Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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It cannot now be known in what place this passage in the his-
tory of Jesus occurred. Tradition assigns it to one of the moun-
tains opposite Jericho, called now Quarantania,

Place of the f,. ()lu t i 10 f or ty days f fasting, a name probably

Temptation. . . . " . J ' J

given it in the times or the Crusades. Ihoinson

{Land and Book, vol. ii. p. 450) thus describes it: —

"*Diivctly west, :it a distance of a mile and a half, is the high and precipi-
tous mountain culled Quarantania, from a tradition that our Saviour here
fasted forty (lays and nights, and also that this is the 'high mountain' from
whose top the tempter exhibited 'all the kingdoms of this world, and the
glory of them.' Tlie side facing the plain is as perpendicular and apparently
as high as the rock of Gibraltar, and upon the very summit arc still visible
the ruins of an ancient convent. Midway below are caverns hewn in the per-
pendicular rock, where hermits formerly retired to fast and pray, in imitation
of the 'forty days,' and it is said that even at the present time there is to be
found an occasional Copt or Abyssinian languishing out his Quarantania in
this doleful place."

The general reader would be amazed to see the immense amount
of literature there is upon the subject of the Temptation of Jesus.
Through much of it we have painfully waded, to come back to
the conclusion that the simplest way is to read the history in the
light of common sense, and derive what lessons our present scien-
tific culture may enable us to educe.

It is obvious that the narrative is substantially made by Jesus.
The historians could have gathered it from no other source. Un-
less they made great blunders in understanding

The narrative |^| s statements, or in recording them, we have the
made by Jesus. , . .

whole aihur before us as it appeared to the inmu
of Jesus, (piitc as nearly indeed as language can convey thought
from one mind to another.

It may be instructive to see how many views have been taken

of this portion of the history of Jesus. They show how m tn

allow themselves to interpret facts by dogmas,

Explanatory WM j ^ v ^ tliis is quite as common among sceptics

theories. , , , . .

as among the credulous, — no more characteristic
of the one than of the other, although generally charged vehe-
mently upon the latter by the former.

1. It has been regarded as an external occurrence, and, as such,



(a) as real, the literal apparition of Satan in the form of a man or
of an angel;* (b) as a myth,f in which tradition invests the sym-
bolical idea of a contest between Messiah and Satan; or (c) as a
narrative in symbolical language, the real tempter being a man.:}:

2. It has been regarded as an internal occurrence; in other
words, a vision: and, as such (a), as excited in the brain of Jesus
by the Devil ;§ (b) as created by God;|| (c) as produced by natu-
ral causes,*f or (d), as "a significant morning dream." **

3. It has been considered an inward ethical transaction, or a
psychological occurrence ; and, as such (a), a conflict in the imag-
ination of Jesus; ff (b) an inward conflict excited by the Devil ; ^
(c) a subjective (inward) transaction, to which the New Testament
historians gave an objective (outward) form; or (d), as a frag-
mentary, symbolical representation of transactions in the inner
life of Jesus, grouped into one statement. §§

4. It has been considered as a parable, to instruct the disciples
of Jesus as to their spiritual perils and remedies. ||||

5. It has been pronounced a myth.°§*\

This classification and these references are given so that if
there be any readers having time, patience, and curiosity enough,
they may make a study of this subject for themselves. To many
minds the refutation of these positions must have occurred us
they have been stated. In all of them there arc difficulties.

The theories which involve the appearance of Satan in bodily
form, whether of man or angel, arc open to the objections (1), That

* This is, I think, the view of most of
the commentators who consider them-
selves orthodox.


f I need hardly say that this is the
view of Dr. Strauss.

\ The man being, as some hold, a
member of the Jewish Sanhedrim. Ben
gel says : '■ The tempter did not wish it
to !•■■ known that he was Satan, yet
I b, at tho conclusion of the inter-
view, calls him Satan, after thai Satan
had plainly betrayed his satanity." Ee
;.•! 1b: •• The ten i to have ap

peared ander the form of a
a sm'/'t , sine", our Lord thrice replies to
him by the word ytyparrrai, it M in

Bee I taomen X. T.. vol i. p. 1 10.
£ This view was held by Origcn, Oy

prion, Theodorus of Mopsuestia, 0b>
hausen, and Hilbner.

|| Set forth by Farmer in his "Inquiry
into ffie Nature ■■ I hrinVs

Temptation in Via Wilderness." Lon-
don, 1701.

* Prof. Paulus and many

i syer, in the Studien ». K
Eoi L831, p. 319.

ff Eichhorn, VN

\\ Krabbe.

§§ This is Neander's view, li i
regarded as a
well '-ill-; "" the palliative I

111 The opinion

« « | yer, De w

that Bchool of course give Lfa



The "bodily
form " theory.

Satan nowhere else is so represented by these historians,* which,
I acknowledge, may be very feeble as an ob-
jection, but is noticeable in this connection ; and
(2), That this theory is incompatible with the nar-
rative; as, for instance, the taking of Jesus to the pinnacle of the
Temple and to the top of the mountain, and showing him all the
kingdoms of the world in a moment, which no member of the
Sanhedrim and no "scribe" would have essayed to do. The per-
son who could have done so would have assumed the role of the
Messiah himself, made aerial excursion in the presence of the
multitude, and won all the eclat of a thaumaturgist. Moreover
(3), According to this view, the Devil knew that the person he was
tempting was divine; and this fact greatly embarrasses the idea
of a personal conflict between the two. So that it seems we must
give up that theory.

The idea of any myth forming itself in the Augustan age, be-
tween the times of Livy and Tacitus, and especially that of a
theologic myth forming itself among the Jews, at
the time of their history which is so near its close
as this, is perfectly preposterous. One may safely challenge, I
humbly think, any man of any amount of learning to point out
any myth, or sign of a myth, which had its origin in any notable
centre of political influence in any portion of the Roman Empire
after the accession of Augustus to the imperial throne. One may
challenge the whole school of myth-philosophers to indicate any-
thing, aside from the history of Jesus, which gives evidence of
mythical tendency even among the people of the Jews, at any
time of their history after the beginning of the third century
before the Christian era. Why then should the history of Jesus,
and that alone, be interpreted against all known laws of mental
progress? Does any man ever apply the myth theory to the times
of Julius Caesar or Pompey? A myth is the product of the child-
hood of a people, and never survives the maturity of a nation, as
a matter of belief, any more than the traditionary stories of fai-
ries, wherewith we still allow the children of Europe and America
to be amused, have power over the consciences of the people.

The myth theory.

* If the reader recalls John vi. 70, he
must he reminded that Jesus calls Judas
8io/3oA.ov, which is the generic substan-
tive, "a devil," in the sense of "devil-

ish." I do not recollect any case of a
man being called 6 SiajQoAo?, the devil.
Alford (Gr. Test, in loco) Bays that no
such case can be adduced.


Among the Greeks and Romans the thcologic myths which their
early ancestors had originated were fast losing all respect among
the uncultivated masses and the lower orders, as they had long
before ceased to be regarded by the learned and the tasteful as
worth more than merely the poetical element that was in them
The Jewish nation never were much given to that form of thought
Perhaps the infancy of no community known to history was freer
from myths than the early life of the Hebrew people. How im-
practicable, then % must it have been to generate a myth under
Herod and Pontius Pilate, in Judaea, just before or soon after the
destruction of Jerusalem, by people who had been bred Jews and
Averc scattered over the Roman Empire!

These general remarks, applying to the biography of Jesus in
the mass, are equally forceful as to any particular passage in his
history. We must give up the myths. Those who earnestly held
to them a few years ago are forced by the advancing spirit of
critical investigation to abandon them.

As for the theories which involve visions and " significant morn-
ing dreams," perhaps nothing shorter or better can be said than

Lance's sentence: "Decisive ethical conflicts do

n The 'dream

not take place in the form of dreams ; " a state- tbeory

ment which will probably be confirmed by the

consciousness of many a reader.

Let all dogmas be laid aside and the record of these historians
be examined to see what they teach any fair-minded render.

In general they give us the knowledge of what Jesus thought
of a supreme passage in his own mental and spiritual history.
As no man who existed before his time, or has risen since, has so
influenced the intellectual and moral condition of the world, this
piece of autobiography becomes to us a history of unspeakable im-
portance. We wish to ascertain his views of the subjects involved,
and compare them with what we believe to be ascertained laws of

It is first to be noticed that this important and testing occur-
rence enters his history just at the moment we should naturally

look for it. lie was a man. Marvellous and won-

Sensoof luslm-

dcrful, in birth and growth, he was a man. I* r« »m m . inity ^ j C8Ug .
perhaps an earlier period than even the beginning
of conscious Belf-inspection there had been a sense of spiritual
idiosyncrasy present with him. It may have been at fint the


glimmer, then the dawn, then the growing- light. It consisted
with a perfect human consciousness. The sense of manncss, of
humanness, never left liiin. It was as present to him as it ever
was to any other human being. His whole history shows that ;
and from a review of his whole life we must recall that fact in
the study of his preparation for his life-work. He had an increas-
ing conviction that he was set in the universe for some unique
work. He had a growing ability for that work. " He grew in
wisdom." As he approached the hour in the -world's history and
his own when his mission was to be ostensibly and operatively
bernm.' he felt within himself the keen and mastering desire to
enter upon and accomplish his work.

The baptism was a crisis. John was to have therein a sign of

the Messiah, the Sent One, the real Man of Destiny," the Anointed

Deliverer. If he were that One, — and his belief

Excitement of mus t have grown with his growth, — what should

Jesus at his bap- . "" , , -, ■, . m- . t -\ i 1

tism occur when he presented himself to John would

settle the question definitely. It would also be
his own voluntary dedication to the loftiest and the largest work
ever enterprised by man. The phenomena at the baptism con-
spired with his own sentiments to produce in him the most in
tensely exciting and exalting state of feeling consistent with the
continuance of life. Through that state he had just passed. It
was his Rubicon. It was his voluntary devotion to what he never
could afterward abandon without spiritual shipwreck and self-
ruin. Every other great soul has passed through precisely in
kind that crisis of the mind and spirit proportioned to each
man's soul and work. Jesus is admitted by all healthy minds to
have been the greatest soul in all our human brotherhood, and the
work he was about to undertake, whether he should succeed in
accomplishing it or not, to be the greatest of all the enterprises
known in the record of holy daring, lie was making for himself
an investiture of himself with the office and dignity of royal rule
over all humanity. The excitement had been indescribably be-
cause inconceivably intense.

Then followed in his what has followed in every other known
human history, — a collapse, a depression, an awful desolation, a

_ ,, plun

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 10 of 77)