Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fragments of Reimarus (Part I)

It is sort of amusing that I end up using an English translation of the Fragments, but it is convenient for works written in English. The work itself also makes use of David Friedrich Strauss' biography of Reimarus, Hermann Samuel Reimarus und seine Schutzschrift für die vernünftigen Verehrer Gottes, Leipzig (Brockhaus) 1862, for some pithy quotes of Reimarus' that argue that nonsense cannot be made into sense by adding God to the equation.

  • Of concern is the worldly interpretation of the Jews and the disciples for the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus preached, leading Reimarus to suspect that Jesus knew their interpretation and did not dissuade them, and thus supported it (p.10-12), wanting to make a grand entrance into Jerusalem at Passover (p.18).
  • Reimarus also worries that John the Baptist and Jesus, being cousins, were playing into each others hands purposefully in the Baptism scene to amplify their respective importance, including faking a batcol, a voice from Heaven (p.13-18).  
  • Reimarus sees preparation for the grand Passover Entrance into Jerusalem in the secrecy of the miracles (p.19). With the preaching of John Jesus openly covets the position of Messiah (p.20) and calls himself that to the Samarian woman, the Synhedrion and Pilate (p.20). 
  • When Jesus is ready, he borrows ass with foal and marches into Jerusalem, to fulfill the prophecy (p.21). In this scenario, his cleansing of the temple (p.22) and the attacks on the High Priests and Scribes (p.23) become moves in Jesus' assumption of power. 
  • The fact that no big or famous person joined his movement, that miracles were not performed uniformly, all over Israel, and not upon the challenge of the High Priests and Scribes, leads Reimarus to believe that the miracles were not much to begin with (p.25). 
  • When the influential people realized that he was yet another pretender to the Messiah title and no support materialized (p.26), Jesus was apprehended (with Judas' support) and executed before the Passover slaughtering of the lambs, frustrated in his attempt to setup the worldly Kingdom of Heaven (p.27).
  • Reimarus notes that the transformation of the worldy Messiah into the heavenly obtainer of forgiveness for mankind hinges critically on the resurrection (p.30). Reimarus reconstruct the winding speeches [in Acts, Reimarus works uniformly with the entirety of the NT, RCK] of Stephanus (p.33f) and Paul (p.33-39). Reimarus points out the paucity of the Ps 2 scriptural proof that Paul's Acts marshals (p.39), that they do not overcome the straightfoward explanation that Ps 2 is talking about David rather than Jesus, and that the justification is circular and a petitio principii to boot.
  • Reimarus has a similar problem with the prophetic interpretations of Mathews (p.45), which do not seem to match the OT that we have now or bend the words badly. Reimarus notes esp. (p.46) that Jonas spending three days and three nights inside the whale's belly squares up badly with Jesus being dead for one day and two nights (p.46) [though Reimarus seems to be unaware of how the Jewish calendar counts days]. In short, the evidence for Jesus' resurrection is to contradictory to carry such a heavy load of proof (p.47).
  • Reimarus (p.48) now turns to the problem of the doctrine of the return of Jesus. Reimarus notes that the two-fold coming of the Messiah, once in poverty, once in glory, is accepted as valid by Tryphon in Justin Martyr's Dialogue, and also mentioned in the Talmud and other Rabbinic literature (p.48). Reimarus blames the allegorical interpretations of contradictory passages for the plurality of Messiahs expected (p.49). The Jews also expected the resurrection of all dead [emphasis RCK] after the coming of the Messiah in glory (p.50). 
  • As would be expected, the delay of the parousia becomes topical now (p.51). Thus the promise that the Jews would witness the return before the "present generation" had passed away (p.52) in Mathews. And similarly that some would not taste death before the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven (p.54) [Mark 9:1, = Lk 9:27, = Mt 16:28]. But Jesus failed to return (p.54) and there is no alternate interpretation, e.g. sense extension to all Jews or similar (p.55) to make the prediction true. Furthermore, the assumption is pervasive, found in the epistles---Reimarus mentions Paul's 1 Thess (p.60) or to the Corinthians (p.61) [1 Cor 15:52]. But Paul had to deal with the parousia delay in 2 Thess (p.62) and Peter in 2 Peter (pp.63f), and Reimarus thinks the arguments in 2 Peter are better than in 2 Thess [which of course stems from the even longer delay of the parousia, RCK]. 
  • And Reimarus is proud of himself (pp.67f) for tackling the real issues of Christianity, the resurrection and the return, and not dwaddling with side issues.

Section 3: Miracles and Prophecies

  • Reimarus is opposed to the notion that miracles can either make faith certain or detract from it (p.69); they cannot confirm, because they are improbably events that require their own confirmation and make no semantic contribution to the argument (p.70).
  • Miracle writers are unconcerned about the side-parts of the details; Pharao's cattle is killed thrice over (p.71); the Israelites take all cattle of Pharao with them yet are hungry in the desert, requiring another miracle (p.71); the bottom of the Red Sea must have been impassable with corals and mud and sand to the Israelites with all their elderly, sick, furniture and animals (p.71). There is also no logic to the possibilities of that writer: "He blows and shouts down the strongest walls, although he cannot shout away the aggravating iron chariots any more than he can bid them stop." (p.71) Even the contemporaries did not believe them (p.72). 
  • Though the miracles of the NT are less outrageous, concerning healing and the like, they are equally ensnared in contradictions (p.72), as Jesus could never work miracles upon demand by higher authority or where they did not believe in him (p.73). The authoring of the texts happened long after the witnesses were dead (p.73). But all religions exhibit miracles, so they do not form a differentia specifica of Christianity (p.74). As affirmations of faith, miracles are useless: one cannot deduce the trinity from the healing of a blind man (p.75); one cannot heal contradictions (p.76): "Contradiction is a devil and father of lies, who refuses to be driven out either by fasting and prayer, or by miracles." (p.76)
  • The prophecies suffer from an equivalent problem (p.76). Clear prophecies, such as those in the NT describing the reign of the Messiah, never came to pass (p.77); all others require allegorical and non-standard interpretations to apply (e.g. Jonah). Indeed, as the life of Jesus showed, Reimarus argues, the applications of prophecies are always post-facto (p.80). 

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