Religion of Jesus
Walter E. Bundy
The Religious Genius of Jesus
THAT Jesus was a man with a religion, an exclusively religious personality, the whole of whose genius was launched in religion, is the most certain thing that we may say of him on the basis of the presentation made by Matthew, Mark and Luke-the most certain, because it is the clearest single feature in the Gospel picture. But when we come to seek out those formative factors and forces that contributed to the sum total of all that Jesus was and represented in the way of religion, the matter becomes almost hopelessly difficult, so far as an adequate analysis is concerned. The sources of his religious genius do not lie on the surface of the Synoptic story, nor can the most diligent research unearth all of the spiritual springs that had their issue in his religious experience. The most that we can do is our best, and, in the end, realize our serious limitations and the tentative character of our conclusions.
The difficulties that confront us in our quest of the sources of Jesus' religious genius are due, for the most part, to the limited character of our information. Our historical knowledge of him is deposited in literary records, none of which was written by Jesus himself. The fact that Jesus did not give literary expression to the great faith that possessed him, as did many of his prophetic predecessors and many of the champions of the Christian faith that succeeded him through nineteen
centuries, is a very serious handicap, and one that we are not in a position to overcome. In the quest of an adequate knowledge of any great man of the past, his own writings give us our most reliable information concerning his thought and teaching, his message and mission, his mind and experience, in short, concerning the man himself. It is thus that we come to know most of the great figures of the past, particularly those who have distinguished themselves in the field of religion. We have their literary productions, their journals and diaries, their autobiographies and confessions, their correspondence and notes, all of which are, at times at least, intensely personal and intimate, and they record those things which very often give us immediate access to the very pulse of their personalities, to the things that meant most, even everything, to them.
But Jesus, so far as we know, wrote nothing. Upon just one occasion do we read that he wrote, in the sand on the floor of the temple (John 7,53-8,11)-an act which, in the special situation, appears more as a mental preoccupation than as an expression of conscious thought. He has left us no autobiography, no confessions, no letters, no diary or journal, no literary record of his own religious mind and experience from his own hand. Our literary knowledge of Jesus is far from first hand, for it comes to us through the medium of the memory of the primitive Christian community--a medium that, by the very nature of its religious experience, communicated its faith in him rather than the facts from his life.
We have no materials from Jesus such as we possess from the hand of Paul, whose personal letters are a spontaneous expression of his own religious life and faith, non-literary products of an intensely religious personality,
all the richer and more valuable because they were written with no thought of the remarkable literary future that was in store for them. In this respect, then, we are historically farther removed from Jesus than we are from Paul, for some of Paul's own letters have come down to us. Through these letters we can get back closer to the personal piety of Paul, closer to Paul himself than we can to Jesus. If we possessed documents from the hand of Jesus, written as spontaneously as Paul writes and coming with the same directness and freshness from his own personal piety as do many passages in Paul's letters, we would be infinitely closer to Jesus historically than we are. This lack of any personal documents from Jesus is a serious handicap in the way of the accomplishment of our present task, a serious impoverishment of our information concerning his experience of religion.
But when we approach this failure to give literary expression to his religious faith from the point of view of Jesus himself, it is no longer a serious problem. In the first place, there was nothing in his public career that demanded an extensive correspondence such as Paul was forced to carry on with his Christian communities scattered over the eastern half of the Roman Empire. Jesus' public work was restricted to a very limited area, the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee and its vicinity. He did not found communities of believers in the Galilean cities and villages where he worked; he attempted no organization. The followers who meant most to him were constantly in his company; separations between him and his chosen twelve were few and of brief duration. We can not imagine a circle of readers to whom he would have had occasion to address a personal or religious communication. In the second place, as we come to know
Jesus in the first three Gospels, we see that he was not the man to feel either the inclination or the impulse to write. Jesus was a teacher, the greatest of all teachers, but he was popular, never academic, in the matter and in the method of his teaching. He was not a man of the study; like Socrates, he was a man of the people, a man among the people. In the study of his words we never get the impression that they have been carefully planned and phrased, that he had carefully prepared beforehand just what he was going to say and just how he was going to say it. just when and where he would meet his audiences, just who his audiences would be,-a gathering of country folk, a crowd of villagers, a synagogue assembly, a group of contentious authorities,--just what he would say to them, Jesus did not know. He met his audiences as occasion off ered in a wandering itinerary. His audiences--sometimes great throngs, again small groups, even single individuals-he met by chance, not by schedule and appointment. They were not prepared for his coming, nor he for theirs. Jesus preached to the people as he met them, and they listened as they met him, on the mountainside, in the country, at the seashore, in the street and market-place, in private houses, in the synagogues and in the temple. On all occasions his message, both in form and in content, is free, frank and informal. Without exception, Jesus' words leave with us the impression of the spontaneous, extemporaneous and inspired speech of the intense prophetic personality.
In view of the above f acts, it is not at all surprising that Jesus did not leave behind him written documents of a personal and intimate character that would help us back to the source-springs of his personal piety, documents that might give us invaluable aid in our effort to under-
stand him better. Jesus never lets fall a single authentic hint to the effect that future generations may be interested in the preservation of personal memories of what he said and did, or who he was. Jesus knew but one future, that glorious future of the kingdom of God. Thus our literary records concerning him are the work of men who were removed from him by a Christian generation, men who were held to his memory by a strong bond of religious faith, but whose records were based, for the most part, upon the memoirs of those who, for longer or shorter periods of time, had been in his personal company, held to him by a deep personal devotion.
These records written by others are not biographies, accounts of the whole of Jesus' life. They are at best collections of reminiscences from his public career, the period in which he distinguished himself. Our best sources of information, the first three Gospels, neglect his prepublic life almost entirely. Mark does not devote so much as a line to Jesus' childhood, boyhood or youth. He brings Jesus on the scene of action by giving a compact survey of the work of the Baptist, which Mark regards as preparatory to that of Jesus. But of Jesus' life prior to his coming to John at the Jordan, Mark is silent. Mark has no Narratives of the Nativity, no Christmas stories with which Matthew and Luke open their accounts. Thus the earliest and most reliable account that has come down to us, the second Gospel, begins with his appearance in public. This would serve to show that the Narratives of the Nativity are a later addition, an aftergrowth, to the story, and that the earliest Christian interest in Jesus' life confined itself to his work in public
and that it was only later that any interest was manifested in the circumstances of his birth.
But the birth traditions that have deposited themselves in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke supply us with no additional biographical information about Jesus other than the name of his f ather, Joseph, and locate his birthplace as Bethlehem; and this second detail complicates rather than simplifies our problem. Mark knows nothing of Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus; this little village of David is not even mentioned in Mark's account. From Mark alone we would suppose that Jesus was not only a resident but a native of Nazareth. In Mark Nazareth is certainly the home of Jesus, and he is known as a Nazarene. His family is well known in Nazareth; the townspeople know his mother, four brothers by name, and they also refer to unnamed sisters. (Mark 6,1-6a.) Joseph does not figure personally in Mark; he is not even referred to by name or trade. Mary seems to be known as a widow in Nazareth, and the common supposition is that Joseph died long before his son began his public work. From Mark, then, all that we can gather of Jesus' prepublic life is that he was the son of Mary, that he had four named brothers and some unnamed sisters, that his home and that of his family was Nazareth, and that he was known there as a carpenter by trade.
Luke tells us (3,23) that Jesus was about thirty years of age when he began his public work of preaching and teaching. For us, then, the first thirty years are shrouded in darkness. We have very little, practically no reliable data from this important period, full data which would help us very materially in our quest of the sources of Jesus' religious life and experience. We have
only the meager biographical details of the Narratives of the Nativity, and they are so meager that they render us no real aid. Luke gives us a single story from Jesus' boyhood. (2,41-52.) If this account is historical, the most that it tells us is that Jesus, at an early age, manifested the interests and inclinations, the predispositions and preoccupations which later, in mature years, consumed him entirely. But this great meagerness of materials on the prepublic period seems to fit the state of the facts-namcly: No one seems to have known Jesus outside of Nazareth prior to his entrance upon his public work.
This obscure period of thirty years is commonly designated as the unknown life of Jesus. The loss in our knowledge of Jesus which this great gap involves has al. ways been keenly felt by the Christian consciousness. Numerous attempts, both early and late, have been made to fill it up. Matthew and Luke made their contributions in their first two chapters, but they did not close up the gap. Somewhat later a whole body of Gospel literature sprang up, the apocryphal Gospels, dealing almost entirely with this obscure period, but this extensive literary activity made no real contribution toward our understanding, except to increase our appreciation of the less elaborate and less pretentious accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Modern lives of Jesus have undertaken to supplement the meager Gospel accounts on the basis of generalities concerning the family and home life, the educational and religious training, the economic and social status of the Galilean Jews of Jesus' day-all or none of which might be true for Jesus in particular. But all of these attempts to write the unknown life of Jesus from Matthew and Luke down to our own day are, for
the most part, the products of a reverent Christian imagination that expresses its faith rather than records f act.
We can not say a great deal about Jesus during this period. His religious training and education may have been the best that a plain laboring family of Nazareth could provide, but his personal religious life as we see it in mature form is much more than the religious education provided by the most pious Galilean family. Jesus nowhere refers to a strict religious training from youth up, of which Paul is proud to boast.' His home life may have been ideal, for, as modern biographers are fond of telling us, he thought and taught of God as the heavenly Father. Matthew's picture of Joseph in chapters one and two is friendly enough; Joseph appears as a pious patriarchal soul of Israel to whom God reveals himself in dreams. Luke's picture of Mary in 1,26-56 has always appealed to the Christian imagination, but in 2,22-52 Mary seems unacquainted with the future greatness of her son; with Joseph, she is astonished at the things Jesus says and that others say about him, and she seems to be gathering the first fond premonitions that something really great is in store for her son (Luke 2, 19 5 1b). But over against this traditional picture in the Christmas stories there stands in the same Gospels, and in Mark, the cold fact that none of Jesus' immediate family was in his intimate personal following and that he began and accomplished his public work without the support, perhaps without the sympathy, of his immediate kin.2
Thus we see that those imaginative attempts to get back at the f actors in Jesus' prepublic life that contributed
[ 1.Cf. Acts 22,3; 26,5; Rom. 11,1; II Cor. 11,22; Phil. 3,5.
2.Cf. Mark 3, 19b-21; 3~ 31-35; Matt. 12~ 46-50; Luke 8, 19-21.]
to his making give rise to as many perplexities as they seek to remove. Consequently, others have turned away from the conventional sources of religious training and education to those natural forces that help men to make themselves. But when they have demonstrated, as is easily done, Jesus' keen sense for reality, his deep appreciation of the natural world, his penetrating insight into human nature-all natural rather than acquired gifts, we are still on the periphery of our problem and quite far from the real source-springs of his religious genius.
In our conclusions on the prepublic life of Jesus we may not demand too much detail, and we must learn to be satisfied with more general, yet safer materials. Historical research has opened our eyes to see that Jesus was really a genuine child of his land and people. The historical background against which he appears is the purely local and distinctly Jewish background of first-century Palestine, more particularly of Galilee. Nowhere does he betray an influence from the general atmosphere of the Greek culture and Roman civilization of his day. There is no evidence that he was acquainted with the Greek language. His mother tongue was a provincial dialect, Aramaic, the peculiar speech that betrayed the Galilean origin of one of his disciples. (Matt. 26,73; Mark 14,70; Luke 22,59.) It was in this dialect that Jesus thought and taught, preached and prayed, and cried to God in his direst need-.4bba, in Gethsemane (Mark 14,36) ; Doi, Doi, on the cross when the Psalmist's classic cry of distress burst over his lips (Mark 15,34).
Not only does Jesus seem to have remained untouched by the'currents of the world civilization and culture of his day, but he appears uninfluenced by the prevalent conceptions and practises of religion among the leaders of
his own people, although he was intimately acqua nte with their vagaries and extravagances. The personal piety of Jesus appears as the naive spontaneous piety of the Galilean peasant, a piety that was so deep-seated that it remained unspoiled by contacts with, at least by any influences from, the recognized religion of convention. He did not come from the professional religious classes. Jesus was a layman, a lay prophet and preacher of the kingdom of God. The whole of his religious constitution is that of the layman, a constitution as simple as it is susceptible to all that religion may mean in human life and experience. Jesus came from that social stratum of Israel that preserved its religion, unofficially to be sure, yet really, and where the great champions found the readiest response and the most genuine reception in revival and reformation. He belonged to Israel's meek of the earth (die Stillen im Lande) who furnished to this people the great body of its prophetic and religious genius. Thus Jesus' religious genius sprang f rom a very limited social and psychological environment, but it had its roots struck deep in the richest and most fertile deposit of religious life and experience known to the ancient world.
We could understand Jesus better if we knew and could relate more of his prepublic life. The early years, training and development of any great man are very important in our knowledge of him. In the case of Jesus, we know very little of those formative factors that contributed to his making, that prepared him for and brought him into public life with the greatest religious message and mission that human history knows. We should like very much to know all of the usual biographical details that belong to the complete story of any great man. We
should like to know more of his maturing mind, how the things that later consumed the whole of his thought found their way into his attention and devotion, how and why he came to the great religious faith, not that he possessed but that possessed him, when and where his great religious convictions dawned upon him and claimed him for their own, how it was that he came to f eel himself called and commissioned, completely consecrated to the championship of the life of God in the affairs of men.
Jesus the child, the boy, the youth, is lost to us f or ever We know him only in his maturity, the early maturity of the East. He is a man of mature mind when he makes his first appearance in the Gospel story, when he comes to John at the Jordan. The Gospels furnish us with no materials that would indicate any fundamental change, transition or development in Jesus. From the beginning to the end of his public life, he is the same. His religious thought is so compact and crystallized, his faith so firm and unflinching, that any changes or developments lie in the past prior to his decision upon a public career. Jesus is a man of full and finished faith when he appears before us, and, as we shall see, it is the fulness and firmness of this faith that brings him out of private life into public life. This faith never left him. He is often disappointed, troubled, uncertain, distressed, but Vis faith remains unbroken. There is no waning or weakening, no faltering or failing.
The great religious values to which Jesus committed and consecrated himself are clear enough, as clear as crystal, but how, when and where they came to dominate the whole of his life we do not know. Jesus possessed a religious faith without parallel, a faith that was as free and frank as it was fervent, but we are not in a position
to locate all the fires of his faith, fires that flash high in exalted moments to subside again in a steady unfailing glow. Of the origins of his religious certainty we know little in detail. But it is enough to know that all of these things were his very own; it is enough that we may see them clearly, that we may sense them and share them, as he himself intended.
Even if we did possess a complete set of source materials, the real secret of Jesus' personality, as is usually the case with the genuinely religious, would elude an adequate and exhaustive analysis. As Professor Deissmann writes, "We are no longer in a position to reconstruct psychologically from the confessions of the mature man (Jesus) the various stages in his development." [Evangelium and Urchristentum, p. 83] But in the Synoptic picture we see what some of the contributing forces were. From the very prominence of certain factors, the important role played by some of them in his fully developed religious life, we may conclude that they were principal sources that made a substantial contribution to his personal piety. From the predominant elements in Jesus' mature mind we may, without making too heavy drafts upon the historical imagination, find our way back to at least some of the major matters that went into his religious making.
In the analysis that follows, sketchy rather than exhaustive, the author singles out four fundamental elements that contributed to the production of the religious personality of Jesus. The first is a matter of religious literature, the Old Testament; the second concerns itself with the heritage of a people's characteristic and
distinctive genius, the prophets of Israel; the third is the factor of contemporary influence, John the Baptist; the fourth is the fact of native and natural personal endowment, Jesus' own peculiar genius for religion. These four elements we shall treat in the order given under the titles: Jesus and the Old Testament; Jesus and his Prophetic Predecessors; Jesus and his Prophetic Contemporary; and finally, Jesus Himself.
JESUS AND THE OLD TESTAMENT
For students of the life of Jesus this is an old and almost threadbare subject. Our aim here is simply to emphasize a phase of this problem that has been neglected by not a few and that is of greatest importance in our study of Jesus as a religious subject-the distinctly individual contribution which the Old Testament made to his personal religious life.
There is not the slightest trace of evidence that Jesus read any other literature than the religious literature of his people. But that his acquaintance with the religious literature of his people was confined to the books which we know as the Old Testament is not at all a certain or necessary conclusion. From the prominence of the apocalyptic element in Jesus' thought we may conclude that it is not at all improbable that he was familiar with the religious literature of later Judaism that failed to win a place in the canonical collection of Old Testament writings. As we shall see when we come to his conception of the kingdom of God in the next chapter, there was a whole body of later Judaism's literature, represented only by Daniel in the Old Testament canon, which presents a form of religious thought and outlook very closely related
to that of Jesus, but quite different from anything in the Old Testament, of course, with the exception of the book of Daniel. For our present purpose, however, we may look upon the Old Testament as we know it as the Bible of Jesus.
We have only one account of Jesus reading from an Old Testament writing, the scene in the Nazareth synagogue when he read a pertinent passage from Isaiah. (Luke 4,16-20.) But no one who reads the Gospels can doubt that Jesus was at home in the Old Testament and that he was thoroughly familiar with it from beginning to end, and it was a familiarity and command possible only for one who had lived in it and loved it. He often alludes to the outstanding Old Testament traditions-the creation, the garden of Eden, the fate of Sodom and of Lot's wife, to the popular stories connected with prominent Old Testament characters like Abel, Noah, Moses, David, Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, Elijah, Elisha and Jonah. His allusibns to the Old Testament narratives are so numerous that, as Professor Wernle says, "one could compile a brief Biblical history from the words of Jesus alone."' Very often these allusions to the Old Testament Jesus uses to illustrate his teaching. On numerous occasions he makes direct quotations from the Old Testament, especially from the law and the prophets, to prove his points and to defend his positions both in his teaching and in his conduct. In many words that are not direct and conscious quotations there is an Old Testament ring, a tone and point of view that suggest at once some Old Testament passage. Jesus' Old Testament allusions and quotations, his words that have an
Old Testament atmosphere about them, have a surprisingly wide range; they strike three-fourths of the Old Testament writings. Outside of the Old Testament canon, certain words of his suggest passages in II Esdras, Tobit, Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus and I Maccabees.
In his use of the Old Testament an interesting and instructive light falls on the mind of Jesus. His method of approach to the religious literature of his people is as simple as it is sincere. There is no elaborate exegesis, no forced interpretations, no wearisome warpings, no painful pressing of passages until they yield the desired meaning, no subtle straining of the sense of the text. Jesus did not read his own thoughts into the Old Testament and then read them out again. In this respect Jesus bears none of the marks of the schools and schoolmen of his day and people, as does Paul in his typically Rabbinical exegesis with its strained senses, made meanings, and painful processes of proof and reasoning. In his use of the Old Testament we see no far-fetched allegories such as we find in I Corinthians 9,9-10, in Galatians 4, 22-31, or in I Corinthians 10,4 where Paul indentifies Christ with the rock in the wilderness. In Jesus' expositions of Old Testament passages we see no pressing of a singular such as we find in Galatians 3,16. Both Jesus (Mark 10,2-12) and Paul (I Cor. 11,6-10) cite the creation story, but in a very different way and from a very different point of view. In only one passage in each of the first three Gospels is Jesus credited with the use of the Rabbinical method, in the question of David's Son and David's Lord in Mark 12,35-37. (Matt. 22, 41-46; Luke 20,41-44.) Apart from the fact that he is here represented as provoking public discussion of a
theme which he regularly avoided and which he suppressed even in the privacy of his most trusted group, the reasoning here is too delicately membered, the definition of terms is too careful and minute; in short, the whole discussion is too academic and theoretical to be ascribed to Jesus.
We also have no indication that Jesus read the Old Testament with a view to procuring official credentials for himself and his work as did his disciples after him, who, like Paul, the author of the first Gospel and the early Christian writers in general, sought and brought from the Old Testament concrete Scriptural confirmations, not only for the major phases, but even for the minor details of Jesus' life and work. This process of proof from prophecy is especially characteristic of the author of the first Gospel, who sees in the flight of the holy family into Egypt a fulfillment of Hosea 11, 1 (Matt. 2,14-15), in the removal from Nazareth to Capernaum a fulfillment of Isaiah 9,1-2 (Matt. 4,12-16), and in the fact that Jesus taught in parables a fulfillment of Psalms 78,2 (Matt. 13,35). Now and again, the Christian point of view of the Gospel writers ascribes this proof-passage use of the Old Testament to Jesus himself, but, as wt shall see presently, Jesus' use of the Old Testament has something so distinctive and characteristic about it, his selections of Scripture are so pointed, personal and pertinent, so different from and so superior to the Christian proof s from prophecy made by the Gospel writers that we have no great difficulty in determining the passages actually used by him and the passages ascribed to him by the later Christian point of view. At times this Christian use of the Old Testament does violence to the picture of the historical Jesus, as is the case in Mark 4,
10-12 where he is represented as using parable to conceal rather than to reveal the truth, lest his contemporaries outside of the circle of the twelve might understand, repent and their sins be forgiven them-a passage and point of view (Isa. 6,9-10) that contradicts every authentic feature of the historical Jesus and that presents one of the most vicious doctrines in the history of Christian thought.
The early Christian use of the Old Testament was Christocentric, a searching of the Scriptures for Messianic momenta to which the life and work of Jesus would measure up. Jesus' own use of the Old Testament is never egocentric. In only one passage (Luke 4,16-21) does he bring the Old Testament (Isa. 61,1-2) to bear directly upon himself, but even here he does not cite the Isaiah passage as an official confirmation of his identity. His use of Isaiah on this occasion is purely devotional. In other words, he finds in this Isaiah passage an anticipation of his own prophetic consciousness of personal call and commission to the work of God. Jesus' conscious relationship to the Old Testament was not Christocentric. It was purely personal, and if we were to leave off our study of Jesus and the Old Testament at this point, we should miss entirely the great contribution which it made to his own personal piety and religion.
Jesus read the Old Testament for the religious message that it contained, and in his use of it we see him pressing his way to the very heart of its religious meaning. In his reading of the Old Testament Jesus stands apart in the sureness with which he grasped the finest elements of its writers' faith, in his ability to single out the essential and vital, to make this live again in its primitive purity and power, and to carry it on to its natural and complete
culmination. For Jesus the Old Testament was much more than a familiar field of religious literature from which he could draw at will instructive illustrations; it was much more than a source-book of proof-passages with which he could establish, defend and reinforce his points and positions. For Jesus the Old Testament was something more living, something more intimately and intensely personal.
Jesus did not read the Old Testament as the scribe of his day, nor as the professional Biblical scholar since, as the modern Old Testament exegete. He read the Old Testament as a layman, in the spirit and with the understanding and hope with which the devout soul resorts to its religious literature. He turned to the Old Testament with the same purpose that Jews and Christians have had when they turn to the twenty-third Psalm or to the ninety-first, both of which breathe that pure atmosphere of lay piety in which Jesus grew up. For Jesus the Old Testament writings were devotional documents. They were sources of personal religious light and strength, which is all that the religious consciousness may, with right, expect and demand of its Scriptures.
The Old Testament played a prominent r6le in the religious experience of Jesus; it is always an authoritative element in his religious consciousness. The Old Testament, as we see it contributing to the religious life of Jesus, supplies solid substance for his religious certainties and gives support to his religious convictions. It was a guide for religious character, a code and control for religious conduct. At decisive moments we see him resorting instinctively to his people's Scriptures. At important junctures in his religious experience the Old Testament determines his decisions and choices. It be-
comes the promoting factor in some of his religious acts. In an hour of deepest distress, in the throes of severest personal struggle, its classic passages burst from his lips as the only adequate expression of the hurt of his soul, or as expressions of comfort and consolation when calm confidence and composure have been restored.
It is important that we see when, where and under what conditions Jesus resorts to the Old Testament as a source of personal religious light and strength. Such personal and intimate scenes as this requires are not numerous in the Gospels, for there is a reserve and reticence in the religious constitution of Jesus that keeps most of these things from our eyes, and they were seldom witnessed by his contemporaries and disciples. It was in the sacred precincts of his own soul that he faced and fought through his personal problems. But now and again, Jesus does disclose the struggles through which he has passed or is passing. Sometimes the pressure is so great that he acts or speaks forgetful of the presence of others, or the stress of the moment is so severe that he is alone with his God even though a multitude looks on. Such intimate occasions are rare, but they are so clear that we sense at once the sacred significance which the Old Testament had for Jesus' personal religious life. Here we single out two principal passages in which the personal contribution of the Old Testament is unquestionable-the threefold temptation of Matthew 4,1-11 and Luke 4,1-13, and two of his prayers on the cross (Matt. 27,46; Mark 15,34; Luke 23,46).
Jesus, as is universally true of the genuinely religious consciousness, passed through the experience of severe test and trial. In a symbolical and figurative form that doubtless goes back to a rehearsal of Jesus himself, Mat.
thew and Luke report three specific temptations that he faced immediately prior to his appearance in public. Each of the three presents a particular personal problem which he was forced to face, and each ends with a definite decision at which he arrived. Further, each of the three decisions makes it clear to us how important was the place which the Hebrew Scriptures occupied in the personal piety and religion of Jesus. In each case he repulses the tempter with a pertinent passage from the Old Testament, and each word quoted affords us an intimate insight into the Old Testament sources of his religious life.
"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Deut. 8,3.)
"Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God. (Deut. 6,16.)
"Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." (Deut. 6,13.)
These replies to the tempter are the only replies possible for the pious Israelite who is loyal to the best of his faith. In them Jesus reveals to us very clearly that the Old testament belongs to the very nerve and fiber of his religious life, that he presses his way to its very heart, and that it is in the light and terms of the purest piety of the Old Testament that he makes critical choices and lasting decisions and that he solves his most pressing personal problems. For Jesus the Old Testament was a source of religious triumph in the severest struggles of soul.
Mark does not have these temptations in the figurative
form which they assume in Matthew and Luke, but he has them none the less. In Mark they rire actual historical situations in which Jesus finds himself. In Mark's Galilean account we see Jesus in the same situations, confronted with the same problems, and making decisions identical with those in the threefold temptation of Matthew and Luke. In Mark all three tests have their historical parallels and psychological points of contact in the public life of Jesus; all three fit vitally and organically into his subsequent experience, where historically, logically and psychologically they belong, and not in his immediate prepublic life as Matthew and Luke represent.
The first temptation (Matt. 4,3-4; Luke 4,3-4) has its historical parallel in Mark 1,3S-38-the fourth and closing incident of Mark's first day of Jesus in public, the famous day in Capernaum (Mark 1,21-38). It has been an eventful day, a day full of new experiences both for the Capernaum crowds and for Jesus. It begins on a Sabbath with Jesus teaching in the synagogue and curing the demoniac, his first cure, in Mark 1,21-28. Then follows the scene in Simon's house where he cures his wife's mother (1,29-31), and at sunset on this Sabbath the Capernaum people throng the street at Simon's door that he may heal their sick (1,32-34). The day has been consumed by cures, resulting in great popularity. But the events of the day have confronted him with a new experience, his strange personal power to cure and to heal, and the appearance of this surprising power which, rather than his message, attracts all Capernaum brings his mind into a state of serious solicitude. He finds that the people respond to his cures rather than to the cause of God which he preaches. Early the following morning,
according to Mark, "a great while before day," he withdraws from Simon's house to a desert place for prayer. ( 1,35-38.) And in this retreat to solitude we find Jesus in exactly the same dilemma that Matthew and Luke present in figurative form in the first temptation. In both he is confronted with the presence and proper place of his phenomenal personal powers. Both situations are alike seductive in that they appeal to the use of these personal powers in behalf of natural and legitimate human needs. In both his choice is the same; he decides in favor of message rather than miracle, in favor of cause rather than cures, as the essence of his mission. For Jesus to return to Capernaum and cure would be to turn stones into bread. It is in connection with this early morning struggle that Deuteronomy 8,3 must have come to him as a source of religious light and strength. Jesus' decision herein Mark 1,3 5-38-
"Let us go elsewhere into the next towns, that I may preach there also; for to this end came I forth"-
must have been reached under the influence, if not at the direct dictation, of such a passage as Deuteronomy 8,3:
"Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matt. 4,4.)
The second temptation of Matthew 4,5-7, the third of Luke 4,9-12, has its historical and psychological parallel in the demand for a sign in Mark 8,11-12. [See parallels in Matt. 16,1-4; 12,38-42; Luke 11,1629-32.] The Gospel writers give us no details concerning the scene, but the
opponents in Mark 8, 11 seem to demand personal credentials as does Satan when he suggests that Jesus leap from the pinnacle of the temple. In Mark 8,11-12 Jesus is in the same situation, confronted with the same dilemma, and his decision is identical with that in the second temptation of Matthew and the third of Luke. In an hour and scene such as we have in Mark 8,11-12, a precept of Old Testament piety must have come to his mind:
"Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God."
Jesus, who trusted in God as none before or after him, refused, in the light of Deuteronomy 6,16, to make trial of the Lord his God. And this attitude dominates the whole of his life, so far as it is accessible to us. It is not for him to challenge God to public performance; his task is to meet the tests whicR God sets before him. He puts his God to tests and trials, but of a very different order. Like every pious Israelite, he refuses to make trial of Israel's God, but upon his God Jesus places those severer tests of personal religion. In his own personal piety he demands and draws upon those divine resources that are indispensable to the life of the genuinely religious consciousness.
In the third temptation of Matthew 4,8.10, the second of Luke 4,S-8, we find a figurative presentation of a Markan scene. This temptation has its historical and psychological parallel in Mark 8,32b-33 (Cf. Matt. 16,22-23), "where Jesus hears the tempter speaking through the mouth of an intimate disciple. Peter's rebuke would as completely turn him from the divinely appointed path as if he were to fall down and worship Satan." [The Psychic Health of Jesus, by W. E. Bundy, p. 157. Courtesy of The Macmillan Company.] The parallelism here is the clearest of all; it
is apparent even in the details. Jesus' word to Simon Peter, "Get thee behind me, Satan," (Mark 8,33) is identical in point with his parting parry to Satan in Matthew 4,10: "Get thee hence, Satan." And in some manuscripts his word to Satan in Matthew 4,10 is verbatim his word to Simon Peter in Mark 8,33. In such a situation as we have in Mark 8,32b-33 where he for the first time speaks to his disciples of his fate, and when one of them, well meaning but misunderstanding, would turn him from the passion path which he regards as the divine will for himself, Deuteronomy 6,13 must have come to Jesus as a source of religious strength,
"Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."
All three scenes in Mark (1,35-38; 8,11-12; 8,32b-33) belong to the religious life of Jesus, and the three temptations of Matthew and Luke are simply these three scenes reset in the language of religious experience.
Not all of Jesus' temptations are reported to us, perhaps for the reason that he did not choose to reveal all of his inner struggles with conflicting forces. Luke tells us that Satan departed from him "for a season" only (4,13), and we see him in the throes of personal religious struggle from his first day in public (Mark 1,35-38) to the last (Mark 14, 32-42; IS,34).\ On the last night of his life Jesus reviews his public career as an unbroken series of temptations. (Luke 22,28.) How prominent the Old Testament was in his triumphs over other temptations we can not say, but we may conclude that it was an important factor simply on the basis of the threefold test in the wilderness.
Temptation was not the only religious experience in which Jesus resorted to the Old Testament, or more accurately, in which the Old Testament offered itself to him. Two of his words on the cross, both prayers, are verbatim from the Psalms. And it is only as classic expressions of Old Testament piety make such involuntary invasions into his prayer-life that we realize fully the important r5le which the Old Testament played in the religious life of Jesus. According to Matthew 27,46 and Mark 15,34, Jesus' only intelligible word on the cross was a cry of distress, a verbatim quotation of Psalms 22,1:
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Luke's last utterance of Jesus is, with the exception of the first word, a sentence verbatim from Psalms 31,5:
"Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."
These two paradoxical prayers-one, a distressed protest; the other, a calm commitment-present a strange contrast that is characteristic of the picture of the dying Jesus as presented by Matthew and Mark over against Luke. According to Matthew and Mark, Jesus dies in the throes of struggle, uttering a poignant protest to his God. According to Luke, he dies in a state of calm composure, dispensing forgiveness to his executioners (23,34), promising Paradise to a fellow victim (23,43), and at the last committing himself to the Father in complete confidence (23,46).
Most students of the life of Jesus reject one of these paradoxical pictures in favor of the other. Usually
Luke's picture is rejected because Luke himself, it is thought, seems to take offense at Mark's realistic picture in which Jesus dies in dire distress and therefore provides a more idealistic picture more in conformity with his own conception of Jesus. Those of this opinion point to the Gethsemane scene where Luke has eliminated the perturbed state of Jesus' emotions, and they conclude that he has done the same in the crucifixion scene. But the psychology of religious experience leaves it for ever possible, even probable, that both pictures are true to fact. The history of religious experience has produced just such paradoxes in which a stunning sense of divine desertion is reversed into a state of complete confidence and trust, and the subject calmly commits himself to the One who, it seemed, a moment ago was gone for ever out of his life.
For us here it is not important that we decide against one picture or the other, or that we accept both. But it is important in our study of the contribution of the Old Testament to Jesusl religious life that we see here how, in two diametrically opposed states of religious emotion, prayer passages from the Psalms escape his lips. Jesus, like Luther, Pascal and Bunyan, prayed in the words of his Scriptures.
"Often in time of need, quite unconsciously and without realization of it, a man will seize upon a fixed formula of prayer, or better, the formula presents itself to him, and into it he will pour the whole of his feeling. Thus the fixed, impersonal formula is filled with personal life." [Heiler, Das Gebef, p. 50.]
The two Psalm passages on the cross are not conscious, deliberate quotations; they are involuntary invasions from the prayer-life and literature of his people. Soederblom says of the first, "He did not choose, nor did he reflect; he poured forth his distress."" As Professor Deissmann says of the first, we may say that both are "his very own, secured by his heart's blood." [Quoted by Heiler, Das Gebet, p. 355.]
Thus far we have pointed out Jesus' familiarity with the Old Testament, how he used it to illustrate his teaching and to reinforce his points and positions, how it was for him a source of personal religious light and strength; in short, we have pointed out his natural religious dependence upon his people's Scriptures. But there is yet another element in Jesus' attitude toward the Old Testament that is as important as it is characteristic of all that we know of him in this respect. Over against his devout dependence there stands his sovereign personal freedom, a freedom that has the courage to reject as well as the loyalty to reproduce certain elements of its piety.
As every loyal Jew, Jesus revered the Old Testament as the one great religious heritage of his people. The Old Testament was Holy Scripture, sacred and inspired, revealing God's will to His people; it was God's word, a religious authority. But for Jesus the Old Testament was not an object of religious worship. There is nothing of the Bibliolatry in his personal attitude toward his sacred Scriptures such as has been so prominent both among Jews and among Christians since. He did not worship a book, or a collection of books; he worshiped the God revealed in Scripture. He read the Old Testa-
ment with characteristic Jewish vividness of imagination and tenseness of feeling, but such never led to the impairment of his critical judgment. His reverent attitude did not exempt the religious teaching and message of the Old Testament from his incisive criticism. The literary and historical questions of the modern Old Testament critic never crossed his mind. It never occurred to him to question the traditional positions with regard to the authorship, date and composition of the Old Testament writings, the historicity of any of their narratives. For Jesus Moses was the author of the Pentateuch, David the author of all the Psalms; Noah built the ark; the flood came; fire and brimstone rained down on Sodom; Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt. In all such questions his attitude toward the Old Testament was just as uncritical as that of the most naive of his contemporaries.
Nevertheless, Jesus was a critical reader of the Old Testament. His criticism was not literary and historical, but religious, personally religious-a criticism born of a deep experience of God in his own life. This criticism resulted in an attitude that was freely selective, never slavish, over against the Old Testament religious teachings. Jesus was always reverent in his reactions to the Old Testament religion, but he could be radical in his rejections because he knew a source of religious authority that is always high above and more living than a body of religious literature. In the history of modern Biblical criticism it would be difficult to find a more severe critic of the Old Testament than Jesus was. He called in question certain long-accepted elements of Old Testament piety, and for himself and his followers he replaced them with a fuller and deeper understanding of religion.
In the slow struggle through which modern Biblical criticism has passed, on more than one occasion, to more than one honest critic, Jesus' famous series of statements in the Sermon on the Mount, "Ye have heard it said of old . . . but I say unto" has come as a source of consolation and comfort.
Certain of the Old Testament writings seem to have made very little impression on Jesus, particularly those writings that were the products of official and organized religion. A book like Leviticus he neglects almost entirely; from its heart he extracts its one great passage,
"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (19,18.)
Jesus seems to have reacted most strongly to those writings which sprang from prophetic and personal religion. His reactions to this personal prophetic type are usually favorable, but now and again most unfavorable when the religious motive becomes unworthy. We have seen that the Psalms were one of the richest sources of his personal piety, but the imprecatory Psalms he rejected outright. Without specific reference to this element in his people's religious literature, he nevertheless exercised most cutting criticism upon it. Jesus' word, "Hate thine enemy," ascribed to tradition by him, is not found in the Old Testament as a specific statement, but it exists as an actual attitude in the imprecatory Psalms. To these outbursts of feeling in the name of religious f aith that would bring the divine wrath and judgment down upon the heads of Israel's enemies, national and personal, he replied,
"Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you." (Luke 6,27-28.)
And for Jesus this is more than a pious precept; on the cross it becomes his own personal prayer. (Luke 23,34.)
Further, Jesus could answer Scripture with Scripture. From Psalms 91,11-12 there radiates the cheerful warmth of a trustful piety,
"He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and on their hands they shall bear thee up, lest haply thou dash thy foot against a stone." (Matt. 4,6; Luke 4,10-11.)
But this peaceful passage has hardly occurred to Jesus when there sweeps across his soul that stern statement of a more critical piety,
"Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God." (Deut. 6,16; Matt. 4,7; Luke 4,12.)
Jesus manifests here, not a naive but a critical type of piety. Over against the unquestioning assurance of the Psalmist that trusts itself to divine deliverance he sets, and accepts for himself, a more critical piety that refuses to make trial of God. The antithesis here set between Psalms 91,11-12 and Deuteronomy 6,16 reveals to us the intelligent and critical reflection to which Jesus subjected the most familiar teachings of his Bible and how, within the sacred Scriptures themselves, he rejected one type of piety in favor of another.
We may conclude our sketch of Jesus and his religious relation to the Old Testament as follows. In him we see
a genuine, but intelligent devotion to his people's Scriptures. The Old Testament and its religion are nerve and fiber of his own personal piety. His criticisms are never of a learned and academic type such as prevailed in his own day and since. His criticisms were born in the depths of his own personal religious experience. He reproduced and rejected on the sole basis of the Scripture's contribution to a, personal knowledge of God and His will. But, all in all, Jesus felt himself a constructive critic; he "came not to destroy, but to fulfil." (Matt. 5,17.)
JESUS AND HIS PROPHETIC PREDECESSORS
Jesus was a prophetic personality. This is the impression that he left with his contemporaries both in the matter of his message and in the manner of his mission. In connection with Herod's superstitious opinion that Jesus was the resurrected Baptist, Mark reports other rumors generally current:
"But others said, It is Elijah. And others said, It is a prophet, even as one of the prophets." (Mark 6,15.)
And when Jesus, for the only time, questions the twelve with regard to public opinion concerning himself, they reply,
"Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." (Matt. 16,14.)
In his person and work, Jesus' contemporaries felt that
they were experiencing a real rebirth of Israel's long lost religious gift-and they were not mistaken.
Jesus is the last of that long line of Israel's prophets, a strange and sensitive strain of religious genius peculiar to Israel, who brought the religious life and thought of this people to its most exalted elevations and gave to both their pure and classic expressions. The prophets of Israel from Amos down to John the Baptist furnished the religious background out of which it was historically possible for Jesus to appear. Without the prophets from Amos down to John, from the strictly historical point of view, there could have been no Jesus. Apart from them there would have been no historical antecedents, no sources of religious genius, that could furnish the conditions necessary for the production of a prophet like Jesus-the prince of them all.
The prophetic religion of the Old Testament constituted the solid substratum for all of Jesus' thinking and teaching, feeling and faith. In him the best of the prophets lived again-Amos, Hosea, Micah, the Isaiahs, Jeremiah. Jesus was the spirit of their spirit. It was in the religion of the prophets that he schooled and steeled himself. He drew deeply and much from all that they represented in the way of religion. With a peculiar fineness of feeling he entered into the highest sentiments, into the deepest convictions, into the most exalted faith of the prophets. With an immediate intuition he sensed the spirit of their thought, teaching and faith. This spirit Jesus brought to new life, always enriched and enhanced in his own personal experience. He seems to have desired nothing more than to fulfill the prophetic religion of his people, to carry it on to its full and fruitful culmination. Jesus thought of himself as a prophet.
This he was, through and through a prophetic mind and personality.
The prophetic elements in Jesus' person and work are so clear that they need hardly to be pointed out. He belongs to the ranks of Israel's prophets by virtue of his religious thinking and teaching. In his conception of the essence of religion as reverence and righteousness he is prophetic. On his lips we hear Israel's great confession of its prophetic faith:
"Hear, 0 Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." (Mark 12, 29-30.)
To this classic expression of religious reverence and devotion he adds its prophetic correlate on religion as righteousness,
"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (Mark 12,31.)
With the characteristic proneness of the prophets to focus faith on principal points, to simplify its statements, and to intensify its feeling and fervor, Jesus declares these to be the two great commandments, the sum and substance of all that religion requires of men. Both of these Old Testament commandments are the crystallization of the religion of the prophets. In his conception of religion as moral and ethical, as inward, as purity of heart, Jesus is prophetic.
Jesus often quotes the prophets. As examples of direct quotations, see: Hosea 6,6 in Matt. 9,13 and 12,75 Isa. 29,13 in Mark 7,6-7; Isa. 61,1-2 in Luke 4,17-19. Not a few of his words, that are not explicit quotations, are clear echoes
and recasts of prophetic utterances." Apart from these direct reflections of prophetic utterances, his point of view, the whole of his religious approach is prophetic. In his attitude toward official and organized religion he is a true son of his prophetic predecessors. He confronted the conventional religion of his day with a skepticism that comes straight from the spirit of the prophets, and his criticisms and indictments are prophetic in position, uttered in the prophetic fearlessness that does not hesitate to reject long-accepted traditions in favor of the religious truth revealed in personal experience. Jesus' future for Jerusalem, the temple, and his people is the prophetic picture. Jerusalem is the Holy City, "the city of the great King"; he weeps over it, and forecasts its fall. His indictments against a religion of cult are not as prominent as in some of his forerunners. He seems more indifferent toward it than incited to speech by it, but he is still the prophet when cult and ceremony are the sole fruits of piety. He never attacks the cult worship of the temple. For Jesus, the temple is holy because of Him who dwells therein; it is God's house, a place to worship, to which he goes immediately upon entering the Holy City. His act of cleansing the temple is a prophetic act, prompted by prophetic piety, and accomplished in prophetic zeal. In cleansing the temple of its trade and traffic Jesus does not have in mind the purity of a center of cult, but of a house of prayer. Yet over against his love for the temple stands his announcement of its destruction, an echo of Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. (Mark 13,1-2.)
The national and political element is not as prominent in Jesus' thought as it is in the Old Testament prophets. Although Jesus loved his people with typical prophetic passion and restricted his work to them, he is not the intense patriot that some of his predecessors were, nor does he undertake the r6le of the statesman as some of them did. However, his picture of the future is painted in Jewish colors. He sees his disciples sitting on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19,28; Luke 22,30b), and he pictures Abraham, Isaac and Jacob reclining at the Messianic feast. These features belong to the Jewishness of Jesus, but they are not genuine Jewish particularism. He promises that the peoples shall come
"from the east and west, and from the north and south, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God." (Luke 13,28-29; Matt. 8,12.)
Like the prophets before him he preached a future theocratic society, but it was a universally human, not a distinctly Jewish value. Jesus began where his last great predecessor, Second Isaiah (40-66), left off.
The great themes of Israel's prophetic message reappear in the message of Jesus-repentance, warning, judgment to come, a day of God in the future. His style of presentation is, in general, prophetic-directly to the point, clear, compact, vividly projected in graphic pictures. In Jesus we see the tense, terse treatments of a great theme very like the prophets. In a single picture he casts his thought into a rough relief that strikes the hearer and that sends the message home to his heart.
However, he is much more matter-of-fact, much less f an. tastic in his style than some of the prophets who present their thought in an unreal and extravagant imagery that is often hard to fathom. Jesus possessed a sense for the real world that the more temperamental of his prophetic predecessors lacked.
Like the prophets, at least the majority, Jesus' manner of presentation is impromptu, offhand, extemporaneous. His speech is the spontaneous inspired speech of the prophet-a style of speech that nature gives, that men do not learn. Like the prophets, he is convinced of the divine inspiration and origin of his message. But in his words the stereotyped formula of the prophets is not to be found, "Thus saith Jehovah," and God does not appear as the real spokesman in the first person with the prophet only His mouthpiece. Often in the prophetic utterances it is the divine ego, not the prophet, who is speaking." In these formulas, "Thus saith Jehovah," and in their I-style (Ichstyl) which presents God as the real speaker, the old prophets practically disclaim all personal responsibility for the origin and content of their message, and in some cases the prophetic personality is wholly submerged by the divine ego. But this element has no counterpart in the experience of Jesus. He never, in the first three Gospels, disclaims his message as his own. His own ego is never submerged by the divine presence and pressure that possessed the more primitive prophetic personality. He feels himself to be God's spokesman; his message is from God. But this conviction of the divine origin and content of his message never results in a complete or partial suppression of his normal
and natural self-consciousness. He did not present his message as dictated by the divine. Consciously, his message was derived from his own personal experience of God.
Jesus has the passionate, tense type of utterance characteristic of the prophet. He preaches, as he prays, under a genuine personal pressure, with a prophetic passion. His words are always intense, but always intelligible. His utterances do not pour forth in the violent volume of some of the prophets, which often resulted in a turbulent turmoil of thought and which left the hearer in a state of confusion. Jesus' words carried their own conviction with them; he spoke as one having authority, but he does not seem to have spoken under the intense, often uncontrolled, personal pressure of some of the prophets before him.
Jesus is prophetic also in his general experience of religion. His sources of religious knowledge are prophetic, immediate personal experience. His religious certainties are prophetic, born of deep inner conviction. He feels himself called of God, commissioned to a very definite task in behalf of the divine cause, and it is in the light of an Isaiah passage (61,1-2) that he interprets for himself this call and commission (Luke 4,16-21). In the whole of his religious consciousness Jesus was prophetic. But this topic is reserved for a later chapter, and we may anticipate here by saying that, in his religious convictions and certainties, in his attitudes and aspirations, in his enthusiasm and in his earnestness, in the fineness of his feeling and in the firmness of his faith, in
his manner and mood, in his tense temperament, in the substance of his thought, in the tone of his message, in his passion and zeal for his work, Jesus was true to the type, a genuine prophetic genius.
But there is one respect in which Jesus, in his experience of religion, stands quite apart, not only from his prophetic predecessors but from the great representatives of religious genius generally, both before and after him. Here we have in mind the r5le which unusual psychic phenomena-visions and voices, ecstasies and exaltations of spirit-have played in the experience of great religious genius."
JESUS AND HIS PROPHETIC CONTEMPORARY
Any inquiry into the formative factors and forces that contributed to the sum total of all that Jesus was and represented in the way of religion must include the person and work of that rugged Jordan prophet, John the Baptist, Jesus' great prophetic contemporary. We do not know a great deal about the Baptist.15 As Professor Deissmann writes, "Only the shadow of the Baptist falls across the scene of the Gospel story, but it is a truly great shadow."
What we know of the Baptist shows us that he was true to the type, a genuine prophetic genius.- So far as we know he did not belong to the literary prophets in that he or his disciples committed his message to writing, as is the case with the majority of the prophets of Israel known to us. Nevertheless, he belongs in the ranks of the great prophets of Israel by virtue of the theme, character and tone of his message. Such remnants of the Baptist's message as we possess remind us at once of the stirring preaching of Amos and Micah. "John the Baptist stands alongside Isaiah and Jeremiah, the gigantic figures of the Semitic East.""' Not only the message, but the person of the Baptist is genuinely prophetic. In his personality he resembles most two of the outstanding preliterary prophets, Nathan and Elijah. His championship of the sanctity of the family and his rebuke to Herod (Matt. 14,3-4; Mark 6,17-18; Luke 3,19-20) recall at once the religious thought and the fearless directness of expression of Nathan (II Sam. 12,1-15). If Herod had been better versed in the history of Jewish prophecy, he would probably have seen in the Baptist the ghost of Nathan, as his superstitious mind saw in Jesus the resur. rected Baptist. (Matt. 14,1-2; Mark 6,14-16; Luke 9,7-9.) Upon the general public that saw and heard him, the Baptist seems to have left the impression that he was, either in reality or in interpretation, Elijah returned. The Baptist's own followers seem to have found in him the Elijah (Luke 1,13-17) who, according to popular thought, had not died but would come again in fulfillment of Malachi 4,5-6. For the general public of
his day, the Baptist was a prophet of God, preaching a heaven-sent message, and practising a God-given religious rite. He was a prophet of tremendous popularity. Herod hesitated to carry out his plan against the Baptist's life, because he feared John (Mark 6,20), and the multitude counted him as a prophet (Matt. 14,5). Even some months after his death public sentiment in Jerusalem was so strong for the Baptist that the religious authorities there did not dare to disclaim the divine origin of his baptism.
John the Baptist was not a Christian but a Jew. And it is difficult for us as Christians, even with the historical point of view and interest, to project a Jewish picture of the Baptist, one that does him real historical justice as a prominent figure in the religious history of his people. This task is difficult, for we involuntarily think of him in his relation to Jesus, who towers so high in Christian conception and conviction that the Baptist appears at a distinct disadvantage, a disadvantage that is unfair to the true historical significance of the Baptist and the place he really occupied in the religious life of his own day and people.
This Christian point of view and interest goes back to the New Testament itself. The New Testament picture of the Baptist is Christianized, but in it we can still detect something of his independent greatness apart from his relation to Jesus. And from our present point of view of gaining an adequate picture of the Baptist and of estimating his contribution to Jesus, we must realize that he receives from us historical justice only when we see in him a great independent prophet and preacher of Judaism
with a message and mission of his own. The Baptist really bursts the bands of Judaism because he is too great to be cramped within the narrow confines of Judaism's ceremonial practise and conventional conception of religion. The Baptist, like Jesus, marks a rebirth of prophetism which always meant for Israel a shattering of the ceremonial and conventional casings that confined the free spirit of Hebrew religious genius and which required a return to those fresh clear springs from which religion, in its purity, flowed forth in a vast and vigorous volume.
Our New Testament materials on the Baptist's message and mission are almost discouragingly meager. Hardly more than a dozen sentences ascribed to him have come down to us. But the meagerness of these materials is so offset by their distinctive character that we can hope to secure a very fair idea of what he said and hoped to accomplish. Among the first three Gospel writers, Mark's account of the Baptist is briefest and most inadequate. ( 1,2-8.) The independent aspects of the Baptist's message and mission receive only incidental notice. Mark gives us no extracts from the Baptist's preaching of repentance; he presents only his announcement of the Coming One. Mark is interested only in the Messianic, the distinctly Christian aspects of the Baptist's ministry. For Mark, the Baptist's work exhausted itself in announcing and preparing the way for the Coming One; he is the herald, the advance-agent, the forerunner of the Messiah who, for Mark, is Jesus. In Mark's picture we see the natural Christian neglect of the independent features of the Baptist and his work and the natural Christian inclination and interest in his dependent rela-
tionship as a subordinate contributor to Jesus and his work.
We are indebted chiefly to Matthew (3,1-12) and Luke (3,1-18) for our knowledge of the independent phases of the Baptist's ministry. Both preserve extracts from his message of repentance. (Matt. 3,7-10; Luke 3,7-9.) These extracts are very brief, but they are distinctive in character, and they serve to show very clearly that in the Baptist we have before us a genuine prophet and a real revival of the long lost prophetic fire and fearlessness. His sermon on repentance in Matthew and Luke is a sterling prophetic message. With the traditional sternness and vigor of Israel's prophets he preaches a reconstruction of mind and life in view of threatening judgment. Like Amos, his view of the future is primarily pessimistic; for Israel there is coming, and that soon, the judgment of God, in which there is to be no preference for the sons of Abraham. Thus, for Matthew and Luke, the Baptist's significance does not exhaust itself in his dependent relationship to Jesus. He is not merely the herald, the advance-agent, the forerunner of the Messiah. The announcement of the Coming One is only one element, perhaps not the principal element, in his public work. The Baptist appears as a great prophet and preacher with a message and mission of his own, a man of powerful personality who hurls prophetic warnings into the face of his complacent contemporaries demanding repentance in view of God's imminent judgment.
To Luke (3,10-14) we are indebted for a further phase of the Baptist's independent work. In the demands which he makes of the various classes of his contem. poraries he strikes upon the same simple, yet fundamental themes that run through the messages of some of the
greatest of his prophetic predecessors, and he, as they, insists upon the moralization of religion. Here the Baptist's religious thinking calls to mind at once that of Amos and Micah.
In his announcement of the Coming One, the Baptist recognizes and confesses the limitations of his own person and work, and he welcomes the advent of one greater than himself, before whom he passes into insignificance. Here the Baptist reveals a modesty that belongs to true greatness, and this genuine consciousness of selflimitation is one of the clearest features of his personality in the Gospel picture. Naturally, such fitted into the Christian estimate of the Baptist, but there is a genuineness about it even in the Christian picture that assures us that we meet here the native nobility of his prophetic personality, consecrated completely to the divine cause. The Baptist of history did feel himself the called and commissioned prophet of God whose contributions were insignificant when compared with the consummation to be accomplished by the Coming One.
Matthew (3,4) and Mark (1,6) furnish a brief notice, neglected by Luke, concerning the Baptist's personal habits of dress and diet. He is clad in primitive garments, which according to Zechariah 3,4 are the mark of the prophet, camel's hair and a leathern girdle about his loins; his food consists of locusts and wild honey. These eccentric habits of life brought upon him the ridicule of the religious leaders whom Jesus quotes as saying, "He hath a demon." (Matt. 11,18; Luke 7,33.) In his strange apparel the Baptist appears as a striking figure, leading the secluded, yet vigorous life of the wilderness prophet. His ascetic habits throw an interesting and instructive light on his character; he appears as strict
in his demands upon himself, in his own self-discipline, as in his demands upon others. Jesus refers to him as a prophet who came "eating no bread nor drinking wine." (Matt. 11,18; Luke 7,33; 1,15.) But his own eccentric habits and ascetic self-discipline he does not seem to have required of others. His followers fasted (Mark 2,18), but they do not appear to have been an ascetic sect withdrawn from the regular social order. This fact is also instructive, for it shows that the Baptist, with all of his aggressiveness, was in mind and disposition free from religious fanaticism.
In one of his great addresses Jesus characterizes the Baptist, first in a negative way, as not "a man clothed in soft raiment," "gorgeously apparelled," "living delicately," then in a brief positive statement, as "a prophet," even more than a prophet." (Matt. 11,7-9; Luke 7,2426.) Just such a staunch and stalwart prophetic character the Baptist's contemporaries seem to have found in him. The thronging of the crowds to the withdrawn scene of his work testifies to the power of the personality of this Jordan preacher. He does not go to the people; they seek him out. At the center of such a situation the Baptist must have stood as a man of great personal powers, as a decidedly capable and forceful character, delivering an unusually striking and powerful message.
All of the Gospel writers open their accounts of Jesus' public life with a brief treatment of the Baptist and his work. The New Testament accounts of Jesus and John are linked firmly together for the reason that such was the state of the facts. Apart from the fact that the Baptist fitted quite naturally into the account of Jesus as his forerunner according to the Christian point of view, the Gospel writers were forced to devote some attention to
the Baptist under the very pressure of historical fact. They could not ignore the Baptist entirely, for Jesus and John were too close together in every way. Apart from such general considerations as the fact that Jesus and John were of the same race, that they were contemporaries, that they worked among the same people, and that they appeared in immediate succession in point of time, there are other facts that would make these two great prophets historically inseparable. John was Jesus' predecessor in public; he was on the scene of action first, delivering a striking message that brought great crowds to hear and to heed, and carrying on an important work that was in an advanced stage when Jesus joined his audience. Jesus was so deeply impressed by the Baptist that he too was baptized by him. He held John in highest esteem, and he spoke of him on more than one occasion. The very importance, as well as the number, of Jesus' references to the Baptist would demand that the Gospel writers, sooner or later, give some account of him and his work. And it would be impossible for any Christian writer, whether early or late, with any sense of personal or historical justice to give an account of Jesus, who had so much in common both in message and in mission with his great contemporary, without giving at least some appreciative notice to John the Baptist such as the author has tried to do in the above sketch. Now we may turn to our main question: Did John the Baptist make a real contribution to Jesus? If so, what was it?
According to the New Testament account, Jesus and John met but once, at the Jordan-a meeting that seems to have meant more for Jesus than it did for the Baptist. In spite of Matthew's recognition scene (3,14-IS), there is n8 reason for supposing that the Baptist recognized
Jesus, either personally or officially. In Mark the personal contacts between Jesus and John begin and end at the Jordan. In Matthew and Luke, however, they are brought together indirectly by the Baptist's deputation of some of his disciples to Jesus with the question, "Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another?" (Matt. 11,2-7; Luke 7,18-24)-not necessarily the question of one who has believed and later falls into doubt, as is the common Christian conception, but very probably the question of one who, for the first time, begins to reflect on the possibilities of Jesus' person. What Jesus came to mean for the Baptist we do not know, but what the Baptist meant for Jesus is quite clear; at least, there comes to Jesus from the Baptist an imposing impression and, what is still more, a deep personal influence.
The frequent allusions of Jesus to the Baptist, both in public and in private, are evidence enough of the fact that he was acquainted in detail with his message, mission and person. In the message of Jesus we hear clear echoes of the message of the Baptist, not only in the general theme of repentance, but in expressions and figures used by the Baptist which later come from the lips of Jesus," and in one case, at least, a verbatim extract. The full effect of the Baptist's message on Jesus, however, is not revealed in such reproductions of it as Jesus makes, but in his act of presenting himself to John for baptism. This act is a tremendous tribute to the Baptist, his message and ministry; and his response to the religious values represented by the Baptist makes it clear be-
yond all possibility of doubt that the Baptist made upon Jesus a profound and deep impression.
But the Baptist's contribution did not exhaust itself in this deep impression. Matthew and Luke preserve to us one of the greater addresses of Jesus which has for its theme the Baptist and his work and which is commonly known as his address on the Baptist. (Matt. 11,2-19; Luke 7,18-35.) This is the only occasion upon which Jesus ever digresses from his main theme of the kingdom of God-but even here he does not desert it entirely-and devotes a series of statements to a person. This passage is very important for our present problem of determining the Baptist's contribution, for it preserves to us Jesus' estimate of John. His statement here shows very clearly that he did not look upon the Baptist merely as his own personal advance-agent and announcer, but as a popular and powerful preacher of repentance. Jesus' personal view of the Baptist is more Jewish and less Christian than that of the Gospel writers and the traditional Christian view since. Within the New Testament, Jesus does the Baptist the greatest historical, religious and personal justice. He does not take a Messianic view of the Baptist in the sense that the Baptist is his own personal forerunner. In his address on the Baptist, he brings this Jordan prophet into a direct relationship with his own cause, the kingdom of God. He felt that the Baptist's work had an important bearing on his own, and it is in the light of the Baptist's bearing on his own work, rather than on his own person, that he gives his estimate. John is "much more than a prophet." For the thought of Jesus, it is John and the kingdom of God, not John and the Messiah.
One of the most enigmatic of all of Jesus' words has to do with the Baptist and the kingdom of God:
"From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suff ereth violence, and men of violence take it by force." (Matt. 11, 12; Luke 16,16.)
At least one thing is quite clear in this puzzling utterance: Jesus brings John the Baptist and the kingdom of God into a vital relationship. Between the Baptist and himself he established a purely personal rather than official bond.
"Among them that are born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist." (Matt. 11,11; Luke 7,28.)
Such is his own personal estimate of the Baptist. In other words, John is, in the opinion of Jesus, the greatest man that ever lived. This is a striking statement for any person to make about another, and John must have been a most extraordinary figure to call forth such an exalted tribute. This almost extravagant statement makes it clear that the Baptist must have exercised on Jesus a strong and lasting influence, for it is inconceivable that one man could entertain of another such an exalted estimate with * out having been greatly influenced by him.
Just what this personal influence was we are not in a position to say; our sources of information are too inadequate. Some are of the opinion that Jesus was the Baptist's voluntary successor; he took up the divine cause where the Baptist was forced to lay it down. Matthew seems to have something of this view in 4,12 when he
relates that the news of the Baptist's imprisonment brings Jesus into Galilee for his public work. Others agree with the Gospel writers that the Baptist was one of the principal promoting factors and forces that brought Jesus out of private into public life: "the holy spark had lept from the Baptist to Him."2' But Professor Deissmann, I think, is nearer the facts when he makes the Baptist's contribution even more personal, "The significance of the Baptist for Jesus, and thereby for the religious history of mankind, is that he, by his powerful message, released in the life of Jesus what had been deposited there as prophetic tension, and which, once released, was to work itself out in the gospel."
For the historical student, there must have been some vital personal contribution of the Baptist to Jesus, of which Jesus himself was clearly conscious. And in our task of seeking out the forces and factors that contributed to the making of a religious genius like Jesus, the only great one of a personal sort upon which we can determine definitely is John the Baptist. From the strictly historical point of view, the Baptist seems to have played a more important ro^le-a ro^le that amounted to a strong and lasting influence-in the life of Jesus than any other individual known to us. But from the very evident fact that Jesus was strongly influenced by the Baptist we must not, however, draw the false conclusion, to which not a few have been led, that he was an imitator of the Baptist. Jesus was more than a disciple of the Baptist, and none knew this better than Jesus himself.
In conclusion on the subject of Jesus and his pro-
phetic contemporary, we may bring the two into brief comparison in order that we may appreciate the elements which they have in common and the differences which preserve the individuality of each.
Both Jesus and John were unconventional and uncompromising preachers of religion. Both were unprofessional preachers, laymen from the rank and file of the Jewish people as were the great majority of their prophetic ancestors, lay prophets who championed the divine cause to which they felt themselves called and commissioned.
Jesus and John had much in common in the theme and character of their message. Both preached repentance in view of the impending future, which for the Baptist was the divine judgment to be accomplished by the Coming One; for Jesus this future was the kingdom of God in which the elements of judgment, to be accomplished by the Son of man, were not lacking. The message of Jesus has a greater variety in presentation than that of John, whose message would present more variety perhaps if we had a fuller record of it. (Luke 3,10-14.) However, the character of the Baptist's thought does not suggest the rich and attractive variety of that of the mind of Jesus. But in the Gospel picture of Jesus and John, each has a style of his own, a manner and method that is natural, and we are grateful to the writers of the first three Gospels for preserving to us the individuality of each.
In the temper of their thinking Jesus and John have much in common. Both look upon the present order of things as on the verge of being supplanted, and that soon. The Baptist, however, seems more persistently pessimistic in his view of the impending events. There is a prominent strain of optimism in the thought of Jesus
for this world, its human life and history, not to be found in that of John. Jesus takes a world-affirming attitude not apparent in the thought and temper of the Baptist.
Both Jesus and John broke with family ties for the sake of complete consecration to the divine cause which they championed. One lived the life of a wilderness recluse, and his work had its scene far apart from the regular social order. The other lived among men as they lived and took pleasure in the regular affairs and conventions of society; he worked in the midst of the thoroughf ares of the people, calling and challenging men where he found them.
Jesus did not practise baptism" as John did. Even a command for baptism in the first three Gospels is found only on the lips of the Risen Lord. (Matt. 28,19; Mark 16,16.) In this religious rite we are followers of the Baptist rather than of Jesus.
In their personal habits of life and conduct Jesus and John differ greatly. Jesus did not share the Baptist's eccentric peculiarities of dress and diet, nor his ascetic self-discipline. John was condemned for his asceticism, and Jesus for his indulgence. Here they stand at opposite extremes. This contrast Jesus brings out clearly at the close of his address on the Baptist:
"For John the Baptist is come eating no bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a demon. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold, a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." (Luke 7,33-34; Matt. 11, 18-19.)
Both Jesus and John had a group of intimate personal followers or disciples that survived after their death. The following of the Baptist presents certain elements of religious organization in the observation of certain rites and practises. In the following of Jesus all such elements are missing. Jesus' disciples were held to one another and to him by a purely personal bond which must have been present to some extent in the relationship between John and his disciples.
On the general public Jesus and John seem to have left something of the same impression; both revive the memory of Elijah, and some, with Herod, regard Jesus as the Baptist come to life. The fates and fortunes of the two men are much alike. Both were successful with the general public and unsuccessful with the recognized religious leaders. Both suffered martyrdom for the divine cause which they championed.
Between these two great prophets of religion there seems to have been no rivalry, but there was between their followers. (Mark 2,18; John 3,22-26.) The immeasurably greater of the two held the other in highest respect and in deepest appreciation.
Thus far we have sought to point out those factors and forces in Israel's religious past that contributed to the production of a religious genius like Jesus, elements that reappear in his own religious personality as solid and substantial contributions-the Old Testament, the prophetic genius in general, and John the Baptist in particular.
Jesus was not an isolated figure in human history, a supernatural intervention unconnected with the past and present of his people. To isolate him from the religious life of his people is not only an injustice to both Jesus and his people, but to the plainest f acts of the Gospel records and to the simplest sense of the historian. It is equally unjust to explain Jesus exhaustively by pointing out his dependence upon the religious heritage behind and around hirii. Very often we meet these two extremes. Some emphasize the remoteness of Jesus from his people and their religion and will see him only as entirely new and different. But, as we have seen, there are important elements common to Jesus and his people, and equally essential to both. Others have stressed his closeness to the past and present to such a degree that Jesus as an independent personality is entirely submerged in the religious history of his people. But, as we shall see, Jesus is more than a mere mosaic of moral precepts from the Jewish law and prophets; his personal religion is more than a frail framework of religious maxims from his people's past.
In every feature of the Gospel picture one is impressed with the genuine Jewishness of Jesus. In religious thought and teaching, in feeling and faith, he was a true son of Israel. He lived and moved and had his being in the rich devotional life of his people. His personal piety roots deep in all that is best in the religious traditions and genius of his race. Of this organic bond that held him to his people and their faith Jesus was fully conscious. The fulfillment of the law and the prophets he regards as his life's work. (Matt. 5,17.) His own disciples saw him in this light. On the mount of transfiguration they beheld him transfigured between the two
great representatives of Old Testament religion, Moses and Elijah. Here Jesus belongs, for in his message and' mission, in his person, the best of both reappears, renewed, refreshed and reinforced. The three disciples on the mount of transfiguration saw more than they knew when they beheld Jesus in communion with Moses and Elijah. In him the spirit of both men lived again-the conscientious code of character and conduct of the Mosaic law, and the prophetic passion and personal piety of Elijah and his eighth and sixth century successors. Thus Jesus stands in the purest waters of that strong steady stream of Israel's religious genius and faith. But in him that stream is widened and deepened, and its current becomes a rushing torrent that sustains and supports, and that pours forth its power into every accessible channel, into every available course of human life.
Jesus was much more than a faithful reproduction of Israel's religion, much more than the compact summarization of all that went before him. In him we see the perfection of Israel's purest piety, the natural and organic culmination of his people's peculiar genius for religion. Jesus is Israel's reason for existence; in him her historical task is accomplished. Jesus should be the chief pride of the Jewish people; he is the finest flower of its religious life. May the day come, and that speedily, when liberal Jews and liberal Christians will forget those unpleasant historical developments, and both in a spirit of profound reverence approach, appraise and appropriate Jesus for the intrinsic religious values which he alone perfectly representst
Much of Jesus' personal piety is simply a loyal reproduction of the traditional religion of his people. Great fundamentals of the religion of Israel reappear in him
unchanged. But, as Professor Hocking writes, "Originality is not measured by the amount of change, but by the depths of re-thinking." "The history of religion is brought forward not so much by the appearance of new thoughts as by old thoughts being taken with an entirely new seriousness.""' This is essentially what we see in Jesus' reproduction of his people's religion and in his contribution to and his perfection of it. Jesus took seriously what many of his contemporaries retained more as tradition and custom. With a fiery earnestness he entered into the experiences of those great souls of the past from whom Israel's religious heritage sprang. He did not reproduce merely; he relived the best of his people's piety; and whenever it reappears in Jesus, it is transfigured, made splendidly glorious, and revivified in his own personal experience.
Jesus did not reconstruct an old religion, nor did he create an entirely new one. But within himself he gathered up the wealth of faith and hope in the past of his people, and this great treasure was purified and perfected in his own religious life and experience. At principal points Jesus simplifies and concentrates the old; again, he deepens and develops; still again, he purges and purifies; but in every case we witness an elevation and enrichment of the old to such a degree that it becomes new. It is new because it lives again. We are nearer the actual state of the facts when we speak of the freshness of Jesus' experience of religion rather than of its originality over against the ancient faith of his people.
Jesus nowhere betrays, either in his words or in his deeds, a consciousness of a complete break with the re-
ligious past of his people. He was in open conflict with the conventionalized conceptions and practises of the religious leaders of his day; against them he could use the strongest language, but it was always to the pure spirit of the law and the prophets that Jesus returned, and it was this that he would revive. The past and the present seem to have introduced no conflict into his religious consciousness such as we find in Paul (Rom. 7-8), who was torn by inner conflict between his Jewish past and his Christian present. There is more of the Jewish religion left in the Jesus of the Synoptics than is to be found in the Paul of the epistles. Paul's break with the past of his people was conscious and complete. But Jesus draws no fixed line between his experience of religion and that of his people. The sense of continuity with the past is stronger than the consciousness of rupture. He is fully conscious of introducing something new. He is convinced that a greater thing than Solomon or Jonah or the temple is here (Matt. 12,6 41-42), but the very comparisons used show that this greater thing is not unconnected with the religious past.
Jesus' words on the new and the old are rather puzzling. In one case, he sets them over against each other as fundamentally opposed and irreconcilable; they mutually exclude each other, and a contact between them results disastrously for both, as is clear in his parables in Mark 2,21-22:
"No man seweth a piece of undressed cloth on an old garment: else that which should fill it up taketh from it, the new from the old, and a worse rent is made. No man putteth new wine into old wine-skins; else the new wine will burst the skins, and the wine
perisheth, and the skins: but they put new wine into fresh wine-skins."
But in another word, Jesus brings the new and the old into an organic bond. They merge; each loses its identity; there is no new, no old; both have disappeared to reappear in the freshness of a living personality, as is clear in the parable in Matthew 13,52:
"Therefore every scribe who hath been made a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old."
It would be difficult to find a more accurate statement of the relation of the new and the old in the religious experience of Jesus than we find in this parable. From his treasure house, his own personal religious experience, he brought forth things old and new. And as Loisy writes, "The importance of these elements depends neither on their antiquity nor on their novelty, but on the place they fill in the religious teaching of Jesus, and on the value that Jesus himself attached to them.' 128 It is important to know just what Jesus accepted and rejected in the religious past of his people, to know how he recast and appropriated that which he inherited, for his revisions and rejections reveal the very essence of his experience of religion. He retained more than he rejected, and his sense in selection, his care in criticism, testify to the purity and power of his own personal piety. He subjected certain precepts of the past to the most cutting criticism; his revisions often amount to rejections;
he revolted openly against the inherited practises, interpretations and neglects of his contemporaries. But that great body of Israel's religion, with the fine fiber of its prophetic faith and the sound tissue of its moral law, Jesus not only accepted but assimilated as his own.
In Jesus' personal position with regard to the religious past of his people, we see a series of strange contrasts and contradictions: a reverent conservatism over against a radical criticism, a faithful reproduction followed by a total rejection, a fidelity accompanied by a sovereign freedom. But just such contrasts and contradictions form the stuff that new life is made of, and in Jesus we see that pressure of paradox that only truly great personalities can bear. Jesus is conservative in his attitude toward tradition, but he appears thus only because he is actually above it. It is the exalted elevation of his experience of religion that causes him to appear conservative. In reality, Jesus is never uncritical. For both the old and the new he sets the test of validation in his own religious experience; both must verify themselves for him personally. This type of criticism is born only of a deep personal experience of God in an individual life. Such a criticism can conserve, yet it can cut to the very core. But in the Gospel picture, whether we come upon new or old, we are always confronted with Jesus himself.
There can be no doubt but that a great many, even important, elements in Jesus' personal piety came to him by social inheritance. No man of that early date had behind him a richer religious heritage than Jesus, who sprang from a pious race whose religion had already reached a remarkably high level and was the central element and interest of its culture. But the personal piety of Jesus has something much greater than the authority of tradition
behind it. It is exactly at those points where the best of his religious heritage reaches the deeper sources of his personal life and finds validity and warrant in his own religious experience that Jesus makes his great contribution. In spite of all the elements that held him reverently to the past, it is clear that Jesus belongs on the side of the religions of the spirit over against the religions of authority. For Jesus, the sources and standards of religious authority are not located in the past; they are in the present, a matter of personal experience. As
Professor Coe writes, "Religious experience itself is a revaluation of values."
Jesus is not to be measured over against his past or present by an absolute originality but by the contribution that comes in his experience of religion. The distinctive elements are not what he shares in common with his religious past or present, nor in those things which appear to be new, but in those.things, whether inherited or original, which command his own religious loyalty and upon which his religious faith and devotion center. The very weight of Jesus' religious convictions, the certainty with which he expresses them, is something new in the religion of his day and people. It was this unique religious experience that brought him out beyond the confines of his people's past and present; it came by an irresistible inner necessity that operated at the very core of his being.
There are lines, divergent and convergent, that lead down to Jesus. We can trace our way back to some of the major sources that lay in the religious past from which he sprang. We can locate certain stimulations in the surroundings in which he lived that account for some
of the particular attitudes which he took in religious matters. These things may not be overlooked as contributing factors, but when all has been said and done, we have not explained Jesus himself. Even if we had far more materials concerning his religious development and his mature experience of religion than we possess, the final analysis and reconstruction would be a mere patchwork. The religion of Israel is only the historical background before and out of which Jesus arose as something different, great and grand. Jesus is positively unique, creatively genial, both in the purity and in the power of his personal piety. In the last analysis he stands before us as the prince of humanity's prophets, the perfection of religious genius. Even the most searching psychology can not press its way into the sacrosanct, into the soul habitat of Jesus. We can not analyze it, but we are permitted to know that it is there. In Jesus we see an inexplicable mystery and depth of personality, a genuine genius whose holy element is religion. We call Jesus a religious genius, but in this we have only given him a name that leaves him as much of an enigma as ever. As an historical fact he stands as incontestable as he is inexplicable, and as such he commands the investigator's recognition and reverence.
The plainest human personality remains for us a problem and a mystery. But when personality reaches the peaks and pinnacles that are clearly in view in all their grandeur and glory and yet tower high above us, then we begin to feel, to use the language of Professor Otto, that we are in the presence of the holy; we feel that it is wholly other than ourselves, and yet we are irresistibly drawn to it. Such is the case in Jesus. There is in him that unexplained residuum, that personal X, that defies
definition yet very clearly demonstrates itself. For want of a better term, we call it religious genius. It is that something besides, above and beyond, that elusive extra which we can not explain. It bewilders and baffles the understanding; yet we sense it clearly and we feel unmistakably that it seeks to impart itself to us.
We are not in a position to unveil the deepest secrets of Jesus' religious personality. As in the case of other great geniuses, we may approach, admire, appreciate, appropriate, but we can not explain Jesus. In our study of him, sooner or later, we must halt in reverence because we have gone as far as we may go. And for all practical purposes we may stop here, not only because we must, but because we can see all that we are in need of seeing in order to know him and to become his intelligent followers. Our task is not to explain Jesus, but to learn to know him. We are in a position to do this; we do have the materials for the construction of a very clear picture of him, of his pure personal piety, his deep experience of God and religion. And this is all that really matters in our practical problem of deriving from him the highest religious helpfulness. To assist ever so modestly in the winning of an adequate knowledge of the religious experience of Jesus is the hope behind the chapters that follow.
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