Hase surrenders the birth-story and the “legends of the Childhood”
|November 22, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter six||
And yet the keynote of the work is rationalistic, since Hase has recourse to the rationalistic explanation of miracles wherever that appears possible. He seeks to make the circumstances of the baptism intelligible by supposing the appearance of a meteor. In the story of the transfiguration, the fact which is to be retained is that Jesus, in the company of two unknown persons, appeared to the disciples in unaccustomed splendour. Their identification of His companions as Moses and Elias is a conclusion which is not confirmed by Jesus, and owing to the position of the eyewitnesses, is not sufficiently guaranteed by their testimony. The abrupt breaking off of the interview by the Master, and the injunction of silence, point to some secret circumstance in His history. By this hint Hase seems to leave room for the “secret society” of Bahrdt and Venturini.
He makes no difficulty about the explanation of the story of the stater. It is only intended to show “how the Messiah avoided offence in submitting Himself to the financial burdens of the community.” In regard to the stilling of the storm, it seems uncertain whether Jesus through His knowledge of nature was enabled to predict the end of the storm or whether He brought it about by the possession of power over nature. The “sceptic of rationalism” thus leaves open the possibility of miracle. He proceeds somewhat similarly in explaining the raisings from the dead. They can be made intelligible by supposing that they were cases of coma, but it is also possible to look upon them as supernatural. For the two great Johannine miracles, the change of the water into wine and the increase of the loaves, no naturalistic explanation can be admitted. But how unsuccessful is his attempt to make the increase of the bread intelligible! “Why should not the bread have been increased?” he asks. “If nature every year in the period between seed-time and harvest performs a similar miracle, nature might also, by unknown laws, bring it about in a moment.” Here crops up the dangerous anti-rationalistic intellectual supernaturalism which sometimes brings Hase and Schleiermacher very close to the frontiers of the territory occupied by the disingenuous reactionaries.
The crucial point is the explanation of the resurrection of Jesus. A stringent proof that death had actually taken place cannot, according to Hase, be given, since there is no evidence that corruption had set in, and that is the only infallible sign of death. It is possible, therefore, that the resurrection was only a return to consciousness after a trance. But the direct impression made by the sources points rather to a supernatural event. Either view is compatible with the Christian faith. “Both the historically possible views—either that the Creator gave new life to a body which was really dead, or that the latent life reawakened in a body which was only seemingly dead—recognise in the resurrection a manifest proof of the care of Providence for the cause of Jesus, and are therefore both to be recognised as Christian, whereas a third view—that Jesus gave Himself up to His enemies in order to defeat them by the bold Stroke of a seeming death and a skilfully prepared resurrection—is as contrary to historical criticism as to Christian faith.”
Hase, however, quietly lightens the difficulty of the miracle question in a way which must not be overlooked. For the rationalists all miracles stood on the same footing, and all must equally be abolished by a naturalistic explanation. If we study Hase carefully, we find that he accepts only the Johannine miracles as authentic, whereas those of the Synoptists may be regarded as resting upon a misunderstanding on the part of the authors, because they are not reported at first hand, but from tradition. Thus the discrimination of the two lines of Gospel tradition comes to the aid of the anti-rationalists, and enables them to get rid of some of the greatest difficulties. Half playfully, it might almost be said, they sketch out the ideas of Strauss, without ever suspecting what desperate earnest the game will become, if the authenticity of the Fourth Gospel has to be given up.
Hase surrenders the birth-story and the “legends of the Childhood”—the expression is his own—almost without striking a blow. The same fate befalls all the incidents in which angels figure, and the miracles at the time of the death of Jesus. He describes these as “mythical touches.” The ascension is merely “a mythical version of His departure to the Father.”
Hase’s conception even of the non-miraculuous portion of the history of Jesus is not free from rationalistic traits. He indulges in the following speculations with regard to the celibacy of the Lord. “If the true grounds of the celibacy of Jesus do not lie hidden in the special circumstances of His youth, the conjecture may be permitted that He from whose religion was to go forth the ideal view of marriage, so foreign to the ideas of antiquity, found in His own time no heart worthy to enter into this covenant with Him.” It is on rationalistic lines also that Hase explains the betrayal by Judas. “A purely intellectual, worldly, and unscrupulous character, he desired to compel the hesitating Messiah to found His Kingdom upon popular violence. … It is possible that Judas in his terrible blindness took that last word addressed to him by Jesus, ‘What thou doest, do quickly,’ as giving consent to his plan.”
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
|Also in print from Barnes and Noble
As an E-book at: