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A STUDY of the attitude of Jesus to His suffering and death naturally demands a close investigation of His sayings in the Gospels. It is, however, undesirable in the highest degree to proceed to the interpretation of these sayings without giving careful attention to the problems of sources, of language, and of text, to the history of exegesis, to the causes which led to the emergence of the Gospels, the conditions out of which they came and the ends they were intended to serve. It is necessary also to consider the relationship between the recorded words of Jesus and the things He actually taught and said. How far, for example, have later ideas and beliefs coloured the record, and with what qualifications can we depend upon its genuineness?

These are obviously complicated and difficult questions, but of their importance and necessity there can be no doubt. Their difficulty is enhanced by the fact that many of them involve still further inquiries. It is necessary, for example, to have regard to that which is taught concerning the Atonement in the rest of the New Testament, and to the history of the doctrine in the succeeding centuries down to the present day, for otherwise the distinctiveness of the sayings of Jesus cannot be justly appraised. Equally important is it to study the sayings against the background of thought and action found in the Old Testament. The thought of Jesus is steeped in that of the Old Testament and cannot be understood apart from it. It follows, therefore, that to attempt to understand His words without a preliminary study of such 16 conceptions as the Kingdom of God, the Messianic Hope, the Son of Man, the Son, the Suffering Servant, and the idea of Sacrifice, is disastrous.

The importance of a study of the Old Testament is especially clear from the history of the attempts to interpret the life and thought of Jesus during the last fifty years. Many curious theories have gained a lively, if shortlived currency. Jesus has been represented as an Essene, or a Buddhist, or a Socialist, or as an Eastern mystic. It has even been questioned if He ever lived at all; and, where the extremer fashions have been successfully resisted, the tendency has been to modernize His figure, to dress Him in the clothes of a twentieth-century teacher, and to represent His teaching as a kind of genial morality suitable to the needs of an enlightened bourgeoisie. These pictures were shattered by the artillery of Albert Schweitzer who forced us to look upon a Jesus strange to our time.11   See The Quest of the Historical Jesus. Step by step we have been driven back, behind the Apocalyptic Literature, to the Old Testament itself, and compelled to see Jesus in its light. The New Testament scholar has shown that Aramaic tradition lies behind the Gospel record; the Old Testament scholar, with the added discipline of Comparative Religion, has continued to elucidate the ideas and practices of Hebrew religion; and the student of the Rabbinical Literature has expounded the ideas of later Judaism. In consequence, we have rediscovered the obvious: the Old Testament, we find, is of vital significance for our understanding of the mind and thought of Jesus. We perceive that, while we may be hampered by a limited acquaintance with the New Psychology, we are entirely disqualified for the investigation if we do not know the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. It is in this persuasion that Part I of the present inquiry 17 is devoted to the study of the Old Testament background of the thought of Jesus. It is necessary, however, to emphasize the fact that this part of the investigation is only a preliminary stage. We do not possess the key to the mind of Jesus when we know the relevant Old Testament concepts; all we have gained is the right to approach the door. Such is His originality that it is never safe to assume that He simply appropriated whatever lay ready to hand. He takes over traditional ideas and makes them His own. If He is to speak at all, they are necessary to Him, but almost always they are an embarrassment; they clothe His thoughts, but need to be stretched, patched, and refashioned, because the life they hide is too strong.

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