Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nietzche is dead, and he is wrong.

"The philology of Christianity. How little Christianity educates the sense of honesty and justice can be seen pretty well from the writings of its scholars: they advance their conjectures asblandly as dogmas and are hardly ever honestly perplexed by the exegesis of a Biblical verse. Again and again they say, "I am right, for it is written," and the interpretation that follows is of such impudent arbitrariness that a philologist is stopped in his tracks, torn between anger and laughter, and keeps asking himself: Is it possible? Is this honest? Is it even decent? What dishonesties of this sort are still perpetrated from Protestant pulpits today, how crudely the preachers exploit the advantage that nobody can interrupt them, how the Bible is pricked and pulled and the art of reading badly formally inculcated upon the people -- all this will be underestimated only by those who go to church either never or always. In the end, however, what are we to expect of the aftereffects of a religion that enacted during the centuries of its foundation that unheard-of philological farce about the Old Testament? I refer to the attempt to pull away the Old Testament from under the feet of the Jews -- with the claim that it contains nothing but Christian doctrines and belongs to the Christians as the true Israel, while the Jews had merely usurped it. And now the Christians yielded to a rate of interpretation and interpolation, which could not possibly have been accompanied by a good conscience. However much the Jewish scholars protested, everywhere in the Old Testament there were supposed to be references to Christ and only to Christ, and particularly to his cross. Wherever any piece of wood, a switch, a ladder, a twig, a tree, a willow, or a staff is mentioned, this was supposed to indicate a prophecy of the wood of the cross....Has anybody who claimed this ever believed it?" -

Nietzsche, on the Philosophy of Christianity.

I've always been fascinated by Nietzche as a person, as a writer and a philosopher. But his critiques against aspects of Christianity, such as this one, though interesting, usually only invoke similar feelings of rage and laughter by those who know a thing or two about the history of the Christian church, the history of Christian philosophy and the history of Christian philology.

Thesis 1: Nietzche cannot be angry with Christians for reading Christ everywhere in the Old Testament, because we learn more and more as we study Jewish Targums that those places where Christians supposedly farse by reading Christ into the text, Jewish Rabbis long before Christ even existed read the Messiah into the text. We've just put a name to him.

Thesis 2: Nietzche cannot legitimately say that the foundational periods of Christianity were supercessionistic, callng Israel merely a type of the church, calling the church the new Israel and calling the Old Testament the church's book. While I agree with most or all of these propositions (loosely), these were not the foundational positions. The apostles of Christ were prominant dispensationalists; as was Justin Martyr in odd ways, and especially Irenaeus. The earliest church Fathers had covenental theologies, as did certain Christian sects. Nietzche's statement is absurdly false. He is referring to a later development around the time of Augustine.

Thesis 3: Nietzche cannot be angry when a pastor says," I am right, for it is written." Because saying so is not pride as is eminant, but a reaction to the platitudinous. It is saying," I am right not of myself but of something else that is time-honored and respected. Do not listen to me, listen to me only insomuch as I am listening to what has been written." It is also a statement that is only legitimately made in an arena of individuals who equally respect the authority of what is written. If Nietzche is angry, then he has not realized that the pastor wasn't speaking to him.

Thesis 4: Nietzche cannot be angry with supercessionistic philosophy or its implications, because if the Old Testament is a forerunner of Messiah, a herald, then it is Messiahs book, not the Jews. That the Jews fail to recognize Christ as Messiah is another point entirely; that Christians recognize Christ as Messiah makes it a rule that the Old Testament would be Christs book.

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