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of this question will give us a preliminary idea of the peculiarity of His teaching.
§ 1. TEACHING AND LIFE
That Jesus appeared among His people as a teacher is attested by friend and foe; they all addressed Him as Rabbi, Master, Teacher, and He always accepted this address as correct. But the people felt at once a profound difference between His teaching and that of the scribes: “What new doctrine is this?” exclaim His hearers in the synagogue. "He preaches with authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark i. 27; Matt. vii. 29). By the higher authority with which He spoke, by a divinely authoritative character of His teaching, the people recognised Him as a prophet equal to the greatest of their old prophets (Mark viii. 28; Matt. xvi. 14). His disciples, however, hoped and anticipated still more from Him: “He was a prophet mighty in word and deed before God and all the people; but we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel” (Luke xxiv. 19). And He met that hope with His inmost consciousness; He knew Himself to be the Messiah, the God-sent deliverer of Israel, and had no higher wish than to be recognised as such in the right sense (Mark viii. 29; Matt. xvi. 16). His teaching therefore, from the very first, has for its background a unique self-consciousness, the incomparable significance of His person, and from the beginning was directed towards something that must be more than teaching, that must be work and deed, viz. the founding of God's kingdom. And this founding was finally accomplished, not by His teaching as such, but by His personal devotion to and completion of His life-work, by His death and resurrection. Does His teaching thereby lose its original fundamental significance, and sink down to a mere introduction to New Testament revelation ? It must be said that little as the teaching of Jesus in itself, apart from the conclusion of His life, could have called into existence the kingdom of God, as little could that ending of His life have called it into being without the foregoing doctrinal revelation. This doctrinal revelation first induced that end to His life, and gave it meaning; and it alone collected that community of disciples who were able to grasp and propagate that meaning. And therefore His doctrine is not indeed His life-work itself, but the ideal reflection of it, the evidence of what He wished, what He was conscious of being and doing. His teaching therefore is that in His appearance and active life which is necessary to make that life intelligible to us, and without which the apostolic teaching about Him would only be a sum of dogmatic utterances which we could not comprehend, and whose truth we could not prove—a result not a little awkward for that view which contrasts the “ teaching of Jesus” as Christianity proper with the apostolic “teaching about Christ.”
$ 2. SOURCES
If this be the significance of the teaching of Jesus for the full understanding of Christianity, we must inquire the more urgently about its sources. Jesus did not write anything; He simply trained His disciples in personal intercourse to be the living witnesses of His mission. Even they did not immediately record their reminiscences, but confided them to oral testimony; and when one of them, at a great age, set about leaving his treasures of memory as a legacy to the community, remembrance and exposition had become to him so inseparable, that he could only bring forth his picture of Jesus, and especially the sayings of Jesus, in an original form resulting from the fusion of his own spiritual life. But although we must, on that account, take no notice of the Johannine source in constructing a picture of Jesus that is to be authentic even in form, we are still in possession of a sufficient and well-attested tradition. The first three Gospels have preserved the reminiscences of the life of Jesus as they existed in the earliest days of Christendom, both within yeveà aúty and before the extinction of His contemporaries (Matt. xiv. 34; Mark xiii. 30; Luke xxi. 32); they also, on their part, rest on still earlier notes whose reliable origin is certain. Papias has attested the existence of a collection of sayings (of Jesus) which the Apostle Matthew, that is, one of the constant companions of Jesus, composed in Hebrew (Aramaic); and this earliest, most reliable, and richest source of knowledge of the teaching of Jesus, may be recognised in the speeches with which the first and third evangelists break in upon the sequence of their chief source. But even this main narrative source which they both have in common with the Gospel of Mark, and which, at any rate, appears in Mark's Gospel with least change, “the primitive Gospel ” contains a treasure of doctrinal sayings of Jesus ; and this primitive Gospel, according to the credible testimony of the same Papias, is—at least with respect to its greatest part and most important matter-traced back to Mark, the companion of the Apostle Peter, that is, to Peter's own didactic utterances.? Finally, whatever is peculiar to Matthew, or in far greater abundance to Luke, either springs likewise from that collection of sayings, or, according to Luke i. 1, presupposes other very old sources, and is authenticated by the fact that it resembles the most certainly authentic both in tone and in value. The wording of many sayings, or the connection in which they appear, or the interpretation they receive in that connection, do indeed deviate from each other in details, as could not but be expected in a tradition passing through so many hands. Many important words have been introduced in a different setting in Matthew and Luke, partly on account of different Greek translations of those Aramaic sayings, partly on account of the involuntary changes of oral tradition, to which we may also add the different conjectures of one or other evangelist about the original occasion of the saying. In such cases, when the use to be made of the saying in biblical theology is affected by this diversity, a critical investigation of the original terms and meaning must, of course, take place. The merely oral character of the original tradition has affected the meaning and wording much less than one would have supposed from other
The method of teaching of antiquity, resting always on oral communications, gave a fidelity to the apostle's memories to a degree unknown to us. The sayings of Jesus especially, by the peculiarity of their contents as well as their form, had an incomparable power of stamping themselves upon the memory.
memory. Besides, they would be so frequently and intentionally repeated in the circle of the first believers, as very soon to form a fixed common possession preserved with 1 Cf. my Leben Jesu, i. p. 86.
2 Ibid. p. 84.
sacred reverence. And therefore there is really very little against which the irresolute modern criticism raises serious question: some sayings, which from their Judaising or Ebionitic impress seem to be marked as productions of a JewishChristian tradition; some various readings and expositions of parables, and, in particular, a part of the prophetic discourses in the more restricted sense, which, on account of their inner difficulties, one would fain trace back to a later apocalyptic source, although, from all signs, they seem to spring from the same source as the Sermon on the Mount and the most incontestable parables. These doubtful sayings will, of course, have to be dealt with in detail; the abiding proof of their genuineness is the quite definite and inimitable impress which distinguishes the essentially permanent character of the synoptic sayings of Jesus, not only from all the wisdom of this world, but also from the other sayings of the New Testament.
§ 3. PECULIARITY OF JESUS' TEACHING This very peculiarity of the teaching of Jesus is what we have to explain in form and contents, so far as that is possible by anticipation. The form in which Jesus speaks in the synoptic tradition is the gnomic or parabolic, examples of which we find already in the Old Testament, the short, terse maxim out of which the longer didactic or polemic discourses are constructed, or the concise pictorial narrative, the parable. Both forms of teaching are eminently suited to the requirements of oral instruction, such as Jesus gave to His disciples in particular, beside His preaching to the people (Mark iv. 10-32); they make the ideas to be communicated in the highest degree clear, impressive, and memorable. But the universally pictorial style of Jesus' doctrine is conditioned not merely by a necessity of teaching, but rather springsand this leads us deeper into the peculiarity of His teaching -chiefly from the nature of the things to be communicated. These are just the eternal truths, the heavenly things in earthly speech, which can only be brought home to the popular understanding by pictorial forms. It is therefore the mother speech of religion which Jesus uses. And He uses this speech with a purity and perfection that makes His mode of communication quite incomparable. It is distinguished not only from all speech of science, but also from that speech of religious contemplation which meets us in the writings of the apostles. It is distinguished from it, as the living source is from the fresh and clear flowing brook; it is all directness, living perception, pure genius; everything in it flows, not from any mediated or artificial world of ideas, but from native spiritual wealth, from the fulness of His inner life. We also find, in addition to this, that He rarely, and only out of condescension to the ignorance of His opponents or for their confusion, has recourse to argument or means proof. As a rule, He disdains these for the reason that He does not need them for His own sake, and that the sincere hearts among His hearers do not need them; because what He says is self-evident to the reason and conscience of the sincere man. His word is therefore in the highest sense testimony, viz. testimony to the Divine which lives and moves in Him. “Verily I say unto you" is the constant expression
I of an inward certainty which can count on the willing or unwilling inward assent of His hearers. He does not even in any formal way teach the religion which lives in Him. Its moral deductions are taught as in the Sermon on the Mount, or its conditions and ways of operation as in the parables. The thing itself He merely expresses, nay, still more presupposes than expresses. It is to Him as the silent, clear,
. starry heaven, which, as a matter of course, hangs over the earth though clouds conceal it from the eyes of men. Then consider also the peculiar contents of the new faith which He in this way proclaims. That we may not anticipate and get lost in vagueness, let us note only a few characteristic features which distinguish it from all, and raise it above all that is otherwise called religion in the world. The religion of Jesus is, above all, a religion for the world, for universal man. Although it speaks the language of Israel, and was first offered to the people of Israel, yet even in its birth it divests itself inwardly of every national limitation. It makes all men neighbours, makes no distinction between them before God, and meets with heavenly satisfaction the needs of the human heart, which are the same everywhere. It is further