Ideals of Conduct: An Exposition of Moral Attitudes

By John Dashiell Stoops | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
THE SOCIAL ASPECTS OF THE TEACHING OF JESUS

The teaching of Jesus has come down to us through several traditions. These traditions have assumed three outstanding forms. There is the Jewish tradition, to be seen in the first three Gospels and in Revelation; there is the Pauline tradition; and there is the Greek tradition in the Fourth Gospel. It is difficult-- some think it is impossible--to distinguish the original teaching of Jesus from these later traditional interpretations. Can we differentiate the original core of Jesus' moral teaching? Can we find such a nucleus in the Beatitudes and the Parables? It is our belief that we can.

We have seen that after the loss of the state in the Exile there developed the ideal of a Messianic kingdom. To some the Messiah was to be a political leader; to others, the Messiah was to be a prophetic, moral leader. Then there was the apocalyptic hope. Both these ideals are attributed to Jesus in the Gospels. It is possible that both ideals belong to a process of Jewish reconstruction.

Then there is the Pauline interpretation, which centered about the crucifixion. It became the dominant ecclesiastical tradition. The death of Jesus did for Christian thought what the death of Socrates did for Platonism. Paul became the spokesman of an out

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