Theological Explanation of the Gospels
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.
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.
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 facts – because 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. ***)
**) 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.
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.” *)
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.