Thoroughgoing scepticism and thoroughgoing eschatology may, in their union, either destroy, or be destroyed by modern historical theology
|November 4, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter nineteen||
That in the last three or four years so much has been written in which this enveloping movement has been ignored does not alter the real position of modern historical theology in the least. The fact is deserving of notice that during this period the study of the subject has not made a step in advance, but has kept moving to and fro upon the old lines with wearisome iteration, and has thrown itself with excessive zeal into the work of popularisation, simply because it was incapable of advancing.
And even if it professes gratitude to Wrede for the very interesting historical point which he has brought into the discussion, and is also willing to admit that thoroughgoing eschatology has advanced the solution of many problems, these are mere demonstrations which are quite inadequate to raise the blockade of modern theology by the allied forces. Supposing that only a half—nay, only a third—of the critical arguments which are common to Wrede and the “Sketch of the Life of Jesus” are sound, then the modern historical view of the history is wholly ruined.
The reader of Wrede’s book cannot help feeling that here no quarter is given; and any one who goes carefully through the present writer’s “Sketch” must come to see that between the modern historical and the eschatological Life of Jesus no compromise is possible.
Thoroughgoing scepticism and thoroughgoing eschatology may, in their union, either destroy, or be destroyed by modern historical theology; but they cannot combine with it and enable it to advance, any more than they can be advanced by it.
We are confronted with a decisive issue. As with Strauss’s “Life of Jesus,” so with the surprising agreement in the critical basis of these two schools—we are not here considering the respective solutions which they offer—there has entered into the domain of the theology of the day a force with which it cannot possibly ally itself. Its whole territory is threatened. It must either reconquer it step by step or else surrender it. It has no longer the right to advance a single assertion until it has taken up a definite position in regard to the fundamental questions raised by the new criticism.
Modern historical theology is no doubt still far from recognising this. It is warned that the dyke is letting in water and sends a couple of masons to repair the leak; as if the leak did not mean that the whole masonry is undermined, and must be rebuilt from the foundation.
To vary the metaphor, theology comes home to find the broker’s marks on all the furniture and goes on as before quite comfortably, ignoring the fact it will lose everything if it does not pay its debts.
The critical objections which Wrede and the “Sketch” agree in bringing against the modern treatment of the subject are as follows.
In order to find in Mark the Life of Jesus of which it is in search modern theology is obliged to read between the lines a whole host of things, and those often the most important, and then to foist them upon the text by means of psychological conjecture. It is determined to find evidence in Mark of a development of Jesus, a development of the disciples, and a development of the outer circumstances; and professes in so doing to be only reproducing the views and indications of the Evangelist. In reality, however, there is not a word of all this in the Evangelist, and when his interpreters are asked what are the hints and indications on which they base their assertions they have nothing to offer save argumenta e silentio.
Mark knows nothing of any development in Jesus, he knows nothing of any paedagogic considerations which are supposed to have determined the conduct of Jesus towards the disciples and the people; he knows nothing of any conflict in the mind of Jesus between a spiritual and a popular, political Messianic ideal; he does not know, either, that in this respect there was any difference between the view of Jesus and that of the people; he knows nothing of the idea that the use of the ass at the triumphal entry symbolised a non-political Messiahship; he knows nothing of the idea that the question about the Messiah’s being the Son of David had something to do with this alternative between political and non-political; he does not know, either, that Jesus explained the secret of the passion to the disciples, nor that they had any understanding of it; he only knows that from first to last they were in all respects equally wanting in understanding; he does not know that the first period was a period of success and the second a period of failure; he represents the Pharisees and Herodians as (from iii. 6 onwards) resolved upon the death of Jesus, while the people, down to the very last day when He preached in the temple, are enthusiastically loyal to Him.
All these things of which the Evangelist says nothing—and they are the foundations of the modern view—should first be proved, if proved they can be; they ought not to be simply read into the text as something self-evident. For it is just those things which appear so self-evident to the prevailing critical temper which are in reality the least evident of all.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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