The Jesus of History eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 258 pages of information about The Jesus of History.
the readings “seeds” and “seed” (Gal. 3:16), is plainly racking language to the destruction of its real sense; no one ever would have written “seeds” in that connexion; but in the style of the day he forces a singular into an utterly non-natural significance.  St. Matthew in his first two chapters proves the events, which he describes, to have been prophesied by citing Old Testament passages—­two of which conspicuously refer to entirely different matters, and do not mean at all what he suggests (Matt. 2:15, 23).  The Hebrew with the Old Testament, like the Greek of those days with Homer, made what play he pleased; if the words fitted his fancy, he took them regardless of connexion or real meaning; if he was pressed for a defence, he would take refuge in allegory.  A fashion was set for the Church which bore bad fruit.  The Old Testament was emptied of meaning to fortify the Christian faith with “proof texts.”  When Jesus quotes the Old Testament, it is for other ends and with a clear, incisive sense of the prophet’s meaning.  “Go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice” (Matt. 9:13 and 12:7, quoting Hosea 6:6).  He not merely quotes Hosea, but it is plain that he has got at the very heart of the man and his message.  Similarly when he reads Isaiah in the Synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:17), he lays hold of a great passage and brings out with emphasis its value and its promise.  He touches the real, and no lapse of time makes his quotations look odd or quaint.  When he is asked which is the first commandment of all, he at once, with what a modern writer calls “a brilliant flash of the highest genius,” links a text in Deuteronomy with one in Leviticus—­“Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord, and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” (Deut. 6:4-5), and, he adds, “the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  There is none other commandment greater than these” (Levit. 19:18; Mark 12:29-31).  Thus his instinct for God and his instinct for the essential carry him to the very centre and acme of Moses’ law.  At the same time he can use the Old Testament in an efficient way for dialectic, when an “argumentum ad hominem” best meets the case (Mark 7:6; Luke 20:37, 44).

Going to fact directly and reading his Bible on his own account, he is the great pioneer of the Christian habit of mind.  He is not idly called the Captain by the writer to the Hebrews (Heb. 2:10, 12:2).  Authority and tradition only too readily assume control of human life; but a mind like that of Jesus, like that which he gave to his followers, will never be bound by authority and tradition.  Moses is very well, but if God has higher ideas of marriage—­what then?  The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat (Matt. 23:2), but that does not make them equal to Moses; still less does it make their traditions of more importance than God’s commandments (Mark 7:1-13).  The Sabbath itself “was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

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The Jesus of History from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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