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Jesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus online

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break occurring in the established order of nature; hence ex-
planations of miracles are often adduced, which seek to miti-
gate the rigors of this antagonism. The Duke of Argyll, for
instance, writes in his "Reign of Law": "Miracles may be
w^rought by the selection and use of laws of which man knows
and can know nothing, and which, if he did know, he could not
employ" (p. 16). Too great stress, however, must not be
placed upon nature's accustomed order, for nature itself pre-
sents certain inexplicable breaks: for example, the step from the
inorganic to the organic, and from consciousness to self-con-
sciousness. "Nature's order and continuity, indeed, is simply
a generalization from observed phenomena, and of use in scien-
tific investigation. At the same time, it must be admitted that
miracles are not necessarily to be thought of as violations of
physical law. 'Physical Law,' indeed, in its entirety, we do
not know. There may be many combinations of physical forces
known to the Creator, which will produce what we call mira-
cles, and which are now entirely beyond our ken. Huxley
wrote very wisely: *If a dead man did come to life, the fact
would be evidence, not that any law of nature had been vio-
lated, but that those laws, even when they express the results
of a very long and uniform experience, are necessarily based on
incomplete knowledge, and are to be held only on grounds of

270 Jesus^ Idea

more or less justifiable expectation.' " He also admits the pos-
sibility of miracles: ''Denying the possibility of miracles seems
to me quite as unjustifiable as speculative Atheism."

Miracles, however, are attacked not only on the ground
of "possibility," but also of "credibility." The idea is that if
miracles actually happened they could not be proved by human
testimony, for they are absolutely incredible in view of "the
firm and unalterable experience" which has established the laws
of nature. That humanity's experience has been "firm and
unalterable" in this respect is the very point at issue, and to
affirm that it has been is simply unjustifiable dogmatism.
Human testimony can establish and substantiate miracles, al-
though such testimony must be very jealously received, weighed,
and tested, and it must be assisted by an inherent fitness in the
miracle itself, which shall commend it to the intellectual and
the moral nature of man. That Jesus worked what purported
to be miracles is supported by convincing human testimony.
The belief in His miracles, indeed, is found to have been uni-
versally accepted at a very early date, and the miracles them-
selves are recorded in writings which follow so closely upon
the events described, as practically to preclude the possibility
of the growth of legends of miraculous cures and works, which
grouped themselves around the unique personality of the Man
Jesus. Sufficient time perhaps had elapsed, however, for the
possible addition of legendary elements to the separate accounts
of miracles which were really wrought by Christ. This fact
should be remembered in a study of the miracles of Jesus.




Let us take, for instance, the passage recently quoted: *'No
man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any
man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son
vi^ill reveal him." While this passage does not reveal 'Vhat
idea Jesus entertained in regard to the genesis of His divine
Sonship," it can be said that it appears "to imply that Jesus had
shown no cognizance of any beginning in this relationship. It
seems to be an innate property of His personality, seeing that
He, as distinct from all others, holds for His own the claim
to the sovereignty of the world, and the immediate knowledge
of God, just as a son by right of birth becomes an heir, and
by upbringing from childhood in undivided fellowship with the
father enters into that spiritual relationship with the father,
which is natural for the child." The passage, indeed, is very
suggestive, and if the interpretation of Professor Bruce is jus-
tifiable, namely, that the passage marks the Son as the revealer
of the Father to those in the past, who did not know the his-
torical Christ, an additional interest is given to the statement.
"The claim is not meant to exclude from saving knowledge
of God all who are ignorant of the historical Christ. It is
meant rather to teach, that whoever has such knowledge,
whether within Christendom or without, gets his illumination
from the Son who perfectly knows the Father. Does not this
point to a being of the Son independent of space and timef
("The Kingdom of God," p. 185.)

Again the words of St. Mark 13:32 are thought-provok-
ing. "Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not
the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father."
Most explicit testimony, however, is derived from an interview
of Jesus with the Pharisees. Jesus asked them about the


272 Jesus^ Idea

meaning of the one hundredth and tenth Psalm.^

The interview is given by St. Matthew as follows : "While
the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, say-
ing. What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he? They say
unto him. The son of David. He saith unto them, How then
doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said
unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine
enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how
is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word.
(22:41-46, cf. St. Mk. 12:25-37; St. Lu. 20:41-44.)

The significance of this colloquy is so well brought out by
Dalman that we quote his words at length. "The aim — is the
same — to awaken reflection in regard to the descent of the
Messiah rather than to his dignity or exalted rank. There
would indeed be nothing remarkable in the fact that a son
should attain to a higher rank than his father, and for the
Scribes it would not in the least be strange that the Messiah
should be greater than David. On that point they did not,
in fact, require any instruction. Justin Martyr says ("Dia-
logue with Trypho," 33, 83) that the Jews of his time applied
Psalm no to Hezekiah; so it appeared to them possible that
David should call this king his Lord — An unbiased reading
of the statement of Jesus cannot avoid the conclusion that the
Messiah is in reality the Son of One more exalted than David,
that is, the Son of God. And in that idea there was nothing
extravagant. If Jesus was conscious of no beginning in his
peculiar relationship to God, it must, of course, have had its
genesis with His birth ; and, further, God must have so partici-
pated in assigning that position, that the human factors
concerned fell entirely into the background. The prophet
Jeremiah, according to Jer. i :5, prided himself in his prenatal
election by God to prophecy; and Isa. 49:5 says that the servant
of the Lord was formed from the womb for his appointed
function. Why should Jesus, conscious of being the servant
of the Lord whom Isaiah predicted, not have had a similar
consciousness in regard to Himself? Only it would be natural

* David was universally thought of as the author of this Psalm.
The Psalm, in fact, was only composed in the time of David, and
was addressed to him. This fact, however, does not affect in any
way the impression which Jesus was seeking to give.

Appendix 273

that He, being 'the Son,' as distinguished from all servants,
should presuppose, not merely selection and predestination, but
also a creative act on the part of God, rendering Him what no
one, who stands in a merely natural connection with man-
kind, can ever by his ow^n efforts become. This idea is in no
way opposed to the other, that Jesus called Himself 'Son of
Man.' For all the sublimity of which He was conscious
in regard to His past, present, and future, never excludes the
idea that for the present, by decree of the Divine Providence,
He moves about among mankind, defenceless and weak. We
do not find expressed the idea of God's becoming man, or of
a twofold nature united in a single person; but there is at-
tested the presence of One who appears in human weakness,
who is a perfect Revealer of God and the future Ruler of
the world, who has been bestowed upon the world by the
supernatural power of God." ("Words of Jesus," pp. 285,
6, 7.)

Thus far, indeed, the Synoptic Gospels lead us into the
realm of metaphysics.



Why St. John should refer to Jesus as the "Word," and
his intention in doing so, will become apparent in a moment.^

St. John used this term as the result of a continuous de-
velopment of an idea. In Genesis, Creation is regarded as due
to a command or word of God. In later poetical descriptions
of creation, there is a quasi-personification of this idea: "By
the word of the Lord were the heavens made" (Ps. 33:6; cf.
107:2; 147:15, 18; 148:8). In Isaiah 5:10 there is a more
poetic personification of the thought. Then by development,
revelation, or the message of God to men, came to be called
"the word of the Lord." Hence we read: "the word of the
Lord came' (Micah 1:1); "the word which Isaiah saw"
(Isa. 2:1; cf. Amos 1:1). In the Wisdom Literature of the
Old Testament, there is a fuller development. The "word"
becomes "an agent of God in the accomplishment of his gracious
will and purpose" (Job. 28:12-28; Prov. 8:22-31). And
passing from the Canonical Scriptures to the Apocryphal Wis-
dom Literature, we find a still more pronounced development.
( Ecclesiasticus 1:4-10; 24:3-12, 32:33.) We quote only an
interesting passage from the Wisdom of Solomon: "For she
is a breath of the power of God, and a clear effulgence of the
glory of the Almighty; therefore can nothing defiled find
entrance into her. For she is an effulgence from everlasting
light, and an unspotted mirror of the working of God, and an
image of his goodness. And she, being one, hath power to do
all things; and remaining in herself, reneweth all things, etc.";
— "Who madeth all things by thy word" (9:1). This is also
worthy of quotation: "Thine all-powerful word leaped from

*The Greek term translated "word" is logos. This word^ in
Classical Greek meant both a "word" and "reason"; in Biblical
Greek, however, it is used chiefly in the sense of "word."


Appendix 275

heaven out of the royal throne, a stern warrior, into the midst
of the doomed land, bearing as a sharp sword thine unfeigned
commandment." (Revised Version, 18:15, 16.)

In the Targums, or Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew
Scriptures used in Our Lord's time, the same tendency is mani-
fest. The word of Jehovah is personified, and represented as
an intermediary between God and the world. Acts of God
w^ere attributed to the Divine Word. For instance, the Targums
say: "They heard the voice of the Word of the Lord God
walking in the Garden" (Gen. 3:8.) This evidence leads us
to the important conclusion expressed in the following words:
"Thus Hebrew thought tended to represent God's self-manifes-
tation as mediated by an agent, viore or less conceived as per-
sonal, and yet blending with the divine personality itself." Now
with this tendency and with this usage of "the word," the writer
of the Fourth Gospel as a Palestinian Jew would be familiar.

There was, however, another interesting use of this ex-
pression. The Greeks w^ere busied with the problem as to how
a transcendent God could come into relation with the world.
To bridge this gulf, they made use of "ideas," and logos came
to stand for the "reason" of Deity. This feature of the Greek
Philosophy was borrowed by an Alexandrian Jew — Philo —
who sought to harmonize the Old Testament Revelation with
Greek Philosophy. "Philo adopted after others, the term
logos, probably because it was familiar to both Judaism and
Hellenism, to denote the total manifestation of divine powers
and ideas in the universe. God is abstract being, without
qualities, but from Him has proceeded the Logos, His rational
thought, which first existed, as the ideal world in the divine
mind, and then formed and inhabited the actual cosmos."
Thus in Philo's thought, the "word" of the Old Testament
was the chief idea, "through which God mediated His communi-
cation with the w^orld." It was the agent of creation and of
the administration of the world, and was spoken of as "the
first-born Son of God," and "the second God." In the per-
sonification of this idea, however, Philo was not always un-
equivocal or consistent. Now with this usage of the word
"logos," St. John was also probably familiar. While some
scholars maintain that he derived his doctrine from the Old
Testament use of the expression, and others contend for the

276 Jesus^ Idea

Philonic source, the most probable view is "that St. John
adopted his Logos phraseology because in both Jewish and Gen-
tile circles, the term was familiar. // was a leading term by
which religious thought was striving to express the idea, though
with much misconception, of an all-comprehensive, all-wise, and
directly active revelation of God to the world"

How readily, then, St. John would adopt it! The Apostle
was an old man, and he had grown old in meditating upon the
august mystery of the Christ. His Gospel is meditative through-
out, not argumentative. Reflection upon Jesus' testimony
to Himself, His Personality, and His teaching, had led St. John
to a great conclusion. But how could he express his thought?
The logos idea was at hand. Thoughtful years and spiritual
insight availed themselves of the waiting word, and we have
the triumphant strains of the opening verses of the Fourth
Gospel. The declarations are not based, however, upon
philosophic speculation, but upon reflection, which has worked
up Jesus' own testimony, and at length states its conclusion.
For St. John, Jesus was the preexistent Son of God who be-
came incarnate: the Word who existed in the beginning, per-
haps of time, or at least, of creation; who was in relationship
with God, and who was God in His essential nature; who was
the medium of creation, the author of life — physical, mental,
spiritual — and the light or illumination of men, yet often un-
comprehended because of the darkness of the human mind;
who was borne witness to by John the Baptist; who eventually
became man, and dwelt among us; who was rejected by his
own — the Jews; who was, however, received by others, to
whom He gave power to become sons of God. In this conclusion,
spiritual insight and experience have largely concurred.^

^ St. John, however, from whatever source he derived his Logos
doctrine, made his own distinctive contribution to it. If his doctrine
was related to the Philonic doctrine, it yet bears distinctive marks.
Professor W. F. Adeny, in the Biblical World for July, 1905, thus
summarizes them: "In particular there are four, viz.: (i) the sense
of word attached to the term Logos,' rather than that of reason;
(2) the personality of the Logos; (3) his incarnation; (4) his
identifications when incarnate with the Jewish Messiah." ("The Re-
lation of New Testament Theology to Alexandrian Thought.") Con-
sult also Stevens' "N. T. Theology," pp. 576-585, and Articles
"Logos" and "Philo" in Hastings' Bible Dictionary; also Sanday's
"Criticism of the Fourth Gospel," Lecture 6, pp. 185-205.



A RESUME of the Story may not be amiss. According to St.
Matthew, a virgin, Mary by name, who was espoused to Joseph,
was (before they were wedded) found to be with child by
the Holy Ghost. Joseph, being a strict follower of the law,
and yet unwilling to see Mary suffer the penalty of the law,
determined to put her away privately. An angel of the Lord,
however, appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, thou
son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for
that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost, and she
shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for
he shall save his people from their sins." ^

Joseph obeys the angel's command, but does not enter into
marital relations with his wife until she had brought forth
her first-born son.

The birth of the Child took place in Bethlehem of Judea
in the days of Herod. Then Wise Men from the East, led

^The Evangelist finds in this event the fulfilment of Isa. 7:14.
This use of the passage, however, must be looked upon leniently.
The passage itself did not and cannot refer to a Virgin Birth. The
word translated "virgin" really means "young woman." Dalman
is again helpful : "The Jewish common people never expected the
Messiah to be born of a Virgin ; and no trace is to be found among
the Jews of any Messianic application of Isaiah's words (7:14)
concerning the virgin's son, from which by any possibility — as some
have maintained — the whole account of the miraculous birth of
Jesus could have derived its origin." ("Words of Jesus," p. 276.)
Apropos of the New Testament use of this and similar Old Testa-
ment passages, the words of the late Professor A. B. Davidson
are suggestive : "In general, it was more the actual life of Christ
that suggested to New Testament writers the application to Him of
Old Testament passages, than a prevalent method of interpreting
the passages. They saw in His life the full religious meaning of
the passages, and the question of their original sense or application
did not occur to them."


278 Jesus^ Idea

by a star, came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is he that is born
King of the Jews ?" Herod, learning of their inquiry, assembled
the chief priests and the scribes, and asked where the Messiah
was to be born. In consonance with Micah 5:1, 2, they pointed
to Bethlehem of Judea. Then, after inquiring of the Magi
as to the time of the star's appearance, Herod sends them away
to search for the Child and urges that they bring him word
again. Led by the star, they followed until it stood over the
house where the young Child and His Mother were. Enter-
ing, they make obeisance to the Babe, and present gifts of gold,
frankincense, and myrrh. They are then warned in a dream
not to return to Herod, and they set out for their country by
another route. Joseph is also warned by an angel to take the
Child and His Mother, and to flee into Egypt to escape from
Herod. There they remain until Herod's death, and thus
fulfil the prophecy of Hosea ii:i. Herod, however, greatly
angered, decrees the murder of all male children of two years
of age and under in Bethlehem, and its borders. When Herod
was dead, however, Joseph was commanded by an angel to
return from Egypt. Hearing that Archelaus, Herod's son,
was reigning, Joseph was fearful, and was directed by God in
a dream to turn to Nazareth of Galilee. (St. Mt. i : 18-25; 2.)
St. Luke's account of the birth of Jesus, and its attendant
circumstances, is more detailed. He begins with an appearance
of the angel Gabriel to the old priest, Zacharias, as he was
engaged in the Temple, and the announcement that his aged
wife — the barren Elizabeth — would become the joyful mother
of a son, who should, in the spirit and power of Elijah, prepare
the people for the Lord's coming. Doubting the news, and
asking its corroboration, Zacharias is stricken with dumbness.
His wife conceives, however, and goes into retirement. Then
in the sixth month, Gabriel visits Mary, the virgin espoused
to Joseph, and announces that she is to bear a son: "He shall
be called great, and shall be called the son of the Highest:
and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of his father
David : and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever ; and
of his kingdom there shall be no end." (Here in the very
forefront again is the idea of the Kingdom of God.) Troubled
because she was unmarried, she hears: "The Holy Ghost shall
come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow

Appendix 279

thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee
shall be called the Son of God." Mary's attention is also di-
rected to the condition of her cousin Elizabeth. She at once
seeks Elizabeth in the hill country of Judea, and is greeted with
the words: "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is
the fruit of thy womb," while the unborn John leaped in his
mother's womb. Mary in reply utters the Magnificat — a chant
of praise, modeled probably upon Hannah's song in I Sam. 2,
iff. After three months, Mary returns to her home, and Eliza-
beth gives birth to a son. On the eighth day the child is cir-
cumcised, and a name is given under peculiar circumstances.
Zacharias' speech is restored, and he utters the hymn of praise
called the Benedictus. The narrative concerning John then
concludes with the statement: "The child grew, and waxed
strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shew-
ing unto Israel."

The birth of Jesus at Bethlehem is then accounted for by
a decree of Augustus Caesar which called for a census of the
Empire, and which was first made when Cyrenius was governor
of Syria. This compelled Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem,
the city of David, inasmuch as Joseph was a descendant of
David. There Jesus was born in a stable because there was
no room in the inn. The joyful news of the birth was an-
nounced by an angel to some shepherds in an adjacent field,
and they heard the celestial hosts chanting praises to God.
The shepherds immediately seek and find the Child, and make
known their strange experience. All wonder, "but Mary kept
all these things, and pondered them in her heart." After eight
days the Child was circumcised, and the name Jesus was con-
ferred. When the forty days of Purification had passed, Jesus
was presented in the Temple, and the prescribed offering was
made. There an aged and devout Jew, Simeon by name, and
Anna, a prophetess, moved by the Holy Ghost, recognized in
Jesus the fulfilment of their expectations. Then the parents
return to their own city, Nazareth, where the child grew, and
"waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of
God was upon him." (St. Lu. 1:5-2:40.)

The reader will have noticed that these are independent,
yet not inconsistent accounts.



The objectors to the Biblical account of the Virgin Birth,
however, usually represent the story as a legendary development,
based in all probability upon some germ of truth or idea found
in the genuine Gospel teaching. They say, for instance, that
the Messiah was popularly supposed to be the Son or descend-
ant of David, hence by reasoning, Bethlehem, the city of David,
should be the Messiah's birthplace. Thus Bethlehem came to
be the birthplace of Jesus. Again, Jesus was spoken of as the
Son of God in an ethical sense. By development, this was
transformed into a metaphysical sense: Jesus became Divine.
Then as a Divine Being, of course He preexisted; and if pre-
existent, when He entered into human life, He must be born
of a Virgin. Thus with great ingenuity and plausibility the
fact of the Virgin Birth is assaulted, and nothing is left but
the noble manhood of Jesus; all but this is development and
legend. A sufficient answer to this is that sufficient time for
this development did not elapse between the death of Jesus and
the appearance of these two Gospels — A. D. 60-80 — especially
when we remember that the accounts are based upon earlier
narratives or tradition. This is even better seen when we
notice how slowly the Christian consciousness grasped the sig-
nificance of the Virgin Birth. This is apparent in the writings
of the Ante Nicene Fathers. Spiritual insight, however, as
well as radical criticism, must decide the issue, and its verdict
is in favor of the Christian view.

Yet other objectors say that the idea of a Virgin Birth was
not a feature of Jewish belief, but was borrowed from the
Pagan World. There the origin of the ideas and the events,
which have embellished the Christ tradition, is found. Numer-
ous instances of belief in Divine generations and Virgin Births
are cited. The star in St. Matthew's account is explained in


Appendix 281

accordance with pagan superstition; the origin of the visit of
the Wise Men is found in the journey of homage made by the
Parthian King, Tiridates, with Magi in his train, to the Em-
peror Nero; the story of the Massacre of the Innocents, and
its motive, are found in the narrative of Marathus concerning
the birth of Augustus (Suet. Aug. 94) ; while the flight into
Egypt is referred to mythological ideas. Thus St. Matthew's
narrative is summarily disposed of, while his loose quotations

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