The Messianic Secret in the Gospels by Wrede
|November 24, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter one||
Such is the character of the problem, and, as a consequence, historical experiment must here take the place of historical research. That being so, it is easy to understand that to take a survey of the study of the life of Jesus is to be confronted, at first sight, with a scene of the most boundless confusion. A series of experiments are repeated with constantly varying modifications suggested by the results furnished by the subsidiary sciences. Most of the writers, however, have no suspicion that they are merely repeating an experiment which has often been made before. Some of them discover this in the course of their work to their own great astonishment—it is so, for instance, with Wrede, who recognises that he is working out, though doubtless with a clearer consciousness of his aim, an idea of Bruno Bauer’s. If old Reimarus were to come back again, he might confidently give himself out to be the latest of the moderns, for his work rests upon a recognition of the exclusive importance of eschatology, such as only recurs again in Johannes Weiss.
Progress, too, is curiously fitful, with long intervals of marking time between the advances. From Strauss down to the nineties there was no real progress, if one takes into consideration only the complete Lives of Jesus which appeared. But a number of separate problems took a more clearly defined form, so that in the end the general problem suddenly moved forward, as it seemed, with a jerk.
There is really no common standard by which to judge the works with which we have to do. It is not the most orderly narratives, those which weave in conscientiously every detail of the text, which have advanced the study of the subject, but precisely the eccentric ones, those that take the greatest liberties with the text. It is not by the mass of facts that a writer sets down alongside of one another as possible—because he writes easily and there is no one there to contradict him, and because facts on paper do not come into collision so sharply as they do in reality—it is not in that way that he shows his power of reconstructing history, but by that which he recognises as impossible. The constructions of Reimarus and Bruno Bauer have no solidity; they are mere products of the imagination. But there is much more historical power in their clear grasp of a single definite problem, which has blinded them to all else, than there is in the circumstantial works of Beyschlag and Bernard Weiss.
But once one has accustomed oneself to look for certain definite landmarks amid this apparent welter of contusion one begins at last to discover in vague outline the course followed, and the progress made, by the critical study of the life of Jesus.
It falls, immediately, into two periods, that before Strauss and that after Strauss. The dominant interest in the first is the question of miracle. What terms are possible between a historical treatment and the acceptance of supernatural events? With the advent of Strauss this problem found a solution, viz., that these events have no rightful place in the history, but are simply mythical elements in the sources. The way was thus thrown open. Meanwhile, alongside of the problem of the supernatural, other problems had been dimly apprehended. Reimarus had drawn attention to the contemporary eschatological views; Hase, in his first Life of Jesus (1829), had sought to trace a development in the self-consciousness of Jesus.
But on this point a clear view was impossible, because all the students of the subject were still basing their operations upon the harmony of the Synoptics and the Fourth Gospel; which means that they had not so far felt the need of a historically intelligible outline of the life of Jesus. Here, too, Strauss, was the lightbringer. But the transient illumination was destined to be obscured by the Marcan hypothesis, which now came to the front. The necessity of choosing between John and the Synoptists was first fully established by the Tübingen school; and the right relation of this question to the Marcan hypothesis was subsequently shown by Holtzmann.
While these discussions of the preliminary literary questions were in progress the main historical problem of the life of Jesus was slowly rising into view. The question began to be mooted: what was the significance of eschatology for the mind of Jesus? With this problem was associated, in virtue of an inner connexion which was not at first suspected, the problem of the self-consciousness of Jesus. At the beginning of the nineties it was generally felt that, in the solution given to this dual problem, and in some measure assured knowledge of the outward and inward course of the life of Jesus had been reached. At this point Johannes Weiss revived the comprehensive claim of Reimarus on behalf of eschatology; and scarcely had criticism adjusted its attitude to this question when Wrede renewed the attempt of Bauer and Volkmar to eliminate altogether the Messianic element from the life of Jesus.
 W. Wrede, Das Messiasgeheimnis in den Evangelien. (The Messianic Secret in the Gospels.) Göttingen, 1901, pp. 280-282.
 In the author’s usage “the Marcan hypothesis” means the theory that the Gospel of Mark is not only the earliest and most valuable source for the facts, but differs from the other Gospels in embodying a more or less clear and historically intelligible view of the connexion of events. See Chaps. X. and XIV. below.—TRANSLATOR.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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