the French Revolution, on Napoleon, on the Illuminism of the Eighteenth Century
|November 20, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter eleven||
He then turned his attention to secular history and wrote on the French Revolution, on Napoleon, on the Illuminism of the Eighteenth Century, and on the party struggles in Germany during the years 1842-1846. At the beginning of the fifties he returned to theological subjects, but failed to exercise any influence. His work was simply ignored.
Radical though he was in spirit, Bauer found himself fighting, at the end of the fifties and beginning of the sixties, in the ranks of the Prussian Conservatives—we are reminded how Strauss in the Würtemberg Chamber was similarly forced to side with the reactionaries. He died in 1882. His was a pure, modest, and lofty character.
At the time of his removal from Berlin to Bonn he was just at the end of the twenties, that critical age when pupils often surprise their teachers, when men begin to find themselves and show what they are, not merely what they have been taught.
In approaching the investigation of the Gospel history, Bauer saw, as he himself tells us, two ways open to him. He might take as his startingpoint the Jewish Messianic conception, and endeavour to answer the question how the intuitive prophetic idea of the Messiah became a fixed reflective conception. That was the historical method; he chose, however, the other, the literary method. This starts from the opposite side of the question, from the end instead of the beginning of the Gospel history. Taking first the Gospel of John, in which it is obvious that reflective thought has fitted the life of the Jewish Messiah into the frame of the Logos conception, he then, starting as it were from the embouchure of the stream, works his way upwards to the high ground in which the Gospel tradition takes its rise. The decision in favour of the latter view determined the character of Bauer’s life-work; it was his task to follow out, to its ultimate consequences, the literary solution of the problem of the life of Jesus.
How far this path would lead him he did not at first suspect. But he did suspect how strong was the influence upon the formation of history of a dominant idea which moulds and shapes it with a definite artistic purpose. His interest was especially arrested by Philo, who, without knowing or intending it, contributed to the fulfilment of a higher task than that with which he was immediately engaged. Bauer’s view is that a speculative principle such as Philo’s, when it begins to take possession of men’s minds, influences them in the first glow of enthusiasm which it evokes with such overmastering power that the just claims of that which is actual and historical cannot always secure the attention which is their due. In Philo’s pupil, John, we must look, not for history, but for art.
The Fourth Gospel is in fact a work of art. This was now for the first time appreciated by one who was himself an artist. Schleiermacher, indeed, had at an earlier period taken up the aesthetic standpoint in considering this Gospel. But he had used it as an apologist, proceeding to exalt the artistic truth which he rightly recognised into historic reality, and his critical sense failed him, precisely because he was an aesthete and an apologist, when he came to deal with the Fourth Gospel. Now, however, there comes forward a true artist, who shows that the depth of religious and intellectual insight which Tholuck and Neander, in opposing Strauss, had urged on behalf of the Fourth Gospel, is—Christian art.
In Bauer, however, the aesthete is at the same time a critic. Although much in the Fourth Gospel is finely “felt,” like the opening scenes referring to the Baptist and to Jesus, which Bauer groups together under the heading “The Circle of the Expectant,” yet his art is by no means always perfect. The author who conceived those discourses, of which the movement consists in a kind of tautological return upon itself, and who makes the parables trail out into dragging allegories, is no perfect artist. “The parable of the Good Shepherd,” says Bauer, “is neither simple, nor natural, nor a true parable, but a metaphor, which is, nevertheless, much too elaborate for a metaphor, is not clearly conceived, and, finally, in places shows much too clearly the skeleton of reflection over which it is stretched.”
Bauer treats, in his work of 1840, the Fourth Gospel only. The Synoptics he deals with only in a quite incidental fashion, “as opposing armies make demonstrations in order to provoke the enemy to a decisive conflict.”
He breaks off at the beginning of the story of the passion, because here it would be necessary to bring in the Synoptic parallels. “From the distant heights on which the Synoptic forces have taken up a menacing position, we must now draw them down into the plain; now comes the pitched battle between them and the Fourth Gospel, and the question regarding the historical character of that which we have found to be the ultimate basis of the last Gospel, can now at length be decided.”
If, in the Gospel of John, no smallest particle could be found which was unaffected by the creative reflection of the author, how will it stand with the Synoptists?
 Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte des Johannes.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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