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Foreign Religious Series

Edited by
R. J. COOKE, D. D.

Second Series. i6mo. cloth. Each 40 cents, net.



By Professor Ludwig Lemme, of the University
of Heidelberg


(two parts)
By Professor Paul Peine, of the University of Vienna



By Professor Philipp Bachmann, of the University

of Erlangen



By Professor Conrad Von Orelli, of the University
of Basle


By Professor K. Miiller, of the University of Erlangen

The New Message in
the Teaching of Jesus


Professor of Theology in the University of Erlangen


L ! 4 01 -


P 191498

TILDEN Foi'Mo/.xioNS


Copyright, 1907, by


In times of old Israel was fruitful in re-
ligious vitality. Holy seers and singers,
pious women, God-inspired heroes formed
the living power of its history. The whole
Israelitish nationality was governed by the
thought of God — early it willingly suffered
to be impregnated by it; and early again it
was unwillingly subdued by it. But the re-
ligious life in mutual conditionality was
here most intimately connected with the life
of the nation. At decisive turns of national
and political development piety and religious
belief are therefore also in the most vital
commotion. As a matter of course centuries
of rest and relaxation follow. The religious
power without always becoming wholly
extinct, loses nevertheless some of its fer-
vent immediateness, some of its former in-
exhaustible depth. Thus changed, ebb and
flow, in Israel's religious development. The
tide is the hour of living production. From
hidden sources come new benefits. Who-

6 The New Message

ever draws from them, brings fresh Hfe.
The ebb brings new tasks; what the tide
brought up, it collects, preserves, works up.
In the place of production comes reproduc-
tion; the new is conserved, finally it be-
comes old, being long possessed, and the
times gradually become ripe for the prophet,
for the genius, who is to lift himself up and
the times with him to a new development.

Jesus descended from Israel's soil. One
can hardly think too realistically of this,
how much he was inwardly connected with
the religious peculiarity of his people and
their laws of development. He grew up
under the influence of the ancient, sacred
authorities of his people, the Scripture, the
cult, the entire religious order of life and
mode of thinking. These influences were
especially strong about him. For according
to its general nature the time of Jesus be-
longed on the whole to the more conserva-
tive and reproductive periods of Israel's his-
tory of religion. The synagogues were
above all the places where the religious life
of the Jews was moulded and fostered ; in the
synagogue, however, ruled the scribe and
he was the keeper of tradition. No public,

The Question 7

or any paid office gave him so much influ-
ence. The scribes were in themselves pri-
vate persons like others ; not a few of them
made their living by the work of their
hands. But they differed from others by
their theological professional training. They
devoted close study to the Holy Scripture.
They understood, what the common man in
the time of Jesus did not understand, the
Hebrew, the language of the Old Testa-
ment; and through these scribes he was
obHged to have the Scripture, which he
wished to hear, translated into the Aramaic
vernacular. The religious lectures in the
schools were not exclusively by them, yet
for the most part this instruction was in their
hands. On the basis of the Old Testament
law they made the law for the time being.
As spiritual guides they often came into very
close relationship with the individual. With-
out their help he was unable to apply con-
scientiously to the different conditions of life
the intricate injunctions of the law and the
"traditions of the elders." Those of Israel's
youth who were mentally aspiring, attended
their lectures. Thus they had the oppor-
tunity to exercise an influence in all direc-

8 The New Message

tions. And they exercised it throughout in
the sense of a strict obedience toward that
which in rehgious matters was considered by
the fathers in virtue of the Scripture as
lawful and as law. The light and shade of
their activity came from their most peculiar
method. True, they had to succumb to the
movements with which Judaism in general
had to submit in religious matters since the
extinction of the prophetic spirit; but they
also helped at the same time that such move-
ments appeared as the highest and only au-
thority. Though they presented something
new in their treatment, it appeared as
ancient and demanded respect. Thus the
time when Jesus appeared, was under the
sign of the rule of the old. Jesus also
worked in the manner of a scribe. He
taught in the schools from the Scripture,
gave pastoral advice as to good and evil;
and gathered a circle of studious hearers
around him. As a result he was also hon-
ored with the title of the scribes, "Rabbi."
He was called by the people "Master" (Mark
5. 35; Luke 17. 13); "Rabbi" by his dis-
ciples (Mark 4. 38; John 11. 8) and even
by the members of the body of the scribes

The Question 9

(Matt. 8. 19; 12. 38; Luke 11. 45; John 3.
2). Jesus did not object to this address
(see Matt. 19. 16-19) ; ^^ ^^en found it
in harmony with his character (John 13.
13; Matt. 23. 8).

Thus with many traits of his appearance
he could be classified with that which ex-
isted, and it w^as his own expressed in-
tention to let alone the venerable, ancient
foundations of the whole. "Think not that
I am come to destroy the law, or the
prophets" (Matt. 5. 17). Yet, the picture
of Jesus did not fully and always fit in that
setting. The scribes themselves did not find
him up to the mark ; because he was not edu-
cated according to their rules; he was only
a self-taught person (John 7. 15). His
teaching had not the traditional origin ; and
it lacked also the traditional manner. How
could he, who had not the stamp of the
school, be at home in mere traditions? Jesus
did not attend the lectures of the rabbis,
which necessarily means at the same time —
by all connection with the old — that he had
nevertheless and from the beginning in him-
self something that was independent, fresh,
and immediate. When he stepped forth

lo The New Message

from his retirement, the people recognized
his influence in the sentiment : "He teaches
as one having authority and not as our
scribes'* (Matt. 7. 29). What new doctrine
is this? (Mark i. 27.) Such recognition of
the new, as it did not exist before, referred
not immediately and altogether to the word
of this scribe, but to the deeds accompanying
his word; "for with authority commandeth
he even the unclean spirits, and they obey
him" (Mark i. 2y), But it concerned also
his word. It was felt that this teacher need-
ed no authority such as the schools conferred
through its learning which was obtained and
preserved through centuries. By a power
immediately belonging to himself he secured
for his word a place in human hearts.

Wherein did this power consist ? It was the
power of his independent personality; but
it was also the peculiar character of his
preaching, which, because convincing, ear-
nestly aroused the heart and conscience. He
not only spoke as one differing from those
whom they usually heard, but he also spoke
something different from what they usually
heard, differing so much in all this that oc-
casionally Jesus had to emphasize the great

The Question ii

contrast between the authoritative old and
the freshly flowing new: "No man also
seweth a piece of new cloth on an old gar-
ment, else the new piece that filled it up
taketh away from the old, and the rent is
made worse" (Mark 2. 21).

The nature of the future work of his
disciples Jesus comprised once in the rule:
"Every scribe which is instructed into the
kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that
is an householder, which bringeth forth out
of his treasure things nczv and old'^ (Matt.
13. 52). Things new and old; this means
here in the widest sense — authoritative and
personal, traditional and newly received, ac-
quired and experienced, common and indi-
vidual. But Jesus himself was such a scribe
instructed into the kingdom of heaven, the
highest among all, the most faithful to tra-
dition and at the same time the most produc-
tive, the end and the beginning in one. Thus
he carried in his inward treasure things old,
which he had from others and shared with
others, and things new, which originally
and solely belonged to him. The clear ques-
tion then is: Where does the independence
of Jesus begin ?

12 The New Message

What is the New, which separates him
from his surroundings? We seek it in
his teaching. But is not this a mistake
from the start? Does not the productive
power of Jesus consist in his personahty,
in the carrying out of a personal hfe filled
by God with greatness and purity and fire?
Is not this more important and more orig-
inal than the ideas and thoughts which filled
him? The present time has a special eye
for this side of the life of Jesus. But it is in
danger of running into opposition with
reality by tearing asunder the teaching and
the person of Jesus. In opposition to simple
historical reality, we repeat, for those first
disciples who lived entirely in the immediate
contemplation of the personality of Jesus,
felt themselves bound to him because they
had to confess: "Thou hast the words of
Eternal Life" (John 6. 68) ; and Jesus him-
self bound with all emphasis to his sayings
those who wished to be his disciples and
through him raised to salvation (Matt. 7.
24). His word is the seed of the kingdom
of heaven (Mark 4. 14), for it is spirit
and life and the power of sanctification
(John 6. 63 ; 17. 17). But even with a gen-

The Question 13

eral psychological reality, that separation
and opposition does not agree; for a per-
sonal life, just as it is purified, harmonious
and independent in itself, has not its roots
outside of the thoughts, cognitions, ideas of
man, but in them, though not exclusively in
them. And this applies to Jesus in a special
degree. To be sure, his word came entirely
from the depths of his life purely and strictly
grounded in God; but the manifold fullness
of his personality, all his humility and all his
courage, grew up also in the truth which
filled him and revealed to him God, himself
and the kingdom of God. His whole soul
lived in the inner word with which he appre-
hended this, and in the outer word, in which
he spoke of it. His speech is the revelation-
side of his nature ; and whoever approached
him, must take him at his word. When
therefore, the question is raised. What is the
new in Jesus, we are permitted to seek it, not
merely naturally, but first of all in his teach-
ing. Newton revealed the laws of gravita-
tion ; Kant understood the conscience as the
categorical imperative of pure duty; Paul
presented the idea of justification by faith —
hut what new thing did Jesus teach ust



Belief in the one living God was for a
long time the peculiar distinction of Judaism
above other nations. It expressed this belief
in such form that it asserted a unique com-
munion-relation between God and itself.
Even the history of the first Christian church
shows that it was very hard for many a
born Jew to divest himself of the idea that
one must be a Jew in order to be assured of
the goodness of God. Christianity has fun-
damentally overcome this natural barrier of
religion. On this account it is sometimes
asserted that the originality of its founder
consisted in this, that he taught that God is
the shield and keeper not of one people but
of all men ; with him God is no respecter of
persons. In those circles in which scientific
mode of speculation is preached, this con-
ception is laid aside, especially when it im-
agines that the significance of Jesus is cre-
ated by that thought. But, as seems to be, it
has its great after-effects elsewhere. It is

The Insufficient Answer 15

quite natural. Christian belief in God grew
out of the Jewish; but of the differences
between the two, the universalist idea of
the Christian is most obvious. Judaism
was a national religion. Christianity is a
world religion. It must therefore be that its
founder who effected this progress, is a his-
torical character. One thing also is undoubt-
edly correct in this conception : From Christ,
and from no other did early Christianity re-
ceive courage to offer itself to the heathen
world, to the cultured and the barbarous.
Paul is indeed an organ, even the chiefest of
all for this progress, but he was not its
author. But the ruling New doctrine, which
Jesus taught, is not expressed by that
thought. True, Jesus taught that the w^orld
is the field in which God soweth his seed of
the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 13. 38) ; he
prophesied that the kingdom of God should
be taken from the Jews and be given to the
Gentiles (Matt. 21. 43; 8. 11-19). But the
idea of an international religious communion
as the ideal of the future, is already met
with in the Old Testament (Isa. 25. 6; 49.
6; 60. 3; Micah 4. i seq. ; Zeph. 3. 9; Hag.
2. 6, 9 ; Zech. 2. 1 1 ) ; it is not even wholly

i6 The New Message

foreign to rabbinic Judaism, and has on the
other hand in the teaching of Jesus so Httle
of the strain, that in the conflict between
Jesus and Judaism, it only cooperated in so
far as it included the rejection of Israel, that
is, its exclusion from the world-embracing
peace of God. Inaccurate observation could
in our days even lead to the result that uni-
versalism was entirely foreign to Jesus ; that
it is far away from forming the nucleus of
his teaching.

The mistake with which we had thus far
to deal has its origin, not so much in certain
facts from the life-picture of Jesus, as in
uncertain expressions, which his personality
brings to bear upon us. From a mistaken
minimizing of some real traces of his life,
there arose in the period of the Aiifklarung
or "illumination" and still arises a different
conception of the new teaching which he
brought. Again and again it must be em-
phasized that Jesus closely connected religion
with morality. He did it in the sense that
no piety is of any value which is lacking in
good works. Most keenly did Jesus express
this principle when, on the one hand he had
to deal with the conflict between the sacred

The Insufficient Answer 17

ceremonies in the cult concerning the hand
and mouth, and on the other the simple
every-day work of love. He denied to the
former all worth and considered only the
good deed. The praise of the Samaritan
who has no part in the sacred sacrificial cult
of Israel, but saves him that fell among the
thieves, is at the same time a condemnation
of the priest, who had behind him a holy
day's work in "the service of God," but re-
fuses to help the distressed (Luke 10. 20-
29). To do good sanctifies the Sabbath
rather than strict ritual (Matt. 12. 7). Not
the cry, "Lord, Lord" leads into the kingdom
of heaven, but the exercise of love, meekness,
mercy, peace (Matt. 7. 21).

In all this imperishable truths are given
to us. But whoever infers from this sub-
ordination of the cultic work to the good
deed, that Jesus merged the religious in the
moral, and that this is his real merit, obtains
a perfect caricature of him. Those cere-
monies were a mere manifestation, the mere
garb of religiousness. Criticism on such
can therefore also take place in the interest
of a purification of religion instead of be-
coming an argument for that conception.

(i8 The New Message

It is not even correct to say, that according
to Jesus the promotion of the morally good
in the world is the proper participation in
the kingdom of God. For, in the first place,
Jesus is a preacher of religious certainty;
every moral ideal which he teaches, is de-
rived from that. Good is that which is done
in imitation of God, evincing religious be-
lief in him, in working out a deep sense of
divine adoption (Matt. 5. 48). Had Jesus
taught as the Aufkldrung or "illumina-
tion" often imagined, had he really elimi-
nated the mystic, condemned the withdrawal
of piety to monastic retreats and put the
true love to man, or even the service of
culture in the forefront, certainly, in the
surroundings in which he lived and in the
entire historical movement into which he en-
tered, this were something perfectly new,
something unheard of, and our questions
were soon answered. But the real Jesus has
not the least to do with the notion that be-
neficence not prayer is the characteristic of
the true Christian fashioned after Jesus.

Thus far we have swung round the utter-
most circle beyond which are notions which
must be rejected from the start, provided

The Insufficient Answer 19

one will come to the point. We are not the
only ones who reject them; any competent
judge will do so. But within that circle
there is still room aiough for very different
views; and the present time is the least
unanimous concerning what propositions
shall be agreed upon. Yea, its whole inner
confusion is connected with this, that in the
question — what new teaching has Jesus
given to the world — it cannot obtain a uni-
form point of view.

In his Wesen der Religion (1903)
Bousset described the position of Jesus
within the religious historical development
of humanity and especially of Israel. Ac-
cording to him Jesus freed religion from the
national and ceremonial, but also from be-
lief in the letter — not by violent destruction
of the old, not by tenet and theories, but by
unchaining a new spirit of inwardness and
personality. His piety embraced a less as
against the sum of a thousand single deeds
and single acts, with which Judaism had
connected the worship of God ; which by be-
ing simpler, was at the same time deeper.
Such piety rests on the fear of the almighty
God; but from it rises victorious trust in

20 The New Message

God as the Father, Creator, Upholder and
Preserver of our higher spiritually personal
•existence, the gracious friend of sinners;
and it exhausts itself in moral fruitfulness,
which comes from the expectation of judg-
ment before the eternal Judge. Moral, re-
deeming religion — to state it in the full clear-
ness and simplicity of its nature — that is the
originality of the preaching of Jesus. In
its center "stands belief in the deliverance
and unchaining of the good will through the
forgiveness of sins."* Quite a number of
recent descriptions of the teaching and per-
son of Jesus move in a like sphere of
thought. Otto praises Jesus of Nazareth
as the awakener of inward piety and the dis-
coverer of moral personality.^ Julicher
teaches that Jesus gave to the world a new
ideal of morality ; unselfish love, and a new
ideal of piety, joyous belief in the Father in
heaven.^ Harnack also belongs here.* He
distinguishes — wholly in the sense of our
inquiry on the preaching and ideas of Jesus
— things which he had in common with his

iBousset, Jesus, 1904, p. 79.

sLeben und Werken Jesu, 1905.

8 Das Messianische Selbstbewusstsein Jesus, 1903.

* Wesen des Christenthums, 1900, p. 33 seq.

The Insufficient Answer 21

contemporaries, and things which were
peculiar to him. The latter are the really
valuable in him. And it is in this that by
divesting himself of everything particular
and legal, he led men to God and taught
them to live in him as their Father; to
bring about in this communion of their
soul with God the theocracy; to lift them-
selves up to inner strength and a world-
overcoming independence in the certainty
of the forgiveness of sins ; to perceive in life
and death the hand of the living God and his
providence; to make humility before God
the source of everything good in pure love
to men. In his new knowledge of God,
which did not exist before, consists the pe-
culiar life-content, which Jesus asserts of
himself under the idea of divine Sonship.
Less easily than those mentioned above,
Pfleiderer gets over the fact that Jesus en-
riched his self-consciousness with the full
realization of ideas of his Messiahship and
as judge of the world. But he also sees the
real importance of the person of Jesus in
this, that he proclaimed the ideal of the
government of God^ in the hearts of his chil-

iThiswas also the everrecurring Idea of Renan. — Editor.

22 The New Message

dren and in the fellowship of his Kingdom.*
The idea of perfect spiritually moral religion
is accordingly the new teaching. But this
in so far as it advanced to clearness and
power was an anticipation and impulse al-
ready dormant in humanity in general.^

What have all these conceptions in com-
mon? Humanity was a long time already
on the way seeking God; but Jesus dis-
covered him for humanity and expressed in
his teaching that which he found, whom he
found. By that he revealed to humanity
what genuine belief in God is and what true
love is ; showed it in its full purity and gave
it to humanity for an everlasting possession.
He is accordingly that organ through which
humanity made the most decisive advance
in the development of its relation to (jod, or,
more correctly, obtained the height of per-
fection. The new which Jesus brought lies
therefore in the sphere of the subjective or
inner conditionality of humanity. It there-
by remains though one closes not his eyes
to the discernment that all advances of his-

1 Die Entstehung der Christenthums, 1905, p. 61 seq.

2 Das Christusbild des urchristlichen Glaubens in reli-
gionsgeschichtlichen Beleuchtung, 1903.

The Insufficient Answer 23

tory, and therefore all that is effected by
Jesus, took place under the inspiration of a
divine life.

It is true, that in Jesus Christ the reve-
lation of God consummated itself, but this
revelation is the awakening of perfect piety
of heart in man. With these fundamental
ideas the discussed conception comes forth
from the isolation in which wx have thus
far considered it, as one diffused at pres-
ent, and to the final point of a long series
of opinions concerning Jesus which, in spite
of all variety, agree in this, that the dis-
tinguishing mark of Jesus relating to his
teaching, is comprised in the doctrine of
the purification of the moral or religious
idea of humanity. Thus Schleiermacher
measured the perfection of the teaching of
Jesus by this, that he actively expressed in
it his original and creative divine conscious-
ness with the intention that it should be ap-
propriated by men.^ There exists a chasm be-
tween Schleiermacher' s theology and that of
old "illumination." He knew better than this,
and the newest theology following his traces
knows how to appreciate the creative power

1 Der Christliche Glaube, p. 103.

24 The New Message

which emanates from Jesus; also to seek
religion not in correct ideas of the human
mind about God, but in hearts moved by the
spirit of God, the spirit of love. Neverthe-
less, there is something in common between
him and the old illumination which bridges
this chasm. It lies in the direction which
engages us. For even the "illumination" of
the eighteenth century recognized the im-
portance of Jesus in this that he developed
and transformed the religious possession of
humanity. In his Education of the Human
Race (p. 58) Lessing himself calls Christ
the first trustworthy, practical teacher of the
immortality of the soul. But in the main
this is only an arbitrary limitation, a taking
out of a single sentence from a comprehen-
sive conception which Bretschneider thus
expressed : "With reference to his teaching,
Jesus retained the general religious teach-
ings of the Old Testament and confirmed
them; and changed and rejected only such
statements which were hurtful to morality,
or would prevent the essence of religion, es-
pecially the merit of sacrifices, of the many
daily prayers, of Levitical purification, the
burdensome ceremonial service, resting on

The Insufficient Answer 25

tradition, and the narrow, bigoted notion of

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Online LibraryPhilipp BachmannThe new message in the teaching of Jesus → online text (page 1 of 3)