Ferdinand Christian Baur
Professor Of Theology In The University OF Tubingen
Church History of the First Three Centuries (Tubingen: 1863)
THE PAROUSIA (Vol. 1, pp. 246-252)
The belief in the second coming of Christ, and the reaction against a view of the world which had lost its hold upon this belief, are the two leading momenta which serve to explain the origin and character of Montanism.
What connected Christianity with Judaism most directly and most intimately was the Jewish Messianic idea; though from it also there arose the sharpest antithesis by which the two faiths came to be separated from each other. It had been thought that Jesus was the promised Messiah, who had appeared with a view to the fulfilment of the Messianic expectations. His death seemed to leave these hopes unfulfilled, and to destroy them for ever: the disciples, as Jews possessed with the Messianic belief, felt that such an event made it impossible to apply the belief to him. But the gulf lying between idea and fact was only too soon filled up. He had not, as the living Messiah, fulfilled what was hoped of him; but as the risen Messiah, exalted to heaven, he might return from heaven again, now at length to accomplish all that had not yet come about. The Parousia of Christ became a necessary postulate of the faith of the first disciples; the old belief had assumed a new form, but it was impossible to renounce the .substance of it, and it seemed to be a necessity that it should be fulfilled without delay. Many passages of the books of the New Testament show with what power this belief reigned in the minds of the first Christians. So much was this the case, that in this respect there was no essential difference between the apostle of the Gentiles and the author of the Apocalypse. If any of the first publishers of Christianity was capable of discerning that its destiny—its exaltation into the universal religion—was only to be fulfilled in the distant future, it was Paul. Yet even he, as he thinks on Christ’s coming, firmly believes that all is now approaching its end, and that he will himself live to see the great catastrophe. Such a belief, however, too surely brought its own refutation to last long in all its strength and vividness. The longer it remained unfulfilled, the more inevitably it tended to lose its hold on the mind of the age. Even .within the New Testament itself, we can trace the various modifications which it gradually underwent. Compare the two books which vary most widely in their manner of stating it; what a discrepancy of tone do we find between the Apocalypse, where it blazes out in its brightest flame, and takes its most concrete form in the idea of the millennium, and the Second Epistle of Peter. The author of the latter speaks of scoffers who shall come in the last days, walking after their own lusts, and saying, ” Where is the promise of his coming ? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the creation;” and instead of questioning the facts on which the scoffer proceeded, he merely seeks to refute him by substituting for the belief itself a recognition of the general truths that lie at its base. This shows us pretty plainly what the state of belief on the subject was at this time. But though it had ceased, at least in its original form, to be a universal article of Christian faith, still there could not fail to be some, who in contrast to the increasing worldliness of the Christian mind which was manifested in the decay of this belief, quickened it in themselves even to a stronger life, and held it fast with fresh enthusiasm. Such were the Montanists; and this is one of their most prominent traits. Even though it be admitted that millenarianism was at the time a universal Christian belief, still the Montanists were the most pronounced of all millenarians. It was this doctrine that especially kindled their enthusiasm : their prophets announced, in language like that of men inspired, the judgments which were impending with the coming of Christ, the reign of a thousand years, and the end of the world, and depicted all that was coming in the most vivid colours. How much they were occupied with the thought of the immediate end of the world, and how real the thought was to them, is shown by the saying of the prophetess Maximilla, “After me comes nothing but the end of the world I”1 Soon as the consummation might come, it could not approach too quickly for their millenarian spirit. In their daily prayer, to ask that God’s kingdom might come was to give utterance to their millenarian view of the world; the kingdom of God and the end of the world were with them the same idea.1 Even then, though the whole generation for which the coming of Christ was supposed to have been promised, had but looked for it in vain, still the belief itself that in the immediate future Christ would appear, and the kingdom of God begin, was not abandoned. The Montanists knew the spot where the heavenly Jerusalem would descend; they had even had a vision foreshadowing the descent from heaven. With other Christians, coldness and lukewarmness had laid hold of millen- arianism; but for that very reason it became all the stronger and livelier with them. And this shows us how close was the connection between the millenarian belief of the Montanists and another no less characteristic part of their system, ecstatic prophecy. If they were living entirely in the thought of Christ’s coming and of the future, and saw close at hand the events that were to introduce and accompany the impending catastrophe, this contemplation of the future in the present inevitably gave rise to prophecy. Prophecy with the Montanists assumed the form of ecstasy; a fact very characteristic of the sect, though ecstasy itself was by no means an uncommon thing. Ecstasy is merely prophecy intensified. By a natural analogy, as millenarianism among the Montanists advanced to fresh energy, prophecy also, as the expression of their millenarian inspiration, soared with a loftier flight, and became ecstasy. Here the finite subject became absolutely passive under the divine principle. Hence the saying of Montanus, in which he compares man to the lyre, the Paraclete to the plectrum, and calls the former a sleeper, the latter a watcher; and the belief that the special organs of the Holy Spirit were women, prophetesses such as Maximilla and Priscilla. The one belief naturally gained
1 Compare Tertullian, De Orat. c. 5 ; where he says of the^emai regnum tmtm ; Itaque si ad Dei voluntatem et ad nostram suspensionem pertinet regni dominici representatio, quomodo quidam pertractum quendam in seculo postulant (how can so many ask, that the kingdom of God should further prolong itself into secular time ? millenarianism was then no longer a universal belief) ; quum regnum Dei quod, ut adveniat, oramus, ad consummationem seculi tendat; optamus maturius regnare et non diutius servire. Etiam si praefinitum in oratioue non esset, de postulando regni adventu, ultro eam voccm postulassemus, festinantes ad spei nostrae com- plexum.
strength together with the other. The believers in Christ’s coming did not feel their belief disturbed by the long lapse of time to which they had now to look back. On the contrary, the longer the past period, the nearer they thought they must be to the great catastrophe. For the same reason, since everything was now in its last stage, in the Kaipos (rwetrraX/ievo?, the spirit too, the irvevfia ayiov, the principle of the Christian consciousness, must gather its energies more powerfully together, must give forth more immediate, more unequivocal utterances. Both beliefs were involved in the consciousness of living in the dies novissimi. Thus, Tertullian’s theory of the various periods of development is, that as first the plant arises from the grain of seed, and lastly the fruit from the blossom, so justitia was first in the state of nature, then advanced to childhood under the guidance of the Law and the Prophets, next through the Gospel blossomed into youth, and now is brought to maturity by the Paraclete.1 All this is but an analysis of the idea of the novissima. What is sought to be done is to bring out what is the last in the last things, by striking out of them all that is not the last, but must at once be followed by the last. But according to the Montanist opinion, the more nearly everything approached its end, the more everything converged in the novissimi dies, the more concentrated and intense, the more filled with compressed energy did everything become. Everywhere, says Tertullian, the later forms the conclusion, and that which goes before is outweighed by that which comes after. This is a universal law alike of the human and the divine order of things; and especially of the novissimi dies,2 in which the prophecy of Joel (often cited by Tertullian), that the spirit should be poured out on all flesh, was to be fulfilled. In this period, when tempus est in collecto, when every force gathers itself together and prepares all its keenness, the spirit likewise enters into the mind of the Christian with unwonted power, and fills it with its own divine all-
1 De virg. vel. o. 1.
2 De Bapt. c. 13. Compare the Praef. Act. Felic. et Perp., and Epiphanius Haer. 48, 8, in Schwegler’s Montan., p. 39.
illumining essence. The Apocalypse gives virtually the same account of the relation between the novissima and the working of the spirit in connection with it. The several stages of the great catastrophe of the world are the subject of the book; the author is merely the instrument of the divine inspiration that has come upon him; he too is ev irvevfiaTi, i.e., in a state of ecstasy (i. 10). Prophecies and visions form the whole contents of the Apocalypse; prophecy and vision were the shapes assumed by the ecstatic condition of the Montanists. The spirit which from the first was the animating principle of the Christians, and awoke their prophetic inspiration and ecstasy, is also the principle of Montanism. At this time it was generally termed Paraclete, perhaps because in the distress and affliction of the last days it was to be not only the guide that should lead into all truth, but the intercessor, the support and comfort of all those whom it swayed with its rich and abundant power; in any case, this particular name, as applied to the Holy Spirit, was intended to mark its special and peculiar function during that last period, in which the Montanist saw everything pressing towards its end.
It is in the moral sphere that the Paraclete carries on his actual operations. He speaks with his full energy in prophetic ecstasy in order that the secrets of the future may be searched, and all the obscurities of consciousness made light. But he also insists emphatically on the moral requirements of practical Christianity. As the spiritus sanctus, ipsius disciplinae determinator, institutor novae disciplinae, he is the strict spirit of moral severity, the declared foe of all laxity and indifference in moral things. What he is, he is for one end only, viz., that he may in the field of morals realise that which he is; thus Tertullian, when he sums up all the features which belong to the idea of the Paraclete, gives the first place to his practical task. He opens the Scriptures, purges the understanding, raises the Christian to a higher stage of perfection, but above all, his practical aim is to give discipline its right direction.1 The Montanists increased the severity of Chris-
1 De virg. vel. c. 1.
tian discipline by several ordinances peculiar to themselves, as by the xerophagiae, by the extension of the dies stationum to the evening, and by their requirements with regard to marriage and martyrdom. But their fundamental idea, the source of all these regulations, was that the Christian lived in the last times, and stood at the end of the whole course of the world. This thought filled the Montanist’s mind as a belief, and could not but determine his behaviour. He lived in the one thought that the end of the world was at hand, and discerned in all around him nothing but the signs of the advancing catastrophe. It was necessary then, that inwardly as well as outwardly he should have completely broken with the world; and his outward actions could have no other aim than that of carrying out this breach with the world in every direction, and wholly sundering the bonds by which his flesh still joined him to the world. It has been very correctly observed,1 that in its moral requirements Montanism set up nothing new; that it was only new in so far as it was reactionary; that the only question between the Montanists and their adversaries in the Church concerned an increase of strictness in enforcing an old ordinance which was on the point of becoming obsolete; that their laws upon marriage and fasting merely aimed at the carrying out in practice of that which they recognised as a divine and eternal command, the old law laid down in both Testaments. Still the cause of this reactionary tendency was the Montanist’s belief that he understood better than others the time in which the Christian was living, that he recognised it for what it was, for the last time. Further, how much must that original Christian frame of mind, resting on the belief in Christ’s immediate coming, have changed and degenerated, when the duty of martyrdom was so little thought of, that whole churches purchased exemption from persecution with money and wholesale, and when bishops and clergy gave their sanction to the cowardice, and encouraged it by their example.2 We may well conclude that in other respects
1 Hitschi, Enstehung der Altkath. Kirche, Isted., p. 513 j 2d ed., p. 4.97, aq.
2 Tert. de fuga in persec., cap. ii. 13.
THE APOCALYPSE (Vol. 2, pp. 74-76)
The Christology of the Apocalypse comes next in time to that of Paul. Here, too, the same canon holds good; for, the mightier the expected catastrophe is which is to accompany Christ’s coming, the higher must be the idea formed of the person of him who is to introduce it. With this writer, as with Paul, it is through his death and resurrection that Christ arrives at the highest divine power and glory. In the apviov ecr<j>ay^evov that stands before the throne of God, the greatest and the least, the contraries of life and death, of heaven and earth, are united and beheld in one and the same contemplation. Not only does Christ, in the immediate presence of God, share a like power, and dominion, and adoration with God, but predicates are given him which seem to leave no essential distinction between him and God. He is termed Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, in the same sense in which God, the ruler of all, is called o <ov ical 6 rjv Koi 6 ep^o^evos. The new name (iii. 12) given to the Messiah, the same name of which it is said that no man knew it but he himself (xix. 12), is the unspeakable name of Jehovah. Indeed, not only are the seven spirits of God, in whom the power of the divine government that watches and rules over all is individualised, attributed to Christ (iii. 1); but he is also the afXn T7?<> KTicretas Tov Qeov, and the Xoyo? Tov Qeov (iii. 14 ; xix. 13). But all these predicates bear a mere external relation to the person of the Messiah. He- is certainly called Jehovah, or God in the highest sense; but he is merely called so,—we are not justified in inferring from the name that a truly divine nature is ascribed to him. Nor does this follow from the designation of the Messiah as the \dyos Tov Qeov. The Xoyo? Tov Qeov furnishes the point of view from which the writer regards Xo’yo? Rov Qeov (i. 9); all that composes the apocalyptic visions is the \oyoi d\r)divoi Tov Qeov (xix. 9). It is Jesus who reveals the counsel of God, and who also executes it. What has been once spoken as the counsel of God must be brought to pass : here, too, Jesus is the Xoyo? Tov Qeov. To this refers the comparison of the agency of Jesus to a sharp sword going out of his mouth (xix. 15). When this sword is spoken of as going out of his mouth, it is clearly indicated that the comparison is between the sword and the word that goes out of the mouth of Jesus, the Xoyo? Tov Qeov, which he reveals; and it is a sharp sword, that is, the whole counsel of God is accomplished by him as a stern judgment with irresistible power. Accordingly, he first receives this name, the Word of God, in this passage (xix. 13), where he descends from heaven to earth as a chastising judge. The fundamental conception is the word of God, or the will and counsel of God, accomplished in the strictness of the divine judgment. The expression, then, contains nothing metaphysical, conveys nothing concerning any relation that belongs essentially to the nature of the subject in question. From this we can at once discover the sense in which we should take the further and especially noticeable predicate given to Jesus when the Apocalypse styles him the a-PXn T’7? Kricrecos Tov Qeov (iii. 14). Although, as the beginning of the creation, he is only the first created, this expression seems clearly enough to contain the conception of pre-existence. But if we consider, on the other hand, that immediately above (iii. 12) the name of the Messiah is called a new name, and that the pre-existence of the Messiah is not declared in plain words anywhere else in the whole book, we shall think it probable that this title is no dogmatic definition, but a mere name of honour, an enhanced expression of the idea that the Messiah is the highest creature, who was an object of attention even from the beginning, at the creation.
The peculiarity of the Christology of the Apocalypse therefore is, that though the highest predicates are applied to Jesus, as the Messiah, they are all names given to him merely externally, not yet joined to his person with any intrinsic and essential unity. There is no intrinsic connection as yet between the divine predicates and the historical individual who is to receive them.1 Although therefore we must not omit to notice the striking way in which the Christian consciousness felt urged, even at this period, to place the person of Jesus as high as possible, we must not the less remember that these predicates, in their whole extent, are a mere transcendental form, which still lacks a concrete matter based on the personality of Jesus himself. They are not yet indwelling features of his nature, rising out of the substantial essence of his person itself. Nothing more is implied than that Christ must have a position adequate to the great expectations concerning the last things, of which he is the chief subject. The Apocalypse embraces nothing metaphysical within its circle of vision ; it takes its point of view altogether from below, and only transfers to the Messiah after his death all that gives him his divine majesty. Compare v. 12.
A further stage of development is formed by the Epistle to the Hebrews and the lesser Epistles of Paul. In their Christology Christ has come to be regarded as a being divine in himself.
The fundamental conception of the Christology of the Epistle to the Hebrews is that of the Son. It is as the Son of God, in the specific sense, that Christ receives all the predicates which are here given to him. As the Son, he is the image, the immediate reflection of the glory of God, who bears the impress of the divine essence in the concrete reality of his personal existence (i. 3). He is thus, as the Son of God, placed simply above the world : he is a being essentially divine and distinct from the world. Though he has so much iu common with the world that, like all things, he came forth from God, and on this account he is called (i. 6), still it is he who upholds all things by the word
1 Cf. Zeller, Beitrage zur Eiuleitung in. die Apocalypse — Theol. Jahrb. 1842 p. 709 sq.
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
Edward Everett Hale (1858)
Art. I — DR. FERDINAND CHRISTIAN BAUR.
1. Geschichte des Christenthums und der Kirche in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten. Von Dr. Ferdinand Christian Baur. Tubingen. 1853.
2. Das Marcm-Evangelium nebst einem Anhange ilber das Evan- ffelium Martian’s. Von Dr. Ferdinand Christian Baur. Tubingen. 1851.
3. J&itische Untersuchungen tiber die Canonischen EvangeKen. Von Db. Ferdinand Christian Baur. Tubingen. 1847.
Dr. Baur, the distinguished head of the Tubingen school of theology, is fairly entitled to be called a representative man. Professor Schwarz, an appreciative, but not too sympathetic judge, believes him to hold at the present time, since the death of Schleiermacher, the first place in theological science ; and they who are not prepared to say as much as this cordially rank him as the peer of Rothe and Ewald. He has lived through all those convulsions of theology and philosophy which have given to German literature such welcome or dreaded fame on this side of the water. He has seen systems rise and fall, epochs bloom and pass away, “epoch- making books ” appear, reign, and disappear. When Schleiermacher came finally to Berlin, in 1806, and breathed an animation unknown before into every department of theology, reviving orthodoxy, inspiring rationalism, quickening pietism,
VOL. LXIV. 5TH S. VOL. II. NO. I. 1
pressing into the existing body of thought at all its pores, Baur was fourteen years old; when Hegel came thither, in 1818, he was twenty-six, fully prepared to sympathize with the glow of exultation which greeted that philosopher’s concrete formulas and vast generalizations. From Baur’s pupilage in Tiibingen, Strauss, the young ” referent,” repaired to Berlin to attend the lectures of Schleiermacher; and sitting at his study-window, the master watched the storm that was raised by the ” Life of Jesus ” ; saw Tholuck, Neander, Ull- man, and a host of minor thunderers, pour their wrath upon the devoted book; heard the pelting rain of the ” Kirchenzeitung,” and calmly watched the clear heavens when the tempest was over. The whole Straussian literature sprung into existence and went out of existence while he was in the prime of life, and the fruits of it, such as they were, dropped into his lap ; nor does any marked phase of thought seem to have been missed by him.
The range of Baur’s intellectual gifts is as remarkable as the comprehensiveness of his intellectual experience. He combines mental qualities that are not commonly found together. To erudition wonderfully varied, vast, and massive, he unites a prophetic sagacity which lightly and tirelessly follows its own scent, unencumbered by ponderous folios. With a power of abstruse speculation, which enables him to dwell as if at home in the thinnest atmosphere of Hegelian thought, he possesses an amazing capacity for hard, dry, protracted work in the study. His patience and accuracy in the minutite of criticism and the details of historical investigation would alone secure to him a distinguished place in the departments he has chosen; but these qualities do not appear to fetter the action of a genius for generalization which loves to comprehend and weave together all the literary facts of an epoch to make an harmonious and perfect piece. In the last-mentioned quality Baur has no equal among theological scholars. Nothing is too small to escape his eye. Nothing is too remote to be insignificant. He examines every scrap of paper for himself, scrutinizes every letter upon it, and assigns to the fragment its place in the development of thought, with a skill that, at first sight, appears to be unerring. The
obscure line of Greek or Latin, which meant nothing to others, is a clew that leads him through the most intricate ways of ancient speculation. Give him a single leaf, and out of it he will construct a literature. The bare list of his writings is suggestive of his intellectual character. His first work, ” Symbolik und Mythologie,” was published in 1824 – 5. In 1831 came from him ” Das Manichaische Religions-System,” an essay on Ebionitism and Essenism, and an article in the Tubinger Zeitschrift on ” The Christ Party at Corinth.” The next year appeared the ” Apollonius of Tyana and Christ,” a small volume; and in 1833, the famous defence of Protestantism against Mbhler’s ” Symbolik ” gave evidence of his industry and vigor in an entirely new field. 1834 produced nothing for the press; but in 1835 was published the ” Christian Gnosis,” one thick volume, and a dissertation upon ” The Pastoral Letters, so called, of the Apostle Paul ” ; two books strikingly illustrating, the one his power of abstruse speculation, the other his critical acumen. These were followed, in 1836, by an essay in the Tubinger Zeitschrift on ” The Purpose and Occasion of the Epistle to the Romans “; and this was succeeded, in 1837, by a companion to the ” Apollonius,” entitled ” Socrates and Christ.” ” The Origin of the Episcopate ” (1838) was written in opposition to Rothe’s ” Beginnings of the Christian Church,” and the genuineness of the Ignatian Epistles; ” The History of the Doctrine of Atonement ” was published the same year. A rest of two years prepared the public for his greatest work, ” The History of the Doctrine of the Trinity and Incarnation,” in three stout volumes, almost any other man’s life-labor. In 1842 was issued the first number of the ” Theologische Jahrbiicher,” * to which
* The following ore titles of some of the more noteworthy articles in the Jahrbiicher, by Dr. Baur:—”The John Gospel.” — “Contributions to the Earliest Christian History.” — ” The John Question.” —” The Doctrine of the Reformed Church as distinguished from the Lutheran.” — ” Critical Studies on the Essence of Protestantism.” — ” Character and Significance of the Calistine Syncretism.” — ” The John Gospel and the Passover.” — ” The Johannic Epistles.” — ” The Principle of the Reformed Doctrine.”— “Towards the Study of Protestant Mysticism.” — ” Contributions to N. T. Criticism.” — ” Towards the Explanation of the Epistles to the Corinthians.” — ” The Introduction to the N. T. as a Department of Theological Science,” four long articles.—” The Essence of Montanism.” — “A Defence of Calvin against a Catholic Reproach.” — ” Towards an Explanation of Corinthians.”— “Philippians ii. 6.”—”Criticism on the Latest Explanations of the Apocalypse.”—”Review of the Latest Researches on the Mark-Gospel.” — “The Philosophoumena of Origen.”—”Bunsen’s Hippolytns Theory.”—”The John Question and its Recent Answers ” (1854). — “Cajus and Hippolytus.”—”The Principle of Protestantism and its Historical Development.” — ” The Epistles to the Thessalonians.’1—”The Historical Method of Conceiving the Apocalypse.” — ” The System of the Gnostic Basilidcs.” — ” The First Epistle of Peter.” — ” The Purport and Course of Thought in Romans ” —” The John Question.”
he has been the largest contributor, and in which, during the year 1844, he published his three great articles on the Gospel of John. After this, for several years, Baur’s labors were mostly critical. The ” Paulus,” a masterly book, written in a clear and finished style, set forth, in 1845, the results of study on the life, times, and writings of the Apostle to the Gentiles. The ” Canonical Gospels ” (1847) contained his articles on John’s Gospel, with an analysis of Matthew and Luke. In 1851 these labors were closed for a time by a similar study of the ” Mark-Gospel.” These isolated essays having prepared him for a more extended historical work, he published, in 1852, in one volume, his ” Epochs in Church History,” a prelude to his ” History of Christianity and the Christian Church in the First Three Centuries,” which appeared in 1853. The books above mentioned represent more than one phase of religious thought. At the commencement of his authorship Baur entertained Orthodox opinions, and shared in the enthusiasm which hailed the advent of Schleiermacher. In the Preface to his ” Symbolik und Mythologie,” he says: ” Mythology has presented itself to me as the opposite of Christianity, and as this, from the fact that it is no human system, but a divine revelation, can be worthily stationed only at the highest point of the world’s history, Mythology, or the religion of nature, can only be understood when it is placed in its proper relation to Christianity.” He then pays a grateful tribute to Schleiermacher’s ” Christliche Glaube,” as a work which beyond any other makes an epoch in the history of theology, — a work which, by its profound exhibition of the character of Christianity, has made easy the task of measuring other systems by it. The book on ” Manichansm ” opens with the statement, that, although superficially and externally related to Christianity, it stands upon an entirely different ground. ” Separating essentials from non-essentials, and going back to great principles, Manichffiism is heathenish, for we must ascribe to it the character of a nature-religion, which is foreign to the ethical genius of Christianity.” The monograph on Apollonius of Tyana, the author tells us, ” connects itself in many ways with the exposition of the Manichasan system. Here, as there, the purpose is to grasp and present the mighty impression which Christianity, at that early age, made at the two opposite points of its even then extensive sphere of influence, — there in the remote East, here in the centre of Western culture, — upon the heathen world, already attracted, but not yet penetrated, by its divine power.” These writings are animated by a positive Christian faith, by no means ” Evangelical” indeed, yet as much so as other writings of the same class, proceeding from the school of Schleier- macher. But in the book against Mohler, the negative character of the Hegelian philosophy begins to appear. At least Philip Schaffdetects it there, and remarks, bitterly, that “the Protestantism which Baur protects from Mohler’s earnest and keen assault is not at all the Reformers’ system of faith, but is distorted by modern pantheistic and fatalistic elements, so that an Evangelical Christian believer must constantly decline such a vindication, and feels often tempted to extend his hand of brotherhood to the pious Catholic, in hearty league against modern unbelief and half-belief, which attaches only a negative significance to the Reformation, as the beginning of man’s deliverance from all and every authority.”
The ” Christian Gnosis, or Christian Philosophy of Religion,” — a work which presents Gnosticism under an entirely new aspect, as the beginning of a line of speculation that originated in Judaism, assumed three distinct forms as related to Christianity and Heathenism, was further developed by the conflict with Neo-Platonism and the Fathers, passed over from the ancient religious philosophy to the new, reappeared in the Theosophy of Jakob Bohme, in the Nature Philosophy of Schelling, in the ” Glaubens-Lehre” of Schleiermacher, and finally culminated in Hegel’s ” Religions-Philosophic,” — is distinctly Hegelian in its character. Gnosticism was an at tempt to give a philosophical statement of Christianity; Hegelianism is the successful accomplishment of that task, and is the only philosophy which fully comprehends the Christian religion. But according to Hegel, God is not a conscious person. The Absolute in itself is nothing. Deity comes to consciousness in man, his existence being an endless process of evolving thought. ” The import of Religion,” says Baur (Gnosis, pp. 674,675), “is the self-consciousness of God. God comes to know himself in a consciousness which is differenced from him (i. e. the outgoing of his thought),— a consciousness which is His own, but whose identity — for it recognizes its identity with God — is effected by the negation of the Finite.” ” We need not remark,” he continues (pp. 709, 710), ” how intimately this philosophy is connected with Christianity, how eagerly it transfers to itself its entire import; indeed, in its whole purpose it will be nothing else than the scientific exposition of historical Christianity.” And further on (p. 711): ” The doctrine respecting the person of Christ seems to present the most obvious proof of the earnestness with which this philosophy of religion appropriated the full substance of the Christian faith, and would lose nothing of its deep significance. It does not talk of an ideal of blessed humanity floating in the dim distance, nor of a Prototype that only raises the human to the divine, nor of a consciousness of God become the being of God; it affirms, with all the emphasis of the Church formulas, that Christ was the God-Man, God become man, manifest in the flesh, the essential unity of the divine and human nature objectively exhibited to the world in a single individual. But, of course, all depends upon the sense in which Christ is held to be the God-Man. If we consider the doctrine of Christ nearer, three distinct points of thought present themselves. The merely outward, the bald historical view, sees in Christ only a common man, a martyr to the truth, like Socrates. Upon this first point, at which the person of Christ is still an object of unbelief, follows, as the second process, faith, which contemplates Christ no longer as a common man, but as God-Man, as the person in whom the Divine nature is manifested, in whom the Godhead is seen. If we ask in what way the first position is connected with the second, — how unbelief passes into faith, — we are reminded that the origin of faith is the outpouring of the Spirit, which consists herein, that the immediate becomes spiritually determined, the sensible is spiritually taken up; with the man Jesus as a human, sensuous phenomenon, the consciousness of a spiritual essence was united. The death of Christ, then, makes this transition-point into the sphere of religion. For Christ is the God-Man only because he has vanquished death, abolished the grave, set his denial upon negation, and thus annihilated the finite, evil, as something abhorrent to him, and reconciled the world with God. Everything hangs upon the apprehension of his death, — it is the touchstone by which faith must be tried; therefore the spirit could not come until Christ had been snatched from the flesh, and his immediate sensuous presence was withdrawn. In one word, Christ is God-Man only through the mediation of faith. What lies behind faith, as the historical, outward reality which must be supposed in order that the bare, eternal, circumstantial apprehension may become faith, remains shrouded in a mystery which we shall not penetrate, for the question is not whether Christ was himself, in his objective, historical form, the God-man ; the only matter of concern to us is that he became the God-Man to faith.”
This is a fair example of the way in which this philosophy of religion, this Christian Gnosis, or Hegelianism, interpreted and reproduced the Evangelical doctrines. By the same scholastic process it restored the other orthodox dogmas, then fallen into much disrepute. Many an old-fashioned believer ranked himself among the disciples of Hegel, and rejoiced in the new teacher, who, by reconciling faith and knowledge, speculation and dogma, history and revelation, science and’ supernaturalism, had allowed them to dwell comfortably in their own belief. The ” Gospel according to Hegel ” became the accepted gospel among the enlightened and conservative. Its grave judicial tone, its calm temper, its large charity towards differing systems, its freedom from everything controversial and disorganizing, caused it to be honored greatly in the state. It really seemed as if, at last, the unity of spirit had been attained, and the bond of peace knit, by the latest apostle. But Hegel was hardly quiet in his grave, when Strauss, himself a thorough master of the grand philosophy, in the same year that Baur’s “Gnosis” appeared, flung his ” Leben Jesu,” like a firebrand, into the tranquil circle. The effect was astonishing. Such an abandonment of the orthodox pretensions of the school, such an exposure of destructive tendencies in the system which had set itself forth as the universal reconciler, excited in all quarters the utmost alarm, but nowhere more than among the Hegelians themselves. The body of the disciples fell asunder. The larger portion, including some eminent names, repudiated Strauss and his book, said that he was no true Hegelian, and undertook to vindicate the school and the master from all responsibility for the new heresies. Strauss himself, in a dissertation entitled ” The Transient and the Permanent,” — the substance of which was incorporated into the third edition of the ” Leben Jesu,”—attempted to restore dogmatically what he had destroyed critically, to save the philosophical Christ when the literal Jesus had been resolved away; and, in his endeavor to become reconciled once more with Christianity, allowed himself to make concessions which consistency could hardly justify. In the fourth edition, this ” too much of compliance ” was corrected; and, to use his own language, his labor consisted chiefly ” in whetting his good sword to free it from the notches made in it, rather by his own grinding than by the blows of enemies.” Amid all this uproar in the school, Baur maintained a dignified silence. He was neither terrified nor surprised. Understanding himself too-well to be confused, and being too powerful to be shaken, he labored on, producing works which plainly indicated his position at the extreme left of the Hegelians, and drew about him a band of theologians who were prepared to acknowledge an open breach between philosophy and faith, and to make any sacrifices of faith to philosophy. His two great histories of the Atonement and the Trinity assume throughout, and boldly, the principles of his master Hegel.
The history of doctrines was, and is, with Baur, the history of God. For, in his view, God exists only in the process of evolving thought. Ideas are facts. The course of history is no play of chance or human caprice, no long tangle of arbitrary notions, crossing and recrossing each other; it is the movement of the inevitable and eternal laws of Spirit. It is the being of God unfolding and realizing itself. Every thought is actual; and everything that has a true ground of reality is of the reason. The development of every century is the necessary proceeding of the absolute Spirit; and revelation is an eternal, continuous outgoing of the Divine life in and through humanity. This central principle of Hegel’s philosophy explains the fact that so many of his disciples have devoted themselves to the study of history, and especially to the .history of opinion. They seem to have made it their sacred task to revise the creeds of mankind; to recover and fix in its proper place every fragment of thought that may possibly indicate a passage in the autobiography of Deity. In this work, Dr. Baur has no equal. All his extraordinary powers of analysis and synthesis, of patient research, of logical divination, his rapidity, grasp, tenacity, are inspired by his philosophical formula. His mind is calm, even, and religiously conscientious. Partisanship, in his estimation, is crime. To be a controversialist in theology is to be a sinner. Every doctrine must have exact justice done to it, and every shade of doctrine must be rendered truly, for it was necessary in its time and place. Baur has no preferences of one dogma above another; he never takes a side. There are no sides. Each position is a link in the eternal process of thought. The business of the historian is to report what is. It is all right: it is all true. The works on the Trinity and the Atonement have, therefore, the singular merit of absolute logical impartiality ; an impartiality which, combined with their exhaustive thoroughness, must secure for them a permanent fame. And yet, we may say, it is this same logical impartiality that constitutes their chief defect. They are pale from the intensity of rarefied thought. This is partly to be explained by the fact that Baur has no personal faith in any of the special doctrines he describes, and consequently infuses no warmth of personal interest or feeling into his delineation. He works like an anatomist, — if possible, even more passionless when his knife is busy in the neighborhood of vital parts. Faith in individual dogmas would, in his view, be infidelity to all the rest, which had an equal claim upon his preference. Faith presents to him only its intellectual aspect; the spiritual aspect he does not recognize. Several years ago, two American scholars called upon Dr. Baur, in Tubingen. In the course of conversation mention was made of Mr. Norton’s book on the ” Genuineness of the Gospels,” which this omnivorous professor had never heard of; one of the young men, alluding to a note upon Baur in the second volume, said: ” Mr. Norton calls you an atheist.” Instantly the great heavy head was lifted up, and the emphatic reply broke forth: ” Nicht wahr: Ich bin kein Atheist,” —” False : I am no atheist.” We would give the philosopher credit for his disclaimer, and allow him all the benefit of his reserved definition. The notion of God is too subtile to be confined in any single form of phraseology. It is not for us to judge of the sincere meaning that may lie deep in the mind of one who ponders this matter profoundly, by any interpretation that we may be able to put upon his words; nor have we a right to presume that the language in which the philosopher seeks expression for his inmost thought must convey that thought fully to our casual reading. Still, when we have stretched our intellectual charity to its utmost limits, we must admit that Baur does not believe in God as Christians do. Whatever he may mean by his ” Ansichsein,” ” Fiirsichsein,” and ” Anundfiirsichscin,” his ” Indifferenz,” ” Differenz,” and ” Einheit der Differenz und Indifferenz,” his ” Objectivitat,” ” Subjectivitat,” and ” Einheit der Objectivitiit und Subjec- tivitat,” it is evident he means nothing that makes him a partaker in the spiritual consciousness of Christendom.
Whatever substance may be beneath the formulas which seem to teach that God comes to consciousness in mankind, it is safe to say that it is not the substance that fills out the Christian belief in the Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement. His grand panorama of Church theology is imposing in more senses than one. The process of development is not conceived of as ordered and directed by the Holy Spirit, which is ever guiding believers by devious ways to the perfect truth.
It is a process, and only a process. The working forces have no vitality, but are naked formulas, abstract categories, playing, like fatal engines, in an atmosphere which no living creature could breathe. The whole history of doctrines is nothing but a mechanical working of the abstract laws of thought, a clashing of dialectics, producing, by its endless rattle and whirl, the identity of the finite and the infinite,— of the object and the subject.
And if these histories of doctrine are cold because the author lacks the hearty interest of a personal faith in the beliefs he describes, the failure to recognize their intimate connection with Christian experience in the different periods of the Church imparts to his pictures a look almost of ghast- liness. That the Christian faith, in its several phases, grew out of the Christian heart as it was exercised by providential trials of hope and fear, is a fact which receives no proportion of its due consideration. The effect which moral and spiritual culture has exerted on speculation is almost entirely ignored. The part which human passion, hot with demonic or glowing with celestial fire, has played in this august procession of the Absolute, is not indicated. We do not hear resounding through his pages the holy songs of St. Ambrose or the penitential cries of St. Augustine, the challenge of apologists or the death-groans of martyrs. We do not see stalking along his episodes the gigantic forms of Origen and Tertullian, of Cyril and Athanasius, of Constantino and Julian, of Leo and Hildebrand; — the agency of war and peace, of persecution and tolerance, of changing dynasties and moving thrones, of the fortunes of an emperor or the caprice of an empress, of the obstinacy of a confessor or the wiles of a eunuch, — for these no allowance is made. We move across the dreary track of the tenth century like men in a trance, unaware of the terrific throes which convulse the soul of Christendom, as the time appointed for the end of all things drew nigh. That the Christian world, in all the formative epochs of faith, was filled with living men, hoping, fearing, confessing, praying, suffering, and sorrowing unto death, believing and burning for their belief, sitting all scarred and mutilated on council benches, wrestling with demons and embracing angels, — all this intense stir in the heart of the Church passes by as noiselessly as a tempest traverses the empty spaces of the upper air. Great as these books of Baur are, — unapproachably great in some respects, — a work like Bb”hringer’s ” Biographical Church History ” is not only more interesting, but is even more valuable; for it shows us belief, not as resulting from the inevitable evolution of logic, but as springing out of the spiritual needs of men, — not as an abstract process of ” becoming,” but as living and working in human souls.
The critical labors which have made Dr. Baur so famous — or, as some would say, so infamous — in England and in this country, seem to have been suggested by his researches into the history of thought. The study of Christian theology from, his point of view led, of course, to the study of the earliest Christian literature, and to a fresh analysis of primitive documents. In his treatment of the New Testament Scriptures, and of the Apostolic and post-Apostolic age, Baur is not to be ranked with the ordinary rationalists of any school. His name is not to be mentioned in company with Semler, Paulus, or Strauss. Schaff distinguishes the former phases of rationalism from the latter, by saying that those adopted a simple, dry, and spiritless mode of stating their views, while these clothe their ideas in the pomp of philosophical lanr guage; that those were deistic, while these are pantheistic; that those were Ebionitic in their cast, while these have more affinity with Gnosticism; that those accepted the truths of natural religion, held fast to the belief in God, freedom, and immortality, and wished to make their peace with the Bible, while these confess to no faith in a personal God or a conscious immortality, deny the Apostolical origin of nearly all the New Testament books, and resolve the solidest facts of history into mythological fictions or deliberate frauds. To discriminate in this way is only to confound. In the first place, Schaff introduces points of difference which are entirely irrelevant to “the critical question in hand. In the next place, he would seem to put Strauss and Baur in the same category, whereas Baur, as a student of the New Testament, is more widely separated from Strauss than Strauss is from Paulus, Semler, or Hencke. There is, in fact, a broad chasm between Baur and all his predecessors. The rationalism of the last century and the early portion of this, had little breadth of philosophical or historical view. Its aim was short-sighted; its method extremely defective. Its much-boasted instrument was ” common sense,” and this it turned upon everything which transcended the scope of the ordinary understanding, or was beyond the reach of sensible evidence. Its criticism was especially directed against the miraculous in the Bible; the whole of which, as being absurd or legendary, was denied, without any attempt at an explanation. A miraculous revelation was its stone of stumbling; and it was never weary of objecting to the Immaculate Conception, and the resurrection of Jesus, and the wonderful works of Christ. The naturalists, with Paulus at their head, followed in the same general track, though with broader trail and more carefully arranged march. They bad a theory for the explanation of the miracles; and vast was the ingenuity they expended in attempts to resolve them into natural events, which only seemed miraculous in the telling. Even Strauss, notwithstanding his scientific and philosophical pretensions, the completeness of his method, the thoroughness of his analysis, the breadth of his theory, the calm, judicial, literary tone of his work, belongs really to the same school, and by his mythical explanation simply brought that line of forced and partial and experimental criticism to a close. The predecessors of Baur, one and all, laid out their strength upon a few problems thrown up by the New Testament. They discussed the evidences for and against the genuineness of the Gospels, the want of harmony between the narratives, the improbability of the accounts, and so forth. The literary composition and organic structure of the writings themselves, their connection with each other, their relation to other literatures of the same age, or of previous and succeeding periods, they were not prepared to contemplate. In one word, they were critics of details, and not historians of literature and of thought. Now this is precisely what Ferdinand Christian Baur claims, and proves himself, to be. He does not confine his attention to details of criticism; nor does he raise secondary and incidental questions into supreme importance. Instead of stationing himself within the enclosure of the New Testament, and exploring here and there a section of its territory, he takes a stand outside of it, entirely embraces its whole contents as one department in the world’s literature, brings lights from all quarters to bear upon each document, and endeavors to grasp the principle which produced the entire series as it has come down to us. Opponents have spoken jestingly of the Tiibingen ” romance.” But Baur is no friend to fictions; he is not a man to be possessed by a mere fancy or to be governed by a dream. His purpose is to deal impartially and on a liberal scale with the facts of literature: he is an historian who, with vast powers of generalization, includes the Apostolic age as an episode in the epic flow of human beliefs. His attitude, therefore, is not that of an opponent of Christianity; and in this again he is to be distinguished from the rationalists. Whatever may be the results of his investigation, he is never actuated by sentiments of hostility to the popular religion. He would simply, as a scholar, know what these books are; by what intellectual impulse they were brought into being; how they stand related to each other, and what information they give respecting their own age. In Baur’s writings, one meets with none of the old-fashioned polemics: the vexed questions that have so tormented the apologists are dismissed briefly enough; the supernatural problem is left so completely untouched, that a reader would never suspect its theological importance. He meets these books in his path, as he comes marching down the. highway of human opinion: he takes them up, examines them as if they had never been examined before, tells us what they indicate, and where they belong. As Schwarz says, ” Baur’s place in New Testament criticism has been compared, and fairly, with that of Niebuhr and Wolf in the department of classical literature. As Niebhnr, with unsparing criticism, demolished Livy’s representation of Roman history, in order to reconstruct, by skilful combinations, the genuine history of Rome, — as Wolf declared that the Homeric songs grew gradually, and by natural laws, out of the life and poetry of the Grecian people, — so Baur first made the attempt to discover and comprehend the historical origin of the Canonical Scriptures, and to assign their place in the record of the development of Christianity. And this indicates, beyond all question, a great advance, — nothing less, in fact, than the transition from a dogmatic to a truly historic treatment of the canon.”
Baur’s first significant essay in New Testament criticism was the article on ” The Christ Party at Corinth.” Here he suggested, and most ingeniously unfolded, the idea that this ” Christ party ” was identical with the party of Cephas. It was composed of all who set themselves against Paul’s Gospel and Apostleship. These people called themselves “disciples of Cephas,” because Peter held the chief place among the Jewish Apostles, and ” disciples of Christ,” because they regarded immediate association with Christ as the prime condition of genuine Apostolic rank. The party revered all the Apostles who had enjoyed personal intercourse with Jesus, more especially those who stood in the nearer relation of kindred to him, the ” Lord’s brethren,” but peculiarly Peter, to whom Jesus had shown a preference above the rest. Paul was rejected, as an outsider, who came into the brotherhood late, and by a private door. This opposition between Peter and Paul, as representing the Jewish and the Gentile tendencies in the primitive Church, is the key to all Baur’s later and more extended discoveries. This is his clew to the whole history of the Apostolic age, and the two generations succeeding it: the root of bitterness from which the whole Christian literature of a century sprung. Four years after the publication of this essay, the significance of which was not at the time suspected, appeared another from the same hand,” on ” The so-called Pastoral Letters of the Apostle Paul.” In this a much bolder position was taken ; the believing public was startled by the announcement that these Epistles were written with polemical intent against the Gnostics of the school of Marcion, which flourished about the middle of the second century ; that, moreover, they are devoted to the ecclesiastical or hierarchical interest in the Church, which was gaining ground at that period, and which the Gnostics vehemently resisted ; that they could not, therefore, be received as productions of the Apostolic age, and, of course, could not have been written by Paul, who lived half a century earlier, and who, if he had written, would probably have advocated the opposite side in the existing controversies. The dissertation on the ” Pastoral Letters ” was followed the next year by an article in the Tiibinger Zeitschrift on the design and motive of the Epistle to the Romans, in which the posture of Judaism and Gentilism towards each other was more sharply denned, and the broad, practical significance of Paul’s mission was powerfully presented to the consideration of those who have been in the habit of reading the letter to the Romans as a calm, theological treatise, containing a formal and systematic exposition of the Apostle’s Christian belief. We do not hesitate to say that the perusal of this paper, which was afterwards incorporated in the ” Paulus,” gave us an altogether fresh conception of Paul’s purpose in writing as he did; taught us to see that the missive came from the Apostle’s heart, and not from his head, — that its intent was not speculative, but vital,— that what we had read as metaphysics was not meant as metaphysics, but as close argument urged in the interest of very deep practical truths, — and that the chapters which theologians have taken up as the pith of the whole composition, and have pored over, commented upon, wrestled with, as containing the hidden mysteries of faith, are after all of subordinate moment, and have no value save as they bear up the great, crowning proposition, that Christianity is not a mere supplement to Judaism, but a spiritual, world-embracing religion.
The leaning of Baur’s criticism was by this time apparent to all discerning minds, although his conclusions hitherto had not menaced directly the strong-holds of Scriptural belief. For a time his critical labors seemed to be suspended, and the production of such colossal works as the History of the Atonement, and of the Trinity, might well afford grounds for surmising that they had altogether ceased. But the forces were gathering for a fresh demonstration, which was soon made against the citadel itself, — that citadel before which even Strauss had paused. The first number of the Theologische Jahrbucher for 1844 was occupied (with the exception of three or four literary notices) by a dissertation from the pen of Dr. Baur, ” On the Composition and Character of the Johannean Gospel.” In the third number the subject was continued, and the conclusion, of eighty-five pages, appeared in the fourth. This essay has occasioned more discussion than any single work of its author, and furnishes us with a perfect example of his method.
Taking up the book as a literary composition, and subjecting its contents to analysis, Baur finds that it is an elaborate production, carefully wrought upon an ideal plan. At the outset it is assumed that Christ was the Logos, the absolute principle of all existence, pre-existent as a person from eternity ; and this conception offers the key to the entire book, which, on examination, proves to be an account of the manifestation of this Divine Logos to the world, for the purpose of confronting the powers of darkness, and drawing men away from its abyss into the blessedness of his light and life. The Logos appears, — is not born, not even miraculously, — does not become a man, but only assumes a mask of flesh by which he is made visible to men, and is enabled to act-upon those who are receptive of his spirit.
The result of Baur’s analysis is, that a Gospel which assumes a theory lying out of the domain of history, which holds this theory fast from beginning to end, and stamps its mark upon every section, is not, in any strict sense, an historical Gospel. Examining this point more closely, and comparing the book with the Synoptical Gospels, it looks as if the author had borrowed his material from them, and worked it over in accordance with his general plan. His leading theory is, of course, his own ; his chronological arrangement is his own ; his historical incidents are often peculiar to himself, and cannot be reconciled with the other Evangelists ; but the traces of his having consulted them are everywhere manifest. The sick man at Bethesda stands, once for all, for the numerous invalids of the other narratives, which together contribute the several features of the case. The curing of the blind man, chapter ix., represents a whole class of similar healings related in the Synoptics, and makes amends for its solitariness by the emphasis that is laid upon it, and the boldness of its details.
Even the resurrection of Lazarus, which the other three biographers do not mention, and could not have known, is evidently constructed, says Baur, from materials which they furnish. It is the superlative of their positive and comparative. Matthew tells simply of the daughter of a Jewish archon whom Christ raised from the dead. Luke instances a young man of Nain, the only son of his mother, and she a widow, adding that Jesus was touched with compassion. The author of the fourth Gospel colors his picture more highly still. The deceased Lazarus is not only the brother of two sisters, the favorite of a household united by tenderest ties; he is also the deeply beloved friend of Jesus himself, who betrays much emotion in the presence of the sisters, and weeps at the grave. To heighten the interest of the scene, other circumstances are introduced, — the message, the delay, the four days’ burial, the grief, the concourse of people. The domestic scene may have been borrowed from Luke x. 38 – 42; but where was the brother Lazarus found ? Where, but in the parable of Dives, in which Lazarus, the image of the truthful, pure, and meek believer, has his name associated with death and resurrection. Dives requests that Lazarus may be permitted to revisit the earth to convert his unbelieving brethren, and Abraham replies, ” If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” The hypothesis has become a fact. Lazarus is actually called from the grave ; the Jews have seen him and have not believed. (!)
Passing by other incidents, his account of the Last Supper deserves especial notice. The entire scene of the Supper is omitted by this writer, and in place of it is substituted an ablution of the disciples’ feet. Yet the Supper must have been in his mind, for it is suggested in chapter xiii., and one cannot read chapter vi. without having it recalled to him. Why was it left out ? Partly, says Baur, because its import had already been exhausted in discourses of Jesus, and partly because Jesus, being plainly described as the paschal lamb, could not, like the Christ of Matthew, sit down to the paschal feast at which he himself was the sacrifice. That conspicuous fact is therefore passed by in silence; and while the genera! features of the scene are retained, another incident is composed from materials at hand in Matthew xx. 26 and Luke xxii. 25-28, the sentiments of the Synoptics becoming history in John.
Having thus compared the narrative portions of the Gospel with the Synoptics, the keen Professor returns to consider the internal probability of John’s historical representations, and is strengthened in the persuasion that the groundwork of literal fact is very slight indeed, that the composition has a purely ideal or doctrinal purpose. The entire arrangement of scene and incident he finds to be arbitrary and artificial; the field of Christ’s ministry is substantially different from that assigned to him by his other biographers, being confined almost to Judaea ; and in consequence of this change, all the relations of time are confused: what should come last is placed first; the crisis arrives at the commencement, — it is all crisis; the narrative lacks movement and development; the incidents do not grow together; the whole catastrophe stands exposed on the first page; the complete drama is played in the first act; at the raising of the curtain we see a blow about descending upon the head of Jesus, and we wonder why it does not fall. Our wonder is not diminished when we detect the forced expedient by which the narrator extricates himself from the dilemma. The Logos has no body, but only a phantom form, which appears and disappears at will; consequently, when the people offer to seize him, or take up stones to cast at him, he is not there. This happens repeatedly, and thus the career of Christ is continued from stage to stage until ” his hour had come.” An ingenious device, but one not consistent with the historical mode of treatment.
The larger portion of the Gospel consists of long discourses, which, for several reasons, must be judged unauthentic. They are, in almost every instance, connected with historical data that will not bear the test of criticism; they lack point and pertinency ; they are mystical, enigmatical, and dark ; they are often incompatible with the character of Jesus as portrayed by the other Evangelists; they are mainly expositions of the Logos theory, and abound in phrases which that theory suggested and alone can explain; in no single feature do they resemble the recorded words of Jesus in Matthew or Luke. In fact, the speeches as well as the deeds of the Logos-Christ compel one to believe that the composition is rather a theological romance than an authentic history.
Baur next proceeds to consider the relation of the Gospel to the thought of the age. The cast of the book is so peculiar, that this examination is conducted with much confidence. The type of Christology indicates a stage of speculation on the nature of Christ far in advance of the Apostolic period, many degrees removed from that of any other New Testament writer. The contest between Judaism and Paganism is described as ended for ever ; the heathen are not only freely admitted into the Church, but, in point of spirituality, are ranked infinitely above the Jews; even Pilate is represented as doing his best to rescue Jesus from the clutches of the chief priests; the Jews in a body are counted as enemies of Christ. All these are signs of a development of thought that was not reached till – long after the close of the first century. The subordinate position assigned to Peter is another hint that the party of which he had been the leader was on the decline. One or two less conspicuous marks help the conclusion, that the book had a Greek and not a Jewish origin, and was produced not before the middle of the second century.
Having searched the Gospel through, and estimated its character from its contents, Baur approaches, finally, the question of genuineness, leaving until the last the inquiry that is commonly entered upon first . General considerations adverse to its Johannean claim he adduces as follows :— 1. In Galatians, and by primitive tradition, John is described as an antagonist of Paul, opposed to the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles; how, then, could he have written a book which is even more Pauline than Paul himself? 2. The author, by several expressions, betrays the fact that he is not a native Jew, as the Apostle John undoubtedly was. 3. Midway in the second century there was a great controversy respecting the time of observing the Lord’s Supper. The churches of Asia Minor held their celebration according to the Jewish custom, on the 14th of Nisan, and appealed to Philip, John, Polycarp, and others. Now the fourth Gospel, herein differ ing from the others, states decidedly that Jesus sat down with his disciples on the 13th of Nisan. How, then, could John have written the fourth Gospel ? Moreover, this Gospel was not once quoted during that whole controversy. Even the opponents of the Jewish custom, to whom its authority would have been of such vast importance, never mention it as favoring their side. This surely could not have happened if the Gospel had been in existence, or, being in existence, had been regarded as the work of an Apostle. If it was not in existence, of course John could not have composed it; if it was in existence, and was not received as the work of an Apostle, it is hard to believe that John was its author. This is a point elaborated by Dr. Baur with the utmost care. 4. The fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse must be regarded as productions of different hands. Now, there is strong reason for thinking that John the Apostle did write the Apocalypse ; if he did, it is all but certain that he did not write the Gospel. 5. In conclusion, the evidence in favor of the genuineness is sifted and found unsatisfactory. The earliest distinct testimony to the Johannean origin of the work is given by writers that flourished towards the end of the second century, Irenaeus, Ter- tnllian, and others ; the author who first speaks of it by name is Theophilus of Antioch, A. D. 181; the first unequivocal reference to the book is as late as the year 170.
This is a very meagre outline of the course pursued by Dr. Baur in this famous treatise. It is a striking specimen of the historical style of treatment as distinguished from the dogmatical, exemplified by Augustine, Bengel, and Storr; from the abstract-critical, or literary, illustrated by Eichhorn, Hug, Gieseler, Schleiermacher, De Wette, and Credner; and from the dialectical, or negative critical, as Baur terms it, pursued by Strauss and his opponents.
It is now time to give some account of the celebrated theory with which Dr. Baur’s name, as the head of the Tubingen school, is especially associated. The fundamental positions for this theory are found in the four Epistles of Paul, (the only ones whose genuineness Baur allows,) Romans, the two Corinthians, and Galatians. The conclusion to which he was led by his study of the letters to the Corinthians has already been mentioned. This conclusion was confirmed by the letter to the Romans. But the Epistle to the Galatians is more deeply significant than these,— especially a single passage in the second chapter, which alludes to a meeting of the Apostles at Jerusalem, and to a sharp.rencounter that Paul had with Peter at Antioch. He went to Jerusalem, he tells us, for the sake of an interview with James, Peter, and John, “who seemed to be pillars,” unfolded to them his revelation, and announced his calling as the divinely commissioned bearer of Christianity to the Gentiles. They, perceiving the grace that was given to him, privately offered the right hand of fellowship to him and his companion, thus recognizing his authority, but declined participating in his work, on the ground that their errand was to Jews only. The two parties, widely divergent in aims and opinions, are represented as standing face to face on terms of cool but polite toleration. There is clearly no sympathy of feeling between them. Paul speaks disrespectfully, not to say contemptuously, of the ” pillars,” and they look upon him as ah interloper, whose title to preach they cannot plausibly discredit, but towards whom they bear no love. That the fellowship was merely courteous, is evident from the fact — of which there can be no doubt, since Paul asserts it himself—that Peter some time afterwards came to Antioch, where Paul had a church, and while alone there, under his powerful influence and eye, treated the uncircumcised converts precisely as if they had been good orthodox Christians, who had come by the proper Jewish gate into the Church. Presently, however, some of James’s disciples appear, and Peter, ashamed to be seen by them countenancing Paul’s heresy and holding communion with Gentiles, withdraws from the uncircumcised believers, recedes from his liberal position, and persuades others, Barnabas among them, to return to the old conservative side. ” Whereupon,” says Paul, ” I withstood him to the face.” This dispute cuts into the very heart of the age. The grounds of it were radical: it indicates two widely separated and openly hostile sections in the Church. These Apostles, James, Peter, and John, who ” were of reputation, and seemed to be somewhat,” — these personal friends and disciples of Christ, heads of the primitive Church, representatives of primitive Christianity,—were Jews in sentiment and opinion. Their Christ was the Jewish Messiah; their Christianity was Judaism completed and glorified by the advent of the Son of Man, the belief in whom was the single point that distinguished them from other Jews; and it never had occurred to them that any coold enter the kingdom without first, by the rite of circumcision, joining the Hebrew Church. This position Baur and his friends sustain by abundant historical evidence, as they interpret history. They appeal to Hegesippus, who describes James as a veritable Jewish ascetic, a Nazarite, himself a high-priest, daily kneeling in the temple making intercession for the people, honored by the priests and scribes, and summing up his Christianity in the single article, ” Jesus Christ was the Messiah.” They appeal to the early traditions respecting John, which report him as a Chiliast, a priest wearing the mitre in the Ephesian church, as if he were a member of the Hebrew hierarchy, — a man quoted by the churches of Asia Minor as authority for their Jewish observance of the Passover, — the reputed author, likewise, of the Apocalypse. As to Peter, it is enough that he was the fast friend and ally of these two zealots for the Law, and that Paul mentions him as the head of a Jewish party at Corinth. Add to this testimony numerous facts such as these, — that the seat of primitive Christianity was Jerusalem, where Christians of Paul’s stamp could not have lived in peace; that the Palestine Christians continued in full communion with the Jewish synagogue; that Josephus speaks of the Christians as belonging to the Jewish fraternity; that the original communities, according to Sulpitius Severus, down to the time of Hadrian, had none but circumcised bishops, and held generally to the observance of the Law; that Hegesippus, himself an Ebion- ite, rejoices in Christianity as the true orthodoxy; that the early Christian literature — the Apocalypse, the Epistle of James, so called, the Apology of Melito, the Clementine Homilies and Recognitions, the ” Shepherd” of Hermas — makes open profession of the same principle; that writers like Justin Martyr, and even’ TertuUian, confess it; — let these points, to add no more, be fairly weighed, and it must be considered as established that the primitive Christians regarded themselves as a portion still of the Jewish Church, as the true Judaism, fresh in its second youth.
It was Paul who rescued the religion of Jesus from this bondage to the ancient Law. It was Paul who, claiming to have received an independent message, proclaimed that Christianity was not Judaism at all, but a new principle of spiritual life, freely offered to all mankind on the single condition of faith. With his new Gospel, he broke out of the old Hebrew temple, and went away, on his private responsibility, as a missionary to the Gentiles. For this, according to his own story, he was bitterly persecuted by the Jewish Christians; his whole life was a struggle to maintain his authority as an Apostle, to defend himself from aspersions, to assert and establish his principles. His person was ridiculed, his views denounced, his plans thwarted at every step. The opposition must, indeed, have been fierce to have wrung from him such drops of gall as blot the second chapter of Galatians and almost every page of 2 Corinthians. The author of the Apocalypse has no place for him among the Apostles; spies dog his footsteps; up to the hour of his death the hostility burns and after his death it continues to rage. The Ebionites, representing primitive Christianity in the second century, rejected all his Epistles, and heaped all manner of reproach upon his memory. The churches of Antioch, Corinth, and Rome — his own children — dishonored him by holding Peter in equal reverence with himself. The Clementine Homilies, with the utmost violence of polemics, vented their wrath upon the false teacher, the seducer of the people, the Apostolical parvenu, the apostate, the herald of a new heathenism. Justin Martyr never quoted his writings, and vehemently opposed his views; and even poor Papias valiantly bestowed his kick upon the dead lion.
This controversy between Petrinism and Paulinism is the distinguishing feature of the Apostolic and post-Apostolic age. Its furrow, ploughed deep into the generation which succeeded the destruction of Jerusalem, is traceable as far as the middle of the second century. At first the Jewish party had the ascendency; but, in the course of time, the necessity of union against outside enemies, the Gnostics especially, caused the long animosity to decline, and when the idea of one Church was entertained and effectually adopted, the two hostile tendencies lay down peacefully side by side in final reconciliation.
Baur, reading the literature of that whole considerable period by the torch-flames of this controversy, finds that every page is colored by it. The character and age of every fragment of manuscript is indicated by its attitude towards these opposing parties. The writings of the New Testament constitute a portion of this literature; of course the key to their interpretation is here. Cross-questioned by this tribunal, they confess at once their date, purpose, and motive. We can do no more than mention the most general results in criticism which Baur and his school have reached from these premises. Paul gives his own views in their purity. The only book that represents exclusively the opinions of the opposite party is the Apocalypse. The other writings have a mixed character. Their tendency is irenic. Produced at a period when the idea of harmonizing the hitherto discordant sects was freely considered, their aim is to assist the process of reconciliation. The Gospel of Matthew speaks more decidedly for the primitive Jewish Christianity than any book except the Apocalypse. Some of its features are obviously Hebrew. It asserts the binding authority of the Mosaic dispensation, and its everlasting significance for the people of God. It assumes the perpetuity of the Mosaic cultus. It adopts the national conception of the plan and purposes of Christianity, frequently and directly teaching that its privileges are vouchsafed to the Jews alone. It looks for an immediate coming of the Messiah, and accepts the Chris- tology of those who regarded Jesus as a Hebrew king. The writer, by his ingenious citation of Old Testament passages, seems anxious to make it appear that Christ satisfied all the conditions of ancient prophecy. And yet, side by side with statements like these, lie others of an entirely different character. The new wine must be put into new bottles ; the temple of Jerusalem is doomed to fall; parables are inserted teaching that the kingdom may be taken from the Jews and given to other nations; other parables contain the thought that Christianity is to develop itself by a gradual process in history; Pauline views in respect to asceticism are openly admitted. On the whole, the Gospel, though strongly marked by Hebrew peculiarities, cannot be said to represent the opinions of the earliest disciples. Its attitude is that of mediation between the opposing tendencies. But, of course, this attitude could not have been assumed by any Christian writer during the Apostolic age. It could hardly have been taken during the first quarter of the second century. If, as Baur infers from a searching criticism of its contents, and a fresh historical comparison of its details, the twenty-fourth chapter depicts, not the first destruction of Jerusalem, but events in the Jewish war under the Emperor Hadrian, the Gospel must be assigned to a period not far from the years 130 -134; a date which, in Dr. Baur’s judgment, is rather confirmed than contradicted by external evidence. Tradition reports that Matthew composed a Gospel in Hebrew; but our Gospel is in Greek, and no one knows who translated it. A Hebrew Gospel there was, and Jerome rendered it into Greek and Latin, doubting all the while whether it could be Matthew’s work, because it corresponded so faintly with the manuscript upon his table. Papias testifies fhat the Hebrew Gospel was early translated into Greek, but was altered in the version. Here are two or three links belonging to the same chain. Put them together. Matthew wrote a Hebrew Gospel reflecting the primitive form of Christianity; this book was translated into Greek, but this early version was not our present one. What more likely, then than that this version underwent various modifications, each new transcript adding something to whatever of Pauline liberalism it may have contained, until, finally, it assumed the form of our canonical Matthew ? Such is Baur’s judgment, the grounds for and against which cannot be argued here.
The Gospel of Mark is pronounced by the great head of the school (though in this his disciples do not all agree with him) to be destitute of individuality, historical or dogmatic. Its author is supposed to occupy a position of complete neutrality; having Matthew and Luke before him, he sits down in the spirit of a compiler, and makes an epitome, adding nothing of his own, save literary embellishments of a superficial and meagre kind. This of itself would prove that his composition belonged to a late period, (for books of the negative cast are not written during the epochs of creative thought,) even if the faintest shade of docetism did not betray a view of Christ such as had not obtained currency in the first generation of the Church.
The Gospel of Luke, Baur thinks, is no more entitled than that of Matthew to be regarded as an historical composition originally produced in the form in which it lies before us. This, too, has undergone its series of transformations. The soil from which its root, the Gospel of Marcion, sprung, was Pauline Christianity; but upon this stem another slip, the original Luke Gospel, was supposed to have been grafted. The basis of the work is decidedly Pauline. Conspicuous on its surface are discourses and parables which contain the germs of the theology peculiar to the Apostle to the Gentiles ; — parables of the King’s Feast, — the Fig-Tree, — the Lost Coin, — the Pharisee and the Publican ; the story of Zac- cheus, and the anointing of Jesus by the woman who was a sinner, and the Converted Thief on the Cross; declarations like those contained in chapters xvi. 16, xvii. 10, 20, 21. More broadly still the character of the Gospel is marked by Christ’s treatment of the Samaritans, — those quasi-Gentiles, whom Mark never mentions at all, and Matthew only once, — when the disciples are forbidden to go near them; and by the commission of seventy Apostles instead of twelve, — a sign that the Gospel was intended for all the world, and not for the Jewish tribes alone. The parable of the Prodigal Son sets forth the Pauline doctrine of God’s free grace in the most unqualified manner. A dignity is ascribed to the person of Christ which far transcends that of Matthew’s Messiah, and reminds us of the ” Heavenly Lord ” of the great Epistles. Over against these and other prevailing elements of liberalism, the writer inserts a few traits barely sufficient to present the opposite side. The opening chapters are a concession to Hebrew thought. The entrance of Christ into Jerusalem is a remnant of the old Messianic idea. Two or three references to ancient predictions, one or two features of asceticism, give a faint Ebionitic coloring; but such fragments do not stamp a character upon the composition. The author inserts these few passages for the edification of Jewish readers, and to guard his work against the charge of being partial. His aim, partly polemical, is mainly conciliatory. A firm disciple of Paul, he is willing to compromise a little for his master’s sake. The chief argument against the early date of the Gospel is, that its aim is so evidently speculative ; that it represents the facts in the life of Jesus as they never could have occurred, but as one might represent them who stood at a distance from actual events, and was deeply engaged in the theories current in his generation. He wrote, probably, later than Matthew.
The Book of Acts Baur has touched incidentally, but not made the subject of thorough research. In his studies on Paul’s Epistles, his attention was called to the difference, amounting to contradiction, between the statements of the Apostles and those of the historian; * especially to the two conflicting representations of the convention at Jerusalem, Galatians ii. 7 — 11, Acts xv. Schneckenburger opened the investigation into the character of the book, and suggested that its purpose was to run a parallel between Peter and Paul. In 1846 Schwegler devoted a section of his ” Nach- apostolisches Zeitalter” to the Acts, and made the most of his brief space to destroy its historical reputation. In 1849 Zeller commenced a series of articles in the ” Theologische Jahrbiicher,” which have since been collected into a volume, and represent the verdict of the Tubingen school on the composition. That verdict, in brief, is as follows : that the book has, strictly speaking, no claim to be called a history. It is a ” Tendenz-Schrift” from beginning to end. The purpose of its author is manifest in an endeavor to establish a complete parallel between Paul and Peter as the heads of the two opposing factions. Their miracles, the proofs of their Apostolical calling and dignity, the exhibition of their endowments and capacities, the principles that governed their conduct,both personal and official, are skilfully balanced. Paul is converted by the author into a zealous Jew, fulfilling all the righteousness of the law, taking upon himself the Nazarite’s ascetic vow at the suggestion of James, and, in deference to Jewish prejudices, leaving his post in order to present himself dutifully at Jerusalem on the grand feast-days, circumcising Timothy so as not to give offence to the Jews by taking about with him an uncircumcised companion, representing himself to the church at Jerusalem as a good Hebrew, and diligently collecting alms-money for its poor, associating cordially with the men of whom he had spoken so slightingly in Galatians, paying to all Jews the compliment of offering them the refusal of the Gospel, and at all times adopting the theology of Judaism as the correct form of belief. In a guise like this, the Apostle is an utter stranger to us. Nothing is left by which he can be recognized. There is profound silence about that quarrel in Antioch ; not a word do we hear of Christian attacks made upon his person, his dignity, or his authority, his chosen field of action, or his peculiar theology. His characteristic ideas are so completely omitted, that it would be impossible to gather from the Acts alone that his doctrine was in anywise distinguished from that of James or John.
The garments which this author has stripped from Paul, he, with equal disdain of ceremony, hangs upon Peter, who, according to his story, was the first Apostle to the Gentiles, divinely called to that office, and recognized in it by the brethren, long before Paul’s conversion. He is the hero of Pentecost Day, which inaugurated Christianity as a religion for all nations. He baptizes the eminent Pagans, discourses of the necessity of faith and the worthlessness of legal observances, altogether after the manner of his great antagonist; he even speaks of the law as a yoke. Neither of these portraits, say Baur and his friends, can be drawn from the life. We have here neither the historical Paul nor the historical Apostles, — nothing like the historical Peter. Surely the author knew he was not writing history, and had no intention of writing it. He wished not to narrate facts, but to reconcile parties. An earnest disciple of Paul, interested in the fate of his doctrines, he lived in an age that sympathized with his opponents, and, rather than not recommend the Pauline uni- versalism, was willing to deprive his master of a portion of his glory, that it might shine the more conspicuously though in the person of his rival. He loved his master’s principles more than his fame, and, so the truth was spoken and accepted, did not hesitate to represent it as proceeding from hostile, but more persuasive lips. Such a theological romance might have been written any time from the year 110 to 130.
The same merciless criticism which thus brings to judgment every phrase in the historical books, holds its ” bloody assize ” in all the other departments. Four only of the Pauline letters are spared; the rest are condemned by their own confession, and thrust into the outer darkness of the second century. They are flat, colorless, insipid; they read like feeble imitations ; they are too weak in doctrine, and too strong in homi- letics ; they believe too much in good works ; they are guilty of sympathizing with Montanism, or of holding secret correspondence with the Gnostics; their Christology is not in accordance with Apostolic authority ; their eschatology is more pronounced than it is orthodox. Some of them, as the Pastoral Letters, are convicted of hierarchical tendencies, of an inclination to suppress heresies, and of opinions favoring a closer organization in the Church,—crimes which merit transportation into the limbo of the post-Apostolic age. Even the unobtrusive little note to Philemon stands charged with a teleological offence, and must be doomed to the same exile for presuming to inculcate Christian ideas under the form of fiction.
But, with all this ” historical criticism,” what, we must ask, has become of historical Christianity ? Has it been swallowed up in the vast whirlpool of controversy ? Must we say, with SchafF, that Christianity, according to Baur, is a ” product of the Catholic Church of the middle of the second century, the result of a long conflict between Ebionitic and Gnostic heresies, so that the truth was begotten of a lie, the day from the womb of old mother Night” ? Must we say, that in the mind of Jesus it existed merely as a more inward arjd^exalted Judaism, and was essentially the same thing with the Ebionitism which was afterwards condemned as a heresy ?
This, upon a superficial view, would seem to be the authorized inference. If Christianity was apprehended by the personal disciples of Jesus as the old Jewish system, completed by the advent of the predicted Messiah, how are we to know that it was apprehended differently by the Master ? Was not ” primitive Christianity ” the religion of Christ himself? Schaff, consulting sentiment, says, ” Yes,” without hesitation. Baur, consulting criticism, answers, ” No.” Primitive Christianity, that is, the Christianity of the disciples, was not the Christianity of Christ. This Dr. Baur affirms, if not laboriously and at length, yet often enough and explicitly enough to be understood. Speaking, for example, of the Sermon on the Mount, he says, ” The discourse, as a whole, bears upon it the stamp of originality, and that portion of it which is animated by such an earnest spirit of hostility to Pharisaism belongs unquestionably to the most genuine speech that fell from the lips of Jesus.” Treating of the Hebrew Gospel which was the root of our canonical Matthew, he asks if it is not ” altogether probable that it contained purer elements than those of ‘primitive Christianity,’ seeing that it was the oldest record of the teaching of Christ.” In the first section of his ” History of Christianity and the Christian Church, for the First Three Centuries,” he contends that Jesus engrafted upon Judaism an entirely new principle, both moral and spiritual, offering a fresh view of man and God, and the relations subsisting between them. In fact, he indicates unmistakably that Jesus held and promulgated the ideas which were afterwards peculiar to Paul. Nor is this conclusion adopted capriciously ; it is rather forced upon an honest member of the ” historical school.” For, leaving the genuineness of this or that passage out of view, if the Gospel of Jesus were nothing more than Judaism completed by the coming of the Messiah, how can we explain the presence of broad anti-Hebraistic thoughts in those earliest records penned by Hebrew hands ? Why did Paul so revere and glorify the Christ, at the same time that he repudiated the doctrine of his immediate disciples ? This man, who would borrow nothing from the original Apostles, and even joined issue with them on the ground of their narrowness, — this man, who said, ” Though an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel unto you than that which I have preached unto you, let him be accursed,” — has no language strong enough to express his feeling of veneration for Jesus, and his Gospel calls him the ” heavenly man,” the ” heavenly Lord,” who has broken down the veil of the ancient dispensation, and united all nations in a common bond of spiritual life. This man, so jealous of his authority, so strenuous in asserting his equal dignity with the other Apostles, is humbled into the very dust when he thinks of Christ, and cries out in the humiliation of his soul that he is not worthy to be called an Apostle. This can be explained only by a conviction in Paul’s mind that the doctrines of Jesus were substantially identical with his own, and that he was but the privileged interpreter of them. And if this was Paul’s conviction, there is strong presumption that it was founded upon historical facts. Nay, Paul makes use of the very language of Christ in a way which convinces us that he was indebted to him for his original ideas. The Epistle to the Romans furnishes an interesting example of this. The last verses of the twelfth chapter read as if they were copied almost word for word from the Sermon on the Mount. But the thoughts of Jesus are so great, that Paul cannot borrow them without adding some qualification suggested by his Hebrew temper. ” If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” ” Avenge not yourselves; for it is written, ‘ Vengeance is mine’; I will repay, saith the Lord.” ” If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; because” says the Apostle, apologetically, “in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head “; which means, ” Practise the loving-kindness of the Gospel, as the most effective mode of punishing your foe.” Can we doubt, then, that the Gospel of Jesus was at least as heavenly as Paul’s ? Must we not believe that it was even larger and deeper ?
We do not deny that Baur has done grievous harm to historical Christianity, as we have always been accustomed to regard it, by driving it out of three Gospels, and by compelling us to search for it, with the help of microscopic criticism, in a fourth. We cannot feel so sure of it, now that its character is left for us to guess at, or to construct from a few scattered hints dropped here and there by unknown recorders. Its authoritative character as a miraculous revelation is entirely lost; for upon such very slender threads of probability it would be impossible to suspend the heavy weights of dogmatism. We do not quarrel with Dr. Baur for making us face a difficulty that has never ceased to haunt us, however uncomfortable that duty may be ; but we cannot forgive him for leaving out of his original Christianity, such as it is, the person of Christ. His picture of the Apostolic age is vitiated by the same defect that mars so seriously his panoramic views of dogmatic history. There are no living souls at work in it. The Apostles are phantoms. Even Paul, his hero, who seems to have had passions at least, rushes before us more like a stormy engine, driven by a superhuman power, than like a man ; and as for Jesus, we do not see him at all. The Professor apparently adopts the theory of the fourth Gospel, and would have us suppose that Christ was not a human being of flesh and blood, suffering, hoping, praying, believing, transmuting sentiments into principles and worship into life; but a Word, looking impassively through a mask, which can be dropped without in the least affecting it. That Jesus, setting aside his special actions and views, was a spiritual person, whose religious qualities made him a miracle among men, whose character was a regenerating force in humanity, whose soul shed a virtue upon the moral world which healed all who came in contact with it; that through the attractive power of his inward being he drew around him disciples who believed more in him than they knew, and surrendered more to him than they suspected; that by this same mysterious might of influence he searched, converted, inspired, and made his own, the fiery but noble- minded Saul, the persecutor; that a heavenly life, an incarnate holiness, truth, purity, love, was actually manifested there in Judsea, and did contain in itself, fully matured in an individual, all those practical energies of sentiment, feeling, faith, principle, which, seizing upon heroes, made them ministers of truth, which organized churches in every Gentile city, which united by fraternal bonds men of diverse races and opposite social conditions, and, like a host of angels, wrought upon the cruelty, the sensuality, the materialism and atheism, of the decaying civilization of Greece and Rome; that the noblest beliefs of Christendom were but an attempt to give coherent expression to the felt experiences of aspiration, fear, hope, devoutness, longing, love, which had been awakened by the living Jesus; — of all this we find no suggestion in the pages of Dr. Baur. And the omission is a radical and fatal defect in his sketch of original Christianity. We can believe that Christianity might be born and grow to maturity, and establish itself in the world, without complete authentic records; but a Christianity without a spiritual personality as its root, without a Christ, is utterly inconceivable. That Baur allows no more significance to this fact, is to be explained, not by his critical method, nor by his critical results, for they do not affect directly the historical reality of Christ’s character, but by the leading principle of his Hegelian philosophy, which, by affirming that the evolution of thought is the self-revelation of God, makes great account of ideas, but none whatever of persons, — represents doctrines as if they were living beings, and resolves living beings into stepping- stones of doctrine. Schleiermacher, if he had lived, might perhaps have been a disciple of the ” historical school” ; but Schleiermacher would never have consented to the sacrifice of the spiritual Christ.
Of Baur’s opponents little can be said here. They have been numerous, powerful, and persevering. Men like Nean- der, Dorner, Thiersch, Lechler, Baumgarten, Schaff, Luthardt, Wieseler, Bleek, Hase, Bunsen, Ewald, have bent all their forces against him, and followed him over the whole field of the New Testament, contesting the ground inch by inch. Yet Schwarz says that most of the refutations and rejoinders have proceeded from theologians who were predetermined to meet all critical conclusions that were unpalatable to them with a stiff ” No.” Baur, he declares, has never found a peer in an adversary. And even Schaff admits that, hitherto, no work has appeared giving a satisfactory account of the primitive Church, in answer to these modern errors.
The chief modifications in the results of the Tubingen criticism have thus far been suggested by members of the school, who, adopting their master’s method, but not slavishly accepting his results, have been industrious gleaners in the field over which he sometimes walked too hastily. By the efforts of these men, Georgii, Ritschl, Hilgenfeld, and others, the controversy between Petrinism and Paulinism has been compressed into smaller compass, thus carrying back the dates of the Gospel compositions to the very limits of the Apostolic period. Matthew, in its completed form, is brought to the year 70 or 80. Mark is left somewhere between 80 and 100, and Luke is placed later, instead of earlier, than Mark, by ten or twenty years. The master’s verdict upon the minor Epistles of Paul has been greatly, though variously, qualified, without coming to fixed or consenting results. On the other hand, his judgment respecting the Pastoral Epistles is unanimously acquiesced in; and the members of the school stand fast together -in their opinion of the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of John. The controversy between Petrinism and Paulinism has not only been reduced within a moderate space of time; some of its features have also been softened. There has been a considerable transference of points from the Ebionitic to the liberal side, giving a preponderance to the ” Pauline element,” and altering, in some respects, the position in which the elder Apostles stood to Paul. As a consequence of this, the historical character of the Gospels has gained upon the doctrinal; they are relieved a little from the imputation of being ” Tendenz-Schriften,” or controversial treatises; and it is allowed that their authors may have confined themselves more closely than was at first conjectured to the actual materials that lay before them. In short, whenever these scholars have found a position untenable, they have at once receded from it, like men who, loving the truth better than their theory, were not ashamed to retract an error as soon as discovered.
In this noble and rare quality of candor we must admit that the master is no whit inferior to his disciples. He too has made concessions. With little or none of the jealousy for his private renown which usually marks the discoverer, he stands prepared, at any honest man’s invitation, to revise his charts. Some points he has abandoned, after careful consid eration; others he has ceased to regard as important. He insists less than he did at first upon the application of his theory to all the Gospel details. But by his main conclusions he still abides unshaken. His antagonists are always sure of receiving honorable and courteous treatment at his hands; but equally sure are they of meeting hard blows, as from a man who cannot afford to trifle with the matter in hand. The Chevalier Bunsen’s confident assault in the ” Hippolytus,” is parried with an ease which intimates that there is no occasion for putting forth full strength. Bleek’s ” Beitrage,” the work which by some is believed to have established beyond all reasonable doubt the genuineness of the fourth Gospel, is reviewed with the dignified but half-impatient air of one who is tired of giving the same old answers to the same old questions, and vexed at being thrust at by arguments that have been parried a score of times. He meets all the points which merit his attention, and thus, in language of severe rebuke, closes his critique. ” The argument of Bleek borrows its sharpest point from the assurance, often and emphatically repeated, that the fourth Gospel is Johannic, and must come out at last victorious from all the attacks upon its genuineness. This is the Alpha and Omega of his school of criticism, and with this abiding assurance it expects, if not to break in pieces, yet to blunt, the weapons of adversaries, and to conduct all the rivulets that have sprung from a fresh fountain of investigation back into the standing water of vague, indefinite assertion and long-exhausted opinions, instead of letting
them follow their free course If Dr. Bleek has any
desire to engage again ‘ the latest critical school,’ let him reflect that it will be prudent, for his own sake, and a duty, if self-knowledge be a duty, to enter the field with somewhat less of self-conceit and somewhat more of dignity.”
What the final result of Baur’s New Testament criticism may be, it is impossible to predict. How much will remain, at the close of the next generation, as his contribution to the study of the Apostolic age, can hardly be surmised. At present, his influence does not appear to be on the wane, nor does his school perceptibly abate its pretensions. It is the confident belief, evidently, both of himself and his faithful co-workers,that they have established their main conclusions upon a firm foundation, and finished, nearly, their critical work. Baur still writes articles in the party organ, reviewing the latest books of importance in New Testament literature, or re- examining secondary points for himself; but his chief labor is bestowed on wider themes. Zeller suspends his studies on the ” Philosophy of the Greeks,” to treat, in an occasional paper, some special topic in the history of dogmatics. Other members of the sect have dispersed themselves over a broad field of critical and historical investigation, and are industriously working up, by the aid of their new method, the old materials which lie abundantly about them. Kostlin inquires into the Gnostic system of the ” Pistis Sophia,” and the origin of the book of Enoch. Hilgenfeld deals with the pseudo-Clementine Homilies, and the system of Basilides. Schweizer devotes himself to an exposition of the Lutheran and Reformed doctrines. Ritschl’s last paper was on Hip- polytus, written three years ago. The Jahrbiicher for 1856 contained but one article of a strictly critical stamp, and that one a paper by Baur on the First Epistle of Peter, called out by Dr. Bernhard Weiss’s book on the Petrine Theology. The once exciting magazine is now comparatively uninteresting, and we should not be surprised at any time to hear of its decease. If that intelligence comes, we shall infer that, in the opinion of its supporters, the magazine has fairly completed its course, and faithfully discharged its function, which was to inaugurate, explain, unfold, and defend the ” historical method ” in New Testament criticism.
The confidence of these gentlemen in the final triumph of their school may be well grounded. It is possible that their conclusions respecting the composition and character of the Gospels may bear the test of time and study, and remain essentially unchanged. We hope not. But hope does not answer critical questions, nor will fear stay the progress of scholarship. Of this we are satisfied, that the discussion has been, and is, in the ablest hands; and whatever may be its results, we must accept them as providential; and instead of impotently bewailing the downfall of historical Christianity, and casting reproach upon the men who have occasioned it, we must revive the spirit of our faith, and resolutely set about the task of readjusting our religion to the new order of literary facts. That this can be done, we have never doubted; that it has been done, successfully, by at least one great theologian, James Martineau, we honestly believe and gratefully acknowledge ; that such an adjustment will have the effect to ennoble and spiritualize the faith of many, we should certainly anticipate. It will, surely, be an advantage to us if we can, by any means, learn to base our Christian assurance more upon the personal character of Christ, and less upon the biographical details of the Evangelists. Though it should be proved that the Gospel which bears the name of Matthew came from an unknown hand, and is unreliable as a narrative of events, still its thoughts are living and authoritative as ever, and we see all over its surface footprints which declare that one greater than the sons of men has trod the earth. Though the book which we received so gladly from the beloved disciple should be shown to contain, after all, no authentic story of his Master’s life, but only the idea that was entertained respecting him by some philosophic believer of another nation and a distant age, still its deep spiritual truths would come to us like holy oracles, if not from the lips of Jesus himself, yet from the heart of one whom he had filled with his inspiration; and we should feel that he must have been indeed divine who could have reproduced his image thus in the mind of a speculative Greek, a full century after his death. So long as we have the soul of Christ, we have Christianity; even as Paul had it, who never saw Jesus, nor cultivated the acquaintance of those that had seen him,— who had no patience with men that clung with tenacious memory to the terrestrial Messiah, and shut their he ms to the revelations of the Heavenly Lord.
The ” Ordinary Professor of Evangelical Theology ” is now sixty-five years old, a man of large frame, above the middle height, with heavy features, and a massy head covered with grayish hair. The wide and intense enthusiasm that greeted the first disclosure of his critical views has passed away. Personally, he excites, as might be expected, very little interest; his manner in the lecture-room is not attractive. But even his opponents concede his ability and his worth ; Oesler, the Lutheran, who is in the same faculty, speaks of him with great respect, and his books carry as much weight as they ever did. It is some years since he preached his last sermon, exhorting his hearers to abandon the letter which killeth for the spirit which giveth life; and in narrowing the sphere of his public duties, he has narrowed also the circle of his sympathies. Baur sits alone, surrounded by piled-up folios, in an uncarpeted study, toiling fourteen hours a day, in vacation time, upon the crowning labor of his life, the History of the Church, only interrupting his labor in term time to lecture before his classes; and still he finds leisure to write articles for his magazine, and to keep up an acquaintance with the popular literature of the day. His wife is dead. His daughter, married to Dr. Zeller, is, of course, separated from her father. ” He has no satisfaction in life, now, but to work.” May the night not come upon the lonely man till his work is done. (The Christian Examiner, Jan. 1858, pp. 1-39)
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