“It is self-evident,” says von Soden in one passage
|November 7, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter eighteen||
“It is self-evident,” says von Soden in one passage, “in view of the inner connexion in which the Kingdom of God and the Messiah stood in the thoughts of the people . . . that in all classes the question must have been discussed, so that Jesus could not permanently have avoided their question, ‘What of the Messiah? Art thou not He?'” Where, in the Synoptics, is there a word to show that this is “self-evident”? When the disciples in Mark viii. tell Jesus “whom men held Him to be,” none of them suggests that any one had been tempted to regard Him as the Messiah. And that was shortly before Jesus set out for Jerusalem. From the day when the envoys of the Scribes from Jerusalem first appeared in the north, the easily influenced Galilaean multitude began, according to von Soden, “to waver.” How does he know that the Galilaeans were easily influenced? How does he know they “wavered”? The Gospels tell us neither one nor the other. The demand for a sign was, to quote von Soden again, a demand for a proof of His Messiahship. “Yet another indication,” adds the author, “that later Christianity, in putting so high a value on the miracles of Jesus as a proof of His Messiahship, departed widely from the thoughts of Jesus.”
Before levelling reproaches of this kind against later Christianity, it would be well to point to some passage of Mark or Matthew in which there is mention of a demand for a sign as a proof of His Messiahship.
When the appearance of Jesus in the south-we are still following von Soden-aroused the Messianic expectations of the people, as they had formerly been aroused in His native country, “they once more failed to understand the correction of them which Jesus had made by the manner of His entry and His conduct in Jerusalem.” They are unable to understand this “transvaluation of values,” and as often as the impression made by His personality suggested the thought that He was the Messiah, they became doubtful again. Wherein consisted the correction of the Messianic expectation given at the triumphal entry? Was it that He rode upon an ass? Would it not be better if modern historical theology, instead of always making the people “grow doubtful ” were to grow a little doubtful of itself, and begin to look for the evidence of that “transvaluation of values” which, according to them, the contemporaries of Jesus were not able to follow?
Von Soden also possesses special information about the “peculiar history of the origin” of the Messianic consciousness of Jesus. He knows that it was subsidiary to a primary general religious consciousness of Sonship. The rise of this Messianic consciousness implies, in its turn, the “transformation of the conception of the Kingdom of God, and explains how in the mind of Jesus this conception was both present and future.” The greatness of Jesus is, he thinks, to be found in the fact that for Him this Kingdom of God was only a “limiting conception”-the ultimate goal of a gradual process of approximation. “To the question whether it was to be realised here or in the beyond Jesus would have answered, as He answered a similar question, ‘That, no man knoweth; no, not the Son.'”
As if He had not answered that question in the petition “Thy Kingdom come”—supposing that such a question could ever have occurred to a contemporary—in the sense that the Kingdom was to pass from the beyond into the present!
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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