That it is inspired by the spirit of Carlyle
|November 8, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter sixteen||
It is not in fact tenable, for the opposite view has at its disposal inexhaustible reserves of world-renouncing, world-contemning sayings, and the few utterances which might possibly be interpreted as expressing a purely positive joy in the world, desert and go over to the enemy, because they textually and logically belong to the other set of sayings. Finally, the promise of earthly happiness as a reward, to which Bousset had denied a position in the teaching of Jesus, also falls upon his rear, and that in the very moment when he is seeking to prove from the saying, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you,” that for Jesus this world’s goods are not in themselves evil, but are only to be given a secondary place. Here the eudaemonism is written on the forehead of the saying, since the receiving of these things—we must remember, too, the “hundred-fold” in another passage—is future, not present, and will only “come” at the same time as the Kingdom of God. All present goods, on the other hand, serve only to support life and render possible an undistracted attitude of waiting in pious hope for that future, and therefore are not thought of as gains, but purely as a gift of God, to be cheerfully and freely enjoyed as a foretaste of those blessings which the elect are to enjoy in the future Divine dispensation.
The loss of this position decides the further point that if there is any suggestion in the teaching of Jesus that the future Kingdom of God is in some sense present, it is not to be understood as implying an antieschatological acceptance of the world, but merely as a phenomenon indicative of the extreme tension of the eschatological consciousness, just in the same way as His joy in the world. Bousset has a kind of indirect recognition of this in his remark that the presence of the Kingdom of God is only asserted by Jesus as a kind of paradox. If the assertion of its presence indicated that acceptance of the world formed part of Jesus’ system of thought, it would be at variance with His eschatology. But the paradoxical character of the assertion is due precisely to the fact that His acceptance of the world is but the last expression of the completeness with which He rejects it.
But what do critical cavils matter in the case of a book of which the force, the influence, the greatness, depends upon its spirit? It is great because it recognises-what is so rarely recognised in theological worksthe point where the main issue really lies; in the question, namely, whether Jesus preached and worked as Messiah, or whether, as follows if a prominent place is given to eschatology, as Colani had long ago recognised. His career, historically regarded, was only the career of a prophet with an undercurrent of Messianic consciousness.
As a consequence of grasping the question in its full significance, Bousset rejects all the little devices by which previous writers had endeavoured to relate Jesus’ ministry to His times, each one prescribing at what point He was to connect Himself with it, and of course proceeding in his book to represent Him as connecting Himself with it in precisely that way. Bousset recognises that the supreme importance of eschatology in the teaching of Jesus is not to be got rid of by whittling away a little point here and there, and rubbing it smooth with critical sandpaper until it is capable of reflecting a different thought, but only hy fully admitting it, while at the same time counteracting it by asserting a mysterious element of world-acceptance in the thought of Jesua, and conceiving His whole teaching as a kind of alternating current between positive and negative poles.
This is the last possible sincere attempt to limit the exclusive importance of eschatology in the preaching of Jesus, an attempt so gallant, so brilliant, that its failure is almost tragic; one could have wished success to the book, to which Carlyle might have stood sponsor. That it is inspired by the spirit of Carlyle, that it vindicates the original force of a great Personality against the attempt to dissolve it into a congeries of contemporary conceptions, therein lies at once its greatness and its weakness. Bousset vindicates Jesus, not for history, but for Protestantism, by making Him the heroic representative of a deeply religious acceptance of the goods of life amid an apocalyptic world. His study is not unhistorical, but supra-historical. The spirit of Jesus was in fact world-accepting in the sense that through the experience of centuries it advanced historically to the acceptance of the world, since nothing can appear phenomenally which is not in some sense ideally present from the first. But the teaching of the historical Jesus was purely and exclusively world-renouncing. If, therefore, the problem which Bousset has put on the blackboard for the eschatological school to solve is to be successfully solved, the solution is to be sought on other, more objectively historical, lines.
That the decision of the question whether Jesus’ preaching of the Kingdom of God is wholly eschatological or only partly eschatological, is primarily to be sought in His ethical teaching, is recognised by all the critics of Baldensperger and Weiss. They differ only in the importance which they assign to eschatology. But no other writer has grasped the problem as clearly as Bousset.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
|Also in print from Barnes and Noble
As an E-book at: