if one means to found an historical Life of Jesus upon Mark, one must take the Gospel as a whole
|November 7, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter eighteen||
Von Soden’s analysis is no less confident. The three outstanding miracles, the stilling of the storm, the casting out of the legion of devils, the overcoming of death (Mark iv. 35-v. 43), the romantically told story of the death of the Baptist (Mark vi. 17-29), the story of the feeding of the multitudes in the desert, of Jesus’ walking on the water, and of the transfiguration upon an high mountain, and the healing of the lunatic boy-all these are dashed in with a broad brush, and offer many analogies to Old Testament stories, and some suggestions of Pauline conceptions, and reflections of experiences of individual believers and of the Christian community. “All these passages were, doubtless, first written down by the compiler of our Gospel.”
But how can Schmiedel and von Soden fail to see that they are heading straight for Bruno Bauer’s position? They assert that there is no distinction of principle between the way in which the Johannine and the Synoptic discourses are composed: the recognition of this was Bruno Bauer’s starting-point. They propose to find experiences of the Christian community and Pauline teaching reflected in the Gospel of Mark; Bruno Bauer asserted the same. The only difference is that he was consistent, and extended his criticism to those portions of the Gospel which do not present the stumbling-block of the supernatural. Why should these not also contain the theology and the experiences of the community transformed into history? Is it only because they remain within the limits of the natural?
The real difficulty consists in the fact that all the passages which von Soden ascribes to the redactor stand, in spite of their mythical colouring, in a closely-knit historical connexion; in fact, the historical connexion is nowhere so close. How can any one cut out the feeding of the multitudes and the transfiguration as narratives of secondary origin without destroying the whole of the historical fabric of the Gospel of Mark? Or was it the redactor who created the plan of the Gospel of Mark, as von Soden seems to imply?
But in that case how can a modern Life of Jesus be founded on the Marcan plan? How much of Mark is, in the end, historical? Why should not Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi have been derived from the theology of the primitive Church, just as well as the transfiguration? The only difference is that the incident at Caesarea Philippi is more within the limits of the possible, whereas the scene upon the mountain has a supernatural colouring. But is the incident at Philippi so entirely natural? Whence does Peter know that Jesus is the Messiah?
This semi-scepticism is therefore quite unjustifiable, since in Mark natural and supernatural both stand in an equally good and close historical connexion. Either, then, one must be completely sceptical like Bruno Bauer, and challenge without exception all the facts and connexions of events asserted by Mark; or, if one means to found an historical Life of Jesus upon Mark, one must take the Gospel as a whole because of the plan which runs right through it, accepting it as historical and then endeavouring to explain why certain narratives, like the feeding of the multitude and the transfiguration, are bathed in a supernatural light, and what is the historical basis which underlies them. A division between the natural and supernatural in Mark is purely arbitrary, because the supernatural is an essential part of the history. The mere fact that he has not adopted the mythical material of the childhood stories and the post-resurrection scenes ought to have been accepted as evidence that the supernatural material which he does embody belongs to a category of its own and cannot be simply rejected as due to the invention of the primitive Christian community. It must belong in some way to the original tradition.
 Von Soden gives on pp. 24 ff. the passages of Mark which he supposes to be derived from the Petrine tradition in a different order from that in which they occur in Mark, regrouping them freely. He puts together, for instance, Mark i. 16-20, iii. 13-19, vi. 7-16, viii. 27-ix. 1, ix. 33-40, under the title “The formation and training of the band of disciples.” He supposes Mark, the pupil of Peter, to have grouped in this way by a kind of association of ideas “what he had heard Peter relate in his missionary journeys, when writing it down after Peter’s death, not connectedly, but giving as much as he could remember of it”; this would be in accordance with the statement of Papias that Mark wrote “not in order.” Papias’s statement, therefore, refers to an “Ur-Markus,” which he found lacking in historical order.
But what are we to make of a representative of the early Church thus approaching the Gospels with the demand for historical arrangement? And good, simple old Papias, of all people!
But if the Marcan plan was not laid down in “Ur-Markus,” there is nothing for it-since the plan was certainly not given in the collection of Logia-but to ascribe it to the author of our Gospel of Mark, to the man, that is, who wrote down for the first time these “Pauline conceptions,” those reflections of experiences of individual believers and of the community, and inserted them into the Gospel. It is proposed, then, to retain the outline which he has given of the life of Jesus, and reject at the same time what he relates. That is to say, he is to be believed where it is convenient to believe him, and silenced where it is inconvenient. No more complete refutation of the Marcan hypothesis could possibly be given than this analysis, for it destroys its very foundation, the confident acceptance of the historicity of the Marcan plan.
If there is to be an analysis of sources in Mark, then the Marcan plan must be ascribed to “Ur-Markus,” otherwise the analysis renders the Marcan hypothesis historically useless. But if “Ur-Markus” is to be reconstructed on the basis of assigning to it the Marcan plan, then we cannot separate the natural from the supernatural, for the supernatural scenes, like the feeding of the multitude and the transfiguration, are among the main features of the Marcan outline.
No hypothetical analysis of “Ur-Markus” has escaped this dilemma; what it can affect by literary methods is historically useless, and what would be historically useful cannot be attained nor “presented” by literary methods.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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