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Jesus & Nietzsche - Professor Dreyfus
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Uploaded on May 28, 2011
NIETZSCHEAN CHRISTOLOGY by Christopher Demuth Rodkey
In short, Nietzsche respects and admires Jesus of Nazareth, "but denies that he has any meaning for our age Nietzsche believes the Jewish contention that Jesus is not the Messiah and that the Messiah has not yet appeared in history. Even so, Nietzsche reveres Jesus as no other character in history, particularly because he came to know Jesus as the very opposite of Christianity. Nietzsche writes as a philologist, "The word 'Christianity' is already a misunderstanding in reality there has only been one Christian, and he died on the Cross." While leaving such an impact on the world is admirable (and a good characteristic of an Übermensch), Nietzsche "could know Jesus as the greatest and truest revolutionary in history," despite the sour legacy he left.
Despite all of this hostility, Nietzsche looked upon the symbol of the crucified Christ as "the most sublime of all symbols." Nonetheless, "Jesus remains the only Christian who ever lived but he was crucified by man. The Christians were making their professed faith a weird comedy." The cross, to Nietzsche, is a "ghastly paradox" that revolves around the idea of "God of the cross." This concept is absurd to Nietzsche, who wonders how it is logical that the "mystery of an unimaginable and ultimate cruelty and self-crucifixion of God for the salvation of man?" Furthermore, Nietzsche comments:
God himself sacrifices himself for the guilt of mankind, God himself makes payment to himself, God as the only being who can redeem man from what has become unredeemable for man himselfCthe creditor sacrifices himself for his debtor, out of love (one can credit that?), out of love for his debtor!
Nietzsche sees this entire concept of a crucified god as utterly ridiculous and ironic for a god to do so "out of love." While "Christianity's self-sacrificing God makes infinite its adherents' guilt and debt," Nietzsche observes, "Jesus had done away with the concept of 'guilt.'" Yet, to Nietzsche, Jesus, like himself, had come "too early" and died "too young...not 'at the right time.'" They were both revolutionaries who were rebelling against the old ways.
It is clear that Nietzsche is interested in a historical hermeneutic of Jesus; however, as Jesus left no writings, Nietzsche had to go to the next best source, the Gospels, which he despised. Nietzsche writes that the Bible is "the greatest audacity and 'sin against the spirit' that literary Europe has on its conscience." As a result, while Jesus preached and taught about freedom, Nietzsche believed that "it was immediately transformed by those who preached it (and especially by Paul) to assert their own power."
Nietzsche is convinced that Jesus himself would deny "everything that today is called Christian." Critic William Hubben argues that Jesus was literally an anarchist, who "attacked the Jewish hierarchy, the 'just' and supreme rulers," and died for these sins, absolutely not for the sins of others. Nietzsche recognized that Jesus had supposedly expelled the world from the concepts of guilt and sin, wondering, "[h]ow could he have died for the sins of others?" Furthermore, while some Christians view Jesus as a completely divine judge of 'the quick and the dead,' Nietzsche viewed Jesus as anything but a judge: "Jesus opposed those who judged others, and wanted to destroy the morality existing in his age" (emphasis added). Nonetheless, one can be assured that Nietzsche "reveres the life and death of Jesus." However, it is not in the same way that a traditional "Christian" reveres Jesus; as critic Walter Kaufmann writes,"instead of interpreting it [Jesus' life] as a promise of another world and another life, and instead of conceding the divinity of Jesus, Nietzsche insists: Ecce Homo! Man can live and die in a grand style, working out his own salvation instead of relying on the sacrifice of another." Nietzsche, then, does not 'believe in Jesus' in the creedal tradition, but respects him as a worthy opponent. Nietzsche's interpretation of the life of Jesus, while suspicious, contrasts his feelings surrounding Christianity; recognizing a major difference between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of the creeds. To this end, the events surrounding Jesus' deathCrather than his resurrectionC become pivotal, as Nietzsche writes, "Jesus himself could not have desired nothing by his death but publicly to offer the sternest test, the proof of his teaching....But his disciples were far from forgiving his death." Thus, after Jesus' death, his followers asked, "Who killed him? who was his natural enemy?this came like a flash of lightning," and their answer was, "Judaism," the ruling class. The offspring of this, Christianity, for Nietzsche became "another in a line of failed attempts to understand the teachings of the great creators and transformers of life"; in other words, the creedal, pre-modern Jesus has no relevance to a contemporary, post-modern society.
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