the Gnostics were the first to assert the Messiahship of the historical Jesus
|November 4, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter nineteen||
That is to say, the Gnostics, who were the first to assert the Messiahship of the historical Jesus, and who were obliged to assert it precisely because they denied the eschatological conceptions, forced this view upon the theology of the Early Church, and compelled it to create in the Logos Christology an un-Gnostic mould in which to cast the speculative conception of the historical Messiahship of Jesus; and that is what we find in the Fourth Gospel. Prior to the anti-Gnostic controversies we find in the early Christian literature no conscious dating back of the Messiahship of Jesus to His earthly life, and no theological interest at work upon the dogmatic recasting of His history. It is therefore difficult to suppose that the Messianic secret in Mark, that is to say, in the very earliest tradition, was derived from primitive theology. The assertion of the Messiahship of Jesus was wholly independent of the latter. The instinct which led Bruno Bauer to explain the Messianic secret as the literary invention of Mark himself was therefore quite correct. Once suppose that tradition and primitive theology have anything to do with the matter, and the theory of the interpolation of the Messiahship into the history becomes almost impossible to carry through. But Wrede’s greatness consists precisely in the fact that he was compelled by his acute perception of the significance of the critical data to set aside the purely literary version of the hypothesis and make Mark, so to speak, the instrument of the literary realisation of the ideas of a definite intellectual circle within the sphere of primitive theology.
The positive difficulty which confronts the sceptical theory is to explain how the Messianic beliefs of the first generation arose, if Jesus, throughout His life, was for all, even for the disciples, merely a “teacher,” and gave even His intimates no hint of the dignity which He claimed for Himself. It is difficult to eliminate the Messiahship from the “Life of Jesus,” especially from the narrative of the passion; it is more difficult still, as Keim saw long ago, to bring it back again after its elimination from the “Life” into the theology of the primitive Church. In Wrede’s acute and logical thinking this difficulty seems to leap to light.
Since the Messianic secret in Mark is always connected with the resurrection, the date at which the Messianic belief of the disciples arose must be the resurrection of Jesus. “But the idea of dating the Messiahship from the resurrection is certainly not a thought of Jesus, but of the primitive Church. It presupposes the Church’s experience of the appearance of the risen Jesus.”
The psychologist will say that the “resurrection experiences,” however they may be conceived, are only intelligible as based upon the expectation of the resurrection, and this again as based on references of Jesus to the resurrection. But leaving psychology aside, let us accept the resurrection experiences of the disciples as a pure psychological miracle. Even so, how can the appearances of the risen Jesus have suggested to the disciples the idea that Jesus, the crucified teacher, was the Messiah? Apart from any expectations, how can this conclusion have resulted for them from the mere “fact of the resurrection”? The fact of the appearance did not by any means imply it. In certain circles, indeed, according to Mark vi. 14-16, in the very highest quarters, the resurrection of the Baptist was believed in; but that did not make John the Baptist the Messiah. The inexplicable thing is that, according to Wrede, the disciples began at once to assert confidently and unanimously that He was the Messiah and would before long appear in glory.
 The question of the attitude of pre-Origenic theology towards the historic Jesus, and of the influence exercised by dogma upon the evangelical tradition regarding Jesus in the course of the first two centuries, is certainly deserving of a detailed examination.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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