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APPENDIX TO LECTURE VI
THE SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS OF JESUS.248
It is a significant circumstance that, in recent years, interest
has concentrated itself more and more on the question of Christ’s self-consciousness—that
is, on what He thought and felt about Himself, and on how He arrived at these
convictions. The fact is an illustration of the saying of Godet, quoted in the
Lecture, that in the last instance Christianity rests on Christ’s witness to
Himself. I have noted below some of the chief books which bear upon this subject,581581 Beyschlag’s Das Leben
Jesu, i. pp. 171–244—(”Das Selbstbewusstsein Jesu,“ “Der messianische
Beruf,” etc.). 1885. [Cf. his New Testament Theology.]
Gess’s Christi Person und Werk, nach Christi Selbstzeugniss, etc., vol. i. (1870).
Hermann Schmidt on “Bildung und Gehalt des messianischen Bewusstseins Jean,” in Studien and Kritiken (1889).
Grau’s Das Selbstbewusstsein Jesu im Licht der messianischen Hoffnungen seiner Zeit (1888, 2nd ed. 1892).
Wendt’s Die Lehre Jesu, vol. ii. (1890).
Stanton’s The Jewish and Christian Messiah (1886).
Lives of Christ, by Weiss, Keim, Hase, etc.
Biblical Theology of New Testament,—Weiss, Reuss, etc. and may refer here to a few of their results, only venturing very sparingly upon criticism.
The general subject is the origin and development of Christ’s Messianic consciousness, as that may be deduced from the Gospels, and the points chiefly discussed are the following:—
1. What was the fundamental fact in Christ’s Messianic consciousness out of which the other elements grew—the consciousness of a perfect religious relation to the Father (Beyschlag, Weiss, Wendt, etc.), or, behind this, of sinlessness? (Baldensperger).
2. When did Christ clearly realise His Messianic calling? —At the Baptism? (Beyschlag, Wendt, Baldensperger, etc.). Or earlier? (Neander, Hase, Weiss, etc.). Or not till a later period? (Renan, Strauss, Schenkel, etc.).249
3. Was Christ’s “plan” one and the same throughout? (Neander, Schmidt, etc.). Or, did Christ’s views change with the course of events? (Beyschlag, Schenkel, Hase, Keim, Baldensperger, etc.). Was it, e.g., only gradually that He realised the necessity of His death? (Beyschlag, Weiss, Baldensperger, Wendt, etc.).
4. The import and origin of the titles “Son of Man” and “Son of God.” Does the former represent Christ as “weak, creaturely man”? (Holsten, Wendt). Or as “ideal, typical man”? (Neander, Reuss, Beyschlag, etc.). Or simply as Messiah? (Baldensperger). Was it borrowed from Daniel (as most hold), and to what extent was it a popular, well-known title for Messiah? (Against this, Matt. xvi. 13.)
This title expresses the two ideas that Christ at once belongs to the race of humanity, and sustains a peculiar and unique relation to it. It may be held to denote Christ’s consciousness that He is true and perfect Man, that He sustains a universal relation to the race, and that He is the Messiah.
As respects the second title, does it denote an ethical and religious relation (so most of the above), or has it also any metaphysical (or, as I prefer to say, transcendental) implication? (Beyschlag, Reuss, Schmidt, etc.). Is it a tithe which Christ shares with others (in part Wendt), or uses in a peculiar and exceptional sense of Himself? (Beyschlag, Reuss, Weiss, etc.).
It will help the understanding of the subject if I sketch a little more fully the views of some of the above named writers.
Beyschlag’s view does not hang well together. It begins with a Christ who is unique among men—sinless, the Son of God in an absolute sense, whose nature is grounded in eternity, who works miracles, is raised from the dead, is translated into heavenly power and glory, who has Godhead, who demands worship; but who grows only gradually into the consciousness of His Messiahship, is limited in nature and gifts, makes mistakes, errs in His expectations, etc. Beyschlag’s opinions, however, contain many notable elements. On the general subject he says, “First in a Personality in which the Divine nature translates itself so perfectly into the human that it can be said, ‘Who sees Me, sees the Father,’ can the Divine Revelation 250perfect itself.”582582Leben Jesu, i. p. 39. The God-manhood is “the wonder of all wonders.”583583Ibid. i. p. 39. He separates himself from the Church doctrine,. and declares himself in favour of an “anthropocentric” Christology, though only on the ground, as he explains it, of “a theocentric anthropology,” that is, of the view that it is the image of God which is the essential thing in the nature of man.584584Ibid. i. p.46. He rejects Strauss’s view, that the sinlessness of Jesus is “the death of all true humanity,” and contends that “the Christ of faith” is no impossibility.585585Ibid. i. pp. 50, 56. The history of the childhood of Jesus, at the same time, he resolves into poetry, and thinks the birth from a virgin not essential to sinlessness, or to a new beginning of humanity.586586Ibid. pp. 146, 161, 162. On the self-consciousness of Jesus, he holds that the individuality of Jesus had its limitations, but in respect of the consciousness of a Divine Sonship was clear and absolute. “It is not the old Israelitish religious consciousness which lives in Jesus in such all-determining fashion, but a new, till then in the world unheard of and perfect consciousness, which not only is still unsurpassed but in its inwardness and clearness never can be surpassed.”587587Ibid. i. p. 175. Its central point is the consciousness of God as Father, to which the name “Son” corresponds. “Sonship to God (Gottessohnschaft) is the peculiar expression of the self-consciousness of Jesus.”588588Ibid. i. p. 176. This name represents the highest aim, or ideal, for all men, but still there is a singularity in its application to Jesus.589589Ibid. i. p. 177. God was His Father in a special sense. “While He calls God not merely ‘His’ Father, but names Him also ‘the’ Father absolutely, and teaches His disciples to pray ‘our Father in heaven,’ He yet never includes Himself with them under an ‘our Father,’ but always says ‘My Father’ or ‘your Father,’ thus distinguishing His relation from theirs.”590590Ibid. i. p. 178. This does not mean “that He is the first who has recognised and realised this destination to a Divine Sonship.” It means that, while all others become sons of God through a change of disposition—through conversion, the new birth, etc.—and not through themselves, but only through Him—His relation to the Father is original, perfect, absolute, so that He knows Himself to be the object of God’s 251love absolutely.591591Leben Jesu, i. p. 179. In this is involved His sinlessness.592592Ibid. i. p. 181. This is a necessary pre-supposition of Christian faith—the religious, moral absoluteness of Jesus, and the history confirms it.593593Ibid. i. p. 190. If He has not this absolute greatness, He is no Saviour of others, but stands in need of salvation Himself.594594Ibid. i. p. 190. This is the “Godhead” of Jesus. “It is never a relative greatness, however exalted and super-excellent it may be, but the absolute which is the appearance of Godhead in humanity; the religiously and morally perfect, and this alone, is in the domain of the human, the truly Divine, in which we can believe, and which admits of and demands worship.”595595Ibid. i. p. 191. But this religious-moral Godhead of Christ does not stand in opposition to a metaphysical. A real being of God in Him lies at the foundation of the consciousness of Christ, that which He expresses in the word, “I am in the Father and the Father in Me”; so that in Him in whom the eternal love has perfectly appeared an essential Godhead also may be recognised.596596Ibid. i. p. 191. The passages in John which seem to imply personal pre-existence, Beyschlag explains away by predestination, etc. On the Messianic calling, he finds the birth-moment of the Messianic consciousness of Jesus in the baptism.597597Ibid. i. p. 213. He reviews the opinions of those who would put it earlier or hater, and finds them untenable.598598Ibid. i. pp. 216, 217. But though Christ from this moment knew Himself to be the Messiah, He did not know what the course of His Messianic life was to be.599599Ibid. i. p. 289. He had no foreseen plan. “The public life of Jesus began under quite other stars than the expectation of the death of the Cross.”600600Ibid. i. p. 231. Beyschlag distinguishes three stages in the development of Christ’s ideas:601601Ibid. i. pp. 233–236.—
1. A stage when the kingdom is conceived of as near—standing at the door (early ministry in John).
2. Jesus realises that His people are anything but ready for the kingdom; and sees that its triumph will involve a long-protracted development (Galilean ministry).
3. He foresees His death, and the triumph of the kingdom is now transported into the future, in connection with a second advent. The name “Son of Man,” Beyschlag connects with 252 the Messianic dignity (from Daniel); but holds that Christ knew and felt Himself also as “the heavenly, archetypal (urbildlich). man.”602602Leben Jesu, i. p. 241. The reality of the resurrection is strongly defended, and the following explanation is given of the ascension. “What, then, was the original thought of the ascent to heaven? What else can it have been than that of the elevation of Jesus above the limits of the earthly life, of His translation into another, supramundane, Divine form of existence,—in a word, of His exaltation or glorification?”603603Ibid. i. p. 448.
H. Schmidt’s article in the Studien und Kritiken, on “The Formation and Content of the Messianic Consciousness of Jesus,” is an acute criticism of the views of Beyschlag and Weiss, and also an able independent treatment of the subject. He inquires “first as to the time in which Jesus came to the consciousness of His Messianic destination, and then what moments His Messianic consciousness comprehended, and what measure of clearness there was already present in Him as to the nature of His kingdom.”604604Stud und Krit. 1889, p. 425. As against Weiss, who seeks to lead from the consciousness of Christ’s unique Son-relationship to the consciousness of His Messiahship by way of inference, he argues very powerfully for a peculiarity in the self-consciousness of Jesus other than the mere sense of a perfect religious relation to the Father.605605Ibid. 1889, 432. Sonship implies a knowledge of the thoughts and love of God to the individual, not of God’s thoughts or purposes for the world. On the other hand—this against Beyschlag—the consciousness of a unique and sinless Sonship could not exist without the idea of a unique calling connected therewith.606606Ibid. 1889, p. 433. For Jesus to know that He was the only sinless Being in humanity, was already to know that He had a calling beyond that of a Nazarene carpenter. He strongly presses the point that the appearance of a perfectly sinless Being in the empirical state of the race is scarcely comprehensible by us “without the background of a distinction of essence”;607607Ibid. 1889, p. 499. and shows that Beyschlag’s admission that the peculiarity of Christ’s Person, as the absolute moral ideal, involves a permanent distinction between Him and others, and rests on a metaphysical background, is fatal to his “anthropocentric” view, for it means 253that the centre of Christ’s Person is in the suprahuman—the Divine.608608Stud. und Krit. 1889, p. 435. He examines the alleged traces of growth in the Messianic consciousness of Jesus during His public ministry, and demonstrates how weak are the grounds on which this view rests.609609Ibid. 1889, pp. 448–451. He holds it to have been inconceivable that Jesus should have been in unclearness in regard to, at least, “the constitutive moments” of His kingdom, and therefore in regard to His death.610610Ibid. 1889, p. 472. He combats Weiss’s view that Jesus thought at first only of Israel, not of a universal kingdom.611611Ibid. 1889, p. 490. “If at the entrance on His Messianic course, already the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them were offered to Him, one would think He must have had a wide glimpse into this world.”612612Ibid. 1889, p. 490. The whole essay deserves careful consideration.
Another critic of current theories is Grau, who thus defines the subject in his preface. “The capital question in this domain,” he says, is, “What Jesus has thought about Himself, His vocation, and the significance of His Person?” Another form of the question is, “How is the Christ of the Nicene Creed related to the Christ of the New Testament, and specially to the Christ of the Synoptics”?613613Das Selbstbewusstsein Jesu, Preface, pp. 5, 9. He criticises very severely the view of H. Schultz, in his work on The Godhead of Christ, but along with this, the theories of Beyschlag, etc. He quotes Schultz’s criticism on the Socinian writers, that they ascribed “a become Godhead” (eine gewordene Gottheit) to Christ, and asks wherein their view differed from his own, as expressed in the following passage: “If we teach the Godhead of Christ, it is that we are certain that Jesus, after He has completed His work, has become perfectly one with the Christ-idea of God. . . . God has made Him Lord and Christ. And so He has also received, as His personal attribute, the Godhead which is proper to the Christ. The Christ is for us God. Jesus has become God in becoming Christ.”614614Ibid. Preface, p. 12. The old view, Grau remarks, was that “God became man in Jesus Christ”; now the truth of salvation is expressed by Schultz and his friends in the proposition, “The man Jesus Christ has become God.” “This Godhead,” he says, “can be no ‘true’ Godhead, because it is one that has become. So, finally, is this whole 254representation nothing else than what it was with the Socinians—a misuse of the name of God.”615615Das Selbstbewusstsein Jesu, Preface, p. 13. Cf. the criticism of Schultz in Frank’s Gewissheit p. 444 (Eng. trans). Grau’s own book, however, though it goes on original lines, can hardly be recommended as a satisfactory contribution to the subject. He is often far from concise or clear in his statements, and somewhat unmethodical in his treatment. He does not systematically investigate the question of Christ’s self-consciousness—its development, relation to current ideas, contents, etc.—but aims rather at proving the thesis that Christ is the one who combines in His Messianic calling, all the attributes of Jehovah in the Old Testament. An elaborate discussion of the tithe “Son of Man” sums itself up in the following remark:—“This is the (title) Son of Man, the grasping together and fulfilment of all the offices m the kingdom of God which lie side by side in the Old Testament, and complete each other—those of shepherd, physician, priest (but also of sacrifice), of prophet, of king, and judge.”616616Ibid. p. 215.
A much more thorough discussion of the subject is Baldensperger’s recent work on The Self-Consciousness of Jesus in the Light of the Messianic Hopes of His Time. Baldensperger will have nothing to say to the “ideal man” theory—which he ridicules as an attempt to carry back our nineteenth-century ideas into a period to which they were quite strange—and treats the title “Son of Man” as simply a designation for the Messiah.617617Ibid. p. 137; 2nd ed. p. 178. Yet his general view is exposed to the same objections as Beyschlag’s. He makes Jesus first arrive dimly at the feeling that He is Messiah; then, aroused by John’s preaching and baptised, He reaches religious assurance (but still expecting, according to the ideas of the time, signs in confirmation of His call); He is perplexed (the Temptation); after this, He gains clearness, yet not such absolute certainty as warrants Him in publicly proclaiming Himself; ultimately he attains to this certainty, and at the same time sees that His victory is only to be secured through death, and now looks for the completion of the kingdom of God through the Parousia and last judgment, etc.618618See Wendt’s criticism in his Die Lehre Jesu, ii. pp. 307–310. It is obvious how much of all this is mere theory, without corroboration in the history. To mention only one objection—according to Baldensperger, Christ did not announce Himself as Messiah till 255the time of Peter’s confession,619619Das Selbstbewusstsein Jesu, ii. p. 177; 2nd ed. p. 246. while yet the name “Son of Man,” which Baldensperger takes to be quite equivalent to Messiah, is on His lips in the Gospels from the first.620620E.g., Matt. xi. 6; Mark ii. 10, 28. Cf. Das Selbstbewusstsein Jesu, ii. p. 179; 2nd ed. p. 249. To avoid this difficulty, the critic has no alternative but arbitrarily to change the order of the sections, and to assume that all those incidents in which this name occurs, took place after Peter’s confession—a violent and unwarrantable hypothesis.621621They are to be regarded as “erratic blocks” in the history, Das Selbstbewusstsein Jesu, p. 180; 2nd ed. p. 252. It is a weakness of Baldensperger’s theory that it fluctuates between a view according to which Jesus is certain of Himself, and another according to which He is in doubt and perplexity. Surely, if there is one thing clearer in the Gospels than another, it is that Christ is quite certain of Himself from the beginning. Not to build on this expression “Son of Man,” can we listen to the tone of authority in the Sermon on the Mount, and doubt it? The hypothesis of a wavering and fluctuating consciousness totally lacks support in the Gospel narrative. Had Christ any doubt of Himself when He answered John’s messengers, when He chose the twelve apostles, when He invited the labouring and heavy laden to come to Him for rest, when He said, “All things are delivered to Me of My Father,” etc.?622622Matt. xi. 27, 28. One thing which Baldensperger totally fails to show us is, what amount of reliance we are to place in self-beliefs of Christ, arrived at by the psychological methods he indicates, through contact with the apocalyptic notions of the time, etc. In other words, what objective value have these beliefs of Christ for us—His beliefs, e.g., about His atoning death, His Parousia, the judgment of the world, etc.? Apparently Baldensperger attaches great religious weight to these beliefs, stripped at least of their immediate form, yet it is not easy to see on what grounds he can do so. He leaves wholly undetermined, besides, Christ’s relation to His miracles, to the resurrection, etc., without which, surely, His self-witness is not set in its right light.
I would refer, finally, to the important discussion of these subjects in Wendt’s able and exhaustive work on The Doctrine of Jesus. In this book Wendt subjects the opinions of 256 Beyschlag and Baldensperger, as to a change in Christ’s views of His kingdom, to a careful criticism, and arrives at the con: elusion that, in all essential respects, Christ’s views of the nature and coming of His kingdom as a present, spiritual, gradually developing reality on earth, remained unchanged during the period of His ministry.623623Die Lehre Jesu, ii. pp. 307–325. He holds, however, that this does not apply to the details of the development; and grants, in agreement with the others, that at the beginning of His work Christ had no thought of the necessity of His death, not to speak of so speedy and frightful a death.624624Ibid. ii. pp. 306, 320. The difference of the two views, therefore, resolves itself into one of degree, for unless it is held that Christ’s death had no essential relation to the nature of His kingdom, and the manner of its setting up, it is impossible to say that ignorance in regard to that event did not affect the conception of the kingdom. Wendt, like Beyschlag, holds that the baptism was the moment of the miraculous revelation to Christ of His Messiahship, though He finds this prepared for in His previous consciousness of standing in an inner communion of love with His heavenly Father. “In this consciousness was given the psychological pre-supposition for His gaining the certainty of His own Messiahship, and therewith, at the same time, obtaining a new, higher knowledge of the nature and coming of the kingdom of God. But, previously to the baptism, this conclusion from His inner fellowship with God as His Son was to Him still not clear.”625625Ibid. ii. p. 316. On the meaning of the name “Son of Man,” Wendt argues strongly for the view that this title designates Christ as a weak, creaturely being—member, Messiah though He was, of the weak, creaturely race of humanity.626626Ibid. ii. pp. 442, 443. This view, in turn, is ably criticised by Baldensperger in the work noticed above.627627Ibid. ii. 2nd ed. p. 182, etc. It cannot be carried through without doing violence to many passages in which this name is evidently used by Christ as a tithe of dignity; the highest Messianic functions being claimed by him, not (as Wendt’s argument would require) despite of His being Son of Man but because He is Son of Man.628628Mark ii. 28; John v. 27, etc. In general, Wendt’s ideas of Jesus and His teaching are very high. “My interest in the historical treatment of the teaching of Jesus,” he says, 257“arises from the conviction that the historical Jesus Christ, in His annunciation, by word and deed, of the kingdom of God, was the perfect Revelation of God to men”; and again, “We recognise in His teaching concerning the kingdom of God the highest and perfect Revelation of God.”629629Preface to recent Eng. trans. of Die Lehre Jesu. Dr. Wendt, however, does not allow anything higher than an ethical Sonship to Jesus, identical in kind with that enjoyed by all the other members of the kingdom of God—“viz, a fellowship of love with God, in which God as the Father bestows His eternal salvation, and man as son trustfully and obediently appropriates and follows the will of God; only that Jesus knows that this relation of Sonship to God is realised in Himself in unique perfection, and on this account regards Himself as the Son of God κατ᾽ εξιχή“—P. 453. He expressly denies to Jesus pre-existence, or a transcendental mode of being, and explains away the sayings in John which seem to teach such higher existence.—Pp. 453–476. On the other hand, this high estimate is limited by the admission that on everything but the one peculiar point of His own mission—the founding of the kingdom of God—Jesus simply occupied the standpoint, and used the language, of His contemporaries. His views of the natural world—e.g. of the Old Testament, of angels and devils, of the future world, etc.—were simply those of His age, and liable to all the error and imperfection of the time.630630Die Lehre Jesu, ii. pp. 113–129. But then the question cannot help arising, If Jesus is avowedly wrong on all points where a scientific view of the world is concerned, how are we to trust Him when He speaks to us of supernatural and supersensible realities? May not His own words be applied, “If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?”631631John iii. 12. There need be no dispute as to what Dr. Wendt says of the religious ideas of Christ, of His spiritual conception of the kingdom of God, of His doctrine of the Divine Fatherhood, of His pure and exalted doctrine of righteousness. The sceptic would admit it all. He would only question whether, with the altered view of the world which has arisen since Christ’s time, such doctrines are tenable now as sober, objective truth. And to answer that question satisfactorily, firmer ground must be taken up in regard to Christ’s consciousness as a whole. Dr. Wendt’s book is, in many respects, a richly instructive one, full of suggestive points, but it lacks the means of guarding Christianity against the subjectivity which would grant to it every kind of moral worth and beauty, but would deny its objective truth as Revelation.260
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