The systematic investigation of the Synoptic apocalypse
|November 16, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter fifteen||
This spiritual conception of the Kingdom cannot possibly be combined with the thought of a glorious Second Coming, for if Jesus had held this latter view He must necessarily have thought of the present life as only a kind of prologue to that second existence. Neither the Jewish, nor the Jewish-Christian eschatology as represented in the eschatological discourses in the Gospels, can, therefore, in Colani’s opinion, belong to the preaching of Jesus. That He should sometimes have made use of the imagery associated with the Jewish expectations of the future is, of course, only natural. But the eschatology occupies far too important a place in the tradition of the preaching of Jesus to be explained as a mere symbolical mode of expression. It forms a substantial element of that preaching. A spiritualisation of it will not meet the case. Therefore, if the conviction has been arrived at on other grounds that Jesus’ preaching did not follow the lines of Jewish eschatology, there is only one possible way of dealing with it, and that is by excising it from the text on critical grounds.
The only element in the preaching of Jesus which can, in Colani’s opinion, be called in any sense “eschatological” was the conviction that there would be a wide extension of the Gospel even within the existing generation, that Gentiles should be admitted to the Kingdom, and that in consequence of the general want of receptivity towards the message of salvation, judgment should come upon the nations.
These views of Colani furnish him with a basis upon which to decide on the genuineness or otherwise of the eschatological discourses. Among the sayings put into the mouth of Jesus which must be rejected as impossible are: the promise, in the discourse at the sending forth of the Twelve, of the imminent coming of the Son of Man, Matt. x. 23; the promise to the disciples that they should sit upon twelve thrones judging the tribes of Israel, Matt. xix. 28; the saying about His return in Matt. xxiii. 39; the final eschatological saying at the Last Supper, Matt. xxvi. 29, “the Papias-like Chiliasm of which is unworthy of Jesus”; and the prediction of His coming on the clouds of heaven with which He closes His Messianic confession before the Council. The apocalyptic discourses in Mark xiii., Matt. xxiv., and Luke xxi. are interpolated. A Jewish-Christian apocalypse of the first century, probably composed before the destruction of Jerusalem, has been interwoven with a short exhortation which Jesus gave on the occasion when He predicted the destruction of the temple.
According to Colani, therefore, Jesus did not expect to come again from Heaven to complete His work. It was completed by His death, and the purpose of the coming of the Spirit was to make manifest its completion. Strauss and Renan had entered upon the path of explaining Jesus’ preaching from the history of the time by the assumption of an intermixture in it of Jewish ideas, but it was now recognized “that this path is a cul-de-sac, and that criticism must turn round and get out of it as quickly as possible.”
The new feature of Colani’s view was not so much the uncompromising rejection of eschatology as the clear recognition that its rejection was not a matter to be disposed of in a phrase or two, but necessitated a critical analysis of the text.
The systematic investigation of the Synoptic apocalypse was a contribution to criticism of the utmost importance.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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