He began to found the Kingdom of God by preaching
|November 16, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter fifteen||
Nevertheless this book does not exactly fulfil the promise of its title, any more than Weiffenbach’s. The reader expects that now at last Jesus’ sayings about Himself will be consistently explained in the light of the Jewish Messianic ideas, but that is not done. For Baldensperger, instead of tracing down and working out the conception of the Kingdom of God held by Jesus as a product of the Jewish eschatology, at least by way of trying whether that method would suffice, takes it over direct from modern historical theology. He assumes as self-evident that Jesus’ conception of the Kingdom of God had a double character, that the eschatological and spiritual elements were equally represented in it and mutually conditioned one another, and that Jesus therefore began, in pursuance of this conception, to found a spiritual invisible Kingdom, although He expected its fulfilment to be effected by supernatural means. Consequently there must also have been a duality in His religious consciousness, in which these two conceptions had to be combined. Jesus’ Messianic consciousness sprang, according to Baldensperger, “from a religious root”; that is to say, the Messianic consciousness was a special modification of a self-consciousness in which a pure, spiritual, unique relation to God was the fundamental element; and from this arises the possibility of a spiritual transformation of the Jewish-Messianic self-consciousness. In making these assumptions, Baldensperger does not ask himself whether it is not possible that for Jesus the purely Jewish consciousness of a transcendental Messiahship may itself have been religious, nay even spiritual, just as well as the Messiahship resting on a vague, indefinite, colourless sense of union with God which modern theologians arbitrarily attribute to Him.
Again, instead of arriving at the two conceptions, Kingdom of God and Messianic consciousness, purely empirically, by an unbiased comparison of the Synoptic passages with the Late-Jewish conceptions, Baldensperger, in this following Holtzmann, brings them into his theory in the dual form in which contemporary theology, now becoming faintly tinged with eschatology, offered them to him. Consequently, everything has to be adapted to this duality. Jesus, for example, in applying to Himself the title Son of Man, thinks not only of the transcendental significance which it has in the Jewish apocalyptic, but gives it at the same time an ethico-religious colouring.
Finally, the duality is explained by an application of the genetic method, in which the “course of the development of the self-consciousness of Jesus” is traced out. The historical psychology of the Marcan hypothesis here shows its power of adapting itself to eschatology. From the first, to follow the course of Baldensperger’s exposition, the eschatological view influenced Jesus’ expectation of the Kingdom and His Messianic consciousness. In the wilderness, after the dawn of His Messianic consciousness at His baptism, He had rejected the ideal of the Messianic king of David’s line and put away all warlike thoughts. Then He began to found the Kingdom of God by preaching. For a time the spiritualised idea of the Kingdom was dominant in His mind, the Messianic eschatological idea falling rather into the background.
But His silence regarding His Messianic office was partly due to paedagogic reasons, “since He desired to lead His hearers to a more spiritual conception of the Kingdom and so to obviate a possible political movement on their part and the consequent intervention of the Roman government.” In addition to this He had also personal reasons for not revealing Himself which only disappeared in the moment when His death and Second Coming became part of His plan; previous to that He did not know how and when the Kingdom was to come. Prior to the confession at Caesarea Philippi, the disciples “had only a faint and vague suspicion of the Messianic dignity of their Master.”
This was “rather the preparatory stage of His Messianic work.” Objectively, it may be described “as the period of growing emphasis upon the spiritual characteristics of the Kingdom, and of resigned waiting and watching for its outward manifestation in glory; subjectively, from the point of view of the self-consciousness of Jesus, it may be characterised as the period of the struggle between His religious conviction of His Messiahship and the traditional rationalistic Messianic belief.”
This first period opens out into a second in which He had attained to perfect clearness of vision and complete inner harmony. By the acceptance of the idea of suffering, Jesus’ inner peace is enhanced to the highest degree conceivable. “By throwing Himself upon the thought of death He escaped the lingering uncertainty as to when and how God would fulfil His promise. . . .” “The coming of the Kingdom was fixed down to the Second Coming of the Messiah. Now He ventured to regard Himself as the Son of Man who was to be the future Judge of the world, for the suffering and dying Son of Man was closely associated with the Son of Man surrounded by the host of heaven. Would the people accept Him as Messiah? He now, in Jerusalem, put the question to them in all its sharpness and burning actuality; and the people were moved to enthusiasm. But so soon as they saw that He whom they had hailed with such acclamation was neither able nor willing to fulfil their ambitious dreams, a reaction set in.”
Thus, according to Baldensperger, there was an interaction between the historical and the psychological events. And that is right!—if only the machinery were not so complicated, and a “development” had not to be ground out of it at whatever cost. But this, and the whole manner of treatment in the second part, encumbered as it is with parenthetic qualifications, was rendered inevitable by the adoption of the two aforesaid not purely historical conceptions. Sometimes, too, one gets the impression that the author felt that he owed it to the school to which he belonged to advance no assertion without adding the limitations which scientifically secure it against attack. Thus on every page he digs himself into an entrenched position, with palisades of footnotes-in fact the book actually ends with a footnote. But the conception which underlay the whole was so full of vigour that in spite of the thoughts not being always completely worked out, it produced a powerful impression. Baldensperger had persuaded theology at least to admit the hypothesis—whether it took up a positive or negative position in regard to it—that Jesus possessed a fully-developed eschatology. He thus provided a new basis for discussion and gave an impulse to the study of the subject such as it had not received since the sixties, at least not in the same degree of energy. Perhaps the very limitations of the work, due as they were to its introduction of modern ideas, rendered it better adapted to the spirit of the age, and consequently more influential, than if it had been characterised by that rigorous maintenance of a single point of view which was abstractly requisite for the proper treatment of the subject. It was precisely the rejection of this rigorous consistency which enabled it to gain ground for the cause of eschatology.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
|Also in print from Barnes and Noble
As an E-book at: