Bauer finds his material laid ready to his hand by Weisse and Wilke
|November 20, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter eleven||
When Bauer broke off his work upon John in this abrupt way—for he had not originally intended to conclude it at this point—how far did he still retain a belief in the historical character of the Synoptics? It looks as if he had intended to treat them as the solid foundation, in contrast with the fantastic structure raised upon it by the Fourth Gospel. But when he began to use his pick upon the rock, it crumbled away. Instead of a difference of kind he found only a difference of degree. The “Criticism of the Gospel History of the Synoptists” of 1841 is built on the site which Strauss had levelled. “The abiding influence of Strauss,” says Bauer, “consists in the fact that he has removed from the path of subsequent criticism the danger and trouble of a collision with the earlier orthodox system.”
Bauer finds his material laid ready to his hand by Weisse and Wilke. Weisse had divined in Mark the source from which criticism—becoming barren in the work of Strauss—might draw a new spring of vigorous life; and Wilke, whom Bauer places above Weisse, had raised this happy conjecture to the level of a scientifically assured result. The Marcan hypothesis was no longer on its trial.
But its bearing upon the history of Jesus had still to be determined. What position do Weisse and Wilke take up towards the hypothesis of a tradition lying behind the Gospel of Mark? If it be once admitted that the whole Gospel tradition, so far as concerns its plan, goes back to a single writer, who has created the connexion between the different events—for neither Weisse nor Wilke regards the connexion of the sections as historical—does not the possibility naturally suggest itself that the narrative of the events themselves, not merely the connexion in which they appear in Mark, is to be set down to the account of the author of the Gospel? Weisse and Wilke had not suspected how great a danger arises when, of the three witnesses who represent the tradition, only one is allowed to stand, and the tradition is recognised and allowed to exist in this one written form only. The triple embankment held; will a single one bear the strain?
The following considerations have to be taken into account. The criticism of the Fourth Gospel compels us to recognise that a Gospel may have a purely literary origin. This discovery dawned upon Bauer at a time when he was still disinclined to accept Wilke’s conclusions regarding Mark. But when he had recognised the truth of the latter he felt compelled by the combination of the two to accept the idea that Mark also might be of purely literary origin. For Weisse and Wilke the Marcan hypothesis had not implied this result, because they continued to combine with it the wider hypothesis of a general tradition, holding that Matthew and Luke used the collection of “Logia,” and also owed part of their supplementary matter to a free use of floating tradition, so that Mark, it might almost be said, merely supplied them with the formative principle by means of which they might order their material.
But what if Papias’s statement about the collection of “Logia” were worthless, and could be shown to be so by the literary data? In that case Matthew and Luke would be purely literary expansions of Mark, and like him, purely literary inventions.
In this connexion Bauer attaches decisive importance to the phenomena of the birth-stories. If these had been derived from tradition they could not differ from each other as they do. If it is suggested that tradition had produced a large number of independent, though mutually consistent, stories of the childhood, out of which the Evangelists composed their opening narratives, this also is found to be untenable, for these narratives are not composite structures. The separate stories of which each of these two histories of the childhood consists could not have been formed independently of one another; none of them existed by itself; each points to the others and is informed by a view which implies the whole. The histories of the childhood are therefore not literary versions of a tradition, but literary inventions.
If we go on to examine the discourse and narrative material, additional to that of Mark, which is found in Matthew and Luke, a similar result appears. The same standpoint is regulative throughout, showing that the additions do not consist of oral or written traditional material which has been worked into the Marcan plan, but of a literary development of certain fundamental ideas and suggestions found in the first author. These developments, as is shown by the accounts of the Sermon on the Mount and the charge to the Twelve, are not carried as far in Luke as in Matthew. The additional material in the latter seems indeed to be worked up from suggestions in the former. Luke thus forms the transition stage between Mark and Matthew. The Marcan hypothesis, accordingly, now takes on the following form. Our knowledge of the Gospel history does not rest upon any basis of tradition, but only upon three literary works. Two of these are not independent, being merely expansions of the first, and the third, Matthew, is also dependent upon the second. Consequently there is no tradition of the Gospel history, but only a single literary source.
But, if so, who is to assure us that this Gospel history, with its assertion of the Messiahship of Jesus, was already a matter of common knowledge before it was fixed in writing, and did not first become known in a literary form? In the latter case, one man would have created out of general ideas the definite historical tradition in which these ideas are embodied.
The only thing that could be set against this literary possibility, as a historical counter-possibility, would be a proof that at the period when the Gospel history is supposed to take place a Messianic expectation really existed among the Jews, so that a man who claimed to be the Messiah and was recognised as such, as Mark represents Jesus to have been, would be historically conceivable. This presupposition had hitherto been unanimously accepted by all writers, no matter how much opposed in other respects. They were all satisfied “that before the appearance of Jesus the expectation of a Messiah prevailed among the Jews”; and were even able to explain its precise character.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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