The Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus/Part 4/Section 7
7.—The Mythic-Symbolic Interpretation of the Gospels.
(a) The Suffering and Exaltation of the Messiah.—The mythic-symbolic interpretation of the gospels sees in Isaiah liii the germ-cell of the story of Jesus, the starting-point of all that is related of him, the solid nucleus round which all the rest has crystallised.
The prophet deals with the “servant of Jahveh,” who voluntarily submits to suffering in order to expiate the sin and guilt of the people:—
- He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
- Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
- But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.
- All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
- He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
- He was taken from prison and from judgment; and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
- And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich [evildoers] in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
- Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
- He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
- Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death; and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
The general belief is that there is here question of the sufferings of Israel in the interest of the whole of mankind. According to Gunkel and Gressmann, however, the idea of the suffering just man is joined to an allusion to the god who expiates the sins of men by his voluntary death. Certainly we detect in it all the essential features of the suffering Christ, sacrificing himself for mankind and expiating their sins. That the early Christians felt this we see in Mark ix, 12, and xv, 28; Matt. viii, 17 and xxvi, 23; 1 Peter ii, 21; and Acts viii, 28-35, where the words of the prophet are expressly applied to Jesus.
Isaiah liii speaks of the “griefs” of the just one. But Plato, who also has described, in his Republic, the persecutions and sufferings that befall the just man, makes him be scourged, tortured, cast in prison, and finally pilloried (“crucified”); and in Wisdom the godless deliberate about condemning the just to a “shameful death.” According to Deuteronomy (xxi, 23), there was no more shameful death than “to hang on a tree” (in Greek xylon and stauros, in Latin crux); so that this naturally occurred as the true manner of the just one's death. Then the particular motive of the death was furnished by the passage in Wisdom and the idea of Plato. He died as a victim of the unjust, the godless, who say:—
- Let us overpower the poor just man…….Let us set snares for the just, because he is a burden to us, and opposes our deeds, and represents to us the commands of the law. He boasts that he has a true knowledge of God, and calls himself the servant of God. He has become unto us a living reproach, on account of our desires. He is a burden unto us, when we do but look on him, because his ways and his conduct are different from those of all others. Us he regards as insincere, and he holds himself from intercourse with us, as from impurities. But he praises the eternity of the just, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words be true, and wait for the manner of his going forth. For if the just is a son of God, God will take care of him, and save him from the hands of his enemies. Let us put him to the proof with insults and evil treatment, so that we may know his meekness and prove his steadfastness. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for, according to his words, he will have protection. Such things said they in their madness, for their wickedness dazed them, and they recognised not the mysteries of God.
These words suggest the cry of the martyred and reviled in the twenty-second psalm, whose torments also recall the death “on the tree”:—
- My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?…….O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not…….I am…….a reproach of men and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying: He trusted in the Lord that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him…….I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint…….My strength [palate] is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws…….For dogs have compassed me, the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me; they pierced my hands and my feet [like the lion are my hands and my feet]. I may tell all my bones; they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
It is further said in the book of Wisdom:—
- The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment can touch them. Only according to the folly of the unwise do they seem to be dead, and their going in is counted a misfortune, and their going forth from us for a destruction; but they are at peace. For if they have been punished in the eyes of men, their hope was full of the faith in immortality. And after they have borne a brief torture, they will receive great rewards; for God has but tried them, and has found them worthy of him. Like gold in the crucible has he tried them, and like the gift of a whole offering has he accepted them. And at the time of their home-coming they will shine bright, and will pass like sparks in the reed. They shall judge the heathen and rule over the peoples, and the Lord shall be their king for ever. They who trust in him shall know the truth, and the faithful will remain with him in love. For grace and mercy shall be the part of his elect. But the godless shall be punished according to their deeds, who despised the just and rebelled against the Lord.
In these words we clearly perceive the fundamental idea of the Christian mysteries. The love of the “Lord” and trust in him are for the good and just the conditions of their glorious exaltation and an eternal life with God after death: “For God has created man for immortality, and made him in the likeness of his own being. But death came into the world through the envy of the devil” (ii, 23). Hence the wicked irreclaimably fall to him, no matter how long they enjoy life on the earth. The just, on the other hand, dies young:—
- He is withdrawn from the midst of sinners…….In a little while he hath fulfilled much time. For his soul was pleasing to the Lord; therefore did he hasten to take him from the wicked world…….The just will himself judge the living godless after death, and the early closed youth the long old-age of the unjust…….For they shall see the end of the wise, and shall not know what he hath designed concerning him, and why the Lord hath brought him to safety. They will see and understand not, but of themselves will the Lord make sport…….At the reckoning of their sins they shall stand shivering, and their transgressions of the law shall appear before them as accusers. Then will the just with much confidence stand against them that have oppressed him and have slighted his needs. At sight of him they will be smitten with a terrible fear, and will be astonished at his unexpected safety. They will see ruefully to themselves, and in the anxiety of their soul will they moan: This was he who once made sport for us and for an object of contempt to us fools. His life we counted a folly, and his end without honour. How, then, was he numbered among the sons of God and hath a possession among the holy? We have, therefore, wandered from the way of wisdom, and the light of justice has not illumined us, and the sun has not shone upon us…….But the just live in eternity, and their reward is with the Lord, and the care of them is with the most high. Therefore will they receive the kingdom of glory and the crown of beauty from the hand of the Lord.
Since the just is here described in his heavenly exaltation as accuser and judge of the godless, speaking judgment on them after their death, it would be curious if in the minds of the pious the figure of the exalted just did not instinctively blend with that of the expected Messiah. It was an essential element of that expectation that the Messiah would appear in heavenly glory, and judge Israel according to its deeds, condemning the godless and taking the good to eternal life in heaven. If this happened, it would follow that the Messiah also would suffer and die, and by his voluntary death remove the guilt of men, and obtain heavenly happiness for those who love and trust him and walk in his footsteps. It is true that Wisdom refers the love of the faithful to God. But we know how in the Jewish mind the figure of the Messiah tended to be identified with that of Jahveh, and the “son of God,” as the just is called in Wisdom, is one with his father, and is in a certain sense only another name for him.
Read in the prophet Isaiah the important references to the coming lordship of the Messiah and mysterious indications of his nature: “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked; it shall be ill with him; for the reward of his hands shall be given him” (iii, 10). That was already contained in the passage we quoted from Wisdom:—
- Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
- As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men;
- So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him. For that which had not been told them shall they see, and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
Would not that recall to readers the astonishment and fear of the godless at sight of the exalted just as described in Wisdom? “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people” (ii, 4). The prophet applied this to Jahveh, but in Wisdom it is said of the just, who is raised by God to heavenly glory after his humiliating death. Is it possible to doubt that the just, the “servant of God” in the fifty-third chapter of the prophet, was Jahveh himself, or rather that “son of God,” in the special sense, which the Messiah was conceived to be?
Then there are the words of the prophet that the servant of God grew up before Jahveh “as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground” (lii, 2). Here the connection is quite obvious, for the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, in which the prophet describes the glory of the Messianic kingdom in especially impressive tones, began with almost the same words: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of its roots.” Here the servant of God is also described as of the root of David, as the prophet Zechariah, too, had said: “Behold I will bring forth my servant the branch” (iii, 8; also see vi, 12), leaving no room for doubt that the Messiah is intended here. Will it now be said to be impossible that the Jews had blended the servant of God in Isaiah liii with the Messiah, and had seen in the passage a mysterious reference to some preceding suffering and humiliating death of the expected Saviour, and thus Israel's Saviour fell into line with the suffering, dying, and rising gods of the religions of nearer Asia?
(b) The Character and Miracles of the Messiah.—Of all these gods special myths were related by their followers. Their life-story was related, and curious things were said of their origin, character, deeds, etc., from birth to death. Did the prophet who spoke of the sufferings, death, resurrection, and exaltation of the servant of God give any indications of this character? Bead the forty-second chapter:—
- Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
- He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
- A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench; he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
- He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth; and the isles shall wait for his law.
Thus the servant of God is to be wise, gentle, tender, full of endless pity for the oppressed and suffering. He is indefatigable in the exercise of the office committed to him by God, and his mission is to proclaim truth and establish righteousness on earth—the kingdom of that perfect righteousness of all, which is to the prophet the condition of the fulfilment of all that God has promised to his people (ch. lviii). In agreement with this we read in ch. I, 4:—
- The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary…….
- The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.
- I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
- For the Lord God will help me, therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.
Obedience to God, his father, trust in his heavenly power, patient submission to his lot, not disturbed even by the foulest maltreatment and shame, are the essential features of the servant of God. He submits willingly to the command of God, just as the saviour-gods and redeemers of the pagan religions descended to earth at the command of their divine “fathers”; as the Babylonian Marduch was obedient to his father Ea; as Heracles, the most resolute and powerful hero, nevertheless bowed to the command of his heavenly father and undertook the heaviest labours.
Now we can also understand the words of the sixty-first chapter:—
- The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
- To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.
They seem to be the words of the servant of God himself, who reveals in them the meaning of his Messianic task. He is not sent to the rich and fortunate, but to the poor and miserable; he does not come as a powerful leader of armies, to lead his followers to victory over their enemies; but, like the saviour-gods of other peoples, he chiefly heals suffering of body and soul, and alleviates the lot of the people, as we read in ch. xxxv, 4: “Behold, your God…….will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing.” And again (xxix, 18): “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”
To announce the gospel, the glad message of the realisation of salvation, of the fulfilment of the hopes of a happy life, is the essential activity of the servant of God during his life on earth. For so speaks God, Jahveh, who spread out the heavens: “I, Jahveh, have called thee in righteousness, and I will take thee by the hand, and will protect thee, and make thee to represent the covenant with the people of Israel, and a light to the nations, as I open the eyes of the blind, deliver the prisoners from their prison, and from their captivity those that sit in darkness…….And I will give my glory to none other, nor my fame to the idols.”
What a mysterious indication of the real nature of the servant of God! The covenant that Jahveh made with Moses is renewed by him; he is therefore a second Moses. Nay, did not the prophet seem to intimate that Jahveh would confer on him his own glory, and does not this seem to imply his equality in nature with Jahveh? Assuredly he was no ordinary man, this servant of God of the prophet; and the hopes of the people for the kingdom of God would be fulfilled very differently from what they expected, if salvation was to be extended to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. But that the prophet's servant of God is really he for whom the Jewish people longed is shown by his marvellous deeds.
Thus we can explain the miracles of Jesus on which the critics have expended so much fruitless labour; they followed at once from the above passages, the moment an attempt was made to give a detailed picture of the life of the servant of God, and to embody the intimations of the prophets in impressive stories. These miracles must have been performed by Jesus simply because they were part of the character of the servant of God. They serve as evidence of his supernatural power and his mysterious relation to Jahveh, and they differ in no respect from the miracles which the pagans also ascribed to their saviour-gods, such as Asclepios, Hermes, Anubis, etc., just as the Old Testament had attributed them to Moses, Elijah, and Elisha, and as, in the common feeling of ancient times, they were expected of any outstanding man. Take Apollonius of Tyana, for instance.
The prophet speaks of the curing of the blind, deaf, lame, and dumb. Those are precisely the miracles of the gospels. It is true that he does not speak of raising the dead to life or driving out demons—feats which were related of Asclepios and Apollonius. He does, however, make the servant of God deliver captives. But if we interpret the text with deeper insight, does it not seem to mean the opening of the doors of sense and bodily life, which form the kingdom of the devil, and which Plato had described as the prison of the soul, or the unsealing of the tombs that hold the dead as prisoners? Introduced into the mental world of the doctrine of mysteries, the words of the prophet would naturally lose their original and real meaning, and become symbols of a mysterious truth hidden in them, the meaning of which would be clear only to the initiated. If Isaiah's servant of God was a saviour, a lord over natural forces chosen by God, like the pagan saviour-gods, he must, like them, have above all a dominion over the dread world of spirits and demons, by which the men of the time saw themselves surrounded and threatened everywhere, in whom they recognised the causes of disease, and for protection against whom they took refuge in the magical realm of the mysteries. It would, therefore, be childish to take the miracles of Jesus at their face value, and seek to extract from the gospel narratives which describe them an “historical nucleus.” Compare a story like that of the Gadarene swine (Mark v, 1) in the symbolical explanation which Lublinski (p. 131) gives of it with the historical conception of it in Weiss. Only complete unintelligence could attempt to deduce from the description of the locality, the presence of the swine, etc., the historical place and truth of the story; whereas there is obviously question of the nether world, of a symbolical representation of the power of the Saviour over the demons, and the swine are introduced only as “typhonic” beasts, to suggest the scenery of the nether world. A good deal of amusement has been expressed over the childish miracles which the gospels attribute to the son of God. We have, however, only to recognise that they are built on the prophet's intimations and inspired by them, and are merely symbols of the spread of faith in Jesus, as Smith has shown at length in his Ecce Deus; and we shall see that even in regard to the miracles the evangelical way of putting things can be justified. In this way the much-discussed question of the miracles of the gospels may be settled.
As we have seen, Isaiah and Wisdom are the germ-cell of the figure of Jesus in the gospels and the Christian theory of redemption. But a third element has been at work—the figure of Job.
The canonical book of Job depicts for us a just man who, just like the prophet's servant of God, is tried by a conflict with Satan, by intolerable suffering and humiliation, and is afterwards raised again to his former condition. There is much in the book that directly reminds us of Isaiah liii and Psalm xxii; for instance, the circumstance that Job and the servant of God are both afflicted with leprosy (Isaiah lii, 14; liii, 4). Or read the following lament of Job:—
- They have gaped upon me with their mouth; they have smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully; they have gathered themselves together against me.
- God hath delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over into the hands of the wicked…
- His archers compass me round about; he cleaveth my reins asunder, and doth not spare; he poureth out my gall upon the ground…
- My face is foul with weeping, and on my eyelids is the shadow of death.
- Not for any injustice in mine hands: also my prayer is pure…
- Let my cry have no place.
- Also now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high.
- My friends scorn me, but mine eye poureth out tears unto God…
- My breath is corrupt, my days are extinct, the graves are ready for me.
- Are there not mockers with me? and doth not mine eye continue in their provocation? [My eye must rest on their brawls. Compare the soldiers casting dice for the garments of Jesus.]
- He hath made me also a byword of the people, and aforetime I was as a tabret. [I must let my face be spat upon.]
- Mine eye also is dim by reason of sorrow, and all my members are as a shadow.
- Upright men shall be astonished at this, and the innocent shall stir up himself against the hypocrite.
- The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.
Job cries again (ch. xxix):—
- Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me;
- When his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness.
- As I was in the days of my youth…
- When the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were about me…
- When I went out to the gate through the city, when I prepared my seat in the street.
- …….and the aged arose, and stood up.
- The princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth. [Compare Isaiah lii, 15.]
- The nobles held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth.
- When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me.
- Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him.
- The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me; and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy…….
- I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame.
- I was a father to the poor, and the cause which I knew not I searched out.
- And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth…….
- Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel.
- After my words they spake not again; and my speech dropped upon them.
- I laughed on them when they despaired; they believed it not, and the light of my countenance they cast not down.
- I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, as one that comforteth the mourners.
These words remind us of the prophet's servant of God. But at the same time we see Jesus before us, as, surrounded by his disciples, he speaks to the people in the market-place and the streets, disputes with the Pharisees and Scribes, and silences them, strides through life helping, working miracles, consoling, healing, and encouraging, and is blessed by the crowd and by the lost and the saved.
Still greater, however, than with the canonical book of Job is the concordance of the gospel figure of Jesus with the popular Jewish additions to it. One of these we have in the so-called Job's Testament, which was first published in 1883, and again in 1897 by Montague Rhodes James and K. Kohler, and very closely studied by Spitta in its relation to the New Testament. James held at first that Job's Testament was purely Jewish and pre-Christian, but afterwards attributed it to a Jewish convert to Christianity, as he could find no other explanation of its astonishing agreements with the New Testament, not only as regards its general contents, but at times even in words. Kohler regards it as pre-Christian, an Essenian Midrasch on the book of Job; this is, however, denied by Spitta. Bousset, a careful man, finds a “slight Christian modification” of a Jewish work, while Spitta believes that the remarkable work has a purely Jewish character: “One of the Jewish pre-conditions of Christianity, a full knowledge of which is of great importance for an appreciation of Christianity itself, and especially of the figure of Jesus.” “In this case, it seems to me,” he says, “the view would be more plausible that the figure of Jesus is of pre-Christian origin than in connection with the Gilgamesch-epic or W. B. Smith's pre-Christian Jesus.” He emphasises the following points: “Job and Jesus are both of royal race; both are healers of the poor and distressed; both struggle against the power of Satan, and are fruitlessly tempted by him to fall away from God; both incur suffering and contempt, even death, by the machinations of the devil; both are saved from necrotes [the state of death], attain honour on earth, and are raised to the throne at the right hand of God” (p. 198). Spitta does not fail to point out the differences between Job and Jesus; but he considers the resemblance to be so great that, in his opinion, it is enough “to explain how it could happen that the figure of Jesus was involuntarily endowed by Jewish writers with features which originally belong to the Job-legend” (p. 200). That this figure could have arisen only in connection with the figure of Job is a possibility which, of course, lies beyond the horizon of the theologian. Yet so many details of the gospel portrait of Jesus have been shown to be due to foreign influence that we can hardly say what is really supposed to be historical in it. For the rest, the Christians themselves were well aware of the resemblance of their Jesus to Job. It is proved by James v, 10, where we read: “Take, my brethren, the prophets who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” Here Jesus is put on a level with Job, assuming that by “the Lord” we are to understand Jesus, and not Jahveh, which seems more likely, in view of the reference to the prophets who have spoken “in the name of the Lord.”
(c) John the Baptist and the Baptism of Jesus.—Weiss rightly speaks of the gospel of Mark as “a story of the Passion prolonged backwards.” This rich fullness of the earthly life of Jesus is assuredly something more than a development of Pauline principle; he humbled himself, and was obedient even to the death on the cross. From the Pauline gospel alone the evangelist could not possibly have evolved his narrative (p. 132). But no one has said that he could. What I do say is that the prophet Isaiah has supplied the chief features for the story of Jesus, and the general framework. There, and there only, do we find the real “main pillars of a truly scientific life of Jesus.” Not only the sufferings, death, resurrection, and exaltation, but the description of his character and activity and miraculous power, come from the prophet's words. Even the first appearance of Jesus, in connection with the penitential preaching of John, links with the text of Isaiah. The words with which the earliest gospel opens are also the beginning of the second part of the book of the prophet, the author of which is known as the Deutero-Isaiah, and distinguished from the older prophet; he is believed to have written his work at Babylon in the last days of the captivity.
- The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
- Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be laid low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain;
- And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it (xl, 3-5).
The gospel refers the words to the Baptist, the “voice of one crying in the wilderness,” to whom “the word of the Lord came” (Luke iii, 2). But we know that, as Mark himself says, he has been influenced by the prophet Malachi, who says in his third chapter: “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me”; that the words “in the wilderness” have been inserted by a copyist in the wrong place; in reality, they do not denote the place whence the cry came, but mean that the way is to be prepared in the wilderness. We are thus led to suspect that the figure of the “precursor” also may have grown out of the above passage in the prophet, and that the idea of a double mission of Jahveh to his people may have arisen from the passage in which Isaiah, consoling his fellows, says that Jerusalem has received “double from the hand of Jahveh” for all its sins (xl, 2). The ideas of the Baptist's message also agree with the admonishing words which the prophet earnestly addresses to Jerusalem. “There cometh one mightier than I after me,” we read in Mark (i, 7), “the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.” In Isaiah it is said: “The Lord God will come with strong hand.” The prophet then describes the power and greatness of Jahveh, before whom all the peoples and powers of the earth are nought, whose spirit is immeasurable, his power incomparable, and who says: “I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come; from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name; and he shall come upon princes as upon mortar, and as the potter treadeth clay” (xli, 25). “Whose fan is in his hand”—so Matthew and Luke complete the words of the earliest gospel—“and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew iii, 12; Luke iii, 17). In Isaiah Jahveh says to Israel: “Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument, having teeth; thou shalt thresh the mountains and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them” (xli, 15). And in xlvii, 14, it is said of the Gentiles: “Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame.”
It is a language of repentance and warning that the evangelist puts in the mouth of the Baptist: “Repent ye, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” The last judgment approaches. The expected Messiah is near. So in the prophet also Jahveh appears as a kind of judge who summons the nations before his chair, to prove to them the nothingness of their deities in comparison with the hero whom he has raised for the redemption of his people. “Bring forth the people that is blind, though it hath eyes, and they that are deaf, although they have ears. All ye peoples, gather yourselves together, and let the nations congregate.” “Behold, ye are of nothing,” he says, reviling the gods of the nations, “and your work of nought; an abomination is he that chooseth you” (xli, 24). Who is not reminded of the reproaches which John addresses to the Pharisees, scourging their stubbornness and darkness: “Generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come”?
The publicans come to John and ask: “What shall we do?” And he replies: “Exact no more than that which is appointed you.” The soldiers put the same question and receive the answer: “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages” (Luke iii, 12-14). We read in Isaiah (xxxiii, 15): “He that walketh righteously and speaketh uprightly, he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; he shall dwell on high; his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks.”
“Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance,” the Baptist cries to the Pharisees, “and begin not to say within yourselves: We have Abraham to our father; for I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees; every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire” (Luke iii, 8 and 9). Can it be a mere coincidence that there is also question of “the seed of Abraham” in the forty-first chapter of Isaiah, and Israel is consoled precisely as the Pharisees are in the gospels, when they boast of their “righteousness” in having Abraham for father? And what do we read at the beginning of the fifty-first chapter of the prophet? “Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn…….Look unto Abraham, your father.” Isaiah also makes “the day of the Lord” humble all that are proud and lofty (ii, 12), and Ezekiel makes the proud oaks of Lebanon fall at Jahveh's command because of their haughtiness and godless nature (xxxi, 12).
Robert Eisler has, in an essay on the baptism of John, drawn attention to Micah vii, 14, where the prophet makes Zion say to Jahveh:—
- Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood in the midst of Carmel the orchard…….
- According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I shew unto him marvellous things.
- The nations shall see and be confounded at all their might…their ears shall be deaf.
- They shall lick the dust like a serpent, they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth; they shall be afraid of the Lord our God, and fear because of thee.
- Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?…….
- He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depth of the sea.
- Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.
Here the situation is just the same, not only as in the fortieth and forty-first chapters of Isaiah, but as in the gospel account of the appearance of John. Nearly every detail of the words put in the mouth of the Baptist is found in the words of the prophet: Jahveh conceived as a pastoral inhabitant of the wilderness in Israel, about whom the people in the wilderness gather in spite of the orchards about them, the reference to the coming anger of Jahveh, the stubbornness of the “nations,” the threat that they will be humbled before Jahveh in spite of all their power, the comparison of the stubborn with serpents (“generation of vipers”), the remark that the stubborn themselves do not share in the forgiveness of sins and inherit grace because they are descended from Abraham, to whom Jahveh promised these things; while, on the other hand, the penitent shall see such wonders as were done at the flight from Egypt, and especially the baptism, by which sins are cast into the sea and washed away by its waves. It was not unusual to put an expiatory meaning on the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea, and to regard it as a kind of baptism and forgiveness of sins of the whole people, as Paul says: “All our fathers passed…….through the sea, and were all baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor. x, 1).
In Isaiah also the “Holy One of Israel,” Jahveh, promises his people that they shall rejoice over him. “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and the tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them…….I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water” (xli, 17). “Fear not, O Jacob, my servant…….for I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring; and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses” (xliv, 2). The figure of the springs in the desert waste recalls the “shoots on dry land,” and we have the connection between the baptism of John and the baptism of the servant of God: “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert…….to give drink to my people, my chosen” (xliii, 19 and 20).
“I baptise you with water,” Matthew and Luke make John say, “but one mightier than I cometh who shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” In Isaiah it is written: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (xliii, 2); and the following verses show clearly that he also has in mind the baptism in the Red Sea, the baptism by water as distinct from the baptism by fire, since he says: “I gave Egypt for thy ransom…….therefore will I give men for thee and people for thy life.”
And now we read in the famous eleventh chapter of the prophet, on “the rod of the stem of Jesse”: “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (xi, 2). These are the words which have given rise to the story of the baptism of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Ghost upon him, and we now understand why the preacher of repentance, John, threatens with a coming judgment. The “rod” of the passage is represented mainly in the character of an upright judge, of whom it is said that he will “judge the poor with righteousness, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins” (xi, 4 and 5).
Thus the whole story of the appearance of John and the baptism of Jesus is built on the prophet Isaiah. This removes the difficulties which a purely historical conception of the story encounters, especially in the contradictory statement that a Jesus could submit to the baptism of John; all the countless attempts to explain this are merely play on words. What has not been written on the character of John and his relation to Jesus! It would be just as reasonable to take as the subject of a “scientific” investigation the question why Achilles remained inactive ten years before Troy, instead of going home and devoting himself to other matters. One must regard with some pain a science that, on account of its connection with ecclesiastical life, has to propose such questions and deal with them in academically approved and learned works, when it is clear from the above passages in Isaiah that the whole story of the baptism belongs to the province of fiction.
As yet we have not touched upon the astral features that seem to occur in the story of the baptism.
Dupuis long ago identified the John of the gospels with the Babylonian Cannes, Joannes, or Hanni, the curiously shaped creature, half fish and half man, who, according to Berosus, was the first lawgiver and inventor of letters and founder of civilisation, and who rose every morning from the waves of the Red Sea in order to instruct men as to his real spiritual nature. He believed that he could recognise him in the southern constellation of the Fishes, as this seemed to the inhabitants of Babylon to rise out of the Red Sea, and its rising and setting indicated the two yearly solstices. Possibly, however, he was originally Aquarius, as this constellation is depicted as a fish-man in the old oriental sphere, and the constellation of the Fishes was afterwards detached from it. In any case, it was connected with the division of the year by solstices, and was in this sense a “teacher of astronomy.” We have a reminiscence of this primitive astral significance of John in the fact that we still celebrate his festival on the day of the solstice, when the constellation of the southern Fishes rises as the sun sets, and disappears as the sun rises. Also the newly baptised Christians used to be called fishes (pisciculi in Tertullian), and the baptismal font is still called the piscina, or fish-pond. Thus the fish-man has been turned in Christianity into a sort of fisher of men. To this there is an allusion in the Ambrosian choral (hamum profundo miserat piscatus est verbum Dei), representing John as drawing the converted out of the water with an arm of the cross; which recalls Oannes, who saved the first man from the flood, and is supposed to have endowed him with his real life as a man and spirit.
That the evangelist himself perceived this relation of John to the fishes is proved by the parable attributed to the Saviour, comparing the actual generation to children who sit in the market-place and call to each other: “We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced” (Matthew xi, 16; Luke vii, 32). For these words remind one very much of Herodotus, according to whom, when Cyrus heard the willingness of the Ionians, who had hitherto refused to obey, to submit after his victory over Croesus, he said in a parable: “A fisherman saw fishes in the sea, and played his flute in order to bring them out upon the land. And when he saw that he had failed, he took a net, and caught a great number of fishes in it, and drew them out. And when he saw them floundering, he said to the fishes: ‘You need not dance now, since you would not dance when I piped.’”
As the one who indicates the solstices and divides the year, Oannes becomes identical with the sun itself, as a rising and setting star. In this way he entered the myth-group of Joshua, Jason, and Jesus, and, indeed, corresponds to the Old Testament Caleb, as representative of the summer solstice, when the dog-star (Sirius) sets in the month of the Lion, or of the autumnal equinox, which is the division of the year equivalent to the former, when the sun descends below the celestial equator into the land of winter. Joshua (Jesus), on the other hand, represented the winter solstice, at which the days begin to grow longer, or the vernal equinox, when the sun again advances beyond the equator, and enters victoriously the “Promised Land” beyond the Jordan (or the Milky Way) of the heavenly Eridanus, the watery region of the heavens, in which the zodiacal signs of Aquarius and Pisces predominate. The evangelist expresses this by making John be born six months before Jesus (Luke i, 36), and disappear from the scene and be put to death at the time when Jesus enters it (Mark i, 14). Hence the words of John: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (iii, 30). Again, as the setting sun the Baptist resembles the Greek Hermes Psychopompos, who, at the time of the autumnal equinox, leads the constellations or souls into the nether world, the dark and sterile half of the year—symbolically represented by the “wilderness,” in which the people come to John, who is there. On the other hand, Jesus, as the rising sun, resembles Hermes Necropompos, who leads back the souls at the time of the vernal equinox to the heavenly home of light, the “kingdom of heaven,” their true home. Hence it is said of the Baptist in the gospel: “John came neither eating nor drinking”; but of Jesus: “The son of man came eating and drinking” (Matthew xi, 17). This is quite intelligible when we see the relation of the one to the winter, and of the other to the summer.
The oriental imagination, however, is not satisfied with this general idea. It affects to find the Baptist in the constellation of Orion, near which, at the time when the point of spring falls in the constellation of Taurus, the sun is found at the time of the vernal equinox. It stands in the celestial Eridanus, in the Milky Way, at Bethabara (John i, 28), the “place of setting”—that is to say, near the spot where the sun crosses the Milky Way in the zodiac. With one foot it emerges from Eridanus, which connects with the Milky Way, and seems to draw water from it with the right hand, at the same time raising the left as if blessing—really a very vivid astral figure of the Baptist; we have also the three stars of Orion's belt in the (leathern) girdle which the gospels give to the Baptist, and the people are seen in the constellations about Orion, and, according to Babylonian ideas, a meeting of the gods takes place at the vernal equinox when the sun has run its course through the zodiac.
It is useless to oppose to this conception of John the familiar passage of Josephus (xviii, 5, 2) as proving the historicity of the Baptist. The genuineness of the passage is just as doubtful as that of the two references in Josephus to Jesus. Not only does the way in which it interrupts the narrative plainly show it to be an interpolation, but the chronology of the Jewish historian in regard to John is in irreconcilable contradiction to that of the gospels. According to the gospels, the appearance or the death of John must have taken place in the year 28 or 29; whereas the war of Herod with the Nabataean Aretas, the unfortunate result of which was, according to Josephus, to be regarded as a punishment for the execution of John, falls in the years 35 and 36 of the present era. Moreover, the complaints against Herod Antipas on account of his incestuous marriage with his brother's wife, which are supposed to have occasioned the death of John, cannot have been made before then. In fine, John might be an historical personality without there being any historical truth in what the gospels say of him. His connection with the story of Jesus is certainly due to astral considerations and the passages we quoted from Isaiah. We have, therefore, no reason to regard it as historical.
Space will not permit us to go more closely at this point into the astral features of the gospel narrative. Here there is a field open to future research which has as yet been touched only by a few isolated students, and from which historical theology may expect some unpleasant surprises. The examination of the gospel story from the astral-mythological point of view was begun by Dupuis, Volney, and Nork a century ago; and Niemojewski has more recently done very promising work in that field. Others will follow him, and furnish us with an entirely new key to the problems of the New Testament. It will, however, always be difficult to say how far the story of Jesus is affected by astral relations and how far by the Old Testament, which of the two influences was the earlier, and whether the relevant passages of the Old Testament may not possibly themselves be influenced by astral considerations.
In general it may be said that astral mythology has furnished the framework or skeleton of the gospel story, and made it clear that many episodes which seem to be disconnected in the gospels owe their position to their place in the astral system. It suffices here to mention the importance of astral mythology in the interpretation of the gospels, and to show in the case of the Baptist how the two methods of interpretation work together. When the actual prejudice against astral mythology disappears, when a closer knowledge of the starry heavens than we now have places the student in a position to test these relations in detail, when it is generally recognised that astronomy and a knowledge of astrological language are at least as necessary for a correct understanding of the ancient east as philology is for critical theology, the time will have come for the last supports of the present purely historical conception of the gospels to break down, for the symbolical-mythical method to triumph completely over the present historical method, and for the “twilight of the gods” of critical theology. For the present theologians know what they are doing when they meet all such research with a disdainful smile, and declare it “unscientific.” Their position in regard to it is much the same as the position of the early Church in regard to the astrological speculations of the Gnostics, which were met with the bitterest hostility, because they betrayed too much of the real origins of Christianity, and were the most dangerous obstacle to its representation as historical.
(d) The Name of the Messiah.—Meantime what we have seen will suffice to convince any impartial reader that, as we said, the figure of the saviour or redeemer in the gospels is really due to the prophet Isaiah, and that the character of the suffering servant of God, as described by the prophet, was in the mind of the evangelists. His very name, Christus, the “anointed,” can be traced to Isaiah (lxi, 1), where the prophet says that the spirit of the Lord rests on him, because Jahveh has “anointed” him (see also xlii, 1). It is, however, very significant that the saviour and servant of God everywhere submits to him, as if he were speaking the other's words, and Jahveh, the prophet, and the servant of God combine in one personality; just as in the gospel of Luke Jesus at once applies the word of the prophet to himself, and by its means unfolds the programme of his future work in his first public appearance in the synagogue. In the Jewish mind the “anointed” is the Messiah, which is merely the Hebrew for Christ. It is a fresh proof that the idea of a suffering Messiah was bound to begin early to build on the above passages in Isaiah, as soon as the announcement of the glad tidings was conceived as an announcement of the servant of God or of the Jahveh who was identified with him.
Now, in Isaiah vii, 14, the “son of the virgin” is named Emmanuel, and this is translated “God with us.” That is also the meaning of the name Jesus, since in Matthew i, 21, the son of Mary receives this name, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel.” In the Septuagint, as we know, Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Jeschua, which in turn is the same as Jehoschua or Joshua. Joshua, however, means something like “Jahveh is salvation,” “Jah-Help,” and corresponds to the German name “Gotthilf.” We read in Matthew: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.” The name was fairly common among the Jews, and in this connection it is equivalent among the Hellenistic Jews to the name Jason or Jasios, which again is merely a Greek version of Jesus. How did it come about that the unusual name Emmanuel for the saviour of Israel was displaced by the commoner name Jesus?
Various reasons may be assigned for this. First, the fact that in the name Jesus the symbolic significance of salvation in the spiritual and bodily sense, as Isaiah attributed it to the servant of God, was perceived more clearly, especially among the dispersed Jews. Jaso (from iasthai, to heal) was the name of the daughter of the saver and physician Asclepios. He himself was in many places worshipped under the name of Jason. Thus we read in Strabo that temples and the cult of Jason were spread over the whole of Asia, Media, Colchis, Albania, and Iberia, and that Jason enjoyed divine honours also in Thessaly and on the Corinthian gulf, the cult of Phrixos, the ram or lamb, being associated with his (i, 2, 39). Justin tells us that nearly the whole of the west worshipped Jason and built temples to him (xlii, 3), and this is confirmed by Tacitus (Annals, vi, 34). Jason was also supposed to be the founder of the Lemnic festivity, which was celebrated yearly at the beginning of spring, and was believed to impart immortality to those who shared in it. Jasios (Jasion) was called Asclepios, or the “mediating god” related to him in this respect, and the conductor of souls, Hermes, at Crete and in the famous mysteries of Samothracia, which enjoyed the greatest repute about the beginning of the present era, and were frequented by high and low from all the leading countries. Here again the idea of healing and saving is combined in the name, and would easily lead to the giving of the name to the saviour of the Jewish mystery-cult. Epiphanius (Haeres, c, xxix) clearly perceived this connection when he translated the name Jesus “healer” or “physician” (curator, therapeutes). It is certain that this allusion to the healing activity of the servant of God and his affinity with the widely known Jason contributed not a little to the acceptance of the name of Jesus and to its apparent familiarity in ancient times.
For the Jews there was the further and intimate relationship of the saviour to the Joshua of the Old Testament. As Joshua, as successor of Moses in the leadership, was believed to have conducted the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt into the “promised land,” the land of their “fathers,” their ancestral home, so they expected of the saviour of Israel that he would gather together the dispersed Jews and lead them into the coveted land of their “fathers”—that is to say, of souls; to their heavenly home, whence the souls had originally come, and whither they return after death. He was therefore regarded as a second Joshua, and it was natural to give him the same name.
In the Epistle of Barnabas (about the year 115) Joshua is described as the “forerunner of Jesus in the flesh” (xii, 20). Justin also stresses the relationship of Jesus with the Joshua of the Old Testament, and observes that the latter, who was originally called Hosea (Auses), received the name of Joshua from Moses, not by chance, but with a view to Christ, whose predecessor in leadership he was (Contra Tryph., cxiii). Eusebius traces not only the name Jesus, but also the name Christ, to Moses, saying: “The first to recognise the name Christ as one of especial veneration and repute was Moses. He appointed a man high-priest of god in the highest possible sense, and called him Christ. In this way he settled upon the dignity of the high-priesthood, which in his opinion far transcends all other human prerogatives, the name Christ, to add to its honour and splendour. The same Moses, enlightened by God, also clearly knew the name Jesus, and honoured it with a great distinction. He gave the name Jesus, which had never been used before the time of Moses, to him who, he knew, would after his death—as a type and figure of Jesus—have dominion over all. Thus he gave to his successor, who had not previously been called Jesus—he was called Nave (Nun), as his parents had named him the name Jesus, and meant by this to confer on him a distinction greater than the diadem of a king. He did this because this Jesus, the son of Nave, was a figure of our redeemer, who alone would, after Moses and the fulfilment of the symbolical service of God introduced by him, enter upon the dominion of the true and pure worship of God. Thus did Moses give to the two men who then stood out from the whole people in virtue and repute—namely, the high-priest and his successor as leader of the people—as their highest distinction, the name of our saviour Jesus Christ” (Eccl. Hist., I, 3).
There is, however, in the Old Testament a high-priest Joshua, who plays a similar part to that of Jesus and of the successor of Moses; he also is supposed to gather the dispersed and imprisoned Jews, and lead them to their old home, Palestine, as was expected of the Messiah. We find him in Ezra iii, 2. According to Zechariah iii, the prophet sees the high-priest Joshua before the angel of Jahveh, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. But the angel orders the dirty clothes to be removed from him and be replaced by festive garments, and promises him the continuance of the priesthood if he will walk in the ways of God. He calls him “a brand plucked from the burning,” just as the saviour Asclepios is supposed to have been delivered from the burning womb of his mother by his father Apollo. In fact, Joshua himself is represented in the light of a saviour, when the angel speaks of him and his companions as “foresigns of a wonderful future,” and refers to his “servant the branch,” who is to come, observing that Jahveh will wipe away in one day the guilt of the land. It is true that we at once learn that the “branch” is Zerubbabel, the leader of the Jews of David's race, in whom the prophet saw that “branch” which Isaiah (xi, 1) had referred to the coming Messiah. Nevertheless, in Zech. vi, 11, the prophet puts a crown on the head of Joshua, as well as Zerubbabel, and they are placed on a common throne. But the Greek text of the prophet was altered, as the great hopes entertained of Zerubbabel were not fulfilled; the name of Zerubbabel was struck out, the plural (vi, 12) changed into the singular, and Joshua alone was represented as crowned, and was raised to the rank of the expected Messiah. Thus the two Joshuas, the successor of Moses and the high-priest, blend into one person; the name “Jesus” received a Messianic significance, and came to be used for the “branch” of the prophet Isaiah.
There was, therefore, not merely a pre-Christian Christ, as Gunkel admits, “a belief in the death and resurrection of Christ in Judaeo-syncretist circles,” but there was also a pre-Christian Jesus, as Jesus and Christ were only two different names for the suffering and rising servant of God, the root of David in Isaiah; and the two might be combined when one wished to express the high-priesthood or the Messianic character of Jesus. Jesus was merely the general name of the saviour and redeemer; and if on two critical occasions in the history of Israel a Jesus had saved the people and led it from abroad into its true home, it was natural to suppose that on the third occasion also the work would be done by a Jesus. Now, if his very name thus becomes ambiguous, what is there left of the historical Jesus?
(e) The Topography of the Gospels.
The historical Jesus is said to have been born in Nazareth. This, however, is, in turn, anything but certain. It may be a matter of chance that neither the Old Testament nor Josephus nor the Talmud mentions the place; and, except in the gospels, the name is unknown until the fourth century (Eusebius, Jerome, and Epiphanius). But the statement of Weiss, that it “cannot be denied that it was firmly believed by the Christians of the first century that Jesus came from Nazareth” (p. 21), is wholly unjustified, and is based only on the unproved assumption that the gospels already existed then in their present form. On the other hand, it is entirely inadmissible that the sect of the Nazaraeans, as the followers of Jesus are first called in Acts (xxiv, 3), took their name from the supposed birthplace of their founder, as Nazareth played scarcely any part in the life of Jesus which was known to them. It is true that Matthew (ii, 23) says that Jesus received his epithet “the Nazaraios” from Nazareth, and he appeals to a passage in the prophets. But no such passage is to be found, quite apart from the fact that in that case he ought to be called a “Nazarethene,” or else Nazareth, his supposed birthplace, ought to be called Nazara; this is, indeed, found in some of the old manuscripts, and has been affirmed, but merely in order to harmonise it with the name Nazoraios, Nazaraios, or Nazarene, which is given to Jesus in the gospels.
The fact is that the name only occurs in the latest stratum of the gospels (Matthew ii, 23; Luke iv, 16), whereas the older stratum (Mark vi, 1; Matthew xiii, 54) merely speaks of his “native town.” Mark i, 9, is clearly only an amplification of the older reading of Matthew iii,13, where it is simply said that Jesus came “from Galilee”; and Matthew iv, 13, and xxi, 11, are plainly interpolations, since Nazareth has not previously been mentioned. The same must be said of Matthew xxvi, 71, where it is written “Jesus of Nazareth,” in accordance with the earlier expression of the evangelist. On the other hand, no theologian will deny that the story of the childhood in Luke is of late date. In Mark Jesus is called “the Nazarene” in i, 24; x, 47; xiv, 67; and xvi, 6, without any statement that this indicates the place of his origin. It may, therefore, just as well have a different meaning, and may be a sect-name.
This is the view of William B. Smith. In his opinion the name can be traced to the ancient root N-Z-R, which means something like watcher, protector, guardian, saviour. Hence Jesus the Nazoraean or Nazarene was Jesus the Protector, just as Jahveh, or the archangel Michael, the “angel-prince,” who often takes the place of the Messiah, is known as the “protector of Israel,” its spokesman with God, and its deliverer from all its cares (Daniel xix, 13, and xii, 1; Gen. xlviii, 16); the rabbinical Metatron also plays this part of protector and supporter of the Jewish people, and is regarded as the “angel of redemption,” especially of the damned suffering in hell. The followers of Jesus will, therefore, have called themselves Nazoraeans because they primarily conceived the expected Messiah in the sense of a Michael or Metatron, a protector; that is, at all events, more probable than that they took their name from the place Nazareth, with which they had no close connection. It is not at all impossible that the place Nazareth took its name from the sect of the Nazaraeans, instead of the reverse, as is admitted by so distinguished a scholar as W. Nestle. According to the Assyriologist Haupt (of Baltimore), Nazareth was a new name for the older Hethlon (Ezech. xlvii, 15), or Hittalon or Hinnathon, which means “protection,” and has reference to the protected position of Nazareth among the hills. In that case it would be natural for the evangelist to choose a place called “protection” as the birthplace of the “protector.”
According to Mark x, 47, the blind Bartimeus, hearing that “Jesus the Nazarene” is passing by, calls out to him, “Jesus, thou son of David.” It is possible that we have here another indication of the original meaning of the name. In Isaiah nazar is the Hebrew word for the “branch,” called zemah in Zechariah; and he is called in Isaiah “a rod from the stem of Jesse”—that is to say, a “son (descendant) of David.” May it not be that the expression Nazaraean or Nazarene also contains an allusion to the “branch,” as Robertson suggests? If the figure of Jesus, and even his name, as we have seen, are derived from Isaiah, it is natural to assume that his secondary name “the Nazaraean” may also be traced to the same source, and that in the name of his sect there is a relation to the prophet's branch of David. “He grew up as a tender plant, a nazar” (Isaiah liii, 2); from this a later age has made him a “Nazarene” and put his birth at Nazareth. This would also afford a simple explanation of the curious reference in Matthew ii, 23, to some unknown passage in the prophets, and we need not suppose that Nazareth only became the name of a place at a later date; it may have existed already, and have been chosen as the birthplace of Jesus because of its connection with nazar.
We are disposed to believe that the sect of the Nazoraeans was originally the same as the Nasiraeans, the “initiated” or “holy,” who were distinguished from the rest of the Jews by their abstinence from oil and wine and the use of the razor, and by the rigour of their lives; and that the Nazoraeans were those Nasiraeans who conceived the expected Messiah in the sense of the nazar of Isaiah. In Lamentations (iv, 7) the “pure” are called “Nazarites” [Nazaraeans], and Josephus writes Nazaraios in Antiquities iv, 4, 4, but Naziraios in xix, 6, 1.
It is admitted that the origin of Jesus from Nazareth is in contradiction to the belief that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem as a shoot from David. But it is not a contradiction between the Messianic dogma and a “hard fact of history,” as Weiss says (p. 22); it is due simply to the fact that the man of the race of David is called by the prophet a “branch” (nazar); and, when men began to make an historical person of Jesus, they found the agreement of the word with Nazareth a very welcome opportunity to conceal the real origin of Jesus in Isaiah. The contradiction gave no more trouble to the early Christians than the circumstance that possibly there was no such place as Nazareth at the time of Jesus. There was also probably no such place as Capernaum, Emmaus, Bethesda, Nain, Gethsemane, or Golgotha. And if our opponents say that, if that were so, the story of Jesus would have betrayed its character as fiction, and a Jew would have seen the defect at once, we may remind them that the massacre of the children at Bethlehem, the wandering about of people to be included in the census, the astronomically impossible eclipse of the sun, which is supposed to have lasted three hours, at the death of Jesus, and many other details, did not give the evangelists the least concern. Even to-day the pious reader of the Bible is not disquieted by these things. Nor was there any fear of Jewish objection to the derivation of Jesus from Nazareth, because the process of the historicisation of the Christ-myth was only completed at a time when no historical evidence whatever of the real origin of Jesus could be adduced, since, as we have seen, the oldest gospel uses the name Nazaraean probably not to indicate the birthplace of Jesus, but as a sect-name with reference to the “protector” or “saviour” and the nazar of Isaiah.
So far, then, from the name Nazaraean, or Nazoraean, or Nazarene, being derived from the town of Nazareth, we must say that this is the least probable of all possible suggestions. The names of places in the gospels, in fact, afford no evidence whatever of the historicity of Jesus, since the whole topography of the life of Jesus is in its main lines borrowed from Isaiah and other prophets. So it was inevitable that, as soon as the process began to be regarded from the historical point of view, the great drama of the suffering and death of the servant of God and the associated redemption of mankind should be located in Jerusalem. As Luke says (xiii, 33 see also Psalm cxvi, 14-19): “It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.” It is the unvarying theme of the prophets that Jerusalem will be glorified by Jahveh, and become the centre of the world's history (Isaiah lxii, 7). In the prophet Zechariah we read of the inhabitants of the city:—
- And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
- In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.
- And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart (xii, 10-12).
On Jerusalem the eyes of the whole nation are bent. There will their desire be consummated. From there will salvation spread over the earth, and judgment be meted out to men (Isaiah ii).
“Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation” (Isaiah xxviii, 16). “And he shall be for a sanctuary, for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken” (Isaiah viii, 14, 15—see also xxviii, 13). So the evangelist makes Jesus say, with reference to the prophet: “The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner [Psalm cxviii, 22]……Therefore I say unto you: The kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Matthew xxi, 42-44). In Isaiah the prophet speaks in the same vein to those who held Jahveh holy, his “disciples”: “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion” (viii, 18). “He that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem” (iv, 3). So the Tarsic tent-maker Paul calls the Christians in Jerusalem “the saints”; and we are reminded of Acts, of the Pentecostal gathering, and the first Christian propaganda, when it is written:—
- As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem……
- It shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory.
- And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish [!], Pul, and Lud……to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.
- And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord……to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord.
- And I will also take of them for priests (Isaiah lxvi, 13-21).
In what does this comfort consist that Jahveh promises to his people? He himself will come as the king of Israel, and lead his own towards Jerusalem: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth”! (Isaiah lii, 7—compare xii, 6). “Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones……Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord; and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken” (Isaiah lxii, 10—see also xxvi, 2). The prophet refers the words immediately to Jahveh. But we have already seen how Jahveh is constantly identified with the figure of the servant of God and redeemer. How easily might the story of the entry into Jerusalem develop from these passages!
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, daughter of Jerusalem,” says the prophet Zechariah (ix, 9), in similar words to those of Isaiah: “Behold, thy king cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” Hence, in Matthew xxi, 2, Jesus bids the disciples bring him the ass and its foal that they shall find, the evangelist having in mind also the words of Genesis xlix, 11: “Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine.” And Mark (xi, 2) adds to the words of Jesus that no man had yet ridden the ass, because it is said in Numbers (xix, 2) that a faultless cow “upon which never came yoke” shall be brought to the priest Eleazar.
The hosanna of the people and their cry, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew xxi, 9), are taken from the 118th Psalm: “Save now, I beseech thee, Lord [“Save now” is the meaning of the Hebrew hoschia-na, which the evangelist seems wrongly to have taken to be a cry of joy!]: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (26). The words that Jesus is supposed to have said about his followers on entering into Jerusalem, “If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke xix, 40), are based on the prophet Habakkuk: “For the stone shall cry out of the wall” (ii, 11). Even the name “Gethsemane,” which is nowhere else found as the name of a place, is, as Smith observes, inspired by Isaiah. The name means “oil-press,” or “olive-press.” It seems to refer to Isaiah lxiii, 2, where it is said of Jahveh: “Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the press [Hebrew gath]?” “I have trodden the press alone,” says Jahveh; “and of the people there was none with me; for I will tread them in mine anger and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold; therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me.” Here we have a clear relation to the abandonment of Jesus on Gethsemane and his comforting by an angel (Luke xxii, 43), and the reference to the blood (Luke xxii, 44) accords. Jahveh's vengeance on the Gentiles is transformed in the gospels into the contrary act of the self-oblation of Jesus; and whereas in Isaiah it is the wine of anger and vengeance that flows from the press, here it is the oil of healing and salvation that pours from the press (gath) over the peoples.
Like Gethsemane, Golgotha, “the place of skulls,” is another place that we cannot verify. It is possible that the name is connected with the pillars (golgoi) of the western-Asiatic mother of the gods, and points to an ancient Jebusitic centre of the cult of Adonis under the name Golgos. But possibly there is an astral element, seeing that Matthew (xxvii, 33) makes the word mean “place of skulls” (from the Hebrew gulguleth, the skull), and suggests the skull or beaker (skull as a drinking vessel) which is found under the vernal cross in the heavens.
According to the gospels, the Saviour does not at first live in the holy city. Whence did he come? Again we find the answer in Isaiah: “I have raised up one from the north” (xli, 25). In the north is Galilee, of which it is said in the prophet: “At the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (Isaiah ix, 1-2). That, in point of fact, Galilee was generally regarded as the land from which the Messiah would come is confirmed by the Talmud, which says that, as the Galileans were the first to be driven into exile, they should be the first to receive consolation, in harmony with the law of compensation which governs all the divine plans. Hence the following words of the prophet might be referred to the Galileans and their rejoicing: “They joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil……For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever” (Isaiah ix, 3, 6, 7).
Hence it is the word of the prophet, not a “hard fact of history,” that demands the birth of the Saviour in Galilee. Then Nazareth, with its relation to nazar, occurred at once as the proper birthplace of Jesus, as soon as men began to conceive the episode historically.
Astral considerations may have co-operated. Galilee, from galil= circle, connects with the zodiacal circle which the sun traverses; even in the prophet the Saviour is identified with the sun. The “people that walk in darkness” and that “dwell in the land of the shadow” might easily be identified with the “familiar spirits” of whom Isaiah speaks (viii, 19), in whom “there is no light,” who “pass through” the land “hardly bestead and hungry; and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves and curse their king and their God, and look upward; and they shall look unto the earth, and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish, and they shall be driven to darkness.” They suggest the souls in the nether world, the stars in their course below the celestial equator, which “rejoice” at the birth of the “great light” at the winter solstice and are led to their time of brilliancy. On this view Galilee of the Gentiles (Galil-ha-goim) coincides with the lower half, the “water-region,” of the zodiac, in which are found the aquatic signs of the southern fish, Aquarius, the Fishes, the Whale, and Eridanus. We thus understand why “Galilee, the way to the sea, the land by the Jordan,” plays so great a part in the story of Jesus; it was bound to be recognised in a Messianic age. Hence this “watery region” of the sky is the chief theatre of the Saviour's life; hence in the gospels the “Sea of Galilee,” the Sea of Genesareth, and the many names of places in the district. For the Greeks and Romans they had no ulterior significance, and were mere names, but much like the names of places in Homer or Vergil, or the description of the voyage of the Argonaut by Apollonius of Rhodes. It is incredible that von Soden should seek a proof of the historicity of the gospel narrative in these names.
We have already seen that the Jordan has an astral significance in the gospels, and corresponds to the celestial Eridanus (Egyptian, iero or iera = the river) or to the Milky Way. It may be the same with other supposed names of places. In regard to the most important of them all, Capernaum, Steudel has called attention to Zech. xiii, 1, where it is said: “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness,” and reminds us that in his Jewish War (iii, 10, 8) Josephus mentions a “very strong” and fertilising spring “which is called Capharnaum by the inhabitants of the district.” When we read in Josephus the description of the fish-abounding Sea of Genesareth and the country about it, with its beauty and charm, its palms, nuts, figs, olives, and fruit-trees of all kinds, we feel that no other “knowledge of the locality” was needed in order to “invent” the whole regional background of the life of Jesus with the aid of these indications.
(f) The Chronology of the Gospels.—Not only is the topography of the gospels clearly based on Isaiah, but, as we have already seen, the chronological frame of the events described in them presents very serious difficulties. Many names of supposed historical persons in the gospels seem to have been originally of an astral character, and to have been later pressed into the historical scheme; such are Herod, the high-priests Annas and Caiaphas, and Pilate. There is hardly anything related about them that agrees with the facts known to us in other ways, but it agrees very well with astral features and constellations. The conception of the just one as “hanging” and the symbolic transformation of the martyr's stake into the mystic form of the cross as a sign of fire and life, corresponding to the constellation Orion, suggested the idea of making the servant of God and life-bringer, who dies on the cross, be put to death by the Romans, not the Jews, as the Jews killed the blasphemer by stoning. This settled the period for the story of Jesus. It can also be imagined that the figure of Augustus had some influence on this; it would be natural to oppose to the Roman lord of the world, whose reign opened a new era of history and who was greeted as saviour and redeemer of the world, the true saviour in the person of Jesus, born in his time.
Then there was, perhaps, a more general reason for fixing the time of the death of Jesus. According to Luke's gospel, Jesus must have died in the year 29. As he died in the same year as John, and John, according to the indications in Josephus, died shortly before the year 36, Keim and others have assigned the death of the saviour to that year. Keim recalls the general feeling of strain in the Roman Empire in the year 34, and with this he connects the appearance of the Baptist. At Rome the death of Tiberius was expected daily. The Parthians threatened from the east, and their prince Artabanes had wrested Armenia from the Romans and turned his attention to Syria. About the same time great events were announced in Egypt, which seemed to indicate the opening of a new epoch. In the year 34 it was believed that the fabulous phoenix, which came every five hundred years to Heliopolis to burn itself and rise again rejuvenated, had been seen. The phoenix was connected with the Messianic expectation of the Jews. Just as the marvellous bird destroyed itself at the close of each world-epoch and recreated itself, so the Messiah was expected as the creator of a new world. The whole world was discussing the extraordinary event at the time, and it may have contributed to the locating at that period of the death of the saviour and his glorious resurrection from the flames of the old world.
Further, the Hindoo Krishna, who, as saviour, conqueror of dragons, and “crucified,” is in many respects as like Jesus as one egg is like another, was said to have predicted at his death that the fourth world -period, Kaliyuga, the iron-age, would commence thirty-six years afterwards, and men would become wicked and miserable. For the Jews the year 70, in which Jerusalem was taken and the temple, the national sanctuary and centre of the faith, destroyed, was the turning-point in the history of the world. It was the year of the great judgment on the Jews, as Isaiah had predicted, the coming of which the saviour was supposed to forecast. Beckoning backwards, this again gives the year 34 as that of the death of Jesus, and agrees with the idea that the gospels reached their present form in the first quarter of the second century, in the terrible period when the Jews and Christians began to separate, as Lublinski has so vividly shown.
Whether this is so or not, we have no certain date of the death of the saviour, and every attempt to reconcile the contradictory indications is futile. These facts, however, enable us to suspect why, when the myth of the servant of God began to assume historical form, his death was fixed about the year 30 of our era. The life of Jesus may for a long time have been told unhistorically as far as any definite period of time is concerned; possibly it was originally astral, as Niemojewski believes. We can only repeat that from the chronological point of view also there is no need whatever to take the supposed historical data of the gospels seriously. That is unfortunate for those who represent them as history, as they for the most part derive their material from the gospels alone. It is quite time to listen to the learned Jews (Graetz, Joel, Chwolson, Lippe, Lublinski) who say that in point of fact it is the conditions of the second, not the first, century that have provided the framework of the gospel story in detail. The Gnostic sects, from which Christianity originated, knew at first only an astral Jesus, whose mythic “history” was composed of passages from the prophets, Isaiah, the twenty-second Psalm, and Wisdom. In this they were not far removed from the Pharisees, who, being “believers in fate,” as we know from Josephus and the Talmud, also favoured astrological ideas. It was only after the destruction of Jerusalem, when the Pharisees abandoned these speculations and adhered strictly to the law—indeed, expressly combated the fancies of astral mythology—and when the new faith spread to wider circles which did not understand the astral meaning of the Jesus-myth and regarded the myth as a real history, that the knowledge of the astral features was gradually lost, and people began to seek standing-ground for the story of Jesus in the real course of events.
The Gnostics of the second century, however, still held in principle the astral character of the story of the saviour, and possibly we have an echo of the increasing struggle against the narrowness and one-sidedness of the Pharisaic view by those who were “initiated” into the “mysteries” of the astral doctrine in the words of Jesus to the scribes: “Woe unto you, lawyers, for ye have taken away the key of knowledge; ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered” (Luke xi, 52).
(g) The Pre-Christian Jesus.—We saw that there was a pre-Christian Christ as well as a pre-Christian Jesus. In both cases Isaiah furnished the immediate occasion for the figure. There was a belief in the suffering and the death of the “servant of God,” his resurrection and exaltation by God, and the spiritual and corporal redemption of men by this means, as the Jews expected of their Messiah. The servant of God, it is true, was not himself, in his human lowliness and poverty, to be the Messiah, for with the Messiah was associated the idea of a worldly conqueror triumphing over the enemies of Israel, restoring the power of David, a powerful lord of life and death, descending from heaven to judge sinners, to found a new heaven and new earth, and inaugurating a golden age for his followers (Isaiah lxv). But his appearance on earth was to be the condition for the coming of the Messiah, and his death was to be the great expiation for the guilt of men, without which the Jews could not share the glory of the Messianic kingdom (Isaiah lviii). The figure of the servant of God, moreover, sometimes blended with that of Jahveh himself, and it was he who was to hold the last judgment and lead his people into the coveted kingdom (Isaiah xiii, 7; xxv, xxvi, xxxi, etc.); at other times he seemed to be a special being, beside or below Jahveh, the “son of God,” or the representative of “the just,” who, according to Plato and Wisdom, endure much from their enemies on earth, but are raised to divine heights after death and attain eternal life. It was a view closely akin to the belief, among non-Jewish peoples, in a suffering, dying, and rising saviour-god, celebrated in secret cults and represented by various sects. It is natural to suspect that the idea of the Messiah's mission derived from Isaiah was a secret doctrine among the Jews, and had its chief representatives in peculiarly mystic circles or sects apart from the official Jewish religion.
Possibly the Nazoraeans or Nazaraeans, as Epiphanius calls the first Christians, were such a sect, as he observes that they existed before Christ, and knew nothing of Christ—that is to say, of an historical man of that name (Haeres, xviii, 29). It is true that he only affirms this of the Nasaraeans, a Jewish sect that lived east of the Jordan, practised circumcision, observed the Sabbath and the Jewish festivals, but rejected animal food and sacrifices, and regarded the Pentateuch as a forgery, and takes the greatest care to distinguish between the two sects, the Nazoraeans and the Nasaraeans. But it is not easy to believe that they were really distinct, and the confusion of his text at the relevant passage is due, Smith suspects (The Pre-Christian Jesus), merely to his attempt to obscure the real situation.
According to Epiphanius, the Nazoraeans were closely related to the Jessaeans; indeed, the name is said to have been originally a name of the Nazoraeans. Epiphanius leaves it open whether they took their name from Jesus or from Jesse (Isai), father of David and ancestor of the Messiah. Either is possible, since the Hebrew name Joshua can be rendered either Jesus or Jessus in Greek, as is seen in the relation of Maschiach and Messiah. Possibly, however, we have in their name (Jessaeans = Jesaiaeans [Jessaioi]) an echo of the name of the prophet to whom they owed their particular conception of the suffering Messiah. The name Isaiah is, moreover, closely connected with the name Jesus, Jehoschua, or Joshua, and means “Jahveh salvation.” “God-salvation” would, of course, be just as fitting a name for the “saviour-god” as “God-Help.”
Further, the Jessaeans or Jessenes must have been closely connected with the Essaeans or Essenians who, like the Therapeuts of Egypt, cultivated a mystic esoteric doctrine, and cured disease and expelled devils by the magic of names. The “servant of God” in Isaiah was also a physician of the soul, a healer, and an expeller of demons. When, therefore, Epiphanius observes that the name Jesus means in Hebrew curator or therapeutes (healer or physician), it is not at all improbable that the Essaeans worshipped their god under the name Jesus or Joshua.
In the gospels (Mark ix, 39; Luke ix, 49; x, 17), in Acts (iii, 16), and in the Epistle of James (v, 14), we read that the name Jesus had a miraculous power, and the Talmud also says that about the end of the first century disease was healed in the name of Jesus. According to Weiss, this is “one of the strongest proofs that he was known to Jews and Gentiles as a successful exorcist” (p. 19); and Weinel charges Smith with “a poor knowledge of the subject,” because he concludes from this that the name Jesus must from the first have been the name of a god. “For,” he sagely informs us, “devils were expelled in the name of Solomon, for instance, as well as in the name of God or of a god. In this way they secured the mysterious power which, according to the ideas of the age, Solomon or Jesus possessed—the latter in virtue of the cures which he had actually accomplished” (p. 94). Indeed! Unfortunately, in the passage quoted from Josephus it is not said at all that the Jewish magician Eleazar exorcised demons “in the name of Solomon,” but merely that he exorcised them and at the same time “remembered” the name of Solomon and pronounced the magical formulae composed by him. From this it does not follow at all that it was the name of Solomon, and not the name of some divine being, that worked the miracles. Is Solomon supposed to have expelled demons in his own name? That would be too much like Zeus in Offenbach's operetta Orpheus in the Underworld, who swears “by me”! That was not even done by Jesus, who drove out devils in the name of the Holy Ghost (Matthew xii, 28). We read in Justin, moreover, that the Joshua of the Old Testament was only made capable of performing miracles when Moses changed his name from Hosea into that of the Christian saviour (Numbers xiii, 16). Hence, miracles were not done in the name of Jesus because the historical Jesus had been “a successful exorcist,” but the name itself was supposed to have the power of expelling demons and compelling nature, quite independently, it seems, of the miracles of the “historical” Jesus.
In this connection there seems to be more probability in the suggestion of Smith that the words of the magicpapyrus published by Wessely, “I adjure thee by the God of the Hebrews, Jesus,” points to a pre-Christian use of the name Jesus in exorcisms. Weiss, it is true, says that the papyrus was “certainly” written by a pagan “who was unable to distinguish between Jews and Christians” (p. 19). Deissman also believes that the name was subsequently interpolated by a pagan, since neither a Christian nor a Jew would call Jesus the God of the Hebrews. But what if Jesus was originally the name of a god? What if there were a pre-Christian Judaeo-Gnostic Jesus-god? Is it possible that Deissman has himself fallen here into the error of the “destroyers of names” whom he so much despises—those who think “nothing genuine that is not trivial,” and who strike out “a great name” wherever they find it? The copyist has added “the cathari” (i.e., “the pure”) to the words quoted. No less a scholar than Albrecht Dieterich has declared that the “pure” are identical with the Essenes or Therapeuts, and pointed out that the papyrus betrays no Christian influence whatever, but belongs to Judaeo-Hellenistic circles, and, if this is so, the Essenes must have recognised a Jesus-god. What does Weinel, who thinks it “childish” to identify “the pure” with the Essenes, say to this? He says flatly: “Everybody knows that we have Christian influence here; that it is the Christian Jesus who is meant, and he is mistakenly represented as a God of the Hebrews” (p. 103). The truth is that theologians have hitherto thought they had proved this, because they did not consider any alternative to their own view.
Then there is the Naassene hymn, which Hippolytus has preserved for us, in which the name Jesus occurs. He “prays his father” to send him down to bring redemption to those who walk in darkness. “In possession of the seal will I go down: all aeons will I traverse: all mysteries will I solve, the forms of the gods will I reveal, and what is hidden of the holy way [gnosis] will I make plain.” Theologians say, in opposition to Smith, that this hymn is post-Christian. But as there were Naassenes or Ophites before the appearance of Christianity, as Mosheim (Geschichte der Schlangenbrüder) and Baur (Die christliche Gnosis, 1835, pp. 37, 52, and 194) supposed, and Hönig has completely proved (Die Ophiten, 1889), it is merely begging the question to say that in the case of this psalm we have “Christian Naassenes,” especially seeing that the psalm itself has a very ancient character and is closely related to the corresponding Babylonian forms of adjuration. On the contrary, it is difficult to resist the suspicion that the ancient Babylonian name-magic was combined at an early date with the idea of a divine healer, and Jesus (Joshua, Jason, Jasios) was a name used in exorcisms by the pre-Christian Gnostic sects. Further, the name must indicate some sort of divine being, as few will doubt who have any acquaintance with the old ideas of adjuration and magic.
Whittaker (The Origins of Christianity, 2nd ed., 1909, p. 27) has drawn attention to Jude 5, where it is written: “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed them that believed not; and the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” So it reads in the revised text. But in the original text, as we have it in Buttmann's Greek edition of the New Testament, we read the name Jesus instead of “the Lord,” and this, as we saw, is equivalent to Joshua. If we then remove the comma after “Egypt,” where it is quite arbitrary and has no meaning, and put it after “a second time,” we read: “that Jesus, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt a second time,” and we have a strong proof that there was a pre-Christian saviour of that name known in the Judaeo-Christian circles to which the Epistle is addressed. Not only does it confirm the belief in a god Jesus in these circles, as, of course, only a god could judge the angels and put them in chains; it at the same time shows us the identity of this Jesus with the Joshua of the Old Testament, and strengthens our conviction that Joshua also, who saved the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt a second time, Moses having saved them once before, was regarded in those circles as a divine being and not as a mere hero. That “Jesus” is really the earlier reading is shown by the fourth verse, where Jesus is described as the “only Lord” of the Christians, so that it is impossible that in the very next verse the writer should call another—say, Jahveh—the Lord, especially as Jesus Christ is also expressly called the “Lord” in verses 17, 21, and 25. Hence we have in the Epistle of Jude and the changes of its original text a positive proof of an attempt to conceal the traces of a pre-Christian Jesus-god.
With this passage in the Epistle of Jude Whittaker compares one in the “Sibylline Oracles,” an essentially Jewish work, in which we read: “Now a certain excellent man will come again from heaven, who spread forth his hands upon the very fruitful tree, the best of the Hebrews, who once made the sun stand still, speaking with beauteous words and pure lips.” The German translation runs: “Whose hands outspread on the fruitful tree of the best of the Hebrews,” and relates the “one” to Moses and the cross to Exodus xvii, 22. But Moses does not stretch his hands on the cross, but in the form of a cross; and it was not Joshua who made the sun stand still, but Aaron and Hur who supported his arms, Joshua in the meantime being engaged with the Amalekites. Here again the figures of Jesus and Joshua are blended, and we learn from the passage that they identified the Old Testament Joshua, not only with the “crucified” servant of God, but also with the Messiah descending from heaven.
A further proof that Jesus was the name of a god in pre-Christian times is found in the “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” according to Harnack and others an originally Jewish work, which was afterwards, somewhat superficially, Christianised. It says, in connection with the Last Supper: “We thank thee, our father, for the holy vine of David, thy servant, whom thou hast made known to us by thy servant Jesus……We thank thee for the life and the knowledge that thou hast given us through Jesus, thy servant……We thank thee for thy holy name, for which thou hast prepared a dwelling in our hearts, and for the knowledge and the faith and the immortality that thou hast made known to us through thy servant Jesus.” How is it that the words of institution of the Last Supper in the gospels, which must have been so important and dear to Christians, are omitted and replaced by the above words? Is this Jesus of the “Teaching,” who is supposed to have made known to his followers the “holy vine of David,” the same as the Jesus of the gospels? This Jesus who reveals life and knowledge, and in this way communicates immortality to his followers, has a suspicious resemblance to the Jesus of the ancient Gnostics, in whose case also the knowledge (gnosis) revealed by him was the essential mark and condition of eternal life.
Then there is the so-called “Revelation” of John! Here, again, apparently, we have an originally Jewish work which was afterwards modified in a Christian sense, and no one can say confidently whether the nucleus of the revelation was composed before or after the supposed time of Jesus. There is the terrible form of the “son of man” coming in the clouds, who says: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” just as Jahveh says of himself in Isaiah: “I am the first and the last” (xlviii, 13). “His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength” (Rev. i, 14-16). Then there is the lamb with seven horns and seven eyes, that is “as if slain,” and the mysterious book opened with the seven seals (v, 5), and the child of the woman “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars,” who is carried to the throne of God, and of whom it is said that he will “rule all nations with a rod of iron” (xii). Or consider the rider on the white horse, with many diadems on his head, clothed in a blood-stained garment, whose name is “the word of God……and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God; and he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (xix, 11). What have all these forms to do with the “simple” Jesus of the gospels? How could we explain the transformation of such a Jesus into these extraordinary mixtures of the grotesque and gigantic so soon after his death? Have we not rather a product of the unrestrained imagination of some religious sect or conventicle, to whom Jesus was from the start, not a man, but a supernatural, divine being, and in whose ecstatic visions mythical and prophetic elements grew into the frenzied figures which we have in Revelation?
In details we perceive a connection with the prophet Isaiah—in the form of the child and the lamb which is slain, in the allusion to the “root, the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star” (xxii, 16; Isaiah lx), in the figure of the rider who treads the winepress of the anger of judgment (Isaiah lxiii), in the reference to the sufferings of the saints, which by no means relates to the persecutions of the Christians, as has hitherto been believed, but rather to the sufferings of the just in Wisdom, in the comforting with the “fountain of life” and the eternal light of the lamb, in which the nations walk and to which the kings of the earth bring their glory (Isaiah lx), in the promise of the new Jerusalem, in which the treasures of the nations will be heaped up and only the just shall live, in the struggle of Jahveh with the Leviathan, and the figure of the last trumpet (Isaiah xxvii). The historical Jesus, who is supposed to have been the occasion of all this, is nowhere to be recognised, and could not be found at all in Revelation, if it were not read under the conviction that it belongs to Christian circles, and that the Jesus of whom it speaks is the one whose supposed life-story is told in the gospels. It may be an esoteric work of the “Jessaeans,” in the sense of the word previously explained. There is no proof that it is a Christian work and relates to the “historical” Jesus. The numerous astral-mythological allusions in the work which were indicated by Dupuis point, not to an historical, but a purely mythical Jesus.
If, therefore, Jesus had a mythic significance in pre-Christian times, it would be very surprising if he were not also worshipped in certain sects, especially in view of the part played by the similarly-named Jasios or Jason as healer and patron of physicians in the Greek mysteries. It is certain that Moses was regarded as divine, not only in the Alexandrian religious philosophy of Philo, which is closely connected with the Palestinian sects, but also in the belief of the sects themselves. Just as Philo sees in him the lawgiver and prophet, the “purest spirit,” the ideal type of humanity, the mediator and reconciler with God, even a divine being, and makes him equal to the Messiah, so, on his own showing, this happened in many of the Judaeo-Gnostic sects, who looked up to Moses as a kind of god, had a legend of his being taken into heaven, and on this account venerated him as the conqueror of death and the demons. Philo says that the Therapeuts held a great festival on the seventh Sabbath, the fiftieth day of the year at that time, in which, after a festive nocturnal meal, which probably had a mystic significance, the men and women were arranged in a double choir, which Philo calls an imitation of the choir which Moses and his sister Miriam arranged to sing their victory and gratitude after the passage of the Red Sea. In Philo and the Therapeuts the delivery of the Jews from the bondage of Egypt means the delivery of the soul from the bonds of sense and the passage to the kingdom of the pure spirit. But as the meal of the Therapeuts was certainly related to the Passover meal, which the Jews celebrated before the escape from Egypt, it had an historical as well as a mystic significance, like the Christian Supper. “The soul prepares in the Passover or in its imitation the Therapeutic meals for delivery from the bonds of sense; it then asks divine aid in the passage through the Bed Sea which borders Egypt (or the body), and rejoices in the sacred choirs, inebriated with heavenly love and full of gratitude to the saving God, the redeemer.”
Now Joshua is a close relation, if not a mere duplicate, of Moses. In his case the passage of the Red Sea is paralleled by the passage of the Jordan, the river of heaven, as the Mandaeans regarded it; and in his case also the passage is connected with the feast of the Passover (Joshua v). The story of Joshua is built, point by point, on that of Moses; indeed, it seems as if they are only two different forms of the same mythical figure, the lawgiver and leader of Israel—that is to say, the sun in its passage through the watery region in the spring, in combination with Oannes as determining and announcing the division of the year (see p. 190). After this, is it a strained and precarious supposition that Joshua also was originally an Ephraimitic name for the sun, an ancient Jewish sect-god, a hero of the cult in certain Gnostic circles, who were in this influenced by their heathen pastoral neighbours and their veneration of similar mythic personalities? If Melchisedech, who is, like Moses, put by Philo on the same footing as the divine “word,” the Logos and Messiah—if Noah, Henoch, Joseph, and even Cain were worshipped, is it likely that Joshua, the second Moses, was overlooked?
We now know that there was a pre-Christian Jewish Gnosticism. In his admirable work, Der vorchristliche jüdische Gnostizismus (1898), Friedländer has amply described it and its connection with the religious philosophy of Alexandria; Gunkel has traced its relations to Persian and Babylonian ideas. Must we reject outright the idea of a pre-Christian cult of Jesus because we have no direct evidence of it? We can, however, deduce its existence from the few extant traces on the same rules of science on which we deduce any other facts from indications and survivals in historical investigation when there is no direct evidence. It is true that we can only attain more or less confident suppositions, especially as there is question of a secret cult, the teaching of which was probably not committed to writing (Gunkel, p. 63), and because the Christian Church and Jewish synagogue have done all in their power to destroy heretical works and all traces of the real origin of Christianity.
We have ample experience of the conduct of the Roman Church in suppressing inconvenient writings. How was it likely to act when it had better means of doing so than now, when it still had unlimited power over souls, and when the difficulty of publishing works was such as to restrict their number in a way that we can now hardly appreciate; especially as there would, in any case, be few copies of these esoteric Gnostic works? All that we know of Gnosticism is derived from the biased accounts of its ecclesiastical opponents, as the Church moved heaven and earth to destroy the works of its supporters. We can no more forget the treasures we have lost in this way than we can forget its brutal destruction of our earliest literature (songs of the gods, legends of heroes, magical formulae, etc.) in the first years of the Christian mission in Germany and during the Middle Ages; in those years we lost an invaluable treasure, torn by the hands of fanatical priests, trampled under the heavy feet of monks, and given to the flames.
And even if we reject the idea of a pre-Christian cult of Jesus, those who believe in his historical character gain nothing. It is not true at all that, as is constantly said in pamphlets, lectures, and journals, The Christ Myth stands or falls with the existence of a pre-Christian Jesus. The mythical nature of the Christian saviour is sufficiently proved by the character of the gospels themselves and the lack of independent evidence; it is entirely independent of the question whether Jesus had or had not been previously worshipped. The belief in an earlier cult would merely throw a welcome light on the origin of Christianity and its connection with the surrounding Jewish and pagan world. One may venture to say that theologians have found so much in their documents, when it suited their purpose, that they will certainly be able to discover a pre-Christian Jesus whenever their theory requires one, and they are no longer prevented by their dependence on the Church from studying the subject impartially.
(h) The Conversion of the Mythical into an Historical Jesus.—We must now make a special inquiry into the question how the mythical Jesus—the Isaiahian (or Jessaean) saviour, the suffering, dying, and rising servant of God and just one—was converted into the historical Jesus, and see how far prophetic promises and astral-mythological speculations of the Gnostic sects co-operated in the process, and how far personal experiences and religious dispositions of the communities determined the figure of the historical Jesus and transformed an abstract scheme into a living personality. The Christ Myth has been content with a few general indications in this regard. It has merely gathered together material from which one may obtain some idea of the origin of Christianity. Perhaps the time has not yet come for a fuller study of the matter, as one has first to accomplish the work of clearing a veritable Augean stable of prejudices and errors and preparing the ground for a sober construction. It is clear that the conversion of the mythical into the historical Jesus could not have taken place before the beginning of the second century, when there would be no living witnesses of the events related. The seventy or eighty years that would elapse after the supposed death of Jesus would be quite enough to permit his “history” to seem plausible, especially as the destruction of Jerusalem had so disturbed the life of the people that there was no fear of Jewish opponents proving the falseness of their assertions. At the same time, we need not postulate a deliberate deception in the conversion of the myth into history. As all the chief features of the character of Jesus had, as we saw, long been in existence, and the myth would naturally tend to take the form of narrative, as if there were question of real events in the past, the whole process might take place so gradually and unconsciously that there is no occasion to speak of “glib lying” and “thorough swindle,” as some say.
The cult-legend spoke of an Immanuel or Jesus who had, according to Isaiah, sacrificed himself for the sins of the people, and would then come down from heaven in the shape of the expected Messiah and lead his followers into the kingdom they desired. As the question of the Messiah had become urgent after the destruction of Jerusalem and the collapse of all the political hopes of the Jews, and amid the sufferings of the people from the Roman oppression, the further questions were found to rise spontaneously to the lips: When did the servant of God really suffer? Where did he die? What was he like? What did he do before he was put to death by his enemies? Who were these enemies? And so on. And it was just as inevitable for the answer to be found in the indications of the prophets and of astral-mythological speculation, and thus to lead to the historicisation of the originally mythical figure of Jesus.
His death could not be placed too long before the destruction of Jerusalem for the reasons we have already seen. The Messiah must have been born in the days of Augustus, whom the pagans have regarded as the desired saviour of the world. Astral mythology furnished the name of Pilatus to pierce with his spear (pilum) the son of God hanging on the world-tree, the Milky Way; and Pilate had, according to Josephus, been procurator in the time of Tiberius. According to the words of the prophet, the servant of God was to be a healer of spiritual and corporal ills, a supporter of the poor and oppressed. Miracles of extraordinary kinds were to reveal his future Messianic significance, yet he was not to be understood by his own people and was to succumb to the attacks of his enemies. And who could these enemies be but the Pharisees and scribes, who had been more and more hostile to the Jewish sects after the destruction of Jerusalem?
As long as their belief in the redeeming death of the servant of God was a secret belief within the sect there could be no conflict with the Pharisees; in fact, sometimes the Pharisees were united with the sectarians, both in their mystic and astrological tendencies and in their hostility to the worldly-minded priestly nobility of the Sadducees. We saw how in Isaiah the figure of the Saviour constantly blends with that of Jahveh. As is known, the aim of the preaching of Isaiah is to confirm the people in monotheistic ideas, in belief in the one God, who says: “I am Jahveh and no other, and there is no god beside me. I am the first and the last.” These words are put in the mouth of the “son of man” in Revelation. In Isaiah xlv, 15, Jahveh is called a “hidden God,” a “Saviour,” just as the servant of God and Saviour was supposed to grow up in obscurity, and the just to expiate sins by his death without attracting much attention or the real significance of his death being recognised. What if, after the manner of Isaiah, the belief in Jahveh were to coalesce with the belief in Jesus in the mind of the sect, and Jesus become the form in which Jahveh was worshipped as healer, expiator, and redeemer in the mystic and esoteric cults? For the religion of Jesus was merely a religion of Jahveh of deeper mysticism, a new and special form of Jewish monotheism; and the orthodox Jews, for whom monotheism was the sum of their faith, had on that account no occasion to put difficulties in the way of the original Christians, the Jessaeans or Nazoraeans, the “saints,” as they were called in Isaiah.
Weiss thinks that the early Christians, with their belief that the crucified Jesus was the Messiah, put themselves in the sharpest opposition to Judaism, and incurred hatred and persecution, and says that it is “absolutely ridiculous to think that the first Christians would have voluntarily encountered this difficulty” (p. 44). But that was not the belief of the “first Christians “; they believed that Jesus, the servant of God, the Saviour of Isaiah, who was believed to have suffered a humiliating death among men, as Messiah, would return in glory, and realise their hope of eternal life. It may seem “bold” and “paradoxical” to imagine Jahveh sacrificing himself for his people and so entering the ranks of the pagan saviour-gods—Marduk, Adonis, Tammuz, Attis, Osiris, etc. Yet this may have been simply a revival of an older idea, that Jahveh was himself Tammuz, dying every year, mourned by the women of Jerusalem according to Ezechiel (viii, 13), rising and dying again, to enter once more into life. A reluctance to connect Jahveh with finiteness may have prevented those who held this belief from identifying the Saviour strictly with the supreme God. This may have been the reason why Jesus, though essentially one with God, was nevertheless distinguished from him as a special being. It was a “stumbling-block to the Jews” that their God was related to the pagan saviour-gods; a “folly to the pagans” that the redeemer of the world should be a Jewish deity. But this seems impossible only when one, like Weiss, conceives the crucified Jesus as an historical human being. That the Christians would arbitrarily create the difficulty of representing such a person as the Messiah we should certainly hesitate to think. But the ground for believing in a crucified saviour need not have been in historical events at all; it may have been because the fact of the suffering and death of Jesus was revealed by the prophet Isaiah.
As long as Jesus was the object of worship of a very small body, and the belief in him was obscured by mystic confusion and mythological mists, it seemed to the orthodox Jews to be harmless. The figures of Jesus and Jahveh were blended, and the religious foundation of Judaism, monotheism, seemed not to be endangered. But when, after the destruction of Jerusalem, the orthodox Jews, deprived of their political independence, now placed their national unity and cohesion in a unity of faith, and therefore drew up the ranks of the ecclesiastical regiment more strictly and hardened the ritual law of monotheism into a dogma, Jesus was detached from Jahveh, the god of the sect was opposed to the god of the official religion as an independent divine being, and a bitter hostility set in between the scribes and Pharisees on the one hand, who represented monotheism in its most abstract form and, in connection with it, held rigidly to the forms of the law, and the sects on the other hand, with whom the common folk sympathised as we read in the gospels. Under the fearful pressure of the uprooting of the Jewish people, and in view of the religious need of the time, which had reached its highest pitch with the loss of the temple, it seemed that the terrible time foretold by the prophets had come, and that they should look for the immediate appearance of the Messiah. The promises that had been made must now be fulfilled. This was the opportunity of the Jewish sectaries to come out of the seclusion of their mystic sects and conventicles with their “gnosis” and proclaim to the whole people their faith in Jesus.
Possibly exalted by visions, in which they believed that they saw the risen “Lord” in bodily form, the emissaries of the faith went about announcing the “glad tidings” of the coming of the Messiah and the speedy establishment of the kingdom of heaven on earth. In market-place and on the street the appeal for change of heart through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ rang out. Then the innovation became dangerous to the official Jewish religion. Weiss can only attribute to a “real Jesus,” the “influence of a personality,” and the experience of his life on earth, “the immense step from the vague Messianic hope to the confidence of possession, fulfilment, and the joy and gratitude for what God has given them in his servant Jesus, as we find it in the prayers of that early time” (p. 48). But this confidence of possession had long been a peculiarity of Jewish sectarianism before they gave publicity to their faith and made it the object of a popular propaganda; Paul and others may have begun this at an earlier period. If this is now done more vigorously and on a larger scale, it is not because an historical Jesus has caused it, but because the general conditions of the time inflamed the religious sentiment and made it seem a duty to the sectaries to communicate their “knowledge” (gnosis) to their compatriots and the rest of mankind and “reveal” the approach of the kingdom of heaven, and thus bring them to a change of heart. It is true that the rest of the Jews also believed in the speedy coming of the Messiah. But the belief had so often been falsified that its strength and sources threatened to become weaker. The sectaries, however, had a powerful framework for that belief in their astrally and prophetically grounded legend of Jesus, who was supposed voluntarily to have sacrificed himself and to be about to return as king and judge of his people. That was new and unfamiliar, and precisely on that account it appealed to the feeling of the time, and found credence among their Jewish compatriots the more easily as the belief gave them a weapon against the detested sanctity and pride of the Pharisees, and the concentration of the sectarians on the plain and intelligible morality of the prophets and proverbial books offered the possibility of religious salvation to all men who would endeavour to lead good lives. It may have been then that the saying of Luke was formulated: “Woe unto you, lawyers, for ye have taken away the key of knowledge [gnosis]. Ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered” (xi, 52). It means that the representatives of the official Jewish religion had abandoned their earlier predilection for astrology, and now attached the astrological speculations to the Gnostics. This made an end of the astral ground of the hope in a Messiah; there remained only the prophetical, and the original astral Jesus became more and more vague and was replaced by the historical Jesus. The more the new faith spread among the people the more the gnosis was adapted to their intelligence, and thus the supposed historicity of the Saviour was substituted for the mythical and astral character of their religious ideas.
(i) Jesus and the Pharisees and Scribes.—We turn now to consider the relation of Jesus to the Pharisees. Jewish scholars like Chwolson have often expressed their astonishment at the way this relation is described in the gospels. What, they ask, could be the reason for the deadly enmity between Jesus and the representatives of the official Jewish religion? Beligious-moral reasons could not possibly suffice of themselves to explain it. In this respect there was not a very sharp opposition between them. “In the teaching and sayings of Jesus,” says Chwolson, “there was nothing that could offend the religious feeling of anyone educated according to Pharisaic laws and acquainted with the Pharisaic—that is to say, Rabbinical—literature” (p. 88). Jesus is supposed to have preached in the synagogues, of which the Pharisees were the masters; he cannot, therefore, have infringed the law. Moreover, he is supposed to have adhered strictly to the law, since he says that he had not come to undo, but to fulfil, it (Matthew v, 17)—a saying that is found almost word for word in the Talmud: “Not a letter of the law will ever be destroyed,” and “The laws of Noah have not been abolished, but increased” (Cosri, i, 83). Matthew xxiii, 3, makes Jesus bid his disciples listen in all things to the commands of the Pharisees. This, however, seems to be based on Ecclus. vii, 31: “Fear the Lord, and honour the priest, and give him his part, as it is commanded from the beginning.” In passing over one or other prescription, or interpreting it in an unfamiliar sense, he did nothing extraordinary. There were among the Pharisees and scribes themselves many differences in the exposition and application of the prescriptions of the law, though this never led to charges of heresy or persecution.
One of the worst of his transgressions is that he and his disciples are said to have violated the law of the Sabbath by healing the sick on that day. Even among the rabbis, however, the holiness of the Sabbath had to give way when a man's life was in question. In fact, it was obligatory to disregard the Sabbath when there was danger in the observance of it, and the man who in such a case held to the letter was regarded as a “murderer.” We read in Lev. xviii, 5: “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments; which, if a man do, he shall live in them.” And in the Talmud (Tract. Joma, 85b) we read: “The Sabbath is given to you, not you to the Sabbath.” To heal by merely stretching out one's hand over the patient, as Jesus is said to have done on the Sabbath in Mark iii, 5, was not forbidden by the rabbis, and therefore the Pharisees could not be “filled with madness,” as they are said to have been on such an occasion in Luke vi, 11.
Even on the question of divorce Jesus did not take up a position opposed to that of the Pharisees. We read in Matthew v, 31: “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement; but I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery.” But it is also said in the Talmud: “Whosoever shall put away his wife, over him the altar sheddeth tears” (Pessachim, 113), and “Whosoever putteth away his wife is hated of God” (Gittin, 90b). Even the prophet Malachi had said: “Let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth, for the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away” (ii, 15). Divorce is permitted only when an internal breach between the spouses has already taken place because of the infidelity of one or other, as is said in Isaiah in regard to the union of Jahveh and his people, which is conceived as a marriage-bond: “Thus saith the Lord, Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away” (l, 1). In the passage quoted in regard to divorce, Jesus merely pronounces for the stricter opinion of the school of Gamaliel against the laxer school of Hillel.
Not only is there no opposition between Jesus and the Pharisees on this point, but even the fact that he is supposed to have openly proclaimed himself the Messiah was not calculated to turn them against him. Not only the children of Israel, but even individual men, are called “sons of God,” and the priests and rabbis themselves have at times called a man the Messiah and supported him with their respect; consider Zerubbabel, and the relation of the rabbi Akiba to Bar-Kochba.
In Matthew xv, 5, and Mark vii, 11, Jesus reproaches the Pharisees with perverting the command to honour one's father and mother in favour of one's duty to God. We find, however, no trace of such a thing in Jewish tradition, which expressly forbids any misinterpretation of the commandments of the law. Again, in regard to the laws regulating food, Jesus cannot possibly have acted as he is supposed to have done in Matthew xv, 11, and Mark vii, 15, because in that case it would be unintelligible for Peter to refuse to touch unclean food (Acts x, 14). Moreover, Jesus is supposed to have given him full power to bind and to loose, or to decide questions of law according to his own judgment.
It is just as accurate for Jesus to blame the Pharisees for making proselytes (Matthew xxiii, 15). If we were to take his words seriously, they were wholly absorbed in bringing men into the Jewish faith wherever they could. As a matter of fact, the Talmud expressly forbids this indiscriminate making of proselytes, and makes the entrance into Judaism dependent on righteousness of heart. Still less can there be question of the Pharisees declaring that to swear by the temple and altar was not binding, but it is binding to swear by the gold of the temple and the sacrifice on the altar (Matthew xxiii, 16). If Jesus meant that the sanctity clung to the temple and altar, not to the things therein, that is precisely the view of the rabbis. And when Jesus says (Matthew xxiii, 23): “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone,” the charge falls to the ground, from the simple fact that plants that grow wild, and vegetables, were not subject to tithe.
These charges are either brought by someone who was unacquainted with the real facts, or have been invented arbitrarily to confuse opponents, without any regard to historical truth. It is the same when Jesus accuses the Pharisees of the murder of prophets, and charges them with having slain Zacharias, son of Barachias, between the temple and the altar, and holds them responsible for the shedding of his innocent blood (Matthew xxiii, 35). Here Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, who was stoned in the court of the temple by order of King Joash (2 Chron. xxiv, 21), is combined or confused with Zachariah, the son of Baruch, who was slain by the zealots in the temple for supposed treachery during the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans. Indeed, the whole of the words in Matthew xxiii, 34: “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify, etc.,” together with the subsequent prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, are based on the prophet Jeremiah (vii, 25):—
- Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them:
- Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck; they did worse than their fathers.
- Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee; thou shalt also call unto them, but they will not answer thee…
- Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on high places; for the Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath…
- And the carcases of this people shall be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth; and none shall fray them away.
- Then will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride; for the land shall be desolate.
Many writers have insisted that the relation of Jesus to the scribes and Pharisees affords a proof of his historicity. Yet almost the very same charges which Jesus makes against the Pharisees are brought by Isaiah against the heads of the people. “Your hands are full of blood,” the prophet says (i, 15; see also lix, 3); “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil. Learn to do well, seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” And Isaiah bemoans that Jerusalem, “the faithful city, full of judgment, righteousness lodged in it,” has “become a harlot” and is full of “murderers.” “Thy princes are rebellious and the companions of thieves; every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards; they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.” “Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; to turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless” (x, 1 and 2; cf. Mark xii, 40). “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight” (v, 20). Compare with this the charges which Jesus brings against the Pharisees and scribes, and it will be seen that here again Isaiah was the model of the evangelists. Jesus calls the Pharisees “blind leaders of the blind” (Matthew xv, 14) and “blind Pharisees,” and blames them for the perverse ways they have chosen to attain salvation (Matthew xxiii, 16, 19, 24, and 26). But we read in Isaiah (iii, 12): “O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths,” and the prophet returns incessantly to the blindness of the people and their leaders. Jesus reproaches the Pharisees with hypocrisy, and tells them that their service of God is mere lip-service, and that by their refining and multiplying commandments they have made the way of salvation difficult for themselves (Matthew xv, 8). Isaiah also complains to “the Lord” that his people approaches him only with its lips, but its heart is far from him; that its fear of God is only learned from the precept of men (xxix, 13), and it does not honour him in the right way. “For…your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth; they trust in vanity and speak lies; they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity” (lix, 3 and 4). Jesus calls the Pharisees “serpents and generation of vipers,” as John is supposed to have done (Matthew xxiii, 33). Here again he merely does what Isaiah had done: “They hatch cockatrice' [vipers'] eggs, and weave the spider's web; he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper. Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works; their works are works of iniquity……their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity……they have made them crooked paths” (lix, 5-8).
We have, therefore, every reason to doubt the historical truth of the relevant passages in the gospels, and this doubt increases when we find that even so important a scene as the expulsion of the merchants from the temple and the words put into the mouth of Jesus on that occasion are inspired by Isaiah, and closely follow passages in the prophet. What does “the Lord” say in the first chapter of the prophet?
- To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats.
- When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
- Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me.
“Behold,” says the prophet Malachi (iii, 1), continuing this,
- I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.
- But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire and the fullers' soap.
- And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
- Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
- And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, saith the Lord of hosts.
Add the words of Zechariah (xiv, 21):
- Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts; and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein; and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite [merchant] in the house of the Lord of hosts.
And if we further conclude that the words of Jesus, “My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Mark xi, 17), are a combination of Isaiah lvi, 7 (“Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people”), and Jeremiah vii, 11 (“Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?”), the historicity of the narrative breaks down altogether. The seventh chapter of Jeremiah also describes a closely similar situation, as the first chapter of Isaiah and the narrative of the cleansing of the temple:—
- Stand in the gate of the Lord's house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the Lord.
- Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place……
- For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour;
- If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt;
- Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.
We see from this why Jesus had to go to Jerusalem and begin his work with the cleansing of the temple, and why his threatening speech on the Pharisees and his prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem must be connected with the episode. It is all foreshadowed in the words of the prophet, and there is no guarantee of historical reality. In the thirteenth chapter of Mark and the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew we do, indeed, detect an historical reality; but the events referred to have, as Graetz has shown, the colouring of the terrible time of the Bar-Kochba war in the second century, when Jews and Christians opposed each other in deadly enmity and made each other responsible for the judgment, when the name of the followers of Jesus was hateful to the Jews, when the. “Minaeans” were openly cursed, and Jews and Christians alike were executed with fearful cruelty during the religious persecution under Hadrian. Yet here again the model for the prediction of Jesus, or for the Jewish Apocalyptic which is at the base of it, was the prophet Isaiah, when he says, in regard to the judgment on Jerusalem and the accompanying horrors: “And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour; the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable” (iii, 5; see Mark xiii, 12). When Jeremiah (vii, 30) says, in the same connection, “They have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to pollute it,” we are reminded of the “abomination of desolation” which is, according to Mark (xiii, 14), to be a sign for Christians to fly, and in connection with which Jesus himself appeals to Daniel ix, 27. How far the whole story in the gospels has been influenced by the prophets is seen by the cursing of the fig-tree, which is supposed to have occurred about the time of the cleansing of the temple, since even this detail was, apparently, furnished by Isaiah (i, 29 and 30): “Ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen, for ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth.” We may add the words of Jeremiah (viii, 13), who in the same connection makes the “Lord” say: “There shall be [there are] no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig-tree, and the leaf shall fade [has faded], and the things that I have given them shall pass away from them” (see also Hosea xiii, 15).
It is still disputed how far the movement initiated by Jesus was a movement of the proletariate. The gospel of Luke represents the saviour chiefly as a friend of the poor and oppressed. Anyone who carefully considers the circumstances will see that this feature also has been taken from Isaiah. In the prophet “the Lord” is, above all, the saviour of the poor and the unjustly treated and suffering, reproaching the higher class for their conduct and charging them with violence and injustice: “The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people and the princes thereof; for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces and grind the faces of the poor?” (iii, 14). It is very probable that the Jesus-sect consisted mainly from the start of the lowest sections of the people, such as had nothing to lose and nothing to hope for in life, and whose whole thoughts and feelings were bound up so much the more intimately with the promise of a happy future in the world beyond, which was connected with the coming of the Messiah. Here, again, it is to Isaiah, not to Jesus, that we must trace the sympathy with the poor, who unites pity and goodwill to the enslaved with anger against the rich and the oppressor, and has thus provided the basis of the philosophy of Christianity. When Wisdom describes the opponents of the Saviour and servant of God as being especially the wicked and unjust, it is merely developing the lesson of Isaiah, and declaring that they are the enemies of the poor and weak, the oppressors of the lower people, a proud, hypocritical, and self-righteous class; thus we get the picture of the Pharisees and scribes as we find it in the gospels, though it is the Pharisees of the second, rather than the first, century who have contributed to its concrete features, as these were, in point of fact, the bitterest and most irreconcilable opponents of the poor members of the Jesus-sect. And if this was the quality of the opponents of the Saviour, there was all the more reason to represent him as a poor man, springing from the lower class, and the antithesis of Jew and Gentile, just and unjust, of which there had originally been question in Isaiah's “servant of God,” received in the historical clothing of the mythical ideas the character of a struggle of the poor against the rich and powerful, the laity against the arrogance of the priests and scribes, the honest search for salvation against hypocrisy, the plain piety of the prophets against the law and the pride of its official representatives.
(k) Further Modifications of Prophetical and Historical Passages.—In these circumstances no historical importance will be attached to the attitude of Jesus towards places which were hostile to him (Matthew xi, 20; Luke x, 13). It is in itself very improbable that Jesus would curse a place because it was not converted by his miracles to faith in him, as his own relatives and nearest disciples are represented as at times not believing in him; and here again the Evangelists seem to have had in mind the prophet Isaiah, who is never tired of calling his woes upon the heathen cities and predicting their destruction, and whose threatening words are unmistakably echoed in the words of Jesus.
A classical illustration of this connection of the words of Jesus with those of Isaiah and invention of situations for them is found in Matthew xvi, 15, where we have the famous confession of Peter and subsequent appointment of the disciple as successor in the power of the keys. Who can fail to see that there is here a combination of Isaiah xxviii, 16 (“Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste [become weak]”), and Isaiah li, 1 (“Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord; look unto the rock whence ye are hewn……look unto Abraham your father……for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him”), with the prophet's remarkable reproaches of Shebna, the “treasurer” and head of the king's house, because he had had his tomb hewn out of a rock. The prophet threatens that Jahveh will drive him from his occupation for this, and continues (xxii, 20):—
- And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah;
- And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.
- And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.
- And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house.
Zechariah also makes the high-priest Joshua be clothed ceremoniously by the Lord with the insignia of his office, and appointed as head of his house and overseer of its courts. And the high-priest Joshua is in the same relation to the Messiah Zerubbabel as Peter is to Jesus, and in the end takes his place.
That Jesus was to die at Jerusalem and, in the sense of Isaiah's “servant of God,” expiate the sins of men by his death, was the starting-point of the whole of this inquiry. To what extent mythical and Old Testament motives have co-operated in the description of the trial and influenced the gospel story I have already shown in the first part of the Christ-Myth. Here I will be content to draw attention to a further circumstance, which, in all probability, has had a very decisive influence on the gospel narrative of the sufferings and death of Jesus. In his history of the Jewish War (vi, 5, 3) Josephus says that a certain Jesus (!), son of Ananus, an unlettered provincial, went to Jerusalem for the feast of tabernacles four years before the war broke out, when the city still enjoyed perfect peace and prosperity, and suddenly began to cry out: “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice over Jerusalem and the temple, a voice over bridegrooms and brides, a voice over the entire people.” He cried this day and night, passing through all the streets of the city. Arrested and beaten, he merely repeated his words without saying a word in his defence or against his captors. Brought before the Roman authority and scourged until the flesh was stripped from his bones, he neither craved mercy nor shed tears, but accompanied each stroke with the mournful cry: “Woe to Jerusalem.” When Albinus, the official, asked him who he was, whence he came, and why he cried thus, he made no reply, and Albinus, convinced that the man was insane, set him free. “He cursed none that beat him,” Josephus continues, “nor thanked those who gave him food; he gave no other reply to any man than his prophecy of misfortune. He was especially loud in his cry on feast-days.” In the end he was killed by a stone during the siege.
- Apollonius refers to the passage of Plato's Republic (II, 361) in his Apology: “For one of the Greek philosophers also says: The just man will be martyred, spat upon, and at last crucified.” The passage seems even to have been in the mind of James when he says: “Ye have condemned and killed the just, and he doth not resist you”; and we read in Justin: “Ye have beaten the just” (Dial. xvi).
- Isaiah lii, 13-15.
- Compare Zechariah xiii, 2: “In that day…I will cause…the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.”
- That the whole story is only meant to be symbolical is recognised by some theologians, such as von Baur and Volkmar. But to what absurdities their historical point of view will lead theologians we have a charming illustration in Otto Schmiedel (p. 114). In his opinion, the possessed man is no other than Paul, and the whole thing is a piece of malicious Judaeo-Christian ridicule of the apostle. Yet these are the men who reproach us with “fantastic” explanations, and ask us to respect the “method” of theologians.
- Job xvi, 10-xvii, 9. Also see xxxix, 1, 9-11, and 20.
- Zur Geschichte und Literatur des Urchristentums, 1907, iii, 2.
- Compare, especially, the remarkable resemblance to the story of the Magi in Matthew ii. See Spitta, p. 192, and James, pp. 169, 199, and 204.
- Is James a Christian Epistle in the ordinary meaning of the word? The Epistle, it is true, contains sayings of Jesus, but they are not described as such, and there is no clear indication that the Epistle reflects anything but purely Jewish ideas. Perhaps it belongs to “pre-Christian Christianity,” when the Jewish Jahveh, “the Lord,” was worshipped under the name of Jesus. See later.
- See also Isaiah v and Psalm i, 22, where the just, who rejoices in the law of Jahveh, is compared with the tree by the stream, “that bringeth forth its fruit in due season,” while the godless are described as “chaff,” which “the wind sweeps away.”
- In the Süddeutsche Monatshefte, 1909, Heft 12.
- Dupuis, L'origine de tous les cultes, 1795, III, pp. 619 and 683.
- Creuzer, Symbolik und Mythologie der alien Völker, 1820, II, p. 78.
- I borrow this indication of the connection of the Baptist with the constellation Orion from Fuhrmann's work, Der Astralmythos von Christus. Also see, as to the astral features of the Baptist, Niemojewski (work cited, under “Joannes” in the index).
- Compare Graetz, Gesch. der Juden, 1888, III, p. 278.
- See also Wilhelm Erbt, Das Markusevangelium. Eine Untersuchung über die Form der Petruserinnerungen und die Geschichte der Urgemeinde, 1911.
- Also compare Matthew xii, 17.
- Compare 2 Mace. iv.
- Preller, Griech. Mythologie, 1894, p. 862.
- Jasius is, according to Vergil (Æneid iii, 168), the name of the old Italian god Janus Quirinus (“Father Jasius, from whom our race descends”). The oldest Roman bronze coinage, on one side of which there is a figure of Jasius or Janus, takes its name from this—ass, eis, jes. According to the Odyssey (xvii, 443), Jasus (Jaso) is the name of a powerful king of Cyprus, whose son Dmeter is identical with Diomedes, a name under which Jason was worshipped, with sacrifice of horses, by the Veneti on the Adriatic Sea. Under the name Ischenos, as the god was also called by the Veneti, Chronos (Saturn-Janus) was honoured every five years at Elis with the Ischenia (Chronia, Olympiada). Ischenos was supposed to have been the lover of Coronis, the mother of Asclepios (Jason). Jes Crishna was the name of the ninth incarnation of Jesnu, or Vishnu, whose animal is the fish, as in the case of Joshua, the son of the fish Nun, Ninus, a name which seems itself to have been written Nin-jes. Jes is a title of the sun. Jesse was the name of the sun-god of the southern Slavs. Jasny is in Slav the name of the bright sky, and Jas is still a proper name among the people of the Crimea and the Caucasus. The word also occurs in the name of Osiris = Jes-iris or Hes-iris (according to Hellenicus), in Hesus (the name of a Celtic god), in Isskander, as the Persians called Alexander, whom they revered as a world-saviour; and in the name of the lower-Italian people, the Jazygi, Jesygi, Jezidi, or Jesidi, which was related to the Veneti. Among the Mohammedans the word stands for “heretic.” The Turks give the name to a detested nomadic race, which apparently worships Jesus Christ, though really Jes Crishna, and is distinguished in several ways both from the Mohammedans and the Christians. The mother of all these gods whose name contains Jes is a virgin (Maya, Mariamma, Maritala, Mariam, etc.); her symbol is the cross, the fish, or the lamb; her feast is the Huli (Jul), from which Caesar took the name Julus or Julius when he was deified in the temple of Jupiter Ammon; and her history agrees in essential particulars with that of Jesus Christ. See the proofs in the important work of Alex, del Mar, The Worship of Augustus Caesar (New York, 1900). In this, on a basis of thorough research, it is shown what a significance the Indian Jes had, as regards the chronological divisions, in the whole of the ancient world, especially in the reforms of the calendar under Caesar and Augustus. Our historians and theologians ought to study this work very carefully. See also Volney's Ruins, p. 198.
- This refers to Lev. iv, 16, where it is said in the Greek translation: Ho hiereus, ho Christos (the high-priest, the anointed).
- Stade, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, 1888, II, p. 126, note; Hühn, Die messianischen Weissagungen des israel. Volkes, 1889, p. 62.
- Zum religionsgeschichtl. Verständnis des Neuen Testaments, 1903, p. 82.
- The possible connection of Jesus with the two Joshuas of the Old Testament has been discussed by Robertson and by M. Brückner in his Der sterbende und auferstehende Gottheiland, although the latter refrains from drawing any “particular conclusions as to the pre-Christian significance of a Joshua- Jesus” (p. 39). These relations, therefore, cannot be so foolish as they have been represented when we find them discussed by a theologian in a popular religious work intended for general circulation. The excellent Hebraist Prof. T. K. Cheyne writes in the Hibbert Journal (April, 1911), p. 658: “The direct evidence for the divine name Jeshua or Joshua in pre-Christian times is both scant and disputable. Yet I incline (on grounds of my own) to agree with Prof. Drews in his view of the main point in dispute.” Cf. p. 662: “In my opinion Prof. Drews and his authorities are right in the main.”
- Consider, also, the admission of Zimmern that the name “Jesus” might “very well be unhistorical,” in his Zum Streit um die Christusmythe, p. 4.
- Psalm 121. The fact that the protector is here called schomer, not nozer, has nothing to do with the matter, any more than the fact that the Palestinians of the time about the birth of Christ did not use the Hebrew nazar for “the protector,” but the Aramaic ne’tar: it is well known that the language of a sect tends to preserve antique words, and we are concerned here, not with the word itself, but its meaning.
- Smith, The Pre-Christian Jesus, 1906. Also see his article on “The Real Ancestry of Jesus” in the Open Court, January, 1910, p. 12, and the article “The Nazarene,” by Dr. P. Carus, the editor, in the same number (p. 26). Differently from the German theologians, who cannot speak disdainfully enough of Smith's hypotheses, on philological grounds, Carus admits the possibility of that origin of the name, and regards the existence of a place called Nazareth at the time of Jesus as improbable. Indeed, in his book The Pleroma: An Essay on the Origins of Christianity (1910), he says that it is absolutely impossible that the Nazarene could mean the man from Nazareth (p. 46). Moreover, Schmiedel has recently maintained against Weinel in the Protestantenblatt, 1910, Nr. 17, p. 438, that Smith's hypothesis is philologically admissible. Hence the charge of “gross ignorance of the Semitic languages” which Weinel brings against Smith is quite unjustified.
- Südwestdeutsche Schulblätter, 1910, Heft 4 and 5, p. 163. M. Brückner also says, in regard to Smith's hypothesis: “His proof that the epithet ‘Nazaraean’ applied to Jesus in Matthew ii, 23, cannot have been derived from Nazareth, but was the name of a pre-Christian Jewish sect, especially deserves attention” (p. 47). In Hugo Winckler we read: “From the word neçer comes the name of the religion of those who believe in the ‘saviour’—the Nazarene-Christians or Nazaraeans. Nazareth as the home of Jesus is merely a confirmation of his character as saviour for the symbolising tendency” (Ex oriente lux, Band ii, 1906, p. 59, note). Cf. also Winckler, Die babylonische Geisteskultur (1907), p. 147.
- Cf. also Alfred Jeremias, Das Alte Testament im Lichte des alien Orients, 2 Aufl., 1906, pp. 353, 577.
- Possibly nazar also has an astral significance, as the Hyades in Taurus have the form of a branch; and Orion, in which we have already suspected the Baptist, seems to bring the “twig” (Fuhrmann).
- Compare Robertson, Christianity and Mythology, p. 311, and P. van Dyk's Krit. Kommentar zu den Evangelien, pp. 28 and 152.
- Compare Deut. xxi, 8.
- Niemojewski, p. 420. Reflect on the familiar pictures of a cup or skull at the foot of the crucifix.
- Sohar on Exodus, quoted by Gfrörer, Das Jahrhundert des Heils, 1838, ii, p. 231.
- In truth, Zebulun, according to Genesis xlix, relates to the sign of the zodiac Capricorn and Naphtali to Aries, both of which belong to the waterregion of the zodiac, the dark part of the year. (Cf. A. Jeremias, Das Alte Testament im Lichte des alten Orients, p. 398.) According to M. Müller, galil means, in a derivative from the Coptic, the “water-wheel.” A water-wheel might (according to Fuhrmann) be traced in the constellation Orion, the spokes being represented by the four chief stars and the axis by the stars of the belt, the wheel being set in motion by the falling “water” of the Milky Way. In so far as Orion is the banging figure of the 22nd Psalm, we may note that the latter is a galil (Galilean), and as the constellation Orion is, as we saw, astrally related to the nazar (the Hyades), the birth of the Saviour in Nazareth might be deduced from this. See Niemojewski, pp. 161 and 193.
- Work quoted, p. 21. Herr von Soden's attempt to prove the historicity of Jesus from the “smell of the soil of Palestine” seems to me much the same as if one were to conclude that Tell was historical because of the many place-names in the legend. A Swiss hotel-keeper might do that, but—a student of history!
- Niemojewski, pp. 367, 370. The high-priest Annas, who is supposed to have held office with Caiaphas, is identical in name with the prophetess Anna (Sib-Zi-Anna of the Babylonians, Anna Perenna of the Romans), and according to Niemojewski (p. 367) corresponds to the star γ in Gemini, but according to Fuhrmann to the constellation Cassiopeia which dwells “in the temple,” or at the highest point of the Milky Way. Caiaphas is clearly, in that case, the constellation Cepheus, near Cassiopeia; and the two names were subsequently applied to the Jewish high-priests on account of the similarity. The Talmud enumerates the names of the principal men who directed the sanhedrim from Antigonas (B.C. 250) until the destruction of the temple; a Caiaphas is not to be found among the number. He was high priest for eighteen years; but this also is not mentioned in the Talmud, although it gives the names of all who have been high priests for ten years or more.
- Compare Del Mar, The Worship of Augustus Caesar.
- Geschichte Jesu, 1873.
- We may recall that Joseph, who was believed to have been sold into Arabia, gone from there to Egypt, and married the daughter of the priest at On (Heliopolis), bore in Egypt the name Zaphnat Phanech (“hiding of the phoenix”—that is to say, of the sun or year-god—in the five Epagomena or intercalary days during which the old year passes into the new). Joseph was a kind of Adonis or Tammuz; he was a foretype of the Messiah, and is called even in Apollodorus (iii, 14, 4) a “son of the Phoenix,” just as Joshua is called a son of the dove (Semiramis-Mirjam), and Asclepios a son of the crow, from whose burning womb he was delivered. See Gruppe, Griech. Mythologie, ii, p. 144, where it is suggested that the myth of the birth of Asclepios may be a version of the legend of the phoenix. Jesus also seems originally to have had a dove for mother, as the baptism in the Jordan was, according to some, the act of birth of the saviour; and the Holy Ghost, who descended on him in fire and flame in the form of a dove, was represented in certain Gnostic sects as “the mother of Jesus” (The Christ-Myth).
- Compare A. Kniepf, Zehn Thesen zur natürlichen Welt- und Lebensanschauung, 1903, p. 34. Notice also the story of Jesus, the son of Ananus, told by Josephus, which happened shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem (see further below), and may also be a reason for putting the death of the evangelical Jesus about that time.
- This applies also to the attempt to determine the date of the crucifixion that is made from time to time on astronomical grounds. To all such speculations we may say that eclipses, earthquakes, and other natural catastrophes are part of the standing requisites in descriptions of the birth and death of saviours, such as Krishna, Buddha, Dionysos, etc. Even at Caesar's birth a remarkable star is supposed to have announced the event, and an earthquake is said to have taken place at his death. Much the same is related about the birth and death of Augustus, whose life, moreover, is made to resemble that of the divine saviour in many respects by contemporary writers. See Alex, del Mar, pp. 92, 99, 124, 162, and 169.
- Cf. E. Bischof, Babylonisch-Astrales im Weltbilde des Talmud im Midrasch, 1907.
- According to Nilus, a younger contemporary of Epiphanius (x, 430), they were not Christians (in the current sense), but a sort of Rechabites, living in tents, avoiding wine and other luxuries, and living an extremely simple life. This would agree with our idea of a coalescence of the Nazaraeans and Nasiraeans.
- Josephus, Antiq., viii, 2, 57.
- See Justin, 113, 4.
- Abraxas, 1891, p. 143; see also his Mithrasliturgie, 1903, pp. 27 and 44.
- [Not “afterwards,” but “a second time,” in the Greek text.—J.M.]
- Gfrörer, Philo und die jüdisch-alex. Theosophie, 1835, ii, p. 295.
- Brandt, Die mandäische Religion, 1889.
- Jeremias, Das alte Testament im Lichte des alten Orients, 2 Aufl., 1906, p. 465.
- Also see Harnack, Gesch. der altchristl. Literatur, i, p. 144.
- Zum religionsgesch. Verständniss, etc.
- Chowlson says that it was the Sadducees, not the Pharisees, who were the real enemies of Jesus and brought about his condemnation. That is historically not very probable, as Steudel has shown (Im Kampf um die Christus-Mythe, p. 45). If there is any truth in it at all, it can only be that, according to Wisdom, which, as we saw, contributed much to the picture of the sufferings of the just one, the impious enemies of the just might be regarded as the Sadducees, as it is written in the second chapter (verse 22): “They knew not the mysteries of God, or hoped for a reward of eternal life, and would hear nothing of a recompense for stainless souls. For God has created man for immortality, and made him in the image of his own likeness.” The chief difference between the worldly-minded Sadducees and the Pharisees was that the former did not believe in immortality, or the eternal reward or punishment of men beyond the grave.
- This is suggested by Smith in his Ecce Deus, who tries to show that the original Christian movement was a protest against polytheism, a “crusade in favour of monotheism.”
- See H. Schneider, Kultur und Denken der Babylonier und Juden, 1910, p. 282.
- In every heathen religion the dying and risen god is an astral being; the sun descending in the summer-solstice or in the autumn-equinox, and ascending in the winter-solstice or spring equinox. So Dupuis, in his monumental work L'origine de tous les cultes (1794), has shown in reference to Tammuz, Adonis, Attis, Osiris, Mithra, etc. Cf. also Jeremias, the work above mentioned.
- Das Passahmahl, p. 85.
- Sanhedrim, 107; Bereschit rabba, 27.
- See Nedarim, 10b and 14b.
- Menachoth, i.
- Josephus, Jewish War, iv, 5, 4. See also on the subject K. Lippe, Das Evangelium Matthaei vor dem Forum der Bibel und des Talmud.
- Lublinski, Das werdende Dogma, p. 75; compare K. Lippe, work quoted, p. 245.
- Cf. Isaiah xiv, 12, and Matt. xi, 23; Isaiah xiii, 19, and xvii, 9; and Matthew xi, 22 and 24.