Fordyce Hubbard Argo.

Jesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus online

. (page 23 of 27)
Online LibraryFordyce Hubbard ArgoJesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus → online text (page 23 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you. Before Abraham
was J I am" (8:56-58). This seems to imply that Jesus ex-
isted before Abraham was born. Jesus also cries: "O Father,
glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had
with thee before the world was . . . Father, I will that they also,
whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they
may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou
lovedst me before the foundation of the world" (l7'5> 24).
Now it seems impossible fairly to explain such language figura-
tively. The language is unprecedented and unique; it is fact,
or it is nothing. Further we have here only the direct avowal
of that for which the Synoptic Gospels have prepared us — the
Supernatural Character and the Preexistence of the Son Him-
self. This doubtlessly is the conviction which has been growing
upon the reader of these pages. Many statements, indeed, in the
Gospels indicate the superhuman and the transcendent in Christ.
His regal tone everywhere exhibited, but especially in such a
passage as St. Matthew 24:35 (cf. St. Lu. 21:33): "Heaven
and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away;"
His august claims: to an authority and affection greater than
that given to father and mother (St. Mt. 10:37, cf. St. Lu.
14:26), to forgive sins (St. Mt. 9:2-6; 5:20-24), to judge men
according to their personal relationship to Himself (St. Mt.
5:21; 12:8; 19:4), and to be the peace of the weary soul (St.
Mt. 11:28), are only adequately explained by His essential
Deity. The authoritative note in Jesus' teaching. His filial
consciousness, and His promise to send the Holy Spirit also in-
cline to a similar conclusion.

We thus see why Jesus so carefully distinguished between
His own Sonship to God, and that of other men. We also
see why St. Paul and St. John could bear such unequivocal
testimony to Jesus' Divinity. The Apostle to the Gentiles
could say: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ
Jesus : Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to

The Vicegerent of the Kingdom 235

be equal with God; But made himself of no reputation, and
took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the
likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he
humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the
death of the Cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted
him, and given him a name which is above every name: That
at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in
heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And
that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to
the glory of God the Father" ( Phil. 2 :6-i i ) . St. John, writing
subsequently, could add: '*In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The
same was in the beginning with God. All things w^ere made by
him; and without him was not anything made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And
the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended
it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was
John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the
Light, that all men through him might believe. He was
not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that
Cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world
was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto
his own, and his own received him not. But as many as re-
ceived him, to them gave he powder to become the sons of God,
even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not
of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man,
but of God. And the Word was made flesh j and dwelt among
us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten
of the Father,) full of grace and truth'' (i :i-l4).^

^ See also 2 Cor. 8:9; Gal. 4:4; Col. i and 2 chapters, and Heb.
1:1-4. These passages show that the Prologue to the Fourth
Gospel is only a fuller, and more concrete enunciation of an earlier
Christian conviction and belief. (See Appendix K, "The Logos

This interpretation of the Personality of Jesus, however, is dis-
pleasing to some. Schweitzer in his admirable book, "The Quest of
the Historical Jesus," recounts the chief attempts at other inter-
pretations for more than a hundred years. Apart from its value
as a Historical Resume and Criticism, the chief value of the volume
lies in the futility of the quest which it records. Nevertheless a
crucial question of our time is this : Admitting readily the Pauline

236 Jesus' Idea

Thus we find that the idea of the Kingdom of God as set
forth in the New Testament has not only the prestige of Truth,
and of self-evidencing Power, of Miracles, and of a spotless
Personality, which became the center of supernatural phenom-
ena, but it has also the prestige of having the Eternal Son
of God — Himself Supernatural — as its Sponsor, Apologist and
Advocate. And further, the end is certainly worthy of the
means. The Kingdom of God is redemption, salvation, and
the consummation of the Eternal Purpose, and this certainly
is worthy of the Incarnation of the Son of God. Again, in
the light of this reasonable Incarnation, how plausible miracles
become, and also the Supernatural Phenomena of which Jesus
was the Subject. We begin, also, to realize the pregnancy
of the words — ''The Kingdom of Heaven" — the Kingdom of
God, indeed, not only in its character, but in its source and
Prime Agent.

A concluding thought now awaits us. If a Divine Being was
to enter into human life, how was such entrance to be effected?
The answer of the Gospel is the Virgin Birth of Christ.^
This at once brings us face to face with the most startling
supernatural feature in the New Testament. The story of the
Virgin Birth, however, is extremely surprising when we
note the numerous passages in the Gospels — even in St. Mat-
thew and in St. Luke — in which Jesus is popularly regarded as
the natural son of Joseph and Mary. Questions and allu-
sions alike reveal this clearly (St. Jn. 1:45; St. Mt. 13:55;
St. Mk. 6:3; St. Lu. 4:22, 2:27, 41:43, 33:48). 2 This, how-
ever, upon reflection, is what one would expect. The fact

and Johanine interpretation of the Person of Christ, what is its
worth? Is it fact or mere theological speculation? Another hardly
less crucial question is this : Admitting the authoritative character
of their interpretation, what is its relationship to essential Chris-
tianity? Is it an integral element or a non-essential of belief?

^ We must bear in mind, however, that the accounts of the Virgin
Birth, when taken by themselves, obviously record the begetting of
a new being.

^ To this common supposition, and the conviction that Jesus as
the Messiah, or Son of David, must be descended from David, we
owe also the genealogies given in St. Matthew 1:1-18 and St. Luke
3 :23-38, both of which, according to general admission, are geneal-
ogies of Joseph, and attempts to trace Jesus' descent from David
through him.

The Vicegerent of the Kingdom 237

of the Virgin Birth would naturally be very slow in becoming
known, because of the very delicacy of the subject. Joseph and
Mary would keep the great secret to themselves, not only in
their own interest, but especially in the interest of the Child,
shrinking from the possible base accusations of slanderous
tongues. Subsequently, too, Christianity had enough obstacles
in its early progress without rearing an additional one in the
wide-spread proclamation of the Virgin Birth. To-day even,
this truth is not among the first taught to children, neither is
it in the forefront of discreet missionary preaching. To the
child, the fact is unintelligible; to the heathen, it is fantastic.
Again, Jesus never made the fact a part of His teaching, nor a
sign of His authority. In doing so, indeed, He would have
violated His self-chosen principle of appealing to man simply
as man, that is, along the line of His humanity. The Apostles
themselves were probably unaware of the Virgin Birth for a
long while, and some of them may have died without any
knowledge of the fact. The event itself could only have become
at all intelligible after the Apostles had become convinced of
Jesus' essential Divinity, and of this, as we have seen, they
were not convinced at first. Faith in Jesus' divinity, in fact,
arose from an ardent faith in His humanity. Mary herself was
probably never fully aware of the unique character of her
Son. The angel's message meant to her simply that her child
would be the Messiah of the Jews, who had been super-
naturally conceived by the Holy Ghost. Hence the writers
of the Gospels are true to fact when they represent Jesus as
popularly regarded as the son of Joseph and Mary. It becomes
necessary, then, to ask: Where shall we turn for the origin of
the strange story given by St. Matthew and by St. Luke? ^

The source of St. Matthew's narrative, which is centered
about Joseph in a peculiar manner, is unknown. St. Luke's
information, however, is commonly regarded as having come
more or less directly from the Virgin herself. (Cf. St. Lu.
2:19, 51.) Professor Ramsey, indeed, says: "Luke gives, from
knowledge gained within the family, an account of facts known
only to the family, and in part to the Mother alone." ("Was
Christ born at Bethlehem?" p. 79). The womanly delicacy
and reserve in the narrative itself is also in favor of this conclu-
^ See Appendix L, "The Accounts of the Virgin Birth."

238 Jesus' Idea

sion. However, from whatever source the Evangelist's in-
formation was derived, the story of the Virgin Birth, and the
attendant circumstances bear the stamp of intrinsic probability,
while the very sobriety of the narrative convinces of Its truth-
fulness. The Virgin Birth is certainly In harmony with
the general conception of Jesus as we find it in the New Testa-
ment. (See, for instance, St. Jn. 3:31 ; I Cor. 15:47.) Every-
thing, indeed, seems to lead to the Idea of "the Word made
flesh." And if the Word was made flesh, is It not antecedently
probable that the Holy Ghost (of course, in the Old Testament
signification of the term — "God exerting power') would over-
shadow a Virgin, and become the agent in the conception ? It is,
indeed, somewhat diflScult to see how the Word could have
become flesh in a person born of human father and mother.
If, however, God, for His own wise purposes, wished to enter
into humanity, and to take, as it were, humanity Into himself,
the Virgin Birth commends Itself as the reasonable expedient,
as we shall see. Aptly then does Professor Stanton remark:
**The chief ground on which thoughtful Christian believers are
ready to accept it (the miraculous birth) is that, believing in the
personal indissoluble union between God and man in Jesus
Christ, the miraculous birth of Jesus seems to them the only
fitting accompaniment of this union, and, so to speak, the natural
expression of it in the outward order of facts." ("The Jewish
and the Christian Messiah," p. 376ff.)^

The circumstances attending this extraordinary event, too,
betray an eminent sense of the fitness of things. If a celestial
Being was to enter into humanity, what could be more likely
than remarkable attendant phenomena, even though the Being
had elected to live a life of lowliness? Further, the person-
ages concerned in these phenomena are of the sort we should
expect: not the great of earth, nor those in the eye of the
public, but those who in modesty and obscurity live for the
inner, not for the outer life. The events themselves, also,
harmonize with their purported cause. An "outburst of proph-
ecy" was indeed most seemly (St. Lu. 1:15, 80, 41:67).
That Jew and Gentile, Heaven and Earth, should be Intimately
concerned in the birth of the Savior of the World is not

^ See Appendix M, "Some Explanations of the Story of the Virgin

The Vicegerent of the Kingdom 239

surprising. Every feature of the story, in fact, bears the stamp
of unique genius. How beautiful, for instance, is the incident
of the angel's speaking to the shepherds who watched their
flocks by night, reminding us of the fact that celestial voices
are only heard by those who are near to nature's heart. How
prophetic, too, was the visit of the Wise Men, the first-fruits of
the great Gentile world, which was as sorely in need of the
Messiah as the Jewish and which was to lay at the feet of
Jesus so much that was priceless! In these events, again, we
find that sense of congruity, which has impressed us more than
once, and which reveals them as the outcome of Divine Logic,
not of human reasoning, or poetic allegorizing. Even those
who reject the Virgin Birth cannot escape its fascination. We
quote from Wilhelm Soltau, who denies the fact: "Even if there
are some who cannot suppress certain doubts with regard to
this dogma, yet the very same persons will, as a matter of fact,
seldom be able to resist the fascination exercised by the delightful
legends of Jesus' childhood, which form the basis of these
postulates of the creed — a fascination felt by every one who
is still able to appreciate child-like piety and a popular form
of poetry. The manger of Bethlehem, notwithstanding its poor
surroundings, has always been the most charming feature in
the whole of the Christmas episode. The shining star, the
adoring Magi, the startled shepherds, and, above all, the angel
host chanting its song of praise — what is there that can be com-
pared with this in the religious literature of any other people?
And, to turn merely to the mystery surrounding the early his-
tory (Luke 1:5-80). Never has the Deity seemed to draw
so close to man as He did on this occasion." ("The Birth of
Jesus Christ," p. 4.) A similar feeling of respect for the story
of the Virgin Birth is evident also in Lobstein's "The Virgin
Birth of Christ."

That the story of the Virgin Birth is true, we fully believe.
If it be said that the fact is so mysterious that it arouses distrust,
we answer that Christianity is only the supreme mystery in a
world that is full of mysteries. Man himself is a mystery
of the first magnitude. Familiarity breeds contempt, and
long familiarity with the ordinary processes of nature has
blinded the average man to the abounding mysteries of the
natural world. Were the eyes open, it would be seen that all

240 Jesus^ Idea

Is supernal. The demand, however, which belief in the
Virgin Birth makes upon human credulity is not one whit
greater than that which the evolutionist makes when he de-
mands our assent to the proposition that "in that little speck
of jelly at the first dawn of life — there lies wrapped up, only
waiting for development, the promise and potency of the
whole subsequent evolution of life." Again, the question of
the Virgin Birth, like the question of Evolution — borrowing
once more the phraseology of Professor Orr — **is not one to
be settled a priori, but to be brought to the test of facts."
("The Christian View of God and the World," p. 251.)
That it will stand the test of closest scrutiny, we are confident.
The subject, however, is fraught with difficulties. That the
normal laws of human generation should be set aside at all
seems incredible, if not impossible. Here, however, the physio-
logical fact of Parthenogenesis is suggestive. This word is de-
rived from parthenos, a virgin, and genesis, production, and
means "the production of young in some species of plants and
inferior animals, without previous intercourse with the male."
We are told that this fact is widespread in the lower orders
of nature, while it occurs in other orders "occasionally and
sporadically." The testimony of Professor G. J. Romanes,
given while he was a reverent agnostic, is worthy of our notice.
He says: "It has been already stated that both parthenogenesis
and gemmation are ultimately derived from sexual reproduction.
It may now be added, on the other hand, that the earlier stages
of parthenogenesis have been observed to occur sporadically
in all sub-kingdoms of the Metazoa, including the Vertebrata,
and even the highest class, the Mammalia. These earlier stages
consist in spontaneous segmentations of the ovum; so that even
if a virgin has ever conceived and borne a son, and even if
such a fact in the human species has been unique, still it would
not betoken any breach of physiological continuity" ("Darwin
and After Darwin," p. 119).^

^ Apart, however, from this interesting illustration furnished by
parthenogenesis, a devout mind would encounter no difficulty in
believing in a Virgin Birth in view of the power of God — all things
are possible to Him — provided there was a sufficient reason for
such a departure from the usual laws of generation. The question
then becomes, in its last analysis, What is the rationality of the
Virgin Birth?

The Vicegerent of the Kingdom 241

The Christian idea is that in Jesus Christ a Divine Being
became Incarnate. Now if a Divine Being was to become
Man, why was the method of a Virgin Birth chosen? A
Virgin Birth is certainly not essential apparently to an In-
carnation. The mystery surrounding the genesis of every
human soul, and the ancient belief in the preexistence of all
souls seem to preclude a Virgin Birth as essential to an In-
carnation. Many persons, in fact, claim that an Incarnation
without a Virgin Birth would be more real and more in-
telligible; that it would not lower the idea of Divinity to a
physical basis; that it would not endanger the reality of the
being's humanity; and that it would not create an unnecessary
distinction between the natural and the supernatural. In spite
of this, however, certain reasons do seem to commend the
method of a Virgin Birth. But before noting these briefly,
let us advert to a reason sometimes adduced, but which appears
to be but a broken reed upon which to lean.

It is said that the Virgin Birth was the necessary condition
of Jesus' sinlessness (either positive or negative), or freedom
from original sin. This claim, however, is utterly unconvincing,
because the taint of evil — whatever it may be — could descend
through the mother as well as through the father. In fact,
among the Jews, woman was regarded as particularly weak and
sinful (Gen. 3; Eccl. 7; I Tim. 2:14). Our escape from this
possibility, indeed, lies either in the adoption of the Docetic idea,
that Jesus was born not, ek, **from" the Virgin Mary, but only,
dia^ "through" her, or the Roman Catholic doctrine of the
Immaculate Conception, which would give us an immaculate
mother, or the idea that the removal of the human father would
remove all impure thought and desire, and with it, the sinful
taint, which, according to this theory apparently, enters with
the act of generation. Thus a slur is cast upon the divinely
appointed method of procreation. Again it is not clear that the
words of the angel: ''therefore also that holy thing which shall
be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (St. Lu. 1 135)
are to be interpreted in an ethical sense. The idea is simply
that the child being conceived by the power of God is therefore
especially consecrated and set apart to God.

While this reason then for the Virgin Birth is uncon-

242 Jesus' Idea

vincfng, other thoughts are more helpful. For instance, the fact
of being begotten by a human father and a human mother sug-
gests a new personality. Jesus, however, preexisted. Conse-
quently the thought of an Incarnation in a person born of human
father and mother, while it does not render belief in an In-
carnation impossible, at least increases our difficulty in believing
in the fact. Again, Jesus inaugurated a new course for hu-
manity. He was, indeed, the Second Adam, the founder of a
new divine-human race. Hence it is reasonable to believe that
such a dignity might demand a physical miracle as its fitting
counterpart. Sometimes there is also associated with this con-
ception the idea that if Jesus had been born of human parentage.
He would have inherited what we might call partial humanity —
not human nature in its entirety or totality, which it was neces-
sary for Him to have in view of His dignity and His task. The
perplexing question, however, is. How would He receive human
nature in its totality from Mary? Finally, Jesus was the
God-Man. Two natures were apparently united in one person.
Jesus was certainly human, and yet He was palpably more
than human : He was Divine. How this could be is an insoluble
mystery. The Virgin Birth, however, helps us to grasp the fact
more readily than the idea of the union of two natures in a
man born of human father and human mother. (The line of
thought here touched upon is presented by E. Griffith-Jones
in "The Ascent Through Christ," pp. 263-270.)

In conclusion, we notice again in the matter of the Virgin
Birth the sense of congruity which has characterized the other
supernatural features of Christianity. At the same time, it
must be admitted that the Virgin Birth does not seem as essential
to the Kingdom of God as the several other supernatural fea-
tures which have been noted. Christianity would not be very
seriously impaired for thoughtful minds, even if this supposed
fact should be disproved. Indeed, however the orthodox
Christian Creed may be established in this and in other particu-
lars, we must remember that those who cannot accept the
Virgin Birth of Jesus, or His metaphysical Sonship, but who
accept Jesus as the Sovereign of Life — as the Son of God in the
official and in the ethical senses — and strive to do the Master's
will, are subjects of the Kingdom of God, and are to be admitted

The Vicegerent of the Kingdom 243

within the pale of Jesus' ecclesia.^

In failing to see this, the visible Church has made a fatal
mistake, for the Cause of Christianity is the Kingdom or
Sovereignty of God — not primarily the Deity of Jesus. Satan,
however, is an adept in the game of substitution — the outer
for the inner, the appearance for the reality, faith as an in-
tellectual virtue instead of an ethical practise, the traditions of
men in place of the Commandments of God — and he has played
it long and well even within the sphere of the Christian Church.
The Satanic fallacy, however, is becoming more and more ap-
parent as the Spirit of Truth is disclosing the idea and the
ambition of Jesus to the World. Men are seeing as never be-
fore that the essence of Christianity is devotion to the Kingdom
of God and not the acceptance of a Church or a Creed. May
God speed the day when the voice of Jesus Himself shall be
heard above the din of ecclesiastical pronunciamentos — however
true or however false they may be — and His sheep shall hear
His voice, and there shall be one Fold and one Shepherd —
substantial unity amid great diversit^^ — a true Catholicity in the
Idea of the Kingdom of God.

^ That this generous liberty was accorded at one time is evident
from Justin Martyr's admission in the Dialogue with Trypho. Ch,
48:1, 219: "Now assuredly, Trypho, I continued, that this man is
the Christ of God does not fail, though I be unable to prove that
he existed formerly as Son of the Maker of all things, being God
and was born by the Virgin. But since I have certainly proved
that this man is the Christ of God, whoever he be, even if I do
not prove that he preexisted, and submitted to be born a man of
like passions with us, having a body according to the Father's will ;
in this matter alone it is just to say that I have erred, and not
to deny that he is the Christ, though it should appear that he was
born man of man, and it is proved that he became Christ by
election. For there are some, my friends, I said, of our race, who
admit that he is Christ, while holding him to be man of men ; with
whom I do not agree, nor would I, even though most of those who
have the same opinion as myself should say so ; since we were
enjoined by Christ himself to put no faith in human doctrines, but
those proclaimed by the blessed prophets and taught by himself."



**The Kingdom of Heaven" or "The Kingdom of God,"
was the theme of Jesus' preaching and teaching. It was with
the Gospel of the Kingdom of God that Jesus began His
public ministry (St. Mark 1:14); it was with instruction in
the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God that He was
busied during the forty days which intervened between the
Resurrection and the Ascension (Acts 1:3); and it was with
the command that His apostles go into all the world and
preach the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus vanished into the

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 23 25 26 27

Online LibraryFordyce Hubbard ArgoJesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus → online text (page 23 of 27)