the apocalyptic picture as drawn by Daniel, and, following him, by Enoch and the Psalms of Solomon before the coming of Jesus, and by the Apocalypses of Ezra and Baruch about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem
|November 24, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter one||
Furthermore, the sources exhibit, each within itself, a striking contradiction. They assert that Jesus felt Himself to be the Messiah; and yet from their presentation of His life it does not appear that He ever publicly claimed to be so. They attribute to Him, that is, an attitude which has absolutely no connexion with the consciousness which they assume that He possessed. But once admit that the outward acts are not the natural expression of the self-consciousness and all exact historical knowledge is at an end; we have to do with an isolated fact which is not referable to any law.
This being so, the only way of arriving at a conclusion of any value is to experiment, to test, by working them out, the two hypotheses—that Jesus felt Himself to be the Messiah, as the sources assert, or that He did not feel Himself to be so, as His conduct implies; or else to try to conjecture what kind of Messianic consciousness His must have been, if it left His conduct and His discourses unaffected. For one thing is certain; the whole account of the last days at Jerusalem would be unintelligible, if we had to suppose that the mass of the people had a shadow of a suspicion that Jesus held Himself to be the Messiah.
Again, whereas in general a personality is to some extent defined by the world of thought which it shares with its contemporaries, in the case of Jesus this source of information is as unsatisfactory as the documents.
What was the nature of the contemporary Jewish world of thought? To that question no clear answer can be given. We do not know whether the expectation of the Messiah was generally current or whether it was the faith of a mere sect. With the Mosaic religion as such it had nothing to do. There was no organic connexion between the religion of legal observance and the future hope. Further, if the eschatological hope was generally current, was it the prophetic or the apocalyptic form of that hope? We know the Messianic expectations of the prophets; we know the apocalyptic picture as drawn by Daniel, and, following him, by Enoch and the Psalms of Solomon before the coming of Jesus, and by the Apocalypses of Ezra and Baruch about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. But we do not know which was the popular form; nor, supposing that both were combined into one picture, what this picture really looked like. We know only the form of eschatology which meets us in the Gospels and in the Pauline epistles; that is to say, the form which it took in the Christian community in consequence of the coming of Jesus. And to combine these three—the prophetic, the Late-Jewish apocalyptic, and the Christian—has not proved possible.
Even supposing we could obtain more exact information regarding the popular Messianic expectations at the time of Jesus, we should still not know what form they assumed in the self-consciousness of One who knew Himself to be the Messiah but held that the time was not yet come for Him to reveal Himself as such. We only know their aspect from without, as a waiting for the Messiah and the Messianic Age; we have no clue to their aspect from within as factors in the Messianic self-consciousness. We possess no psychology of the Messiah. The Evangelists have nothing to tell us about it, because Jesus told them nothing about it; the sources for the contemporary spiritual life inform us only concerning the eschatological expectation. For the form of the Messianic self-consciousness of Jesus we have to fall back upon conjecture.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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