The representation of this experience of the Church in the Life of a Person is not the work of a number of persons, but of a single author
|November 20, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter eleven||
While, therefore, at the close of Bauer’s first work it might have seemed that it was only the Gospel of John which he held to be a literary creation, here the same thing is said of the original Gospel. The only difference is that we find more primitive reflection in the Synoptics, and later work in the representation given by the Fourth Evangelist; the former is of a more practical character, the latter more dogmatic.
Nevertheless it is false to assert that according to Bauer the earliest Evangelist invented the Gospel history and the personality of Jesus. That is to carry back the ideas of a later period and a further stage of development into the original form of his view. At the moment when, having disposed of preliminaries, he enters on his investigation, he still assumes that a great, a unique Personality, who so impressed men by His character that it lived on among them in an ideal form, had awakened into life the Messianic idea; and that what the original Evangelist really did was to portray the life of this Jesus—the Christ of the community which He founded—in accordance with the Messianic view of Him, just as the Fourth Evangelist portrayed it in accordance with the presupposition that Jesus was the revealer of the Logos. It was only in the course of his investigations that Bauer’s opinion became more radical. As he goes on, his writing becomes ill-tempered, and takes the form of controversial dialogues with “the theologians,” whom he apostrophises in a biting and injurious fashion, and whom he continually reproaches with not daring, owing to their apologetic prejudices, to see things as they really are, and with declining to face the ultimate results of criticism from fear that the tradition might suffer more loss of historic value than religion could bear. In spite of this hatred of the theologians, which is pathological in character, like his meaningless punctuation, his critical analyses are always exceedingly acute. One has the impression of walking alongside a man who is reasoning quite intelligently, but who talks to himself as though possessed by a fixed idea. What if the whole thing should turn out to be nothing but a literary invention—not only the incidents and discourses, but even the Personality which is assumed as the starting-point of the whole movement? What if the Gospel history were only a late imaginary embodiment of a set of exalted ideas, and these were the only historical reality from first to last? This is the idea which obsesses his mind more and more completely, and moves him to contemptuous laughter. What, he mocks, will these apologists, who are so sure of everything, do then with the shreds and tatters which will be all that is left to them?
But at the outset of his investigations Bauer was far from holding such views. His purpose was really only to continue the work of Strauss. The conception of myth and legend of which the latter made use is, Bauer thinks, much too vague to explain this deliberate “transformation” of a personality. In the place of myth Bauer therefore sets “reflection.” The life which pulses in the Gospel history is too vigorous to be explained as created by legend; it is real “experience,” only not the experience of Jesus, but of the Church. The representation of this experience of the Church in the Life of a Person is not the work of a number of persons, but of a single author. It is in this twofold aspect—as the composition of one man, embodying the experience of many—that the Gospel history is to be regarded. As religious art it has a profound truth. When it is regarded from this point of view the difficulties which are encountered in the endeavour to conceive it as real immediately disappear.
We must take as our point of departure the belief in the sacrificial death and the resurrection of Jesus. Everything else attaches itself to this as to its centre. When the need arose to fix definitely the beginning of the manifestation of Jesus as the Saviour—to determine the point of time at which the Lord issued forth from obscurity—it was natural to connect this with the work of the Baptist; and Jesus comes to his baptism. While this is sufficient for the earliest Evangelist, Matthew and Luke feel it to be necessary, in view of the important consequences involved in the connexion of Jesus with the Baptist, to bring them into relation once more by means of the question addressed by the Baptist to Jesus, although this addition is quite inconsistent with the assumptions of the earliest Evangelist. If he had conceived the story of the baptism with the idea of introducing the Baptist again on a later occasion, and this time, moreover, as a doubter, he would have given it a different form. This is a just observation of Bauer’s; the story of the baptism with the miracle which took place at it, and the Baptist’s question, understood as implying a doubt of the Messiahship of Jesus, mutually exclude one another.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
|Also in print from Barnes and Noble
As an E-book at: