Mark is no epitomist, but the creator of the archetype of the Synoptic representation
|November 24, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter three||
In dealing with the Synoptists, Herder grasps the problem with the same intuitive insight. Mark is no epitomist, but the creator of the archetype of the Synoptic representation. “The Gospel of Mark is not an epitome; it is an original Gospel. What the others have, and he has not, has been added by them, not omitted by him. Consequently Mark is a witness to an original shorter Gospel-scheme, to which the additional matter of the others ought properly to be regarded as a supplement.”
Mark is the “unornamented central column, or plain foundation stone, on which the others rest.” The birth-stories of Matthew and Luke are “a new growth to meet new needs.” The different tendencies, also, point to a later period. Mark is still comparatively friendly towards the Jews, because Christianity had not yet separated itself from Judaism. Matthew is more hostile towards them because his Gospel was written at a time when Christians had given up the hope of maintaining amicable relations with the Jews and were groaning under the pressure of persecution. It is for that reason that the Jesus of the Matthaean discourses lays so much stress upon His second coming, and presupposes the rejection of the Jewish nation as something already in being, a sign of the approaching end.
Pure history, however, is as little to be looked for in the first three Gospels as in the fourth. They are the sacred epic of Jesus the Messiah, and model the history of their hero upon the prophetic words of the Old Testament. In this view, also, Herder is a precursor of Strauss.
In essence, however, Herder represents a protest of art against theology. The Gospels, if we are to find the life of Jesus in them, must be read, not with pedantic learning, but with taste. From this point of view, miracles cease to offend. Neither Old Testament prophecies, nor predictions of Jesus, nor miracles, can be adduced as evidence for the Gospel; the Gospel is its own evidence. The miracles stand outside the possibility of proof, and belong to mere “Church belief,” which ought to lose itself more and more in the pure Gospel. Yet miracles, in a limited sense, are to be accepted on the ground of the historic evidence. To refuse to admit this is to be like the Indian king who denied the existence of ice because he had never seen anything like it. Jesus, in order to help His miracle-loving age, reconciled Himself to the necessity of performing miracles. But, in any case, the reality of a miracle is of small moment in comparison with its symbolic value.
In this, therefore, Herder, though in his grasp of many problems he was more than a generation in advance of his time, belongs to the primitive rationalists. He allows the supernatural to intrude into the events of the life of Jesus, and does not feel that the adoption of the historical standpoint involves the necessity of doing away with miracle. He contributed much to the clearing up of ideas, but by evading the question of miracle he slurred over a difficulty which needed to be faced and solved before it should be possible to entertain the hope of forming a really historical conception of the life of Jesus. In reading Herder one is apt to fancy that it would be possible to pass straight on to Strauss. In reality, it was necessary that a very prosaic spirit, Paulus, should intervene, and should attack the question of miracle from a purely historical standpoint, before Strauss could give expression to the ideas of Herder in an effectual way, i.e. in such a way as to produce offence. The fact is that in theology the most revolutionary ideas are swallowed quite readily so long as they smooth their passage by a few small concessions. It is only when a spicule of bone stands out obstinately and causes choking that theology begins to take note of dangerous ideas. Strauss is Herder with just that little bone sticking out—the absolute denial of miracle on historical grounds. That is to say, Strauss is a Herder who has behind him the uncompromising rationalism of Paulus.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
|Also in print from Barnes and Noble
As an E-book at: