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in favour in those circles from which the Gospels in their present form emanated. That the value of the record as a source of historic truth has been impaired to any extent by theological bias proceeding from the school of Paul, is what scarcely anyone will admit who feels the power of the Life depicted in the Gospels. The harmony of the character of Christ as there delineated, the intermingling of the Divine and human in such a way that “the lowly and human never degrade Him in our eyes, nor His Power and Greatness remove Him out of our sympathies and understanding,” is inconsistent with the supposition. That such a picture was or could have been the growth of unconscious theologising is far more incredible than that it is what it professes to be, the record of a sublime reality.'
No documents have been subjected to a more unfettered criticism than these Gospels, and to no part of them has a more thorough investigation been directed than to that which relates to the Messianic consciousness, as it has been called, or the conception Christ entertained of Himself and His personal relation to God and man. Most students of the Gospels are agreed that He did claim to be the Messiah, and that His consciousness of Messiahship was rooted in His knowledge of Himself. That He knew Himself to be the Son of God, and inspired with the filial spirit toward God, is beyond all question. Equally beyond question is it that He was conscious that He contained in His own Person the principle of salvation for mankind, and that He regarded it as His mission to bring men into that same relation to God and to one another that was embodied in His own life,—to kindle in them that same spirit
1“I esteem the Gospels to be thoroughly genuine, for there shines forth from them the reflected splendour of a Divinity, proceeding from the Person of Jesus Christ, of so Divine a kind as only the Divine could ever have manifested on earth" (Goethe),
of trust in and obedience to their Heavenly Father, and of active love to mankind, that was the source of His own blessedness. This was the task of His Messiahship. If He, in accomplishing it, did not at the first plant Himself in the foreground of their thoughts as the object of men's faith, but rather held before their minds the great truths of pure and spiritual religion, there was, as has often been pointed out, good reason for His doing so. The ideas of men at the time were so carnal that the premature disclosure of His Messiahship, before their minds could welcome the religious Good that answered to the true idea of the Messianic salvation, would only have precipitated the crisis that He was anxious as long as possible to avoid.
The reticence of Christ about Himself is indeed remarkable. He told the world nothing, and His disciples exceedingly little,—indeed, so far as the Synoptists report, not a syllable,—of a pre-human life. He made no personal pretensions; He demeaned Himself as the servant of all, and shrank from all personal recognition or compliment. In His teaching He pointed men always to the Father, and refused any allegiance to Himself that did not proceed from loyalty to God. This reserve—this modesty and absence of everything akin to a spirit of egotism, this unfeigned humility—is one of the most beautiful traits in the character of Christ, and not only proved His fitness to be the Sovereign of souls, but marked Him out as the Channel of the highest spiritual communications. For if God is to speak to the world, the fulness and clearness of His message must be in proportion to the humility and self-renunciation of the messenger. But on the other hand, Christ does not speak as a mere prophet. He used language that no one who was a prophet and nothing more could have used. He identified His Person with the message He delivered. He required of men not only belief in the truth of the doctrine, but trust in Himself, loyalty to His own Person. To give up all for the Truth was to give it up for Him; to give it up for Him was to renounce it for the Truth. He did not, like Buddha and other teachers, place the truth above Himself, or bid men take His words to heart and forget about Himself, the speaker. “Jesus knows no more sacred task,” says Herrmann, “than to point men to His own Person.” i
1 This point is well brought out by Selby in his Ministry of the Lord Jesus, chap. iii.
This is the striking fact that meets us when we try to understand Christ's thought about Himself. It points to His having the consciousness of a life that was united to God as no other human life was, in consequence of which He was personally one with the truth He revealed, and the greatness of the truth was the greatness of the Person revealing it. Out of this consciousness He spoke as one who stood in a central relation to mankind, that made their attitude to Him all decisive for their character and destiny. He declared Himself to be the Judge of all. He spoke of men as passing judgment on themselves according as they gave their personal service to, or withheld it from, Him. These claims betrayed a consciousness of oneness with God, an identity of will, mind, purpose with Him; so that while entirely destitute of personal pretensions in the ordinary sense of the word, while the humblest and meekest of men, and subject to the laws of human nature, He was moved at times to adopt a style of selfassertion that no other ever ventured to use. He placed Himself before men's minds as the object of religious trust and obedience, as if He, being the personal embodiment of the truth of human character as well as of the Holiness and Love of God, were more than all the words
1 Communion with God, p. 76.
He spoke, and as if the following and confessing of Him exhausted the whole duty of men to God and to one another."
When we have regard to this element in the Messianic consciousness of Christ, we see that His thought about Himself and Paul's thought of Him are not so far apart as some would have it—that they are indeed in fundamental agreement. If in his Epistles Paul attaches an extraordinary importance to the Person of Christ and to the understanding of what He is, he is simply echoing Christ's own estimate of Himself. As we have seen, it is through the experience of the Risen Christ on his own inner life that the apostle arrived at the understanding of what Christ personally is; and an interpretation of Christ thus arrived at may well embrace elements of truth that were not present to the consciousness of the Person Himself who is thus interpreted. It is no reason for discounting the worth of any aspect of truth which we owe to the apostle, that Christ Himself, as far as appears from the record, did not teach it. It is surely a pointless remark of Cone, in his book on the Gospel and its Interpretations, to say that “the Great Teacher of the synoptic tradition would certainly not have recognised Himself in the Second Adam.'” Even though it were so, it would prove nothing against the validity of the conception the term expresses, or its suitableness to set forth the truth of Christ's qualification to be the power in us of a new manhood. The view has indeed been held by many that Christ's favourite designation of Himself, “the Son of Man,” is an exact equivalent of the Pauline term “the Second Adam,” and that in so speaking of Himself Christ had present to His mind the same idea of His universal significance, as the Pattern Man and Beginner of a new Humanity, that the apostle expresses by the term that he borrowed from the Jewish schools of theology. “Can one,” exclaims Gess, “more happily interpret Christ's thought of Himself as the Son of Man than is done by Paul in the contrast he draws between the First and Second Adam ? ”i Singularly enough, the title “Son of Man” that was so often on Christ's lips dropped very early out of the public teaching of the Church. It occurs only once in the New Testament outside of the Gospels (Acts vii. 56). Paul seems to have been entirely ignorant of it, “Son of God” and “Son of David ” being the only Messianic titles known to him besides that to which he himself gave currency, the “ Second Adam.” The oldest Christian literature that we have, the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, make no mention of it. It first occurs in the writings of Marcion and of the obscure Gnostic sect of the Ophites. These striking facts leave room for speculation as to the origin of this Messianic title, the “Son of Man”; and more, perhaps, has been written on the subject than about any other point in N. T. theology.?
1 The charge of egotism has been brought against Christ's doctrine. But the real question, as Abbot in his The Spirit on the Waters has pointed out, is, Was Christ's judgment of Himself true? Did Jesus possess the power to forgive sins, to give rest and peace to weary humanity? “If He did, how could He do otherwise than call the world to accept what He had to give ? ” (p. 209).
1 Christi Person u. Werk, ii. 368.
? Lietzmann (Der Menschensohn, ein Beitrag zur N. T. Theologie, 1896) goes so far as to hold that, as a Messianic title, it was imported into the Gospels by Greek translators influenced by the Pauline idea of the “Second Adam," and that as used by Christ Himself the word meant just what it means in the Aramaic, “Man." It is undeniable, however, that in Christ's mouth the word had a Messianic significance, at least in Mark xiv. 62. There the reference plainly is to the passage in Daniel vii. While the prophet there, in speaking of “one coming in the clouds of heaven like unto the Son of Man” has in his eye the People of Israel and its exaltation over the other nations, Jesus applies this prophecy to Himself personally, and thereby makes the strongest possible claim to Messiahship. In His answer to the High Priest He virtually says, “I am He of whom it holds true that God gives Him power and honour and dominion so that all nations and peoples and tongues shall serve Him: His Rule is everlasting and His kingdom shall have no end."