The Religion of Jesus
Walter E. Bundy
JESUS was God's Galilean. No two words perhaps describe him in a more accurate and positive way. As a man of our human history, he was an early first-century Galilean. judged in the light of the most distinctive thing in his personality, his utter religiousness, he was God's. It is to this distinctive thing that we devote our attention in the following study, the thing that made Jesus Jesus over against any other Galilean of his day.-.his own personal religious experience.
The present study, however, is not just another exposition of the religious teaching of Jesus, as important as such expositions are. It is much more than a study of what he said true religion is and ought to be. It is rather a study of Jesus' own personal experience of religion. Jesus as a religious personality was infinitely more than his religious teaching. All of his utterances are deeply personal; they are fresh extracts from his own experience. In the study of his religious teaching it is quite possible to miss Jesus entirely, especially if one has not sensed the intensely intimate character of all that he has to say about God in human experience.
The quest of the historical Jesus has been carried on for the most part in the seclusion of the study; and the findings, very often, have been phrased in a language that is foreign to the layman. But for once let the student leave off his critical crusade long enough to state very plainly, in the simple language of religious experience, the practical and personal results of his effort to recover Jesus as he actually was.
Each one who approaches Jesus seriously will find something more, something new, something different. This is the prized privilege of his followers. The present study, then, is intensely personal. For this the author makes no apology. It is his own confession to Jesus, a purely personal confession, and this will explain for others the limitations of its worth as well as the extent of its weaknesses. But it could not be otherwise, for religion taken seriously is always intensely personal in the pressure it brings to bear on the individual.
The Jesus presented in this book is the Jesus whom the author knows through study and experience. It may not be the Jesus of some of our theologies, but for the author personally it is the Jesus of Matthew and Mark and Luke, the Jesus who was once a serious sharer of our common human experience, a real person of our human history, who knew God as intimately and genuinely as such knowledge is possible to our human equipment, who perfectly reproduced God in his own life and personality, and who devoted himself to the task of revealing God to men and of pointing them to and preparing them for God's great kingdom.
As an object of careful study Jesus raises more questions than he answers. This almost infinite suggestiveness seems to belong to the very nature of his genius. The author is clearly conscious of the fact that his task is not yet finished.
There is the psychological problem of the Christian will to recover Jesus, to see him as he was, with a view to his rehabilitation-a relatively new, but growing disposition.
There is the problem of recovering Jesus in the New Testament. To what extent do the New Testament writers turn to the human historical Jesus for permanent religious values? Do they know the religious Jesus? Do they understand Christianity as the adoption and faithful reproduction of his own personal piety?
There is the problem of the road to the recovery of Jesus. How shall we find our way back to him as he actually was? What of the spirit of those critical crusaders who have undertaken this pious pilgrimage, for it has been a discipline in piety? In the light of our best knowledge, what constitutes an adequate approach to Jesus ?
There is the problem of the recovery of Jesus' social message. What are the social implications of Jesus' religious experience? What does he expect of men as groups? What does he demand in the way of group character and conduct? What has Jesus to offer in the way of social salvation?
There are the personal problems of Jesus-the dilemma of cause and cures, the Messianic issue, the ordeal of his fate. How did Jesus meet and find his way through these problems? What is his one aspiration in all of his inner struggles? Does he remain rigidly religious in all of these issues? Does he achieve personal religious triumph?
There is the problem of visions and voices in the religious experience of Jesus. Our best New Testament sources ascribe such to him. Were they sources of his religious convictions and certainties, or did he ever experience such ?
More is to be said about the praying of Jesus. There
are the individual retreats for prayer. There are his seven personal prayers. How db they relate themselves to the total body of his religious experience?
These questions the author reserves for a companion volume in the near future, Our Recovery of Jesus. But even then he knows that he will not have said all that is to be said. Jesus grows and continues to grow for the careful student of his mind and life. And no student, even after he has done his best, will claim to have done Jesus more than relative justice.
Since the present study was completed, two important books on Jesus have appeared. The first is by Professor Shirley Jackson Case, Jesus--A New Biography (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1927). The author would direct the reader's attention to the last two chapters, on the religion lived and taught by Jesus. The second book is by Professor Rudolf Bultmann, of the University of Marburg, Germany, Jesus (Berlin: Deutsche Bibliothek, 1927). Those who read German will find it a very stimulating study.
To his friend and colleague, Professor William A. Huggard, of DePauw University, the author is deeply indebted for his great kindness in reading the original manuscript and offering many valuable suggestions and criticisms.
W. E. B.