if any one deserved to share Strauss’s place of honour, it was certainly Weisse.
|November 20, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter ten||
Weisse is the direct continuator of Strauss. Standing outside the limitations of the Hegelian formulae, he begins at the point where Strauss leaves off. His aim is to discover, if possible, some thread of general connexion in the narratives of the Gospel tradition, which, if present, would represent a historically certain element in the Life of Jesus, and thus serve as a better standard by which to determine the extent of myth than can possibly be found in the subjective impression upon which Strauss relies. Strauss, by way of gratitude, called him a dilettante. This was most unjust, for if any one deserved to share Strauss’s place of honour, it was certainly Weisse.
The idea that Mark’s Gospel might be the earliest of the four, first occurred to Weisse during the progress of his work. In March 1837, when he reviewed Tholuck’s “Credibility of the Gospel History,” he was as innocent of this discovery as Wilke was at the same period. But when once he had observed that the graphic details of Mark, which had hitherto been regarded as due to an attempt to embellish an epitomising narrative, were too insignificant to have been inserted with this purpose, it became clear to him that only one other possibility remained open, viz., that their absence in Matthew and Luke was due to omission. He illustrates this from the description of the first day of Jesus’ ministry at Capernaum. “The relation of the first Evangelist to Mark,” he avers, “in those portions of the Gospel which are common to both is, with few exceptions, mainly that of an epitomiser.”
The decisive argument for the priority of Mark is, even more than his graphic detail, the composition and arrangement of the whole. “It is true, the Gospel of Mark shows very distinct traces of having arisen out of spoken discourses, which themselves were by no means ordered and connected, but disconnected and fragmentary”—being, he means, in its original form based on notes of the incidents related by Peter. “It is not the work of an eyewitness, nor even of one who had had an opportunity of questioning eyewitnesses thoroughly and carefully; nor even of deriving assistance from inquirers who, on their part, had made a connected study of the subject, with a view to filling up the gaps and placing each individual part in its right position, and so articulating the whole into an organic unity which should be neither merely inward, nor on the other hand merely external.” Nevertheless the Evangelist was guided in his work by a just recollection of the general course of the life of Jesus. “It is precisely in Mark,” Weisse explains, “that a closer study unmistakably reveals that the incidental remarks (referring for the most part to the way in which the fame of Jesus gradually extended, the way the people began to gather round Him and the sick to besiege Him), far from shutting off and separating the different narratives, tend rather to unite them with each other, and so give the impression not of a series of anecdotes fortuitously thrown together, but of a connected history. By means of these remarks, and by many other connecting links which he works into the narration of the individual stories, Mark has succeeded in conveying a vivid impression of the stir which Jesus made in Galileo, and from Galilee to Jerusalem, of the gradual gathering of the multitudes to Him, of the growing intensity of loyalty in the inner circle of disciples, and as the counterpart of all this, of the growing enmity of the Pharisees and Scribes—an impression which mere isolated narratives, strung together without any living connexion, would not have sufficed to produce.” A connexion of this kind is less clearly present in the other Synoptists, and is wholly lacking in John. The Fourth Gospel, by itself, would give us a completely false conception of the relation of Jesus to the people. From the content of its narratives the reader would form the impression that the attitude of the people towards Jesus was hostile from the very first, and that it was only in isolated occasions, for a brief moment, that Jesus by His miraculous acts inspired the people with astonishment rather than admiration; that, surrounded by a little company of disciples he contrived for a time to defy the enmity of the multitude, and that, having repeatedly provoked it by intemperate invective, he finally succumbed to it.
The simplicity of the plan of Mark is, in Weisse’s opinion, a stronger argument for his priority than the most elaborate demonstration; one only needs to compare it with the perverse design of Luke, who makes Jesus undertake a journey through Samaria. “How,” asks Weisse, “in the case of a writer who does things of this kind can it be possible at this time of day to speak seriously of historical exactitude in the use of his sources?”
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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