« ПредишнаНапред »
that while we may indeed be doubtful of many individual points, we are sure of the collective figure resulting from all these individual features by their unsought-for coincidence in the main.
Now if we attempt to sketch, first of all, the outline of this figure, to get, independent first of all of His more immediate national and theoretic commission, a view of the religious consciousness of Jesus, we are immediately struck by a feature of fundamental importance—that peculiar inward relation into which Jesus places Himself towards God, and which He expresses by the constant description of God as His Father. With this, therefore, each of the two writers has started in his discussion of the life of Jesus. The peculiar source of His strength, says Renan (p. 73), was an exalted idea of the Divinity which He did not owe to Judaism, but which appears to have been altogether a creation of His own great soul. He feels God within Himself, He bears Him within Himself; He preaches, therefore, not a doctrine, but He preaches Himself; and He preaches at the same time God as the Father of all men, and the kingdom of God, by which, Ben an thinks, He understood originally not an external Messianic kingdom, but the reign of true piety, and with which is connected the morality which is especially proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount. This morality did not indeed, as Renan says, set up really new principles, but the purest of these already set up acquired, in virtue of the person who preached them, by the amiable character of the new Rabbi, His charming appearance, His enchanting form, a "poesy" which gave them a penetrative force entirely new. The latter notion is indeed strange enough; if Jesus had really nothing new to say to his generation, no personal charms would have availed to invest Him with the importance He possessed. To say nothing of the fact that Henan's conjectures as to His external appearance, which remind one more of a hero of romance, are altogether arbitrary and entirely unnecessary to explain His subsequent success. Socrates, at least, who in his own time exercised a similar power of attraction over men, was distinguished among his countrymen by exactly the opposite, namely, his ugliness. But Renan's remark as to the fundamental religious view of Jesus, does undoubtedly hit the central point of our question. This has been more accurately investigated by Strauss. Starting from the moral doctrine of the Sermon on the Mount, he shows how this itself, in its religious precepts (Matt. v. 45), suffices for becoming a Son of God, who maketh His sun to rise upon the evil and the good; and he at once recognises in this a fundamental feature of the piety of Jesus: "He felt and conceived of the Heavenly Father as the impartial Goodness," and on this very account Jesus preferred, above all, to designate Him by the name of " Father." But when He made this view, which the New Testament scarcely touches on in a single isolated passage, the fundamental view of the relation of God to man—" this could only originate in Himself, it could only be the consequence of that impartial goodness being the fundamental tendency of His own character, and of His being, in this, conscious of His agreement with God." "He conceived of God, in a moral point of view, as being identical in character with Himself in the most exalted moments of His religious life, and ■ strengthened in turn His own religious life by this ideal. But the most exalted religious tendency in His own consciousness was exactly that comprehensive love, overpowering the evil only by the good, and which He therefore transferred to God as the fundamental tendency
of His nature." How from this there proceeded, on the one hand, the call to be perfect even as God is perfect, the call to that perfect righteousness with which Jesus met the externality of the Mosaic law ; on the other hand, the principle of the most comprehensive charity towards all men, unlimited and unreserved, the recognition of the equality of all men before God, and of equal duty towards all men—how for Jesus Himself there arose from this universal charity towards man and from the feeling of a union with the Godhead, an inward cheerfulness exalting Him above all external deprivations, anxieties, and wishes —all this I will only briefly point out in this place: the proofs are at hand for every one in sayings, the authenticity of which cannot be called in question. But if we ask how this harmonious disposition arose in Him, Strauss (vol. i., p. 282) remarks, and most truly, that it cannot be assumed that it was preceded by severe internal struggles; for that in all natures which were not enlightened until they had gone through violent conflict and rupture, as was the case with Paul, Augustin, and Luther, the marks of this continued for ever, and there clung to them for life something harsh, acrid and gloomy, of which not a trace is found in Jesus. He appears from the first a beautiful and graceful nature, which had only to develop itself out of itself, to become continually more and more clearly conscious of itself, more and more firmly established in itself, but not to turn round and begin a new life. It is self-evident in His case that, in being what He was, He had no idea of excluding individual errors and weaknesses, the necessity for continuous moral labour, and of accepting the dogma, as such, of the sinlessness of Christ; and with reference to this point he says, with good reason on the occasion of the baptism by John, that even the best and purest of men may ever accuse himself of many errors, of much neglect and much precipitation, and that it is in exact proportion with the completeness of its perfection that the soul is sensitive of the slightest impurity of the moral impulses, of the slightest deviation from the moral ideal. And if, besides universal experience and the conclusion resting upon the conditions of our own moral development, a special historical proof is required, Strauss refers us in part to the baptism at the Jordan which was certainly an act of expiation, in part to the expression of Jesus in which he disclaims the epithet of "good," because it only belongs to God; and in the same sense he might have reminded us of the prayers "Forgive us our sins," and "Leadus not into temptation," which no one, it appears to me, who feels himself unconditionally elevated above human weakness, in a moral point of view, could either utter in his own name, or even dictate to others, with that entire personal sympathy which is to be supposed in the case of one who offers a prayer.
It is easy to see that the stand-point of the religious life, which we are historically justified in ascribing to Jesus, was in profound and fundamental opposition not only to the then prevailing Rabbinico-Pharisaic acceptation of Mosaism, but also to the original tendency of it. It is a different question how clearly Jesus himself was conscious of this opposition, and how definitely He expresses Himself on the subject. As to this point our Gospels, even independent of the fourth, contain different accounts, and these, to a certain extent, irreconcilable. The relation between them and the credibility of each respectively is examined by Strauss, with his accustomed circumspection (vol. i., p. 283), and the result at which he arrives is that Jesus had a far clearer insight into the novelty of His principle, and the incompatibility between it and the old Jewish character, than was attained by any one of His personal disciples. In proof of this he appeals to the relation in which Jesus stood to the holiday of the Sabbath, to fasting, and to the law of divorce; he appeals to the expulsion of dealers out of the temple, including, as it does, an attack upon the whole sacrificial system, and in which we may recognise a feeling of displeasure at the externality of this mode of worshipping God. He appeals to the saying about the destruction of the Temple, which he rightly supposes that Jesus really uttered in order to point to the future abolition of the Temple worship. But if Matthew v., 18, 19, is brought forward in opposition to this view, he shows convincingly that these two verses, which absolutely interrupt the connection of the thoughts, must be a later interpolation either into the text of Matthew, or at all events into the original tradition of the speech of Jesus. But the most decisive proof will always rest upon the explanations given in the Sermon on the Mount, which, in their magnificent boldness and their moral ideality, cannot possibly be looked upon as a product of later dogmatism, either that of the Jewish Christian, whose law-service they far outstrip, or the Pauline, whose peculiar thoughts and watch-words do not appear in them, but throughout only as the especial creation of Jesus. "It was said to them of old, but / say to you." In these words Jesus appears as a new lawgiver in opposition to Moses; and in treating of the Law of Moses as an imperfect thing, which on account of the stiffneckedness of the nation, had remained standing on a lower ground, in applying in His new law the outward command to the inner heart, in requiring, instead of the legal act, the innocent disposition, and the corresponding