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Sec. 1.—The Development of the Person of Jesus.

The Scriptures speak undeniably of a growth in wisdom in Jesus, consequently of an increase, a progress in His intellectual life; and not less distinctly do they intimate that His moral nature became gradually perfect. And were this not clearly taught in single passages,133133   For the intellectual growth of Jesus we have the classic words, προέκοπτε σοφίᾳ, Luke ii. 52: for His growth in moral perfection there are several passages in the Epistle to the Hebrews, especially chap. ii. 10-18, v. 7-9. Compare Scholten, Oratio de vitando in Jesu Christi historia Docetismo, pp. 15-19; De Wette, Das Wesen des christlichen Glaubens, § 53, p. 269; and Riehm, Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbriefs, i. pp. 327, etc. Keim especially has endeavoured to bring forward the several stages of ‘the human development of Jesus’ in his lecture under this title. His remarks are frequently striking, but there are also many points with which we are unable to agree. Also Gess, in another, and decidedly positive sense, in his Lehre von der Person Christi: see many passages, but especially p. 210, and pp. 304 seq. it would naturally follow, from the view everywhere taken in the New Testament, that the entire life of Jesus was an actual human life, shorn of no quality or power proper to man. But if Jesus did advance 110intellectually and grow in moral perfection, this, it is said, involves a defective beginning, and thus excludes original and symmetrical perfection.

To this we reply: Certainly the gradualness, the successive character, of the development of Jesus, must be maintained. But growth and increase do not necessarily assume transition from a state of deficiency to one of sufficiency,—do not presuppose an inner antagonism of sin, or an overcoming of the religious and moral error connected therewith. All that they really imply is, development taking place in time. There is nothing to hinder this development itself from being a perfectly pure one. The notion of growth does but furnish another proof that Jesus shared in everything that really belongs to finite, human nature. This is, however, as little denied by any, as it can, on the other side, be proved that mere human development, as such, necessarily involves some amount of sin. In itself it may be conceived of as a perfectly normal development, in which indeed different degrees succeed each other, each free from actual disturbance, each exhibiting in greater maturity some quality which was but prepared for in former stages, but which yet existed potentially from the very beginning.134134   The idea of development does not of itself involve the passing through antagonisms and conflicts, or, ‘that at every step in advance the hindrances universally presented by evil have to be surmounted, and some one of its disturbing elements to be reduced to inactivity.’ This is only true of the development of individuals, and of mankind, when evil has already gained power over them, i.e. when they are, morally considered, in an unnatural condition. ‘But only a slavish dependence on a narrow empiricism, whose inductions will not even bear application to the sphere of nature, can. lead us to represent the present form of human development as its natural and necessary one. That would be a true development in which nothing should ever be lost at a higher which had been once really possessed at a lower stage; and simply on the ground that there was nothing which it were needful and good to lose, simply because at no point was there anything which tended to interfere with or thwart the vocation of the being whose development was going forward.’ See Jul. Müller’s Christian Doctrine of Sin, vol. i. pp. 80-86 of third ed. Besides, that which specially characterizes the notion of moral development is not its negative side, viz. the conquest of evil, but positive growth in good; and it is just in this latter sense that it is applied to Jesus.


That this was so in the case of the Lord Jesus, cannot indeed be positively demonstrated, throughout the whole course of His life; but still less can the contrary be proved. Nay more, not only are we justified in inferring from the subsequent perfection of Jesus, that the manner in which it was attained was in general normal, but we have also a particular fact corroborating this conclusion, and making it evident to the mind. The fact referred to is, of course, that most significant resting-place afforded us by the narrative of His visit to Jerusalem during His twelfth year.135135   Luke ii. 41-51. We find, even at this early age, that which ever formed the centre of His being, even the consciousness of an entirely unique relation to God; and yet this is at the same time expressed in a manner perfectly appropriate to His youthful years. This narrative is a type of His whole development; it represents His ideality in a childlike form, and therefore the ideality of childhood in genera1.136136   Lange, Leben Jesu, vol. ii. p. 127.

This thought of a perfectly normal development does not by any means bring us within the regions of the magical and docetical, but rather expresses the restoration of human nature to its integrity,—nature in its primal purity and holiness; for an orderly, faultless development is proper to 112nature when interfered with by no inward or outward restraint. Nature, in its Divine origin, is purity itself. We should be on our guard, therefore, against introducing anything unnatural into the intellectual condition of Jesus, by representing Him as a precocious child, and ascribing to Him as a boy the knowledge of truth, the moral earnestness and the depth of a man. Such a condition would not be a miracle worthy of God, but an unnatural monstrosity.137137   There is not a trace of such monstrosities as these in the sober narrative of the canonical Gospels, while, as is well known, they are to be found in the apocryphal histories of Jesus. See my work, Historisch oder Mythisch? § 4. At every period of His existence He realized just that measure of intellectual culture and moral life of which human nature is at that point capable, without ceasing to be human nature. In a word, He was exactly and fully what a man can be at each successive step of his life. As He was a perfect man, so was He also a perfect boy and youth, and of a certainty no stranger to the modes of thought and observation which are peculiar to childhood and youth; yet all was characterized by a holy simplicity and beauty. His progress was like that of a beautiful flower, to whose free growth there is no hindrance, and of which we should never require that whilst in the germ it should bud, and whilst budding, possess the glory of perfect bloom; but only that at each step in its development it should be in every respect what it then ought to be.138138   The fundamental thought of all this was expressed even by ‘remelts in the well-known passage, adv. hæres. ii. 22, where, among other things, it is said: ldeo (Christus) per omnem venit ætatem et infantibus infans factus, sanctificans infantes; in parvulis parvulus, sanctificans hanc ipsam habentes ætatem; in juvenibus juvenis, etc. Among modern writers it will be found in Schleiermacher, Glaubenslehre, ii. 178, and Olahausen, Bibl. Comment. i. 134.

As little ought we absolutely to deny the existence of what was individual and national in the education of Jesus, 113and the influence thereon of external circumstances. Everything human is subject to influences of this nature. And as those whom we rightly call men of genius are not essentially moulded and determined by that which comes to them from without, but possess the power to employ it for the most part as a means to their own development, and to the manifestation of that which is in them by nature, we may surely conceive of a mind of which this holds true in so eminent and unqualified a manner, that everything tendered by outward conditions is simply and only the means and material of self-development,—a mind which, in the perfectly independent course of its development, appropriates nothing narrow and unworthy, but only the good and the salutary of all that its external circumstances present.139139   See Martensen’s Dogmatik, § 141, p. 315. We do not deny that there was in the religious faith of the nation to which He belonged, and in the character of the family and surroundings amidst which He grew up, much which might naturally exercise either a salutary or restraining influence upon Him. The sacred types and teachings of the Old Testament were certainly as little lost upon Him, as the impression made by all that met His eyes, whether in nature, or among His fellow-men. But who would attempt to bring these forward as offering a sufficient explanation of the peculiarity of His whole mental life? In the case of other distinguished personages, the elements from which their characters were developed may be, as a rule, to a great degree at least, pointed out. But who is there who still conceives the notion of deriving Christianity from Essenism, or from Egyptian priest-lore, or of making Jesus Christ the happy medium between Pharisaism and Saduceeism? Or who could imagine that He had made an Abraham, a Moses, an Elijah, or any other Old Testament character His model? No; if ever there was, in the intellectual and moral realm, an 114original, a creative, a primitive phenomenon, it was the character of Jesus Christ.140140   Compare Schaff, p. 12, and Young’s Christ of History, p. 197. His development did indeed take place in a course of most lively reciprocity of action with the world,141141   For detailed proof, see Keim’s already quoted works, pp. 12 seq. but not in any dependence upon it; while aught of imitation cannot even be thought of. Together, however, with this extreme originality, is found that universal character which makes Him a model for the whole human race; and these united characteristics offer, at the same time, most valid security that His development was of a healthy and normal nature, because, while, apart from all disturbing influences, it resulted, in all that was essential, wholly from within, it was yet such as to place Him on a height on which He appears as the unsurpassed model of all future ages.

What has hitherto been advanced, tends of course merely to make plain the possibility of conceiving in Jesus a perfectly pure development. But at present this is all we need, inasmuch as our only aim at this point is to show that development does not of itself involve sin. The positive certainty that the development of Jesus was sinless, must be sought in another direction,—namely, by proving that it is an indispensable presupposition, if the actual condition and character of Jesus at a subsequent period is to be satisfactorily explained, and not to seem utterly out of connection with His earlier life.

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