The Roman administration supports the Jewish authorities
|November 4, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter nineteen||
They set traps for Him and endeavour to bring about His fall. Finally they succeed, when He ventures to show Himself not only on Judaean soil, but in Jerusalem. He remains passive and is condemned to death. The Roman administration supports the Jewish authorities. “The texture of the Marcan narrative as we know it,” continues Wrede, “is not complete until to the warp of these general historical notions there is added a strong weft of ideas of a dogmatic character, the substance of which is that “Jesus, the bearer of a special office to which He was appointed by God,” becomes “a higher, superhuman being.” If this is the case, however, then “the motives of His conduct are not derived from human characteristics, human aims and necessities.” “The one motive which runs throughout is rather a Divine decree which lies beyond human understanding. This He seeks to fulfil alike in His actions and His sufferings. The teaching of Jesus is accordingly supernatural.” On this assumption the want of understanding of the disciples to whom He communicates, without commentary, unconnected portions of this supernatural knowledge becomes natural and explicable. The people are, moreover, essentially “non-receptive of revelation.”
“It is these motifs and not those which are inherently historical which give movement and direction to the Marcan narrative. It is they that give the general colour. On them naturally depends the main interest, it is to them that the thought of the writer is really directed. The consequence is that the general picture offered by the Gospel is not an historical representation of the Life of Jesus. Only some faded remnants of such an impression have been taken over into a supra-historical religious view. In this sense the Gospel of Mark belongs to the history of dogma.”
The two conceptions of the Life of Jesus, the natural and the supernatural, are brought, not without inconsistencies, into a kind of harmony by means of the idea of intentional secrecy. The Messiahship of Jesus is concealed in His life as in a closed dark lantern, which, however, is not quite closed-otherwise one could not see that it was there—and allows a few bright beams to escape.
The idea of a secret which must remain a secret until the resurrection of Jesus could only arise at a time when nothing was known of a Messianic claim of Jesus during His life upon earth: that is to say, at a time when the Messiahship of Jesus was thought of as beginning with the resurrection. But that is a weighty piece of indirect historical evidence that Jesus did not really profess to be the Messiah at all.
The positive fact which is to be inferred from this is that the appearances of the risen Jesus produced a sudden revolution in His disciples’ conception of Him. “The resurrection” is for Wrede the real Messianic event in the Life of Jesus.
Who is responsible, then, for introducing this singular feature, so destructive of the real historical connexion, into the life of Jesus, which was in reality that of a teacher? It is quite impossible, Wrede argues, that the idea of the Messianic secret is the invention of Mark. “A thing like that is not done by a single individual. It must, therefore, have been a view which was current in certain circles, and was held by a considerable number, though not necessarily perhaps by a very great number of persons. To say this is not to deny that Mark had a share and perhaps a considerable share in the creation of the view which he sets forth . . . the motifs themselves are doubtless not, in part at least, peculiar to the Evangelist, but the concrete embodiment of them is certainly his own work; and to this extent we may speak of a special Marcan point of view which manifests itself here and there. Where the line is to be drawn between what is traditional and what is individual cannot always be determined even by a careful examination directed to this end. We must leave it commingled, as we find it.”
The Marcan narrative has therefore arisen from the impulse to give a Messianic form to the earthly life of Jesus. This impulse was, however, restrained by the impression and tradition of the non-Messianic character of the life of Jesus, which were still strong and vivid, and it was therefore not able wholly to recast the material, but could only bore its way into it and force it apart, as the roots of the bramble disintegrate a rock. In the Gospel literature which arose on the basis of Mark the Messianic secret becomes gradually of more subordinate importance and the life of Jesus more Messianic in character, until in the Fourth Gospel He openly comes before the people with Messianic claims.
In estimating the value of this construction we must not attach too much importance to its a priori assumptions and difficulties. In this respect Wrede’s position is much more precarious than that of his precursor Bruno Bauer. According to the latter the interpolation of the Messianic secret is the personal, absolutely original act of the Evangelist. Wrede thinks of it as a collective act, representing the new conception as moulded by the tradition before it was fixed by the Evangelist. That is very much more difficult to carry through. Tradition alters its materials in a different way from that in which we find them altered in Mark. Tradition transforms from without. Mark’s way of drawing secret threads of a different material through the texture of the tradition, without otherwise altering it, is purely literary, and could only be the work of an individual person.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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