they stole the body of Jesus and hid it, and proclaimed to all the world that He would soon return
|November 24, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter two||
But this spiritual interpretation of His death would not have helped them if they had not also invented the resurrection. Immediately after the death of Jesus, indeed, such an idea was far from their thoughts. They were in deadly fear and kept close within doors. “Soon, however, one and another ventures to slip out. They learn that no judicial search is being made for them.” Then they consider what is to be done. They did not take kindly to the idea of returning to their old haunts; on their journeyings the companions of the Messiah had forgotten how to work. They had seen that the preaching of the Kingdom of God will keep a man. Even when they had been sent out without wallet or money they had not lacked. The women who are mentioned in Luke viii. 2, 3, had made it their business to make good provision for the Messiah and His future ministers.
Why not, then, continue this mode of life? They would surely find a sufficient number of faithful souls who would join them in directing their hopes towards a second coming of the Messiah, and while awaiting the future glory, would share their possessions with them. So they stole the body of Jesus and hid it, and proclaimed to all the world that He would soon return. They prudently waited, however, for fifty days before making this announcement, in order that the body, if it should be found, might be unrecognisable.
What was much in their favour was the complete disorganisation of the Jewish state. Had there been an efficient police administration the disciples would not have been able to plan this fraud and organise their communistic fellowship. But, as it was, the new society was not even subjected to any annoyance in consequence of the remarkable death of a married couple who were buried from the apostles’ house, and the brotherhood was even allowed to confiscate their property to its own uses.
It appears, then, that the hope of the Parousia was the fundamental thing in primitive Christianity, which was a product of that hope much more than of the teaching of Jesus. Accordingly, the main problem of primitive dogmatics was the delay of the Parousia. Already in Paul’s time the problem was pressing, and he had to set to work in 2 Thessalonians to discover all possible and impossible reasons why the Second Coming should be delayed. Reimarus mercilessly exposes the position of the apostle, who was obliged to fob people off somehow or other. The author of 2 Peter has a much clearer notion of what he would be at, and undertakes to restore the confidence of Christendom once for all with the sophism of the thousand years which are in the sight of God as one day, ignoring the fact that in the promise the reckoning was by man’s years, not by God’s. “Nevertheless it served the turn of the Apostles so well with those simple early Christians, that after the first believers had been bemused with it, and the period originally fixed had elapsed, the Christians of later generations, including Fathers of the Church, could continue ever after to feed themselves with empty hopes.” The saying of Christ about the generation which should not die out before His return clearly fixes this event at no very distant date. But since Jesus has not yet appeared upon the clouds of heaven “these words must be strained into meaning, not that generation, but the Jewish people. Thus by exegetical art they are saved for ever, for the Jewish race will never die out.”
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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