In the saying “the Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath day” (Matt. xii. 8), the expression might, according to Strauss, simply denote “man.”
|November 20, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter eight||
As to the duration of the ministry he will not even offer a vague conjecture. As to the connexion of certain events, nothing can, according to him, be known, since the Johannine outline cannot be accepted and the Synoptists arrange everything with an eye to analogies and association of ideas, though they flattered themselves that they were giving a chronologically arranged narrative. From the contents of the narratives, however, and from the monotonous recurrence of certain formulae of connexion, it is evident that no clear view of an organically connected whole can be assumed to be present in their work. We have no fixed points to enable us to reconstruct even in a measure the chronological order.
Especially interesting is his discussion of the title “Son of Man.” In the saying “the Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath day” (Matt. xii. 8), the expression might, according to Strauss, simply denote “man.” In other passages one gets the impression that Jesus spoke of the Son of Man as a supernatural person, quite distinct from Himself, but identified with the Messiah. This is the most natural explanation of the passage in Matt. x. 23, where he promises the disciples, in sending them forth, that they shall not have gone over the cities of Israel before the Son of Man shall come. Here Jesus speaks of the Messiah as if He Himself were his forerunner. These sayings would, therefore, fall in the first period, before He knew Himself to be the Messiah. Strauss does not suspect the significance of this incidental remark; it contains the germ of the solution of the problem of the Son of Man on the lines of Johannes Weiss. But immediately scepticism triumphs again. How can we tell, asks Strauss, where the title Son of Man is genuine in the sayings of Jesus, and where it has been inserted without special significance, merely from habit?
Not less insoluble, in his opinion, is the question regarding the point of time at which Jesus claimed the Messianic dignity for Himself. “Whereas in John,” Strauss remarks, “Jesus remains constant in His avowal, his disciples and followers constant in their conviction, that He is the Messiah; in the Synoptics, on the other hand, there are, so to speak, relapses to be observed; so that, in the case of the disciples and the people generally, the conviction of Jesus’ Messiahship expressed on earlier occasions, sometimes, in the course of the narrative, disappears again and gives place to a much lower view of Him; and even Jesus Himself, in comparison with His earlier unambiguous declaration, is more reserved on later occasions.” The account of the confession of the Messiahship at Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus pronounces Peter blessed because of his confession, and at the same time forbids the Twelve to speak of it, is unintelligible, since according to this same Gospel His Messiahship had been mooted by the disciples on several previous occasions, and had been acknowledged by the demoniacs. The Synoptists, therefore, contradict themselves. Then there are the further cases in which Jesus forbids the making known of His Messiahship, without any reason whatever. It would, no doubt, be historically possible to assume that it only gradually dawned upon Him that He was the Messiah—in any case not until after His baptism by John, as otherwise He would have to be supposed to have made a pretence upon that occasion—and that as often as the thought that He might be the Messiah was aroused in others by something that occurred, and was suggested to Him from without. He was immediately alarmed at hearing spoken, aloud and definitely, that which He Himself had scarcely dared to cherish as a possibility, or in regard to which He had only lately attained to a clear conviction.
From these suggestions one thing is evident, namely, that for Strauss the Messianic consciousness of Jesus was an historical fact, and is not to be referred, as has sometimes been supposed, to myth. To assert that Strauss dissolved the life of Jesus into myth is, in fact, an absurdity which, however often it may be repeated by people who have not read his book, or have read it only superficially, does not become any the less absurd by repetition.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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