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friends whom, in this case, He must have had? He would thus Himself be liable to the suspicion of intentional deceit, and we should be involved in that complication of romantic improbabilities which have now been justly exploded, and which in and for themselves refute an assumption which can only be maintained at the price of adopting them.
Now it might indeed appear if we let drop the reality of the resurrection of Jesus that difficulties of equal magnitude arise. Even His first adherents were as firmly convinced, as of their own life, that the Crucified had, after a few days returned to life; this conviction formed the irremovable basis of their entire subsequent operations; and many of them even believed that they had seen the Risen One. This is fully established not merely by our Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles but by a witness much earlier still, and one who stood nearer to the occurrences, the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. xv.), to whom we may also add the Revelation of John (i., 5—18, etc.); though it must certainly be allowed that not only do the Evangelical accounts of the appearances of the Risen One go far beyond what the persons concerned originally believed they had observed, but that even Paul does not, throughout, profess to have received his statements from those who had participated in the sight of those appearances. How then is the irrefragable belief of the personal disciples of Jesus and of the whole Christian Church to be explained, if the occurrence to which it relates did not, in reality, take place at all?
This question might be at once met by the counterquestion which Strauss also puts with his usual acuteness; namely, how we are to explain the faith of Paul in the personal appearance of Christ which he saw? Paul places this appearance on exactly the same footing with those which were imparted to the older Apostles; it has for him the same reality, and he considers it exactly as they do what they saw, as an actual proof for the reality of the Resurrection of Christ. And yet, unless we would entirely quit the ground of possibility and probability, a personal meeting with the Crucified is not, in the case of Paul, to be thought of; we are concerned with a purely inward vision of Him which the vivid excitement of the seer's mind and imagination caused him to look upon as an external appearance. Why should not the case have been the same with those earlier Christophanies? Strauss has again convincingly pointed out that the conditions of such visions were present in abundance in the earliest circle of the worshippers of Jesus. We all know with what difficulty the human heart accustoms itself to believe what a man sees with his own eyes when it stands in contradiction with his wants and wishes; how, on the death of connections and close friends, and when we have ourselves closed their eyes and accompanied them to the grave, we cannot still divest ourselves of the idea that all we have gone through has only been a dream, that what is so dreadful has not taken place because it could not and should not have taken place; still more when we have not gone through it ourselves, but only heard of it at a distance. Far more strength must this feeling have acquired in a case in which with personal adherence there co-operated the most overpowering impulses of a deeply-rooted religious faith, a faith interwoven with all the threads of life, suppressing all other thoughts and interests. How far, in such a case, the power of sentiment will go, how the feeling of reverence and hope, and even that of fear and horror will work upon the imagination, we may learn from the legends of the return of Charlemagne and the Hohenstauffen Kings, and on the other hand, from the expectation of Nero's return, entertained by Christians and heathen. And yet these are but very weak analogies to the case which we have now before us. With the disciples of Jesus the question was not merely whether their Teacher and Master was alive or dead, but the question for them was whether His entire work was or was not nil, His doctrine and His miracles a fraud, their trust in Him a most miserable delusion, He Himself a false prophet, and as such rightly condemned to death on the accursed tree. They could not believe in Him and His destiny, they must give up their whole view of Him and their love to Him, all their hopes, all the fruits which their intercourse with Him had produced, unless they could secure the conviction that, notwithstanding His death He was still alive, and would, in time, gloriously complete His work. For us, from our point of view, this conviction would be sufficiently attained by the thought that He who had died in the body was, in the spirit, continuing to live with God. To the native of Palestine, who knew nothing of such a spiritual immortality, and according to whose faith there lay between death and resurrection only the gloomy ghost-like life in Scheol, this loophole was closed up. For him there was but one mode of rescuing himself and his faith from that shipwreck with which he was threatened by the opposition between actual facts and his dearest convictions; he was compelled to assume that, as at some future time God was to summon forth all the righteous from their graves, so He had already recalled from death Him whose resurrection must precede that of all others, taken Him up into His glory and exalted Him to that heaven, from which, moreover, the Messiah was to come. For the disciples of Jesus this assumption was all the more obvious, if He had Himself opened a view of this sort for the emergency of His death, though, it might be, only in indefinite allusions and images. But even without this to fall back upon, it could not have been difficult for them to find what it was a necessity for them to believe, foretold in numerous passages of the Old Testament writings, in a manner most luminously evident to them on their own principles of interpretation, as, indeed, find it they did. On the other hand, it is not necessary, for the explanation of their faith, to call in the aid of such accidental circumstances as this, that His sepulchre was found empty on the second day after His death. Instead of being misled by these accounts, improbable in themselves and only resting on their connection with the miracle of the resurrection, we shall do best to hold by the best accredited and thoroughly credible account (in Matthew and Mark), according to which the disciples first saw their risen Lord in Galilee; and, consequently, this district was the cradle of the faith in the resurrection. After the execution of Jesus, and perhaps even before it, His disciples fled in terror to their native home; here they first assembled again, and in the faith in the resurrection of their Master, found power for the continuance of His work; then when, after a considerable time, they returned to the capital, their belief could neither be gainsaid by the exhibition of His body, nor be strengthened by the sight of His vacant sepulchre. For no one now knew what had become of the body, which had probably been buried in the ground on which the crucifixion had taken place. Now the disciples might certainly have been convinced that Jesus had re-awakened from death and passed into a new and higher life, without therefore necessarily believing that they had themselves beheld the Risen One; and it is possible, indeed, that their faith in the resurrection took at first a simpler form. But the whole character and tone of the first Christian community made it almost impossible that that faith should continue merely as a dogmatic conviction of this character. All the conditions which originally produced that faith must have tended to give it the definite character of actual perception, the certainty of personal experience. So long as this was wanting, so long as the faith in the resurrection was still but an inward conviction, it left room for doubt; nothing but ocular demonstration could raise the much desired fact above all question. But how could this ocular demonstration be long wanting in a society which, by its very nature, was as little qualified as could be to distinguish accurately between the imaginary and the real, and which, moreover, had been at that time most profoundly excited in their inmost feelings, and lived more in the ideal world of their belief than in the external world of reality—a society for which it was a heartfelt necessity and an article of their faith to be expecting every moment the miracle of miracles, the coming of the Messiah from Heaven ; in which, by what they suffered from the dis-illusion they had undergone, by the agony they underwent from the murder of their beloved Teacher, by pain at the loss of all earthly blessings, by longing for salvation and certainty of salvation, by the shocking contradiction between reality, on the one part, and a glowing faith and hope on the other, the tension of religious feeling, the power of a pious imagination had been intensified to the utmost? If ever the internal and external conditions necessary for the production of visions were present in abundance, they were so in the case of this earliest society of the adherents of the Crucified. If we add that individual