XVI THE STRUGGLE AGAINST ESCHATOLOGY
|November 8, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter sixteen||
THE STRUGGLE AGAINST ESCHATOLOGY
Wilhelm Bousset. Jesu Predigt in ihrem Gegensatz zum Judentum. Ein religions-geschichtlicher Vergleich. (The Antithesis between Jesus’ Preaching and Judaism. A Religious-Historical Comparison.) Göttingen, 1892. 130 pp.
Erich Haupt. Die eschatologischen Aussagen Jesu in den synoptischen Evangelien. (The Eschatological Sayings of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels.) 1895. 167 pp.
Paul Wernle. Die Anfange unserer Religion. Tübingen-Leipzig, 1901; 2nd ed., 1904. 410 pp.
Emil Schürer. Das messianische Selbstbewusstsein Jesu-Christi. 1903. Akademische Festrede. (The Messianic Self-consciousness of Jesus Christ.) 24 pp.
Wilhelm Brandt. Die Evangelische Geschichte und der Ursprung des Christentums auf Grund einer Kritik der Berichte über das Leiden und die Auferstehung Jesu. (The Gospel History and the Origin of Christianity. Based upon a Critical Study of the Narratives of the Sufferings and Resurrection of Jesus.) Leipzig, 1893. 591 pp.
Adolf Jülicher. Die Gleichnisreden Jesu. (The Parables of Jesus.) Vol. i., 1888, 291 pp.; Vol. ii., 1899, 643 pp. 427
IN THIS PERIOD THE IMPORTANT BOOKS ARE SHORT. THE SIXTY-SEVEN pages of Johannes Weiss are answered by Bousset in a bare hundred and thirty. People began to see that the elaborate Lives of Jesus which had hitherto held the field, and enjoyed an immortality of revised editions, only masked the fact that the study of the subject was at a standstill; and that the tedious rehandling of problems which had been solved so far as they were capable of solution only served as an excuse for not grappling with those which still remained unsolved.
This conviction is expressed by Bousset at the beginning of his work. The criticism of the sources, he says, is finished, and its results may be regarded, so far as the Life of Jesus is concerned, as provisionally complete. The separation between John and the Synoptists has been secured. For the Synoptists, the two-document hypothesis has been established, according to which the sources are a primitive form of Mark, and a collection of “logia.” A certain interest might still attach to the attempt to arrive at the primitive kernel of Mark; but the attempt has a priori so little prospect of success that it was almost a waste of time to continue to work at it. It would be a much more important thing to get rid of the feeling of uncertainty and artificiality in the Lives of Jesus. What is now chiefly wanted, Bousset thinks, is “a firmly-drawn and life-like portrait which, with a few bold strokes, should bring out clearly the originality, the force, the personality of Jesus.”
It is evident that the centre of the problem has now been reached. That is why the writing becomes so terse. The masses of thought can only be manoeuvred here in a close formation such as Weiss gives them. The loose order of discursive exegetical discussions of separate passages is now no longer in place. The first step towards further progress was the simple one of marshalling the passages in such a way as to gain a single consistent impression from them.
In the first instance Bousset is as ready as Johannes Weiss to admit the importance for the mind of Jesus of the eschatological “then” and “now.” The realistic school, he thinks, are perfectly right in endeavouring to relate Jesus, without apologetic or theological inconsistencies, to the background of contemporary ideas. Later, in 1901, he was to make it a reproach against Harnack’s “What is Christianity?” (Das Wesen des Christentums) that it did not give sufficient importance to the background of contemporary thought in its account of the preaching of Jesus.
He goes on to ask, however, whether the first enthusiasm over the discovery of this genuinely historical way of looking at things should not be followed by some “second thoughts” of a deeper character. Accepting the position laid down by Johannes Weiss, we must ask, he thinks, whether this purely historical criticism, by the exclusive emphasis which it has laid upon eschatology, has not allowed the “essential originality and power of the personality of Jesus to slip through its fingers,” and closed its grasp instead upon contemporary conceptions and imaginations which are often of a quite special character.
 Wilhelm Bousset, now Professor in Göttingen, born 1865 at Lübeck.
 Theol. Rundschau (1901), 4, pp. 89-103.
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