the old-fashioned rationalistic work of the worthy Reinhard
|November 16, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter fourteen||
In his anxiety to eliminate any enthusiastic elements from the representation of Jesus, he ends by drawing a bourgeois Messiah whom he might have extracted from the old-fashioned rationalistic work of the worthy Reinhard. He feels bound to save the credit of Jesus by showing that the entry into Jerusalem was not intended as a provocation to the government. “It is only by making this supposition,” he explains, “that we avoid casting a slur upon the character of Jesus. It was certainly a constant trait in His character that He never unnecessarily exposed Himself to danger, and never, except for the most pressing reasons, did He give any support to the suspicions which were arising against Him; He avoided provoking His opponents to drastic measures by any overt act directed against them.” Even the cleansing of the Temple was not an act of violence but merely an attempt at reform.
Schenkel is able to give these explanations because he knows the most secret thoughts of Jesus and is therefore no longer bound to the text. He knows, for example, that immediately after His baptism He attained to the knowledge “that the way of the Law was no longer the way of salvation for His people.” Jesus cannot therefore have uttered the saying about the permanence of the Law in Mark v. 18. In the controversies about the Sabbath “He proclaims freedom of worship.”
As time went on, He began to take the heathen world into the scope of His purpose. “The hard saying addressed to the Canaanite woman represents rather the proud and exclusive spirit of Pharisaism than the spirit of Jesus.” It was a test of faith, the success of which had a decisive influence upon Jesus’ attitude towards the heathen. Henceforth it is obvious that He is favourably disposed towards them. He travels through Samaria and establishes a community there. In Jerusalem He openly calls the heathen to Him. At certain feasts which they had arranged for that purpose, some of the leaders of the people set a trap for Him, and betrayed Him into liberal sayings in regard to the Gentiles which sealed His fate.
This was the course of development of the Master, who, according to Schenkel “saw with a clear eye into the future history of the world,” and knew that the fall of Jerusalem must take place in order to close the theocratic era and give the Gentiles free access to the universal community of Christians which He was to found. “This period He described as the period of His coming, as in a sense His Second Advent upon earth.
The same general procedure is followed by Weizsäcker in his “Gospel History,” though his work is of a much higher quality than Schenkel’s. His account of the sources is one of the clearest that has ever been written. In the description of the life of Jesus, however, the unhesitating combination of material from the Fourth Gospel with that of the Synoptics rather confuses the picture. And whereas Renan only offers the results of the completed process, Weizsäcker works out his, it might almost be said, under the eyes of the reader, which makes the arbitrary character of the proceeding only the more obvious. But in his attitude towards the sources Weizsäcker is wholly free from the irresponsible caprice in which Schenkel indulges. From time to time, too, he gives a hint of unsolved problems in the background. For example, in treating of the declaration of Jesus to His judges that He would come as the Son of Man upon the clouds of heaven, he remarks how surprising it is that Jesus could so often have used the designation Son of Man on earlier occasions without being accused of claiming the Messiahship. It is true that this is a mere scraping of the keel upon a sandbank, by which the steersman does not allow himself to be turned from his course, for Weizsäcker concludes that the name Son of Man, in spite of its use in Daniel, “had not become a generally current or really popular designation of the Messiah.” But even this faint suspicion of the difficulty is a welcome sign. Much emphasis, in fact, in practice rather too much emphasis, is laid on the principle that in the great discourses of Jesus the structure is not historical; they are only collections of sayings formed to meet the needs of the Christian community in later times. In this Weizsäcker is sometimes not less arbitrary than Schenkel, who represents the Lord’s Prayer as given by Jesus to the disciples only in the last days at Jerusalem. It was an axiom of the school that Jesus could not have delivered discourses such as the Evangelists record.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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