Peter’s confession, the Entry into Jerusalem, and the High Priest’s knowledge of Jesus’ Messiahship
|November 4, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter nineteen||
A creative tradition would have carried out the theory of the Messianic secret in the life of Jesus much more boldly and logically, that is to say, at once more arbitrarily and more consistently. The only alternative is to distinguish two stages of tradition in early Christianity, a naive, freely-working, earlier stage, and a more artificial later stage confined to a smaller circle of a more literary character. Wrede does, as a matter of fact, propose to find in Mark traces of a simpler and bolder transformation which, leaving aside the Messianic secret, makes Jesus an openly-professed Messiah, and is therefore of a distinct origin from the conception of the secret Christ. To this tradition may belong, he thinks, the entry into Jerusalem and the confession before the High Priest, since these narratives “naively” imply an openly avowed Messiahship.
The word “naively” is out of place here; a really naive tradition which intended to represent the entry of Jesus as Messianic would have done so in quite a different way from Mark, and would not have stultified itself so curiously as we find done even in Matthew, where the Galilaean Passover pilgrims, after the “Messianic entry,” answer the question of the people of Jerusalem as to who it was whom they were acclaiming, with the words “This is the Prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee” (Matt. xxi. 11).
The tradition, too, which makes Jesus acknowledge His Messiahship before His judges is not “naive” in Wrede’s sense, for, if it were, it would not represent the High Priest’s knowledge of Jesus’ Messiahship as something so extraordinary and peculiar to himself that he can cite witnesses only for the saying about the Temple, not with reference to Jesus’ Messianic claim, and bases his condemnation only on the fact that Jesus in answer to his question acknowledges Himself as Messiah—and Jesus does so, it should be remarked, as in other passages, with an appeal to a future justification of His claim. The confession before the council is therefore anything but a “naive representation of an openly avowed Messiahship.”
The Messianic statements in these two passages present precisely the same remarkable character as in all the other cases to which Wrede draws attention. We have not here to do with a different tradition, with a clear Messianic light streaming in through the window-pane, but, just as elsewhere, with the rays of a dark lantern. The real point is that Wrede cannot bring these two passages within the lines of the theory of secrecy, and practically admits this by assuming the existence of a second and rather divergent line of tradition. What concerns us is to note that this theory does not suffice to explain the two facts in question, the knowledge of Jesus’ Messiahship shown by the Galilaean Passover pilgrims at the time of the entry into Jerusalem, and the knowledge of the High Priest at His trial.
We can only touch on the question whether any one who wished to date back in some way or other the Messiahship into the life of Jesus could not have done it much more simply by making Jesus give His closest followers some hints regarding it. Why does the re-moulder of the history, instead of doing that, have recourse to a supernatural knowledge on the part of the demoniacs and the disciples? For Wrede rightly remarks, as Bruno Bauer and the “Sketch” also do, that the incident of Caesarea Philippi, as represented by Mark, involves a miracle, since Jesus does not, as is generally supposed, reveal His Messiahship to Peter; it is Peter who reveals it to Jesus (Mark viii. 29). This fact, however, makes nonsense of the whole theory about the disciples’ want of understanding. It will not therefore fit into the concealment theory, and Wrede, as a matter of fact, feels obliged to give up that theory as regards this incident. “This scene,” he remarks, “can hardly have been created by Mark himself.” It also, therefore, belongs to another tradition.
Here, then, is a third Messianic fact which cannot be brought within the lines of Wrede’s “literary” theory of the Messianic secret. And these three facts are precisely the most important of all: Peter’s confession, the Entry into Jerusalem, and the High Priest’s knowledge of Jesus’ Messiahship! In each case Wrede finds himself obliged to refer these to tradition instead of to the literary conception of Mark. This tradition undermines his literary hypothesis, for the conception of a tradition always involves the possibility of genuine historical elements.
 The difficulties which the incident at Caesarea Philippi places in the way of Wrede’s construction may be realised by placing two of his statements side oy side. P. 101: “From this it is evident that this incident contains no element which cannot be easily understood on the basis of Mark’s ideas.” P. 238: “But in another aspect this incident stands in direct contradiction to the Marcan view of the disciples. It is inconsistent with their general ‘want of understanding,’ and can therefore hardly have been created by Mark himself.”
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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