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Jesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus online

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3 3433 06824190 4







A Study of the Real Jesus



Rector of the Memorial Church of The Holy
Nativity, Rockledge, Pa.






All Rights Reserved

Made in the United States of Americ

The Gorham Press, Boston, U. S. A,^



"It is the people that make the nation great or vile in the
sight of the universe. Shall you nourish them, then, on the
garbage of ribald feebleness, or on the pure, strong meats of
the mind? As you feed them, so will be their substance and
sinew ; as you nourish them, so will be the fruit that they bear."


"But, after all, the power of any religion is to be found in
its ideas and in the personality of its founder. Men will return
to these as to a living fountain, which may have been choked
for centuries with sand and drift-wood. Clearing away the
rubbish they see again the living water. Drinking of it, they
will rejoice all the more when the full river of the water of
life — sufficient to satisfy the thirst of all lands — breaks upon
their astonished vision."

G. M. Grant.

"Man is either a free being, with an intelligent Deity as
his counterpart, or else he and his fellows are a mere procession
of marionettes, which strut, or jig, or laugh, or groan, or caper,
according as their wires are pulled by forces admittedly less
intelligent than themselves."

W. H. Mallock.


The attention of thoughtful minds is riveted to-day upon
Jesus of Nazareth as never before. While the w^orld at large,
and even the Christian World, is w^itnessing an ever-increasing
questioning and disregard of apparently outworn religious sys-
tems, both doctrinal and ecclesiastical, the minds and hearts of
men are turning with ever-freshening interest and homage to
the Galilean Peasant. One of the most singular and salient
phenomena of the day, indeed, is the fearless challenge to which
the Faith of Christendom and the Authority of the Christian
Church is being subjected. Men are asking whether the ac-
cepted faith can be justified, and whether the church is repre-
sentative or misrepresentative of Jesus. The question is usually
charged with tremendous seriousness, and men are more and
more seeking to understand the source of both faith and church.
What is Jesus' real relationship to these? What is the idea
back of these phenomena? Can Jesus be directly and intimately
associated with them, or is the relationship unreal and far
removed? Such are the questionings. Current religious litera-
ture witnesses abundantly to this fact. In consequence Jesus
is finding many and able interpreters. What was Jesus Idea?
then becomes a matter of paramount importance. Yet, so far
as the writer knows, there have been but slight attempts to treat
systematically and popularly of "Jesus' Idea." That this is an
important subject few will deny. Many, indeed, are prepared
to admit that it is the most important subject in connection with
Christianity. The writer, sharing this feeling and attracted
by the importance and interest of this subject, has sought in
the following pages to disclose "Jesus' Idea" as it is expressed
and embodied in the teaching and acts of the Master recorded
in the Four Gospels. Further, the aim has been to present the
Idea of Jesus and its development in such a way that even the
casual and comparatively non-theological reader may under-
stand. This purpose will explain the ample quotations from

6 Jesus* Idea

the Bible, and the endeavor to compress much information with-
in a small compass.^

Attempts of this character, unless the writer is grievously
mistaken, are ever becoming more necessary in an age of analyt-
ical rather than synthetical criticism; in an age when men are
being fed frequently upon the chaff of critical studies rather
than upon the wheat of Christianity. In fact, amidst the intri-
cate maze of interesting detail which now holds the attention
of Biblical students and which inclines the mind even of the
average person more easily to negation than to affirmation, men
are likely to forget what essential Christianity is. A temporary
paralysis has indeed already resulted to true Christian faith and
practice. That Biblical Criticism should contribute to this re-
sult is due in part, we believe, to the fact that there has not been
the careful, consistent, and persistent setting forth on the part
of the Christian Church, of the basic truth of Christianity, as
it is disclosed in Jesus' Idea. Emphasis is usually placed upon
the subordinate details in the Christian View of God and of the
World, and not upon the View itself. Had the emphasis been
placed upon the View itself, so august, convincing, and self-suffi-
cient is that View, that much of the evil which we deplore
would have been avoided. Hence there is a great need of posi-
tive and definite teaching, for Christianity, as it is interpreted
by Jesus, is its own best proof.

The writer, however, does not share the fear of many that
substantial loss will ensue to Christianity as the result of the
modern scientific spirit of inquiry, of Biblical Criticism, of the
Study of Comparative Religion, and of the present general
method of Historical Investigation. He looks for substantial
gain, rather than loss. Yet there will be profound modifica-
tion of earlier opinion about many subjects; especially marked
will be the change produced in the conception of faith, and of
the claims and nature of the Christian Church. This, indeed,
is already noticeable in the life of our time. While the various
denominations are endeavoring usually to hold fast to the old,
sometimes opposing resolutely the new, and occasionally ex-

*The Biblical quotations are usually taken from the Authorized
Version, in spite of its inaccuracies and inadequacy, because it is
the version generally used by the majority of English-speaking
Christians, however we may deplore the fact.

Preface 7

hibiting a decidedly reactionary tendency, there is everywhere a
gradual but increasing undermining of the old. Thoughtful
minds outside the Church, and thousands of nominal adherents
of the Church, are ceasing to care greatly for denominational
systems and doctrinal formularies. They do not war upon
them, but treat them with studied indifference, easy-going tol-
erance, or sometimes with open contempt. They may remain
within the lines of their former allegiance, but the spirit of
their allegiance is changing. They are quietly emphasizing the
commandments of God, while the traditions of men are lapsing
into ''innocuous desuetude." "Modernism," indeed, is every-
where apparent, and is steadily growing in influence. It is, in
fact, becoming all-pervasive. One effect of this spirit, we be-
lieve, will be the fuller appreciation of Jesus and His Idea.

In endeavoring to ascertain "Jesus' Idea," use has been
made oi the Four Gospels. Christ Himself left no writings.
We have simply reports of His words; indeed, speaking ex-
actly, we have only translations of reports of His teaching.
Jesus probably spoke in Aramaic, and not in Greek. St. Mat-
thew, St. Mark, and St. Luke alike, for the most part, trans-
late into Greek a report oi what Christ said. Just how ac-
curately they translated the report, and how accurately the
first-hand report represented the teaching of Jesus are interest-
ing questions. That they tell us truly what they believe Christ
taught cannot be denied ; the waitings themselves bear the in-
trinsic stamp of truthfulness. Yet, after all, reports are often
inaccurate, and translations of reports may sometimes be doubly
misleading. This fact would seem to throw all of Christ's
teaching into the realm of conjecture. This, however, is not to
be believed. The trend and the essential substance of Jesus'
teaching is evident enough from the substantial agreement of
the various reporters ; and from the clear-cut, definite impression
which they convey — and the very nature of the teaching, too,
precludes the possibility of invention. Hence, we have no diffi-
culty in determining approximately what Jesus taught. In
using the Fourth Gospel, the writer believes that he is using
the production of one who may have known Jesus intimately,
and that the author was probably St. John, the Apostle. If
St. John was not the author of the Gospel, it is at least the
production of one who had meditated long and intimately upon

8 Jesus* Idea

the teaching of Jesus and had grown to appreciate its beauty
and its power. Hence in this sense at least, this source is as
authoritative for the teaching of Jesus as the Synoptic Gospels.
The writer, indeed, displays a more marked spiritual insight
than the Synoptists, and this seemingly guarantees a fairer and
fuller appreciation of the mind of Christ. If he does not report
the form of Jesus' teaching, he at least gives us insight into its

It is a significant fact of our day that the Gospels are only
now coming into their own. This may seem very strange, but
it is undeniably true. With the Reformation, the Bible may
be said to have come into its own ; especially the Pauline writ-
ings. Unfortunately, the exigency of the situation necessitated
a certain obscuration of the Gospels and their message at that
time. This, our age is happily ending, and the effect upon the
life and the thought of the world will be, we believe, as marked
and lasting ultimately as that of the earlier Reformation; for
"Jesus' Idea" will be seen to be the very essence of Christianity,
and this will compel a thorough-going readjustment along many
lines — intellectual, ecclesiastical, social, industrial and economic.

In conclusion, the writer would acknowledge his great ob-
ligation to the two treasuries of scholarly opinion and research :
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, and the Encyclopedia Bib-
lica, and especially to the articles, "The Kingdom of God," by
the late Dr. Orr; "Jesus Christ," by Dr. Sanday, and "The
Sermon on the Mount," by Dr. Votaw, in the former work.
"The Theology of the New Testament," by the late Professor
Stevens, and "The Kingdom of God," by the late Professor
Bruce, have also proven useful. While various authorities have
been drawn upon in the course of the work, and no claim of
originality is made, the writer trusts that he has made, at
least, some contribution to a better understanding of the spirit
and the aim of Jesus. The subject matter of the volume, in
fact, was presented from time to time in extemporaneous ser-
mons and addresses to a Christian congregation, where it found
appreciative listeners. Because of this, the volume was written,
and it is now presented to the public in the hope that it may
prove useful and suggestive. The writer's hearty thanks are
due to Miss Mary C. Haley, who kindly prepared the manu-
script for the press. Fordyce Hubbard Argo.

The Rectory, Rockledge, Pa.

October i, 191 6.





The Kingdom of God ....



The Origin and Pre-Christian Develop-

ment OF the Idea ....



The Development of the Idea .

. 39


The Night of Legalism

. 47


Jesus' Idea of the Kingdom

. 6o


The Subjects of the Kingdom .

. 78


The Kingdom's Method of Development

. 102


The World's Reception of the Kingdom

. 109


The Value of the Kingdom



The Alloy of the Kingdom

. 140


The Extent of the Kingdom .

. 150


The Time of the Kingdom .

. 167


The Church and the Kingdom

. 181


The Kingdom and the Supernatural

. 204


The Vicegerent of the Kingdom

. 226


. 245





The measure of a man's dissatisfaction with himself is the
measure of the man. A nation's self-dissatisfaction is the
prophecy of what it may become. Our aspirations and ambi-
tions are, as a rule, indicative of our capabilities.

Viewing life as disinterestedly as one can, there is great
difficulty in understanding the problem of the world and of
human existence. There is so much darkness mingled with
the light, falsehood with truth, sin with goodness, sorrow with
happiness, that any rational solution of the problem seems un-
likely, if not impossible.

One thing, however, attracts and rivets the attention: —
Men, individually and collectively, are not satisfied, and have
never been satisfied with themselves or their condition. There
has been, to a greater or less extent, dissatisfaction with things
as they are; it is this divine discontent, indeed, that has always
turned the wheels of progress. Rightly does the poet sing:

"Progress, man's distinctive mark alone,
Not God's, and not the beasts : God is, they are ;
Man partly is, and wholly hopes to be."

"Progress is

The Law of Life : Man is not Man as yet."

This dissatisfaction with himself affects, very noticeably,
man's attitude toward the material and the intellectual world
of his time; unfortunately, this spirit of discontent is not so
manifest in the religious world. As to the former, there is


14 Jesus^ Idea

ever and always a restlessness indicative of great results. Men
palpably think life "out of joint," and seek to remedy its ills
by new triumphs over material resources; or they fancy that
progress along intellectual lines, the dispelling of ignorance, the
enlightening of the human mind, and the attendant results in
better laws, better institutions, and a more righteous and equita-
ble government, will prove the desired and needed remedy.
Thus we achieve splendid and ever-increasing results along these
lines, which are to-day, however, but weakly and poorly
prophetic of those surpassing achievements which the future
now conceals.

There are those, however, who, while they agree with
their brethren in an ardent desire for better conditions, find
that neither complete mastery over the material world, nor
exhaustive triumphs in the intellectual realm, will prove the
elixir of life. In their view, the wound of humanity lies deeper
than matter or mind. Man, they declare, is more than body
or matter, more than intellect or mind. Man is also spiritual
and religious; character is his greatest endowment. And just
here lies their dissatisfaction. Man is not, spiritually and re-
ligiously, what he ought to be. In the view of this class of
malcontents, man is vitally affected in the spiritual part of his
nature; therefore, the patent need of the world and of the in-
dividual, is character. "Give us," they say, "all possible ma-
terial and intellectual progress; but above all, and crowning
all, give us greater progress toward God!" A closer relation-
ship to the Deity is demanded; new triumphs are craved here.
And so, a boundless dream — albeit called by some, iridescent —
haunts their thoughts: they have a vision of the Kingdom of
God. A Kingdom of God they desire, in which God's law
shall be understood and known of all men, and in which God's
will shall prevail, and God's will, not the will of man, be

This was the vision of Jesus of Nazareth; just here Jesus
had His starting point. He was the chief exponent of the
Kingdom of God, — the leader of those who would remedy the
individual and the social ills of the world by the redemption
of man's moral nature. Speaking in a general way, those who
seek the betterment of human conditions may be classified as
materialistic reformers, intellectual reformers, and spiritual re-

The Kingdom of God 15

formers; that is, in each instance, the reformer places the em-
phasis upon the material, or the intellectual, or the spiritual
things of life. Usually men are controlled in their efforts at
reform by one of these principles, often to the exclusion, or sad
neglect, of the others. Hence, their efforts are unsuccessful,
and often vapid and inane, because partial and divisive, in that
they deal with man, not as man, but as body, or intellect, or
spirit. Man is, however, a living soul, and the strength of
Christianity, so far as man is concerned, lies in the fact that
Jesus Christ in His attempt at reform, took into account man's
three-fold nature — body, mind, and spirit — and made adequate
provision therefor. While the foundation of His reformation
lay in the redemption of man's moral nature, Jesus was in no
way deaf to the appeal either of the body or the mind, as His
numerous miracles, and His strenuous endeavors to instruct,
amply attest. His vision, as we have said, was of the Kingdom
of God; a Kingdom large enough to include all the needs of
man while based upon man's moral needs. ^

The unique position held by Jesus of Nazareth in the his-
tory of the world for well-nigh two thousand years, is ad-
mitted by all; nor is it going beyond the bounds of truth to say
that, great as has been the homage paid to the Carpenter of
Nazareth in the past, greater is the reverence felt toward Him
in the present; and more intelligent and enduring is the homage
paid, because it is founded upon a more just appreciation of
His worth as a man, and not merely upon an easy and unques-
tioning acceptance of Him as the supernatural Son of God.

^ The reader of the Synoptic Gospels does not proceed far before
he is convinced that Jesus' remedy for the ills of the world was
"the Kingdom of God." He may be at a loss to know just what
Jesus meant by the expression — "Kingdom of God" — which was so
often upon His lips ; but he is fully aware that Jesus laid great
stress upon the importance of the Kingdom to the world. For
example, he is at once confronted by so remarkable an announce-
ment as this : "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteous-
ness, and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).
This absolute direction is given to mankind by Jesus without any
qualification whatsoever. If one reads further, he finds Jesus always
placing great emphasis upon the Kingdom ; an emphasis which soon
warrants the belief that, in the view of the Master, the great need
of the world and of man is the Kingdom of God. However, more
of this anon. See Appendix A, "The Theme of Jesus' Preaching."

1 6 Jesus* Idea

Remarkable testimony to the innate grandeur of the Christ
can be adduced from many sources : orthodoxy and heterodoxy,
beh'ever and unbeliever, radical and conservative, Jew and
Christian alike, unite in chanting the praises and acknowledg-
ing the unique greatness of Him who is, more and more, being
crowned King of Men. Mr. Lecky, in his "History of Euro-
pean Morals," does not pay too high encomium to the Founder
of Christianity, w^hen he remarks: "It was reserved for Chris-
tianity to present to the world an ideal character, which,
through all the changes of eighteen centuries has filled the hearts
of men with an impassioned love and has shown itself capable
of acting on all ages, nations, temperaments, conditions; has
not only been the highest pattern of virtue, but the highest in-
centive to its practice." The testimony of a noted Rabbi also
is no less emphatic in praise of Jesus than the customary Chris-
tian eulogy. Delivering an address before the Epworth League
of St. James' Methodist Church, Chicago, Dr. Emil G. Hirsch
declared: "If Jesus Christ should return to the earth to-mor-
row. He would be welcomed in every Jewish synagogue in the
land, and every Jew would say with David, 'Lift up your
heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up ye everlasting doors, and
the King of Glory shall come in.' " While this very cordial
welcome may well be doubted in view of the singularly inhos-
pitable reception extended centuries ago, the purport of the
declaration is evident, in that it voices the admiration felt by
many Jews for the Christ life and the Christ character.

Nor can we forbear to quote here the very eloquent tribute
of Monsieur Renan, in the closing paragraph of his Vie de
Jesus: "As for us, eternal children, condemned to weakness,
we who labor without harvesting, and shall never see the fruit
of what we have sown, let us bow before these demi-gods. They
knew what we do not know : to create, to affirm, to act. Shall
originality be born anew, or shall the world henceforth be con-
tent to follow the paths opened by the bold creators of the
ancient ages? We know not. But whatever may be the sur-
prises of the future, Jesus will never be surpassed. His worship
will grow young without ceasing; His legend will call forth
tears without end; His sufiEerings will melt the noblest hearts;
all ages will proclaim that among the sons of men there is
none born greater than Jesus."

The Kingdom of God 17

Similar testimony, from most dissimilar sources, might be
multiplied at will; but, not to weary the reader, we will pass
to the point in view: The growing conviction of our age that
the truest and best appreciation of Jesus of Nazareth is gained
along the line of a study of the Man Himself, and His teach-
ings and acts; and not primarily from a study of what others
have taught about Him. "He stood the more a King when
bared to man." His message to the world, indeed, is best heard
from His own lips; and His ideas are best gained by a close
study of His own words as we find them reported by his faith-
ful followers. We cannot but feel that the world has suf-
fered an immeasurable loss, in that the teaching of the Master
has been somewhat obscured by the teaching of the Church
about the Master. Against the teaching of the Church we have
no word to utter ; at the same time, what is eternally and logic-
ally and chronologically of chiefest importance, is the Teach-
ing of Jesus Himself.

We have indicated briefly that the engrossing theme of Jesus
was the Kingdom of God, and that this seemed to the Pre-
eminent Man of the human race, the world's great need. We
think, therefore, that if this solution of the evils of human life
was offered by Him w^hom millions of men acknowledge to be
the Son of God, and whom all acknowledge to be the ideal
man, it becomes the duty, and it is the privilege of every
thoughtful mind to inquire, "What is meant by 'The Kingdom
of God'? What is this Kingdom which men are to seek?"
For the conviction, so aptly expressed by Richard Watson
Gilder, is deepening universally and steadily:

'If Jesus Christ is a man,
And only a man, I say
That of all mankind I cleave to Him,
And to Him will I cleave alway.
If Jesus Christ is a God,
And the only God, I swear
I will follow Him through Heaven and Hell,
The earth, the sea, and the air."

It is, therefore, our purpose to consider the Kingdom of God
in its essential characteristics, as it is revealed in the Teaching
of Jesus. Preparatory, however, to the more detailed investiga-
tion, we will consider:

1 8 Jesus' Idea

1. The meaning of the phrase, "The Kingdom of God"
or **The Kingdom of Heaven."

2. The origin and pre-Christian development of the idea
which the phrase embodies.

3. The significance attached to the expression w^hen used
by Jesus.

Now^ first let us consider the phrase itself and its meaning.^
The expressions, "The Kingdom of God" and "The King-
dom of Heaven," are apparently unequivocal and definite. This
definiteness, hovi^ever, soon begins to recede v\^hen one endeavors
to define the meaning of the phrase. What is the significance?
Can the reader give any ready answ^er? And yet this expres-
sion stands prominently on many pages of the Nevv^ Testament,
and is written large on almost every page of the Synoptic Gos-
pels. Surely we have a right to expect that those who would
read their Bible intelligently, should determine at the earliest
possible moment the meaning of an expression which is cer-
tainly among the most important in the Sacred Book, and which
furnishes the key without which very many passages are most
effectually sealed.

Now, as to the significance of the phrase, first let us con-
sider the word "Kingdom." We are inclined to believe that
we know the force of this word: it seems simple and easily
intelligible, but a little reflection proves the word ambiguous.
In our common speech, "kingdom" is used in different senses.
For instance, we speak of the Kingdom of England, and a mo-

Online LibraryFordyce Hubbard ArgoJesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus → online text (page 1 of 27)