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the title of Messiah, but the distinct claim
it advanced before His death. That was necessary
for Jesus, otherwise He would have had to renounce both Himself and God. He left His disciples the hope in the restitution of all things as a legacy in connection, it would seem, with Daniel's vision of the Son of Man who is to descend upon the clouds of heaven. Jesus died with this belief in His speedy return in Messianic glory
The belief in the return causes every thoughtful person the greatest difficulty at the present day. Compared with this, even the Messianic problem has but little importance. In the first place, it is a fact that Jesus was mistaken in the point of time: He thought of the return as to His own generation amongst whom He had worked, by whom He had been rejected. If our account of the trial of Jesus has any historical value, then Jesus did in fact say to His judges, “We shall meet again.” But this meeting did not take place either for foe or friend. Yet that is not our real difficulty and stumbling-block. Apart from everything else, it is an altogether fantastic idea for us—that a dead person should return upon the clouds of heaven. This picture is the product of the idea of the world and of the psychology current in antiquity, and it is only in connection with them that it is endowed with any vitality. And so the doubt will arise whether it was really Jesus Himself, whether it was not, after all, His disciples who were the authors of this fantastic and erroneous conception.
But we must silence our modern modes of thought when facts speak so clearly and so decisively. However much may be a later addition in the eschatological speeches of Jesus, the constant element in them is just this thought of the second coming. It is this thought around which the whole of the apocalyptic theory has crystallized, and not vice versa. The word “Son of Man' is not essential. Paul has the idea, the expectation, of the parousia without this word. And besides, the chief difficulty is, after all, removed as soon as we place ourselves in the position of one to whom the ancient cosmology and psychology were realities, for then the thought of a · homo redivivus' will become perfectly familiar to us.
The question was for Jesus to find a sanction for His mission. The superhuman in Him accepted the form of the idea of the Messiah. The Messiah is, and remains, king in the kingdom of God. Taking His stand upon this presupposition, death appears to Him to be one of two things. It is either a proof that He is in the wrong, or it is a transition to a higher right that shall manifest itself to a world which now fancies that it is triumphing. Ву announcing His return Jesus declares that God is on His side, and that He is in the right. And for this very same reason the early Christians laid all the emphasis on the parousia as their strongest piece of evidence. Even though this evidence consisted merely in a hope—a hope unfulfilled—it was yet powerful enough to help Jesus and His disciples over their greatest difficulty.
At the same time, it is obvious that that which is inadequate in the idea of the Messiah, here wins its first and last victory over Jesus. In His prophecy of the second coming Jesus yields its due to the faith of the age.
Here for a moment the wild
fancies of later Judaism, the magic world of the ancient popular belief, intrude in the midst of the grand simplicity of Jesus' consciousness of His call. There was no harmony between Jesus and the Messianic idea. He accepted the idea under compulsion, because it was the outer form for that which was final and highest. He laboured with it, broke it
up, re-cast it; yet a portion of the deception which it contained was transmitted to Him.
What were the titles which Jesus chose to express His self-consciousness? The question belongs to the close of our enquiry. In the first place, because the meaning of the titles can only be derived from the self-consciousness and not this latter from the titles; and next, because there is an especial difficulty in distinguishing in this connection between what is to be assigned to Jesus and what is to be referred to the oldest theology of the early Christian Church. The evangelists ascribe to Jesus the titles Messiah, Son of God, and Son of Man. The first He never used of Himself, according to their account. They merely narrate that in His answers to the Baptist, to Peter, and to the high priest during His trial He accepted it-affirming the fact. On the other hand, the two other expressions are handed down to us as self-designations. The word “Son of God’ fell into discredit amongst the Jews in later times, because the Christians showed a preference for this title. But in the time of Jesus it may very well have been current amongst the people as a popular Messianic expression. Does not God address the Messianic King in the 2nd Psalm with these words, “ Thou art My Son”?
And yet it is striking how very seldom Jesus uses the word. In reality only once. It was one of the culminating points of His life. In tones of exultation He spoke out of the fulness of His heart to those that were nearest to Him. Just as Father and Son know and trust each other, so do God and He. Thus He uses the Messianic title as the expression of the closest intimacy with God, of the most absolute trust in Him. But the title did not turn out to be a blessing for the early Church, destined as it was to migrate to heathen surroundings. It gave rise to physical and metaphysical speculations, and so caused a long series of misfortunes.
The commonest self-designation of Jesus in the Gospels is the phrase “Son of Man.' Would that we knew for certain whether Jesus used it Himself! The phrase is to be traced back to the vision of Daniel (ch. vii.), where it is still used figuratively and without any Messianic application. Originally it
. signifies just 'human being,' homo. Just as the hostile empires appear in the vision as animals, so the kingdom of the saints appears to the seer as a
But long before the age of Jesus this · Man' had been transformed into the Messiah. A very slight change was needed for this. Jesus calls Himself the · Man,' first where, referring to the passage in the book of Daniel, He prophesies His coming down from heaven to establish the kingdom of God; next, when he foretells His Passion ; lastly, in other passages of various contents. But did He really so call Himself? One is struck by the fact that He speaks of Himself in the third person as
though of some one else, and that He prophesies His coming as if He were already removed from earth. It is as easy to conceive of these forms of expression being used by the disciples after Jesus' death as it is difficult to imagine Jesus Himself employing them while He was still in their midst. If Jesus ever did speak of Himself as “the Man, then He can only have done so a short time before His death and in the expectation of that death. One will then have to suppose that at the time when the thought of His approaching death gradually grew to be a certainty for Him, and the idea of His future restoration to sovereignty likewise arose in His mind, He drew comfort and confidence from this passage in Daniel. It suddenly acquired a living personal application to Himself. He saw Himself as “the Man’ exalted to God's side after His death and descending from heaven in glory. And now He created the paradox of the Son of Man who first must suffer. We may suppose the term to have originated in some such manner as this, and yet it is quite possible that it was the disciples who were the first to find this explanation of Daniel's words. But the expression, which was in any case derived from the Jewish apocalyptic writings, was altogether unintelligible to the Greeks, and hence we find Paul already avoiding the use of it. It was only very much later, when the Gospels had come to be regarded as sacred books, that they made an attempt of their own to find a meaning in it.
Thus from the very first the titles turned out to be the misfortune of the new religion. With the titles either the old or the perverted new ideas creep