the possibility of using the Fourth Gospel side by side with the Synoptics as an historical source
|November 16, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter fourteen||
On the Johannine question he takes up a clearly defined position, denying the possibility of using the Fourth Gospel side by side with the Synoptics as an historical source. He goes very far in finding special significance in the details of the Synoptists, especially when he is anxious to discover traces of want of success in the second period of Jesus’ ministry, since the plan of his Life of Jesus depends on the sharp antithesis between the periods of success and failure. The whole of the second half of the Galilaean period consists for him in “flights and retirements.” “Beset by constantly renewed alarms and hindrances Jesus left the scene of His earlier work, left his dwelling-place at Capernaum, and accompanied only by a few faithful followers, in the end only by the Twelve, sought in all directions for places of refuse for longer or shorter periods, in order to avoid and elude His enemies.” Keim frankly admits, indeed, that there is not a syllable in the Gospels to suggest that these journeys are the journeys of a fugitive. But instead of allowing that to shake his conviction, he abuses the narrators and suggests that they desired to conceal the truth. “These flights,” he says “were no doubt inconvenient to the Evangelists. Matthew is here the frankest, but in order to restore the impression of Jesus’ greatness he transfers to this period the greatest miracles. The later Evangelists are almost completely silent about these retirements, and leave us to suppose that Jesus made His journeys to Caesarea Philippi and the neighbourhood of Tyre and Sidon in the middle of winter from mere pleasure in travel, or for the extension of the Gospel, and that He made His last journey to Jerusalem without any external necessity, entirely in consequence of His free decision, even though the expectation of death which they ascribe to Him goes far to counteract the impression of complete freedom.” Why do they thus correct the history? “The motive was the same difficulty which draws from us also the question, ‘Is it possible that Jesus should flee?'” Keim answers “Yes.” Here the liberal psychology comes clearly to light. “Jesus fled,” he explains, “because He desired to preserve Himself for God and man, to secure the continuance of His ministry to Israel, to defeat as long as possible the dark designs of His enemies, to carry His cause to Jerusalem, and there, while acting, as it was His duty to do, with prudence and foresight in his relations with men, to recognise clearly, by the Divine silence or the Divine action, what the Divine purpose really was, which could not be recognised in a moment. He acts like a man who knows the duty both of examination and action, who knows His own worth and what is due to Him and His obligations towards God and man.”
In regard to the question of eschatology, however, Keim does justice to the texts. He admits that eschatology, “a Kingdom of God clothed with material splendours,” forms an integral part of the preaching of Jesus from the first; “that He never rejected it, and therefore never by a so-called advance transformed the sensuous Messianic idea into a, purely spiritual one.” “Jesus does not uproot from the minds of the the sons of Zebedee their belief in the thrones on His right hand and His left; He does not hesitate to make His entry into Jerusalem in the character of the Messiah; He acknowledges His Messiahship before the Council without making any careful reservations; upon the cross His title is The King of the Jews; He consoles Himself and His followers with the thought of His return as an earthly ruler, and leaves with His disciples, without making any attempt to check it, the belief, which long survived, in a future establishment or restoration of the Kingdom in an Israel delivered from bondage.” Keim remarks with much justice “that Strauss had been wrong in rejecting his own earlier and more correct formula,” which combined the eschatological and spiritual elements as operating side by side in the plan of Jesus.
Keim however, himself in the end allows the spiritual elements practically to cancel the eschatological. He admits, it is true, that the expression Son of Man which Jesus uses designated the Messiah in the sense of Daniel’s prophecy, but he thinks that these pictorial representations in Daniel did not repel Jesus because He interpreted them spiritually, and “intended to describe Himself as belonging to mankind even in His Messianic office.” To solve the difficulty Keim assumes a development. Jesus’ consciousness of His vocation had been strengthened both by success and by disappointment. As time went on He preached the Kingdom not as a future Kingdom, as at first, but as one which was present in Him and with Him, and He declares His Messiahship more and more openly before the world. He thinks of the Kingdom as undergoing development, but not with an unlimited, infinite horizon as the moderns suppose; the horizon is bounded by the eschatology. “For however easy it may be to read modern ideas into the parables of the draught of fishes, the mustard seed and the leaven, which, taken by themselves, seem to suggest the duration contemplated by the modern view, it is nevertheless indubitable that Jesus, like Paul, by no means looks forward to so protracted an earthly development; on the contrary, nothing appears more clearly from the sources than that He thought of its term as rapidly approaching, and of His victory as nigh at hand; and looked to the last decisive events, even to the day of judgment, as about to occur during the lifetime of the existing generation, including Himself and His apostles.” “It was the overmastering pressure of circumstances which held Him prisoner within the limitations of this obsolete belief.” When His confidence in the development Kingdom came into collision with barriers which He could not pass, when His belief in the presence of the Kingdom of God grew dim, the purely eschatological ideas won the upper hand, “and if we may suppose that it was precisely this thought of the imminent decisive action of God, taking possession of His mind with renewed force at this point which steeled His human courage, and roused Him to a passion of self sacrifice with the hope of saving from the judgment whatever might still be saved, we may welcome His adoption of these narrower ideas as in accordance with the goodwill of God, which could only by this means maintain the failing strength of its human instrument and secure the spoils of the Divine warfare—the souls of men subdued and conquered by Him.”
 Geschichte Jesu. 2nd ed., 1875, pp. 228 and 229.
 The ultimate reason why Keim deliberately gives such prominence to the eschatology is that he holds to Matthew, and is therefore more under the direct impression of the masses of discourse in this Gospel, charged, as they are, with eschatological ideas, than those writers who find their primary authority in Mark, where these discourses are lacking.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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