Neander appears as a magnanimous and dignified representative of theological science
|November 20, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter nine||
Neander, in his Life of Jesus, handles the question with more delicacy of touch, rather in the style of Schleiermacher. “Christ’s miracles,” he explains, “are to be understood as an influencing of nature, human or material.” He does not, however, give so much prominence as Schleiermacher had done to the difficulty involved in the supposition of an influence exercised upon material nature.
He repeats Schleiermacher’s assertions, but without the imposing dialectic which in Schleiermacher’s hands almost commands assent. In regard to the miracle at Cana he remarks: “We cannot indeed form any clear conception of an effect brought about by the introduction of a higher creative principle into the natural order, since we have no experience on which to base such a conception, but we are by no means compelled to take this extreme view as to what happened; we may quite well suppose that Christ by an immediate influence upon the water communicated to it a higher potency which enabled it to produce the effects of strong wine.” In the case of all the miracles he makes a point of seeking not only the explanation, but the higher symbolical significance. The miracle of the fig-tree—which is sui generis—has only this symbolical significance, seeing that it is not beneficent and creative but destructive. “It can only be thought of as a vivid illustration of a prediction of the Divine judgment, after the manner of the symbolic actions of the Old Testament prophets.”
With reference to the ascension and the resurrection he writes: “Even though we can form no clear idea of the exact way in which the exaltation of Christ from the earth took place—and indeed there is much that is obscure in regard to the earthly life of Christ after His resurrection—yet, in its place in the organic unity of the Christian faith, it is as certain as the resurrection, which apart from it cannot be recognised in its true significance.”
That extract is typical of Neander’s Life of Jesus, which in its time was hailed as a great achievement, calculated to provide a learned refutation of Strauss’s criticism, and of which a seventh edition appeared as late as 1872. The real piety of heart with which it is imbued cannot conceal the fact that it is a patchwork of unsatisfactory compromises. It is the child of despair, and has perplexity for godfather. One cannot read it without pain.
Neander, however, may fairly claim to be judged, not by this work, but by his personal attitude in the Strauss controversy. And here he appears as a magnanimous and dignified representative of theological science. Immediately after the appearance of Strauss’s book, which, it was at once seen, would cause much offence, the Prussian Government asked Neander to report upon it, with a view to prohibiting the circulation, should there appear to be grounds for doing so. He presented his report on the 15th of November 1835, and, an inaccurate account of it having appeared in the Allgemeine Zeitung, subsequently published it. In it he censures the work as being written from a too purely rationalistic point of view, but strongly urges the Government not to suppress it by an edict. He describes it as “a book which, it must be admitted, constitutes a danger to the sacred interests of the Church, but which follows the method of endeavouring to produce a reasoned conviction by means of argument. Hence any other method of dealing with it than by meeting argument with argument will appear in the unfavourable light of an arbitrary interference with the freedom of science.”
In holding that scientific theology will be able by its own strength to overthrow whatever in Strauss’s Life of Jesus deserves to be overthrown, Neander is at one with the anonymous writer of “Aphorisms in Defence of Dr. Strauss and his Work,” who consoles himself with Goethe’s saying—
Das Tüchtige, auch wenn es falsch ist,
Wirkt Tag für Tag, von Haus zu Haus;
Das Tüchtige, wenn’s wahrhaftig ist,
Wirkt über alle Zeiten hinaus.
(Strive hard, and though your aim be wrong,
Your work shall live its little day;
Strive hard, and for the truth be strong,
Your work shall live and grow for aye.)
“Dr. Strauss,” says this anonymous writer, “does not represent the author’s views, and he on his part cannot undertake to defend Dr. Strauss’s conclusions. But it is clear to him that Dr. Strauss’s work considered as a scientific production is more scientific than the works opposed to it from the side of religion are religious. Otherwise why are they so passionate, so apprehensive, so unjust?”
 Das Leben Jesu-Christi. Hamburg, 1837. Aug. Wilhelm Neander was born in 1789 at Göttingen, of Jewish parents, his real name being David Mendel. He was baptized in 1806, studied theology, and in 1813 was appointed to a professorship in Berlin, where he displayed a many-sided activity and exercised a beneficent influence. He died in 1850. The best-known of his writings is the Geschichte der Pflanzung und Leitung der christlichen Kirche durch die Apostel (History of the Propagation and Administration of the Christian Church by the Apostles), Hamburg, 1832-1833, of which a reprint appeared as late as 1890. Neander was a man not only of deep piety, but also of great solidity of character.
Strauss, in his Life of Jesus of 1864, passes the following judgment upon Neander’s work: “A book such as in these circumstances Neander’s Life of Jesus was bound to be calls forth our sympathy; the author himself acknowledges in his preface that it bears upon it only too clearly the marks of the time of crisis, division, pain, and distress in which it was produced.”
Of the innumerable “positive” Lives of Jesus which appeared about the end of the thirties we may mention that of Julius Hartmann (2 vols., 1837-1839). Among the later Lives of Jesus of the mediating theology may be mentioned that of Theodore Pressel of Tübingen, which was much read at the time of its appearance (1857, 592 pp.). It aims primarily at edification. We may also mention the Leben des Herrn Jem Christi by Wil. Jak. Lichtenstein (Erlangen, 1856), which reflects the ideas of von Hofmann.
 For title see head of chapter.
 Aphorismen zur Apologie des Dr. Strauss und seines Werkes. Grimma, 1838.
 From the Xame Xenien, p. 259 of Goethe’s Works, ed. Hempel.
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