A sensation was caused by the Jesus book of Rudolf Augstein,
publisher of Der Spiegel, - whether justifiably so or not is another question. 101 Augstein was not so much concerned to show how the church lost its way in the course of almost two thousand years in the 426 pages of his book, but rather to consider the destruction of the Christian faith altogether. As to whether he wrote the book himself - and this has been doubted by many - or there are others behind it, this has no bearing on an analysis of the contents. Augstein has nothing new to offer.
The work is a compilation. Everything he says has been said before by others. In Augstein's view, "the most precious fruit of the search for meaning is the insight that . . . man has no final
meaning." (p. 421) And "a fool would not have to be a person who takes the whole Jesus figure for a myth . . :' (p. 47)
"The Gospels contain the teaching of the evangelists, nothing else, and this in turn contains the doctrine of the Essenes, the Qumran sect, the Apocalyptics, the liberal Pharisees, the Jewish Christians, the Hellenists, and nothing else." (p. 164) The scenes described in the Gospels have, according to Augstein, been woven from Old Testament prophesies (p. 182) and he considers it all "the work of the early churches" (p. 367).
Augstein indiscriminately adopted the theories of Bultmann and other authors, despite the fact that Bultmann's own students had spoken against radical demythologizing of the Gospels, and even the atheist philosopher Ernst Bloch considered it untenable. Augstein's basic approach is nihilistic, and his philosophical concepts are borrowed from existential philosophers * such as Heidegger and Sartre. There is only one theory he does not trust: that Jesus is supposed to have been a political rebel leader; this does seem improbable to him, "as one does not get beyond tentative notions and deductions:' (p. 195)
Augstein, "a know-all beyond compare" (R. Pesch), maintains that "Jesus does not show us how to live" (p. 163) just as everything to do with Jesus was really open to question.
His aim was to create uncertainty for his readers, and as the churches have largely forfeited the people's trust, their theologians feeding the doubt in the hearts of the faithful, Augstein's "document of mystification" (Pesch) undoubtedly has found fertile soil among many. When theologians are denying the resurrection of Christ, and Christianity is regarded merely as "service to our fellow men", one is forced to agree with Augstein when he writes: "And two thousand years of church for this!" (p. 102) Nor is it surprising when Augstein is surprised at the Catholic theologian Josef Blank stating that "Jesus did not intend to proclaim an eternal truth, beyond all time, but addressed himself directly to the people of his time." (p. 103) 102
Like many before him, Augstein chafes at many passages in the Gospels, considering all pericopes where a solution is not obvious to him to be "suspect" - as has become the custom. He does not know that Jesus told the apostles: "Generally speaking, the full, naked truth cannot be given to mankind at this time except only in parables. (Gr III 168, 12)
Yet it is often simple issues Augstein is concerned with. New Revelation provides plausible and convincing explanations for practically every question he is raising. For instance, he takes objection to the way the evangelist has Judas say "that is the one" to the Temple law officers as he betrays Jesus. His argument is that Jesus was "generally known" in the small area around Jerusalem. "There was no need for an expert to identify him with the words 'that is the one'." (p. 184) New Revelation describes the event in detail, and it is immediately obvious that the evangelist has reported it correctly. It says: "The officers shrunk back, however, because they had heard many things of My powers and were afraid of them. Which also was the reason why Caiaphas had selected people who did not yet know Me." (Gr XI p. 198) Finally, it also was nighttime and dark when Jesus was apprehended.
The death sentence given by Pilate, when he had previously expressly stated that he found him innocent, seems "monstrous" to Augstein. In his opinion, "this is the work of invention". (p. 197) Augstein also clearly had no idea of the historical background as described in this book in the chapter on Jesus' Life on Earth. Everything new or incomprehensible to him is either "suspect" or "monstrous". He is ready with a premature judgement whenever he cannot see through a situation. On the other hand he also does not shrink from making his own fantastic constructs - as Rudolf Pesch has written. 103
The gospel reports on the law officers who apprehended Jesus also seem improbable to him, for he imagines this to have been done by a Roman cohort (600 men).
He creates problems where none exist. "Where did the Jews get a cohort from, with a senior Roman officer to lead them?" Augstein asks. (p. 202) There is not a word about a Roman officer in the Gospels. Both the Roman army and the Temple Guards had senior officers. Nor is a cohort mentioned in the Gospels. Matthew 26, 47 refers to "a great crowd . . . from the chief priests". Mark 14, 47 has exactly the same words. Luke 22, 47 also refers to a "crowd". John (18, 3) reports a "band of soldiers and men from the chief priests" and (18, 12) "the band with its captain and the officers of the Jews." In the ecumenical translation of the Bible (Katholische Bibelanstalt, Stuttgart, Germany), no mention is made of soldiers even in the passage from John, and instead it says: "Judas came with a band and with officers from the chief priests."
New Revelation gives precise details. "At that moment, a troop of armed Temple guards approached, bearing torches." Nor is a "captain" mentioned, but merely a "leader". It is not admissible to interpret the word "captain" in John's Gospel to the effect that Roman military personnel were involved in the apprehension of Jesus. Pilate was very well informed on Jesus' preaching, and had no cause to have him apprehended. If he had wished to do so, he would not have needed Temple priests for that. And does Augstein seriously believe the Romans would have put a third of the armed forces they had stationed in Palestine (one cohort) at the disposal of the Jewish priests to arrest one man during the night? And can he really think a Roman captain would take a man he had arrested to the former High Priest Annas who had been deposed by the Romans? His own statements make this seem improbable. (p. 204)
In the 426 pages of his book, Augstein keeps putting question marks into the gospel text. Here is a typical example from page 219: "He was handed over (?) by Pilate (?) to be killed (?), crucified (?) by Roman (?) soldiers (?), one sees nothing but question marks." - If one sets out to systematically invent myths, there are no limits to the possibilities offered by the condensed style of the Gospels. That can be done until - as the Marxist Ernst Bloch put it in drastic words - "only purple is left of the Gospels".
Reading New Revelation, however, it is possible to do away with one question mark after the other. It is a real mine of information, providing important details that give us a clear picture of the true situation. If Christians who over many years have grown uncertain through reading the literature of biblical criticism were to realize that those critical excursions have feet of clay, they would agree with the following, dictated into Jakob Lorber's pen by the Lord: "Each (critic) thinks he has hit the nail on the head one way or another. But it does not take long and another comes up who proves to the first, down to the last iota, that he has got it utterly wrong. And so it goes on and on, and in the end the last of them knows no more than the first whether he had hit the nail on the head or not." (Schriftt. 60)
It is just as Alexis Carel said, that "the reality is not always clear and simple". "The Word of God in the Bible shows no simple straight uniformity, but is often deeply buried beneath contradictions, obscurities and difficult questions. The starting point for all reflection on the Word of God therefore has to be reverence for this mystery." 104
According to New Revelation, Jesus foretold his disciples that in time to come scholars frequently would not understand his message. "Many of the worldly wise only produce something that will serve earthly purposes, while anything deeper, inner and spiritual remains alien to them." (Gr IV 236, 1) "The worldly understanding of men does not grasp the inner things of the spirit and of living truth, and takes those for fools who bring them news of such." (Gr IX 132, 16)
Bible criticism has shown that when the intellect is made to rule supreme, it is not possible to grasp what is supernatural and uniqu in Jesus. The intellect is then completely blind to the metaphysical profundity of many of the impenetrable mysteries of the godhead, of creation and of salvation. "Yet he does not have to be a fool" who puts more of his trust in the illuminating, clear and logical disclosures made in New Revelation than in a Bible criticism that cannot free itself from false images, puts forward constantly changing hypotheses lacking in credibility, and finally, after endless discussion, has returned again to the place where 2nd and 3rd century pagans like Celaus and Porphyrius had started from.
Considering the theological literature on research into the life of Jesus, a literature leading to radicalism and atheism, one has to believe the words spoken in New Revelation: "I was nailed to the cross in those days, My teaching was derided, and My disciples were abused and persecuted. And that is how it shall be again. Instead of My person, men will nail My teaching to the cross and deride it." (Pr 91) "But leave those who think themselves learned men to their pseudo-wisdom. The time of their triumph will be short." (Pr 31)
"A time will come when all your notions of wisdom shall not be sufficient to give you solace or even peace. In the events that shall come upon you, you will be standing between two worlds and accuse God and your fate of cruelty, because the material world shall reject you with derision, and the spiritual shall not receive you." (Pr 30)
*According to existential philosophers the protagonists of existentialism, the existence nor nonexistence of God is quite irrelevant where the question of man finding himself is concerned. Life in itself is meaningless, and our existence gains meaning only by what it chooses to call meaningful.