the historic nucleus of Jesus’ discourses regarding the future, to which the idea of the Last Judgment
|November 16, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter fifteen||
In developing this theory, Weiffenbach thought that he had succeeded in solving the problem which had been first critically formulated by Keim, who is constantly emphasising the idea that the eschatological hopes of the disciples could not be explained merely from their Judaic pre-suppositions, but that some incentive to the formation of these hopes must be sought in the preaching of Jesus; otherwise primitive Christianity and the life of Jesus would stand side by side unconnected and unexplained, and in that case we must give up all hope “of distinguishing the sure word of the Lord from Israel’s restless speculations about the future.”
When the Jewish-Christian Apocalypse has been eliminated, we arrive at a discourse, spoken on the Mount of Olives, in which Jesus exhorted His disciples to watchfulness, in view of the near, but nevertheless undefined, hour of the return of “the Master of the House.” In this discourse, therefore, we have a standard by which criticism may test all the eschatological sayings and discourses. Weiffenbach has the merit of having gathered together all the eschatological material of the Synoptics and examined it in the light of a definite principle. In Colani the material was incomplete, and instead of a critical principle he offered only an arbitrary exegesis which permitted him, for example, to conceive the watchfulness on which the eschatological parables constantly insist as only a vivid expression for the sense of responsibility “which weighs upon the life of man.”
And yet the outcome of this attempt of Weiffenbach’s, which begins with so much real promise, is in the end wholly unsatisfactory. The “authentic thought of the return” which he takes as his standard has for its sole content the expectation of a visible personal return in the near future “free from all more or less fantastic apocalyptic and Jewish-Christian speculations about the future.” That is to say, the whole of the eschatological discourses of Jesus are to be judged by the standard of a colourless, unreal figment of theology. Whatever cannot be squared with that is to be declared spurious and cut away! Accordingly the eschatological closing saying at the Last Supper is stigmatised as a Chiliastic-Capernaitic” distortion of a “normal” promise of the Second Coming; the idea of the ????????????, Matt. xix. 28, is said to be wholly foreign to Jesus’ world of thought; it is impossible, too, that Jesus can have thought of Himself as the Judge of the world, for the Jewish and Jewish-Christian eschatology does not ascribe the conduct of the Last Judgment to the Messiah; that is first done by Gentile Christians, and especially by Paul. It was, therefore, the later eschatology which set the Son of Man on the throne of His glory and prepared “the twelve thrones of judgment for the disciples.” The historian ought only to admit such of the sayings about bearing rule in the Messianic Kingdom as can be interpreted in a spiritual, nonsensuous fashion.
In the end Weiffenbach’s critical principle proves to be merely a bludgeon with which he goes seal-hunting and clubs the defenceless Synoptic sayings right and left. When his work is done you see before you a desert island strewn with quivering corpses. Nevertheless the slaughter was not aimless, or at least it was not without result.
In the first place, it did really appear, as a by-product of the critical processes, that Jesus’ discourses about the future had nothing to do with an historical prevision of the destruction of Jerusalem, whereas the supposition that they had, had hitherto been taken as self-evident, the prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem being regarded as the historic nucleus of Jesus’ discourses regarding the future, to which the idea of the Last Judgment had subsequently attached itself.
 By “Capernaitic” ‘Weiffenbach apparently means literalistic; cf. John vi. 52 f.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
|Also in print from Barnes and Noble
As an E-book at: