it is not possible to write a Life of Jesus. It is, therefore, not by accident that Schleiermacher regularly speaks, not of Jesus, but of Christ
|November 22, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter six||
The miracles of the birth and childhood are given up without hesitation; they do not belong to the story of the life of Jesus; and it is the same with the miracles at His death. One might fancy it was Strauss speaking when Schleiermacher says: “If we give due consideration to the fact that we have certainly found in these for the most part simple narratives of the last moments of Christ two incidents, such as the rending of the veil of the Temple and the opening of the graves, in reference to which we cannot possibly suppose that they are literal descriptions of actual facts, then we are bound to ask the question whether the same does not apply to many other points. Certainly the mention of the sun’s light failing and the consequent great darkness looks very much as if it had been imported by poetic imagination into the simple narrative.”
A rebuke could have no possible effect upon the wind and sea. Here we must suppose either an alteration of the facts or a different causal connexion.
In this way Schleiermacher—and it was for this reason that these lectures on the life of Jesus became so celebrated—enabled dogmatics, though not indeed history, to take a flying leap over the miracle question.
What is chiefly fatal to a sound historical view is his one-sided preference for the Fourth Gospel. It is, according to him, only in this Gospel that the consciousness of Jesus is truly reflected. In this connexion he expressly remarks that of a progress in the teaching of Jesus, and of any “development” in Him, there can be no question. His development is the unimpeded organic unfolding of the idea of the Divine Sonship.
For the outline of the life of Jesus, also, the Fourth Gospel is alone authoritative. “The Johannine representation of the way in which the crisis of His fate was brought about is the only clear one.” The same applies to the narrative of the resurrection in this Gospel. “Accordingly, on this point also,” so he concludes his discussion, “I take it as established that the Gospel of John is the narrative of an eyewitness and forms an organic whole. The first three Gospels are compilations formed out of various narratives which had arisen independently; their discourses are composite structures, and their presentation of the history is such that one can form no idea of the grouping of events.” The “crowded days,” such as that of the sermon on the mount and the day of the parables, exist only in the imagination of the Evangelists. In reality there were no such days. Luke is the only one of them who has some semblance of historical order. His Gospel is compiled with much insight and critical tact out of a number of independent documents, as Schleiermacher believed himself to have shown convincingly in his critical study of Luke’s Gospel, published in 1817.
It is only on the ground of such a valuation of the sources that we can arrive at a just estimate of the different representations of the locality of the life of Jesus. “The contradictions,” Schleiermacher proceeds, “could not be explained if all our Gospels stood equally close to Jesus. But if John stands closer than the others, we may perhaps find the key in the fact that John, too, mentions it as a prevailing opinion in Jerusalem that Jesus was a Galilaean, and that Luke, when he has got to the end of the sections which show skilful arrangement and are united by similarity of subject, gathers all the rest into the framework of a journey to Jerusalem. Following this analogy, and not remembering that Jesus had occasion to go several times a year to Jerusalem, the other two gathered into one mass all that happened there on various occasions. This could only have been done by Hellenists.”
Schleiermacher is quite insensible to the graphic realism of the description of the last days at Jerusalem in Mark and Matthew, and has no suspicion that if only a single one of the Jerusalem sayings in the Synoptists is true Jesus had never before spoken in Jerusalem.
The ground of Schleiermacher’s antipathy to the Synoptists lies deeper than a mere critical view as to their composition. The fact is that their “picture of Christ” does not agree with that which he wishes to insert into the history. When it serves his purpose, he does not shrink from the most arbitrary violence. He abolishes the scene in Gethsemane because he infers from the silence of John that it cannot have taken place. “The other Evangelists,” he explains, “give us an account of a sudden depression and deep distress of spirit which fell upon Jesus, and which He admitted to His disciples, and they tell us how He sought relief from it in prayer, and afterwards recovered His serenity and resolution. John passes over this in silence, and his narrative of what immediately precedes is not consistent with it.” It is evidently a symbolical story, as the thrice-repeated petition shows. “If they speak of such a depression of spirit, they have given the story that form in order that the example of Christ might be the more applicable to others in similar circumstances.”
On these premises it is possible to write a Life of Christ; it is not possible to write a Life of Jesus. It is, therefore, not by accident that Schleiermacher regularly speaks, not of Jesus, but of Christ.
 The ground of the inference is that, according to this theory, they did not attach much importance to the keeping of the Feasts at Jerusalem. Dr. Schweitzer reminds us in a footnote that a certain want of clearness is due to the fact of this work having been compiled from lecture-notes.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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