Christ and the Caesars
(Berlin: Eugen Grosser,
1877; 1879, 2d. ed.) (German text)
Christ and the Caesars
Origin of the Christians
Mythology of Rome
Printed and Published by Eugen Grosser.
[ iii-iv ]
I. Seneca's Religious Contribution.011 1. Recent Opinions of Stoicism
016 2. Review of Cicero
020 3. Seneca's Teachers
028 4. Opinions of Seneca's Christianity
032 5. Seneca's Views of Politics
036 6. Seneca's New Religion
043 7. Seneca's Ideals
047 8. Seneca in The New Testament
061 9. Seneca's Compromises
II. Seneca as Nero's Teacher and Minister.066 1. The Dissolution of the Roman Particularism
071 2. Nero's Failings as a Man
079 3. The Humanist School of Rhetoric
089 4. Seneca's Rhetoric Training
092 5. Seneca at Claudius' Court
110 6. The Humanitarian on the Throne
117 7. Agrippina's Death
III. The Downfall of Nero and Seneca.126 1. The Cosmopolitan on the Throne
140 2 Seneca's Disgrace
146 3. Octavia
150 4. The Roman Fire and the Christians
157 5. Seneca's Death
162 6. Seneca lampooning Claudius' Ascent Into Heaven
166 7. Nero's Death
171 8. Nero as the Antichrist
173 9. Persius, Lucan and Petronius
IV. The House of the Flavians and Judaism.183 1. The Invasion of the Western World Through the Orient
189 2. The Historical Sources of the Jewish War
194 3. Position of the Jews up to the Outbreak of the War
205 4. Josephus as a War Lord and Messenger of God
213 5. Josephus at the Gates of Jerusalem
217 6. Josephus at the Triumph of Titus
219 7. The World Religion of Josephus
225 8. A Heraclitic School
228 9. Domitian and the Humble Ones
V. Trajan and the Emergence of Christianity.244 1. The Happiest Epoch for Humanity in Roman History
255 2. The Judgment of the World
260 3. The Era of Trajan
268 4. Pliny and the Christians
VI. Hadrian and the Christian Gnosis.276 1. The Magnified Nero
289 2. Hadrian's Letter Regarding Religious Diversity in Alexandria
292 3. Jewish Uprisings and the Age of Messianic Images
298 4. The Road to the Gospel
309 5. The Christian Gnosis
VII. The Age of Marcus Aurelius.319 1. Marcus Aurelius' Contemplations
325 2. Christianity as a Development of Greek Culture
329 3. The Morality of Roman Society
334 4. Marcus Aurelius' Fate
VIII. The Completion of New Testament Literature.345 1. A Great Story and Late Work of Fiction
348 2. The Beatitudes and Legal Development in Luke and Matthew's Sources
365 3. Variations on the Battle Cries of the Proto-Gospel
357 4. Story of the Childhood of Jesus
362 5. The Gnosticism in the Fourth Gospel
367 6. The Paul of the Acts of The Apostles
371 7. Gnosticism in the Pauline Letters
380 8. Conclusion of Peace Between Peter and Paul
(this web-page is still under construction)
Professor Bruno Bauer (1809-1882)
This web-page is still under contructionBRUNO BAUER was born in 1809 at Eisenberg, in the duchy of Sachsen-Altenburg. In philosophy, he was at first associated entirely with the Hegelian "right." Like Strauss, he received a strong impulse from Vatke. At this stage of his development he reviewed, in 1835 and 1836, Strauss's Life of Jesus in the Jahrbucher fur wissenschaftliche Kritik, and wrote in 1838 a "Criticism of the History of Revelation" (Kritik der Geschichte der Offenbarung).
In 1834 he had become Privat-Docent in Berlin, but in 1839 he removed to Bonn. He was then in the midst of that intellectual crisis of which the evidence appeared in his critical works on John and the Synoptics. In August 1841 the Minister, Eichhorn, requested the Faculties of the Prussian Universities to report on the question whether Bauer should be allowed to retain the venia docendi. Most of them returned an evasive answer, Konigsberg replied in the affirmative, and Bonn in the negative. In March 1842 Bauer was obliged to cease lecturing, and retired to Rixdorf near Berlin. In the first heat of his furious indignation over this treatment he wrote a work with the title "Christianity Exposed," (Das entdeckte Christentum. See also Die gute Sache der Freiheit und meine eigene Angelegenheit. [The Good Cause of Freedom, in Connexion with my own Case.] Zurich, 1843. which, however, was cancelled before publication at Zurich in 1843).
He then turned his attention to secular history and wrote on the French Revolution, on Napoleon, on the Illuminism of the Eighteenth Century, and on the party struggles in Germany during the years 1842-1846. At the beginning of the 'fifties he returned to theological subjects, but failed to exercise any influence. His work was simply ignored.
Radical though he was in spirit, Bauer found himself fighting, at the end of the 'fifties and beginning of the 'sixties, in the ranks of the Prussian Conservatives -- we are reminded how Strauss in the Wiirtemberg Chamber was similarly forced to side with the reactionaries. He died in 1882. His was a pure, modest, and lofty character.
At the time of his removal from Berlin to Bonn he was just at the end of the twenties, that critical age when pupils often surprise their teachers, when men begin to find themselves and show what they are, not merely what they have been taught.
Investigating Messianic History (1840s)
In approaching the investigation of the Gospel history, Bauer saw, as he himself tells us, two ways open to him. He might take as his starting-point the Jewish Messianic conception, and endeavour to answer the question how the intuitive prophetic idea of the Messiah became a fixed reflective conception. That was the historical method; he chose, however, the other, the literary method. This starts from the opposite side of the question, from the end instead of the beginning of the Gospel history. Taking first the Gospel of John, in which it is obvious that reflective thought has fitted the life of the Jewish Messiah into the frame of the Logos conception, he then, starting as it were from the embouchure of the stream, works his way upwards to the high ground in which the Gospel tradition takes its rise. The decision in favour of the latter view determined the character of Bauer's life-work; it was his task to follow out, to its ultimate consequences, the literary solution of the problem of the life of Jesus.
How far this path would lead him he did not at first suspect. But he did suspect how strong was the influence upon the formation of history of a dominant idea which moulds and shapes it with a definite artistic purpose. His interest was especially arrested by Philo, who, without knowing or intending it, contributed to the fulfilment of a higher task than that with which he was immediately engaged. Bauer's view is that a speculative principle such as Philo's, when it begins to take possession of men's minds, influences them in the first glow of enthusiasm which it evokes with such overmastering power that the just claims of that which is actual and historical cannot always secure the attention which is their due. In Philo's pupil, John, we must look, not for history, but for art.
The Fourth Gospel
The Fourth Gospel is in fact a work of art. This was now for the first time appreciated by one who was himself an artist. Schleiermacher, indeed, had at an earlier period taken up the aesthetic standpoint in considering this Gospel. But he had used it as an apologist, proceeding to exalt the artistic truth which he rightly recognised into historic reality, and his critical sense failed him, precisely because he was an aesthete and an apologist, when he came to deal with the Fourth Gospel. Now, however, there comes forward a true artist, who shows that the depth of religious and intellectual insight which Tholuck and Neander, in opposing Strauss, had urged on behalf of the Fourth Gospel, is Christian art.
In Bauer, however, the aesthete is at the same time a critic. Although much in the Fourth Gospel is finely "felt," like the opening scenes referring to the Baptist and to Jesus, which Bauer groups together under the heading "The Circle of the Expectant," yet his art is by no means always perfect. The author who conceived those discourses, of which the movement consists in a kind of tautological return upon itself, and who makes the parables trail out into dragging allegories, is no perfect artist. "The parable of the Good Shepherd," says Bauer, "is neither simple, nor natural, nor a true parable, but a metaphor, which is, nevertheless, much too elaborate for a metaphor, is not clearly conceived, and, finally, in places shows much too clearly the skeleton of reflection over which it is stretched."
Bauer treats, in his work of 1840 (Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte des Johannes), the Fourth Gospel only. The Synoptics he deals with only in a quite incidental fashion, "as opposing armies make demonstrations in order to provoke the enemy to a decisive conflict."
He breaks off at the beginning of the story of the passion, because here it would be necessary to bring in the Synoptic parallels. "From the distant heights on which the Synoptic forces have taken up a menacing position, we must now draw them down into the plain; now comes the pitched battle between them and the Fourth Gospel, and the question regarding the historical character of that which we have found to be the ultimate basis of the last Gospel, can now at length be decided."
If, in the Gospel of John, no smallest particle could be found which was unaffected by the creative reflection of the author, how will it stand with the Synoptists ?
The Synoptic Gospels
When Bauer broke off his work upon John in this abrupt way for he had not originally intended to conclude it at this point how far did he still retain a belief in the historical character of the Synoptics? It looks as if he had intended to treat them as the solid foundation, in contrast with the fantastic structure raised upon it by the Fourth Gospel. But when he began to use his pick upon the rock, it crumbled away. Instead of a difference of kind he found only a difference of degree. The "Criticism of the Gospel History of the Synoptists" of 1841 is built on the site which Strauss had levelled. "The abiding influence of Strauss," says Bauer, "consists in the fact that he has removed from the path of subsequent criticism the danger and trouble of a collision with the earlier orthodox system."
Bauer finds his material laid ready to his hand by Weisse and Wilke. Weisse had divined in Mark the source from which criticism becoming barren in the work of Strauss might draw a new spring of vigorous life; and Wilke, whom Bauer places above Weisse, had raised this happy conjecture to the level of a scientifically assured result. The Marcan hypothesis was no longer on its trial.
But its bearing upon the history of Jesus had still to be determined. What position do Weisse and Wilke take up towards the hypothesis of a tradition lying behind the Gospel of Mark? If it be once admitted that the whole Gospel tradition, so far as concerns its plan, goes back to a single writer, who has created the connexion between the different events for neither Weisse nor Wilke regards the connexion of the sections as historical does not the possibility naturally suggest itself that the narrative of the events themselves, not merely the connexion in which they appear in Mark, is to be set down to the account of the author of the Gospel? Weisse and Wilke had not suspected how great a danger arises when, of the three witnesses who represent the tradition, only one is allowed to stand, and the tradition is recognised and allowed to exist in this one written form only. The triple embankment held; will a single one bear the strain?
The following considerations have to be taken into account. The criticism of the Fourth Gospel compels us to recognise that a Gospel may have a purely literary origin. This discovery dawned upon Bauer at a time when he was still disinclined to accept Wilke's conclusions regarding Mark. But when he had recognised the truth of the latter he felt compelled by the combination of the two to accept the idea that Mark also might be of purely literary origin. For Weisse and Wilke the Marcan hypothesis had not implied this result, because they continued to combine with it the wider hypothesis of a general tradition, holding that Matthew and Luke used the collection of "Logia," and also owed part of their supplementary matter to a free use of floating tradition, so that Mark, it might almost be said, merely supplied them with the formative principle by means of which they might order their material.
But what if Papias's statement about the collection of "Logia" were worthless, and could be shown to be so by the literary data? In that case Matthew and Luke would be purely literary expansions of Mark, and like him, purely literary inventions.
In this connexion Bauer attaches decisive importance to the phenomena of the birth-stories. If these had been derived from tradition they could not differ from each other as they do. If it is suggested that tradition had produced a large number of independent, though mutually consistent, stories of the childhood, out of which the Evangelists composed their opening narratives, this also is found to be untenable, for these narratives are not composite structures. The separate stories of which each of these two histories of the childhood consists could not have been formed independently of one another; none of them existed by itself; each points to the others and is informed by a view which implies the whole. The histories of the childhood are therefore not literary versions of a tradition, but literary inventions.
If we go on to examine the discourse and narrative material, additional to that of Mark, which is found in Matthew and Luke, a similar result appears. The same standpoint is regulative throughout, showing that the additions do not consist of oral or written traditional material which has been worked into the Marcan plan, but of a literary development of certain fundamental ideas and suggestions found in the first author. These developments, as is shown by the accounts of the Sermon on the Mount and the charge to the Twelve, are not carried as far in Luke as in Matthew. The additional material in the latter seems indeed to be worked up from suggestions in the former. Luke thus forms the transition stage between Mark and Matthew. The Marcan hypothesis, accordingly, now takes on the following form. Our knowledge of the Gospel history does not rest upon any basis of tradition, but only upon three literary works. Two of these are not independent, being merely expansions of the first, and the third, Matthew, is also dependent upon the second. Consequently there is no tradition of the Gospel history, but only a single literary source.
But, if so, who is to assure us that this Gospel history, with its assertion of the Messiahship of Jesus, was already a matter of common knowledge before it was fixed in writing, and did not first become known in a literary form? In the latter case, one man would have created out of general ideas the definite historical tradition in which these ideas are embodied.
Messianic Expectations an Historic Fraud?
The only thing that could be set against this literary possibility, as a historical counter-possibility, would be a proof that at the period when the Gospel history is supposed to take place a Messianic expectation really existed among the Jews, so that a man who claimed to be the Messiah and was recognised as such, as Mark represents Jesus to have been, would be historically conceivable. This presupposition had hitherto been unanimously accepted by all writers, no matter how much opposed in other respects. They were all satisfied "that before the appearance of Jesus the expectation of a Messiah prevailed among the Jews;" and were even able to explain its precise character.
But where apart from the Gospels did they get their information from? Where is the documentary evidence of the Jewish Messianic doctrine on which that of the Gospels is supposed to be based? Daniel was the last of the prophets. Everything tends to suggest that the mysterious content of his work remained without influence in the subsequent period. Jewish literature ends with the Wisdom writings, in which there is no mention of a Messiah. In the LXX there is no attempt to translate in accordance with a preconceived picture of the Messiah. In the Apocalypses, which are of small importance, there is reference to a Messianic Kingdom; the Messiah Himself, however, plays a quite subordinate part, and is, indeed, scarcely mentioned. For Philo He has no existence; the Alexandrian does not dream of connecting Him with his Logos speculation. There remain, therefore, as witnesses for the Jewish Messianic expectations in the time of Tiberius, only Mark and his imitators. This evidence, however, is of such a character that in certain points it contradicts itself.
In the first place, if at the time when the Christian community was forming its view of history and the religious ideas which we find in the Gospels, the Jews had already possessed a doctrine of the Messiah, there would have been already a fixed type of interpretation of the Messianic passages in the Old Testament, and it would have been impossible for the same passages to be interpreted in a totally different way, as referring to Jesus and His work, as we find them interpreted in the New Testament. Next, consider the representation of the Baptist's work. We should have expected him to connect his baptism with the preaching of "Him who was to come" -- if this were really the Messiah -- by baptizing in the name of this "Coming One." He, however, keeps them separate, baptizing in preparation for the Kingdom, though referring in his discourses to "Him who was to come."
The earliest Evangelist did not venture openly to carry back into the history the idea that Jesus had claimed to be the Messiah, because he was aware that in the time of Jesus no general expectation of the Messiah had prevailed among the people. When the disciples in Mark viii. 28 report the opinions of the people concerning Jesus they cannot mention any who hold Him to be the Messiah. Peter is the first to attain to the recognition of His Messiahship. But as soon as the confession is made the Evangelist makes Jesus forbid His disciples to tell the people who He is. Why is the attribution of the Messiahship to Jesus made in this surreptitious and inconsistent way? It is because the writer who gave the history its form well knew that no one had ever come forward publicly on Palestinian soil to claim the Messiahship, or had been recognised by the people as Messiah.
The "reflective conception of the Messiah" was not, therefore, taken over ready-made from Judaism; that dogma first arose along with the Christian community, or rather the moment in which it arose was the same in which the Christian community had its birth.
Moreover, how unhistorical, even on a priori grounds, is the mechanical way in which Jesus at this first appearance at once sets Himself up as the Messiah and says, "Behold I am He whom ye have expected." In essence, Bauer thinks, there is not so much difference between Strauss and Hengstenberg. For Hengstenberg the whole life of Jesus is the living embodiment of the Old Testament picture of the Messiah ; Strauss, a less reverent counterpart of Hengstenberg, made the image of the Messiah into a mask which Jesus Himself was obliged to assume, and which legend afterwards substituted for His real features.
"We save the honour of Jesus," says Bauer, "when we restore His Person to life from the state of inanition to which the apologists have reduced it, and give it once more a living relation to history, which it certainly possessed that can no longer be denied. If a conception was to become dominant which should unite heaven and earth, God and man, nothing more and nothing less was necessary as a preliminary condition, than that a Man should appear, the very essence of whose consciousness should be the reconciliation of these antitheses, and who should manifest this consciousness to the world, and lead the religious mind to the sole point from which its difficulties can be solved. Jesus accomplished this mighty work, but not by prematurely pointing to His own Person. Instead He gradually made known to the people the thoughts which filled and entered into the very essence of His mind. It was only in this indirect way that His Person -- which He freely offered up in the cause of His historical vocation and of the idea for which He lived -- continued to live on in so far as this idea was accepted. When, in the belief of His followers, He rose again and lived on in the Christian community, it was as the Son of God who had overcome and reconciled the great antithesis. He was that in which alone the religious consciousness found rest and peace, apart from which there was nothing firm, trustworthy, and enduring."
"It was only now that the vague, ill-defined, prophetic representations were focused into a point; were not only fulfilled, but were also united together by a common bond which strengthened and gave greater value to each of them. With His appearance and the rise of belief in Him, a clear conception, a definite mental picture of the Messiah became possible; and thus it was that a Christology first arose." (Here and elsewhere Bauer seems to use "Christologie" in the sense of Messianic doctrine, rather than in the more general sense which is usual in theology. TRANSLATOR.)
While, therefore, at the close of Bauer's first work it might have seemed that it was only the Gospel of John which he held to be a literary creation, here the same thing is said of the original Gospel. The only difference is that we find more primitive reflection in the Synoptics, and later work in the representation given by the Fourth Evangelist; the former is of a more practical character, the latter more dogmatic.
Bauer's Controversy with "The Theologians"
Nevertheless it is false to assert that according to Bauer the earliest Evangelist invented the Gospel history and the personality of Jesus. That is to carry back the ideas of a later period and a further stage of development into the original form of his view. At the moment when, having disposed of preliminaries, he enters on his investigation, he still assumes that a great, a unique Personality, who so impressed men by His character that it lived on among them in an ideal form, had awakened into life the Messianic idea; and that what the original Evangelist really did was to portray the life of this Jesus -- the Christ of the community which He founded -- in accordance with the Messianic view of Him, just as the Fourth Evangelist portrayed it in accordance with the presupposition that Jesus was the revealer of the Logos. It was only in the course of his investigations that Bauer's opinion became more radical. As he goes on, his writing becomes ill-tempered, and takes the form of controversial dialogues with "the theologians," whom he apostrophises in a biting and injurious fashion, and whom he continually reproaches with not daring, owing to their apologetic prejudices, to see things as they really are, and with declining to face the ultimate results of criticism from fear that the tradition might suffer more loss of historic value than religion could bear. In spite of this hatred of the theologians, which is pathological in character, like his meaningless punctuation, his critical analyses are always exceedingly acute. One has the impression of walking alongside a man who is reasoning quite intelligently, but who talks to himself as though possessed by a fixed idea. What if the whole thing should turn out to be nothing but a literary invention not only the incidents and discourses, but even the Personality which is assumed as the starting-point of the whole movement? What if the Gospel history were only a late imaginary embodiment of a set of exalted ideas, and these were the only historical reality from first to last? This is the idea which obsesses his mind more and more completely, and moves him to contemptuous laughter. What, he mocks, will these apologists, who are so sure of everything, do then with the shreds and tatters which will be all that is left to them?
But at the outset of his investigations Bauer was far from holding such views. His purpose was really only to continue the work of Strauss. The conception of myth and legend of which the latter made use is, Bauer thinks, much too vague to explain this deliberate "transformation" of a personality. In the place of myth Bauer therefore sets "reflection." The life which pulses in the Gospel history is too vigorous to be explained as created by legend; it is real "experience," only not the experience of Jesus, but of the Church. The representation of this experience of the Church in the Life of a Person is not the work of a number of persons, but of a single author. It is in this twofold aspect -- as the composition of one man, embodying the experience of many -- that the Gospel history is to be regarded. As religious art it has a profound truth. When it is regarded from this point of view the difficulties which are encountered in the endeavour to conceive it as real immediately disappear.
We must take as our point of departure the belief in the sacrificial death and the resurrection of Jesus. Everything else attaches itself to this as to its centre. When the need arose to fix definitely the beginning of the manifestation of Jesus as the Saviour -- to determine the point of time at which the Lord issued forth from obscurity -- it was natural to connect this with the work of the Baptist; and Jesus comes to his baptism. While this is sufficient for the earliest Evangelist, Matthew and Luke feel it to be necessary, in view of the important consequences involved in the connexion of Jesus with the Baptist, to bring them into relation once more by means of the question addressed by the Baptist to Jesus, although this addition is quite inconsistent with the assumptions of the earliest Evangelist. If he had conceived the story of the baptism with the idea of introducing the Baptist again on a later occasion, and this time, moreover, as a doubter, he would have given it a different form. This is a just observation of Bauer's; the story of the baptism with the miracle which took place at it, and the Baptist's question, understood as implying a doubt of the Messiahship of Jesus, mutually exclude one another.
The story of the temptation embodies an experience of the early Church. This narrative represents her inner conflicts under the form of a conflict of the Redeemer. On her march through the wilderness of this world she has to fight with temptations of the devil, and in the story composed by Mark and Luke, and artistically finished by Matthew, she records a vow to build only on the inner strength of her constitutive principle. In the sermon on the mount also, Matthew has carried out with greater completeness that which was more vaguely conceived by Luke. It is only when we understand the words of Jesus as embodying experiences of the early Church that their deeper sense becomes clear and what would otherwise seem offensive disappears. The saying, "Let the dead bury their dead," would not have been fitting for Jesus to speak, and had He been a real man, it could never have entered into His mind to create so unreal and cruel a collision of duties; for no command, Divine or human, could have sufficed to make it right for a man to contravene the ethical obligations of family life. So here again, the obvious conclusion is that the saying originated in the early Church, and was intended to inculcate renunciation of a world which was felt to belong to the kingdom of the dead, and to illustrate this by an extreme example.
The mission of the Twelve, too, is, as an historical occurrence, simply inconceivable. It would have been different if Jesus had given them a definite teaching, or form of belief, or positive conception of any kind, to take with them as their message. But how ill the charge to the Twelve fulfils its purpose as a discourse of instruction! What the disciples needed to learn, namely, what and how they were to teach, they are not told; and the discourse which Matthew has composed, working on the basis of Luke, implies quite a different set of circumstances. It is concerned with the struggles of the Church with the world and the sufferings which it must endure. This is the explanation of the references to suffering which constantly recur in the discourses of Jesus, in spite of the fact that His disciples were not enduring any sufferings, and that the Evangelist cannot even make it conceivable as a possibility that those before whose eyes Jesus holds up the way of the Cross could ever come into such a position. The Twelve, at any rate, had no sufferings to encounter during their mission, and if they were merely being sent by Jesus into the surrounding districts they were not very likely to meet with kings and rulers there.
That it is a case of invented history is also shown by the fact that nothing is said about the doings of the disciples, and they seem to come back again immediately, though the earliest Evangelist, it is true, to prevent this from being too apparent, inserts at this point the story of the execution of the Baptist.
All this is just and acute criticism. The charge to the Twelve is not a discourse of instruction. What Jesus there sets before the disciples they could not at that time have understood, and the promises which He makes to them are not appropriate to their circumstances.
Many of the discourses are mere bundles of heterogeneous sayings, though this is not so much the case in Mark as in the others. He has not forgotten that effective polemic consists of short, pointed, incisive arguments. The others, as advanced theologians, are of opinion that it is fitting to indulge in arguments which have nothing to do with the matter in hand, or only the most distant connexion with it. They form the transition to the discourses of the Fourth Gospel, which usually degenerate into an aimless wrangle. In the same connexion it is rightly observed that the discourses of Jesus do not advance from point to point by the logical development of an idea, the thoughts are merely strung together one after another, the only connexion, if connexion there is, being due to a kind of conventional mould in which the discourse is cast.
The parables, Bauer continues, present difficulties no less great. It is an ineptitude on the part of the apologists to suggest that the parables are intended to make things clear. Jesus Himself contradicts this view by saying bluntly and unambiguously to His disciples that to them it was given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, but to the people all His teaching must be spoken as parables, that " seeing they might see and not perceive, and hearing they might hear and not understand." The parables were therefore intended only to exercise the intelligence of the disciples; and so far from being understood by the people, mystified and repelled them; as if it would not have been much better to exercise the minds of the disciples in this way when He was alone with them. The disciples, however, do not even understand the simple parable of the Sower, but need to have it interpreted to them, so that the Evangelist once more stultifies his own theory.
Bruno Bauer is right in his observation that the parables offer a serious problem, seeing that they were intended to conceal and not to make plain, and that Jesus nevertheless taught only in parables. The character of the difficulty, however, is such that even literary criticism has no explanation ready. Bruno Bauer admits that he does not know what was in the mind of the Evangelist when he composed these parables, and thinks that he had no very definite purpose, or at least that the suggestions which were floating in his mind were not worked up into a clearly ordered whole.
Criticism of the Gospels (1850s)
Here, therefore, Bauer's method broke down. He did not, however, allow this to shake his confidence in his reading of the facts, and he continued to maintain it in the face of a new difficulty which he himself brought clearly to light. Mark, according to him, is an artistic unity, the offspring of a single mind. How then is it to be explained that in addition to other less important doublets it contains two accounts of the feeding of the multitude? Here Bauer has recourse to the aid of Wilke, who distinguishes our Mark from an Ur-Markus (We retain the German phrase, which has naturalised itself in Synoptic criticism as the designation of an assumed primary gospel lying behind the canonical Mark), and ascribes these doublets to later interpolation. Later on he became more and more doubtful about the artistic unity of Mark, despite the fact that this was the fundamental assumption of his theory, and in the second edition of his "Criticism of the Gospels," of 1851, he carried through the distinction between the canonical Mark and the Ur-Markus.
But even supposing the assumption of a redaction were justified, how could the redactor have conceived the idea of adding to the first account of the feeding of the multitude a second which is identical with it almost to the very wording ? In any case, on what principle can Mark be distinguished from Ur-Markus? There are no fundamental differences to afford a ready criterion. The distinction is purely one of subjective feeling, that is to say, it is arbitrary. As soon as Bauer admits that the artistic unity of Mark, on which he lays so much stress, has been tampered with, he cannot maintain his position except by shutting his eyes to the fact that it can only be a question of the weaving in of fragments of tradition, not of the inventions of an imitator. But if he once admits the presence of traditional materials, his whole theory of the earliest Evangelist's having created the Gospel falls to the ground.
For the moment he succeeds in laying the spectre again, and continues to think of Mark as a work of art, in which the interpolation alters nothing.
Bauer discusses with great thoroughness those sayings of Jesus in which He forbids those whom He had healed to noise abroad their cure. In the form in which they appear these cannot, he argues, be historical, for Jesus imposes this prohibition in some cases where it is quite meaningless, since the healing had taken place in the presence of a multitude. It must therefore be derived from the Evangelist. Only when it is recognised as a free creation can its meaning be discerned. It finds its explanation in the inconsistent views regarding miracle which were held side by side in the early Church. No doubt was felt that Jesus had performed miracles, and by these miracles had given evidence of His Divine mission. On the other hand, by the introduction of the Christian principle, the Jewish demand for a sign had been so far limited, and the other, the spiritual line of evidence, had become so important, or at least so indispensable, that it was no longer possible to build on the miracles only, or to regard Jesus merely as a wonder-worker; so in some way or other the importance ascribed to miracle must be reduced. In the graphic symbolism of the Gospel history this antithesis takes the form that Jesus did miracles there was no getting away from that but on the other hand Himself declared that He did not wish to lay any stress upon such acts. As there are times when miracles must hide their light under a bushel, Jesus, on occasion, forbids that they should be made known. The other Synoptists no longer understood this theory of the first Evangelist, and introduced the prohibition in passages where it was absurd.
The way in which Jesus makes known His Messiahship is based on another theory of the original Evangelist. The order of Mark can give us no information regarding the chronology of the life of Jesus, since this Gospel is anything rather than a chronicle. We cannot even assert that there is a deliberate logic in the way in which the sections are connected. But there is one fundamental principle of arrangement which comes quite clearly to light, viz. that it was only at Caesarea Philippi, in the closing period of His life, that Jesus made Himself known as the Messiah, and that, therefore, He was not previously held to be so either by His disciples or by the people. This is clearly shown in the answers of the disciples when Jesus asked them whom men took Him to be. The implied course of events, however, is determined by art, not history as history it would be inconceivable.
Could there indeed be a more absurd impossibility? "Jesus," says Bauer, "must perform these innumerable, these astounding miracles because, according to the view which the Gospels represent, He is the Messiah; He must perform them in order to prove Himself to be the Messiah and yet no one recognises Him as the Messiah! That is the greatest miracle of all, that the people had not long ago recognised the Messiah in this wonder-worker. Jesus could only be held to be the Messiah in consequence of doing miracles; but He only began to do miracles when, in the faith of the early Church, He rose from the dead as Messiah, and the facts that He rose as Messiah and that He did miracles, are one and the same fact."
Mark, however, represents a Jesus who does miracles and who nevertheless does not thereby reveal Himself to be the Messiah. He was obliged so to represent Him, because he was conscious that Jesus was not recognised and acknowledged as Messiah by the people, nor even by His immediate followers, in the unhesitating fashion in which those of later times imagined Him to have been recognised. Mark's conception and representation of the matter carried back into the past the later developments by which there finally arose a Christian community for which Jesus had become the Messiah. "Mark is also influenced by an artistic instinct which leads him to develop the main interest, the origin of the faith, gradually. It is only after the ministry of Jesus has extended over a considerable period, and is, indeed, drawing towards its close, that faith arises in the circle of the disciples; and it is only later still, when, in the person of the blind man at Jericho, a prototype of the great company of believers that was to be has hailed the Lord with a Messianic salutation, that, at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the faith of the people suddenly ripens and finds expression."
It is true, this artistic design is completely marred when Jesus does miracles which must have made Him known to every child as the Messiah. We cannot, therefore, blame Matthew very much if, while he retains this plan in its external outlines in a kind of mechanical way, he contradicts it somewhat awkwardly by making Jesus at an earlier point clearly designate Himself as Messiah and many recognise Him as such. And the Fourth Evangelist cannot be said to be destroying any very wonderful work of art when he gives the impression that from the very first any one who wished could recognise Jesus as the Messiah.
Mark himself does not keep strictly to his own plan. He makes Jesus forbid His disciples to make known His Messiahship; how then does the multitude at Jerusalem recognise it so suddenly, after a single miracle which they had not even witnessed, and which was in no way different from others which He had done before? If that "chance multitude" in Jerusalem was capable of such sudden enlightenment it must have fallen from heaven!
The following remarks of Bauer, too, are nothing less than classical. The incident at Caesarea Philippi is the central fact of the Gospel history, it gives us a fixed point from which to group and criticise the other statements of the Gospel. At the same time it introduces a complication into the plan of the life of Jesus, because it necessitates the carrying through of the theory -- often in the face of the text -- that previously Jesus had never been regarded as the Messiah; and lays upon us the necessity of showing not only how Peter had come to recognise His Messiahship, but also how He subsequently became Messiah for the multitude -- if indeed He ever did become Messiah for them. But the very fact that it does introduce this complication is in itself a proof that in this scene at Caesarea Philippi we have the one ray of light which history sheds upon the life of Jesus. It is impossible to explain how any one could come to reject the simple and natural idea that Jesus claimed from the first to be the Messiah, if that had been the fact, and accept this complicated representation in its place. The latter, therefore, must be the original version. In pointing this out, Bauer gave for the first time the real proof, from internal evidence, of the priority of Mark.
The difficulty involved in the conception of miracle as a proof of the Messiahship of Jesus is another discovery of Bauer's. Only here, instead of probing the question to the bottom, he stops half-way. How do we know, he should have gone on to ask, that the Messiah was expected to appear as an earthly wonder-worker? There is nothing to that effect in Jewish writings. And do not the Gospels themselves prove that any one might do miracles without suggesting to a single person the idea that he might be the Messiah? Accordingly the only inference to be drawn from the Marcan representation is that miracles were not among the characteristic marks of the Messiah, and that it was only later, in the Christian community, which made Jesus the miracle-worker into Jesus the Messiah, that this connexion between miracles and Messiahship was established. In dealing with the question of the triumphal entry, too, Bauer halts half-way. Where do we read that Jesus was hailed as Messiah upon that occasion? If He had been taken by the people to be the Messiah, the controversy in Jerusalem must have turned on this personal question; but it did not even touch upon it, and the Sanhedrin never thinks of setting up witnesses to Jesus' claim to be the Messiah. When once Bauer had exposed the historical and literary impossibility of Jesus' being hailed by the people as Messiah, he ought to have gone on to draw the conclusion that Jesus did not, according to Mark, make a Messianic entry into Jerusalem.
It was, however, a remarkable achievement on Bauer's part to have thus set forth clearly the historical difficulties of the life of Jesus. One might suppose that between the work of Strauss and that of Bauer there lay not five, but fifty years the critical work of a whole generation.
The stereotyped character of the thrice-repeated prediction of the passion, which, according to Bauer, betrays a certain poverty and feebleness of imagination on the part of the earliest Evangelist, shows clearly, he thinks, the unhistorical character of the utterance recorded. The fact that the prediction occurs three times, its definiteness increasing upon each occasion, proves its literary origin.
It is the same with the transfiguration. The group in which the heroic representatives of the Law and the Prophets stand as supporters of the Saviour, was modelled by the earliest Evangelist. In order to place it in the proper light and to give becoming splendour to its great subject, he has introduced a number of traits taken from the story of Moses.
Bauer pitilessly exposes the difficulties of the journey of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, and exults over the perplexities of the "apologists." "The theologian," he says, "must not boggle at this journey, he must just believe it. He must in faith follow the footsteps of his Lord! Through the midst of Galilee and Samaria -- and at the same time, for Matthew also claims a hearing, through Judaea on the farther side of Jordan! I wish him Bon voyage!"
The eschatological discourses are not history, but are merely an expansion of those explanations of the sufferings of the Church of which we have had a previous example in the charge to the Twelve. An Evangelist who wrote before the destruction of Jerusalem would have referred to the Temple, to Jerusalem, and to the Jewish people, in a very different way.
The story of Lazarus deserves special attention. Did not Spinoza say that he would break his system in pieces if he could be convinced of the reality of this event? This is the decisive point for the question of the relation between the Synoptists and John. Vain are all the efforts of the apologists to explain why the Synoptists do not mention this miracle. The reason they ignore it is that it originated after their time in the mind of the Fourth Evangelist, and they were unacquainted with his Gospel. And yet it is the most valuable of all, because it shows clearly the concentric circles of progressive intensification by which the development of the Gospel history proceeds. "The Fourth Gospel," remarks Bauer, "represents a dead man as having been restored to life after having been four days under the power of death, and having consequently become a prey to corruption; Luke represents the young man at Nain as being restored to life when his body was being carried to the grave; Mark, the earliest Evangelist, can only tell us of the restoration of a dead person who had the moment before succumbed to an illness. The theologians have a great deal to say about the contrast between the canonical and the apocryphal writings, but they might have found a similar contrast even within the four Gospels, if the light had not been so directly in their eyes."
The treachery of Judas, as described in the Gospels, is inexplicable.
The Lord's Supper, considered as an historic scene, is revolting and inconceivable. Jesus can no more have instituted it than He can have uttered the saying, "Let the dead bury their dead." In both cases the objectionableness arises from the fact that a tenet of the early Church has been cast into the form of an historical saying of Jesus. A man who was present in person, corporeally present, could not entertain the idea of offering others his flesh and blood to eat. To demand from others that they should, while he was actually present, imagine the bread and wine which they were eating to be his body and blood, would be for an actual man wholly impossible. It was only when Jesus' actual bodily presence had been removed, and only when the Christian community had existed for some time, that such a conception as is expressed in that formula could have arisen. A point which clearly betrays the later composition of the narrative is that the Lord does not turn to the disciples sitting with Him at table and say, "This is my blood which is shed for you," but, since the words were invented by the early Church, speaks of the "many" for whom He gives Himself. The only historical fact is that the Jewish Passover was gradually transformed by the Christian community into a feast which had reference to Jesus.
As regards the scene in Gethsemane, Mark, according to Bauer, held it necessary that in the moment when the last conflict and final catastrophe were coming upon Jesus, He should show clearly by His actions that He met this fate of His own free will. The reality of His choice could only be made clear by showing Him first engaged in an inner struggle against the acceptance of His vocation, before showing how He freely submitted to His fate.
The last words ascribed to Jesus by Mark, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" were written without thinking of the inferences that might be drawn from them, merely with the purpose of showing that even to the last moment of His passion Jesus fulfilled the role of the Messiah, the picture of whose sufferings had been revealed to the Psalmist so long beforehand by the Holy Spirit.
It is scarcely necessary now, Bauer thinks, to go" into the contradictions in the story of the resurrection, for "the doughty Reimarus, with his thorough-going honesty, has already fully exposed them, and no one has refuted him."
An Analytical Summary
The results of Bauer's analysis may be summed up as follows: --
The Fourth Evangelist has betrayed the secret of the original Gospel, namely, that it too can be explained on purely literary grounds. Mark has "loosed us from the theological lie." "Thanks to the kindly fate," cries Bauer, "which has preserved to us this writing of Mark by which we have been delivered from the web of deceit of this hellish pseudo-science!"
In order to tear this web of falsehood the critic and historian must, despite his repugnance, once more take up the pretended arguments of the theologians in favour of the historicity of the Gospel narratives and set them on their feet, only to knock them down again. In the end Bauer's only feeling towards the theologians was one of contempt. "The expression of his contempt," he declares, "is the last weapon which the critic, after refuting the arguments of the theologians, has at his disposal for their discomfiture; it is his right to use it; that puts the finishing touch upon his task and points forward to the happy time when the arguments of the theologians shall no more be heard of."
These outbreaks of bitterness are to be explained by the feeling of repulsion which German apologetic theology inspired in every genuinely honest and thoughtful man by the methods which it adopted in opposing Strauss. Hence the fiendish joy with which he snatches away the crutches of this pseudo-science, hurls them to a distance, and makes merry over its helplessness. A furious hatred, a fierce desire to strip the theologians absolutely bare, carried Bauer much farther than his critical acumen would have led him in cold blood.
Bauer hated the theologians for still holding fast to the barbarous conception that a great man had forced himself into a stereotyped and unspiritual system, and in that way had set in motion great ideas, whereas he held that that would have signified the death of both the personality and the ideas; but this hatred is only the surface symptom of another hatred, which goes deeper than theology, going down, indeed, to the very depths of the Christian conception of the world. Bruno Bauer hates not only the theologians, but Christianity, and hates it because it expresses a truth in a wrong way. It is a religion which has become petrified in a transitional form. A religion which ought to have led on to the true religion has usurped the place of the true religion, and in this petrified form it holds prisoner all the real forces of religion.
Religion is the victory over the world of the self-conscious ego. It is only when the ego grasps itself in its antithesis to the world as a whole, and is no longer content to play the part of a mere "walking gentleman" in the world-drama, but faces the world with independence and reserve, that the necessary conditions of universal religion are present. These conditions came into being with the rise of the Roman Empire, in which the individual suddenly found himself helpless and unarmed in face of a world in which he could no longer find free play for his activities, but must stand prepared at any moment to be ground to powder by it.
The self-conscious ego, recognising this position, found itself faced by the necessity of breaking loose from the world and standing alone, in order in this way to overcome the world. Victory over the world by alienation from the world these were the ideas out of which Christianity was born. But it was not the true victory over the world; Christianity remained at the stage of violent opposition to the world.
Miracle, to which the Christian religion has always appealed, and to which it gives a quite fundamental importance, is the appropriate symbol of this false victory over the world. There are some wonderfully deep thoughts scattered through Bauer's critical investigations. "Man's realisation of his personality," he says, "is the death of Nature, but in the sense that he can only bring about this death by the knowledge of Nature and its laws, that is to say from within, being himself essentially the annihilation and negation of Nature.... Spirit honours and recognises the worth of the very thing which it negates.... Spirit does not fume and bluster, and rage and rave against Nature, as it is supposed to do in miracle, for that would be the denial of its inner law, but quietly works its way through the antithesis. In short the death of Nature implied in the conscious realisation of personality is the resurrection of Nature in a nobler form, not the maltreatment, mockery, and insult to which it would be exposed by miracle." Not only miracle, however, but the portrait of Jesus Christ as drawn in the Gospels, is a stereotyping of that false idea of victory over the world. The Christ of the Gospel history, thought of as a really historic figure, would be a figure at which humanity would shudder, a figure which could only inspire dismay and horror. The historical Jesus, if He really existed, can only have been One who reconciled in His own consciousness the antithesis which obsessed the Jewish mind, namely the separation between God and Man; He cannot in the process of removing this antithesis have called into existence a new principle of religious division and alienation; nor can He have shown the way of escape, by the principle of inwardness, from the bondage of the Law only to impose a new set of legal fetters.
The Christ of the Gospel history, on the other hand, is Man exalted by the religious consciousness to heaven, who, even if He comes down to earth to do miracles, to teach, and to suffer, is no longer true man. The Son of Man of religion, even though His mission be to reconcile, is man as alienated from himself. This Christ of the Gospel history, the ego exalted to heaven and become God, overthrew antiquity, and conquered the world in the sense that He exhausted it of all its vitality. This magnified ego would have fulfilled its historical vocation if, by means of the terrible disorganisation into which it threw the real spirit of mankind, it had compelled the latter to come to a knowledge of itself, to become self-conscious with a thoroughness and decisiveness which had not been possible to the simple spirit of antiquity. It was disastrous that the figure which stood for the first emancipation of the ego, remained alive. That transformation of the human spirit which was brought about by the encounter of the world-power of Rome with philosophy was represented by the Gospels, under the influence of the Old Testament, as realised in a single historic Personality; and the strength of the spirit of mankind was swallowed up by the omnipotence of the pure absolute ego, an ego which was alien from actual humanity. The self-consciousness of humanity finds itself reflected in the Gospels, a self, indeed, in alienation from itself, and therefore a grotesque parody of itself, but, after all, in some sense, itself; hence the magical charm which attracted mankind and enchained it, and, so long as it had not truly found itself, urged it to sacrifice everything to grasp the image of itself, to prefer it to all other and all else, counting all, as the apostle says, but "dung" in comparison with it.
Even when the Roman world was no more, and a new world had come into being, the Christ so created did not die. The magic of His enchantment became only more terrible, and as new strength came flooding into the old world, the time arrived when it was to accomplish its greatest work of destruction. Spirit, in its abstraction, became a vampire, the destroyer of the world. Sap and strength, blood and life, it sucked, to the last drop, out of humanity. Nature and art, family, nation, state, all were destroyed by it; and in the ruins of the fallen world the ego, exhausted by its efforts, remained the only surviving power.
Having made a desert all about it, the ego could not immediately create anew, out of the depths of its inner consciousness, nature and art, nation and state; the awful process which now went on, the only activity of which it was now capable, was the absorption into itself of all that had hitherto had life in the world. The ego was now everything; and yet it was a void. It had become the universal power, and yet as it brooded over the ruins of the world it was filled with horror at itself and with despair at all that it had lost. The ego which had devoured all things and was still a void now shuddered at itself.
Under the oppression of this awful power the education of mankind has been going on; under this grim task-master it has been preparing for true freedom, preparing to rouse itself from the depths of its distress, to escape from its opposition to itself and cast out that alien ego which is wasting its substance. Odysseus has now returned to his home, not by favour of the gods, not laid on the shore in sleep, but awake, by his own thought and his own strength. Perchance, as of yore, he will have need to fight with the suitors who have devoured his substance and sought to rob him of all he holds most dear. Odysseus must string the bow once more.
The baleful charm of the self-alienated ego is broken the moment any one proves to the religious sense of mankind that the Jesus Christ of the Gospels is its creation and ceases to exist as soon as this is recognised. The formation of the Church and the arising of the idea that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Messiah are not two different things, they are one and the same thing, they coincide and synchronise; but the idea was only the imaginative conception of the Church, the first movement of its life, the religious expression of its experience.
The question which has so much exercised the minds of men whether Jesus was the historic Christ (= Messiah) is answered in the sense that everything that the historical Christ is, everything that is said of Him, everything that is known of Him, belongs to the world of imagination, that is, of the imagination of the Christian community, and therefore has nothing to do with any man who belongs to the real world.
The world is now free, and ripe for a higher religion in which the ego will overcome nature, not by self-alienation, but by penetrating it and ennobling it. To the theologian we may fling as a gift the shreds of his former science, when we have torn it to pieces; that will be something to occupy himself with, that time may not hang heavy upon his hands in the new world whose advent is steadily drawing nearer.
Thus the task which Bauer had set himself at the beginning of his criticism of the Gospel history, turned, before he had finished, into something different. When he began, he thought to save the honour of Jesus and to restore His Person from the state of inanition to which the apologists had reduced it, and hoped by furnishing a proof that the historical Jesus could not have been the Jesus Christ of the Gospels, to bring Him into a living relation with history. This task, however, was given up in favour of the larger one of freeing the world from the domination of the Judaeo-Roman idol, Jesus the Messiah, and in carrying out this endeavour the thesis that Jesus Christ is a product of the imagination of the early Church is formulated in such a way that the existence of a historic Jesus becomes problematical, or, at any rate, quite indifferent.
Stoicism + neo-Platonism = Gospel (1870s)
At the end of his study of the Gospels, Bauer is inclined to make the decision of the question whether there ever was a historic Jesus depend on the result of a further investigation which he proposed to make into the Pauline Epistles. It was not until ten years later (1850 1851) that he accomplished this task, (Kritik der Paulin ischen Briefe. [Criticism of the Pauline Epistles] Berlin, 1850-1852) and applied the result in his new edition of the "Criticism of the Gospel History." (Kritik der Evangelien und Geschichte ihres Ursprungs. [Criticism of the Gospels and History of their Origin.] 2 vols., Berlin, 1850-1851). The result is negative: there never was any historical Jesus. While criticising the four great Pauline Epistles, which the Tubingen school fondly imagined to be beyond the reach of criticism, Bauer shows, however, his inability to lay a positive historic foundation for his view of the origin of Christianity. The transference of the Epistles to the second century is effected in so arbitrary a fashion that it refutes itself. However, this work professes to be only a preliminary study for a larger one in which the new theory was to be fully worked out. This did not appear until 1877; it was entitled "Christ and the Caesars; How Christianity originated from Graeco-Roman Civilisation" (Christus und die Casaren, Der Ursprung des Christentums aus dem romischen Griechentum. Berlin, 1877). The historical basis for his theory, which he here offers, is even more unsatisfactory than that suggested in the preliminary work on the Pauline Epistles. There is no longer any pretence of following an historical method, the whole thing works out into an imaginary picture of the life of Seneca. Nero's tutor had, Bauer thinks, already in his inmost consciousness fully attained to inner opposition to the world. There are expressions in his works which, in their mystical emancipation from the world, prelude the utterances of Paul. The same thoughts, since they belong not to Seneca only, but to his time, are found also in the works of the three poets of the Neronian period, Persius, Lucan, and Petronius. Though they had but a feeble breath of the divine afflatus, they are interesting witnesses to the spiritual condition of the time. They, too, contributed to the making of Christianity.
But Seneca, in spite of his inner alienation from the world, remained in active relations with the world. He desired to found a kingdom of virtue upon earth. At the courts of Claudius and Nero he used the arts of intrigue to further his ends, and even quietly approved deeds of violence which he thought likely to serve his cause. Finally, he grasped at the supreme power; and paid the supreme penalty. Stoicism had made an attempt to reform the world, and had failed. The great thinkers began to despair of exercising any influence upon history, the Senate was powerless, all public bodies were deprived of their rights. Then a spirit of resignation came over the world. The alienation from the world, which in Seneca had still been only half serious, was come in earnest. The time of Nero and Domitian was a great epoch in that hidden spiritual history which goes silently forward side by side with the noisy outward history of the world. When Stoicism, in this development, had been deepened by the introduction of neo-Platonic ideas, it was on its way to become the Gospel.
But by itself it would not have given birth to that new thing. It attached itself as a formative principle to Judaism, which was then just breaking loose from the limitations of nationality. Bauer points to Josephus as a type of this new Roman Judaism. This "neo-Roman" lived in the conviction that his God, who had withdrawn from His Temple, would take possession of the world, and make the Roman Empire submit to His law. Josephus realised in his life that for which the way had been spiritually prepared by Philo. The latter did not merely effect a fusion of Jewish ideas with Greek speculations; he took advantage of the universal dominion established by the Romans to found upon it his spiritual world. Bauer had already pictured him in this role in his work "Philo, Strauss, and Renan, and Primitive Christianity."
Thus was the new religion formed. The spirit of it came from the west, the outward frame was furnished by Judaism. The new movement had two foci, Rome and Alexandria. Philo's "Therapeutae" were real people; they were the forerunners of Christianity. Under Trajan the new religion began to be known.
Pliny's letter asking for instructions as to how to deal with the new movement is its certificate of birth the original form of the letter, it must be understood, not the present form, which has undergone editing at the hands of Christians.
The literary process by which the origin of the movement was thrown back to an earlier date in history lasted about fifty years.
When this latest work of Bauer's appeared he had long been regarded by theologians as an extinct force; nay, more, had been forgotten. And he had not even kept his promise. He had not succeeded in showing what that higher form of victory over the world was, which he declared superior to Christianity; and in place of the personality of Jesus he had finally set up a hybrid thing, laboriously compounded out of two personalities of so little substance as those of Seneca and Josephus. That was the end of his great undertaking.
But it was a mistake to bury, along with the Bauer of the second period, also the Bauer of the first period, the critic for the latter was not dead. It was, indeed, nothing less than a misfortune that Strauss and Bauer appeared within so short a time of one another. Bauer passed practically unnoticed, because every one was preoccupied with Strauss. Another unfortunate thing was that Bauer overthrew with his powerful criticism the hypothesis which attributed real historical value to Mark, so that it lay for a long time disregarded, and there ensued a barren period of twenty years in the critical study of the Life of Jesus.
The only critic with whom Bauer can be compared is Reimarus. Each exercised a terrifying and disabling influence upon his time. No one else had been so keenly conscious as they of the extreme complexity of the problem offered by the life of Jesus. In view of this complexity they found themselves compelled to seek a solution outside the confines of verifiable history. Reimarus, by finding the basis of the story of Jesus in a deliberate imposture on the part of the disciples; Bauer, by postulating an original Evangelist who invented the history. On this ground it was just that they should lose their case. But in dismissing the solutions which they offered, their contemporaries also dismissed the problems which had necessitated such solutions; they dismissed them because they were as little able to grasp as to remove these difficulties.
But the time is past for pronouncing judgment upon Lives of Christ on the ground of the solutions which they offer. For us the great men are not those who solved the problems, but those who discovered them. Bauer's "Criticism of the Gospel History" is worth a good dozen Lives of Jesus, because his work, as we are only now coming to recognise, after half a century, is the ablest and most complete collection of the difficulties of the Life of Jesus which is anywhere to be found.
Unfortunately, by the independent, the too loftily independent way in which he developed his ideas, he destroyed the possibility of their influencing contemporary theology. The shaft which he had driven into the mountain broke down behind him, so that it needed the work of a whole generation to lay bare once more the veins of ore which he had struck. His contemporaries could not suspect that the abnormality of his solutions was due to the intensity with which he grasped the problems as problems, and that he had become blind to history by examining it too microscopically. Thus for his contemporaries he was a mere eccentric.
But his eccentricity concealed a penetrating insight. No one else had as yet grasped with the same completeness the idea that primitive Christianity and early Christianity were not merely the direct outcome of the preaching of Jesus, not merely a teaching put into practice, but more, much more, since to the experience of which Jesus was the subject there allied itself the experience of the world-soul at a time when its body -- humanity under the Roman Empire --lay in the throes of death. Since Paul, no one had apprehended so powerfully the mystic idea of the super-sensible _____ ______. Bauer transferred it to the historical plane and found the "body of Christ" in the Roman Empire.
(From Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus, 1910)