The most characteristic thing in the character of Jesus, according to Bousset, is His joy in life
|November 8, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter sixteen||
The Late-Jewish eschatology was, according to Bousset, by no means a homogeneous system of thought. Realistic and transcendental elements stana side by side in it, unreconciled. The genuine popular belief of Late Judaism still clung quite naively to the earthly realistic hopes of former times, and had never been able to rise to the purely transcendental regions which are the characteristic habitat of apocalyptic. The rejection of the world is never carried out consistently; something of we Jewish national ideal always remains. And for this reason Late Judaism made no progress towards the overcoming of particularism
Probably, Bousset holds, this Apocalyptic thought is not even genuinely Jewish; as he ably argued in another work, there was a considerable strain of Persian influence in it. The dualism, the transference to the transcendental region of the future hope, the conception of the world which appears in Jewish apocalyptic, are of Iranian rather than Jewish origin.
Two thoughts are especially characteristic of Bousset’s position; first, that this transcendentalising of the future implied a spiritualisation of it; secondly, that in post-exilic Judaism there was always an undercurrent of a purer and more spontaneous piety, the presence of which is especially to be traced in the Psalms.
Into a dead world, where a kind of incubus seems to stifle all naturalness and spontaneity, there comes a living Man. According to the formulae of His preaching and the designations which He applies to Himself, He seems at first sight to identify Himself with this world rather than to oppose it. But these conceptions and titles, especially the Kingdom of God and the Son of Man, must be provisionally left in the background, since they, as being conceptions taken over from the past, conceal rather than reveal what is most essential in His personality. The primary need is to discover, behind the phenomenal, the real character of the personality and preaching of Jesus. The starting-point must therefore be the simple fact that Jesus came as a living Man into a dead world. He is living, because in contrast with His contemporaries He has a living idea of God. His faith in the Fatherhood of God is Jesus’ most essential act. It signifies a breach with the transcendental Jewish idea of God, and an unconscious inner negation of the Jewish eschatology. Jesus, therefore, walks through a world which denies His own eschatology like a man who has firm ground under his feet.
That which on a superficial view appears to be eschatological preaching turns out to be essentially a renewal of the old prophetic preaching with its positive ethical emphasis. Jesus is a manifestation of that ancient spontaneous piety of which Bousset had shown the existence in Late Judaism.
The most characteristic thing in the character of Jesus, according to Bousset, is His joy in life. It is true that if, in endeavouring to understand Him, we take primitive Christianity as our starting-point, we might conceive of his joy in life as the complement of the eschatological mood, as the extreme expression of indifference to the world, which can as well enjoy the world as flee it. But the purely eschatological attitude, though it reappears in early Christianity, does not give the ricrht clue for the interpretation of the character of Jesus as a whole. His joy in the world was real; a genuine outcome of His new type of piety. It prevented the eudaemonistic eschatological idea of reward, which some think they find in Jesus’ preaching, from ever really becoming an element in it.
 W. Bousset, Die jüdische Apokalyptik in ihrer religionsgeschichtlichen Herkunft und ihrer Bedeutung für das Neue Testament. (The Origin of Apocalyptic as indicated by Comparative Religion, and its significance for the understanding of the New Testament.) Berlin, 1903. 67 pp. See also W. Bousset, Die Religion des Judentums im neutestamentlichen Zeitalter, 512 pp., 1902. For the assertion of Parsic influences see also Stave, Der Einfluss des Parsismus auf das Judentum. Haarlem, 1898.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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