The Jesus of the Philosophers (Nietzsche’s Jesus Part 3/3)
My friend and teacher Dr. David Goicoechea with his book on Jesus and Nietzsche that I talk about in these 3 blog posts.
I’ve been thinking about Jesus and philosophy with Nietzsche’s Jesus with this 3 part miniseries of posts:
The Jesus of the Philosophers (Nietzsche’s Jesus Part 1/3)
The Jesus of the Philosophers (Nietzsche’s Jesus Part 2/3)
Today I will complete this series with some final thoughts on Nietzsche’s Jesus and Q.
Nietzsche said that which does not kill me makes me stronger, and so that affirmation in the face of tragedy reverses the tragic. Think of people who have come out stronger after a long illness or a bad breakup. Goicoechea comments that the great heights are born out of the deepest valleys. The whole point of Nietzsche’s poetic, philosophic vision is to love to will the eternal return of even the sorrowful with joy.
- Nietzsche sees Christianity as a pessimistic misinterpretation of Jesus…The pessimist sees that the best of times can be the worst of times, but this can be redeemed by seeing that it is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all and Zarathustra in his chapter On Redemption explains such a healing sublimation… Zarathustra is a person with great purity of heart and he wills one thing – to bring the sublimational integration of amor fati to all. He has found that most persons are poor suffering disintegrated wrecks. In the many drives, instincts and tastes of their will to power they they are fragmented and a riddle of contradictory values fighting against each other with one dreadful throw of the dice after another. His task is to bring the great love to each person for as he says at the end of that same section twenty three of The Anti-christ: One endures more when in love than one otherwise would, one tolerates everything. The whole point of Zarathustra’s mission is to teach redemption that can transform every ‘It was’ into an ‘I wanted it thus!’ Nietzsche discovered in 1881 how to transform every sorrow into joy.. Nietzsche can be very thankful that his father died, that he got ill and could not teach, that women rejected him because all that sorrow through a productive mourning and sublimation process let him become the great lover, philosopher, and poet he was. He became a true overman by overcoming the negativity within himself as he received the gift of amor fati from the joyful birds and animals who taught him a joyful wisdom… It is possible because he has learned the trick of sublimation that can take any bad trick and turn it into a good trick. That is precisely the creativity of the child who in all innocence can take any aliment such as being born crippled and unable to walk and through compensation be better because of just that. This way or method of creative illness toward the great health is philosophical in its genealogical method that recoils with counter-memories against negative reactions. It is psychoanalytic in working out weariness, shame disgust and pity with a talking cure and is successful mourning. (Goicoechea, David. Agape and the Four Loves with Nietzsche, Father, and Q: A Physiology of Reconciliation from the Greeks to Today (p. 291; 298; 302). Pickwick Publishers – An Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition. Hereafter just pagination)
From what Mack says and is clear in the gospel Matthew is not primarily concerned with the agape sayings of Q1, but emphasizes the justice element. Goicoechea comments
- The aphorisms of Q1 have bite insofar as they stress agape as an unconditional love of God for us that makes justice secondary and as an unconditional love that we too should practise. In Luke’s gospel the unconditional agape of Q1 is right up front and stressed as that which differentiates Jesus love from all others. In ordering Mark’s synoptic narrative in five stages of repenting for the kingdom of heaven is at hand Matthew gives the justice of apocalyptic judgment theology the primacy and in this way the unconditional agape theology of Q1 is made secondary (306). The new agape that fulfills the old ahava and hesed has an amazing and mysterious new value that we might better understand by going back to our section on fulfillment where at Matthew 5:23 we read So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Here we have the essence of Matthew’s Good News about agape. This kind of reconciliation with your brother and sister which now includes all of humankind would never have occurred to John the Baptist and to the Law and the Prophets which he fulfills. This context of reconciliation belongs to Matthew alone of the four evangelists and it is in terms of it that he gives a primacy to getting justice just right before there can be a true love. (308) As Matthew’s apocalyptic Christ brings persons to consider how best to love God and their neighbor he stresses: In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me. So in Matthew there is a great stress on agape but if its standards are not met the punisher God will get non-lovers (310-11).
In both Luke and Matthew, then, love as agape is pushed to the front, but for Matthew the unconditional love of Q1 if pushed back for the judging conditional love. Goicoechea comments that
- It is our task here to ask about the resurrection for the Q community. The coming of the kingdom according to Q2 does have to do with death, judgment and heaven or hell for this is part of the apocalyptic vision as we see, for example, in QS 32: The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment and condemn this generation. In Q1 there are sayings that imply an afterlife but perhaps not a resurrection for as QS 36 says: Don’t be afraid of those who can kill the body, but can’t kill the soul. and QS 52, another Q1 saying, says: whoever tries to protect his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life on account of me will preserve it. So the Jesus of Q1 is a saving teacher whose kingdom can come on earth as it is in heaven and in heaven as it is on earth. With Matthew the kingdom becomes the church and with Peter as its leader the apostles are commissioned to make it universal. All the agape sayings of the Q1 Jesus are, of course, in Matthew but they do not have the same agapeic role to play that they will in Luke who, in writing for the Gentiles, will emphasize a kingdom of universal, forgiving love and a salvation to be seen by all flesh. We will explore how Luke reconciled the apocalyptic judgment of the Q2 Son of man with the loving and forgiving Jesus of Q1. But now as we conclude our reflections on Matthew we can see why Burton Mack says that the all forgiving agape of the Q1 Jesus loses its bite in Matthew who identifies more with the Son of God sayings of Q3 and emphasizes also judgment and non-forgiving justice. (312)
Perhaps now we see these Q1 love elements are still paralleled in Mark, and so we see continuity between our earliest sources, Q, Paul and Mark:
- So even though the Q sayings are not directly included in Mark we must wonder about the agape of the Q1 Jesus not only in Mark but in John, Luke and even Paul in order to understand Jesus’ love….This ethics of Q1 is the ethics of agape that loves even enemies as more important than the self and gives to them and forgives them. What Jesus teaches in Q1 he does practise throughout Mark’s gospel. He is the Good Samaritan for widows, orphans and aliens in the first half of the Gospel before the midpart of the Transfiguration and he does offer his life out of love … even for his enemies (313). Paul’s universal agape because of which there are no longer Jews nor Greeks, male nor female, masters nor slaves but all are persons who are equally lovable shows itself through Mark’s Gospel. At Mark 15:40–41 we see that many women followed him just as did men: These used to follow him and look after him when he was in Galilee. And many other women were there who had come up to Jerusalem with him. Mark takes note of this agape that gives women a new place and role (315). Burton Mack thinks that Mark did fuse Paul and Q together. But because the Q people do not have Jesus and the Kerygma of the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and coming of the Holy Spirit Mack thinks that only the Jesus of Q1 is historical and that Paul and it would seem that also Q2 and Q3 are making up the rest as fiction. (316) Burton Mack’s way of thinking that all but Q1 are only fictionalized stories falsely attributed to Jesus. (318). Luke’s Jesus is not only the clearest teacher of Q1 agape but he also practices love with a mercy and forgiveness that always makes incarnation love theology most primary and does not at all let apocalyptic judgment theology have the last say in any way (322). So, from Luke 6:20 to Luke 6:50 Jesus presents the bulk of the Q1 agape teaching which in its revolutionary way centers on the love of enemies: But I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you pray for those who treat you badly. Matthew placed the Q1 agape sayings within the context of the apocalyptic judgment dialogue between the son of man and John the Baptist whereas Luke gives the primacy to agape and makes atonement justice secondary to incarnation love. (324)
Philosophically, Nietzsche’s loving Jesus, as opposed to Nietzsche’s judging Christ, is at the core of what Goicoechea sees as the historical Jesus. This is a creative artistic Jesus who transfigures things rather than just judging them, and so is the very image of health for Nietzsche as personal and cultural physician. The very ground of Q1 for Goicoechea is the revolutionary love of enemy mandate, and the transformational force it represented. It was the gift of willingness of Jesus being wrongfully killed that led to the transfiguration of the pagan soldier at the cross in Mark and Luke (Truly this was God’s son / an innocent man). Jesus’s death made humanity’s sinful nature conspicuous. It was through the original message of the loving Jesus of Q1 that then transformed into the judgement of Q2, and finally the rediscovery of the love model of Q3 that we see what the Q community was going through and how it grew. For Jesus love of God was primary, and in a close second love for fellow humans chimed in as the way we pleased God. I disagree with David that Nietzsche had a love of God, but this doesn’t change Nietzsche had a godless agape that overcame the meaninglessness of Ecclesiastes. Only the weak fall to eternal recurrence because if beings aren’t inherently meaningful, they are a blank canvas, and so for the higher types who create meaning rather than just passively wait for it, beings can lovingly be painted according to the artist’s health and creativity. Goicoechea is going to disagree with Mack that only Q1 is historical, and so in his various writing tries to resurrect the incarnation, crucifixion, etc. by reconciling them with the agape/love foundation.
Nietzsche says God is dead, that we killed him. This means the death of absolutes, but also means the consequence of those who think eternal return. The numinous holiness of a favorite gospel song can be erased merely by playing it 50 times in a row until it starts presencing in an irritating manner. The numinous is not a divine Other that we come into contact with, but a way the mind goes beyond itself to affect itself (ek-static), analogous in a simpler way to how we encounter “boringness” as a trait of the book along with plot, setting, characters, theme – though we know the next person need not experience it as boring … For Ecclesiastes, only God can be an answer to the tedious repetition of life – but Nietzsche envisioned the overman who could conquer a blank world through artistic transfiguration: in Nietzsche’s language “Caesar with the soul of Christ: the overman.” Unlike Jesus, the overman does not transfigure out of a primary love of God to secondarily care for the downtrodden, but out of his own strength and health. To act so as to please God is a weakness, in that if the only reason you are doing something is to get a divine reward, even if it’s just a divine “atta-boy,” this is not true loving transfiguration. For every good thing you do, you must ask would you still do it if God didn’t care? As the child says, you are a better friend when you play your friend’s favorite game instead of your own, and a parent has a lot more to be thankful for when a child spontaneously and without reward does chores, as opposed to the child who only helps for an allowance. It’s the difference between unhealthy religious extrinsic motivation and healthy intrinsic motivation. God dies when humanity creates its own means and ends.
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