Where is the documentary evidence of the Jewish Messianic doctrine on which that of the Gospels is supposed to be based?
|November 20, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter eleven||
But where—apart from the Gospels—did they get their information from? Where is the documentary evidence of the Jewish Messianic doctrine on which that of the Gospels is supposed to be based? Daniel was the last of the prophets. Everything tends to suggest that the mysterious content of his work remained without influence in the subsequent period. Jewish literature ends with the Wisdom writings, in which there is no mention of a Messiah. In the LXX there is no attempt to translate in accordance with a preconceived picture of the Messiah. In the Apocalypses, which are of small importance, there is reference to a Messianic Kingdom; the Messiah Himself, however, plays a quite subordinate part, and is, indeed, scarcely mentioned. For Philo He has no existence; the Alexandrian does not dream of connecting Him with his Logos speculation. There remain, therefore, as witnesses for the Jewish Messianic expectations in the time of Tiberius, only Mark and his imitators. This evidence, however, is of such a character that in certain points it contradicts itself.
In the first place, if at the time when the Christian community was forming its view of history and the religious ideas which we find in the Gospels, the Jews had already possessed a doctrine of the Messiah, there would have been already a fixed type of interpretation of the Messianic passages in the Old Testament, and it would have been impossible for the same passages to be interpreted in a totally different way, as referring to Jesus and His work, as we find them interpreted in the New Testament. Next, consider the representation of the Baptist’s work. We should have expected him to connect his baptism with the preaching of “Him who was to come”—if this were really the Messiah— by baptizing in the name of this “Coming One.” He, however, keeps them separate, baptizing in preparation for the Kingdom, though referring in his discourses to “Him who was to come.”
The earliest Evangelist did not venture openly to carry back into the history the idea that Jesus had claimed to be the Messiah, because he was aware that in the time of Jesus no general expectation of the Messiah had prevailed among the people. When the disciples in Mark viii, 28 report the opinions of the people concerning Jesus they cannot mention any who hold Him to be the Messiah. Peter is the first to attain to the recognition of His Messiahship. But as soon as the confession is made the Evangelist makes Jesus forbid His disciples to tell the people who He is. Why is the attribution of the Messiahship to Jesus made in this surreptitious and inconsistent way? It is because the writer who gave the history its form well knew that no one had ever come forward publicly on Palestinian soil to claim the Messiahship, or had been recognised by the people as Messiah.
The “reflective conception of the Messiah” was not, therefore, taken over ready-made from Judaism; that dogma first arose along with the Christian community, or rather the moment in which it arose was the same in which the Christian community had its birth.
Moreover, how unhistorical, even on a priori grounds, is the mechanical way in which Jesus at this first appearance at once sets Himself up as the Messiah and says, “Behold I am He whom ye have expected.” In essence, Bauer thinks, there is not so much difference between Strauss and Hengstenberg. For Hengstenberg the whole life of Jesus is the living embodiment of the Old Testament picture of the Messiah; Strauss, a less reverent counterpart of Hengstenberg, made the image of the Messiah into a mask which Jesus Himself was obliged to assume, and which legend afterwards substituted for His real features.
“We save the honour of Jesus,” says Bauer, “when we restore His Person to life from the state of inanition to which the apologists have reduced it, and give it once more a living relation to history, which it certainly possessed—that can no longer be denied. If a conception was to become dominant which should unite heaven and earth, God and man, nothing more and nothing less was necessary as a preliminary condition, than that a Man should appear, the very essence of whose consciousness should be the reconciliation of these antitheses, and who should manifest this consciousness to the world, and lead the religious mind to the sole point from which its difficulties can be solved. Jesus accomplished this mighty work, but not by prematurely pointing to His own Person. Instead He gradually made known to the people the thoughts which filled and entered into the very essence of His mind. It was only in this indirect way that His Person—which He freely offered up in the cause of His historical vocation and of the idea for which He lived—continued to live on in so far as this idea was accepted. When, in the belief of His followers, He rose again and lived on in the Christian community, it was as the Son of God who had overcome and reconciled the great antithesis. He was that in which alone the religious consciousness found rest and peace, apart from which there was nothing firm, trustworthy, and enduring.”
“It was only now that the vague, ill-defined, prophetic representations were focused into a point; were not only fulfilled, but were also united together by a common bond which strengthened and gave greater value to each of them. With His appearance and the rise of belief in Him, a clear conception, a definite mental picture of the Messiah became possible; and thus it was that a Christology first arose.”
 Here and elsewhere Bauer seems to use “Christologie” in the sense of Messianic doctrine, rather than in the more general sense which is usual in theology.—TRANSLATOR.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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