Among the historical problems, Paulus is especially interested in the idea of the Messiahship, and in the motives of the betrayal.
|November 24, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter five||
Among the historical problems, Paulus is especially interested in the idea of the Messiahship, and in the motives of the betrayal. His sixty-five pages on the history of the conception of the Messiah are a real contribution to the subject. The Messianic idea, he explains, goes back to the Davidic kingdom; the prophets raised it to a higher religious plane; in the times of the Maccabees the ideal of the kingly Messiah perished and its place was taken by that of the super-earthly deliverer. The only mistake which Paulus makes is in supposing that the post-Maccabean period went back to the political ideal of the Davidic king. On the other hand, he rightly interprets the death of Jesus as the deed by which He thought to win the Messiahship proper to the Son of Man.
With reference to the question of the High Priest at the trial, he remarks that it does not refer to the metaphysical Divine Sonship, but to the Messiahship in the ancient Jewish sense, and accordingly Jesus answers by pointing to the coming of the Son of Man.
The importance of eschatology in the preaching of Jesus is clearly recognised, but Paulus proceeds to nullify this recognition by making the risen Lord cut short all the questions of the disciples in regard to this subject with the admonition “that in whatever way all this should come about, and whether soon or late, their business was to see that they had done their own part.”
How did Judas come to play the traitor? He believed in the Messiahship of Jesus and wanted to force Him to declare Himself. To bring about His arrest seemed to Judas the best means of rousing the people to take His side openly. But the course of events was too rapid for him. Owing to the Feast the news of the arrest spread but slowly. In the night “when people were sleeping off the effects of the Passover supper,” Jesus was condemned; in the morning, before they were well awake, He was hurried away to be crucified. Then Judas was overcome with despair, and went and hanged himself. “Judas stands before us in the history of the Passion as a warning example of those who allow their cleverness to degenerate into cunning, and persuade themselves that it is permissible to do evil that good may come—to seek good objects, which they really value, by intrigue and chicanery. And the underlying cause of their errors is that they have failed to overcome their passionate desire for self-advancement.”
Such was the consistently rationalistic Life of Jesus, which evoked so much opposition at the time of its appearance, and seven years later received its death-blow at the hands of Strauss. The method is doomed to failure because the author only saves his own sincerity at the expense of that of his characters. He makes the disciples of Jesus see miracles where they could not possibly have seen them; and makes Jesus Himself allow miracles to be imagined where He must necessarily have protested against such a delusion. His exegesis, too, is sometimes violent. But in this, who has the right to judge him? If the theologians dragged him before the Lord, He would command, as of old, “Let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone at him,” and Paulus would go forth unharmed.
Moreover, a number of his explanations are right in principle. The feeding of the multitudes and the walking on the sea must be explained somehow or other as misunderstandings of something that actually happened. And how many of Paulus’ ideas are still going about in all sorts of disguises, and crop up again and again in commentaries and Lives of Jesus, especially in those of the “anti-rationalists”! Nowadays it belongs to the complete duty of the well-trained theologian to renounce the rationalists and all their works; and yet how poor our time is in comparison with theirs—how poor in strong men capable of loyalty to an ideal, how poor, so far as theology is concerned, in simple commonplace sincerity!
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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