The Kingdom of God and Primitive Christianity: A Book Review

This was an interesting book – to say the least. There was some great information in the first half where Albert Schweitzer focused on the Old Testament prophets. When he started focusing on the New Testament and Primitive Christianity (read early first century), he started getting off on a the whole critical search for a historical Jesus deal. The deal being that the Jesus of the Gospels is not the “real” Jesus, but a mixture of “real” information and “added” information. Schweitzer really liked Mark and Matthew – as they are the two oldest Gospel accounts – and, as such, focused his writings around those two books.

Summary:

It’s a good read – however, I wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone. As I mentioned above, Schweitzer gets pretty critical when dealing with the New Testament – especial the Gospels. The problem being that you really can’t throw out parts of the Bible as “false” just because you don’t like it or think that it’s not true. The Gospels, for the most part, when eye witness accounts. The writers wrote what they saw – who are we, two thousand years later, to say that they did not see what they said they saw?

Schweitzer falls prey to the modern logical mind of discounting anything supernatural… we must remember that God is not to be contained within our little box. He is much bigger – and we will never, ever fully understand Him on this side of the mirror. One day perhaps, but for now, we must learn to live with the mystery. [@more@]

Like:

Schweitzer does a great job at explaining the Kingdom of God in the Old Testament – especial in the pre-exilic prophets (Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah). As the book progresses through the prophets, Schweitzer brings in some of the beliefs and thoughts of the Iranian Religion around 650 to 600 BC. The main focus being on Zarathustra and on how his views on the Kingdom of God influenced the Jewish people.

At first, I was quite put off on the fact that Schweitzer was suggesting that Biblical prophets where influenced by non-Biblical religions and leaders. Then I stopped myself – is God limited to only what is recorded in the Bible? No. He is bigger then the Bible – most likely He was working in and through Zarathustra to show the world His glory.

Schweitzer also made me question the dating of the book of Daniel. While I’ve been through Bible school, I didn’t remember that the date that Daniel was written was questioned… but it is. The two main schools of thought place the Book of Daniel either during the time of Nebuchadnezzar (ie. 605 BC – 562 BC) or some time after Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrated the altar (176 BC).

Of course, if it was written in the second century BC, that means that Daniel didn’t write it. The later date would also cause the “prophecies” contained therein to be commentary instead of future visions. After thinking and praying about, I decided it really didn’t matter. The book still tells us about the Lord and His working in the world through different means. The Kingdom of Heaven still wins – either way.

I also enjoyed the way Schweitzer brought some of the writings of late Judaism – mainly Enoch and the Apocalypses of Ezra and Baruch. For years I have been meaning to read the Apocryphal – now I have a greater desire to do so. (G – I borrowed your old Oxford Bible with the Apocryphal….)

Dislike:

Schweitzer denies the physical resurrection of Jesus – claiming instead that what the apostle’s saw was only a vision. He disregards the Biblical passages of Jesus eating and drinking with the apostles and disciples saying that they were added later to help ‘prove’ the myth of Jesus’ physical resurrection.

In addition, Schweitzer also places an almost unhealthy stress on the humanness of Jesus. Part of this was a reaction to the times when he lived as most theologians in the late 1800 to early 1900’s focused on the divine part of Jesus. This stress comes to light in Schweitzer’s comments about how Jesus did not knew who he was – but instead considered himself nothing more then an man who was following God. This view leaves out the claims of Jesus to BE God – of course, Schweitzer would say that those passages where added later. You can see how Schweitzer went from one extreme to the other.

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