The Jesus of the Philosophers (Nietzsche’s Jesus Part 2/3)
In my blog post series on Philosophy and Religion, my most recent post was on Nietzsche’s Jesus and the central concept of transfiguring agape/love as a middle term between the finite man and infinite God:
The Jesus of the Philosophers (Nietzsche’s Jesus Part 1/3)
Today, I am going to try to place this radical philosophy of love of Jesus by looking at my recently deceased dear friend Dr. David Goicoechea’s appropriation of and response to Dr. Burton Mack’s hypothesis about the three stages of the lost Q source and the historical Jesus, replacing Mack’s model of Jesus as a cynic sage with Jesus as a revolutionary thinker and liver of agape/love. The Q hypothesis is generally accepted by scholars, with a few notable critics, mainly Dr. Mark Goodacre.
I’ve tried to quote David liberally to maybe give you a sense of what he was like as I knew him as one of the great postmodern philosophers. His wife Dr. Johanna Tito was my first year philosophy teacher and later taught me Husserl. My first encounter with David was when he filled in for Johanna one day and taught a bunch of shocked first year students about Nietzsche’s theory of religion and slave morality, which was an entirely new kind of “truth” to me that shocked me to the core by revealing something that had always been there in a hidden manner and was now un-hidden (a-letheia). But now, Q.
The Q hypothesis is the idea that there was a lost book of Q (for Quelle, meaning source) that represented the material common to Matthew and Luke that did not come from Mark. Burton Mack divides this hypothetical source into three strata: Q1, Q2, Q3. For Mack and Goicoechea’s Nietzsche Q1 represents the material that reliably goes back to the historical Jesus, although for skeptics like Robert M Price the materials that make up Q1 just conveys a common cynical tang, and so need not go back to a single sage, let alone the historical Jesus.
Burton Mack does not primarily treat the Jesus of Q1 as a love teacher, rather for him Jesus is primarily this cynical insurrectionist figure. So the transition for Mack is from Jesus, the wise Cynic, to the son of man who develops into an apocalyptic judgment figure. Goicoechea’s innovation is he sees the three stages of Q as different developments of agape/love, which begins with the love and blessing of persecutor and enemy of Q 1. The Jesus of Q1, who Goicoechea thinks is Nietzsche’s Jesus, left the beloved Q community, and immediately they re-interpreted him as the rewarder-punisher Christ.
- as soon as Christ and his atonement theology predominate Jesus’s agape is forgotten. This model that Nietzsche sees so clearly and lets him in the primacy of Jesus’s agape be star friends with Christian Platonists and enlightenment humanists and Romantics is the Model that was revealed to David in 2nd Samuel 7: There God promised David that he would always be with him in his everlasting merciful love and if he sinned he would be punished with the rods of men but that is secondary. Of course, ethics and justice are important just as are Socrates and Christ but what is most important is the love of the Unknown God. (Goicoechea, David. Agape and the Four Loves with Nietzsche, Father, and Q: A Physiology of Reconciliation from the Greeks to Today (pp. 64-65). Pickwick Publishers – An Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition. Hereafter just pagination.)
Nietzsche’s Pietism was already a great step toward an incarnation love theology and away from the primacy of atonement justice theology of the judging Christ of Q2. Goicoechea comments
- 5. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. This is the key revolutionary idea of Jesus for we do need to forgive our enemies and love them and pray for them and forgive those who are indebted to us as we want God to forgive our debts. This petition reveals to the person praying it the natural law of love that was not easily seen but which makes perfect sense for if we do have a loving, forgiving heart, then we are blessed. (p. 82)
Even the Q1 saying of hating family falls into this model because it fits with Jesus’ mandate of unconditional and primary love of God. Goicoechea’s program, though, is one of reconciliation, so he asks how we can reconcile Q1 with Q2, which takes us beyond Mack because Goicoechea reads Mack to be isolating Q1 as historical and thus denying the historicity of the kerygma, which Goicoechea won’t have:
- The Jesus of Q1 emphasizes loving the enemy and non-resistance. With this Jesus the agape of love for all is clear and unadulterated. Bust as soon as we come to this son of man of Q2, everything totally changes, for now there is hatred instead of love for the enemy…So how is the Jesus of Q1 who does not judge others but loves all to be reconciled with the Christ of Q2 who judges all who are against the Q community and finds them worthy of punishment and hellfire? Q2 already seems to be answering this question or working toward an answer by saying that wisdom’s children show that she is right in presenting Jesus as a non-judging friend of tax-collectors and sinners…. [Though] The Community of Q2 does not love the enemy or turn the other cheek. (85-6)
Regarding the historical Jesus, it is precisely the new love of enemy and be merciful philosophy which defined the new Jesus movement and set it apart. Jesus proclaimed his message of love to many and the Q people changed their attitude and way of life and followed him.
- His new physis or nature of things has to do with an unheard-of love of the enemy that is unlike any love ethics before and it reveals a new understanding of the God who also loves all. “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” This insight into God which Jesus used to motivate his followers was what caught their attention and explains why the movement caught on. Greek law, Roman law, Jewish law all aimed at a justice that spelled out a whole system of rewards and punishments. But this Jesus told them to leave behind the emphasis on nomos and put a new physiological focus on a totally loving heart…Jesus took his people from law and justice to love and mercy…As soon as we come to the Q2 texts there is an immediate shift from this new realm of physical love back to the old nomos or world of law and its order of justice and of reward and punishment. (89-90)
Summarizing the distinction between Q1 and Q2, Goicoechea comments that
- So what is the logic of love and punishment as we see it in Q1 and Q2? Jesus loved his enemies in thought, word and deed and the Jesus of Q1 taught his disciples to do the same but now it seems that the Judge at the end of time that is, God himself, will not forgive the enemies of love. So Jesus forgives, the members of the Q community should forgive but the apocalyptic judge and God will not practise forgiveness. Jesus came to reveal the father as a loving, forgiving father God. So it is a gigantic transition to shift from the forgiving God of Q1 to the non-forgiving rewarder-punisher God in Q2. This apocalyptic judge works with a clear logic of exclusive opposites. (97-8)
However, what we still see preserved in the judgementalism of Q2 is the mandate of the community member to forgive.
- QS 58 is on forgiveness and it says: If your brother sins, warn him. If he listens to you, forgive him. Even if he sins against you seven times in a day, you must forgive him. So even here in Q2 the emphasis is still on total forgiveness. Q2 is warning the brother with its epic-apocalyptic story but even though God and the son of man might not forgive that is not the least reason for an excuse on the part of the Jesus follower. (98)
It is with Q3 we see the integration of the forgiveness of enemy and mercy with the justice of moral influence with Jesus’s unjust death.
- Right away this Q3 Jesus as the son of God seems much more loving and less judgmental than the apocalyptic son of man of Q2. This image and symbol of becoming like the child is of central importance for Nietzsche as he distinguishes Jesus from Paul’s Christ…This third stage of the Q community is now receiving a new and fuller revelation about Jesus who first taught them in Galilee. As the child of wisdom he revealed to them a childlike love for all, especially enemies, that did not resist any evil. Then after his death the persecuted community was inspired to understand him as a judge and now he is the child of God…The son of man wanted a balance of true love and true justice (192-4)
It is from Q1 we can see the historical Jesus and his radical message of love of enemy which is contrasted with Q2. During this period of Q2 from 35 C.E. to 75 C.E. Mack tells us that the Jesus people had the two main problems of persecutors and traitors.
- From the beginning of Q2 the son of man threatened with hell fire: Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. But in the Q1 sayings the child of wisdom says: Be merciful even as your Father is merciful. Don’t judge and you won’t be judged. (195)
We see Q3 with this the realization of the Davidic promise theology of 2 Sam 7 and a world that combines love and justice.
- In fact the son of God goes on to say: Everyone who divorces his wife commits adultery, and the one who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery. So in the Kingdom of love the Jesus people must be very serious about the right ethical life and living according to all the commandments. Adultery is very serious and will be punished by the rods of men…So what might it mean to say that the followers of Jesus who belong to the Kingdom of love will sit on thrones as judges? In this Kingdom each lover who really loved all of existence and forgives his or her enemy is already a judge like Jesus. For when they sincerely pray and live out the Lord’s prayer … Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us….Don’t judge and you won’t be judged. For the standard you use will be the standard used against you. QS 10 (197-8)
Goicoechea thus summarizes the love/agape structure of Q:
- On pages 73 to 80 of his book Burton Mack gives a separate list of all the original Q1 sayings and in this first stage of the Q text if you focus on agape you can already see three stages of love. The first third of the sayings stress a totally unconditional love. Jesus clearly tells his people: I am telling you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If they do good and lend without expecting anything in return their reward will be great and they will be children of God. But notice there is already a rewarder God here in the earliest sayings. However, what is new for humankind is this agape which is totally altruistic and puts the emphasis on praying for one’s enemies. Prayer cultivates love and Jesus knew that the more you pray for someone the more you will love them for adoring belongs to praying…And Jesus tells his disciples in this early stage of his teaching that if they love their enemies they will be children of God and that will be their reward which is a natural reward for loving…Jesus was childlike and if his people loved as did he they too would be children of God and he said to them…Be merciful even as your Father is merciful. Don’t judge and you won’t be judged. For the standard you use (for judging) will be the standard used against you. A child loves his or her parents with the very love which they receive from their parents and a baby which is not judged does not judge… But there is a natural punishment and if you really understand the agape that loves enemies and sinners you will see that their non loving and its sinfulness will bring them a suffering without joy. That is why the agapeic lover will pray for them so earnestly and love them with such fervor so that they too might come to love… any evil doing or lack of love will only result in suffering not only for other but especially for themselves. (199-200)
The love of agape in Q1 is a universal love, and the danger is that preferential love will sneak in and destroy this love – love of self vs love of other
- Q1 and right after the banquet story: Whoever does not hate his father and mother will not be able to learn from me. Whoever does not hate his son and daughter cannot belong to my school. Each form of love: affection, eros, friendship and agape can be a fundamental attitude and natural affection which can love my father or mother, or my son or daughter more than other persons excludes the agape which should love all persons equally. Therefore, to come to the banquet of agape I must not make the excuse that I just have a new wife and must care for her. Once I have agape and love all persons equally including my wife … then I will be able to give her special attention but only relatively. And, of course, it is not easy to leave the worldly ways behind and come follow Jesus to the banquet of agape and that is why at the end of Q1 he also says: Whoever does not accept his cross and so become my follower, cannot be one of my students. For agape to unconditionally love all persons, places and things it must hate and get rid of any excuse making preferential self love that ties it down in an exclusive love of one’s own…In Q1 Jesus, the child of wisdom, reveals an agape for all even enemies. In Q2 Jesus, the son of man, warns sinners about punishment. In Q3 Jesus, the son of God, reveals how agape is rooted in God. (201)
Why love? It is the unconditional love of God that motivates us to love usually undesirable widow, orphan, stranger, and enemy, what Kierkegaard meant with relating to the absolute absolutely and the relative relatively. I go beyond David in that I place exactly this thesis with Nietzsche without God in the equation, and so an even more radical agape love, but staying with David and Q3
- The Q3 section of the text begins with the words: Then Jesus was led into the wilderness by the spirit for trial by the diabolos. This spirit must be the same Holy Spirit who inspires the Jesus people when they are on trial and the last words that the son of God says to the diabolos in this Q 56 saying are: It is written, “You shall reverence the lord your God and serve him alone.” This reverence must be the deepest core of all agape…This reverence that the son of God teaches us, by teaching the diabolos, to have for the lord our God now gives us the big picture that motivates us to love all persons because we love God… In the Q1 stage Jesus taught an unconditional love with increasing warning about a natural punishment for those who would not love. Q3 stage there is a primacy of loving mercy and yet a punishment of hell fire for those who will not reverence God… But Jesus never gives up for as the Q1 child of wisdom he forgives his enemies even those who are killing him and as the Q2 son of man he must warn those who betray and persecute the agapeic love community that there is a just natural punishment. You cannot be negative to others without living with your negativity… the Q1 sayings of Matthew and Luke emphasize a universal agape… the very core of the Q1 sayings as rooted in: I am telling you, love your enemies, pray for those who mistreat you … the Q1 sayings of Matthew and Luke emphasize the agape which resists not evil and prays lovingly for the enemy… When the Q community experienced traitors from the community and persecutors of the community after the Ascension of Jesus they called down the apocalyptic message of judgment upon their enemies and the Q2 Christ seemed contrary to the Jesus of Q1… of agape and personhood in which all persons [even traditionally undesirable ones like widow, orphan, stranger and enemy] are of equal worth, each person is unique and all are interpersonal. (205-212)
In my final post on Nietzsche’s Jesus next time I will wrap up Goicoechea’s analysis in this book and conclude with my interpretation of Nietzsche’s appropriation of Jesus with Caesar with the soul of Christ in Nietzsche’s language: the overman.