Nathaniel Schmidt.

The prophet of Nazareth online

. (page 1 of 38)
Online LibraryNathaniel SchmidtThe prophet of Nazareth → online text (page 1 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


3 3433 06823710




f^y^ '

^ ~*^ . '5 . o








Bt^ If orfc



AH rights reserved

THE NEW ygp:: 1

R ID!8


COPTRiaHT. 1906


Set up and electrotyped

Published December, 1905

Reprinted February, 1907


In Q^emortam



Dies diem docet


This volume is not the manifesto of a school, a sect, or a
party. The author acknowledges with gratitude the help-
ful suggestions and inspiring influence of every great
thinker and every faithful worker with whom he has come
in contact. But he has endeavored, so far as possible, to
see with his own eyes the character of each important prob-
lem, and to present in his own language, simply and un-
equivocally, the conclusions to which many years of study
and reflection have led him. In attempting to make a com-
prehensive statement within narrow limits of space, he has
often been obliged to give the bare results where it would
have been a pleasure to outline the course of protracted in-
vestigation. More frequently, a few suggestions of decisive
facts will convince the reader familiar with the problems
that nothing has been taken for granted without fresh ex-
amination. Wherever it seemed necessary to indicate care-
fully the grounds for a view not yet fully understood or
generally adopted, the author has had no hesitancy in doing
so at sufficient length. Particularly is this the case with the
question as to the origin and significance of the term "son
of man. ' ' As the author was the first to suggest that Jesus
never used this term concerning himself, either to claim
Messiahship in any sense, or to hint that he was "a mere
man, " or " the true man, ' ' but in some pregnant utterances
used it in reference to ' ' man ' ' in general, his duties, rights,
and privileges, he has felt it incumbent upon himself to at-
tempt such a re-interpretation of the life and teaching of
Jesus in the light of this conviction as has been urgently and
rightly demanded.

To bring out more fully the significance of this changed
estimate of Jesus, it appeared desirable to examine the basis
of ecclesiastical Christology in the supposed Messianic


prophecies and types of the Old Testament, and the real
teachings concerning the Messiah in later Jewish literature,
as well as the character and intrinsic worth of the Christ of
dogma. It has been the aim of the author to treat with
sympathy and reverence a conception that has for so many
centuries furnished spiritual nourishment to men, and to
point out the historic value, not less real because rela-
tive and transitory, of this and kindred ideas destined to
pass away ; but also to set the old and the new over against
each other so clearly that men may see that there is no pos-
sible return to the past, and no permanent escape from the
consequences of scientific research by such compromises as
are affected by many at the present time. The abandon-
ment of erroneous positions is a duty, even if it implies un-
certainty and apparent loss. It should be regarded as an
inestimable privilege, when it renders possible a deeper in-
sight into the historic reality, and when it becomes manifest
that this reality transcends in moral value the fiction it dis-

Just and thoughtful men will always remember with grat-
itude the master-builders who reared the imposing struc-
ture of Christian dogma and the faithful believers of every
name and denomination who have translated its most valu-
able thought into lives of spiritual beauty. But as the bless-
ings of a truer knowledge and a larger faith become appar-
ent, they will also accord due honor to the master-miners
who have shattered the foundations of untenable dogmas,
and most of all, to the souls who, free from the bondage of
external authority or the ambition for earthly rewards, have
passionately striven for the tr\ith, drawn inspiration from
noble lives, imposed upon themselves wise rules of con-
duct, and labored for the emancipation and improvement of
the human race, in truest imitation of him who lived and
died for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

The last revision of this work has been made in Pales-
tine. Jews, Christians and Muslims have covered the whole
land with a net-work of traditions. It would be difficult to
find a place mentioned in the Bible that has not been identi-


fied, or a story told in its pages that has not been located.
The pilgrims to these sacred sites nourish their faith by be-
holding the very spots where the greatrrniracles of the past
took place, and see in the more or less ancient relics which
"are with lis to this day" evidences of their occurrence.
It is sad to reflect that the loss of this naive faith would
probably rob most of them of the only great enthusiasm or
touch of ideality that ever enters into their monotonous ex-
istence. Less sjanpathetic is the credulity of learned men
who easily persuade themselves of the accuracy of any tra-
dition concerning the scenes of Jesus ' life that can be traced
back to the time of Constantine, as though there were not
room enough in three centuries for many a memory to pass
away and many a loose conjecture to grow up into a time-
honored tradition ! As the student of the literary docu-
ments must go behind his text, seeking to reconstruct its
original form and estimate its value, so the archaeologist
must free himself from the tyranny of topographical tradi-
tion, and learn to treat it as a useful servant. If at first the
scantiness of positive results seems a loss, there gradually
comes a sense of real gain.

For, after all, it was in this little land that Jesus lived
and died. His eyes looked up to this blue Syrian sky, and
rested lovingly upon these hills and valleys. In the vicin-
ity of yonder lake of Galilee he worked as a carpenter and
taught as a prophet. In this city and its immediate neigh-
borhood he spent his last days. Here, as elsewhere, nature
sets its stamp upon man. In spite of all changes, the people
of the land has preserved through the ages substantially the
same manner of life and modes of speech, social conven-
tions, customs and occupations, religious views and prac-
tices, and general outlook upon the world. The Arabic dia-
lect spoken is more like Hebrew than the language of the
Qur'an is: and the ordinary fellahin of to-day probably re-
semble the Galilean peasantry of nineteen centuries ago
more than the modern Jew does, with the Talmud, the
Ghetto and the Renaissance in his blood. It was with such
simple folk as one sees every day in the villages of Palestine


that Je55us grew up and mingled as a man, and the classes
with which he came into conflict may still be found in this
holy city of three religions. Only here was the career of
the Prophet of Nazareth possible. To understand both the
factors that determined his character and his real great-
ness, his personality and his message should be seen against
the background of his land as well as of his people and his
time. The life of Jesus fits its environment in nature not
less perfectly than its place in history.

During the preparation of this work many valuable sug-
gestions and friendly counsels have been offered by Dr.
James M. Whiton, for which the author desires to express
his gratitude. In dedicating the volume to the memory of
three illustrious teachers to whom he owes much, he wishes
to intimate also his indebtedness to three universities where
it was his privilege to study, and to three nations to which
he is bound by the strongest ties.

JKBUSALEM, January, 1905.



The Christ of the C^beeds 1

The Decline of Dogma 11

The Old Testament Basis 35

The Jewish Messiah 68

The Sox of Man 94

The Son of God 135

The Logos 159

The Secondary Sources 174

The Gospels 205

The Life of Jesus 240

The Teaching of Jesus 293

The Historic Influence of Jesus 318

The Present Problem 340



The Leadership of Jesus 360

Gnosticism 387

The Collegia Vicextina ..... = . 390

The Resurrection - o . 392


Index of Subjects ...... . . 399

Index of Authors , , 408

Index of Texts 414




Every man is a creed-maker. He forms his view of the
world by observation of external reality and reflection upon
the states of his own consciousness. His interpretation of
life is subject to constant change, and is at no moment quite
identical with that of any other man. In proportion as his
range of vision is wide and his judgment accurate, his creed
differentiates itself and assumes a distinctive character.
Disinterested search for truth by capable and independent
minds leads to diversity of belief, as well as to increase of

But there is also a collective creed-making. Similarity
of origin and environment tends to create similarity of life
and thought. In family, political society, and cult-com-
munity, there is a ceaseless labor to produce a common creed
and to express in common customs this corporate faith. A
tradition, based on the accumulated experience and thought
of many generations, presents itself as an invaluable aid to
the individual in the formative period of his life, and con-
tinues to be his chief assistance, stimulus, and corrective,
whatever new facts he maj' discover, and hoAvever discrimi-
nating his judgTiient may be. This tradition changes with
the growth of the social organism. A collective creed never
implies uniformity of belief. But the transformation is
slower than in the case of the individual, and similarity of
view is a strong cohesive force. The common creed pro-
duces unity of purpose, efficiency of practical endeavor, and
assurance of faith.



The power of beliefs largely adopted by society, and em-
bodied in its life, to shape the thoughts of men, is counter-
balanced by the reaction upon society of new ideas backed
by strong personalities. The centripetal force is equalled
in the long run by the centrifugal force, the tendency to
preserve the type by the tendency to vary the type. Where
freedom of thought and speech gives opportunity for the
development of a distinct personal creed and for influencing
public opinion, while the social creed, whether symbolized
in formulas or merely found in a general understanding, is
sensitive and flexible, the balance of these forces is best
maintained. To the importance of the personal initiative
is due the development of creeds concerning great men.
INIighty rulers holding nations in subjection, forceful char-
acters assuming leadership, wonder-workers possessing un-
usual powers, sagacious interpreters of nature's life, en-
thusiastic heralds of some fresh evangel, naturally become
the objects of interest, curiosity and worship. The mysteri-
ous power exercised by these men is more readily felt than
explained. No human life can be fully known. Much
must always be left for imagination to supply. Imagination
may resort to local setting and historic circumstance, or it
may draw upon the general characteristics of a class. A
man's inner life cannot escape the effect of the nature that
surrounds him, the social milieu in which he finds himself.
A prophet is likely to do a prophet 's work, a king to shine in
royal splendor, a sage to unlock nature's mysteries. The
influence of a great man is only in part due to what he ac-
tually says, or does, or is: in a large measure it is due to
this tendency to eke out the known facts with more or less
plausible conjectures drawn from environment, analogy,
or ideal.

At a certain stage of human development, the secret of
heroic lives is found in their connection with a higher world.
Beings greater than man, it is thought, give to their chosen
ones strength that is more than human, and knowledge that
lies beyond the reach of man's unaided intellect. But such
gifts would not come to them, if they were not of finer clay


than ordinary mortals. Their destiny is higher, their or-
igin more sublime. When they depart from earth, they are
not left to see corruption, but go to share the divine nature,
and to receive divine worship. When they appear on earth,
they are not born of the will of man, but come from a celes-
tial world and have a divine paternity. Euhemerus sug-
gested that all gods had once lived as men upon the earth.
This is a defective generalization. Countless men, warriors,
judges, patriarchs, kings, sages, prophets, have, indeed, be-
come gods. But innumerable gods have also become men,
not only by the gradual transformation of nature-spirits
into the image of man, but by an actual entrance upon the
life of a human being, by an incarnation.

It is natural that the category of divinity dominates the
conception of even the earthly life of such personalities.
Faith does not live by verifiable facts of history alone ; it
clings for its support to the present ideal ; it seeks the eter-
nal truth and grace that once flashed forth in sudden rays of
incarnate beauty.

One of the mightiest conceptions that ever swayed the
mind of man is the Christ of the great ecumenic creeds.
These creeds register the results of centuries of thought ;
they set forth the finished product of a long development.
The roots of the idea lie deep in Hebrew antiquity. The
prophetic movement prepared the way for it. Political
hopes, doomed to disappointment, rose to furnish the ma-
terial of its growth. In the apocalyptic literature of the
Roman period, the Messiah appeared. An interpretation,
true to prevalent methods and fit to meet the needs of the
age, discovered his lineaments in many a passage of the
Hebrew Bible, and in many a person, custom, or institution,
a type of his character and reign. Early Christian litera-
ture, not less than the Aramaic Targums, testifies to this.
Thus the Old Testament became the source whence appar-
ently the ]\Iessianic ideal issued forth. The converging
point of all its streams was the life of Jesus. If the tradi-
tion of this life was enriched by features taken from the
prophetic word, the scope of Messianic prophecy was en-


larged at the suggestion of incidents in the biography.
But the writers of the New Testament did not only work to-
gether Biblical material with the tradition of what Jesus had
said and done ; they also built upon foundations that had
been laid in Greece and in the Orient. The strong Hellenis-
tic element in the New Testament facilitated a continuous
development of thought. It was not altogether a new world
the first Greek converts to Christianity were bidden to enter.
There were, indeed, many ideas that must have seemed very
strange, but also some that were quite familiar. The most
advanced type of Christology, which to the ordinary Jew
was least comprehensible and most objectionable, is likely
to have been one of the most congenial. There is no chasm
between the latest forms of thought in the New Testament
and the conceptions prevalent in other Christian writings
of the second century. However imperfect their methods
of interpretation may appear to modern minds, it would be
wrong to charge the Greek apologists and fathers with seri-
ously mistaking the trend of New Testament teaching.
And the great ecumenic creeds rest upon patristic Christol-
ogy. These creeds are a consistent development of certain
ideas that unquestionably hold an important place in New
Testament literature.^

It was honestly felt by some of the keenest minds of the
fourth century that the Christ they defined by dogma was
none else than the divine personality whose advent was pre-
dicted by the Old Testament and proclaimed by the New

^Eitschl and his school rightly emphasized the fresh influence of
Greek speculation upon the developing Christian dogma that came
with the first educated converts from paganism. But they were in-
clined to overlook the large element of Greek thought that already
existed among the Hellenistic Jews, to whom we owe the most impor-
tant types of Christology in the New Testament. Similarly, the early
Unitarians rendered a valuable service by pointing out that the doc-
trine of the Trinity was nowhere distinctly taught in the New Testa-
ment, as had been erroneously maintained, but themselves erred when,
seeking Scriptiu-al support for their conception of Jesus, they failed
to give their full weight and natural significance to passages that un-
mistakably tend in the direction of this doctrine.


Testament. This conviction was well nigh inevitable. Was
not the Old Testament full of distinct prophecies of the com-
ing of Christ, his life, his death and his resurrection ? Did
it not contain types clearly pointing to him? Had not
these prophecies and types been recognized by New Testa-
ment writers, nay, by Jesus himself ? Did not his life cor-
respond to the prophetic picture? Had he not claimed to
be the Messiah and been declared by God to be his only Son ?
Were not the miracles he wrought a ratification of his
claims? And must he not have been very God to accom-
plish the work of man's redemption, to abrogate the law, to
satisfy the demands of infinite justice, to offer an accept-
able sacrifice for the sins of the world, and to open the gates
of paradise to all believers? Only a being who was at the
same time true God and true man could restore fallen man
to his original state of purity, heal the mortal wound in-
flicted on him in the garden of Eden, overcome the devil's
power, and conquer death itself.

While thus the Christ-conception authoritatively pre-
sented by the church appeared to be fully verified by the
recognized standards of divine revelation, an even more im-
portant ratification of the doctrine came from Christian
experience. This divinely human being was not simply a
historic personage belonging to the past. Nor was he a
mere abstraction, a product of idle speculation. He was a
present reality, the object of love and worship. He was a
living source of spiritual blessings. Communion with him
gave power to overcome the bondage of sin, to endure the
ills of life, to face courageously even the last enemy. It
flooded the soul with a joy that the world could not give,
a boundless hope, and a sympathy that reached down to
earth's little ones, the weak, the ignorant, the debased. It
was a refuge in all hours of need. The believer knew that
his Redeemer lived, and that no words could adequately ex-
press his supreme worth, from an experience that was more
real to him than were the shifting scenes and sensations of
earth-bound life. Affection, as well as thought, centered
upon him and demanded to know what he was. The def-


inition was a work of adoring love not less than of profound
meditation. There were other forces at work. The shad-
ows fall wherever the sun shines. But the chief factors in
the construction of Christological dogma were an honest in-
terpretation of the Scriptures and an equally honest inter-
pretation of the facts of Christian experience.

This Christ-conception has been perpetuated by the same
forces that gave it existence. If it owed its finally prevail-
ing form to ecclesiastical authority, by ecclesiastical author-
ity it has been upheld. Men have sought to make it their
own because of this authority, from love or fear of conse-
quences, or unreflecting conformity. The resources of ec-
clesiastical power have been employed to discourage men
from adopting different views. Yet this external pressure
has probably contributed much less than is generally sup-
posed to the longevity of dogma.

Of greater and more permanent significance is the au-
thority ascribed to the Scriptures. As the Christ of the
creeds would not have become what he was but for the au-
thority of that divine revelation which, as it was inter-
preted, outlined precisely such a personality in prophecy
and fulfilment, in type and antitype, so he has remained un-
changed through the centuries in no small measure by vir-
tue of the authority accorded to these Scriptures which, it
was felt, bore witness of him. But even the assertion of
infallible authority would not secure such a recognition as
this conception has had.

Only a genuine personal conviction can explain the long
and general acceptance of the Christ of the creeds. This
conviction has, to a great extent, been formed by a consci-
entious study of the sources. Starting with certain primal
assumptions, the student cannot easily reach any other con-
clusion : and these assumptions are so natural that it does
not readily occur to him even to question them. If the tra-
dition that ascribes the Gospels to immediate followers of
Jesus is accepted, and the correctness of their use of the Old
Testament is taken for granted, the result cannot be doubt-
ful. The early narratives in Genesis will then be regarded


as historical ; the political hopes of Israel as Messianic
prophecies; personalities, events and institutions of the
chosen people as types of Christ; the sayings reported in
the Gospels as the very words of Jesus; the lofty claims
that some of these utterances contain in connection with the
miracles recorded as evidence of a double personality, hu-
man and divine, not unfittingly described in the terms of
the great creeds. On the other hand, why should not eye-
witnesses have written down the story of Jesus ' life ? And
Avho would be better fitted for interpreting the divine reve-
lation of the past than the immediate recipients of the
crowning revelation in which the old found its fulfilment?

Even the most enlightened and truth-seeking of men, pro-
ceeding from such general assumptions, would naturally see
in the New Testament authority for seeking in the Old Tes-
tament a prophetic description of Christ, in the fulfilment of
prophecy in the New Testament evidence of the authority of
the Old Testament, and in the dogma of the Church a legiti-
mate statement of the most essential teachings of both. A
different estimate is precluded by modes of interpreta-
tion that receive their sanction from apostolic use. The
allegorical method draws attention away from gram-
matical sense, literary form, and historic setting, to a hidden
meaning organically connected with the body of accepted
doctrine. It finds the same unchanged ideas everywhere in
the Scriptures. Its legacy is a certain inability to distin-
guish between things that differ, an often unconscious ten-
dency to overlook inconsistencies and contradictions, a
proneness to view ideas scattered through a literature ex-
tending over a thousand years as integral parts of one sys-
tem of thought, a lack of historic sense. The very looseness
of an interpretation that cannot quite emancipate itself
from these effects of the allegorical method may add strength
to conviction, since it removes all obstacles and allows sub-
jective faith to see its owti reflection in the Bible.

But the most powerful influence tending to perpetuate
the Christological dogma is, without question, the associa-
tion, in the mind of the believer, of the statements of the


creed with the experiences of his own soul. A nature foul
with inherited evil proclivities and acquired sinful habits is
cleansed and filled with holy aspirations, love of goodness,
and spiritual power by contact with the Son of God. In-
stead of doubt and perplexity, moral weakness and an aim-
less drifting with the fashions of the world, a fruitless search
for pleasure and a cheerless labor, a dull indifference to fate
or a constant fear of death, there are the light and power of
an all conquering faith, the strenuous effort to realize a high
ideal, the joy of Avork for noble ends, and the hope of an
immortal life. The dangers that beset man's life no longer
terrify, no earth-born happiness can enthral, the tenderest

Online LibraryNathaniel SchmidtThe prophet of Nazareth → online text (page 1 of 38)