The Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus/Part 4/Section 9
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8. Historians and the Gospels
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9. The Words of the Lord
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9. The Words of the Lord. 
(a) The Tradition of the Words of the Lord.—Wundt also holds, as quoted by Zimmern, that “the story of the Passion is, with the exception of a few [which?] details of sufficient (!) historical credibility, a tissue of legends.” “But,” he says, “what we do not find affected by these legends, or in any of the mythological prototypes, are the sayings and discourses of Jesus, as they are reported in the synoptic gospels.” Schneider also sees in his teaching the best proof of the historical existence of Jesus (p. 465). What must we make of this statement? In other words, what evidence do the words of Jesus afford of his historical reality?
We have already pointed out that the contents of the gospels point to two sources—a record of the actions of Jesus and a collection of his sayings, which we obtain from the parallels in Matthew and Luke as compared with Mark. But we also pointed out how uncertain our knowledge of this collection of sayings is—so uncertain that we may justly speak of this source as “a completely unknown x.”
What makes this tradition of sayings so valuable to theologians is the circumstance that they believe it brings them much nearer to Jesus than the gospel of Mark. It is true that they cannot deny that, even if they succeeded in entirely and confidently reconstructing this tradition, of which there is as yet no question, we should still have only a book with a certain literary form or composition, arranged on the lines of literary composition. “By means of the sayings-source we do not at once reach Jesus, but the community. To put it precisely: in suitable cases we learn from the source what seemed to the community the characteristic, distinctive, and indispensable thing in Jesus” (Weiss, p. 159).
Now, in view of the entire constitution of the so-called primitive community, that is not a great achievement. It is even less when we reflect that, as we have previously pointed out, we are not at all sure that the traditional “words of the Lord” are the words of a single historical individual—namely, the historical Jesus. Theologians assume this; but they are again merely begging the question—a vice which infects the whole of their historical method. “Words of the Lord”—we cannot repeat it too often—are in Scripture so frequently merely words which the Lord (namely, Jahveh) gives to his followers through the “spirit” that, even granting the existence of an historical Jesus, it would be impossible to discriminate between what is due to the “spirit” in the collection and what is due to Jesus. We do not know whether the collection of sayings expressly contained only the words of Jesus, or also included sayings which were on other grounds thought worthy of being admitted. We cannot say whether words which were believed to have been spoken under the influence of the “spirit” were not afterwards incorporated in the gospels and put in the mouth of Jesus simply because the best and most important sayings must have come, in the opinion of his followers, from the lips of him whom they venerated as “the Lord” in the specific sense of the word.
That a great deal that is tendentious, partisan, misunderstood, and of late origin has found its way among the “words of the Lord” in the gospels, that different phases of religious thought have found expression in them and armed themselves with the authority of the “Lord of Lords,” is admitted by all critical students. Some idea can be formed of how much breaks down in this way if one takes the trouble to strike out of the gospels the words of Jesus which are recognised as interpolations.
But have we any guarantee of the substantial truthfulness at least of the tradition? We are referred to the form of the tradition, the deep impression of the words of the teacher in the memory of his hearers, the accurate, almost verbal, retention of detail that distinguishes the rabbinical instruction. We are told that the Talmud shows the tenacity and conscientiousness of such a tradition. Granting, however, that the circumstances of the tradition were really so favourable, how came the various sayings of Jesus to be handed down to us in so many different forms as we actually have them? How can we explain that so much was lost of the words of Jesus that was certainly important, while so much that is unimportant was preserved? Yet we cannot suppose that Jesus said and preached no more than we have in the gospels as his words. “What was a precept of the school to the pupils of the rabbis,” says Weiss, “became for the disciples of Jesus a question of beatitude. The words of the master were a matter of life and death; they were the foundation of the community, and the accurate determination of the words was their most important duty” (p. 162). It is remarkable, however, that the ostensibly earliest Christian writings lay so little stress on the words of Jesus that Clement, James, The Teaching of the Apostles, etc., quote the words of the Lord without expressly describing them as sayings of Jesus; that Paul himself seems to know nothing of them, since, as we saw, there is not a single clear case of his referring to sayings of Jesus, even where the similarity of idea ought to have reminded him of them, or the context should have actually compelled him to quote the authority of the master for his views.
How is it that, if Weiss is right, the words of Jesus played hardly any part in the early days of Christianity? Weinel's statement (p. 15) that the sayings of Jesus, not Christology, were the chief concern of the first Christians cannot be vindicated by a single historical fact. According to Acts, the first Christian sermon was not a repetition of the teaching of Jesus, but a discourse about Jesus, as we learn in the instances of Peter, Stephen, Philip, and Apollo. If they really believed that these sayings belonged to an historical Jesus, why have they not been more carefully preserved? How was it possible for this collection of sayings to be lost? One would think that so valuable a thing as the words of their Lord and master would have been guarded by the community as a sacred treasure, copied innumerable times, and handed on from one generation to another. Instead of this, it seems that the mere memory of the existence of such a collection was entirely lost by Christians for centuries, and it was reserved for modern critical theologians to establish the former existence of such a source. As if providence had wished to reserve this material for their learned investigations.
(b) The Controversies with the Pharisees.—An attempt has recently been made to provide a proof that the “sayings of the Lord” in the gospels really come from the historical Jesus. These sayings and teachings, it is said, these conflicts with the Pharisees, these conversations with the disciples, parables, etc., are so “unique” and “inimitable,” stand so far above all the rest of ancient literature, and have so pronounced a personal character, that they could only come from a personality, and, indeed, from the Jesus of the gospels. The logical defect of this deduction is obvious. No one has ever questioned that the words of Jesus in the gospels have a thoroughly personal and individual colouring, that they convey an impression of definite historical situations, and that they reflect the feelings and thoughts of a personal inner life. But whether this was the life of a single individual, or a number of individuals in different circumstances contributed to the “sayings of the Lord” in the gospels—whether this single personality was the Jesus of the gospels or some prominent rabbi—is the great point in question.
The many irreconcilable contradictions that we find in the sayings of Jesus rather suggest that several persons, not one only, are behind them. And if they really belonged to one single personality, they could be traced to Jesus only in so far as he was known to us from other sources; in that case only should we have a right to say that none but so “unique” a person as this Jesus could have uttered such “unique” sayings. But we know this Jesus and the “uniqueness” of his inner life only from the words ascribed to him in the gospels. Thus the argument always runs in a circle when one attempts to prove the “uniqueness” of Jesus from the character of his words, and the “unique” character of his words from the “uniqueness” of the Jesus of the gospels.
Are these sayings really of such a character that they must be due to so extraordinary a personality as Jesus?
Take his conflicts with the Pharisees. The Evangelists are eager to show the superiority of their Jesus to the Pharisees and scribes in certain distinctive circumstances, and to put it in the clearest possible light. Over and over again the Pharisees approach the Saviour to put him to the test or ensnare him in the coils of their rabbinical dialectic, and over and over again they retire confounded and shamed by the clearness of his mind. Yet in very many cases the way in which Jesus confounds his learned opponents is such that we hardly know which is the more surprising, the utter unsoundness and meaninglessness of his replies, or the simplicity of the Pharisees in accepting them.
Thus, for instance, the disciples pluck ears of corn on the Sabbath, and when the Pharisees reproach Jesus for this he replies: “Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him? How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?” (Matthew xii, 3). As if the action of the disciples could be in any way compared with the conduct of a hungry army, to which, moreover, the Jewish law even permitted the eating of unclean food! And as if the offering of sacrifice in the temple on the Sabbath were forbidden!
On another occasion the Sadducees put him the captious question, to which husband a woman would belong after death who had married seven brothers in succession, and Jesus reproaches them with not knowing the law, since in the next world people would neither marry nor be given in marriage, but be like the angels in heavens, and he adds: “As touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard this”—the Evangelist observes—“they were astonished at his doctrine” (Matthew xxii, 30-33). Why were they astonished? Can they really have supposed that the words of Jesus were a refutation of the Sadducaean view that there was no resurrection of the dead? That God is the God of the living does not prove that life is not extinguished at death. And what the object is of bringing in the patriarchs it is impossible to say. When, moreover, Jesus accuses the Sadducees of ignorance of the law, he clearly forgets that precisely according to the law the woman never ceases to be the wife of her first dead husband, however many husbands she may subsequently wed. How, then, could he silence the Sadducees, or “stop their mouths,” as Luther puts it, with such a remark?
Another time the Pharisees ask him, as he teaches in the temple, by what authority he does this; and Jesus replies with a question about the origin of John's baptism, whether it was from heaven or from men; and when they dare not reply—for certain very improbable reasons—he answers, arrogantly: “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things” (Matthew xxi, 23), and thus evades their question.
The greatest victory of Jesus over the Pharisees is supposed to have been when he asked them whose son the Messiah was, and they said, the son of David. He then said to them: “How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool [Psalm cx, 1]? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?” (Matthew xxii, 43-45). The gospel says that this reply so confounded the Pharisees that they dared not answer him, and put no more questions to him from that day. As a matter of fact, the reply of Jesus contains so obvious a fallacy that at the most we could only understand the behaviour of the Pharisees as a reluctance to have anything further to do with a man who answered in such a way.
Generally speaking, the Pharisees in the gospel description are anything but plausible. These zealots of the law who ask Jesus for a proof of his Messianic mission (Matthew xii, 38; xvi, 1), while the law expressly forbids them to attach any importance to the signs and wonders of a false prophet (Deut. xiii), these heads of the community who allow themselves to be called by Jesus hypocrites, blind, serpents, and generation of vipers, calmly submit to these insults before the crowd, put their hands in their pockets, plot the destruction of Jesus, and meantime allow him to teach in the temple and the synagogue—these are certainly not historical personalities, especially when we observe that none of them is personally described or named, whereas the Talmud scarcely ever omits to name the persons in its record of the innumerable discussions of the rabbis with their opponents. We have already seen the origin of these Pharisees who are silenced by Jesus on every occasion and quietly allow themselves to be “struck on the mouth” or instructed by him; they come from the book of Job, where we read in the twenty-ninth chapter: “The princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth. The nobles held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth. When the ear heard me, then it blessed me……After my words they spake not again; and my speech dropped upon them. And they waited for me as for the rain, and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain”—that is to say, they looked forward eagerly to the words of Job, which the Evangelist has perverted into the sense that the Pharisees sought to destroy Jesus, not to be inwardly strengthened by him. In any case, we have no reason to be “surprised” at the way in which Jesus escapes the toils of his enemies. His dialectic is by no means of a high order, as anyone will perceive who compares the conflicts of Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees with the way in which Socrates confounds his opponents in the Platonic dialogues. There is no question whatever of “uniqueness” in this respect in the case of Jesus.
(c) Sayings of Jesus on the Weak and Lowly.—Among the finest characteristics of Jesus we must place, it is said, his relation to the lowly, his love of children, his sympathy with the least conspicuous objects in nature. It is assuredly a touching and amiable feature in a man like Jesus to stoop so lovingly to the weakest of the weak, to look with tender eye on the flowers of the field and the birds of heaven, to contrast their indifference to the future with man's constant concern about his maintenance (Matthew vi, 26). But that this feature is not “unique” we learn from the Talmud, where we read: “Hast thou ever seen a bird or a beast of the forest that must secure its food by work? God feeds them, and they need no effort to obtain their nourishment. Yet the beast has a mind only to serve man., He, however, knows his higher vocation—namely, to serve God; does it become him, then, to care only for his bodily wants?” (Kidushin 4, Halach 14). “Hast thou ever seen a lion bearing a burden, or a stag gathering the summer's fruits, or a wolf buying oil? Yet all these creatures are sustained, though they know no care about their food. But I, who have been created to serve my creator, must be more concerned about my nourishment.”
Further, one might hold that Isaiah's description of the Saviour as especially sympathetic to the weak and needy would suffice of itself to “invent” the feeling of Jesus for children and embody it in the figure of his human personality. Children were, as the Talmud shows, greatly cherished among the Jews, and the love of them is deep-rooted in the Jewish character. “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings,” says the psalmist (viii, 2), “hast thou ordained strength [praise]”; and Jesus repeats this to the high-priests and their followers, when they are indignant at the cry with which the children greet him in the temple (Matthew xxi, 15). In the same psalm it is said (4 and 5): “What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.” “About the Messiah,” says the Talmud, “will all gather who seek in the law, especially the little ones of the world; for by the boys who still frequent school will his strength be increased.”
From these words we understand, even from the mythic-symbolical point of view, the saying: “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew xix, 14) or the scene where Jesus calls a child, sets him in the midst of the disciples, who have asked who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and says: “Verily, I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew xviii, 2-4). We read in the Talmud: “A young man deserves praise when he becomes [in mind] like the children” (Tanchuma, fol. 36, col. 4), and “Whosoever humbles himself in this life for love of the law, the same will be reckoned among the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Baha Mezia, fol. 84, col. 2). It is not clear, moreover, that the meaning of the relevant passages in the gospels is not symbolical, and the “children” for whom Jesus cares are not, as W. B. Smith says, proselytes to the belief in Jesus. For the Talmud speaks of those who have recently joined Judaism as “children.” “Whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew xviii, 5 and 6). We must remember the many conflicts among the first Christians, even in the second century, as to whether a pagan on embracing the Christian faith should submit to the Jewish law and be circumcised or not, and the disdain of the Jew-Christians for the Gentile-Christians. “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the son of man is come to save that which was lost……Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew xviii, 10, 14). This should make an end of such sentimental stuff as Weinel puts before his readers on p. 86 of his work, as a sort of Indo-Germanic importation into the feelings and ideas of Jesus, when he says that Jesus was enabled to “hear the voice of God in bush and tree, in the harvest and the song of birds, in the blooming flowers and the play of children.”
Jesus says in Matthew xi, 25:—
- I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
- Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.
- All things are delivered unto me of my Father; and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
- Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
- Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
- For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
These words are among the finest attributed to Jesus, but they are based on literary borrowing. The place that Jesus ascribes here to himself in regard to his father is precisely the relation of wisdom to Jahveh in the book of Wisdom (vii, 14; viii, 3; xvii, 28). In the book of Jesus Sirach also it is written: “Secure wisdom, which is not bought with gold. Bend your necks under its yoke, and let your soul receive justification. Close is it to him who desires it, and whosoever gives himself to it, he findeth it. See it with your eyes; little have I laboured, and have found much refreshment in it” (li, 25). In fact, Wisdom itself makes Sirach speak thus: “Come unto me, ye that desire me, and sate yourselves with my fruits. For the thought of me is better than sweet honey, and the possession of me better than virgin honey. They that eat me shall ever hunger after me, and they that drink me shall ever thirst after me. He that heareth me shall not be ashamed, and they that use me shall not sin” (xxiv, 19). The idea of the supper in which the blood of the Lord is drunk and his body eaten, to purify from sin, is perceived in these words. But we fully realise that these words of Jesus were really taken from the Scriptures and put into the mouth of Jesus by the Evangelist when we find that the first conception goes back once more to the prophet Isaiah, the great source of the gospels:—
- Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
- Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
- Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David (Isaiah lv, 1-3).
In this sense Jesus sends away the rich young man who cannot bring himself to abandon his wealth for the sake of the kingdom of heaven: “Verily, I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven……It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew xix, 23). This, again, is a familiar saying of the rabbis, in which the man who pretended to believe some impossibility was asked: “Are you from Pombeditha [in Babylonia], where they can drive an elephant through the eye of a needle?” And when Jesus says to the disciples, who ask about their reward for following him: “Everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matthew xix, 29), he is merely repeating the blessing of Moses (Deut. xxxiii, 9): “Who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children……bless, Lord, his substance, and accept the work of his hands.” “Many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first,” Jesus continues. And the Talmud supports him, saying: “Whoso lowereth himself, him doth God exalt; whoso exalteth himself, him doth God lower; whoso seeketh greatness, from him it flees; whoso fleeth greatness, it runneth after him” (Erubim, 136; cf. Baba Bathra, fol. 10, col. 3).
(d) Jesus's Belief in God the Father.—But Jesus, theologians assure us, taught a new and unheard-of conception of God, and in this especially is the “uniqueness” and unsurpassable greatness of his teaching; for such an achievement is only possible to a supreme religious genius—namely, Jesus. God as a loving father, in contrast to the wrathful and stern God of Judaism! “God and the soul, the soul and its God”—since Harnack published his Wesen des Christentums the refrain has echoed in every chapel and in all the publications of the evangelical and liberal theological school. They take it for granted, of course, that the “son of God,” whether this is meant in the metaphysical or merely in the metaphorical sense, must have had a quite new conception of God, throwing in the shade all earlier ideas, and they talk themselves into an ecstatic admiration of Jesus's conception of God. Yet the idea of God the Father is common to all religions; and it is sheer theological prejudice to say that, when a Greek prayed to “Father Zeus” or a German to “All-father Odin,” there was no corresponding sentiment in his soul, and his piety was not coloured by a childlike trust in the goodness, the surpassing wisdom, and the power of God conceived as a father. Long before the time of Jesus the idea of God as the Father was quite common among the Jews. Wendt, in his System der christlichen Lehre (1906), counts no less than twenty-three passages in the Old Testament in which God is conceived as Father in just the same sense as we find in Jesus. Isaiah exclaims, for instance (Ixiii, 16; Ixiv, 7): “Doubtless thou art our father……thou, O Lord, art our father, our redeemer.”
It may be urged that the Jewish Jahveh is a stern God, who visits the sins of the fathers on the children down to the third and fourth generation (Exodus xxxiv, 7). But we also read in the Old Testament: “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers” (Deut. xxiv, 16); and, on the other hand, the idea of God as a stern, punishing father is not foreign to Jesus. And where shall we find in the words of Jesus a finer utterance on God than this: “The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus xxxiv, 6 and 7)? Or where shall we find more fervent thanksgiving for God's fatherly goodness and mercy than in the psalmist (Psalm ciii)?—
- Bless the Lord, my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
- Bless the Lord, O my soul; and forget not all his benefits;
- Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
- Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies;
- Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things…
- The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
- He will not always chide; neither will he keep his anger for ever.
- He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities…
- Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.
- For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
- As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
- For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
- But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children.
As regards the relation of God the Father to the individual soul, this “religious individualism,” as it is called, is not peculiar to Jesus or Christianity, but a fundamental feature of all deeper religions, and especially of the mystery-cults. In all of them the individual sought to enter into a direct personal relation to the deity, and the subjective feeling of the presence of God in them was not less strong and deep than in the case of Jesus.
In point of fact the God of Jesus is merely the God of the Old Testament, the one God of Israel (Mark xii, 29), the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew xxii, 32). Jesus himself, as described in the gospels, is so little conscious of teaching anything new in this respect that he makes no claim to do so. Wrede destroyed the theological legend that Jesus had taught a new and deeper conception of God. Even Wendt, when he does attempt to define the difference between the God of Jesus and the God of Judaism, has at length to confess the truth, and admit, in regard to the idea of God the Father: “Jesus was not the first to strike this note; it was heard before his time both in the Jewish and Greek religious worlds.” It is true that he adds that the belief in God the Father had never before been “conceived with such confidence and plainness, such power and exclusiveness, as here, and never brought into such definite relation to the personal life” (p. 25); but K. Grützmacher has rightly characterised these as “statements which, apart from their really great modesty as a description of something new and epoch-making, which Christianity is supposed to have introduced into the religious history of mankind, are not capable of proof.”
The God and Father of Jesus is the common God of the Jews. “Not a sparrow shall fall on the ground without your Father,” says Jesus in Matthew (x, 29); and he adds: “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” We read the same in the book of Job: “Doth not he see my ways and count all my steps?” (xxxi, 4). “Without the will of God no bird falls from heaven,” says the Talmud; “how much the less shall danger threaten a man's life, unless the creator himself make it?” And it is the same in Pesikta (fol. 18, col. 4): “Do I not number every hair of every creature?” “No man strikes here below with his finger but it is known above” (Chulin, 7).
Much stress has been laid on the fact that Jesus does not speak of God in general as the father of all men, but specifically as his father. But in Mark (viii, 38; xiii, 32) Jesus calls God not so much his father as the father of the Christ. It is only in Matthew and Luke that we find that intimacy and familiarity in the words of Jesus respecting his relation to God, and in John it assumes a thoroughly mystical character. But that he calls God his father is, as we saw, an expression taken from the book of Wisdom, where the wicked hate the “just,” because he speaks of God as “his father” (ii, 16).
(e) Love of Neighbours and of Enemies.—We cannot, therefore, find in their conception of God the extraordinary feature that would justify us in ascribing the words of the gospels to so extraordinary a man as Jesus. Is it in their ethical ideas?
According to Mark (xii, 29), Jesus answers the scribe who asks him which is the chief commandment: “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; this is the first commandment. And the second is like—namely, this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The words are found in Deut. vi, 4, and Levit. xix, 18. Jesus himself is well aware that in this he is not expressing any new idea. The way in which the scribe at once agrees with him shows that he is only putting a common opinion, and this is shown also by the parallel passage, Luke x, 25, where Jesus makes the scribe quote the words as a commonplace of the law. In Matthew xxii, 40, Jesus adds: “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Further, we read in Tobias iv, 16: “What thou dost not wish any man to do unto thee do thou not unto another”; and we find the saying in the same negative form in the Talmud: “A heathen came to Hillel and said to him: I will embrace Judaism on condition that thou teachest me the whole doctrine during the time that I stand on one leg. And Hillel said: What thou dost not like do not to thy neighbour; that is the whole doctrine. All the rest is only explanation; go thou and learn.” If this is supposed to be less than Jesus demands, we must remember that the maxim is in a negative form in the older editions of the gospels. In this respect, therefore, the “love” which Jesus demands is merely the Old Testament love of one's neighbour.
In Matthew v, 43, however, it is said: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.” Here the love of one's neighbour seems to be elevated into a command to love one's enemies. Weiss is astonished that I have “overlooked this, and so many other things” (p. 166). I should have thought that Christian apologists would have been better advised not to touch the point. If Jesus really spoke these words, he betrayed an astonishing ignorance of the Mosaic law. Where is it written that the Jews must hate their enemies? In Levit. xix, 18, where the love of one's neighbour is prescribed, it is expressly said: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people,” and “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart; thou shalt not in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him [thou shalt freely call thy neighbour to account, that thou bear no sin on his account].” Not only towards their own people, but even towards strangers, the Jews must not be without love: “Thou shalt not oppress a stranger; for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing that ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus xxiii, 9), and “The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself” (Levit. xix, 34). Even the love of enemies is commanded in the law: “If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him” (Exodus xxiii, 4 and 5). “Rejoice not,” says Proverbs (xxiv, 17), “when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth.” “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink; for thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee” (xxv, 21 and 22). In Job it is represented as a crime against God to rejoice over the misfortune of one's enemy (xxxi, 29), and the psalmist boasts of having saved one who had been his enemy without cause (vii, 5). “Say not thou, I will recompense evil,” it is said in Proverbs (xx, 22); “but wait on the Lord, and he shall save thee.” “Let them curse, but bless thou,” says the psalmist (cix, 28). And Jesus Sirach says: “Forgive thy neighbour the injury he has done thee; then will thy sins be forgiven thee when thou prayest” (xxviii, 1).
Not only the Old Testament but the Talmud is full of demands of love of one's enemies and examples of good feeling towards opponents. “Thou shalt not hate, not even internally” (Menachot, 18). “Love him that punisheth thee” (Derech Erez Sutha, c. 9). “How is it possible for one that fears God to hate a man and regard him as an enemy?” (Pessachim, 113). A rabbi used, before he went to bed, to forgive all who had injured him during the day. Another, Rabbi Josua, wished to bring the divine judgment upon a heretic who tormented him, but went to sleep, and when he awoke reflected: This sleep was a warning that the just should never call the punishment of God on the guilty (Berachot, 76, also 10a). “When,” says the Talmud (Sanhedrim, 39b), “the angels wished to sing a chant of joy because the Egyptians were destroyed in the sea, God said to them: My creatures are drowned, and would ye sing?” Finally Job says (xxxi, 13): “If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me; what then shall I do when God riseth up?……Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?”
The Talmud by no means restricts this love of one's enemies to members of one's own people. As man is bidden to pray to God for sinners (Sohar to Genesis, fol. 67), so God says to Moses: “Israelite or Gentile, man or woman, slave or free, all are alike for you” (Jalkut, c. 20b). In accordance with this, and in agreement with Levit. xix, 9, the Talmud commands them not to prevent the Gentile poor from gleaning in the fields (Gittin, c. 5), and repeatedly represents Abraham the Israelite as a model of tolerance. The best is, however, that the words of Jesus, “Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,” are not found at all in the older manuscripts of the gospels, but are found in the Talmud, where we read: “It is better to be wronged by others than to wrong” (Sanhedrim, fol. 48), and “Be rather among the persecuted than the persecutors” (Baba mezia, 93). “Where in the world,” asks Weiss, “is there a Jewish writing or a Jewish community that has ever made love of one's enemy a fundamental rule of commerce? And wherever it has been put in practice—whence came the impulse, who inspired men thereto? The Talmud, or the Old Testament, or the figure of him who sealed his word on the cross?” (p. 165). The answer is found in the above.
It is sheer theological prejudice and perversion of history to say that Jesus was “the first” to preach love of enemies, that men owe to his example alone that love of one's neighbour has become the supreme principle of moral conduct, as Weinel claims. As if the Stoics had not preached universal love of mankind long before the time of Jesus; not merely as a passive endurance, but as an active interest in the lot of others and disinterested helpfulness on the basis of descent from a common divine Father and as members of a common humanity! As if Jesus had not violated his own command in his conduct towards the Canaanite woman (Mark vii, 27), his refusal to allow the disciples to go and preach the gospel to the Gentiles and the Samaritans (Matthew x, 5), his curse of the places that would not be converted, and his anger against the Pharisees and scribes on account of their opposition to him! It is an empty theological phrase to say that Jesus “raised the altruistic ideal to a pitch of supreme intimacy” and “destroyed in principle the barriers between peoples and sects”; it is anything but the outcome of candid religious-scientific inquiry—it is a resolute closing of one's eyes to the facts to exalt Jesus, in face of the above quotations from the Old Testament and the Talmud, for a merit which does not belong to him, but to them, and to maintain the fiction that love of enemies was made a “fundamental rule of trade” by Jesus in any higher sense than we find in the rest of Judaism. As long as theologians continue to praise the moral maxims of Jesus in this way at the expense of non-Christian ethics, we must decline to regard their efforts as impartial, in spite of that claim of “honourableness” which they repeat so pitifully, and however proudly they may wrap themselves in the mantle of their scientific infallibility. We do not question their subjective honour, but we do question their ability, in their atmosphere of theological hypnotism, to see things as they really are. And if they grant that the precept of love of enemies has in it nothing peculiarly characteristic of Jesus, there is an end of the proof of “uniqueness” that was based on it, and the historical reality of the Jesus of the gospels falls to the ground.
(f) The Sermon on the Mount.—Careful inquiry shows that the remaining moral precepts and edifying sayings of Jesus have no more title to originality than the command to love one's neighbours and enemies. Take the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, which is wanting in Mark, and was certainly never delivered in the form in which we have it; this collection of the quintessence of the ethical teaching of Jesus is a “mere compilation of existing Jewish literature,” and does not contain a single idea that we do not otherwise find in Jewish proverbial literature. Robertson, following Rodriguez (Les origines du Sermon de la Montagne, 1868), has given in his Christianity and Mythology a whole series of parallels; and from the work of the Rabbi Dr. Emanuel Schreiber, Die Prinzipien des Judentums, verglichen mit denen des Christentums (1877), it will be seen that the number of coincidences, not merely with the Talmud, is incalculable.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus begins the Sermon; and the psalmist (cxvi, 6) says: “The Lord preserveth the simple; I was brought low, and he helped me.” “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted,” is the next sentence; and Isaiah says (lxvi, 13), “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you,” to those who mourn the loss of their country, and announces to them the glorious fulfilment of the divine promises. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” is the third maxim; and Isaiah says (lvii, 15): “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” “A man's pride shall bring him low,” says Proverbs (xxix, 23), “but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.” “My son,” says Ecclesiasticus (iii, 17), “do thy work in humility; the greater thou art do thou the more humble thyself, and thou shalt find favour in the eyes of the Lord.” Rabbi Jochanan says: “When a man has acquired meekness, then will he also acquire honour, wealth, and wisdom” (Midrash Jalkut Mischle, 22); and the psalmist says (xxxvii, 11): “But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness,” Jesus continues, “for they shall be filled.” “He that walketh righteously and speaketh uprightly,” says Isaiah (xxxiii, 15), “shall dwell on high”; and the Talmud says: “Any age in which the doctrine is not found—that is to say, in which a righteous life, conformable to the law, is not possible—lives in hunger” (Schemot rabba, cap. 31; see also Psalm cxviii, 19). In Proverbs we read (xxi, 21): “He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour.” This also agrees in substance with the fifth beatitude: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Pity and sympathy, even for animals, are urged and praised both in the Old Testament and the Talmud. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” is the sixth beatitude. “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?” says the psalmist (xxiv, 3), “or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart.” “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” But the psalmist also exclaims (xxxiv, 14): “Seek peace, and pursue it.” Indeed, peace is lifted to so lofty a position by the Talmudists that they call the Messiah himself “peace,” and Isaiah has described him as above all a bringer and prince of peace. Finally, the eighth beatitude, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” has an echo in the Talmud: “They who are persecuted and persecute not, who sustain ridicule and injury and themselves do no injury, are the elect of God, of whom it is said: They shine like the sun” (Schabbeth, 886). We have already seen, moreover, that persecution because of their righteousness is a mark of the good in the book of Wisdom, and secures heaven for them.
It is not necessary to go into other details of the Sermon on the Mount. It contains, as we said, nothing whatever beyond the common Jewish ethic, in spite of the trouble the Evangelists have taken to set up an artificial contrast between the ethic of Jesus and the Jewish morality of the time, and the effort of Christian theologians to obscure the real relation of the Christian to the Jewish ethic. Thus the prohibition of anger against one's brother (Matthew v, 22) is from Lev. xix, 17. The maxim that merely to look upon another's wife is equal to adultery (Matthew v, 28) is covered by Job xxxi, 1, and Ecclus. ix, 5 and 8, and similar strict maxims in the Talmud, such as: “Whoever regards even the little finger of a woman has already violated matrimony in his heart” (Bereschit, 24 and 24a). When Jesus insists on purity and goodness of heart before a man approaches the altar to offer sacrifice (Matthew v, 23), he is merely following Isaiah and the other prophets who place piety of heart above the external piety of sacrifices and good works. Indeed, it seems that the much-quoted maxim, that one must not resist evil, but present the other cheek to the smiter (Matthew v, 39), can be traced to Isaiah 1, 6, and the description of the servant of God, who presents his back to those who beat him and his cheeks to those who plucked the hair. There is, moreover, a famous Jewish proverb: “If any demand thy ass, give him the saddle also” (Baba kama, 27).
Again, the advice as to almsgiving, doing good in secret (Matthew vi, 1-4), praying and fasting (5), and forgiving injuries (14) is founded on Jewish teaching, and is echoed in similar maxims of the Old Testament and the Talmud. Isaiah demands an inward, not an external, fast (lviii). The preacher bids his readers avoid many words in praying (v, 1; see also Ecclesiasticus vii, 14). As to the “Lord's Prayer,” not only are the several phrases contained in the Old Testament and in the Talmud, but it is certain that it was not uttered by Jesus in its present form. The warning against the accumulation of earthly treasures and against the dangers of wealth (Matthew vi, 19), and the counsel to look first to the kingdom of God, are quite in accord with the prophets (Ecclesus. xxvii, 1, xxxi, 3; Eccles. v, 9, xii). The saying, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew vii, 1), runs in the Talmud: “Judge everyone as favourably as possible” (Abot, i, 6), and “Judge not thy neighbour until thou hast stood in his place” (Abot, ii, 4), and “With the measure with which a man measures shall it be meted unto him” (Sota, 86). The saying about the beam and the mote (Matthew vii, 4) is found word for word in the Talmud (Baba bathra, 15), and runs, in the mouth of the Rabbi Nathan: “The fault from which thou art not free blame not in another” (Baba mezia, 59). The sentence, “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,” corresponds to the words of the prophet Jeremiah (xxix, 13): “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart,” and to “The doors of prayer are never closed” of the Talmud (Sota, 49). Jeremiah, like Jesus, warns against false prophets, and urges to true repentance and good deeds.
In view of all this one does not see why the people should be “astonished” at the teaching of Jesus (Matthew vii, 28), since all the moral principles which the Evangelists put in the so-called Sermon on the Mount had long been, as Renan says, “the small change of the synagogues.” Perhaps it will be suggested that the finest sayings of Jesus which are also found in the Talmud have been taken by the latter from the gospels. But at the time of the compilation of the Talmud the mutual hatred of the two parties was so great that a pious Jew would quite certainly not have admitted into his collection sayings which he knew to be represented by the Christians as the “words of Jesus.” If it were done unwittingly, it would only show how slight the difference was from the first between the Jewish and the Christian morality; and it would be difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Christians had taken their “words of Jesus” from the common proverbial wisdom of the Jews.
Naturally, it was only the best in the available literature that seemed to the Christians good enough to be put in the mouth of Jesus. We are, of course, dealing with a “spiritualised and intimate Judaism,” a philosophy of life and deity that had, among the dispersed Jews, been permeated by the finer thought and feeling of the Greek spirit. Anyone who doubts the possibility of this must have in mind only the description of Judaism in the pages of the gospels themselves, and take it to be an historical fact that Judaism was in the time of Jesus as fossilised and spiritless as it is described in the gospels. Such an assumption is a sheer petitio principii, and runs counter to the familiar experience that, when the religious leaders of a people lapse into formalism, the stream of inner religious life runs freely in other channels, and may produce new and remarkable phenomena. Remember the ancient mystics in the time of the scholastics of the Middle Ages, or the pietists during the predominance of the driest theological rationalism.
It is usually among the laity, the secret sects and conventicles, that the religious life pulses all the more vigorously and becomes all the deeper in proportion to the formalism of the official religion. Certainly, in contrast to the spirit of the Pharisees and scribes about the beginning of the second century, it is a “new spirit” that lives in the Jesus-sect, and finds expression in the words and ideas which Jesus is supposed to have uttered. But it is not a new spirit in the creative sense, since all that it contains of moral value has been derived from the great fund of Jewish proverbial wisdom, not produced by itself. They are the ideals of men who, no one knows how long before, had brooded over the writings of the prophets, especially Isaiah, lit the fire of the inner religious world from the plain and penetrating piety of the psalms and proverbs, absorbed their spirit, and never ceased to remain in continuous contact with the “everliving in the Scriptures.” They could not, it is true, have transferred these finer flowers of Judaism to their own garden if they had not been personally disposed to this religious intimacy. But that one single personality gave them this spirit, as theologians say, it is just as superfluous to suppose as in similar cases of the rise of a pietistic and mystic fervour among the laity by the side of the official teaching of the sect. These first Christians had not to seek the pearls—the true and eternal—in the wilderness of official knowledge of the law, as they had never expressly looked there for them. And when it is said that only a quite exceptional religious genius like Jesus could have done this, it is forgotten that the words of Jesus which have come down to us were not selected by him, but by the Evangelists, out of tradition; since they certainly represent only an insignificant part of what Jesus could have taught.
Thus the fall of Jerusalem, the collapse of the political and national conditions of the Jewish religion, the increasingly bitter antagonism of the legal piety of the Pharisees to the Christian sectaries, and their inner conception of the Jewish faith, wholly suffice to explain not only the outburst of Messianic hope among them, but why the Christians precisely at this time—a time of the deepest humiliation and trouble—announced that the Messiah was coming immediately, and directed all their efforts to a preparation for his coming. All the lofty moral maxims and promises on which the community had long brooded, and which they may possibly have gathered into a collection of so-called “Sayings of the Lord,” now sprang to the lips of the Christians, in contrast to the official legal righteousness, took the form of sayings of the expected Messiah himself, of warnings, consolations, and promises given during his earthly life, which they regarded as a condition of his coming again in splendour as the Messiah; and while the vague image of the Isaian servant of God and Saviour that lived in their hearts, perhaps fed by visionary experiences, assumed the shape and features of an historical Jesus, the word and image blended involuntarily, not consciously, in their inflamed imaginations into an inseparable unity, just as religious sects are accustomed to regard the most profound and important of their rules and customs as revelations of the deity or of their supposed founder.
(g) Further Parallel Passages.—Thus we see that from the words of Jesus no proof can be drawn of his historicity; indeed, even Weiss admits that it is “possible” that “not a single word of Jesus has been preserved, and that everything has been put into his mouth” (p. 168). We think that we are quite justified in assuming this when we find that it would be hard to quote a single expression of Jesus that might not be taken from the Talmud or the Old Testament. To what even apparently small details this extends is seen in Matthew viii, 22: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” This corresponds to the command in the Talmud to postpone the burial of the body of a relative to reading in the law (Megillah, fol. 3). In fact, the peculiar expression of Jesus can only be understood when we learn that the godless living are said in the Talmud to be “dead” (Jalkut Rubeni, fol. 177, col. 3). Even such a saying as that in Matthew x, 40-42, and Luke x, 16, is found in the Talmud: “He who takes his neighbour into his house has the same reward as if the Schechina [divine spirit] itself entered his house” (Shir hashirim rabba, fol. 13, col. 3). “He who feeds one learned in divine things will be blessed by God and men” (Sohar to Gen., fol. 129, col. 512). “If ye give ear to my angel, it is as if ye hearkened unto me” (Schemoth rabba Abschn., 32, fol. 131, col. 3). “If thou honourest my commandments, thou honourest me; if thou despisest them, thou despisest me in them” (Tanchuma, fol. 16, col. 3).
Take such a saying as that in Matthew x, 35: “I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law,” and compare it with Micah vii, 6: “For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter-inlaw against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.” The advice of Jesus as to the method of reconciliation with a brother who has offended (Matthew xviii, 15-17) corresponds to the procedure enjoined by Joma (fol. 87, col. 1), except that in the one case it is the injured, and in the other the injurer, who must act. Matthew xviii, 20—“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”—runs in the Talmud: “Where there are two persons, and they make not the law the subject of their discourse, is the seat of the scoffer [Ps.. i, 1]; but where the law is the subject of discourse, there also is the Schechina”—i.e., the spirit of God (Pirke Aboth, col. 3). Jesus says in Luke x, 18: “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” In Isaiah it is similarly said of Babylon: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” (xiv, 12), and the context makes it clear how easily the words might be applied to Satan.
We have previously shown how the Talmud agrees as to the story of the coin of the taxes and the answer of Jesus to the question of the Pharisees, whether it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar or no. The story of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany has obviously grown out of Psalm xxiii, 5 (“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over”), and Deut. xv, 11 (“ For the poor shall never cease out of the land”). The scene in the garden of Gethsemane is provoked by Genesis xxii, 3 and 5, where Abraham takes with him his son Isaac and two servants, and bids them wait and pray while he goes with Isaac to sacrifice the boy. There is also a reference to the story of Elisha, when he falls asleep under a bush as he flies before Ahab, and is twice awakened by an angel, who gives him a loaf and a vessel of water, and bids him strengthen himself for the journey. It is significant that we find here the words which occur in the gospels: “It is enough. Take now my life, Jahveh” (Mark xiv, 36 and 41). Then there is the phrase: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful.” “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance”; so runs Psalm xlii, 5, in accord with Mark xiv, 34. And verses 35 and 36 suggest Ecclesiasticus (xxiii, 1 and 4): “O Lord, my Father and the author of my life, let me not fall through them [my sins]……abandon me not to the attack they plan against me.”
- Völkerpsychologie, ii, 3, 528.
- Just as in the collection of sayings it is supposed to have been written, “Jesus says,” etc., so in the prophets we find the words of Jahveh introduced by “A word of Jahveh,” “Thus says Jahveh,” etc. We have already seen that Jesus is possibly only another name for Jahveh.
- If this be true, how is it that such an important detail as the Lord's Prayer has been handed down to us in such various forms? No one knows exactly what words Jesus used in this prayer. According to Harnack, the earliest version is: “Father, the bread for to-morrow give us to-day, and forgive us our sins as we forgive others, and lead us not into temptation.” Sitzungenbericht der Preussichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1904, Bd. V. Cf. Steudel in Berliner Religionsgespräch, “Hat Jesus gelebt?” 1910, 59 f.
- Thus we read in Clement (xlvi, 8) the saying of Jesus: “Woe unto that man…it had been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew xxvi, 24), but with no reference to Jesus. Again, in xlix, 1, we find a hymn to love which is closely related to 1 Corinthians xiii, 1, though Paul is not mentioned. We read in 1 Clement, xiii, 1: “Let us before all things be mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus which he spoke, teaching meekness and patience. For he also said: Have mercy, that ye may find mercy. Forgive, that ye may find forgiveness. As ye do, so will it be done unto you. If ye are meek, ye shall find meekness. With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again (Matthew vii, 1; Luke vi, 36-38; Matthew v, 7, and vi, 14; Luke vi, 31). With this command and these rules we will confirm ourselves in lowliness, so that we may walk in obedience to his holy words.” But we also read on one occasion: “For the holy word says: To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word”—a quotation from Isaiah (lxvi, 2). In The Teaching of the Apostles (i, 2) the doctrine of the two ways is developed, and it is also quoted in the Epistle of Barnabas (xviii, 1); and we find words which echo the Sermon on the Mount, though Jesus is not mentioned as their author, and no indication is given that they are not common Jewish sayings, as the quotation of the twelve Mosaic commandments suggests.
- Acts ii, 14; iii, 12; vii, 2; viii, 5 and 32; xviii, 24.
- See the Tractate Schabboth, fol. 17, col. 1: “The operations involved in offering sacrifice are not considered as work—that is to say, as breaking the Sabbath.” See also Rosh hashana, fol. 21, col. 2, etc.
- K. Lippe, work quoted, p. 228.
- See also Ps. cxxxvi, 25; cxlvii, 9.
- Sohar to Exodus, fol. 4, col. 13.
- Jebamoth 22a, 48b, 976; Necharoth 47a.
- Baha mezia, fol. 38, col. 2; see also Bereschit, fol. 55, col. 2. We saw previously how the story of the rich youth is regarded by Schmiedel as one of the “pillars of a really scientific life of Jesus,” because it contains the disavowal of the epithet “good” on the part of Jesus. But, as Smith has shown in his Ecce Deus, there is question only of a parable. The rich youth is a symbol of Judaism, which must renounce its property—its prerogatives and prejudices—and share them with the Gentiles, and “goes away sorrowful” because it has not the courage to do so. The words, “And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved” (Mark x, 22), are, as Smith has shown, strikingly based upon the words of Isaiah lvii, 17, where the Greek translation says of Israel: “And he was grieved, and went his way sadly.” May not the whole story be merely a paraphrase of the words of Isaiah?
- See A. Dieterich, Mithrasliturgie (1903), p. 141.
- Cf. Exodus xxxiv, 6; Deut. viii, 5; xxxii, 6; Sir. xxiii, 1; Ps. ciii; Wisdom ii, 16, etc.
- Paulus, p. 91.
- Gegen den religiösen Rückschritt (1910), p. 4.
- Bereschit rabba, 79, fol. 77, col. 4.
- Ernest Havet, Le Christianisme et ses origines (1884), iv, p. 37.
- Tract. Schabboth, 31a.
- “Jesus by no means ‘discovered’ altruism in ethics. Hellenistic moralists urged altruism long before the birth of Jesus. If the ethic of Jesus seems particularly altruistic, this is due, apart from theological suggestion, to the fact that the altruistic maxims of Jesus may seem less restricted and more impressive than in the case of the Greeks, because the scientific capacity, and therefore the scientific control of a new ethic, were slighter in the case of the Jews and Jesus than among the Greeks and their leading thinkers” (Schneider, p. 476). We may add that, when religious education and the Church do all they can to impress on the people this false view of the ethic of Jesus, they rely not only on the thoughtlessness of the masses, but on the fact that very few know anything about Greek or Hindoo philosophy and religion.
- See also Nork, Rabbinische Quellen und Parallelen zu neutestamentl. Schriftstellen (1839); T. Eschelbacher, Das Judentum und das Wesen des Christentums, 1908.
- Deut. xxv, 4; xxii, 6 and 10.
- See also Gen. xlix, 7; Prov. xii, 16, and xiv, 16.
- Isaiah i, 11; Jer. vi, 20; vii, 22; Hosea vi, 6; Amos v, 22; Micah vi, 6; Mal. i, 10; Eccles. vii, 9, etc.
- See, for instance, Ecclesiasticus xxviii, 2.
- See Robertson, p. 450, and the above note concerning the Lord's Prayer. It is quite unintelligible to me how, in face of this plain fact, a Jewish rabbi like Klein can say: “Students of the evolution of religion have not as yet made any attempt to bring forward parallels to this unique(!) prayer. It is the most personal thing that we have of Jesus” (p. 34).