the Gospels concerning those last days in Jerusalem cannot be derived from the original tradition
|November 4, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter nineteen||
How greatly this inescapable intrusion of tradition weakens the theory of the literary interpolation of the Messiahship into the history, becomes evident when we consider the story of the passion. The representation that Jesus was publicly put to death as Messiah because He had publicly acknowledged Himself to be so, must, like the High Priest’s knowledge of His claim, be referred to the other tradition which has nothing to do with the Messianic secret, but boldly antedates the Messiahship without employing any finesse of that kind. But that strongly tends to confirm the historicity of this tradition, and throws the burden of proof upon those who deny it. It is wholly independent of the hypothesis of secrecy, and in fact directly opposed to it. If, on the other hand, in spite of all the difficulties, the representation that Jesus was condemned to death on account of His Messianic claims is dragged by main force into the theory of secrecy, the question arises: What interest had the persons who set up the literary theory of secrecy, in representing Jesus as having been openly put to death as Messiah and in consequence of His Messianic claims? And the answer is: “None whatever: quite the contrary.” For in doing so the theory of secrecy stultifies itself. As though one were to develop a photographic plate with painful care and, just when one had finished, fling open the shutters, so, on this hypothesis, the natural Messianic light suddenly shines into the room which ought to be lighted only by the rays of the dark lantern.
Here, therefore, the theory of secrecy abandoned the method which it had hitherto followed in regard to the traditional material. For if Jesus was not condemned and crucified at Jerusalem as Messiah, a tradition must have existed which preserved the truth about the last conflicts, and the motives of the condemnation. This is supposed to have been here completely set aside by the theory of the secret Messiahship, which, instead of drawing its delicate threads through the older tradition, has simply substituted its own representation of events. But in that case why not do away with the remainder of the public ministry? why not at least get rid of the public appearance at Jerusalem? How can the crudeness of method shown in the case of the passion be harmonised with the skilful conservatism towards the non-Messianic tradition which it is obvious that the “Marcan circle” has scrupulously observed elsewhere?
If according to the original tradition, of which Wrede admits the existence, Jesus went to Jerusalem not to die, but to work there, the dogmatic view, according to which He went to Jerusalem to die, must have struck out the whole account of His sojourn in Jerusalem and His death in order to put something else in its place. What we now read in the Gospels concerning those last days in Jerusalem cannot be derived from the original tradition, for one who came to work, and, according to Wrede “to work with decisive effect,” would not have cast all His preaching into the form of obscure parables of judgment and minatory discourses. That is a style of speech which could be adopted only by one who was determined to force his adversaries to put him to death. Therefore the narrative of the last days of Jesus must be, from beginning to end, a creation of the dogmatic idea. And, as a matter of fact, Wrede, here in agreement with Weisse, “sees grounds for asserting that the sojourn at Jerusalem is presented to us in the Gospels in a very much abridged and weakened version.” That is a euphemistic expression, for if it was really the dogmatic idea which was responsible for representing Jesus as being condemned as Messiah, it is not a mere case of “abridging and weakening down,” but of displacing the tradition in favour of a new one.
But if Jesus was not condemned as Messiah, on what grounds was He condemned? And, again, what interest had those whose concern was to make the Messiahship a secret of His earthly life, in making Him die as Messiah, contrary to the received tradition? And what interest could the tradition have had in falsifying history in that way? Even admitting that the prediction of the passion to the disciples is of a dogmatic character, and is to be regarded as a creation of primitive Christian theology, the historic fact that He died would have been a sufficient fulfilment of those sayings. That He was publicly condemned and crucified as Messiah has nothing to do with the fulfilment of those predictions, and goes far beyond it.
To take a more general point: what interest had primitive theology ln dating back the Messiahship of Jesus to the time of His earthly ministry? None whatever. Paul shows us with what complete indifference the earthly life of Jesus was regarded by primitive Christianity. The discourses in Acts show an equal indifference, since in them also Jesus first becomes the Messiah by virtue of His exaltation. To date the Messiahship earlier was not an undertaking which offered any advantage to primitive theology, in fact it would only have raised difficulties for it, since it involved the hypothesis of a dual Messiahship, one of earthly humiliation and one of future glory. The fact is, if one reads through the early literature one becomes aware that so long as theology had an eschatological orientation and was dominated by the expectation of the Parousia the question of how Jesus of Nazareth “had been” the Messiah not only did not exist, but was impossible. Primitive theology is simply a theology of the future, with no interest in history! It was only with the decline of eschatological interest and the change in the orientation of Christianity which was connected therewith that an interest in the life of Jesus and the “historical Messiahship” arose.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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