to become too much of a homily or pure theory, the hearers had often to intervene, but they could only make their presence known in an outward way, since the connection of these speeches is neither an original one nor continued to the perfection of the art. Mostly it is misunderstandings that make the flow of the speech more lively, sometimes the listeners murmur among themselves and the Lord takes occasion from this to continue. How little, however, a muffled murmur of the crowd can further the development of a speech is self-evident, since it is completely devoid of content and is only a kind of tautology which takes up what has gone before and looks at it only with a dull sense.


This time the Jews murmur that the Lord calls Himself the Bread that came down from heaven, and then bring up their murmurings in such a way that they say: is not Jesus the Son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? The Lord had to experience many controversies in his speaking and doing, but – apart from the childish misunderstandings – he could not have experienced so many in succession as are only mentioned here in this conversation, when he addressed the people with his words. Thus it is at least more probable that the annoyance at Jesus’ well-known lowly ways belonged to another occasion and was used by the author, who remembered it here, as a welcome motive for the continuation of the speech. But what is in itself more probable is made certain by the position of this motive in the context.

Whether the Synoptics, who also report an offence that was taken at the generally known origin of the Lord, know more precisely where this offence originate, is not our concern here. But when the Lord responds to those who took offense at his lineage, according to their reports (Matthew 13:57, Mark 6:4, Luke 4:24), “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country,” it appears perfectly fitting, and human wit could hardly invent a better response. After the fourth Gospel, the Lord replies that no one can come to him unless the Father draws him. This, however, could no less appropriately serve as an answer to a thousand other objections; indeed, it is not even really an answer, but really only a continuation of the speech, which was to be set in motion by an external impulse. Earlier, in v. 37, the Lord had said that all that the Father gives Him comes to Him; in vv. 39, 40. He had said that He also really cares for the blessedness of those whom the Father gives Him; and only in order that He might say the same in the form of an antithesis (No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him), only in order that this turn of events might be brought about, must the Jews again intervene. An inner relationship that connects the interjection and the answer cannot, of course, be discovered in this kind of pragmatism. The commentators admit that the continuation of the speech does not exactly take into account the objection of the Jews, and they therefore even praise the doctrinal wisdom which does not reach to the root of the problem, but “seeks to meet the misunderstanding in an indirect way” *). Now, this doctrinal wisdom, which would have been lacking in the Lord according to the testimony of the Synoptics, who always tackle the problem directly, or whose fame was unjustly withheld from him by the first Gospels, is easy to come by. Because everything is connected “indirectly,” and the greatest teaching wisdom would be the one that only our Gospel knows, which moves furthest away from the problem and, seeking the most remote relationships, does not come into direct contact with the objections. Let us not seek the “wisdom” of the Lord in this, which is only a cumbersome combination of the evangelist and, on the contrary, would present the most unfavorable picture of the Lord’s teaching wisdom as soon as it is taken historically.

*) De Wette p. 83.

*) Lücke Comm. II, 106.


In the saying about the Father leading to the Son (v. 44) **), it is easy to find the original core that the Synoptic saying Matt. 11:27 has preserved for us in its healthy strength and freshness. Jesus may have returned to the content of this saying more than once and explained it in terms of the mutual relationship of Father and Son, that the relationship of others to the Father and Son could not be arbitrarily mediated by themselves, but only by the Father and the Son. But that he spoke almost exclusively of this relationship, preached only on the subject of this saying, and elaborated it into a kind of system, is impossible. In the Synoptics, the Lord proclaims Himself as the centre of the Kingdom of Heaven in the victorious and world-conquering way that He lifts all conditions of spiritual life off their hinges and places them on the ground of the Kingdom of Heaven with the sinners, the hungry and the weary. In this way, encompassing, penetrating and enlivening all reality, all conditions of life and the periphery of all humanity, the Lord alone could bring it about that he indissolubly chained the periphery of humanity to his person and fused it with his life force. In the fourth Gospel, the omission of this kind of work is not just an innocent deficiency, as apologists would call it, but rather it gives the appearance of weakness and lack of stability to the central figure himself. We constantly see the center point, or at least we are supposed to see it – but what is it, if not all the spiritual powers for which it is the focal point appear, if it does not prove itself as such in the fullness of the radii and real relationships? It is an atom. No one who has an eye for it would call these the living conditions on which the Lord acted and which he drew into the circle of his personality with original force, if all we hear about is murmuring Jews and childish misunderstandings. The points that surround the Lord in this way are also nothing more than atoms that are related to each other and to the isolated person of the Lord only through a spiritless emptiness. On the other hand, when the Lord, as he does according to the synoptic reports, has worked through the scope of the spiritual struggle, brought it to himself, and now points to himself and presents his person as the center of life, how different it is! He not only says that he is the only mediator, he does not just preach about it, no! He is now what he is and appears as the true mediator: countless threads now go back and forth between him and the entire reality, and just as all the pulses of the world beat towards him, he himself stands in the fullness of the light that emanates from him over the spiritual world. In the midst of work that is so effective, Jesus could and had to speak of himself and say: “Everything has been entrusted to me”.

**) V. 65 the speech comes back to this saying.


This contact of the fourth gospel with a synoptic saying can therefore certainly serve as proof that his speeches are not entirely without historical foundation, but now one must not immediately rush with apologetic recklessness beyond all bounds of the permissible and conclude the historical character of the whole thing wholesale. Only one ray of light is taken from the reality which the synoptic gospels portray to us, caught by the fourth evangelist and applied over and over again, but since the colourful painting is missing, on which that ray of light only really receives illuminating power, it loses its full meaning *). Light without the matter it illuminates, spirit without corporeality, brightness without opacity, does not enlighten and inspire, and has as little power as the little dot without the ground stroke which makes it a sound. Christ’s preaching of his person lacks nothing more and nothing less in the fourth gospel than the world of sinners, the weary, the hungry and the thirsty; it is the seed that falls into emptiness and finds no field according to whose manifold nature it bears fruit. So let the apologist stop using Matthew’s verse as evidence for the credibility of the speeches in the fourth Gospel—unless they also claim that someone who repeats a single prominent part of a melody a thousand times over or copies a painting by repeatedly drawing a single glimpse of light on a blank canvas a thousand times over or who copies an insightful sentence by continuously repeating only its concluding phrase or extending it into a line has truly reproduced a rich musical piece, a complete painting, or a meaningful sentence.

*) It is precisely at such points, where the synoptic Gospels touch the fourth, that the dissonance sounds most cuttingly.


9) The mediation of the Son.


The thought of the Father’s course, this saying, which through the infinity of its content appears at first sight to be an independent magnitude, must serve the author to bring the speech back to the bread of life and to the comparison of the same with the man’s bread. But how? In the Synoptics, the Lord never shies away from presenting a saying in its own right and with the stamp of infinite validity, even if the same saying is limited by another purpose. This kind of speech exerts that magic which never lets the soul come to the dormant rest which now considers the matter done, but excites it and, as the saying constantly resounds in it, calls upon it to occupy itself with it. As an infinite magnitude, the saying can capture and occupy the soul to its innermost depths, but when one determination is only externally limited by another and the limitation only appears as a combination of the understanding and not as the infinity of the higher unity, then such a network of sayings can only occupy the understanding that is satisfied when it has heard of that limitation. The Lord never spoke to the mere understanding; the saying that complemented another also came at his time and under his living circumstance, and it also came with infinite validity, not only for the sake of a reasonable limitation, and the struggle that now fought infinite against infinite happened not only in the understanding but primarily in life and soul, and before it found its solution in the rational idea, it had to work on life and soul over the course of many centuries. Let us now see whether the saying of the father’s course is not prematurely limited, if the thought is immediately rejected as if someone besides the son had seen the father. The idea of the Father’s inner revelation is not explained and supplemented by this, but dissolved into nothing. The Lord was too sure of His mediatorship to have so jealously bound and tamed this thought; for in the Synoptic account He says without envy and without a sensible clause: blessed are you Simon, for this is what My Father in heaven has revealed to you. But here, how disruptive and hasty is this jealous “not that anyone has seen the Father except the Son” in pushing aside the previous idea. Moreover, this limitation is only a reminiscence from the conversation with Nicodemus and from the Baptist’s speech to his jealous disciples, a reminiscence of a saying that we ourselves have already recognized as fabricated. The reflective intellect must receive this limitation as the Lord’s property to his honor.


10) The food and drink of the church.


The continued talk about the bread of life in vv. 47-58 seems at first to be a mere continuation or rather repetition of the previous comparison between the manna and the person of the Lord. But v. 51 takes a turn with the words: “and the bread that I give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world,” with which it changes to a new view. When Jesus hitherto called himself the Bread of Life, it was evidently figuratively speaking, and the actual object of appropriation, which was compared with the bread, was the spiritual content of his personality: this, as it is in its self-awareness, also holds the consciousness of unity with the Father, the will to unity with the divine will, and redemption in its actions. This spiritual infinity should be appropriated by individuals so that they may gain their eternal spiritual life substance. With the Jews, who, at the new turn of speech in v. 52, disputed among themselves how the Lord could possibly give them his flesh to eat, later commentators have also asked whether this eating, this enjoyment, is to be understood as figuratively as in the preceding context. If the Lord were to speak only of the eating of his flesh, we could really remain with the figurative conception, since the flesh (σαρξ) denotes the earthly, human appearance of the Saviour in general. This totality of humanity is the flesh, for example, when it is said that the Word became flesh. The progress which the speech would now make would then consist in the declaration that not only the abstraction of the spiritual content from the personality of the Lord, not only the general thought of unity with the Father and with the divine will, not only the abstraction of the atonement would be the content of the enjoyment, but the atonement as it is real and living as this personality of the Lord. In this case the speech would still be figurative, because the sensual determination of eating would be connected with a spiritual one; for even if flesh (σαρξ) is the human, earthly appearance, yet by it is to be understood the totality and generality of the human appearance together with its essential content. This essential totality of personality is inaccessible to the senses, even to the most spiritual sense, the eye, and cannot be grasped in faith in any other way than by means of spiritual perception. The expression “flesh” is not used here in this general sense, but is returned to the meaning of the body in a more limited sense, when it is combined with the meaning of blood in order to complete it, so that the totality of the bodily appearance may be designated as the object of enjoyment. This provision, that one must drink the blood of the Lord as one must eat his flesh if one wants to have eternal life, decisively cuts off the next path that could lead to the figurative conception. The next path, namely the one that the letter could show. The further difficulties as to how the consumption of the flesh and blood can create eternal life, i.e. have a spiritual effect, how the flesh, which is given for the life of the world, and the blood, which is poured out for the atonement, can be eaten and drunk, these difficulties decide nothing for the apologist, since they are not to be overcome by the artifice of interpretation, but by faith. And for faith, to which these words are actually spoken, the enjoyment of the body and blood of the Lord is not only an image of union with the Redeemer, but this itself at the highest point of its promise and enjoyment.


We hardly need to say that the Lord is speaking of the enjoyment of his body and blood, which the congregation celebrates in the Lord’s Supper. But we must not express it in this way, that the Lord speaks of this enjoyment *), but the Evangelist lets him speak in this way: He was once tempted by the allusion in the word “feeding” to lead the Lord from the miraculous feeding of the people to the saying that he is the bread of life, and now he exhausts this allusion completely by having him speak in the same context of the enjoyment of his body and blood, i.e. of an enjoyment which he only offered to his disciples at the last supper which he held with them. Shall we remind you how impossible it is that the Lord addressed this discourse to a crowd for whom the miracle of the feeding and the miracle-worker had value only for the sake of bodily satiation, who misunderstood the simplest figurative expressions to a crass degree, to a crowd which could therefore also see in this discourse only the invitation to anthropophagy? Or to a crowd that had degenerated to the point of dullness and stupidity was the Lord supposed to have spoken of his sacrificial death without making the slightest attempt to prepare, motivate or even emphasize this revelation in its importance? No! As if it were self-evident, even according to the view of this crowd, that he would go into sacrificial death, that the Messiah must suffer death for the world, so speaks the Lord, i.e. he speaks as a later teacher could homiletically present the known views to the believing congregation or, once the later sphere of life of the congregation and the real circumstances in which the Lord had worked and taught had grown into one, let the Lord speak. The only consequence that remained for the writer, and which ours does not lack, even in an inappropriate place, was that he either did not understand the Lord’s sayings or let them be misunderstood to the utmost.

*) As Bendel says: Jesus verba sua scienter ita formavit, ut statim et semper illa quidem de spirituali fruitione sui agorent proprie; sed posthae eadem consequenter etiam in augustissimum S. Coenae mysterium, eum id institutum foret, convenirent. Jesus, says Bengel, here prophesied of the Lord’s Supper. Tota haec de earne et sanguine J. Ch. oratio passionem spectat et eum ea S. Coenam.


If the apologist wanted to find the view of the Lord’s Supper here only if there were also an allusion to the sacramental substratum of bread and wine, he would be asking for an impossibility that even our author could not overcome.

We will now address the difficulty we encountered earlier, namely, that the Lord opposed himself to the manna of the fathers as the bread of life in a manner that does not correspond to the character of the one of whom it is written: ουκ επρσει ουδε κραυγασει. Now that this comparison with the manna also introduces and concludes the discourse that refers to the Lord’s Supper (verse 49, 58) and the impossibility that it belongs to the Lord is beyond doubt, its origin is also revealed to us. The community that had received its heavenly food in the Lord’s Supper and its daily bread on its journey through the desert of the world was the only one in which the manna of the fathers could present itself as an image of the food of the Lord’s Supper, but as an image that touched the nature of the archetype internally, since it was also a heavenly gift, while at the same time indicating the nature of the archetype in an imperfect manner, since it was only finite food. In the image, these two aspects of unity and difference are always combined, but our evangelist, who can only think of truth in contrast, this harsh character had to completely remove the aspect of internal connection between image and archetype and leave it only to the Jews as a false boast.


11) The apostasy of many disciples.

6:60, 66.

If one asks what is gained by denying the Lord this speech, by proving that it does not belong to him, and whether the loss does not at least outweigh the gain, the answer is obvious. Nothing is lost: what is the Lord’s genuine good remains and remains all the more certain now that it has been taken out of this disturbing environment, which can only harm him. But how great is the gain when the Lord’s doctrinal wisdom is again set in its true light, when we no longer have to torment him with incomprehensible difficulties or difficulties caused by himself, and especially when we no longer have to assume that he was always able to speak so harshly and with such difficulty that the listeners had to turn their backs on him. If the Lord did not give those speeches, then their consequence, namely that many of his disciples turned away from him, also falls away. But indeed they should have turned away, for such a teacher could not help them and could not enlighten them. According to the synoptic reports, those who were otherwise willing also turned their backs on the Lord, but according to sayings that were clear, transparent and only too comprehensible to the hearers, and which only too clearly expected of them an inwardness and a freedom from everything finite, which they really understood, but which they did not want to understand. There the collision is simple and a real, efficient one, but all collision falls away when the listeners are offered something that they could in no way even understand. This time the evangelist gives those people far too much credit when he lets them call the Lord’s speech hard. One calls a contradiction hard, the two aspects of which one understands well and just cannot bring together. But these people have not yet understood the parts of the discourse and its individual provisions, that they know what is flesh and what is eating; for flesh and blood and eating and drinking are here said with reference to the sacrament, of which they could know nothing. Actually they should have said: we do not understand anything of this speech – but it is good that they did not need to say anything, since they have not heard anything of the speech *).

*) Gfrörer (das Heiligth. und die Wahrh. p. 72.) gives us a clear example of the sentimentality of the enlightened view, which has especially befriended the fourth Gospel. “The statement, he says, that the Lord was forsaken by many of his disciples, is a melancholy confession, which certainly cost our evangelist trouble and caused pain, for it runs counter to his favourite idea of the logos nature of Christ.” But it is precisely through this opposition, which is formed by the fickleness and the closedness of the mind to the person of the Lord, that the latter is exalted. Wisdom appears to the evangelist the more profound the more it is offensive; the certainty of the Lord appears to him greater when it maintains itself in the midst of the apostasy of the followers. It is a manufactured contrast; the painfulness that the evangelist put into the situation is infinitely cancelled out for him by the joy of the sublimity in which the image of the Lord now stands.


12) The increase of the offence.


After the speech and the offence caused by it have fallen away, it would seem that the explanation of the following words of the Lord, which refer to that offence, would have to be made more difficult. But the words cannot become more difficult than they already are in this context; rather, there is every prospect of grasping them correctly if they are isolated. Yes, the question in v. 62, “if ye then see the Son of man ascending where he was before,” is really inexplicable in this context, and the meaning which the evangelist connected with it must have remained for him in the most indefinite sense. It refers to the distress the hearers feel at partaking of the Lord’s flesh and blood: “That, but only so much, is clear at first, but what the relationship is, can only be indicated with some difficulty. The matter is not as simple as those exegetes think who take v. 62 as a facilitating explanation and as a removal of the offence *). The meaning of the passage would therefore be as follows: You are offended by what I have said about the enjoyment of my flesh and blood? How now? When you see the Son of Man rise again, will you not then see that my word must be understood spiritually, and that this offence will be removed? To facilitate the comprehension of mysteries, however, is by no means the author’s endeavour. We say: “the author,” for we cannot attribute this transition to the Lord. Just look at this “How then?” this “When you shall see the Son of Man ascending? How then?” and listen carefully to how secretly the Lord would have offered a solution which He would have possessed completely for Himself, but which He would have only half given to the hearers with a cunning glance at them. It requires but a glance at the preceding discourse to see how, on the contrary, the author is not at all afraid to heap offence upon offence. The Jews hardly took offence at the fact that the Lord calls Himself the Bread of Life, when the speech immediately increases and now the consumption of the flesh and blood of Christ is demanded. So from this the progress is made to a harder offence: “Does this offend you? (When you therefore see the Son of Man rise again, must not your offence increase?

*) Thus Lücke Comm. II, 141.


If this transition is taken seriously, but the greater vexation is to consist only **) in the fact that the Lord will really go to death, then the speech is deprived of its escalation, for the death of the Lord was already more expressly emphasized before than now, when the enjoyment of the flesh, which he will give up for the life of the world (V. 51.), was demanded. Or should the offence increase by the Lord’s demanding the eating of His flesh and blood, even after He has ascended again, the same offence already lies in the fact that His flesh, which has been given up to death, is to be eaten.

**) As de Wette p. 88 explains.


And yet the evangelist must have had something in mind when he made this transition, and before we can reproach him for what otherwise only happens to profane poets and even to Homer from time to time, we must have tried all possibilities. The following statement of the Lord: “The spirit gives life, the flesh is of no use. My words are spirit and life” (v. 63), or actually not this saying, but his passage here, proves that the evangelist had already reflected on the enjoyment of the Lord’s Supper. Therefore he brings these sayings here, in order to remind his readers at the same time that the flesh and blood of the Lord, which is offered for consumption in the Lord’s Supper, is not sensual, and that the demand for this consumption is to be grasped spiritually. Anyone who would still want to draw further conclusions from here regarding the theory of the evangelist would go too far and push the reflection of the same beyond its standpoint. Enough! He seems to have solved the difficulty contained in the idea of that enjoyment by shifting it altogether to the realm of the spirit, without finding a more specific answer to the question of how. Thus, we now indeed come back to the explanation that the ascension of the Lord should establish the relocation of this enjoyment to the spiritual sphere, and therefore actually eliminate the offense. But we cannot hold onto this explanation alone, because the form of the transition to a greater offense is too clearly defined, and the evangelist refrains from his tendency to pile offense upon offense, even in a context where he actually wanted to facilitate understanding. Thus, the complete contradiction between form and content has arisen.


The sayings which the Evangelist uses in v. 63 to explain the true enjoyment of the Lord’s flesh, both appeared so independent that they could not have been spoken in succession, as on this occasion – if the preceding discourse still existed as historical – so little on any other occasion. The first: “the spirit makes alive, the flesh is of no use” is most easily explained when it is brought about by a collision with some legal commandment. The other, “my words are spirit and life,” which is infinitely weakened if, as here, it means nothing else than “my words must be understood spiritually,” will have originated in a similar context and in the same sense in which the Lord called the weary and burden-bearing to himself and promised rest and refreshment to their souls.

13) Peter’s confession and Judas’ betrayal.


The discourse of the Saviour’s partaking of the flesh and blood was not actually delivered, the Jews could not grumble at it: so neither could many of the disciples take offence at their Master’s discourse, and he did not need to reveal his knowledge of their unbelief to them (v. 64.). It is not to be remotely asserted that those who had already drawn near to the Lord would not have turned away from Him again, if their willingness did not reach to the fulfilment of the Most High: but here, on this occasion, we say, no disciples could fall away from the Lord, because this occasion never happened. But the evangelist does not want to bring the matter to this catastrophe in vain; he takes it even further, to the Lord’s prophecy of an even deeper, more terrible catastrophe, and to calm the scene he adds the reconciling contrast with Peter’s enthusiastic confession.


The escalation reveals all too clearly its origin in the aesthetic contemplation according to which the author arranges the story and develops its various clusters. “There are some among you who do not believe” says the Lord v. 64. Earlier, or actually immediately in the account of Jesus’ first public appearance among the people, the evangelist had remarked that the Lord had seen through the inner man: now, in a later collision, it must be said that “from the beginning” the Lord had known which were the unbelievers among his disciples, so that he could never have been surprised by the apostasy of the weak; indeed, he had foreseen even the most despicable apostasy, the betrayal of Judas. It is not enough that the evangelist gives this only as his pragmatic remark, the Lord must finally say it himself (v. 70), that one of the disciples is a devil.

The pain of this scene of mourning is alleviated by Peter’s confession, who, on behalf of the others, vows constancy of faith and discipleship; for, he says in v. 68, “You have words of eternal life.” The synoptic account of Peter’s confession does not contain a counterpart, but a rival who fights with him for the field. The fact that Peter twice made the same confession is contradicted by the fact that the Synoptics also place his confession close to the feeding of the people (Matt. 15,16 Mark 8 Luke 9). Nor does this prove the double issue of fact, that in the account of the fourth Gospel he so enthusiastically praises the very words of life which the Lord had; for this praise was very near to him who let him speak, when the Lord had so just called his words life. It is one and the same confession which we hear here and there. But since it is linked in the fourth Gospel with speeches of the Lord, which are not only not given in this place, but are not given at all in this form, the Synoptics need not be ashamed that they do not have Peter proclaim the praise of such sayings, and the glory of having better motivated the confession of the disciple cannot be diminished by the fourth Evangelist.


As for the prophecy of Judas’ betrayal, we saw through what sequence of ideas it came to this place. However, the roots it has in this context go even deeper and lie even further back: just as the Lord’s statement that he is the bread of life develops into the talk of partaking in the Lord’s Supper, so too is the mention of unbelief among some followers escalated to the lamentation about the betrayal of one disciple, even to that lamentation that the Lord only expressed at the last meal he held with his disciples.

*) As also Weisse, evang. Gesch. ll, 235 notes.



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