I have uploaded new files containing an English translation of Christian Hermann Weisse‘s Gospel History (Die evangelische geschichte, kritisch und philosophisch bearbeitet) on Vridar.info. Weisse published his case for the priority of the Gospel of Mark at the same time as, but independently of, Christian Gottlob Wilke.
Christian Hemann Weisse’s two-volume work pioneering the case for the priority of the Gospel of Mark — Die evangelische geschichte=Gospel History — is now translated into English. See vridar.info for details.
The English translation PDF file, volume 1 is no more than 7 MB — download here.
Volume 2 is no more than 6 MB — download here.
For the sake of completeness I have added a translation of Weisse’s corrections to his volumes, although I also applied the corrections to the main files. This page should be consulted when comparing the source text in archive.org with the English translation I have supplied: Weisse – Errata and CC Licence.
Theological Explanation of the Gospels
The Original Evangelist.
Yes, it must be difficult to grasp a perspective that no longer aligns with the entanglement of theological assumptions, especially when even academically trained theologians, in their struggle with criticism, in a moment when they should be proving their presuppositions, use the categories of those assumptions with a naivety and unconsciousness that could be considered extraordinary, if this audacity of unawareness could still be surprising to theologians.
To portray my view on the origins of the Gospels and the gospel history as “absurd,” Mr. Schwegler finds it sufficient to exclaim: “Now Hesiod, an Hellenic proto-evangelist, would have created the Greek mythology in a literary manner; Homer’s songs, instead of being passed down from generation to generation through oral tradition, would have been freely and creatively presented to all the Hellenes!”
*) Zeller’s Theological Yearbooks. 1843. p. 207.
Let it be, I will follow Mr. Schwegler into ancient Greece; I will forget that even Herodotus made the “absurd” statement that Homer and Hesiod created the “gods of the Greeks” *) — but is the composition of Herodotus explained by speaking of its “inheritance”?
*) Her. II, 53 ουτοι δε εισι οι ποιησαντε θεογονιην ‘Ελλησι.
The Norse mythology, the German heroic song — they would, Mr. Schwegler further exclaims, be the products of a poetic mind because there was no tradition to transmit them from mouth to mouth, from generation to generation?
In his astonishment — in the fortunate ignorance bestowed upon the followers of the tradition hypothesis — Mr. Schwegler does not see that the question is solely about who created this “plant.”
To prove the “absurdity” of my view, Mr. Schwegler **) relies on how “the prehistory of all ethnic groups and nations has been passed down for centuries without being fixed in writing, in their speech and memory,” and how “they could do so because these peoples recognized in it the substantial forces of their history, the mystery of their world-historical mission.”
**) p. 258.
However, to fully accomplish the merit of the work he achieves with my refutation and to relieve historians from the unnecessary agony of further efforts, he should have mentioned at least one nation, if not all nations and ethnic groups, whose prehistory has truly been inherited in their memory — he should have mentioned that particular prehistory which is so reliably attested, which has been faithfully preserved in the memory of the nation, that any historian who would not include it in the realm of real history, as it has been transmitted in the oral tradition of the people, would rightly deserve the accusation of unnecessary nitpicking.
However, as far as I am aware of actual history, the prehistories, such as the Jewish, the Greek, the Roman, are later creations in which the world-historical mission of these peoples is so clearly prefigured because they were created at a time when those nations were already fully aware of their destiny and greatness — they are the reflection of the later self-consciousness of these peoples into a primeval era that lies beyond history, in which this self-consciousness was formed.
“And, declaims Mr. Schwegler further, and the evangelical history, transmitted from mouth to mouth, spread from the messengers of faith to the people, recounted in all religious gatherings, in private religious gatherings, told in a time and among social classes that were not inclined toward written records, relying primarily on the power of memory — should not even the few generations that, according to Bauer’s assumption, fall between the actual events (!) and the written record have been able to survive? On what else did the evangelical proclamation build, to what else could it refer, if not to the fact of the appearing, crucified, and resurrected Messiah?”
Indeed, the evangelical proclamation could only refer to the fact of the appearance, death, and resurrection of the Messiah — but this fact was also its only historical content.
That is certain — an indisputable fact.
But does that make the evangelical proclamation, which is the key to solving all difficulties in the Tradition Hypothesis, the evangelical proclamation that recites the entire evangelical history in one breath and, with this uniform recitation, wins the Roman Empire over to the Christian faith, become a historical fact?
Hardly anyone will acknowledge this more than the critic who recognizes the rich contribution that the Gospels made to the shaping and development of the Christian world and the significant interests involved in the creation of the evangelical history. Similarly, there can be no doubt that when the Gospels were presented to the organized and existing Church as individual narrative pieces for edification, they proved to be a true source of life for Christian beliefs and the entire life of faith.
However, if the proponents of the Tradition Hypothesis claim that the “messengers of faith” subjugated the Roman world to their new Lord by conveying his biography, then we can use the only appropriate expression without in any way diminishing the true Gospels and their significant content, and ask whether “nation upon nation” could really have been won over with this collection of anecdotes.
The only thing that could be cited in support of this mindless chimera is the supposed testimony of Papias regarding the origin of the Gospel of Mark, his claim that Peter recounted the life story of his Lord during his missionary journeys. However, just like the later Tradition Hypothesis, this is nothing more than a theological attempt to explain the origin of the already existing and given Gospels — a hypothesis born out of interest and ignorance.
After these remarks, I will briefly ask whether, even if the “lower classes,” among whom the evangelical history is said to be narrated, were “not very skilled in written expression,” the teachers, leaders, and messengers of faith suffered from the same incompetence. And in response to the appeal to the incompetence of the masses, I would simply state that precisely because they are neither inclined nor capable of writing, individuals write on their behalf.
In the following volume, I will attempt to determine the era in which the confused mind lived, to whom we owe the so-called testimonies of Papias. Here I only note that when Mr. Schwegler connects the question to Papias’ alleged interest in the authenticity of the evangelical accounts and considers his collection of sayings derived from tradition as an impossibility, *) I would point out that the account of the supposed Papias preserved by Eusebius **) does not pertain to historical notes and anecdotes, but rather to matters of faith and doctrine. The contrast between oral tradition and written records is the contrast between the truth directly received from the Lord and the subsequent development of doctrine, which is regarded as personal wisdom. The supposed Papias does not seek to determine what is truly authentic in the historical accounts of the Gospels, but rather, starting from the belief that later doctrinal development is a foreign and arbitrary invention, he seeks to find the original, unadulterated teachings of the Lord.
*) Ibid., p. 271.
**) Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3, 39.
Papias’ eccentric antithesis has led Mr. Schwegler onto the right track: “precisely the earliest Christianity,” he notes, “more than any later period of the Christian Church, relied on tradition as a principle; the immediate connection with Christ was considered the criterion of apostolic authority, the church’s tradition, the canon of the preaching of salvation, and the episcopal succession were subjects of the greatest attention and strict scrutiny.”
Well then, there was a time in the Church when Catholicism believed that by claiming to be the old traditional system, it could convince the factions that divided the Church of their injustice and the gnostic speculation of its arbitrariness.
Furthermore, I will forget that this Catholicism, which emerged victorious over the factions in the second half of the second century, itself represented a new form of consciousness, a consequence of the flattening of extreme factions. I will forget that the tradition it relied upon was itself a creation of its consciousness, a dogma. I will forget that the succession of bishops it referred to was a fiction meant to provide a historical basis for its new dogma of tradition. I will forget all of that, except for the strict scrutiny and careful attention given to the succession of bishops, which I grant to Mr. Schwegler. But does this prove his tradition of evangelical history?
Yes, there was a time in the Church, in the middle of the second century, when Jewish Christianity and the so-called Pauline direction contended for supremacy. Both based their claims on the direct connection of their respective patrons with the Lord, until their dispute was reconciled by acknowledging the equal legitimacy of their supposed founders.
Well then, my proof that this dispute over Paul’s apostolic authority is also a product of the Catholic tradition’s demands has not been provided. Let it be granted to Mr. Schwegler that this dispute between Peter and Paul truly belongs to the early history of the community. Mr. Schwegler shall not even be tasked with creating a coherent picture of this dispute from the confusion of the Corinthian and Galatian letters. Let the proofs of criticism be forgotten, and Mr. Schwegler’s historical world stands there—but does that prove his tradition of evangelical history? Is the tradition of doctrine the transmission of historical notes? Is the dispute between Peter and Paul a dispute over evangelical history?
And when “Hegesippus traveled through the Christian world to verify the apostolicity of contemporary church doctrine through firsthand observation, personal research, and testimonies” *)—that is, rather, to measure the doctrine of individual churches against the later norm of Catholicism—did he travel to compare the various forms of evangelical historical tradition?
*) Ibid., p. 272.
Have all these digressions into foreign territories substantiated Strauss’s hypothesis or refuted or even touched upon my criticism?
But now Mr. Schwegler gets to the point: “how can the origin of Christianity and the formation of the community be understood without the impetus of a creative personality?” *)—what a reproach against me, who for the first time attributed the shaping and development of the community consciousness to truly creative personalities!
*) Ibid., p. 276.
Indeed, the creators whose productive and transformative power I have demonstrated, for example, in the Urevangelium or in that evangelical section on the old and new law, are not the creators revered by religious consciousness or the ones theologians need to explain their worlds—they are not the creators who come from outside and provide the impetus for the emergence and movement of something or impose their revelations on the world that doesn’t know how to attain such favor—
— the creators whose work I have shown in the Gospels are rather so intimately connected with the world to which they present their new creations that my presentation of this connection can lead Mr. Schwegler to the objection and misunderstanding that I am still within the framework of the Tradition Hypothesis **), since I “cannot take a step forward without constantly recurring to tradition, to what is given in the community.”
**) Ibid., p. 247—Dr. Baur explicitly agrees with this objection (Kritische Untersuchungen, p. 66).
But when I say and provide evidence that the holy writers depict in their creations “the inner movements and experiences, the trials and struggles of the community,” when I designate the self-perception and self-consciousness of the community as the raw material of those creations, when I demonstrate that the holy artists derived the material they processed and shaped in their creations from their own inner being, which was so rich and vast that in its vibrations and struggles it reproduced the inner life of their world and condensed it into personal self-perception, into personal passion—
Thus, I do not rely on tradition—(tradition in Strauss’s sense)—”going back,” but rather on the historical substance that the holy writers shaped—the actual substance that was processed in their work and became the soul of a new world, not the chimerical substance that, according to the Tradition Hypothesis, merely reappears in the copy that the writers captured from it.
After Mr. Schwegler, because I have established a real connection between the historical creators and the world into which they place their works and revelations, has made me an adherent of the Tradition Hypothesis, he finds that I have detached the creators of the evangelical history from any connection with the community because I cannot consider them mere copyists. He then uses his finding to draw a conclusion that is supposed to complete the proof of the “absurdity” of my view.
“If the Evangelists, he remarks against me, ‘acted creatively towards their material without being in interaction with the community, if they were founders of a not yet existing and not rather children of an already created Christian world, then the Urevangelist, the Unknown, would be the creator of a world-creating religion.'” *)
*) Ibid., p. 219. Herr Dr. Baur also finds this objection so apt that he repeats it verbatim in his Critical Investigations, p. 67.”
— “Without standing in interaction with the community,” and it was I who first depicted this interaction between the creators of the evangelical narrative and the community — or would that truly be an interaction if the evangelists were merely copying tradition? Were the evangelists truly “the children” of an already existing Christian world when they wrote down what tradition dictated?
He, the unknown Ur-Evangelist, would be the “creator” of the Christian religion! — dreadful! But not for me, who acknowledge a great and esteemed multitude of creators of this religion! — a terrifying objection! Especially for the critic who recognizes not only the Ur-Evangelist but also the artists of the nativity story of the Savior, the master who formed the antithesis of the old and new law, even the author of the intricate web of antitheses in the fourth Gospel — who acknowledges not only the author of the first eight chapters of the Epistle to the Romans but also those who shaped Christian Judaism in contrast to Paulinism as creators of the Christian religion — a dreadful, annihilating objection against the one who sees the creative power that gave Christianity its life continuing to exert its influence in Athanasius and Augustine, in Hildebrand and Luther!
Dreadful! He, “the unknown,” the Ur-Evangelist, whose name no one can name, would be the creator — terrifying, above all, for the critic who does not know the names of the creators of those birth narratives in which the Christian perspective subjected Judaism and paganism — who does not even know the name of the master to whom the new law owes its victory over the old — who does not know the name of the man who satisfied the needs of the Christian heart in the fourth Gospel — dreadful for the critic who cannot assign a name to the author of the first chapters of the Epistle to the Romans and who is also unfamiliar with the names of the men who, until the end of the second century, developed the Catholic reconciliation of extremes — terrifying for the one who is ignorant of the true names of all those creators and who, in due time and in the course of this work, will attempt the only thing he has yet to accomplish in this regard — namely, answering the question of why a part of these creators remains completely nameless and whence arises the pseudonymity under which the works of others have come down to us.
So, according to Herr Schwegler, in his astonishment at my “absurd assumption” and “phantasmagorical view of history,” it is not an overwhelming personality that works by emanating its inner life, thereby creating community, but rather a writer through a book sent out into the world would be the originator of that immense movement upon which centuries of history are built.
The lack of intelligence with which the “inner life” of the Gospels and all those works that served as focal points for the crystallization of Christian society is closed off cannot be expressed in a more naive manner.
That these works did not fall into the world like the “inner life” that, according to the theologian’s view, provided the “impetus” for the formation of Christianity from an unknown, foreign heaven, I need not explain further. There is only one thing left for me to do in response to that objection: to measure the strength of real inner life, which I have demonstrated in the molding of the Ur-Evangelium, in the antithesis of the old and new law, and even in the statutory creation of Catholicism, against the mere phrase and mist of its “inner life.”
But my work is laid out openly—I do not need to repeat it for the sake of a mere phrase.
I do not need to speak again about the animating power that emanates from the Ur-Evangelium, nor the creative force with which the antithesis of the old and new law formed a new community, nor the organizing power inherent in the initial creations of Catholicism—
Just one more question! Is the fourth Gospel, with its global influence, merely “a book sent into the world”? Is the community that gathered around the Fourth Gospel not his creation, is the movement he initiated and concluded with his sole authority in the present not his work simply because he is a writer? Or did he not establish his global influence on a book—a piece of written paper?
How “absurd,” how “ridiculous” is the approach of history, how “phantasmagorical” its manner, that it deems its life secure only when it is transferred onto paper, and the dominion of its favorites secure only when it can rely on written letters!
But the beginning, the very first beginning, the impetus that the “first founder” gave to Christianity, as the God of religious consciousness gave to the emergence and movement of the world—that is what the theologian wants to know.
However, in the field of exact research in which I operate, I have no reason to proceed from the Gospels to an otherworldly originator, to a distant founder, or even to a person whose life story is handed down in them, as the theologian does when encountering a specific natural phenomenon or a remarkable historical event. The nature of the present material, the form and content of the Gospels, keep me rooted in the second century—form and content point to originators belonging to the second century.
In due course, during the course of this work, I will also come back to that first, very first beginning—but how many assumptions and conventional notions will have to fall in order for me to reach that point! I cannot, like the theologian, transport myself back to that beginning with a transcendent leap; I can only advance towards it through a thorough process.
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.
Theological Explanation of the Gospels
When I appeared with my critique of evangelical history twelve years ago, two years prior, a fortunate and thorough effort had initiated a turning point in research, placing the question that Christian theology had struggled with in an unattainable manner into a position where it had become possible to give it its final form.
Those two achievements, one bearing the mark of deserved fortune and the other the combined work of fortune and scholarly thoroughness, were my historical starting point.
I could directly build upon them since they were the first instances in which the inherent spirit of the subject matter they dealt with had come to life and found expression.*) I had to build upon them because there could be no further limitations apart from the ones still inherent in them, and their removal was necessary for the enrichment of research.
*) Of course, I would have to call Luther’s views an outstanding exception if it were only a matter of the religious, even artistically formed testimony of the Spirit and if the Reformer’s preference for the Scriptures of the Fourth as the ״only, tender, right main Gospel’ did not prove the illusory and unreliable nature of this religious testimony of the Spirit.
The one who first uttered the scientific word on the internal contradiction of evangelical historiography, specifically regarding the contrast between the Johannine and synoptic Jesus, laying the foundation for the correct interpretation of the birth and childhood narratives of Jesus, and who truly brought certain points, cardinal points of evangelical history, to a decision for the first time, is Weisse.
The one who, for the first time, conducted an exact examination of the relationship between the first three Gospels and carried it out so thoroughly, bringing it so close to a solution that it will forever serve as the basis for later research, even if it may deviate in many and essential points from its results, is Wilke.
Regarding Weisse, he opposed the tradition hypothesis, according to which the Gospel authors received their material from the tradition of the community, and which had received its most consistent development from Strauss, with a few fortunate elaborations. Furthermore, he was fortunate enough to make the discovery that the Gospel of Mark is the Gospel that the authors of the first and third Gospels had used.
Thus, it had become certain, or at least accordingly probable—since Weisse had not yet fully validated his discovery in detail—that the historical material of the first and third Gospels was not taken from the tradition of the community but originated as a literary adaptation of the information provided by the Gospel of Mark. However, Weisse still had two questions to answer. He had to deal with the tradition hypothesis when it came to explaining the origin of the Gospel of Mark and also when it concerned the source from which the speeches and sayings of Jesus contained in the first and third Gospels had flowed.
Weisse found the answer to both questions in the well-known notes preserved for us by Eusebius from the writing of Papias. Mark composed his Gospel from the occasional narratives of the Apostle Peter, whose companion he had been. As for the sayings and speeches of Jesus, which the first and third evangelists enriched their writings with, they were taken from the collection of sayings compiled by the Apostle Matthew.
Among other difficulties, there was one in particular that posed a danger to Weisse’s viewpoint. The tradition hypothesis sees the miracles reported in the Gospels as one of the strongest pieces of evidence that it could not have been an apostle, an eyewitness of Jesus’ historical activities, from whom the evangelists received the content of their writings. Weisse eliminates this danger by explaining the most striking miracle accounts as parabolic or allegorical representations that Jesus himself created. He often notes that we still possess the literal presentation of Jesus in these accounts.
Both ways of determining the origin of the Gospels and the source of their content are connected to the entire worldview of their authors.
In the lifelessness of Strauss’s work, Hegelian metaphysics demonstrated its incapacity to grasp the essence of a historical phenomenon. Despite the individual fortunate successes he achieved over Strauss, Weisse failed because his positive philosophy, which he had developed in contrast to Hegel’s, could only offer glimpses of light but could not penetrate and illuminate the entire material.
In the misfortune of both, the bankruptcy of metaphysics was revealed.
It must be fully acknowledged by the disciples of Hegel that the philosophy of their master is the most perfect, the ultimate, the absolute. The world of the individual and the real cannot be more thoroughly and comprehensively subjected to an ideal, that is, a chimerical universality, than Hegel has done—the Orientalism that allows reality to dissolve before divine glory, yes, the fetishism that sees the divine and always the same divine in every single thing, cannot be restored more completely and forcefully.
As a devout student of his master, Strauss recognizes in history only one power, one reality, one active force—the Idea, the reproduction of Oriental substance.
What is the tradition from which the Gospel writers derived the content of their writings? What is the legend in which a large part of evangelical history took shape and which traveled elementally across the world sphere, if not the substance in one of its historical manifestations, where it was the power of the Christian community?
Why is Strauss’s explanation of the origin of evangelical history, specifically evangelical history in the double sense of the substance of our current Gospels and the fixed form it has acquired in the Gospels, mysterious?
Why? Because at every moment when it attempts to bring forth the process by which evangelical history—the evangelical history in that perplexing double sense—owes its origin, it can only produce the appearance of a process. It is mysterious because it is tautological.
And why tautological? Why meaningless?
Because it cannot step out of the indeterminacy of the relation of substance. The statement that evangelical history has its source and origin in tradition repeats the same thing twice: “tradition” and “evangelical history.” It certainly wants to relate them to each other, but it cannot do so because the substance, being incapable of an internal process, is not creative. The substance “is” its attributes and modes, and the Idea repeats itself in its productions, which are only apparent productions, containing only what it already encompasses—the tradition “is” evangelical history from the outset.
This is also just a specific expression of his orthodox-Hegelian disposition when, for Strauss, the difference between Judaism and paganism on one hand and Christianity on the other almost disappears. He considers the alleged Jewish messianic dogma to be the original of the Christian legend that was fashioned after it. He regards the pagan myths and the Christian ones as equivalent and dismisses as superfluous speculation any research that seeks to uncover the difference. He is right because the idea is everything and remains the same.
The indifference towards historical differences that Hegel, in overcoming it at the expense of the coherence of his system, denied in his grand historical perspectives and elaborations, established the popularity of his disciples, who guarded themselves with true religious piety, so as not to disturb the eternal self-equality of the idea even through a significant view of a period of history. This particularly accounted for the extraordinary popularity of Strauss’s work.
This lack of personal[national?] pride, expressed in the parallelization and equating of Christian views, our ultimate educators, with pagan and Jewish notions, makes Strauss a continuation of the Enlightenment of the previous century and at the same time a philosophical precursor of the later friendship of reason. When, with Bertholdt’s help, he explains the “Christian legend” as a mere reflection of the supposed Jewish messianic dogma, he proceeds as thoroughly as, for example, Voltaire, who believed he had grasped Judaism by deriving it from paganism with the assistance of Spencer and Selby, actually only relying on Bolingbroke, thus with equally powerless assistance.
Even Strauss’s philosophical concluding statement: “If we know the becoming human, dying, and resurrection as the eternal cycle, the endlessly repeating pulse of divine life, what significance can there still be attached to an individual fact that merely sensually represents this process?” The idea in the fact, the genus in the individual—our time in Christology wants to be guided by this.*) Despite its metaphysical formulas, it is so popular and its truth so universally attested that one could almost say the “consensus of nations” stands in favor of it against any doubt and against the assault of research. The fetish worshipper stands and approves of it because they also elevate themselves above the “merely sensual” appearance of nature to the universal world soul that lives and weaves within it. The Jewish enlightenment of Preacher Solomon, with its antipathy towards the presumption of history that imagines itself creating something new, and with its hatred towards individuals who are so proud as to believe they possess the power of a new world within themselves, had long ago come to the realization that everything merely repeats the eternal cycle of emergence, death, and rebirth. As the Christian worldview approached its demise, it was discovered (through enlightenment) that its history was nothing but a series of sensual, crude facts, where it matters little whether one designates the life represented in this sensuality as divine or as the eternal cycle of “trickery and deception,” as in either case the real, inherent life of history remains unknown. However, that statement has found its true era in the present, and its true community in the general friendship of reason of our time, which deals with the fact by allowing it to rest and rely upon itself, content with a thought about it. It understands how to subject the historical figurehead and the self-power of personality to the omnipotence and dead uniformity of the genus.
*) The Life of Jesus, II. 770. Third edition.
Just as enlightenment and the friendship of reason were unable to recognize Christianity and thus relegate it to the past, the same goes for Strauss. But he does not want to do so; he is a philosopher and, as such, seeks to rediscover in Christianity only the “cycle” or the “pulse” or whatever the fetishist may call these manifestations of life in the Idea. Therefore, no matter how much he may differ from the orthodox theologian in his doubt regarding the historical reality of the fact in which the Idea is supposed to be manifested, he stands on the same ground, shares the same presuppositions, and lives in the same categories. The immediacy, so to speak, the swiftness with which the idea is translated into its factual representation is the same enchantment that the orthodox theologian venerates in the wondrous manifestations of his Lord or in the inspiration of the Spirit.
The tradition hypothesis is essentially only the transformation of the earlier orthodox view of the origin of the Gospels into an abstract formula—it is its abstract but more complete reflection. Both views, no matter how opposed they may be, are still just the same view in this opposition. The tradition hypothesis aimed to replace the divine inspiration, under whose influence the church places the Evangelists, with a historical power. However, this power itself remains a mysterious concept. For the question of how evangelical history and its portrayal in the Gospels came into being, it is irrelevant whether one answers that the Evangelists wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit or that tradition provided them with the entire material that had already been shaped and dictated by it. Both are equally transcendent, both reduce the authors of the Gospels to selfless masks, and the only, yet significant and meaningful merit of the tradition hypothesis lies in relieving the critique from immediate engagement with the heavenly chimera and assigning it the sole task of unraveling the historical.
Against Hengstenberg, the critic no longer needs to demonstrate the difference between the Old and New Testaments and defend the novelty of the Christian creation. Rather, the critic has done enough, has accomplished everything, by exposing the metaphysical emptiness that is seen to operate in Judaism and Christianity as the same idea.
Against Hengstenberg, the critic no longer needs to elaborate on the shallowness of the historical view that considers the personality of Jesus merely as a tautology, that is, only as the real, sensual manifestation of what the divine promise had foretold to the pious of the Old Testament. Instead, the critic has dissolved the immediate opposition by exposing the metaphysical fantasizing according to which the miraculous content of evangelical history is modeled after the pattern of Jewish messianic dogma. Furthermore, the critic has dispelled the Church’s presupposition by eliminating its metaphysical counterpart and its supposed transformation into a rational historical view through the demonstration of the novelty of the Christian revolution.
Strauss’s metaphysical assumption of the Absolute renders any critical relationship to Christianity impossible for him. The naivety of his assumption that “the content of the highest religion, Christianity, is identical to the highest philosophical truth” prevents him from realizing that this unity of religion and philosophy stems only from the fact that the latter is the artificial restoration of the former from its fallen state, from which it could no longer extricate itself on its own power since the idea of natural law was established.
What is Spinoza’s Substance but the transformation of the natural law discovered by seventeenth-century natural science into a religious, indeed an Oriental God? What else is it but the conversion of positive fact into a universal essence?
What is the systematic unity of the entire universe that modern philosophy sought to create? What is the unity and singularity of the idea, whose establishment and realization were achieved only by the most recent, the completed, the Hegelian philosophy? It is nothing but the final justification of religious monotheism. It is nothing but the reproduction of the ignorant notion that believes it can attain and possess the unity and coherence of the world by deducing everything real from a single being.
What is Hegelian mysticism — this seemingly profound yet only vague and barren statement that religion is God’s self-consciousness in humanity? It is nothing but the forceful assertion of the religious proposition of human sinfulness, which pursues humans even in their theoretical conduct and renders knowledge impossible. What is it other than the religious formula for the unity that humans achieve with themselves in thought?
Strauss’s question, whether the content can exist as absolute in the form of religion, is still too limited. The philosophical conception of the Absolute itself remains religious, and philosophy is not destined for decline because it reduces and confines the Absolute within a finite formula. Rather, it is through the formula of the Absolute that the perception and understanding of reality become impossible.
Equally limited is Strauss’s view when he regards the modern collision as merely a Christological dilemma, juxtaposing the church’s Christology of the community with the “speculative” Christology of the spiritual realm, in which the insight has emerged that, instead of an individual, a Idea, the idea of humanity, should be posited as the subject of the predicates attributed to Christ by the church. For research, both Christologies hold equal value, both lie on the same line of historical development, and the “speculative” Christology is merely a modification of the ecclesiastical one. Therefore, it cannot even be said that research is in conflict with that historical development and its current widespread influence. Instead, research begins a new epoch precisely by explaining this development and reducing it to the past. It is free from the old oppositions, and it remains indifferent to the casuistry with which the speculatively educated cleric navigates and arranges his personal “dilemma,” or to the measures by which the church establishment secures itself against him if it fails to subject him once again to ecclesiastical determination.
The only difference between Strauss and Hegel is that while the latter, in the strict unison of his dialectic, allows the Idea to pass through its manifestations and, when he speaks of a difference within it, does not pursue it seriously. In fact, since it is still the same Idea that manifests itself within him, he treats it with equal indifference both in practice and in theory. He would dismiss the question of the practical validity of subordinate manifestations as frivolous curiosity and as a disturbance of theoretical tranquility. On the other hand, Strauss does ask this question and seeks to solve it using the means provided by Hegelian dialectic.
But what arouses in him this “frivolous curiosity,” for example, about the value of individual facts alongside the Idea that manifests itself within them, or about the significance of ecclesiastical Christology alongside the speculative one? Certainly not the Hegelian system, which is in no way a system where the Idea carelessly and self-sufficiently rolls through its determinations and is content with itself in all aspects, as it always only deals with its determinations.
Rather, it is the development of modern theology, which began with the pietistic opposition between the soul and individual positive propositions, continued through the rationalistic distinction between the temporal and local determinations of early Christianity valid only for the primordial era and Palestine, and its eternal truths, and finally, in the apologetic anxiety about the authenticity of individual books of the New Testament and the credibility of specific Gospel accounts, has become hopelessly confused. It is only this development that drove him, in contrast to the original dullness of the system, to those questions whose formulation and unsuccessful answers initiated the crisis that later engulfed both theology and philosophy.
He himself, however, remained both theologian and philosopher.
While philosophy made it impossible for him to comprehend historical differences— (I must constantly recall the mechanism of his derivation of evangelical myths from Jewish messianic dogma)—he was unable to untangle the confusion in which theology had ultimately become entangled, and he allowed himself to be driven from one exegetical question to another by the same chance under which the apologists worked.
His apologetic position regarding the evangelical material brought him the benefit in the first edition of his work that alongside the so-called myths, there remained a true treasure of historical facts in the Gospels. In subsequent editions, this treasure enriched him even more, eventually granting him almost complete possession of the facts that Neander and de Wette had acquired for him. However, given the weakness of his method, it was initially indifferent and accidental how far he shifted the boundary between the mythical and the historical backward or forward.
The perception of substance, as it emerged from the perception of natural law, is critical of the unnatural, as Spinoza proves. But since it itself is once again the unnatural hypostasis of natural law, it must, as Spinoza again proves, ultimately succumb to the most unnatural ideas, deny its critical direction, and it becomes entirely irrelevant how far it follows its critical impulse and where the driving force of that impulse eventually perishes. It is inherently only an impulse, thus unclear, insufficient, crossed by other impulses, and must eventually succumb to their counteraction.
Thus, Strauss also cannot truly detach the elevation to the Idea from the individual factum—his contemplation of the “endlessly repeating pulse of divine life” cannot render the individual factum completely indifferent. It is impossible—the boredom of that endlessly repeating cycle is too great; continually watching the pure course of divine life is too tiring. Moreover, that cycle of divine life, this “becoming human, dying, and resurrection,” is only a vague, groundless image taken from sacred history—it is a reflection of a religious concept.
Therefore, Strauss must also backtrack, he must return to the religious original!
However, he immediately continues, after leading “our time” to the Idea,*) if indeed scientific Christology has to move beyond Jesus as a person, it will still have to return to him in one aspect.
*) II, 770
Why? He does indeed provide a reason, even claiming to present a historical law as the basis for this return. At the forefront of all actions, including those of world-historical significance, he notes that individuals stand. Particularly in the realm of religion, within the monotheistic domain, all new epochs and distinct formations are invariably linked to prominent personalities—only Christianity should be an exception to this typology? Should the most significant spiritual creation be without a identifiable origin, merely the result of the clash of scattered forces and causes?”
But where does history show a great intellectual creation that would have been accomplished by only one individual? Where in history has there been a groundbreaking content that did not take shape within a circle of conflicting personalities and factions? When has a new form of life emerged in history, standing complete and absolute from the beginning of its era, so that the successors of the creator only needed to receive, perhaps develop, but no longer create themselves?
Strauss appeals to the natural disposition of the monotheistic domain. However, since Islam, given its inferiority, cannot be parallelized with the Judaism of the Old Testament and with Christianity, and since it cannot be considered a genuine creation, it is permissible to set it aside in this matter until historical criticism sheds light on the historical presuppositions of Muhammad. Thus, the only analogy remaining for Christianity would be the Judaism of the Old Testament. But does Strauss truly provide us with the “prominent personality” to whom the “distinct formation” of Judaism is “linked”? Did someone truly create Judaism? Is Judaism “merely the result of the clash of scattered forces and causes” if no exclusive originator can be identified at its helm? Is it the accidental result of random friction if it cannot be attributed solely to one creator, following the monotheistic, i.e., mechanical and lifeless approach? Are the authors of individual psalms, the second part of Isaiah, or the Book of Daniel not creators? Do they cease to be creators simply because no one can provide their names?
In short, what leads Strauss from the idea to the personality of Jesus is not a genuine historical law, but rather the weakness of this idea and its penetrating entanglement with the belief-based assumption that one – in the monotheistic sense – must have done everything.
In his philosophical turns, Strauss has remained a theologian, not in spite of their philosophical character, but because of it. His Hegelian orthodoxy has so strengthened the theologian within him, has made him such a complete theologian, that in the following account, I mainly need to describe his perplexity and the confusion of his assumptions in order to portray the aimlessness and confusion in which theology has ultimately found its historical conclusion and deserved end.
Therefore, when in 1838 the two men emerged who, like Weisse, spoke the first intelligent words about the looming question and, like Wilke, provided the first exact elaboration, in short, when the first statements and elaborations on the evangelical question were presented that were no longer theological, Strauss could only retreat into the same passivity and indolence to which theologians were condemned from that point on and forever.
Thus, despite Wilke’s investigation of the Gospel of Mark, in the year 1840, Strauss was still able to summarize his judgment on the origin of this gospel in the words that it was “demonstrably written based on the first and third [gospels], even if only from memory” – yet he punished himself for the sluggishness with which he clings to a thoroughly refuted hypothesis and for the certainty with which he speaks of “demonstrable” by presenting such a baseless possibility as contained in his addition: “even if only from memory.”
Weisse had brought forth several cardinal points for consideration – however, Strauss must deny him his acknowledgment and withhold matters that were brought close to complete certainty in the dreadfully tedious vagueness that characterizes his approach.
Weisse and Wilke had already largely refuted the tradition hypothesis regarding the form of the Gospels – yet Strauss continues to speak of tradition as if nothing has happened – but his indolent attitude towards Wilke’s work is rewarded by the scientific nullity that will continue to make his writings appear significant and valuable to theologians.
What have Weisse and Wilke achieved?
I mentioned earlier that it was a well-deserved fortune that Weisse discovered the original evangelical historical narrative in the Gospel of Mark and in several insightful and vivid observations, providing new vitality to the withered criticism found in Strauss’s work.
He earned his fortune in his struggle against the Hegelian system – but it is also inherent in the nature of this fight that he could not pursue his fortunate divinations in the breadth and depth of the domain with which he engaged in his “critical and philosophical treatment of evangelical *) history,” and eventually got lost in a multitude of chimerical assumptions and presuppositions.
*) 1838, in two volumes.
He was right against Hegelian philosophy when he asserted the reality against its presupposition of the uniqueness of the idea, and experience and perception against its dialectic – but he could not pursue his right and carry it through all instances, as he opposed the system with a different one, opposing Hegel’s monotheism of the idea with his own, the philosophically modified monotheism of Christianity, and Hegelian speculation with his own, that of philosophy which he intended to overthrow.
If he failed to penetrate and gain recognition with the real substance of his opposition, some of his views on evangelical history will justify him against this perceived ill fortune of the time – yet, in any case, it was simply impossible for him to penetrate a system that represented the utmost perfection on the uncertain ground of a priori speculation with a new system or even with the mere demand for such a system. **)
**) He expresses this in Fichte’s Journal for Philosophy and Speculative Theology, Volume 1, Issue 1 (1837), pp. 163, 164, regarding the “demand for a higher standpoint in philosophy.” He considers both going beyond Hegel and attaining a higher standpoint of speculation as equally important and describes this higher standpoint as “the only conceivable one.”
“If one wants to escape nationalism in religious matters,” he notes in his “Evangelische Geschichte” against Strauss and Hegel*), “which hollows out every living and spirit-filled entity into empty conceptual universality, it is important to distinguish that kind of knowledge which is based on perception and can only be acquired through perception from that abstract and a priori conceptual knowledge that stands apart from the individual and concrete nature of perception and extends only over those general concepts that cannot be the object of perception as such” – the remedy is good, but only for the beginning – it liberates from a priori conceptual knowledge, but only by replacing it with an a priori derived image.
*) ll, 496.
Weisse’s perception is itself a priori, as it is based on religious demands that are predetermined – it is again abstract perception that overlooks the real – it is not genuine, research-driven and secure perception, but rather intuition and divination that can hit upon the void but also miss the mark – as aesthetic experience, it is hasty and premature, the anticipated perception, the success or failure of which depends on the greater or lesser scope of the subject’s education, its original natural disposition, yet ultimately it depends on chance as it does not stem from a complete mastery of the material.
Incidentally, Weisse himself recognises the deficiency and precarious position of his view when he describes *) the fact, ״that there is a God’, as ״the great primordial fact on which all other real philosophical truth is based or into which it dialectically goes back’.
*) E.g. in the cited issue of Fichte’s Zeitschrift, p. 176.
So then the rigid formalism ״of the Hegelian system’ **) would be broken if the One Formula, that there is a God, were to take its place? then would really “life be inflated above death” if that formula were erected above logical formalism? The unity and coherence of the universe would really only be assured when the One who governs the world ״according to one great purpose” is established? ״If philosophy wants to express that living unity, in which it recognises everything to be comprehended, briefly and emphatically in one word”, then it cannot do without ״the name of the Godhead”?
**) As Weisse also already did in his writing: Ueber das Verhältniß des Publicums zur Philosophie in dem Zeitpunkte von Hegels Abschei den (Leipzig 1832) p. 48.
Yes, philosophy cannot do without it – its ignorance, its abstraction from the real content of the world and history drives it into the arms of the hypothesis of a ״highest content” – its inability to grasp the real connection of the universe, its hasty acceptance of this connection before it is really experienced, forces it to the hypothesis of the One, who remains a formula, whether one calls him by the religious name or calls him Idea.
Yes, Hegel really completed the proofs of the existence of God and revealed their true meaning when he did not make the transition “from” the being of the finite, not from the thought of man to God, but passed from the non-being of the finite to the general being, from the non-thought of man to the infinite self-consciousness of God. The non-being of the finite, the non-thinking of man are the basis for the idea that offers the philosophers as well as the religious a substitute for their untruthfulness and for the end of their thoughts.
When research takes possession of reality and history, it no longer needs this substitute. When the world and history regain their own inner life, the formula that is supposed to guarantee them life and unity is no longer necessary.
Weisse called his philosophy positive, but it is – (a fine sentence in which the dispute between his religious and the ideal monotheism of his Hegelian opponents finds its solution) – not positive enough – not really positive. If it were indeed positive, then it would no longer be a metaphysical system, but criticism, research – then it would no longer be dialectical, but exact science.
Weisse’s profound look into the evangelical story of the birth of the Messiah, his spiritual explanation of the account of the temptation of Jesus, his successful remark on the presupposition of the Fourth Evangelist that Jesus had baptised, his accurate explanations of the contrast between the Synoptic and Johannine views – these are fully valid testimonies to the positive nature of his aesthetic view, positive enrichments of science, even if they still suffer considerable damage through the presuppositions with which they find themselves entangled or in which they get lost.
However, just as what he considers the most positive in his philosophy, his retreat to the great primal fact that underlies all real philosophical truth, is the unpositive and only an expression of the unpositive character of his philosophy as a whole, so within his treatment of the evangelical history, what he regards as the highest and most positive guarantee of historical reality is rather a testimony to the unpositive foundation of his work.
His philosophical Christology, that is, his image of Christ, whose wondrous visual expressions, insofar as they reveal both his agreement and disagreement, determine the historical reliability or inaccuracy of the evangelical accounts, is a hypothesis based on feeling that has nothing to do with research, but rather relies on arbitrary sympathy and antipathy, accepting some traits suitable to the orthodox view while rejecting others.
Weisse believes he has reached something positively given and final, something that one must unquestionably accept, when he encounters works by individuals in the Gospel of Mark and the collection of sayings in Matthew that vouch for the correctness of what is given. Peter told it to Mark, and Peter even recounted some things in Jesus’ own words, which Mark has faithfully recorded for us. Finally, Matthew has preserved for us a whole series of speeches and sayings of Jesus in his collection of sayings, and the first synoptist has faithfully transmitted them to us. Who could provide a more reliable personal guarantee?
Doesn’t criticism have to acknowledge the pillars of Hercules in these two positive aspects, which forever set a goal for it?
On the contrary, with these supposedly incontrovertible data it had to begin its work in earnest and prove its power by exposing the unpositive nature of these two magnitudes and by finding a new and more positive expression in the historical development of the Christian spirit, as well as in the creative power of men who have given the elemental spirit of the Christian faith. Christian spirit as well as in the creative power of the men who gave the elementary gain of this development its plastic, only historically significant form.
After I have given this critical account in my previous work, all that remains for me to do is the secondary work, the critique of the so-called testimonies of Papias on the origin of the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew. Only in the following volume, however, in the context of my presentation of the historical development of Christian literature of the second century, will this criticism be in its proper place, will I show the chimerical nature of these supposedly positive data, the worthlessness of these so-called testimonies – here I will only briefly indicate what injustice Weisse himself must do to the Gospel of Mark when he calls up these testimonies in its favour.
How, for example, does it fit together that Mark has his material from Peter and yet ascribes such a short period of time to the activity of Jesus and actually limits it to only a few days of miracles?
“He has, answers *) Weisse, in endeavouring to compile the individual narratives of Peter into the solid whole of a history of the Lord’s life, by the manner of his transitions from one matter to another, produced an appearance of continuity of the incidents, thus also of changes in the setting of the incidents, which a skilful narrator, at least one who was at the same time a critical researcher, would undoubtedly have avoided.”
*) Evangelical History, l, 313. 314.
No! Such a one would have avoided such things who had known an eyewitness like Peter and had attended as his companion his supposed treaties about the life of the Lord!
Well! Peter only recited ״individual’ stories – but to his constant companion he never – never said a word about the whole, about the context of the whole, about the real spread of Jesus’ efficacy? The companion was so dull, so indifferent, while he collected all the details literally in his memory, so unconcerned about the overall course of his Lord’s life, that he never once asked the eyewitness about the scope and context of the whole?
And Mark only created “the appearance” of continuity of the events by the way he presented them?
Olshausen, Paulus, Neander, and all the other unhappy workers who have in vain endeavoured to break through the historical transitions of the Gospels with their screwed turns of phrase, and to transform the seriousness of the Gospels into a light appearance with their frivolous assertions – they are no longer alone, even the most zealous champion of positive philosophy joins them and approves the sisyphean work of their unsuccessful turns of phrase!
Weisse seriously assumes that Mark “has meagrely compiled an evangelical account out of the isolated, incoherent narratives of a single Apostle”. *) On the other hand, it is a positive, completely positive fact that the original Gospel, the difference between which and the present Gospel of Mark I do not need to reflect upon here, follows a very definite plan, has through and through a complete symmetry, that its sections close together artistically and that every link within the individual sections serves a strictly pre-drawn plan.
*) I, 31,32.
White’s assertion that Mark had “only composed his Gospel with the intention of not letting the content of the apostle’s narratives get lost” beats it back most brilliantly by pointing to its inner reason and purpose, to the power of the soul that reveals its life in his depiction of the collision between the new freedom and the Jewish privilege, in his vividly pulsating account of the struggle and victory of that freedom.
Yes, for the sake of that senseless testimony according to which Mark did not compile his Gospel in an orderly manner **) from Peter’s narratives, White is able to say ***) to Mark, ״that there is something to be said for the order in which he narrates the events, since he did not hear Peter narrate them in order, but, deprived of the assistance of his master, had to devise such an order himself, as best he could” – at least he endeavours with this paraphrase to render the sense, but nevertheless the tenable and probable sense, of that testimony of Papias.
**) ου ταξει
***) l, 43.
But in vain! his treatment of that testimony, which fits nothing less than the Gospel of Mark or the Primal Gospel, helps him nothing – it does not mean to say that the order of Mark’ composition is one of his own devising, but that this Gospel lacks order altogether.
Finally, is it really positive when Weisse assumes of several miracle reports that they are “self-invented parables” of Jesus, symbolic representations of the nature of the Son of Man, and that the apostle Matthew, whose writing contained nothing but speeches and sayings of the Lord, “told” them as parables, albeit in the tone of historical reports, “after” Jesus? *)
*) E.g. 1,527. II,53.
This prerequisite of a personal responsibility may be positive – this last point, which sets the limits of the investigation, may be positive in the sense that at such presuppositions and last points the stirring and disturbing research has not yet proven its negative nature.
Such presuppositions and final points may be given and welcome to an individual in the circle of his other presuppositions and hypotheses, which demand just such a settlement and such an arrangement with the real difficulties.
In the field of research, however, they are unpositive, invented, excuses, chimeras. For research, positive can only be that which, after the complete penetration of the found facts – after a penetration that measures the facts by their presuppositions, the presuppositions by the presuppositions, and if both prove contradictory, places the facts again in the circle of their really historical, their really explanatory presuppositions – which, after this process, results as a fact.
Furthermore, this hypothesis of Weisse’s, like the others that arise from the presumed positive nature of his direction, proves its unpositive character most convincingly by being useless and least able to accomplish what it is supposed to achieve.
For example, Weisse explains the account of Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman, as well as the other accounts concerning the centurion of Capernaum, as Jesus’ parabolic speeches. He does so because only under this assumption does the harshness in Jesus’ initial dismissive response to the woman’s request negate itself through the overall tendency of the narrative. And it is only in this way that one can avoid the “troubling circumstance” contained in the assumption underlying both accounts, namely that “the faith that prompts Jesus to exercise his miracle-working power is not the faith of the afflicted individual, but rather the faith of a third party.”
As if Jesus, whenever he made himself the historical subject of a parable in this manner, did not inevitably evoke in his disciples the conviction that he was capable of such harshness and that the exercise of his miracle-working power, whenever he chose, was independent of any natural point of reference!
That the current Gospel of Mark is not the original Gospel but a redaction of it, for which the present Gospels of Luke, Matthew, and John were used, I have now proven against Wilke, although originally it was not the main point of contention following the appearance of this researcher.
Wilke made the correct statement that a collection of sayings, such as the one mentioned by Papias as the composition of Matthew, *) did not exist on its own.**) However, when he argued that the Sermon on the Mount of the first Synoptist is “an expanded version of Luke’s,” I have now demonstrated that Matthew, in this instance as well as others, utilized his own sources, later redactions of the original Gospel, and also had Luke’s text in mind. But even that was not the main point that needed to be resolved according to Wilke.
*) I add, at least according to the opinions of Weitzel and others.
**) The original gospel, p. 691.
My earlier work was not affected when I coincided with Wilke in those mistaken hypotheses, just as Wilke’s proof of the originality he discovered in the Gospel of Mark was not affected when, after removing certain interpolations in the current Gospel of Mark, he believed he possessed the original Gospel. The forward-looking gaze and the ruthlessness that demands far-reaching discoveries seem to be possible only through that limitation of vision that overlooks details lying nearby or to the side. The discovery remains valid, even if later works succeed in reconciling it with the overall mass of details and, indeed, provide it with the highest degree of evidence.
The great question that was at issue after the appearance of Wilke’s work was independent of the overcoming of the still unnoticed detail, – it advanced further and could leave this overcoming to the future – it had as its object the final decision.
That the Gospel of Mark *) is of literary origin, Wilke has basically proved. Basically: – in so far as he has supplied the first essential materials of proof. After his thorough work, he may say that the work of Mark ״is not a copy of an oral original gospel, but an artificial composition. **) He may call this work a ״work of art” because of its composition and because it carries out a purpose set with consciousness with equally free consciousness ***). He can finally say (although this sentence already acquires an apologetic, cross-eyed character through the category of semblance), ״that his compilations are conditioned less by historical connection than by pre-conceived general propositions, notwithstanding they have assumed the semblance of a historical connection, this is explained by the fact that its author was not one of the immediate companions of Jesus’. †).
*) We want to leave the name of the Original Gospel for a moment.
**) op. cit. p. 684.
***) S. 671.
†) S. 684.
It remains unclear, however, to what extent, in Wilke’s view, the material should be taken for granted in the certainty that the form is freely created. It also remains unclear that Weisse, when he announced Wilke’s writing in the Berlin Yearbooks, expressed the certainty that now the highest guarantee for the truly historical character of the Gospel accounts had been given.
And yet Weisse had hit Wilke’s meaning. Wilke says it himself *): ״The guarantors of the message, according to which the creators of the diegesis were guided, were not people who had first inquired of others or who had written out what they had found out in Galilee, but the apostles, and among them those who had been servants of the Word from the beginning, that is, from the time when the report, if it was to become a whole, had to take off”. In Wilke’s view, this original gospel was given in the writing of Mark and with it came Luke and Matthew.
*) p. 657. 658.
In the main, therefore, Wilke still stood on Weisse’s positive standpoint, but in his case, since he had hitherto most evidently proved the authorial origin of the Original Gospel, the contradiction of this standpoint, the unmitigated unification of the critical and the positive **) had reached the point where he demanded its resolution.
**) The positive in the sense of a not yet overpowered presupposition.
In my work, the conclusion of which appeared ten years ago, I had carried out this resolution.
The critique of the fourth Gospel had forced me to recognise the possibility that a Gospel could be of purely literary origin, and had finally convinced me that in that Gospel we possess a Scripture of this origin, while I was still at war with the result of Wilke’s work. But just as this conviction was well founded – just as, in possession of it, I went on to the Synoptic Gospels, in order to test once more by their pragmatism whether they were also of this origin, I had to agree with Wilke, or rather, through the connection of form and content, the question was raised to the height where it was a question of the final decision and the last positive, i.e. the last chimerical presupposition had to fall and the really positive knowledge of the origin of Christianity had to arise.
If the form is consistently of literary origin and gives the original Gospel the character of a work of art, and if artistic activity not only influences the content but also creates content itself, can criticism still maintain any of the traditional assumptions? Can it remain content with a final positive stance?
It was impossible! The content, too, proved to be a free creation of the writer’s art.
Furthermore, by overthrowing the assumption that the followers of the traditional hypothesis closely associated with defenders of the orthodox tradition, namely the assumption that the Jews already possessed a Christology and were familiar with the concept of “the Messiah” before Christianity, thus implying that Christianity existed before Christianity itself, I restored the original significance to the emergence of the Christian community. I made it possible for the Christian community to be recognized as a new creation, and the uprising of its spirit as a revolutionary act.
What was still lacking in the proof, I have supplied in this new work – the darkness of that positive which could still threaten the proof, I have now fully illuminated and brightened up – by finally placing in the wagons in which I had earlier placed my proof of the historical originality of Christianity and the free creation of Protestant history, I have now also placed my critique of the Pauline epistles, I have completely pushed them down to our earth and into our history, and the other one, with all its hypotheses and ״positive’ presuppositions, has forever vanished into thin air.
Already at my first appearance with that statement on the independence of the Christian community from a Jewish Christology, I declared that it was neither necessary nor possible that this statement, like the others connected with it, should immediately win general approval.
The course of the last ten years has only confirmed how right I was when I gave myself this isolated position – when I considered this isolated position to be the only one possible for research with its critical overthrow of the prevailing ideas.
Even now, a general approval of the critical explanation of Christianity is neither necessary nor possible – indeed, it has only become even more unnecessary, even more impossible.
Not necessary – because if the personal conviction of the insignificance of a theory is merely an imagination as long as it is not based on the fact that the theory, despite the general opposition it encounters, is the culmination of a historical development and belongs to the existing state of the world as an interpretation and overcoming of the elements that contained its demands – what need does the critical explanation of Christianity already have for explicit approval, when its work, the dissolution of a perspective and science, to whose elaboration and destruction the entire history has contributed – when the dissolution of theological perspective and science testifies to it?
Can it count on the approval of a circle that it has broken up and dissolved? Is it not enough for it if the theological corporation, having been relieved of its original office and freed from the scientific distress which the explanation of Christianity had hitherto caused it, can no longer produce any decisive work?
Or can it occur to it to expect approval from the meta-physicists, who, through the ghostly beings of their realm of ideas, are bound in solidarity with theology and since the fall of the latter have been condemned for ever to equal barrenness?
Impossible – for the same modern power, whose opposition already irritated me when I argued against Hengstenberg about the difference between the Gospel and the Law and when I found Strauss’s derivation of Christian ״mythology’ from a pre-existing Jewish Christology insufficient, has now attained a dominance that can almost be called autocracy.
This power is Judaism – Judaism in the sense in which I presented it in my work on the history of the apostles as the world power of flattening, as the opponent of definiteness, as the adversary of the original world, as the enemy of all historical differences.
It is therefore not only the Judaism of the synagogue.
Indeed, national Judaism, as a personal enemy of Christianity, has accompanied all its creations with its curse. It has watched their rise, development, and flourishing with a fervent desire for them to succumb to its envious Jehovah. It is true that in antiquity and the Middle Ages, it forced Christians, through the need for refuting doubts, to become acquainted with doubt itself. Even in the Middle Ages, when the Christian world displayed the splendor of its blossoming, it provided the dangerous example that there could exist human beings within this world who, through their skill and industriousness, could establish their own independent existence and be unaffected by any of the conditions of life in that world. However, it could not bring about the dissolution and downfall it yearned for; it had to leave their realization to the struggles and efforts of members of the Christian world itself.
The Jew has corrosive but not dissolving power. He is unfavourably disposed towards the historical forms, but he cannot attack them. He stands outside the historical struggles, but his sceptical attitude is flabby and powerless; – he wonders how one can toil and kill one another for the interests at stake in the flowering and dissolution of the Christian world, but he wonders about it only because he understands nothing of these interests.
With the exception of the Jews of modern times who oppose the Christian world order with their oriental antitheses and literary sarcasms, the skeptic has always been a stranger in the Christian world. He was and remains a foreign entity to it. Therefore, he directs his weak skepticism against it. However, he cannot successfully attack it; he is even less capable of dissolving it.
The dissolution of this world can only “proceed from” and be accomplished by a power which understands it and which, in its self-feeling, in the vibrations of its inner being, despite its completed opposition, so purely and surely imitates the soul and the inner rhythm of Christianity that it has a right to reckon the masters of present-day theology and the heads of the political parties, whose express business is the restoration of Christianity, among the representatives of general Judaism *).
*) In this sense I have cancelled my writing against Hengstenberg (published in 1839) on the contrast between the “Law” and the “Gospel” as a Christian against Hengstenberg as a Jew.
Although the religious and theological form of the dissolution neither originated in the synagogue nor was carried out by the national Jews, it may nevertheless be called the work of the general Judaism, because in the power that carried it out, the specific nature of the Jew attained a kind of world domination and general spread.
It was the foreignness into which Christianity, as its dissolution (already in the last centuries of the Middle Ages), began to fall upon itself that rendered both the opponents and defenders of the outdated system insensitive to its original significance. It gave the initial movements of research and criticism the form of either hatred or apathetic indifference and turned the preservation of the historical system into a political measure or a matter of personal speculation. Finally, from this foreignness emerged the Jewish rootlessness of recent times. In it, the position that the Jew had always held towards the Christian world found its justification.
Those legal scholars who had taken on the role of learned arbiters in the medieval dispute between secular and ecclesiastical power and who regarded the question of the classical existence of Christianity as a formal question in which one could decide for or against at will and without harm to the whole system of life – they were already the forerunners of modern advocates who, for example, believe that they can keep state life going in their dispute over constitutional formulas – were the forerunners of today’s Judaism, which no longer knows any sympathy for a historical form of life and no longer believes that it is possible to decide for or against. They were already the forerunners of modern advocates who, for example, believe that they can keep state life going by arguing about constitutional formulas – the forerunners of today’s Judaism, which no longer knows sympathy for a historical form of life and regards the decision in favour of the pro or con as a business to be regulated according to a supreme formula or according to the rules of its own prudence.
The Christian spirit’s own dullness created those supreme formulas of deism or pantheistic philosophy which subjected the historical formations of Christianity to a monotonous levelling, i.e. to the Judaism.
When the decay of the whole dogmatic system was decided by the overthrow of the dogma of the eternity of the punishments of hell, the Jewish hatred of the aristocracy triumphed and the Jewish principle of equality succeeded in carrying itself through also in heaven and in transforming the Christian organisation, Dante’s world, into a uniform chaos of meaningless zeros.
No matter how zealously the political businessmen of the present day may pose as knights of the Christian world, when they defend the order and inner gradation of the Christian-Germanic world as the direct work of the Godhead – they are and remain Jews, and even their justification of the historical division of the monarchy speaks of the Jewish hatred of historical design, since with their heartless and unfeeling derivation from God they equate the works of art of history with any insect.
It makes no difference whether, like Strauss or Hengstenberg, one makes Old Testament Judaism the original and creator of Christianity – both are the work of Jewish antipathy to their own originality, the victory of Jewish uniformity over soulful form.
Well, this Judaism, into which the development of the Christian world runs, is the expression and consequence of its own flattening and the slackening of its original contrasts – it is a Christian work, even if it is the work of the Christian, to whom his own world has become alien. But when Judaism is established and has become the general element of life, then the weary Christian is forced to reach out to the national Jew and welcome him as his ally.
When the Christian has lost his historical attitude and his historical privilege has expired, the Jew, who always doubted it, has triumphed and demands his recognition.
When the Christian form has slackened and lapsed into shapelessness, when man no longer dares to assert his place in the bosom of the Godhead, and concedes the honour of the Godhead to the One God of deism alone, then the covenant is made between the enlightened and Moses Mendelssohn.
When the one of deism has reduced the world to a heap of equal, i.e. equally worthless things, then the Jew demands equality with the Christian, the latter demands freedom for the latter – when both have become so powerless that they demand freedom as a gift – both are worthy of freedom, which remains a distant being and, as a mere demand, delights and torments.
If the Christian form of life has been abandoned by the plastic power of its soul and has ossified into a formula, then the Jew can even render great service to the Conservative interest, he can do his business, since no one knows better than he how to handle the soulless formula and bring it to fruition.
When an art such as music has been perfected and the source of tones has dried up, when the melodious soul has exhausted itself in its “sweeps” and the Christian masters have fought out their battles of the soul in the contrasts and opposites of their creations, then the Jew gives the public what it wants – a purring tangle instead of soulful melody – thoughtless cries instead of the opposites which, in their proud attitude, express the heroic struggle of the inner self.
Wherever the penetrating soul has disappeared, the Jew appears, finds his world – when faith and trust have long since disappeared from the life of the state and the only thing that governments still have to do, the preservation of order, is secured by military power, then the Jew shines and does his business, When even an aristocracy like the English has lost its power to rule, then the Jew as statesman shows off his inadequacy and the world admires him as the striking proof of how little of his own substance and character is needed to keep the political machine going.
In the field in which I am working with my critique in the present work, Judaism can be called truly complete since theology has lost its counterpart and the confusion that has always been characteristic of its language has dissolved into a babbling slur about it.
This perfected Judaism is the friendship of light – that form of science, theology and religiosity which is only possible after the appearance of criticism.
The friend of light is the Christian who believes himself to be free of the hostile system when he no longer worries about it – his Christianity as well as that which is hostile to him are to him the unspeakable and unthinkable – his and the opposing Christianity offer him so few real and historical predicates any more that he can only distinguish between them by means of their opposition, that he can only describe their opposition by the image of light and darkness or by the mystical formulas of the new spirit and the old evil – he is the servant of an unknowable being and so ignorant of his own religion that, in spite of the great history, he is unable to understand it, that he still wants to realise it despite the great history in which it has attained its realisation and could attain it alone – without the ability to investigate and explain Christianity, he frees himself from the positive forms of it, from its dogmas and sacred history, by leaving them to himself and lying behind his back – he is a stranger in the world that surrounds him, free from it and at the same time its servant, because it is something alien and purely intangible to him – he is a stranger in the world that surrounds him, free from it and at the same time its servant, because it is something alien and purely intangible to him. thing to him –
In short, he has become what the Jew always was.
But the friend of light is not only that bourgeois friend of freedom who declares himself in protests and popular assemblies against the rule of the symbols and cannot be sufficiently enraptured by the supposed arrogance of the church regime, which all of a sudden speaks of doctrinal regulations that rightly exist – but the church regime itself, as well as the crowd of theologians and the corporations that provide a kind of basis and support for its provisions, they also belong to the world of the friend of light and are only one species of this modern genre.
The believing theologian, too, has an enemy in everything that exact science has created for centuries, against which he saves himself only by apathetic confinement to himself and by flight into thoughtlessness – he, too, takes so little part in the work and development of his world, in a development of which even his paralysis and apathy is a consequence, that he cannot comprehend, how the wicked come to set themselves tasks in their obstinacy and, in their diabolical bias, to involve themselves in researches that do not touch practical life and only disturb the enjoyment and tranquillity of the moment, that he can only describe the opposition of the two as the opposition of light and darkness, or his spirit only as the new spirit that has risen above the diabolical apostasy – he, too, knows his religion so little that he would consider himself called upon to actually realise it – if the liberal friend of light frees himself through thoughtlessness from the dogmas of his religion and from the miraculous view of Holy Scripture, the same thoughtlessness is the power of the believing friend of light that preserves these positive forms of Christianity for him – he can only preserve his world by renouncing its explanation and research – he is, like his liberal opponent, the reflection of a history and development that he knows as little as the latter – he is, like the latter, the Judaised Christian.
The world domination of which the national Jew dreams would be certain to him, and the victory which the power of slackness gives him over the Christian sculpture could never be snatched away again, if the same source from which his freedom from Christianity springs did not also spring his defeat.
This dangerous source, which produces momentary strength but permanent weakness, is the feeling of alienation.
Yes, Christianity cannot harm the Jew, because it is foreign to him – but he himself is also a foreigner to the Christian world, and this feeling of foreignness outlasts all the illusions of equality and equal rights which the time of dissolution produces, and, after a momentary revolutionary slackening, draws new nourishment from the whole spiritual and natural world of feelings, views and customs into which Christianity has passed and in which it maintains itself against all immature attempts at dissolution.
The liberal and the believing friendship of light would also be victorious and continue their fruitless struggle into infinity, if the same feeling of strangeness did not protect the world from this fate of semi-decay.
The friend of light may believe himself to be master of Christianity when he takes refuge in thoughtlessness in the face of it and calls the theoretical preoccupation with it a servile bias – it remains, remains as a task for research and after a brief triumph of thoughtlessness the friend of light will stand there as a stranger in the world in whose organisation this task still lives.
Even if the believing friend of light has a historical right to defend the relics of Christianity, which uphold the task of overcoming the whole, against the liberal friend of light, he is nevertheless opposed by an “insurmountable” power which exposes him as a stranger in this world.
No matter how confident the attitude with which the spiritual shepherd behaves as master of the congregation and the theologian relies on Scripture, no matter how confident the political speculator may be of his momentary success, no matter how much the church regime may try to give the appearance of firmness to its language when it refers to the existing ecclesiastical law, no matter how confident the attitude with which the spiritual shepherd behaves as master of the congregation and the theologian relies on Scripture, they may all create for themselves an almost undisputed world dominion, since no one except the protesting light friend considers them worthy of a serious fight any more——-the world, which apparently lies at their feet, nevertheless feels from their confident declamations that they are all fundamentally alien to it, and that it holds their noblest pleasures and dearest treasures in deep resentment. The heart of society remains beyond the reach of their heartless efforts, and their commands, demands, and threats are powerless against the wealth of emotions and perspectives that the positive achievements of art and science have already generated within the fabric of social organization. The ground beneath their influence has been shaken since the arts and exact research of the past centuries have eroded the monotheistic foundation of religious conceptions. While Jewish speculators and devout adherents of enlightenment believe they are ruling society, the position they truly hold is that of foreign adventurers, a mere association.
Nothing can demonstrate the provisional nature of our time more than this pervasive sense of foreignness that separates those individuals, to whom the active role in the present has primarily fallen, from the task at hand, which encompasses both the remnants of the Christian world and the accumulated treasure of positive and exact perspectives for the future.
The general state of the world, the overall unfinished nature and mutual alienation, demand this rule of adventurers that precedes that universal empire which will witness the crisis of Christianity, just as the Roman Empire witnessed its rise. However, the present is also engaged in the development of means that will serve to remove that sense of foreignness from the world. One of these means is criticism, whose main achievement, whose first work preceding all others, despite being accused of biased self-restraint, is to dissolve the contrast between the still existing Christian world and positive, exact science. This means enlarging and securing the treasure of the latter through the positive explanation of Christianity.
Having laid the foundation for this explanation in the previous work on the Gospels, and before I bring the investigation to its conclusion, I will subsequently address what I intentionally did not touch upon at that time—the opposition to the theological interpretation of the Gospels.
But there is no longer any opposition. In the purity and autonomy of my exposition, I have provided proof that criticism has become master over the subject, and therefore, it is no longer in opposition to theology. I no longer have to fight, but merely present the accomplished fact—that the Gospels are a foreign object to theology and that the latter is excluded from their domain, to which it was previously counted.
Machine translated by Neil Godfrey from Die theologische Erklärung der Evangelien (1852)
Foreword (pp 1-44)
- Strauss pp 4-17
- Weisse pp 17-27
- Wilke pp 27-32
- Modern Judaism pp 32-43
II. Strauss’ tradition hypothesis (pp. 68-135)
III. The Original Evangelist (pp. 136-148)
I have translated six volumes of Bruno Bauer’s works into English and make them freely accessible here. I am not a German speaker and the Fraktur or Gothic font is not my closest friend so I have relied heavily on machine translation tools — Google Translate, DeepL and ChatGPT, often comparing them paragraph by paragraph for the preferable rendering into English. I have made an effort to manually check all pages for accuracy and comprehensibility but unfortunately the complexity and highly abstract commentary by Bauer sometimes stretched me to the limits of my abilities. Most of the text, I trust, is easier to read than those sections, but I encourage anyone who sees errors or can propose better translations to let me know.
Christ and the Caesars is commercially available — or rather it is very difficult to obtain — so I have provided here a fresh translation for open access.
BRUNO BAUER: Theological Explanation of the Gospels – English translation — Primarily a response to David Strauss and his Life of Jesus and the assumption of oral tradition behind the gospels
Albert Schweitzer on Bruno Bauer
One might suppose that between the work of Strauss and that of Bauer there lay not five, but fifty years—the critical work of a whole generation. . . .
The only critic with whom Bauer can be compared is Reimarus. Each exercised a terrifying and disabling influence upon his time. No one else had been so keenly conscious as they of the extreme complexity of the problem offered by the life of Jesus. . . .
For us the great men are not those who solved the problems, but those who discovered them. Bauer’s Criticism of the Gospel History is worth a good dozen Lives of Jesus, because his work, as we are only now coming to recognise, after half a century, is the ablest and most complete collection of the difficulties of the Life of Jesus which is anywhere to be found. . . .
Schweitzer, Albert. The Quest of the Historical Jesus. A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede. Translated by W. Montgomery. A. & C. Black, 1910. pp. 151, 159
The anointing of Jesus in Bethany.
1. The report of John.
C. 12, 1-8.
Six days before the Passover, after the priests had decided on his death and he himself had eluded their persecution for some time, Jesus came to Bethany.
Every reader will now know the relationship of Jesus to this place: why does the evangelist mention this place: “where Lazarus, the one who had died and whom he had raised from the dead, was”? This miracle chat was reported just now: why this laboriously elaborated, this anxiously turned note? We see from this nothing more than that the author first laboriously works into the situations, not to say that he only laboriously works them out at the moment of writing and cannot yet put the individual features into their correct harmony, or not to say that he uses a report which simply names Bethany, and that he now extremely anxiously blacks out the relation to Lazarus in this report.
V. 2 says vaguely: “A banquet was held there in his honor. But if it goes on to say: “Martha was waiting”, it seems that the banquet was organized by her, and therefore also by Lazarus, i.e. in the house of this family. Nevertheless, it says again vaguely: ,, Lazarus was one of those who were at table with him. ” So Lazarus is one of the guests – that is clear if one still gives language permission to be language – Jesus is in the house of a stranger and yet Martha is waiting!
Mary takes a pound of precious ointment, anoints the feet of Jesus and dries them with her hair. What does that mean? Does one wipe off the ointment with which one has rubbed the limbs of another on the spot? And now even with the hair? This touching trait of extreme self-denial, of heroic devotion, how does it come here? Is it motivated? No!
A new example of how clumsily and fearfully the author introduces the situations! One of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, the son of Simeon, who was to betray him,” says v. 4. “But do the readers not know Judas? Do they not already know from C. 6, 71 that Judas was this very future betrayer? The author has again very anxiously imposed this note on a foreign report.
Judas now remarks whether this ointment could not be sold for three hundred denarii and the proceeds given to the poor. At the same time, the author gives the note, which has given rise to the most important and interesting remarks, treatises, thoughts, characteristics and a thousand useful things for the theologians, that Judas did not think of the poor, but was a thief, for he carried – a new instructive note, which in turn gave rise to many wonderful remarks – the common treasury of the followers. Thousands of essays, treatises, comments and books have also been written about how Jesus, with his omniscience, could have entrusted the treasury to Judas and thus tempted him. We will immediately relieve the theologians of the trouble of continuing to rack their brains over this highly important matter, and we will give the sensible ones a fully valid dispensation that will legally absolve them from the obligation to study this theological-criminalistic literature.
“Let her,” replies Jesus, “she has saved the ointment for the day of my burial. “But is it now, as Jesus sits at table, “the day of his burial”? The symbolism of the action, the bold anticipation inherent in Mary’s action, is not clearly expressed!
And how true it is that only after Mary’s action has been interpreted does it continue with “for” – namely, with reference to the words “let her! “- it continues: “for you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me! It is not true at all!
Finally, if the evangelist knows that Judas made this objection for selfish reasons, and not for the sake of the poor, he will also trust his Lord, the heart’s rescuer, to have known of Judas’ motive. But does Jesus in the least acknowledge this in his reply? Are these words intended to reject such a wicked hypocrite and egoist? Is this a dismissal of the shameful egoist, when he is confidently referred to the future, in which he would still have time to show his well-meaning disposition to the poor? Is not this speech comforting, and spoken with a good faith in the sincerity of the objection, or at least in such a way that it is thought possible that the man who expressed that misgiving would and could then take care of the poor? In short, the speech does not fit the premises of the report, i.e. it has come to the author from outside and, apart from that unfortunate mistake, he has only placed it so inappropriately because he has brought a feature into the narrative from his own resources which was alien to the original whole. After introducing the contrast between the pious liberality of the woman and the devilish Judas, he kept the speech of Jesus, which belonged to a different context, essentially unchanged.
2. The report of Matthew.
C. 26, 6-13.
Matthew and Mark also place the account of the anointing in Bethany immediately after the note that the priesthood had decided on the death of Jesus, but indicate that the event took place – not six, but at the earliest – two days before the feast.
According to both, however, the scene also took place in Bethany, but in the house of a certain Simon, who was called the leper. Both do not mention the name of the anointing woman, although if they had known it, they would have told us, since Jesus, according to their account, closes the defence of the woman with the words: Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in her memory. “
In some points, however, Matthew differs from Mark. He says: the woman “came to him”, but we do not know what should have been said, whether she was already in the house before. Afterwards it is assumed (v. 7) that Jesus was at the table, but it was not stated that he was given a banquet. Now listen to Mark! He first gives the situation that Jesus was at the table, and then he says: “there came a woman with a little bottle of balm. “
Furthermore, according to Matthew, it is the disciples who became indignant about this waste of the precious balm and remarked that the proceeds of the sale could be distributed to the poor. It is incomprehensible how all the disciples suddenly had the same feeling, how they all fell for the same thought, how they could be so envious of their Lord and master, especially since they could not otherwise prove that they were capable of such an attitude towards him. In Jesus’ answer, however, there is no hint at all that he turns against his disciples and has to defend the love of that woman against them. If the disciples had acted so conspicuously against him, Jesus would have had to take this peculiar incident into consideration. The speech therefore originally had a different purpose.
It is also inappropriate and inexplicable that Jesus says: that she poured this ointment on my body, she did it to bury me. But how? Can there be talk of a real burial now? Matthew has made a mistake, has exaggerated clumsily.
So we would arrive happily at Mark.
3. The report of Mark.
C. 14, 3 – 9.
Everything is in harmony in his report, everything has its measure; situation, action, speech, everything is in the right harmony.
It was not Judas who took offense, it was not the disciples, but “some” of those present, who are to be thought of as those who were not in such close relationship to Jesus as the disciples.
The speech is complete in itself. Jesus does not attack the opponents. The situation has something mild, wistful, soft, since it is supposed to be the pre-celebration of the death and burial of Jesus. Jesus does not speak in sharp irony, but very mildly he says, “you always have the poor with you and, if you want – Matthew has not copied this mild, but for the character of the speech significant addition – you can do them good.
The construction of the speech is also correct. “Let them! What do you do to her complaint! She has done a good work on me! (Here, therefore, her work is not yet completely interpreted, the attention to it is not yet exclusively focused, so it can be continued with respect to the “Let her!”:) for you always have the poor with you, (Matthew has also already destroyed the rhythm, when he does not copy “let her” and also cincludes the words: “she has done a good work for me” with a “because”, so that two sentences one after the other begin with “because”,) but not me. “
Finally, Jesus says in Mark (when he now speaks directly about the woman’s act to interpret it): “She has done what she could (very beautiful, but omitted by Matthew), she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.”
Even if unconsciously to her, but following the divine impulse of love – that is what the words are supposed to mean – the woman has done the honor to my body for the event, which will now soon – (in two days) – occur . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The meaning of these words becomes even clearer and more important when we remember that according to the writing of Mark the body of Jesus could not be anointed and embalmed, because it was too late on the day of the crucifixion and burial and the women, who C. 16, 1 went to the tomb of Jesus after the Sabbath with the specimens to embalm him, found the tomb empty and received the message from the angel that their Lord had risen. Matthew does not emphasize this circumstance, does not attribute this note to Mark, because he did not notice the inner connection of it with the story of the anointing in Bethany, because he had no eye for this kind of connection in the writing of his predecessor. And now the fourth? He was even more mistaken, he violated the story of the anointing – besides the other violations – even more, when he reports from his own hand that Joseph and the comrade whom he gave to Joseph, Nicodemus, embalmed the body of Jesus when they buried him.
Both Matthew and the Fourth copied their account from Mark. But how then are the differences to be explained, by which all these reports differ significantly from one another?
The matter of Matthew we can briefly settle. Where he differs from Mark, it is either his carelessness in the pure business of writing, or the fact that he had no feeling for some seemingly minor trifles, which is to be given as the reason for the difference. The most striking circumstance, that he lets the disciples appear against the woman, is to be explained purely and solely from the clumsiness, which sometimes tempts him to give a definiteness to the representation, where Mark very correctly and appropriately leaves the matter undefined. (Cf. C. 9, 14. Mark 2, 18).
4. The origin of the Johannine account.
The dear man of the heart has just copied!
From Mark he has the designation of the ointment as πιστικης – about the meaning of this word the theologians may still argue in the future – but from the treasure of his own sublime imagination he has taken it that the woman – think! – took a pound of ointment to anoint the Lord’s feet. In the end, we would have to explain it from this profusion that Mary was frightened when, instead of anointing the feet of Jesus, she did it in a troublesome way – we do not want to say what – and that therefore she reached for her hair *).
He wrote Mark’s calculation of the value of the ointment, but he wrote it badly, because Mark lets people say that one could pay “more” than three hundred denarii for the ointment if one sold it, he writes very clumsily that one could sell the ointment for three hundred denarii.
*) How do you like this explanation? Is it worse than that of de Wette, who explains the striking circumstance that Mary anointed the feet, not the head, thus: (I, I, 215) “probably Mary could approach the feet rather than the head. And to pour a whole pound of ointment on the head at once would have been unseemly”? I wish that the theologians would at least stop scolding the rabbis. These were worthy, clear philosophers compared to these people who make such profound reflections on a pound of ointment (font tant de bruit).
He omitted the word about the woman’s eternal remembrance because he had already given her a name (Mary) and then brought a new interest into the narrative, which he esteemed, to make the final focus fall once again on the woman or rest on her. He brought the contrast between the woman’s loving effort and the selfishness of the betrayer into the narrative, although not properly or even completely: as soon as the betrayer is dismissed in necessity, the account must come to an end.
But where does Judas come from? First of all from the Fourth’s love of terrible contrasts! Here he wanted to oppose the expression of tender, wistful love with the utmost egoism, and he now opposes it – how clumsy, how tasteless! – a common thief. Mark has kept the right measure when he contrasts the touching extravagance of love with the envy and misgivings of the ordinary adherents of the utilitarian theory.
Earlier, the Fourth Gospel had already quoted the black traitor for the sake of contrast, namely to use his stubbornness as a foil for the love of the Lord and the attachment of the other disciples (John 6:68-71). He borrowed this contrast from the Gospel of Mark, but if Mark only used it once (in the account of the Last Supper) and even then only very appropriately, namely artistically tempered, then the Fourth Gospel has now painted it in glaring colors, as if this contrast were not always, even in the most moderate portrayal, large, terrible, and moving enough, and placed it everywhere, even in very inappropriate places, wherever he found a place for it.
However, this time there was a very special reason that led him to execute Judas here. In the scripture of Mark, immediately after the report of the anointing, there is a note (C. 14, 10) that Judas left to betray Jesus to the high priests. Well, here the fourth one had Judas in front of him, he also reads here that the betrayer was promised money by the priests. He slips it into his report about the anointing, the note about the money makes him make the villain a money man, in order to give him the opportunity to prove his greediness, he makes him immediately the treasurer of the society *) and afterwards – yes afterwards, after his wonderful report about the anointing he omits the note that Judas went to the priests and was promised money, a note that was necessary for the whole gospel.
*Tholuck (comm. p. 229) says, what the holy John C. 12, 4 – 6 reports, is “the only psychological trait from the life of Judas, which enables us to read his soul. Now read what Mr. Tholuck reads out in order to feel justified disgust about this astonishing psychology. No! One does not read it! It is too silly not to mention that it is empty straw threshing. Judas is no longer a treasurer!
Further, the question arises, how he came to set Martha and Mary in motion for the banquet. What a superfluous question! We have already seen how he wove Luke’s note of the two sisters into his story of the raising of Lazarus. He does that again here. As Luke’s Martha resurrects, so does his; as Luke’s Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, so does his prove her devotion to the Lord by anointing his feet.
He moved the sisters by force to Bethany. In Luke, where he first met them, they live in some village and Jesus meets them on his journey before he comes to Judea. The force that the Fourth used in this transfer can be seen very clearly in the hasty intention with which he immediately, as he first writes down the word Bethany in C. 11, 1. 2, assures that this place was the village of Mary and Martha. He wants to impress upon the reader that this village was the well-known village where Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, lived, the village where Mary lived, who, as is known, anointed the feet of the Lord and wiped them with her hair – Yes, yes, he tells the readers, just believe it, it is the same well-known village! the same village!
The name Lazarus he has from the narration of the rich man and Lazarus which he has read with Luke. His Lazarus is a revenant who should bring the people forcefully to the faith.
He transfers Lazarus to Bethany in order to use the miracle that happened to him to bring about the final catastrophe.
But would it really be because he used the elements that Mark and Luke gave him so externally? *) We have proved it and will add new proofs.
*) Strauss (l, 786. 787) not only doubts it, but decides – i.e. in the mist of his mystical tradition hypothesis – for the opposite. He does not find it “advisable to accuse the fourth gospel here of an unhistorical naming. For the relationship of Jesus to the family in Bethany, like the several festive journeys, is a point at which this Gospel in all probability has more precise notes ahead of the others.” The scattered features in the Synoptic Gospels of Jesus’ relationship to Bethany and to Martha and Mary are “just as many signposts pointing to a point of unification according to John’s narrative.” Of course! – thus in a completely different sense! – After John had united these traits in his report.
He holds the thing so uncertainly that we must think at the beginning, when he says, Martha waited for, that the guest meal takes place in the house of Lazarus, and nevertheless we hear immediately on it that Lazarus is only a guest. Why? Because in the original report, with Mark, the anointing woman comes to the banquet, thus is not at home with the host; because the host in the original report is called Simon. Even Luke has left the matter so far unchanged that the host is called Simon: this impressed the beast somewhat and he now presents the matter in such a way that Lazarus is only one of the guests, although we must assume at the beginning that the banquet had been ruined in his house.
Nevertheless, the fourth was so tender and yielding to the name of Simon that he nevertheless mentions it in his report, even though he does not really want to put it into words about the fact that the innkeeper was a stranger. Isn’t a Simon also mentioned here? Namely as the father of Judas. The fourth was the first to give this name to the traitor’s father, and in order to convince the reader quite definitely on this important point, he calls Judas the son of Simon almost everywhere he thinks of him.
One still insists on us: how? The Fourth would have had before his eyes and used Luke’s account of the anointing? Isn’t it a completely different story?
As for the first, the answer is absolutely yes!
We remember the inconvenience of Mary anointing “the feet of Jesus” and – what cobbled together language! – wipes “the feet of the same” with her hair. Mark and Matthew know nothing of this anointing of the feet; only the head is anointed – that is in order! – So they also know nothing about the drying of the feet.
– – Oh, that one must speak about such things! If only they had fallen into oblivion, which will be their just fate. Now we still have to speak of them, but in such a way that no one needs to remember them anymore, thoroughly, sharply, devastatingly. It is not enough that we break the thorny chains with which they still want to bind us today: we must grind them, pulverize them! – –
But the woman, who comes to the house of Simon in Luke, approaches Jesus, who lay at the banquet, in such a way that she fell unnoticed at his feet, wept behind his back, wetted his feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair and kissed them – and only then she anoints them. (Luke7, 38.) That is in order! There everything is in order! The fourth, however, has disorderly gathered the key words together and thrown them into his report in a colorful jumble.
We have nothing to do with the second question in the form in which it is usually posed by theologians and critics: whether what Luke reports is the same story, since we have no material interest in such stories. Correctly, i.e. critically and aesthetically correctly posed: namely: is the report of Mark the literary basis for that of Luke? – only then it has interest for us and will immediately receive its answer.
5. The report of Luke.
C. 7, 36 – 50.
A Pharisee, who, as we learn from Jesus’ address (v. 40), is called Simon, invited the Lord to the table. But it is not said which was the city where the Pharisee lived, how Jesus came there, since already before it was not said where Jesus was when the message of the Baptist met him. Nain it is not, since the author has long since pushed back the interest that captivated the reader to this city, when he reports that the news of the revival of the young man spread throughout Judea and the whole surrounding area.
A Pharisee invites Jesus as a guest. Only Luke knows how to praise such kindness of the Pharisees; he lets the Lord very often be invited to the table by these his arch-enemies, in order to – strangely and rudely enough! – to give him the opportunity to be quite crude against them, sometimes thunderously. This contradiction is most vociferous in the breakfast scene C. 11, 37 – a contradiction that dissolves this whole breakfast and banquet pragmatism.
Once again, Jesus has the opportunity to strongly rebuke the Pharisee and accuse him of being beneath the sinner who – another contradiction! – had entered Simon’s house and dining room, without us knowing how she, as a stranger and even as a woman, could do this, and how she could stay in the room undisturbed until she showed her love to the Lord.
When she bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them *), the Pharisee – – another inconvenience – was not upset that a notorious sinner had invaded his house, but he was only inwardly surprised that Jesus, if he wanted to be a prophet, did not know that the woman was a sinner. Since he allowed himself to be “touched” so nonchalantly by her, it seemed that he did not know her status, so he probably was not a prophet. But if he thought that the touch of the woman defiled him, he should have immediately expelled her from the house instead of engaging in such foolish speculations about the prophetic gift of his guest.
*) On the fact that the woman anoints Jesus’ feet, it only comes up in Luke’s account because she had just been busy with his feet.
But the author of the verse did not notice these contradictions, because all that mattered to him was that the woman got into the house and the Lord had the opportunity to punish the pride of Pharisaic self-righteousness.
But how did Jesus realize that the Pharisee had just this thought, that he doubted his prophetic dignity? Just think! – It is not a small thing! – Just this particular thought! Small thing! He noticed it because the evangelist made him clairvoyant, omniscient!
Jesus does not directly respond to the Pharisee’s objection – this should only serve to open his mouth – but he speaks about something completely different: the extraordinary demonstration of love by that woman.
As the debtor who had been forgiven a larger sum by his creditor than his co-debtor would feel greater love, so – – but it does not follow what we expect; the whole thing is designed and executed in such a way that it mocks even the most reasonable expectation.
We would expect: “You have shown me less love because you have been forgiven less,” but instead the discourse takes a completely different direction. The Lord complains that the Pharisee has shown him nothing of love, not even the necessary courtesies. Later on, the discourse becomes more general and the personal consideration for the Pharisee completely disappears – which had to happen after such an unfortunate start – and it is said: “But the one who has been forgiven little loves little.”
What kind of reproach is this against the Pharisee! Has he not made his affection known to the Lord, when he — he a Pharisee! — invites him into his house? And when he asks him to the table, will he not have given him water to wash his feet, will he not have welcomed him with the usual kiss? And if it was customary and demanded, as we must assume after Jesus’ complaint *), the Pharisee will also have anointed his guest’s head. The reason why the Pharisee has to hear the accusations that Jesus makes against him is because, as the self-righteous person in contrast to the sinner, he needed to be rebuked. However, the Evangelist made a mistake by making the accusation about violated etiquette.
*) Theologians often talk on this occasion about the “well-known Jewish custom” as if they were very familiar with wonders in Judea! And they still dare to discuss the accusation of the Pharisee with seriousness?
Furthermore, in the view that the evangelist follows here, and which he only clumsily processes, the righteous and the sinners form an absolute contrast. The righteous are the healthy ones who do not need a doctor and are condemned (Mark 2:17). The evangelist has focused on this contrast between the righteous and the sinners, but he has weakened it, made it relative, by speaking of the contrast between those who are forgiven more or less, and he has also not fully carried out this contrast but crossed it with the absolute one. He wanted to bring the idea of that divine irony, which he borrowed from Mark’s scripture in that classical expression, to be manifested here, but he could not fully control the element, the material, in which he wanted to shape it. He did not go so far as to fully put Jesus in conflict with the Pharisee, because the account of the anointing in Bethany still dominates him, as he does not read in the original account that Simon the host was hostile, nor that the attitude of those who took offense at the anointing was decidedly evil. Hence the extraordinary confusion. Two interests intersected in the mind of the writer, and he could not give either of them the upper hand.
The same phenomenon is repeated in another form when, all of a sudden, the viewpoint that was just explained and was supposed to be concluded is completely reversed and turned in the opposite direction. At first, love is the result of forgiveness; now it is the opposite: because the woman has loved much, her many sins will be forgiven. We leave it to the Protestants to struggle with the agony and torture of this verse, as they are concerned about their salvation order – because a biblical verse can overturn everything – and instead we point out the reason for this reversal! It is because the report itself has left the assumption standing that the woman showed her love to the Lord before her forgiveness was declared, and because Luke is dependent on the original report in which the woman approached Jesus without hesitation before he had spoken to her about anything!
Finally, when Jesus said to the woman: your sins are forgiven (v. 49), a whole new interest comes. The guests wondered inwardly “who he is that forgives sins also”. *). Inappropriate exuberance! The report should be finished now, since Simon’s concern is completely solved. Two collisions in one report is too much **), which is confirmed in the present report itself, if Jesus does not explicitly address this new concern – the reminiscence of the original presentation of this concern would then also have been too clear and too annoying – he only says – again clumsily, as if he had to defend the woman and not rather himself against a concern – v. 50: “your faith has helped you, go in peace. “This new concern is borrowed from the report of Mark about the healing of the paralytic (Mark 2, 7) and the form in which it is presented is formed after the exclamation of the disciples about Jesus’ power that he had exercised over the wind and the sea ***).
*) τις ουτος εστιν, ος και . . . .
**) One must understand! These are not reports that reflect the often accidental configurations of real history, but productions of the imagination that are not disturbed by the accidental interference of reality. Everywhere the imagination – as with Mark – creates originally, the creatures are a complete and individually closed whole. The skillful imitator will also create complete, individual figures; but if he is unskilled, chance and the limited associations of ideas, the weakness of plastic power, will take the place of chance and caprice, which have their scope in empirical reality.
***) Mark 4, 41 τις αρα ουτος εστιν οτι και . . .
In short, the report of Luke is a tragedy. It is clumsily copied from the report of Mark about the anointing in Bethany, the woman became a sinner, because the author wanted to use this report – why? we will see later! – to give a vivid expression to the irony about the righteous and the sinners, and Simon, who has now become a Pharisee, takes the place of those who took offense at the anointing in the original report.
If we leave aside the theological babbling about the kinship relationship between Simon and Lazarus, perhaps the opinion of Gfrörer is worth mentioning. He regards the Gospel of John as a sanctuary of truth: Judas, Simon’s son, was the one who was angered by the anointing. “In the mouth of the legend,” this Judas, Simon’s son, was turned into the simple Simon, and the hateful, wicked man finally became – as one may read for oneself – Simon the leper; as such, he became the host in the Gospel of Luke. “So events change under the hands of the legend!” *) “I could demonstrate this,” Mr. Gfrörer continues, “from lively examples, anecdotes about Frederick and Napoleon that are circulating among the people and old soldiers in this country. ” It’s a pity that these lively examples come too late, as we have now shown that events can change greatly “under the hands” of writers, and that in particular, this time the Simon of Mark, after becoming the Simon of Luke, became the Judas, Simon’s son of the Fourth. It’s a pity that only the Fourth knows that Judas’ father’s name is Simon. It’s a pity that Mark placed the anointing in the aesthetically correct chronological relationship to the death of Jesus, and the Fourth inserted many alien things between them and to that end turned Mark’s two days into six! It’s a great pity that the Gospel of Mark is so pushy and threatening to theologians and critics!
*) The Holy Saga, l, 179-181.
If, by the way, through the power of that ironic contrast, Luke succeeded, more than he himself knew, in creating one of the most excellent objects of Christian art – the sinner is the objective, personified expression of that irony about the contrast of the sinner and the righteous; her tear is itself already the victory and the mockery of this contrast of reason – then Mark, in forming his story of the anointing, also succeeded in giving expression to a view that belongs essentially to Christianity. What basically drove him to work out this story full of the anointing in Bethany was not the antithesis that the anointing and embalming, which according to the plan of his writing should not be given to the body of the Lord, should be carried out in advance, but the other interest, that now, when the sufferings and pains begin, nor was it simply the motive that the body of the Most High should be symbolically protected from decomposition or represented in advance as the incorruptible one – all these motives were involved in the creation of this narrative, but the main motive was the feeling of veneration for the incorruptible body of the Lord. The body of the Savior has already received the high significance for the point of view on which the Gospel was written, which it enjoyed in the classical and plastic time of Christianity, in the time of Catholicism. The body became – and rightly so, since it is unique in its kind – the object of veneration, pious contemplation and care. But this veneration, contemplation and care was especially obligatory for the woman, since she is more sentimental and more capable of joy, which smiles through tears, than the man. Only a woman is allowed to rejoice and weep at the same time, as she is the only person who can mourn and care for the body of death, which is also the eternal and incorruptible body. It is the woman who, in those Catholic images, holds the body of the crucified in her lap and gazes upon it with sorrow and love! —
Moreover, it hardly needs to be mentioned that the assumption that the sinner was Mary Magdalene, whom Luke later mentions as a person not previously mentioned (Chapter 8, verse 2), goes against the view of the Evangelist.
6. Theological Chronology.
If we now say a word about chronology, we certainly do not intend to make ourselves ridiculous and ask when that anointing of Jesus took place. The matter is already settled when we have found as a time determination that this anointing as this specific event only took place in the imagination of Mark *), and when we have stated that the Fourth Gospel has very inappropriately and unsuccessfully pushed the event back by at least four days. Rather, we want to give an example of theological chronology and language, and if we mention Olshausen for this reason, we ask that this not be understood as if Olshausen were unique in his kind, but all theologians down to Neander are just as skilled in language and chronology, and to their disadvantage, they only differ from Olshausen in that he has a method in such matters.
*) In this ideal world it was also only possible, what Mark alone reports, that the woman broke the alabaster vessel in which she had the ointment. But she broke it in that feeling of enthusiasm in which it seems to man that a vessel which has served a high, single purpose would be dishonored if it should afterwards again serve the use of ordinary life.
In order to make this method understandable to the reader, we must first note that Luke, after the account of the sinner, continues (C. 8, 1-4): “After that Jesus went about preaching in the towns and villages, and once, when many people had gathered, he took occasion to recite the parable of the sower. “Matthew, on the other hand, says that Jesus delivered the parable (C. 13, 1) on the same day that He had taken the stand against the Pharisees for violating the Sabbath and against the accusation that He was in league with the sower (C. 12). Luke has assigned completely different places to these events.
Now hear, Israel!
Matthew, says Olshausen *), connects the following C. 13 by such a certain chronological indication, with which also Mark 4, 1 agrees that one can consider the same (!) as belonging to each other (!). (We are silent about the language! Olshausen wanted to say that Matthew links the two chapters 12 and 13 to each other!) For this reason, here is the most appropriate place to include a story that Luke (C. 7, 36 – 50) has alone; this is placed by the evangelist in the most intimate connection with the story of the parable of the sower. (Every reasonable person would have to think that this is the reason to doubt that this story could be included here. Olshausen thinks differently, but must now dissolve everything that he has just said about the most intimate relationship, about definite chronology, into a very indefinite talk again). Of course, even in this case, the assertion of a strict order cannot be thought of, because while Matth. 13, 1 says: on that day, so that still the parable (! what language!) would have to be put on one and the same day with the preceding, we read after the story of the anointing (in Luke): ” in the following it happened “, which formula puts the following in any case on a late day. (Not to mention that Luke thinks that a lot of time passed between the anointing and the parable recital: isn’t that a strict order, if Matthew and Luke each indicate the chronology so definitely?) So (!) this passage should have been placed before C. 12 Matth, provided that everything in it happened on the same day with C. 13. (So? Because the evangelists do not keep a strict order? Therefore Olshausen wants to arbitrarily nest the reports and think that he puts each one in its right place? And what an enormously and wonderfully long day, on which everything happened, what Matthew C. 12. 13 reports). However, since the time indications in Matthew leave it completely unclear where the day begins and in Luke there is also no mention of the time of the anointing (Olshausen distinguishes it from the anointing in Bethany), nothing definite could be determined and that is precisely why (!) we let ourselves be guided by the “fitting together” of the following events to include it here. (And a few lines earlier we read the opposite “therefore”, that Olshausen wanted to include the event here precisely because the chronological indications of Matthew and Luke were very specific! Now it is said that they are unclear and uncertain! And if, as now suddenly turns out, they are indefinite, why include “the anointing” here? Because of the “fitting together of the following”? What kind of fitting together? Chronological? That was proven! Substantive? What kind of substance? Because the parable of the sower is mentioned afterwards? Or because the women in Jesus’ entourage are mentioned afterwards? Oh, you hypocrites, if Luke had not pleased to report the anointing exactly here, you would never have thought that there could be talk of a “fitting together of the following”!)
*) I, 428 – 430.
And why did Luke like to tell the anointing here, to include his transformation of the report of Mark just here? Certainly not because of the “fitting together of the following”!
But because he had just spoken about the relationship of himself and John the Baptist to the people in Luke 7:34-35. The Lord said that neither he nor John the Baptist could please the people; he did not lead the strict way of life of John, he ate and drank, and yet people called him a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! Now, to make this word of his true, Luke immediately invites him to dinner and gives him the opportunity to prove his friendship for sinners. Therefore, because Luke 7:34 is based on Mark 2:17, that irony about the intellectual contrast between the supposedly righteous and sinners must now be woven into the account of the anointing. Or rather, Jesus’ statement about how the people judged him and the new interpretation of the original report on the anointing are a cohesive work that formed in the mind of Luke at the same time. Jesus’ behavior towards the sinner is meant to explain how the people could come to think of him as a friend of sinners.
If the origin of Luke’s account has now been proven beyond any doubt and Olshausen’s assertion – that the narrative of Luke is a “total distortion” of the parallels and is “incompatible” with the meaning of the biblical scriptures before Christian consciousness – must be repudiated by anyone who has even the slightest spark of love for truth and humanity within themselves. This is a consciousness that offers a repugnant defiance of truth, and while pretending to fight for truth and scripture, it is afraid of the truth and turns its nose up at scripture, plays tricks, lies, mocks and treats the most specific details and explanations of scripture as if they were the work of a schoolboy – no, even worse – which distorts scripture.
I still wanted, from Schleiermacher’s book on Luke, to give an example of
7. theological omniscience
Schleiermacher believes that what Luke and the others report is an account of the same event, “only viewed from a different perspective.” However, my desire to provide an example of theological omniscience from Schleiermacher’s writing has faded. I only note that according to Schleiermacher *), the criticism expressed by the disciples was “simultaneous” with the Pharisee’s objection. In the end, Jesus would have had to refute both that criticism and this objection at the same time, in the same words. John and Luke’s informant then divided this “simultaneous” duality!
*) p. 111.
Thanks, thanks, Mark, for freeing us from the theological lie! Thanks to the kind fate that has preserved the scripture of Mark to pull us out of the web of this hellish pseudo-science!
Understand! The unctuous, theological aberrations of earlier critics, such as Schleiermacher, we do not, of course, want to accuse as open lies; they are products of a still constricted, fearful time. But if one now comes to reproach us with Schleiermacher’s “sense of truth” as a horror and to condemn the free, human critic after the truth has come to light, one may expect only the strongest language from our side.
Instead of enduring this omniscience any longer, let us rather take a look at the fourth evangelist. We may only take this look now, after we have established all the necessary conditions.
8. The Adulteress of the Fourth Gospel.
It remains as we have proved in our writing on the Gospel history of John that the passage dealing with the adulteress was written by the author of the fourth Gospel.
The adulteress is the sinner of Luke. As she is accused by Simon in such a way that Jesus is reproached for having a friendly relationship with a sinner, as it finally (Luke 7, 49) raises doubts that Jesus acquits the sinner, so the Pharisees and scribes who bring the adulteress to Jesus assume that he will not declare himself against the sinner, indeed they hope, because they are sure that he will acquit her, to catch him thereby and to get a reason for accusation.
Lücke, who would like to absolve his John from responsibility for this passage, asks *): “But what entitled the scribes and Pharisees to count on such a decision from Jesus with certainty?” We have answered! The knowledge of the character of Jesus, which the Fourth Gospel obtained from the Gospel of Luke, he shares with those tempters from the very beginning.
*) II, 226.
But, the faithful theologians ask further, what was the collision in which Jesus’ enemies hoped to entangle him? No one has been able to determine it so far! Of course! Because the matter itself is vague and indeterminate, because the Evangelist himself had no specific understanding of it and no knowledge of the political and civic constitution of the Jews at that time, in short, because he copied Mark and Luke – who, however, mention a completely different collision. **).
**) John 8, 6: τούτο δε έλεγον πειράζοντες αυτόν, ένα έχωσι κατηγορεϊν αυτόν.
Mark 12, 13: … ένα αυτόν άγρεύσωσι λόγω. 23. 15: τι με πειράζετε.
Luke 20, 20: . . . . ένα επιλάβωνται αυτού λόγον, εις το παραδούναι αυτήν τη αρχή
Mark 3, 2: . . . . ινα κατηγορήσωσιν αυτού.
One asks, as does Lücke, how the opponents could speak of stoning when, according to the almost unanimous testimony of the rabbis, the punishment for adultery was strangulation. But what did the Fourth care about the anxiety of later “Christian consciousness” and about the judicial system at the time of Jesus, of which he knew so little that he did not even dream of that anxiety. He was satisfied if, like Mark, he mentioned the Law of Moses in a discussion of marital matters. ***).
***) John 8, 5 : εν δε τω νομω μωσης ημιν ενετειλατο
Mark 10, 3 : τι υμιν ενετειλατο μωσης
Whether the punishment commanded by Moses still applied at the time of Jesus, he did not know and was highly indifferent to!
Although the collision between Jesus and his opponents may be viewed as serious and prosaic, it is ultimately meaningless and ill-defined, as the Fourth Gospel overemphasizes the criminal and scandalous nature of the event, transforming the compassionate sinner of Luke into an adulteress caught in the act. Nevertheless, Jesus’ response: “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” is still beautiful in that it evokes the indefinite feeling of the transcendence of heavenly or moral justice over legal justice within us, touching upon the sense of moral infinity within us. However, setting aside the fact that the collision is too crudely depicted by the Fourth Gospel, the scene becomes artificial again when Jesus twice scribbles in the sand to show his contempt for the Pharisees, and the depiction becomes ridiculous when the Evangelist describes how the tempters “slip away one by one, beginning with the elders.” This is a pretentious exaggeration of the synoptic expression: “He shut their mouths”, or they “went away”, or “they marveled,” or “they kept quiet, and no one dared to ask him anymore.”
The description of the situation in which Jesus found himself when the Pharisees brought the woman to him is borrowed from the Synoptics’ account of Jesus’ way of life during his stay in Jerusalem, and is especially copied from Luke.
The fourth says *) that after the quarrel with the crowd and the councilors (C. 7) and when the trouble of the Feast of Tabernacles was over, “Jesus went to the Mount of Olives; and early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.” Luke tells us that Jesus, while in Jerusalem, “taught in the temple by day, and went out by night, and lodged in the mount of Olives: and early in the morning all the people rose up to hear him in the temple.
*) John 8, 1. 2: επορεύθη εις το όρος των ελαιών. όρθρου δε πάλιν παρεγένετο εις το ιερόν και πάς ο λαός ήρχετο προς αυτόν, και καθίσας εδίδασκεν αυτούς.
Luke 21, 37, 38: ήν δε τας ημέρας εν τω ιερώ διδάσκων, τας δε νύκτας εξερχόμενος ηυλίζετο εις το όρος καλούμενον ελαιών. και πάς ο λαός ώρθριζε προς αυτόν εν τώ ιερώ ακούειν αυτού. Luke’s own fabrication ! Mark did not think it was worth the effort to record the details of the diary to that extent. He only shows the reader that the Lord must have had an inn in Bethany.
From Luke, the fourth has “all the people”, whereas otherwise he knows “the multitudes”. Luke is to blame for the fact that after the bickering of the past days, “all the people” suddenly come to the Lord.
The fact that Jesus sits teaching this time is attributed by the evangelist to Mark, who also has Jesus sit in the temple and look at the people *).
*) Mark 12, 41: και καθισας – Luke did not omit this expression from the parallel passage, so the Fourth Gospel must have carefully consulted the text when developing this situation.
The scribes, whom he does not mention otherwise, are sent against the Lord this time together with the Pharisees, because he has in mind the passage of the Synoptic Gospels where the Pharisees and scribes appear to capture Jesus by fragments. But why does he now bring here a parallel to those attacks? As if he could not have used it in any other place, since in his case the hostility of the Jewish party is decided very soon!
The Pharisees put the adulteress in the middle, as Jesus did another time when the Pharisees were waiting for an opportunity to accuse him, when they were watching whether he would heal the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath, and ordered the sick man to put himself in the middle **).
**) John 8, 3: στήσαντες αυτήν εις το μέσον.
Luke 6, 8: έγειραι και στήθι εις το μέσον.
Mark 3, 4: έγειραι εις το μέσον.
“Go,” Jesus says to the adulteress, dismissing her as he says to the sinner in Luke: “Go in peace”, except that the fourth makes him add: “And sin no more!” *)
*) John 8, 11; πορεύου και μηκέτι αμάρτανε. (Comp. 6. 5, 14.)
Luke 7, 50: πορεύoυ εις ειρήνην.
Luke 5, 24 : πορεύoυ εις τον οίκόν σου.
Mark 2, 11: ύπαγε εις τον οίκόν σου.
The theologians were very surprised and complained of arbitrariness when I explained that the whole glorious practicality of festival travel in the fourth gospel was nothing but a fabricated work, an external support with which the author wanted to help the weakness of the spiritual, inner pragmatism. They may now think about where the Fourth Evangelist knew so exactly that the incident with the adulterous woman took place on the day after that Feast of Tabernacles.
What a mind this evangelist had, who wrote a work like the one we have from his hand, after studying the synoptic Gospels so diligently!
I have resumed translating Bruno Bauer’s work on the gospels — Criticism of the Gospels and History of their Origin (Kritik der Evangelien und Geschichte ihres Ursprungs) — the link to all the completed chapters under Bruno Bauer in the right margin, beneath About Vridar.
The work is mostly machine translation (a mix of GoogleTranslate, DeepL and ChatGPT and direct human meddling). I have had to process Old German fonts to modern fonts in order to copy text for the translation and there are niggling errors here and there. I try to fix them but I am sure there are many I have overlooked. In case anyone does find anything particularly awkward I have included the German text with my processed modern fonts beside the translation so one can see where the errors might arise and offer a correction.
I asked ChatGPT what I could add about Bruno Bauer here that might be of interest to a general audience and here is its response:
Bruno Bauer was a prominent 19th century German philosopher and theologian, whose ideas were controversial and influential in shaping the cultural and intellectual landscape of his time. Here are some potential topics that could be of interest to a general audience:
- Bauer’s Critique of Religion: One of Bauer’s most famous works is his critique of religion, particularly Christianity. Bauer argued that religion was a product of human imagination and projection, rather than a divine revelation. He saw religion as a way of perpetuating social and political oppression and called for the abolition of religion as a means of promoting human freedom.
- Bauer’s Political Views: Bauer was also a political thinker, and was involved in various revolutionary and socialist movements throughout his life. He advocated for the overthrow of traditional monarchies and the establishment of a democratic republic and was a strong critic of the Prussian state.
- Bauer’s Influence on Marxism: Bauer’s ideas had a significant impact on the development of Marxism, particularly in the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Bauer was an early critic of Hegelianism, which provided the philosophical foundation for many of Marx’s ideas, and his critique of religion helped shape Marx’s concept of ideology.
- Bauer’s Contributions to Biblical Criticism: Bauer was also a scholar of the Bible, and his work on the New Testament was influential in the development of biblical criticism. He argued that many of the texts traditionally attributed to the apostles were actually written much later and that the historical accuracy of the New Testament was suspect.
- Bauer’s Controversial Reputation: Despite his significant contributions to philosophy and theology, Bauer was a controversial figure in his own time. He was often criticized for his radical views and for his harsh criticism of the established order and was frequently denied academic positions or censored by authorities.
I asked a follow-up question for the next points:
While Bruno Bauer was never formally excommunicated from the Christian church, many religious authorities of his time saw his views on religion and Christianity as highly controversial and heretical.
Bauer was a theologian and biblical scholar who came to reject the notion of divine revelation and the supernatural elements of Christianity. In his view, Christianity was a human invention that perpetuated social and political oppression. These views brought him into conflict with both the established Christian churches and the secular authorities that supported them.
As a result of his controversial views, Bauer was denied academic positions and faced censorship and persecution from the authorities. He was also widely criticized by his contemporaries, including other intellectuals and theologians.
So while Bauer was not formally excommunicated from any particular Christian denomination, his rejection of Christian dogma and his embrace of radical and heretical ideas made him an outcast from the mainstream religious and intellectual establishments of his time.
I consider his analyses essential reading for anyone seriously interested in a critical exploration of the gospels. Of course much work has been done since that cannot be ignored, but Bauer’s insights are still provocative and often still deserve a place in any discussion today.
Why does the first account of the life of Jesus appear as late as forty years after the crucifixion? The answer I long heard was that followers of Jesus were focused on his return and, expecting his return in their lifetimes, they did not see any need to write a historical account of his life. Scholarly texts of the gospels will explain that the ancient culture was primarily oral and word-of-mouth was the standard means of spreading news. The same texts will assert that the first oral reports of Jesus’s sayings were written down about twenty years after the crucifixion although some brave souls have even proposed as early as four or five years later.
All of that sounds plausible enough — until one steps outside the mental bubble of those descriptions and compares with how people work in the real world.
I am at the moment reading Gershom Scholem’s exhaustive study of a widespread mid-seventeenth century Jewish messianic movement that fully anticipated the messiah to set up his kingdom in Jerusalem within a matter of a year or within a few short months. The messianic figure was Sabbatai Sevi and the years spanned from late 1665 to 1667. Sabbatai Sevi was what we would classify as manic-depressive. When he was “on fire” he was “on fire” but when the mood left him he was really down, withdrawn, out of the picture. Most of the heavy lifting of persuading others to believe he was the messiah was the work of his “prophet”, Nathan of Gaza. (Nathan was able to persuade outsiders that Sabbatai’s “down times” were signs of his messianic “suffering for Israel”. It must be added, however, that Sabbatai could also come across as one possessed with a dignified and caring demeanour.)
Now I think it is safe to say that most of the everyday lower-class Jews living in the Ottoman empire and throughout Europe at the time were not highly literate. Jewish communities did certainly possess leaders, rabbis and elders, who were literate. And persons from well-to-do business families often had the fortune of a sound education. And there is no doubt at all that believers in Sabbatai Sevi far and wide spoke, recited and sang of his wonderful deeds and sayings along with those of his prophet.
It is also clear that oral reports were never enough. Yes, there was no substitute for the presence of a visiting eye-witness who could report and be interrogated orally of their visits and observations of the messiah and those closest to him. But given that those sorts of visits were few and far between in places as far from Gaza, Smyrna and Constantinople as Leghorn, Amsterdam and Hamburg, believers in Sabbatai Sevi and Nathan craved the arrival of letters to prominent persons — “clerical” or business persons — in their communities. Believers would flock to the ports to meet ships with expected letters as they docked. And the prophet Nathan was not lax, nor were others who were closely associated with the “messiah”. They wrote and wrote to acquaintances and to acquaintances other acquaintances and contacts. Then those who received letters copied them both for preservation and sharing more widely still. People came to hear them read in public and private venues. Others were inspired by the reports of this news from a distance to write poems, hymns, prayers that they shared with fellow believers.
By such means believers were convinced that great miracles had been performed by the messiah, even raising the dead and appearing before authorities in a pillar of fire. They were also led to believe that the “lost” Ten Tribes of Israel were on the march to conquer Mecca and would soon arrive at the gates of Jerusalem. The ruler of the Ottoman empire was about to hand over the “keys of the kingdom of Israel” to Sabbatai Sevi without a fight. Many believers sold everything and left to live in Jerusalem in order to be where the action was when that day of the messianic kingdom came.
What sustained the believers in their excitement, what they loved to create and share in their thrilling expectation that the kingdom of God was to be inaugurated within a matter of mere months, at most a year? What did they share along with their singing and dancing and fellowship? Copies of letters, copies of written poems and prayers, all speaking of the great wonders and powerful words of the messiah who was about to be made known as God’s anointed to the whole world.
In the accounts of the believers in Sabbatai Sevi, one notion never arises: “that there is no point in writing anything about the man because we’ll all be in Palestine and he’ll be ruling over us all in just a few months from now.”
With that little episode in mind, one returns to the question of why it took so long for written accounts of Jesus to appear.
Scholem, Gershom. Sabbatai Ṣevi: The Mystical Messiah, 1626–1676. Translated by R. Werblowsky. Reprint edition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.
I was once met with frozen silence in a forum set up for Bible scholars when I expressed the view that the Gospel of Mark has a fairy-tale type introduction: “John the Baptist came preaching and all (πᾶσα) the region of Judea and of Jerusalem went out to hear him and were all (πάντες) baptized confessing their sins…” No one reads that introduction in Mark 1:5 literally. “Obviously” not “everybody” went to hear John and be baptized. No? But that is the opening scene of the gospel. To read it as history we have to interpret “all” as an exaggeration. But what if the story is about an ideal scenario?
In struggling through my machine translations of Bruno Bauer’s chapters on gospel criticism I was pleasantly surprised to find the same thought expressed in relation to other passages in the gospels. Recall Jesus telling the would-be disciple who wanted to go and bury his father before setting out to follow him. BB points out that such a scenario can only happen in an ideal story world: no teacher could maintain widespread admiration if he forbade a person from fulfilling obviously meaningful family responsibilities. Readers accept the story at face value because it is an ideal scenario, not a real-life depiction. We know the point is to teach readers the moral of putting Jesus before family ties; but no one seriously expects a teacher to command a man to walk away from his father’s funeral in order to follow him right then and there.
Jesus’ message is to leave behind the world of the “spiritually dead”. The entire exchange is a kind of parable. It is not real life.
Yet, as per the previous post, sometimes very smart people can read the account as a literal life-and-death message that applies in the here-and-now. And that’s when the hell starts. I recall years ago walking away from a religious belief system in the stunned realization that I had been living in a fairy tale world. As children, we may fantasize about living in a fairy tale world but as adults, that game can literally be hell for loved ones, even deadly.
Hector Avalos wrote a book, Bad Jesus, illustrating exactly how a literal reading of the gospels makes good characters — and readers who are devoted to those characters — bad.
By the time I finished reading Nanine Charbonnel’s penultimate chapter of Jésus-Christ, sublime figure de papier a queasy sense of déjà vu dragged my mind back decades to a time when I believed that the Bible was a coded book that needed “keys” to open up its true meaning to modern readers. Before Michael Drosnin‘s The Bible Code made its appearance I had memorized all “seven keys” that one particular cult said were required for “understanding the Bible” (according to that cult’s own doctrines, of course). So after I finished reading Nanine Charbonnel’s quite different approach to understanding the nature and origins of the gospels in which she does indeed raise the spectre of authors writing narratives whose meanings are hidden, I had to pause. Had I in one sense come full circle after all these years? What is the difference between Drosnin and Armstrong on the one hand and what Charbonnel [NC] was proposing on the other? Read on and see.
The Key of Creative Multilingualism
One man’s fish is another man’s poisson captures in a humorous way what much of midrash is about: word games, double entendres, mixtures of languages. (By the way, that link is to Mal Webb’s page of his recording of the song that I first heard him sing at a Woodford Folk Festival.) The wordplay in gospel midrash is more serious, of course, with its ambiguities in the names and events making up the gospel narratives and their doctrinal themes and innovations.
NC earlier pointed out the multiple layers meaning in the inscription on the cross written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. Similarly, the stories are told at multiple levels. (Another example: We read of Greeks making their appearance at the final feast of Jesus and are led to recall the prophecy that testifies of the hour the Son of Man is to be glorified — John 12:19-23.) To focus on one passage . . . .
Eli, eli . . .
We are familiar with the last words of Jesus on the cross where he quotes the first line of Psalm 22:
About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
But scratch the surface and interesting questions appear . . . .
Two divergent religious traditions can be identified by the slight change of rhythm arising from where one places a single accent in one word translated from a Psalm spoken by Jesus on the cross: Depending on where one places the accent of lama (in lama lama sabachthani) we have either the Christian “Why [asking for God’s motivation] have you forsaken me?” spoken by Jesus on the cross or the Jewish “To what end [asking what will be the outcome] have you forsaken me (or exiled us)? The explanatory details of this difference are added at the end of this post.
There is something more serious: the meaning of the verb. One might be surprised that the phrase transcribed in Matthew’s Greek is “lama sabachtani” and not the Hebrew of the psalm text, i.e. “lama azavtani“? This is because the psalm is in Hebrew, and Matthew’s phrase in Aramaic. But there would be an error of translation, already made by the Septuagint2.
One can think that in the original midrash there was a play on words on this root, allowing the word to be read as meaning either “abandoned” or “glorified”, and that the translator of the Gospel, inspired by the Septuagint, did not see the play on words, and took up the translation of the Septuagint, giving exclusively to “AZaVtaNi” the meaning of “abandoned”.
(Translated from page 434 of Jésus-Christ, sublime figure de papier)
The authors of Matthew and Mark directly draw our attention to possible misunderstandings arising from similar-sounding words heard in the last words of Jesus on the cross. Jesus speaks the words of the “messiah David” but bystanders mishear him and think he is calling for the prophet Elijah. The author is drawing our attention to confusions arising from languages.
NC adds another pun that is indirect but perhaps meaningful: Is not Levi-Matthew the changer, the changer of language? If Matthew is the same as Levi in the Gospel of Mark we find there that he is identified as son of Alphaeus, a name meaning “change” — see one of the Vridar posts on puns in Mark. Here NC takes a glance (in a footnote) at another suggestion by Maurice Mergui:
Mk 2:14 – As he passed by, he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs office, and said to him, “Follow me. And he got up and followed him.
Why is this Levi the son of Alphaeus (from the Hebrew root meaning to change, to switch, to convert money). Son of a money-changer, that should remind us of something. Money changers were among the merchants in the temple. Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple. He drives their sons, the Levi, out of the Temple. This is (again and again) the leitmotif of the eschatological reversal (The first shall be last) that hides under the guise of an innocuous verse.
As he passed by he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs office
“Passing by” here also means “forgiving” (Hebrew meaning of ‘avar). This is a repeat of the midrash quoted above: the proselytes will marry kohanim and be inside, while the Levites will be outside. At the end of time (but this clause is still absent and the verbs in the present tense) the election will be reversed. The Gentiles will “come in” and you Jews will be out.
(translated from Le Centurion indigne)
The Key of Gospel Emphasis on True Meaning
Plays on the above multilingual ambiguities are readily grasped once we have our attention drawn to them. There are other forms of multiple meanings with special attention directed to the lack of comprehension of outsiders. We find this theme stressed most bluntly in the Gospel of John.
The Gospel of John: staged misunderstandings
The evangelist relishes making the confusion public:
- John 2:19-21 — Exchange with the Jews: Temple is the Body and Rebuilding is the Resurrection (though what happens in the mind of a reader who recalls the metaphor of the people of God being the Temple?)
- John 3:3-4 — Exchange with Nicodemus: Born again is confused with Born from above
- John 4:10 — Exchange with Samaritan woman: running water and living water
- John 4:31 — Exchange with disciples: Food is Doing God’s will
- John 8:33-35 — Exchange with accusers of the adulterous woman: Slavery is subjection to sin
- John 11:11-13 — Exchange with friends of Lazarus: sleep is death
The Key of Narrative Interpretation
Now he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your ears’
Here Jesus (whose name means “God saves”) is presented as reading the very prophet (Isaiah, the name likewise means “God is salvation”) who is the source of Luke’s less obvious agenda. That agenda is to proclaim that the time of the prophets and the accomplishment of the end-time on earth is being taught on this sabbath by the prophet Isaiah through Jesus, “Yahweh saves”. The passage being read is specifically addressing the place of gentiles among God’s people who have been suffering because of their sins, the time when all must be brought together under God. That being the beginning of Jesus’ preaching, the author of the Gospel of Luke draws it all to a fitting closure: Luke 24:27 Continue reading “Are There Really “Keys” to Understanding the New Testament? (Charbonnel continued)”
Note the historicizing imagination at work….
On October 10, early in the morning, I left Jerusalem through the Ephraim Gate, always accompanied by my trusted Ali, with the aim of examining the battlegrounds immortalized by the poet Tasso.
For twelve pages in the chapters devoted to the Holy Land, the story of the pilgrim stands out for its exceedingly natural and sincere enthusiasm. He forgets the Holy Sepulcher, the Via Dolorosa, the convents, and the monks. He simply tries to rediscover on the spot the framework, not of the last days of Jesus and of the Passion, but of the principal heroic and moving episodes from Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered, in a kind of romanesque topographical revery:
Proceeding to the north of the city, between the grotto of Jeremiah and the Sepulcher of the Kings, I opened Jerusalem Delivered and was immediately struck by the accuracy of the poet’s description. Solime (that is, Jerusalem), says Tasso, stands on two opposing hills …. Nature offers only an earth that is arid and naked; no springs, no streams refresh the barren grounds; one never sees flowers blooming; no stately trees spread their shelters against the sun’s rays. At a distance of more than six miles there emerges only a forest casting a baleful shade that inspires horror and sadness. Nothing can be more clear and precise. The forest situated six miles from the camp, in the direction of Arabia, is not an invention of the poet. William of Tyre speaks of the wood where Tasso makes so many marvels happen. Godfrey finds there the timber for the construction of his war machine’ … Aladin sits with Erminia on a tower built between two gates from where they can observe the fighting on the plain and the camp of the Christians. This tower is still standing, together with several others, between the Gate of Damas and the Gate of Ephraim.
In fact, the tower exists in the imagination of Chateaubriand, for he imagines the shadow of a tower and the phantom of a forest. He continues: . . .
. . . . It is not as easy to determine the place where the runaway Erminia meets with the shepherd on the edge of the river.
Note that we deal here with pure fiction (the episode of Erminia among the shepherds at the beginning of the seventh canto); yet Chateaubriand looks for its location with the same seriousness one would use in localizing a historical fact. . . .
This is an evocation, on site, of a romanesque tale-that of Chateaubriand’s detour to the Holy Sepulcher when he went to visit the holy places. It reminds us of the detour Renan made, during his mission to Phoenicia, to find the sites and the framework of that other fiction which would become the Gospels.
And still it is true that the events told by Tasso are not without verifiable historical reality, since they agree in many points with the history of the Crusades, on which we can rely. “We will see,” says Chateaubriand, “how much Tasso had studied the original documents when I translate the historians of the Crusades.” But for the story of the Gospels we have no text, no testimony concerning most of the events they recount, a century after they happened.
Nanine Charbonnel, whose book Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure De Papier we are continuing to discuss in this post, then drives home the key point for her thesis that Halbwachs dares to affirm about the gospels and that I quote from the English edition of On Collective Memory:
This is the source of the thesis that “the Gospels, which were an apocalyptic revelation in the first century, became a legendary form of narrative in the second.” Let us understand by this that a mystical belief, a vision that moved the mind into the religious and supernatural realm, was transformed into a series of events that developed on the human level, even though these also had a transcendental significance.
(Halbwachs, On Collective Memory, pp 205-209, formatting and bolding is mine in all quotations)
We are now entering NC’s final main chapter examining the “masterful creative syntheses” with which the gospel narratives have been written and that the previous posts have been covering.
The creative method of the evangelists has had a more enduring spell than we find in Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered and was explained long ago, NC notes, by David Friedrich Strauss:
Further, the fishermen, at the call of Jesus, forsake their nets and follow him; so Elisha, when Elijah cast his mantle over him, left the oxen, and ran after Elijah. This is one apparent divergency, which is a yet more striking proof of the relation between the two narratives, than is their general similarity. The prophet’s disciple entreated that before he attached himself entirely to Elijah, he might be permitted to take leave of his father and mother; and the prophet does not hesitate to grant him this request, on the understood condition that Elisha should return to him. Similar petitions are offered to Jesus (Luke ix. 59 ff.; Matt. viii. 21 f.) by some whom he had called, or who had volunteered to follow him; but Jesus does not accede to these requests: on the contrary, he enjoins the one who wished previously to bury his father, to enter on his discipleship without delay; and the other, who had begged permission to bid farewell to his friends, he at once dismisses as unfit for the kingdom of God. In strong contrast with the divided spirit manifested by these feeble proselytes, it is said of the apostles, that they, without asking any delay, immediately forsook their occupation, and, in the case of James and John, their father. Could anything betray more clearly than this one feature, that the narrative is an embellished imitation of that in the Old Testament intended to show that Jesus, in his character of Messiah, exacted a more decided adhesion, accompanied with greater sacrifices, than Elijah, in his character of Prophet merely, required or was authorized to require?
(Strauss, Life of Jesus, Part II, chapter v § 70)
NC stresses that there is more here than imitation and amplification: it is the messianic situation of the End Times that demands the difference.
We need to understand and at some level to know that the gospels are not like other literature. They are not like the Iliad and Odyssey or Greek novels, nor are they like allegorical Greek myths, nor are they typical tales of the marvelous and fantastic.
Some ways they differ from other literature:
- The gospels put into narratives the principles of Judaism. The miracles, for example, are not tales of the marvelous but are coded signs within the hermeneutics of the Hebrew Bible. It is impossible to genuinely understand anything in the New Testament if it is read apart from the context of the Hebrew Bible.
- The principles of Greek literature (e.g. Greek tragedy) only function to give form to an entirely Judaic theme. (NC refers to Bruno Delorme and his Le Christ grec: De la tragédie aux évangiles but a similar discussion is found in Gilbert G. Bilezikian’s The Liberated Gospel: A Comparison of the Gospel of Mark and Greek Tragedy.)
- Above all, “perhaps the key to their genius”, is that the gospels transform into supposedly real characters and situations statements that are expressions of language or poetic formulations from OT texts.
Transforming persons and actions into meaningful words
Recall the discussions where we noted that not only were names of persons given for symbolic reasons but even characters themselves were created as symbols of entire communities: the Samaritan woman is the Samaritan people; Mary is the Jewish people and the other Marys are different facets of the Jewish people (e.g. Israel as a prostitute, etc).
Another example points to the complexity we sometimes find here. Manna, the word meaning “what is it?”, was given to the “bread” in the wilderness. Bread elsewhere becomes a symbol of the word of God. Prophets are made to eat scrolls full of written words. The question “what is it?” becomes the question one asks of the meaning of God’s word.
“Walking in the way” is a metaphor for righteous living according to the law. So in the gospels the healing of a paralytic, one who cannot walk, brings to mind the restoration of the gentiles who were hitherto without the law of God.
Invention of Nazareth and the Nazorean
All posts in this survey of Nanine Charbonnel’s book are archived at Charbonnel: Jesus Christ sublime figure de papier.
The striking difference between pre-Christian Jewish concepts and those of Christianity is that the latter eschewed abstract notions of messiahs and divine messengers and fleshed them out with names and personalities. Where we read in the Qumran scrolls about a “Teacher of Righteousness”, Priests, Messiahs, Overseers, in the early Christian literature we meet personal names (Jesus, John) and titles (Christ, Baptist) and even signatures (Paul et al.) The new ideas were conveyed as stories, not merely abstract doctrines. Charbonnel cites André Paul, page 84, Qumrân et les Esséniens : l’éclatement d’un dogme:
We were no longer in the theoretical but in the real. We are talking about concrete people, who, moreover, have names. (Original: On n’était plus dans le théorique mais dans le réel. Il s’agit de personnes concrètes, qui de surcroît ont des noms.)
The question is: Were these the names of real people or were they the names of personifications of things to do with God and Israel and that pertain to salvation. Does the name of Jesus enter our history because it was the name of a historical figure or was it born as a personification of the Name of God? In the earlier posts, we saw how Jesus was made the personification of the People of God and of Yahweh on earth, and of the Temple and Glory of the Divine Presence (Shekinah).
Veneration of the Name
Within the heart of the Judaism of the Second Temple was the veneration of the name of God.
The name Jesus, as we know, derives from the Hebrew meaning “It is Yahweh who saves”.
The Jesus of the New Testament, Charbonnel posits, is developed in part from the two other greats named Jesus in the Old Testament.
First, we have Joshua (= Jesus) who led Israel into the Promised Land. Today few of us would connect God’s instruction to Moses about his messenger (commonly translated “angel”) bearing the divine name with Joshua, but we know from the second century Justin that early Christians did make that connection.
See, I am sending an angel [= messenger] ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him.
Here is Justin’s understanding taken from his Dialogue with Trypho, 75:
Moreover, in the book of Exodus we have also perceived that the name of God Himself which, He says, was not revealed to Abraham or to Jacob, was Jesus, and was declared mysteriously through Moses. Thus it is written: ‘And the Lord spake to Moses, Say to this people, Behold, I send My angel before thy face, to keep thee in the way, to bring thee into the land which I have prepared for thee. Give heed to Him, and obey Him; do not disobey Him. For He will not draw back from you; for My name is in Him.‘ Now understand that He who led your fathers into the land is called by this name Jesus, and first called Auses(Oshea). For if you shall understand this, you shall likewise perceive that the name of Him who said to Moses, ‘for My name is in Him,’ was Jesus. For, indeed, He was also called Israel, and Jacob’s name was changed to this also.
Justin is writing in the second century but his explanation of the choice of the name Jesus does have a “midrashic” rationale.
Then there is another Jesus or Joshua, the high priest who, on his return with his people from the Babylonian exile led them in the reconstruction of the temple.
Zechariah 3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.
The word of the Lord came to me: “Take silver and gold from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon. Go the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah. Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jozadak. Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two [roles – Priest and King].’”
The third Joshua/Jesus inherits the roles of the first two.
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Both are quoting Joel.
And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
To paraphrase Charbonnel, the essence of Christianity is the affirmation that the Lord, the Name of the Lord, and Jesus Christ, are one. In Joel, the call was to invoke the name of the God of the Covenant. This invocation now passes to Jesus because Jesus himself is recognized as the one with the name of God.
The narrative of the Gospel of Luke begins with the name given to the messiah. He was (literally) “called the name” Jesus (Luke 2:21– interlinear). We find the same “called the name” formula for the Davidic Messiah in the Qumran scrolls:
4Q381, fr 15
And I, Your anointed one [=messiah], have come to understand . . . will tell others about You, for You have given me knowledge, and indeed You have endowed me with great insight . . . for I am called by Your name, my God, and for your deliverance . . . . [7-9. Wise, Abegg, Cook]
In 1 Enoch we read that the Name had a pre-existence:
1 Enoch 48:3, 6
Even before the sun and the constellations were created, before the stars of heaven were made, his name was named before the Lord of Spirits. . . . He was chosen and hidden before him before the world was created, and for ever [or, until the coming of the Age].
Paul writes from deep within this cult of the name. See 1 Corinthians 1:2 and in particular,
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus, we recall, was also the personification of the Temple, and also identified with its cornerstone. We find the Name of God at the heart of the Temple and its cornerstone in a later Jewish text that is widely interpreted as an attack on Christianity, the Toledot Yeshu. I quote the relevant passage of the Toledot from Frank Zindler’s The Jesus the Jews Never Knew:
The Robbing of the Shem (the Shem = the Name, the ineffable name of God)
. . . And there was in the sanctuary a foundation-stone — and this is its interpretation: God founded it and this is the stone on which Jacob poured oil — and on it were written the letters of the Shem, and whosoever learned it, could do whatsoever he would. But as the wise feared that the disciples of lsrael might learn them and therewith destroy the world, they took measures that no one should do so.
Brazen dogs were bound to two iron pillars at the entrance of the place of burnt offerings, and whosoever entered in and learned these letters — as soon as he went forth again, the dogs bayed at him; if he then looked at them, the letters vanished from his memory.
This Jeschu [Jesus] came, learned them, wrote them on parchment, cut into his hip and laid the parchment with the letters therein — so that the cutting of his flesh did not hurt him — then he restored the skin to its place. When he went forth the brazen dogs bayed at him, and the letters vanished from his memory. He went home, cut open his flesh with his knife, took out the writing, learned the letters, went and gathered together three hundred and ten of the young men of Israel. (pp. 428ff)
Here, in an accusation against Christianity, we see Jesus literally “embodying” the perfect Name, although he does so illegitimately. Celsus records a Jew saying something similar — that the name of Jesus had magical power although it was at the behest of demons.
Origen, Contra Celsus, I.6
After this, through the influence of some motive which is unknown to me, Celsus asserts that it is by the names of certain demons, and by the use of incantations, that the Christians appear to be possessed of [miraculous] power; hinting, I suppose, at the practices of those who expel evil spirits by incantations. And here he manifestly appears to malign the gospel. For it is not by incantations that Christians seem to prevail [over evil spirits], but by the name of Jesus, accompanied by the announcement of the narratives which relate to Him ; for the repetition of these has frequently been the means of driving demons out of men, especially when those who repeated them did so in a sound and genuinely believing spirit. Such power, indeed, does the name of Jesus possess over evil spirits, that there have been instances where it was effectual, when it was pronounced even by bad men, which Jesus Himself taught [would be the case], when He said: “Many shall say to me in that day, In Thy name we have cast out devils, and done many wonderful works.”
This veneration of the name of Jesus continued throughout the subsequent centuries as witnessed in the lives of saints and the Christian Kabbalists. (See also the history of the name YHSWH – making the divine name pronounceable as Jesus — and the Sator square). Much has been written about the mystic analyses and plays with the divine name YHWH in later times but the point here is that a few of these ideas can be traced back to late antiquity and it is not unreasonable to think that their origins began in at least the gnostic forms of earliest Christianity and early elements of the Jewish religion. I may post some more details about these arcane ideas in a later post or two.
Till then, it is worth noticing that Moses created the name “Joshua” by changing the name of Hoshea to Joshua by placing at its beginning the first letter of the Tetragrammaton, God’s name. (Recall that in the earlier posts of this series that early Jewish scribes (and not only Jewish ones) found mystical significance in letters, their numerical values, puns, and so forth.) It was with the placing of this part of God’s name to Hoshea that the name Joshua was created by Moses to name the man who was to be imbued with the power of God to lead Israel into the Promised Land.
Jesus means “Yahweh saves” but such a form is not unique: the first of the minor prophets, Hosea, means “Yah saves”; Isaiah means “God saves”. We can find other instances, including Jesse and Josiah. Even Judas, from the Judah who sold Joseph, is set against Jesus by the addition of a letter at the end of the letters making up the Tetragrammaton.
The Incarnation as the Descent of the Name of YHWH
To worship YHWH was to worship his Name. The Temple was the dwelling place of his Name – 1 Kings 8:16; Deuteronomy 12:11. YHWH is even called the Name. The leading Jewish prayer, the Kaddish, is a praise of the Name of God: “Hallowed be thy Name”. The name of Jesus is: It is YHWH who saves — the lead figure in the narrative is the one who saves.
The High Priest’s function is to manifest the Name that Saves
Hence Malachi 1:11
My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord Almighty.
On the Day of Atonement/Yom Kippur, the day of the Great Pardon, the high priest was said to pronounce the otherwise forbidden name of YHWH in order to remove all sins from Israel. Jesus himself is modelled on the high priest — as we also read in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Citing Christian Amphoux’s La Vie de Jesus, dialogue avec Renan, Charbonnel points out that it was through Joseph that Jesus was descended from David and thus a rightful king who had the potential to replace Herod’s dynasty, while through his mother Mary Jesus was related to John the Baptist, the son of a priest. Hence Jesus had the heritage to become both a political and religious leader. As a future king, he could be seen as a threat to Rome; but if he could also be a high priest then he posed a danger to Herod and his high priest. Machine-translating Amphoux,
Simon, leader from 71 to c 110
Jude, driven from Jerusalem in 135
The dynastic lineage of John and Jesus was well constituted: the brothers of Jesus (Mt 13:55 / Mk 6:3) bear the names of the leaders of the Jerusalem community: James, from the 40s to his death, around 63; Simon, James’ cousin, from 71 to his death around 110; and Jude, driven out of Jerusalem in 135 with the other Jews. “‘
Continuing with Amphoux, at the baptism of Jesus the portrayal of the descent of the dove involves another wordplay if there is a Hebrew source behind it. Again a machine translation:
The image of ‘the descent of the dove’ is a play on the two proper nouns of the narrative: to descend is said in Hebrew y-r-d, and the name of the Jordan comes from this verb; and the dove is y-w-n-h, which gives the name of Jonah, which is an anagram in Greek of the name John (Iôna- / Iôan-). Thus, the two proper names in the story carry a message that is taken up in the image of the dove that descends. But what does this message say? John and Jonah refer to a third name, Onias, which designates the legitimate high priest, deposed in 175 B.C.; and the descent expresses the movement from heaven to earth, by which Jesus is invested with the function of which Onias was robbed. In other words, Jesus is invested as the new legitimate high priest, who is to restore to the Temple the priesthood that has been lost for some two hundred years.
Thus Charbonnel suggests the possibility midrashic elaborations on the Name contributed to the very belief in incarnation itself. We know gematria, finding significance in numerical values of the letters of a word, was a special interest among scribes. One scholar who has delved into possibilities here is Bernard Dubourg. In the first volume of L’invention de Jésus he notes that the Hebrew words for “son” and “messiah” have the same numerical value (52) as that of YHWH when the Tetragrammaton is read with the letters themselves spelled out with their names. The Hebrew form of the name “Jesus” likewise has the same value of 52 but only through “the descent of the vowels” (as the ancient scribes would say), or through the “voice” or “the spirit that gives life” to the consonants.
Another midrashic hypothesis relates to the titulus crucis.
Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.
Charbonnel suggests that here we find another test of the midrashic hypothesis, given that the hypothesis leads us to expect to find clues in the text to alert readers to its midrashic interpretation. One intriguing possibility emerges when Luke’s version is translated into Hebrew:
There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
In Hebrew: zéh hou’ mélech hayehoudyim.
Now the expression ZéH Hou’ is unique in the whole of the First Testament and is found in 1 Samuel 16:12, when Samuel is to designate the king of Israel as the successor of Saul . . . : Jesse sent for him: he (David) was red-haired, with a beautiful look and a beautiful face. And the Lord said, “Go, anoint him: this is he/the one” . . . For Luke, this sign declares to those who are willing to understand that Jesus is the king of the Jews designated by God, like David…
Or one can examine the possible Hebrew behind John’s description:
. . . . It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
The name of Jesus is developed from YHWH, and perhaps even the sign on the cross identified YHWH.