Appendix A: The search for Jesus in:

Steuart Campbell

The Rise and Fall of Jesus, page 219 - 238

A Complete Explanation for the Life of Jesus and the Origin of Christianity

3. Edition 2019, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-4346-2, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-7327-8,

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
Appendix A: The search for Jesus Many have attempted to solve the mystery of Jesus, to find the man behind the myth, to find who he was and what he did, and how it was that Christianity began. Naturally such questions do not spring readily to the lips of Christians, although some Christians have asked them, and it is understandable that the first questioners were opponents of Christianity. Insofar as the wild accusations of the faith’s opponents forced consideration of the not necessarily more reasonable claims of Christianity, their views constitute the beginning of the search. This search consists of questioning every Gospel statement, breaking it open and reducing it to a kernel, if there is one. According to the Gospels, this search began in the time of Jesus. The claim that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body (Matt. 28:15) was surely the first attempt at a rational explanation for the empty tomb, whether it was made at the time or was made later. It was certainly extant by the time Matthew wrote his Gospel. The first critics of the gospel story were Jews. After Rome officially adopted Christianity, anti-Christian writings were drastically censored. Robertson (1953:89) noted that, to this censorship, we owe the loss of all but fragments of the anti-Christian works of Celsus, Porphyry, Hierocles and Julian. The work of Celsus, a Platonist philosopher, probably of Alexandria and writing between 177 and 180, is now completely lost, but his criticism is known from Origen’s reply (Contra Celsum), although Origen mistook this Celsus for Celsus the Epicurean, a friend of Lucian. Celsus’ able attack anticipated modern criticism. It pointed out how Christianity was repudiated by Jews among whom it originated and claimed that the founder was a base-born adventurer, dabbling in magic, that passages in the Prophets, said by Christians to refer to Jesus, have nothing to do with him, that the gospel has been revised many times in the interest of propaganda, that the story of the Resurrection had pagan and mythological parallels, and that it rested on the 219 evidence of crazy women and dreamers, wishful thinkers or plain liars. Celsus also claimed that Christian teachers were mainly poor tradesmen who addressed their propaganda to women, children and slaves, and taught that wisdom is evil and folly good. He indicted Christianity as a secret and illegal society that venerated a recent ringleader of sedition who was disloyal to the Empire (ibid:202–3). Hierocles, an Imperial governor who is thought to have had access to official sources, attacked Christianity at the end of the third century; he described Jesus as a bandit leader with 900 followers (ibid:93). Porphyry was a neo-Platonist philosopher and pupil of Plotinus who lived c. 223 to 305 and wrote a 15-volume treatise, the title of which translates as Against the Christians. It marked him as a fierce critic of the new religion and it was condemned to be burned in 448. Julian was the Roman emperor Claudius Julianus who ruled c. 331 to 363 and who, educated as a Christian, reverted to ‘paganism’ and attempted to revive polytheism throughout the Empire. His attack on Christianity is known today only in fragmentary citation, but he wrote that ‘the trickery of the Galileans’ had nothing divine in it and that it appealed only to rustics and was composed of fables and irrational falsehoods. Apart from the apostasy of Julian, the recognition of Christianity by Constantine in 313 stifled all criticism for twelve centuries. During these ‘dark Ages’ the gospel dominated all life and was believed by the people to represent historical events. In fact ‘truth’ was measured by the Gospels, in that they were held to recount the most vital truths of all. The common folk at least believed that nothing in the whole world was more important than Jesus’ death and Resurrection. It is understandable that, without universal education and access to the Gospels in their own language, the laity would remain unable to question the ‘old, old story’. But it is not so understandable that those who could read the Scriptures did not rebel. But they were indoctrinated during their education and training and corrected ever after if they showed deviation. However, the first recorded modern criticism was raised by clerics. Both Michael Servetus (Miguel Serveto, 1511–53) and Socinus (Laelius Sozzini, 1525–62) were theologians who denied the divinity of Jesus and regarded him merely as a prophet and the founder of a religion. They also denied the Trinity and held views similar to modern Unitarianism. Servetus was burned alive at Geneva on Appendix A: The search for Jesus 220 the orders of Calvin, but Socinus seems to have survived, his doctrine being continued by his nephew Faustus Socinus (1539–1604) in Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands. The latter taught pacifist and anarchist doctrines similar to those of Tolstoy and his beliefs are known as Socinianism. But neither Servetus nor Socinus found any problems in the actual life of Jesus, nor had they discovered historical criticism. Neither during the Middle Ages nor during the Reformation did anyone ask, ‘what is the historical value of the Gospels?', nor its corollary, ‘what was the historical character of Jesus?' (Klausner 1925:75). But the Reformation did produce an atmosphere in which vernacular versions of the Bible could be made available to the laity. Sodcalled ‘heretical’ versions had circulated in Europe during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, although they had always been suppressed by the Church. However Protestant reformers thought that it was important to let people read the Scriptures for themselves and Luther himself led the way with his German version (from 1521). In England an English version was in use in churches from 1539, but it was not until the Authorized (King James) Version was published in 1611 that the British public really had access to Scriptures that they could study for themselves. However it was another century before the impact of this translation produced any vocal criticism. This criticism arose first in England as deism. The father of deism is Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1583–1648); his work De Veritate (1642) propounds a natural religion without revelation. Deism arose out of the new consciousness brought about by world exploration and astronomy. This showed Christianity to be a local, tribal religion and deists taunted the orthodox with the fact of 300 million Chinese who had not even heard of Christ. Further, imagination was crushed by the revelations of Isaac Newton who was unconscious of the bearing of his discoveries on theology. Astronomy destroyed the Biblical cosmology, while geology destroyed the Biblical creation account and ridiculed the chronology of the Old Testament (Stephen 1902:82). Doubt spread among the laity. Not only could they read for themselves what the Bible said, they could see that it challenged science. If part of the Biblical account was erroneous, how could they tell what was true and what was false? Science began to challenge religion. Appendix A: The search for Jesus 221 Deism proposed a ‘natural’ religion that, although it required worship of God, virtue and repentance in the hope of a future reward rather than punishment, had no room for either Jesus or Christianity. It was a religion without supernatural intervention and was concerned only with the relationship between mankind and God. Theologians of the period, in England at least, also tried to adapt to the new situation created by science. Protestantism, more easily than Catholicism, accepted the new rationalism and its theologians thought that, by so doing, they were purifying their religion. They did not see the danger that they might vitiate their faith. Protestantism bent to the new wind of change and many great minds in the Church grappled with the problems created by the accusations of incoherent deists. Compared with the works of their opponents, the deist writings were ‘shabby and shrivelled little octavos, generally anonymous’ (ibid:86) and Swift observed that the deists’ ‘literary power would hardly have attracted attention if employed upon any other topic’. But the deists were laymen, not theologians; they were not illiterate, but they did not have the skill with words that came naturally to clerics, nor were they used to years of study before their works were born. Some produced only one work. They were not ‘experts’; they were ordinary folk who saw discrepancies in what the Church taught. Ever since, serious criticism has come from the laity and some of the questions asked by the early deists have remained unanswered to this day. Deism ridiculed the external appearance of Christianity, the form of the religion and the organization of the Church. In later years the focus shifted to the content, the internal evidence of the New Testament. At first this criticism was limited to the plea that Christianity should not cling to a belief in miracles. Matthew Tindal (1657–1733) urged the absurdity of making Christian teaching depend upon a belief in miracles and belief in miracles on the truth of the Christian teaching (ibid:79). The deists sought to remove the mystery from Christianity so that it might be understood easily by all. John Locke the philosopher (1632–1704), who was not really a deist, called Christianity ‘reasonable’, and John Toland (1670–1722) claimed that it had no mysteries, no nonsense. A religion without mystery is a religion without God, but Toland did not draw the conclusion his beliefs implied; mystery was out, but the unseen God was still in. Locke reduced the Christian Appendix A: The search for Jesus 222 creed to one article, that all Christ required was acknowledgement that he was the Messiah. Thus did deism attempt to rationalize the outward forms of the Christian religion then in vogue in seventeenth century England; religion was more a way of life that required simplification and rationalization. Early in the eighteenth century the debate gradually moved into the New Testament, particularly the Gospels. Anthony Collins (1676– 1729) showed that the prophecies of the Second Coming of Christ had never been fulfilled, that Christianity was false if the prophecies have not been fulfilled and that it is absurd to show them to have been fulfilled typically. Collins was probably the first to realize that the author of Daniel lived at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, a view held to this day. Lane Fox claimed that this was first noted by Porphyry in the third century and only ‘rediscovered’ in 1672 and then only accepted generally by scholars in the nineteenth century (1991:337). Chandler, Bishop of Lichfield (1668–1750), was a cleric who tried to keep up with the deists. In his Vindication (1728), he claimed that Christ foretold his resurrection from out of the Jewish Scriptures. He does not appear to have realized the implication of that statement: that Jesus could have deliberately modelled his life on Scripture. He also thought that the ‘star’ of Bethlehem was some ‘eccentric meteor or luminous appearance’. Thomas Woolston (1669–1731), who studied the miracles, showed them to be allegorical. He also claimed that the Resurrection did not occur and that it was an elaborate deception by the disciples. For these arguments, ‘poor mad Woolston, most scandalous of the deists’ (ibid:87) was imprisoned and fined. In time the controversy gradually settled on the question of the Resurrection. Stephen wrote, ‘the fate of Christianity, in short, might be staked on the proof of the resurrection’ (ibid:238) and ‘men were either raised from the dead 1800 years ago or they were not’ (ibid:190). Both Zachary Pearce (1690–1774) and Peter Annet (d. 1768) dwelt on the evidence for and against the Resurrection and Bishop Sherlock (1678–1761) described an imaginary trial in which the witnesses to the Resurrection are examined. In short, the deists denied the gospel miracles and tried to rationalize them. They held that Jesus did not raise the actual dead but awakened them from a lethargic sleep that had the appearance of Appendix A: The search for Jesus 223 death or that there was a conspiracy between such as were apparently restored to life and between Jesus’ disciples, since the latter, seeing Jesus’ faith in his Messiahship weakening, wished to revive this faith by means of the miracles that they engineered. Jesus’ own resurrection was regarded by the deists as based on a phantom seen by visionaries and dreamers or as a deliberate invention (Klausner 1925:75). By 1750 the brief flowering of the deists in England was over. But they had gravely disturbed the traditional beliefs and faith was never the same. Conyers Middleton (1683–1750) had the last word by pointing out that stories of miracles only prove the credulity of the narrator. Apologists were bewildered by the attacks and fell back on the Biblical statements, the very facts that were in dispute (Stephen 1902:251). Stephen noted that ‘apologists are seldom sufficiently aware to the danger of a purely defensive line of argument. They think that they can give a sufficient answer in detail to every one of the objections urged and they forget that the total impression left upon of the mind of the reader is apt to be that where so much requires to be explained away, there must be something which cannot really be explained away’ (ibid:234). But they could not explain the miracles, least of all the Resurrection, and they were driven to make idiotic repetition of the faith. The English deists, puny though they were, shook the established Church in England and represent the first attempt in modern times to rationalize the gospel; they laid the foundations upon which historical criticism was later built. From England, deism passed to both France and Germany. It was taken to France by Voltaire, a disciple of the deists, who left England in 1728. While Voltaire did not write a life of Jesus, his views are clear from his philosophical writings. Voltaire’s Jesus was ‘a child of Mary, born out of wedlock, was sent away by the priest from the ranks of legitimate children in the school and, in consequence, in later years manifested animosity towards them. Having quarrelled with Judas, he was denounced by him to the Sanhedrin, taken, stoned and crucified’ (Weinel and Widgery 1914:37). Because of the doctrinaire attitude of the Catholic Church, no compromise between sceptics and clerics was possible in France; there was outright conflict (Stephen 1902:89). More fertile was the soil of Protestant Germany, where the Enlightenment flourished. It saw the first sci- Appendix A: The search for Jesus 224 entific essay on the life of Jesus by Herman Samuel Reimarus (1694– 1768), Professor of Oriental Languages at Hamburg. During his life he wrote a series of essays that are today known as ‘fragments’, because Gotthold Ephraim Lessing published them piecemeal between 1774 and 1778. They were published anonymously as ‘fragments by the Unknown of Wolfenbuttel’. This was and still is a pivotal work. It was the first to explain Jesus as a Jewish Messiah; to prefer the synoptic Gospels to John; to set Jesus in a historical framework; and to emphasize the importance of Jesus’ Messianic claim in relation to Jewish eschatology, future life and the kingdom of heaven. Reimarus had intended to gather the Fragments into a book under a title that translates as ‘an Apology for the Reasonable Believers in God’. This shows his fundamental deism. However, he died before he could arrange publication. It was another six years before his family would allow Lessing to publish seven Fragments anonymously and only in 1814 did Reimarus’s son admit his father’s authorship. His family was ashamed of the Professor’s views and tried to conceal them. Not until 1879 was an English translation available of those Fragments entitled ‘on the Intention of Jesus and His Disciples’ and only in 1971 was an English version available of the remaining Fragment (‘on the Resurrection Narratives’). The entire ‘apology’ of Reimarus has never been published. Reimarus was the first to deal with Jesus within the context of his historical and national environment and Schweitzer called him the first to recognize the essential eschatology of Jesus’ message. But Talbert noted that, in this latter realization, Tindal and Semler anticipated Reimarus (Reimarus 1971:40). Talbert also noted the influence of the English deists, notably Toland, on Reimarus. He wrote that ‘it is difficult to understand Reimarus’ account of Christian origins without assuming his knowledge of Woolston, Annet and Chubb’ (ibid:16). Talbert claimed that Reimarus came under two influences: English deism and Christian Wolff (ibid:11). The Fragments exploded like a bomb in Germany, the more so because they claimed that Christianity resulted from fraud (ibid:36). A Lutheran pastor complained that the Fragments upset simple believers and should have been written in Latin so that only scholars could read them (ibid:8). He might have been more vociferous if he had known that the author was neither a cleric nor a theologian. Again we find a Appendix A: The search for Jesus 225 great advance made by a layman, expert only in comprehension of ancient languages and history. Despite the mass distribution of vernacular texts of the Scriptures, it was still thought that interpretation was a matter for the clergy alone (indeed, this attitude persists). The vernacular texts were intended to strengthen faith and the Protestant clergy must have been horrified at the idea that such texts could be used to justify rejection of Christianity. They had handed the people a rod that would eventually be used to beat their own backs. Schweitzer, ignoring the English deists and all French writers except Renan, chose Reimarus as the terminus a quo for his monumental survey of rationalist attitudes (1954). But many have ignored Reimarus. In 1879 Voysey could write that ‘reimarus is too thorough, too uncompromising, too faithful to his task, to suit the present attitude of mind and heart towards the central figure of orthodox religion’ (Reimarus 1879:iii). Little has changed since then. Schweitzer reviewed the important German authors of the late eighteenth century and the nineteenth century. These included Reinhard (1753–1812) who believed that Jesus died voluntarily to kill the idea that he preached an Earthly kingdom; Bahrdt (1741–92), who saw the work of a secret society and was the first to suggest the use of drugs in the survival of crucifixion; Venturini (1768–1849), who found a natural explanation for supernatural events; Paulus (1761–1851), whose Jesus fell into a coma and revived in the tomb; Schleiermacher (1768– 1834); Hase (1800–90) and Strauss. David Freidrich Strauss (1808–74) wrote the first real life of Jesus (1835), the most important book about Jesus published during the nineteenth century (Goguel 1926:16). His ‘critical Examination’ of Jesus’ life was not available in English until 1841–44. It is generally believed that this thorough and comprehensive work proposes a mythical Jesus. But Strauss did not believe that Jesus never existed. McCown wrote that ‘strauss left more of the historical Jesus than he admitted; historical were Jesus’ home in Nazareth, his baptism by John, his mission in Galilee, his claim to Messiahship, his rejection at Nazareth and his cleansing of the Temple as narrated in Mark, his trial and crucifixion …’. (McCown 1940:65). In addition, Strauss treated many other issues, such as what part of Jesus’ anatomy is the spear likely to have hit, that have hardly yet been examined in the same detail. Strauss’s con- Appendix A: The search for Jesus 226 troversial work cost him his university appointment and he was forced to leave the academic circles in which he had been brought up. In later life he was persuaded to re-write the book in a more accommodating manner and this appeared in 1864. It drew a picture of Jesus that conformed to liberal theology and retracted the opinions he had offered in 1835. It appeared in English in 1865 as A New Life of Jesus. If Strauss did not propose that Jesus is a myth, others did. The idea of a mythical Jesus was started at the end of the eighteenth century by some of the French philosophes, notably Dupuis and Count Volney. In their opinion, the story of Jesus was originally a solar or astral myth; it is reported that Volney’s work influenced the views of Napoleon the First. Peres, a former Oratorian who had been a professor of mathematics and physics at Lyons, mocked the philosophes in a pamphlet (first published in 1827) that proposed that Napoleon never existed (Evans 1905). Clearly Peres did not believe that the mythicists’ ideas were justified. But Bruno Bauer (1809–82) was the first person of scholarship to deny Jesus’ existence. He proposed that Christianity arose at the start of the second century out of the confluence of Judaean, Greek and Roman thought (Bauer 1877). This was the first alternative suggestion for the origin of the faith. Jesus, he claimed, was not the creator but the product of Christianity. Unfortunately Bauer’s influence did not match his fame; later propagators of this same idea discovered that Bauer had pioneered the path they were ‘discovering’. Goguel noted that the Jesus Myth Theory was barely represented in the last twenty years of the nineteenth century (Goguel 1926:21), but with the twentieth century there appeared new works on the subject by Robertson, Kalthoff, Jensen, Smith and Drews. Kalthoff (1902) was the first to suggest that Christianity arose as the result of contact between the oppressed Roman proletariat and the Messianic hopes of the Jews, while there was an explosion of controversy in 1910 on the publication of Drews’s Die Christusmythe. ‘Every scholar in Germany who was even remotely connected with theology had to write a brochure with the title "Did Jesus Ever Live?"; even Kaiser Wilhelm gave the matter his personal attention’ (McCown 1940:69). Drews’s views even influenced Lenin and so contributed to popularization of the myth in the Soviet Union (Robertson 1946:57). Another furore arose in 1924 upon the publication of Couchoud’s mythical hypothesis Appendix A: The search for Jesus 227 and this only died down after Goguel’s masterful refutation (1925). There has been no such outburst since and scarcely anyone today ventures to suggest that Jesus was not a real, historical person (Hugh Anderson 1967:1). McCown wrote, ‘the problem of the historicity of Jesus no longer troubles any but a few dilettantes …’ (1940:291). Meanwhile thorough investigation of Jesus and his story continued. In France, Salvador, a Jew, attempted to justify the condemnation of Jesus by the Sanhedrin (1838) and in 1863 the first French life of Jesus appeared. Joseph Ernst Renan’s life of Jesus was so popular that it went rapidly through no less than twenty-three editions and has been translated into almost every language in the world (1864). Klausner praised the elegant style, excellent arrangement and attention to the geography of Palestine (Renan lived there for many years). But Renan’s book was more a historical novel than a work of scholarship (it had hardly any notes and no bibliography) and it was subjective and uncritical. To Goguel it was unoriginal and to Schweitzer it was tasteless. It was aimed at the general public and received little attention from scholars. From 1863 to 1899, lives of Jesus depressed the eschatological element and looked for a Jesus more familiar to modern man. But in 1890 a new period began, with more attention to Messianic consciousness and eschatology, for which Schweitzer drew the final conclusions (Goguel 1926:19). After the 1880s there were fewer books on general criticism of the Gospels and life of Jesus and more on individual problems, e.g. Weiffenbach (1873) on Second Coming doctrine and Baldensperger (1888) on Jesus as conscious Messiah. 1892 saw the first Russian contribution when Khvol’son wrote (in German) about the Crucifixion and the Passover. He tried to show that Jesus was a Pharisee and that it was the Sadducees who had plotted against him. It is apparent that the search for Jesus, while long and slow, is occasionally punctuated by bursts of rapid progress. Reimarus produced one such burst and Strauss another. The next was that of Schweitzer (1875–1965), who towers over the search like a colossus. As a student in Strasbourg, he wrote a treatise (Das Abendmahl) that dealt with the Last Supper in connection with the life of Jesus and the history of early Christianity. This was published in 1901, when its author was only twenty-six (Part II of the treatise was published in English in 1925). Schweitzer decided to try to explain Jesus’ life by starting, not at his Appendix A: The search for Jesus 228 birth, but at his Passion. He emphasized the eschatological influences upon Jesus and claimed that Jesus was forming a new moral society and that we should worship him in that understanding. His aim was to depict the figure of Jesus in its overwhelming heroic greatness and to impress it upon the modern age and upon modern theology (Schweitzer 1925:274). Schweitzer brought forth the very picture that the liberal approach had attempted to avoid; that Jesus was a fanatical futurist who died in vain for his hope in the parousia (Charles Anderson 1969:75). Indeed, Schweitzer’s view was not popular, if only because his Jesus belonged to the first century, not the twentieth. In his later Quest (1906), Schweitzer wrote that ‘the historical Jesus will be to our time a stranger and an enigma’. (For a fuller examination of Schweitzer’s contribution, see Appendix B.) The first two decades of the twentieth century were spent looking for a non-Jewish Jesus, a process that reduced the historical content to zero. Unsurprisingly the idea that Jesus never existed became resurfaced. An exception was the work of Wellhausen, who sought to demonstrate the influence of the theology of the primitive Christian community on the resultant form of the narratives about Jesus and the form of his sayings. Wellhausen noted that ‘Jesus was not a Christian; he was a Jew’ (1905). During this time several writers (Lomer, Binet-Sanglé, Hirsch, Rasmussen) embarked upon a psychiatric interpretation of Jesus. Psychiatry had become popular and it was natural to apply its methods to the Jesus problem. Each of them found some reason to conclude that Jesus suffered from paranoia, but, in a thesis offered for the degree of Doctor of Medicine at the University of Strasbourg in 1913, Schweitzer demolished their arguments and refuted the notion that Jesus was insane. This thesis was not available in English until 1948. Piper suggested that Schweitzer’s conclusion, that one could not find a historical Jesus (in fact this was not his conclusion), had the effect of damping the enthusiasm of German authors. He noted that since 1910 very few ‘lives’ had been published in Germany, yet he found over 350 written in English (1953). Indeed, the search moved away from Germany where it had lodged since 1774 and continued in Britain, France, the USA and, eventually, Israel where it started. Appendix A: The search for Jesus 229 After the First World War, the spate of books on Jesus continued, with some of the most inconsequential and some of the most significant. Barton’s The Man Nobody Knows (USA, 1924) is an example of the former: Jesus was a skilled business man, aware of all the latest advertising techniques. Klausner’s Jesus of Nazareth (Palestine, 1922) is an example of the latter. First published in Hebrew, it was published in English in 1925. Here again there is rapid progress at the hands, not of a theologian, but a professor of philosophy and Semitic languages. His book is a magnificent, thorough and unprejudiced analysis, greater scholastically than Schweitzer’s, and it is a historical and critical account that cannot be ignored or underestimated. His was the first such work attempted in Hebrew with neither satire nor apologetic bias and it was intended for ‘Jewish-Hebrew’ readers. It offered for the first time the full range of what modern Jewish scholarship had to offer on the subject, superseding Edersheim, Lightfoot, Schottgen and Wetstein. The eight ‘books’ of the volume deal at length with every aspect of Jesus’ life, times and teaching, including sources, although one could wish for more on the question of Jesus’ motives and purpose and less interest in his ethical outlook. The return of the search to England may be marked by Murry’s The Life of Jesus (in the USA, Jesus – Man of Genius). Murry, a wellknown British editor, critic and novelist and second husband of Katherine Mansfield, thought that Jesus accepted his destiny as Messiah and put himself into his enemies’ hands with the aid of Judas. Case considered that this original suggestion did violence to the records and seriously marred the book, but Murry’s imaginative work had a structural and dramatic unity and was significant in that it proposed that Jesus predetermined his whole public life. Murry noted that all rationalist lives of Jesus are wrecked on this essential predeterminism of the Passion and that generally they see Jesus as the fanatical head of a heretical revolutionary movement who lost his life as a consequence. He wrote, ‘never was there yet a liberal or rationalist life of Jesus that did not end on a note of sympathetic condescension …’ (1926:210). The early 1930s saw the production of some of the most valuable contributions to the search that have ever been seen. Charles Anderson listed five great biographies of Jesus: Harnack for Germany, Goguel for France, Mackinnon for Britain, Case for America and Appendix A: The search for Jesus 230 Klausner representing the Jewish viewpoint. Of these he considered that Goguel was master (1969:25). Maurice Goguel was Professor of Exegesis and New Testament Criticism in the Faculty of Free Protestant Theology at Paris; he finished his La Vie de Jésus in 1932. It was the first part of a trilogy entitled Jésus et les Origines du Christianisme and it appeared in English in 1933. Goguel commands respect for the tremendous authority with which he dissects the Gospels and lets us know bluntly what we may believe and what we may not. Despite his theological background, the work is devoid of partisan opinion and bias, but while it clears up many misunderstandings and explains the relevance of the evangelists’ record, it seems to shirk from interpretation of the record, from attempting to explain Jesus’ purpose and mission. It appears that Goguel could not see the wood for the trees and that, while he could explain a great deal, he could not explain what Jesus was doing. Goguel’s output continued, including the second book of the trilogy (La Naissance du Christianisme, 1946), in the first chapter of which he gave his views on Jesus’ burial and Resurrection appearances, and the second edition of his life of Jesus (Jésus, 1950), to which he had added a chapter dealing with the history of lives of Jesus. Goguel’s work was quickly followed by that of another French master, Charles Guignebert, Professor of the History of Christianity in the Sorbonne. His Jésus (1933) gave a thorough and sceptical analysis that showed a Jesus of whom little can be known. He claimed that all rationalist critics up to his time had accepted the general outline of the Gospels and had explained the events as if they were accepted facts. First it was necessary to determine what was fact and what was fiction. He rejected the historicity of the essential facts of the burial and discovery of the empty tomb, but this left him with the problem of explaining the origin of these accounts (1935:514). From Guignebert came strictures against using the teaching of Jesus to vindicate modern civilization or to uphold socialism and he warned that the Gospels probably give us the point of view, not of Jesus but of the redactors (ibid:383–9). James Mackinnon was Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History in the University of Edinburgh. His The Historic Jesus (1931) deserves its place in history for the penetrating analysis it gives of the many detailed problems in the texts. Although written by a Christian, it shows Appendix A: The search for Jesus 231 little prejudice. However Mackinnon’s respect and admiration for Jesus prevented him asking on what mission Jesus had embarked. Both Goguel and Mackinnon assumed that Jesus intended to found the Church. The 1930s also saw Frank Morison’s curious work Who Moved the Stone? (1930), which was so popular that it was issued eight times in paperback and is still in print. It dealt with the last seven days of Jesus’ life and made a valuable study of the many intricate mysteries that exist. It is a pity that his conclusion, that Jesus rose from the dead, is so completely unjustified and uncharacteristic of the main body of the work. Although the Second World War almost halted the search, it was certain to have an effect on it. Chester McCown, writing on the day Britain declared war on Germany (3 September 1939), was certain that the search would undoubtedly be deeply affected by contemporary events and currents of thought (1940:306). Solomon Zeitlin demonstrated this first in 1942, when he described Caiaphas as a ‘quisling’ because he was prepared to co-operate with the Roman provincial authorities (1964:156). Close parallels could be drawn between the Roman occupation of Judaea and the German occupation of other European nations. Later S G F Brandon observed that the idea of a subversive Zealot movement was not received sympathetically in Britain until after the War when the valour of the resistance movements was recognized (1967:24). The naivety of the nineteenth century was being replaced by an appreciation that the political structure in which Jesus appeared was not all that different from that of the modern world, although Jesus’ concept of the world was completely different. Theologians had always taken an ambivalent attitude to this search. On the one hand they could hardly ignore it, directed as it was to examination of their Lord, nor could they justify rejection of it. On the other hand they were not pleased with the results, which tended to undermine the traditional picture of Jesus. The discovery that the ecclesiastical Christ was really a human being just like anyone else and that he might have had selfish motives for undertaking his mission has been a shock for many theologians. But, as James McLeman noticed, some have regained their balance with remarkable aplomb: ‘they are prepared to argue that what has happened is providential. It is now ab- Appendix A: The search for Jesus 232 solutely clear, they say, that faith in Christ does not depend on what can be known about Jesus. Not only does not, but cannot’ (1967:14). Of course faith is not concerned with facts; faith is belief founded on authority not on evidence. But can a faith be taken seriously if it refuses to face facts? What use is a religion that is completely unrelated to the real world? Some modern theologians have seen the dangers of rejecting interest in the historical Jesus and have undertaken what they call the ‘new quest’. They recognize that something can be known about the historical Jesus and that they must concern themselves with working it out if they do not wish ultimately to find themselves committed to a mythological Lord (James Robinson 1959:12). However it appears that modern theologians are not good at this work and have left the new search to non-theologians. Bornkamm’s Jesus von Nazareth (1951) is not a life of Jesus and contributed little to the search. More use were Carmichael’s Death of Jesus (1963), which portrayed Jesus as the leader of a revolutionary group who occupied the Temple in open rebellion against the occupying powers, and Schonfield’s The Passover Plot (1965), which hinted at a plot to enable Jesus to survive crucifixion for political purposes. Also useful were Brandon’s Jesus and the Zealots (1968) and Cross’s Who Was Jesus? (1970). Useless were Allegro’s claim that the Early Church worshipped a hallucinogenic mushroom (1970) and Phipps’s conviction that Jesus was married (1970). The most useful work of the 1970s was Cohn’s The Trial and Death of Jesus (1972). Here, an Israeli Supreme Court Justice examined the Passion’s legal background, defending both Jesus’ historicity and Jewish innocence of the death. His work reflects Jewish sensitivity to the centuries-long accusation by Christians that the Jews were guilty of deicide, Christ-killers. This ignominy was only ameliorated in 1965 when the Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) declared that what happened to Jesus cannot be blamed upon all the Jews then living, without distinction, nor upon the Jews of today. Ignorant of the clear evidence that it was the Romans and not the Jews who tried and executed Jesus, many Jews have attempted to exonerate themselves and their coreligionists from the equally ignorant accusations of Christians. Indeed, in July 1972, Jewish lawyer Yitzhak David petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem to issue a decree proclaiming that Jesus had not re- Appendix A: The search for Jesus 233 ceived a fair trial. His submission, which claimed that Jesus had committed no crime, was rejected. After the rise of Marxism, it was to be expected that its methodology would be applied to the problem of Jesus and the rise of Christianity. The first systematic study was that of Karl Kautsky in 1908; the latest is that of Milan Machovec (1972). Marxists see the rise of Christianity as the inevitable growth of a social movement, a proletarian protest against imperial oppression. Jesus is seen as the misunderstood prophet of a new age in which man can progress by his own efforts. Despite these misunderstandings, Machovec did note the ‘stupidity of certain hard-line atheists who state that Jesus never existed’ (1976:24). But the 1970s also saw the revival by George Wells of the Jesus Myth Theory. A professor of German and a Humanist, Wells was intent on showing that there was no Jesus to find and he resurrected the views of Bauer and Rylands. Wells well represented the entrenched views of the modern Humanist movement (that Jesus did not exist), even though these views had long before been refuted, sometimes by Humanists. Wells rightly received severe criticism, especially from historians, whose views ought to be decisive on the question of historicity. The 1970s Humanists had managed to backtrack in the search and they ‘discovered’ traces that had long been discarded by other explorers. They may have done this because, lacking sufficient knowledge of Christianity and its scriptures, they were unable to debate the problem on equal terms with theologians. One way to avoid the debate is to claim that Jesus did not exist. Wells’s work demonstrates, as does that of believers, that those with prejudice will never solve the problem. Before he wrote a word, Wells must have been convinced that Jesus had not existed; theologians begin with the assumption that Jesus was some sort of divine being who had access to God, also assumed to exist. Such prejudices interfere with objectivity. As Hugh Anderson noted, writers who are neither professional theologians nor Biblical critics continue to produce books about Jesus (1967:148), although, according to Piper, our time has not so far produced a convincing biography (1953:93). The search continues, but it is those who are not Christians who make the greatest contributions. They can be objective. While the theologian searches for Jesus by the dim light of the ecclesiastical interior, the non-theologian looks for Appendix A: The search for Jesus 234 him in broad daylight. It is ironic that those who come nearest to understanding who Jesus was and what he did are those who do not worship him. But they have nothing to lose; they can consider any possibility. Theologians must limit themselves to explanations whereby Jesus was neither deluded nor a fraud. However very few non-Christians have sufficient knowledge of Christianity and its background to be able to make worthwhile investigations. James Robinson may be right that the Church’s opponents are unlikely to be sufficiently embedded in the Christian tradition to be able to participate in Biblical scholarship and that membership of the intelligentsia no longer qualifies for participation in the quest of the historical Jesus (1959:93), but to those intellectual opponents who are so embedded will fall the honour of finding the real Jesus. Figure 4 shows how interest in the historical Jesus has risen and fallen over three centuries. It is clear that, despite the valuable contributions of rationalists during the nineteenth century, most books on Jesus have been written in the twentieth century. Indeed, interest was at its height in the first decade of that century. Interest has waned steadily since, although there was a revival in the late '20s and another in the '60s. The effect of the two world wars is evident; book production almost ceased. Since 1972 interest has declined steadily until, at the time of writing, it has reached the level of about two books per year. There will be no more revivals, but interest will not fade away altogether. There will always be a steady trickle of such books and some will continue to search for Jesus. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw a burst of Jesus books written from various points of view. Kamal Salibi (1988) concluded that the Jesus of the Gospels is a fusion of three different characters, only one of whom was actually crucified in Jerusalem under Pilate. He transferred most of the action to the Arabian desert. Theologian Carsten Thiede (1990) merely repeated the belief that Jesus was not a legend and A N Wilson (1992) ‘discovered’ things long known to others. Most extraordinary was Barbara Thiering’s belief (1992) that the whole drama was played out, not in Jerusalem, but at Qumran on the Dead Sea and that The Dead Sea Scrolls could interpret the Gospels. John Crossan (1991) attempted to examine the time of Jesus (a ‘mediterranean Jewish Peasant’) as if it were an archaeological excavation, but with little insight. In Appendix A: The search for Jesus 235 effect, he lost the real Jesus in the host of contemporary detail he examined. E P Sanders (1985 and 1993) explored many interesting aspects of the accounts of Jesus’ life, but without much insight; he asked questions that he himself could not answer. However he was amazed that so many New Testament scholars write books about Jesus in which they discover that he agrees with their own version of Christianity. ‘After Schweitzer’s devastating exposé of previous scholarship on just this point, one would think that people would be more sensitive to the issue. But it is seldom raised.' (Sanders 1985:330). Kersten and Gruber (1994) saw much of the evidence that there was a conspiracy to enable Jesus to survive crucifixion, including the use of opium, but not one motivated by Jesus himself and they used it to justify their belief that there is a modern plot to hide the fact that the Turin Shroud is genuine. The same year Enoch Powell, an eminent British politician and Greek scholar, offered a new translation of and commentary on Matthew, which he claimed was the original Gospel. Furthermore he claimed that Jesus was not crucified but was stoned to death by the Jews and that he called on his followers to convert the Gentiles. In 1995, Kersten and Gruber claimed that the original Jesus was really a Buddhist, teaching universal love and forgiveness and, in 1997, Norman Mailer wrote a very silly book (The Gospel According to the Son), in which he exhibited many errors and misunderstandings. 2010 saw the publication of Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, a somewhat twisted and naive retelling of the gospel story: Jesus has a twin brother called ‘christ’, who creates the Church at the instigation of a stranger. It adds nothing to study of the historical Jesus. 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Chapter Preview



What really happened to Jesus? Did he rise from the dead, and if not why do Christians believe that he did? Did he have a plan and, if so, what was it? Did he accomplish his purpose or did the plan fail? If it failed, what were the consequences?

Steuart Campbell, once a Christian, takes a rationalist look at the problem of Christian origins and shows that no previous writer has completely solved the riddle of Jesus. Here he shows us a new hypothesis, one that explains Jesus‘ curious behaviour.

Here is Jesus in historical context, the leader of an obscure Jewish sect which believed that it was fulfilling a divine plan revealed in the Scriptures. This plan required the Messiah to die and rise again to become the king of Israel, throwing the Romans out of Judaea and even replacing the Emperor as ruler of the known world. Read how Jesus expected to accomplish this.

The author displays immense knowledge of the Bible and the history of the Jews and he explains many mysteries. He builds on the work of many other authors and constructs what is surely the true explanation for the origin of Christianity. This should be the last word on the historical Jesus. It is certainly an excellent review of the many attempts to solve the mystery.