Griesbach’s theory of the secondary origin of Mark with Schleiermacher’s Diegesentheorie
|November 20, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter eight||
In this matter Strauss is a sceptical eclectic. In the main he may be said to combine Griesbach’s theory of the secondary origin of Mark with Schleiermacher’s Diegesentheorie, the latter answering to his method of treating the sections separately. But whereas Schleiermacher had used the plan of John’s Gospel as a framework into which to fit the independent narratives, Strauss’s rejection of the Fourth Gospel left him without any means of connecting the sections. He makes a point, indeed, of sharply emphasising this want of connexion; and it was just this that made his work appear so extreme.
The Synoptic discourses, like the Johannine, are composite structures, created by later tradition out of sayings which originally belonged to different times and circumstances, arranged under certain leading ideas so as to form connected discourses. The sermon on the mount, the discourse at the sending forth of the twelve, the great parable-discourse, the polemic against the Pharisees, have all been gradually formed like geological deposits. So far as the original juxtaposition may be supposed to have been here and there preserved, Matthew is doubtless the most trustworthy authority for it. “From the comparison which we have been making,” says Strauss in one passage, “we can already see that the hard grit of these sayings of Jesus (die körnigen Reden Jesu) has not indeed been dissolved by the flood of oral tradition, but they have often been washed away from their original position and like rolling pebbles (Gerölle) have been deposited in places to which they do not properly belong.” And, moreover, we find this distinction between the first three Evangelists, viz. that Matthew is a skilful collector who, while he is far from having been able always to give the original connexion, has at least known how to bring related passages aptly together, whereas in the other two many fragmentary sayings have been left exactly where chance had deposited them, which was generally in the interstices between the larger masses of discourse. Luke, indeed, has in some cases made an effort to give them an artistic setting, which is, however, by no means a satisfactory substitute for the natural connexion.
It is in his criticism of the parables that Strauss is most extreme. He starts out from the assumption that they have mutually influenced one another, and that those which may possibly be genuine have only been preserved in a secondary form. In the parable of the marriage supper of the king’s son, for example, he confidently assumes that the conduct of the invited guests, who finally ill-treated and slew the messengers, and the question why the guest is not wearing a wedding-garment are secondary features.
How external he supposes the connexion of the narratives to be is clear from the way in which he explains the juxtaposition of the story of the transfiguration with the “discourse while descending the mountain.” They have, he says, really nothing to do with one another. The disciples on one occasion asked Jesus about the coming of Elijah as forerunner; Elijah also appears in the story of the transfiguration: accordingly tradition simply grouped the transfiguration and the discourse together under the heading “Elijah,” and, later on, manufactured a connexion between them.
The tendency of the work to purely critical analysis, the ostentatious avoidance of any positive expression of opinion, and not least, the manner of regarding the Synoptists as mere bundles of narratives and discourses, make it difficult—indeed, strictly speaking, impossible—to determine Strauss’s own distinctive conception of the life of Jesus, to discover what he really thinks is moving behind the curtain of myth. According to the view taken in regard to this point his work becomes either a negative or a positive life of Jesus. There are, for instance, a number of incidental remarks which contain the suggestion of a positive construction of the life of Jesus. If they were taken out of their context and brought together they would yield a picture which would have points of contact with the latest eschatological view. Strauss, however, deliberately restricts his positive suggestions to these few detached remarks. He follows out no line to its conclusion. Each separate problem is indeed considered, and light is thrown upon it from various quarters with much critical skill. But he will not venture on a solution of any of them. Sometimes, when he thinks he has gone too far in the way of positive suggestion, he deliberately wipes it all out again with some expression of scepticism.
 We take the translation of this striking image from Sanday’s “Survey of the Synoptic Question,” The Expositor, 4th ser. vol. 3, p. 307.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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