Mark, however, represents a Jesus who does miracles and who nevertheless does not thereby reveal Himself to be the Messiah.
|November 20, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter eleven||
Could there indeed be a more absurd impossibility? “Jesus,” says Bauer, “must perform these innumerable, these astounding miracles because, according to the view which the Gospels represent, He is the Messiah; He must perform them in order to prove Himself to be the Messiah— and yet no one recognises Him as the Messiah! That is the greatest miracle of all, that the people had not long ago recognised the Messiah in this wonder-worker. Jesus could only be held to be the Messiah in consequence of doing miracles; but He only began to do miracles when, in the faith of the early Church, He rose from the dead as Messiah, and the facts that He rose as Messiah and that He did miracles, are one and the same fact.”
Mark, however, represents a Jesus who does miracles and who nevertheless does not thereby reveal Himself to be the Messiah. He was obliged so to represent Him, because he was conscious that Jesus was not recognised and acknowledged as Messiah by the people, nor even by His immediate followers, in the unhesitating fashion in which those of later times imagined Him to have been recognised. Mark’s conception and representation of the matter carried back into the past the later developments by which there finally arose a Christian community for which Jesus had become the Messiah. “Mark is also influenced by an artistic instinct which leads him to develop the main interest, the origin of the faith, gradually. It is only after the ministry of Jesus has extended over a considerable period, and is, indeed, drawing towards its close, that faith arises in the circle of the disciples; and it is only later still, when, in the person of the blind man at Jericho, a prototype of the great company of believers that was to be has hailed the Lord with a Messianic salutation, that, at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the faith of the people suddenly ripens and finds expression.”
It is true, this artistic design is completely marred when Jesus does miracles which must have made Him known to every child as the Messiah. We cannot, therefore, blame Matthew very much if, while he retains this plan in its external outlines in a kind of mechanical way, he contradicts it somewhat awkwardly by making Jesus at an earlier point clearly designate Himself as Messiah and many recognise Him as such. And the Fourth Evangelist cannot be said to be destroying any very wonderful work of art when he gives the impression that from the very first any one who wished could recognise Jesus as the Messiah.
Mark himself does not keep strictly to his own plan. He makes Jesus forbid His disciples to make known His Messiahship; how then does the multitude at Jerusalem recognise it so suddenly, after a single miracle which they had not even witnessed, and which was in no way different from others which He had done before? If that “chance multitude” in Jerusalem was capable of such sudden enlightenment it must have fallen from heaven!
The following remarks of Bauer, too, are nothing less than classical. The incident at Caesarea Philippi is the central fact of the Gospel history, it gives us a fixed point from which to group and criticise the other statements of the Gospel. At the same time it introduces a complication into the plan of the life of Jesus, because it necessitates the carrying through of the theory—often in the face of the text—that previously Jesus had never been regarded as the Messiah; and lays upon us the necessity of showing not only how Peter had come to recognise His Messiahship, but also how He subsequently became Messiah for the multitude—if indeed He ever did become Messiah for them. But the very fact that it does introduce this complication is in itself a proof that in this scene at Caesarea Philippi we have the one ray of light which history sheds upon the life of Jesus. It is impossible to explain how any one could come to reject the simple and natural idea that Jesus claimed from the first to be the Messiah, if that had been the fact, and accept this complicated representation in its place. The latter, therefore, must be the original version. In pointing this out, Bauer gave for the first time the real proof, from internal evidence, of the priority of Mark.
The difficulty involved in the conception of miracle as a proof of the Messiahship of Jesus is another discovery of Bauer’s. Only here, instead of probing the question to the bottom, he stops halfway. How do we know, he should have gone on to ask, that the Messiah was expected to appear as an earthly wonder-worker? There is nothing to that effect in Jewish writings. And do not the Gospels themselves prove that any one might do miracles without suggesting to a single person the idea that he might be the Messiah? Accordingly the only inference to be drawn from the Marcan representation is that miracles were not among the characteristic marks of the Messiah, and that it was only later, in the Christian community, which made Jesus the miracle-worker into Jesus the Messiah, that this connexion between miracles and Messiahship was established. In dealing with the question of the triumphal entry, too, Bauer halts half-way. Where do we read that Jesus was hailed as Messiah upon that occasion? If He had been taken by the people to be the Messiah, the controversy in Jerusalem must have turned on this personal question; but it did not even touch upon it, and the Sanhedrin never thinks of setting up witnesses to Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah. When once Bauer had exposed the historical and literary impossibility of Jesus’ being hailed by the people as Messiah, he ought to have gone on to draw the conclusion that Jesus did not, according to Mark, make a Messianic entry into Jerusalem.
It was, however, a remarkable achievement on Bauer’s part to have thus set forth clearly the historical difficulties of the life of Jesus. One might suppose that between the work of Strauss and that of Bauer there lay not five, but fifty years—the critical work of a whole generation.
The stereotyped character of the thrice-repeated prediction of the passion, which, according to Bauer, betrays a certain poverty and feebleness of imagination on the part of the earliest Evangelist, shows clearly, he thinks, the unhistorical character of the utterance recorded. The fact that the prediction occurs three times, its definiteness increasing upon each occasion, proves its literary origin.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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