Strauss’s conception of myth
|November 20, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter ten||
Strauss’s conception of myth, which failed to give it any point of vital connexion with the history, had not provided any escape from the dilemma offered by the rationalistic and supernaturalistic views of the resurrection. Weisse prepared a new historical basis for a solution. He was the first to handle the problem from a point of view which combined historical with psychological considerations, and he is fully conscious of the novelty and the far-reaching consequences of his attempt. Theological science did not overtake him for sixty years; and though it did not for the most part share his one-sidedness in recognising only the Galilaean appearances, that does not count for much, since it was unable to solve the problem of the double tradition regarding the appearances. His discussion of the question is, both from the religious and from the historical point of view, the most satisfying treatment of it with which we are acquainted; the pompous and circumspect utterances of the very latest theology in regard to the “empty grave” look very poor in comparison. Weisse’s psychology requires only one correction—the insertion into it of the eschatological premise.
It is not only the admixture of myth, but the whole character of the Marcan representation, which forbids us to use it without reserve as a source for the life of Jesus. The inventor of the Marcan hypothesis never wearies of repeating that even in the Second Gospel it is only the main outline of the Life of Jesus, not the way in which the various sections are joined together, which is historical. He does not, therefore, venture to write a Life of Jesus, but begins with a “General Sketch of the Gospel History” in which he gives the main outlines of the Life of Jesus according to Mark, and then proceeds to explain the incidents and discourses in each several Gospel in the order in which they occur.
He avoids the professedly historical forced interpretation of detail, which later representatives of the Marcan hypothesis, Schenkel in particular, employ in such distressing fashion that Wrede’s book, by making an end of this inquisitorial method of extracting the Evangelist’s testimony, may be said to have released the Marcan hypothesis from the torture-chamber. Weisse is free from these over-refinements. He refuses to divide the Galilaean ministry of Jesus into a period of success and a period of failure and gradual falling off of adherents, divided by the controversy about legal purity in Mark vii.; he does not allow this episode to counterbalance the general evidence that Jesus’ public work was accompanied by a constantly growing success. Nor does it occur to him to conceive the sojourn of the Lord in Phoenician territory, and His journey to the neighbourhood of Caesarea Philippi, as a compulsory withdrawal from Galilee, an abandonment of His cause in that district, and to head the chapter, as was usual in the second period of the exegesis of Mark, “Flights and Retirements.” He is content simply to state that Jesus once visited those regions, and explicitly remarks that while the Synoptists speak of the Pharisees and Scribes as working actively against Him, there is nowhere any hint of a hostile movement on the part of the people, but that, on the contrary, in spite of the Scribes and Pharisees the people are always ready to approve Him and take His part; so much so that His enemies can only hope to get Him into their power by a secret betrayal.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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