Renan’s Life Of Christ -- By: M. N. Oliver
BSac 50:198 (April 1893) p. 309
Renan’s Life Of Christ
Joseph Ernest Renan is dead. While Summer was passing on her legacies to Autumn in 1892, and while Autumn was flinging a kiss to departing Summer, the gifted scholar laid aside his prolific pen, never more to be resumed by the living hand that drove it with so much vigor and elegance across the historic page. The writer of this article had hoped, while visiting Paris the past season, to see the gifted author. Unfortunately the lecture-room was closed for the summer vacation, and the learned lecturer had retired to his native Britanny for rest. It proved to be the rest of death.
He lived sufficiently long, however, to reap many of his early literary aspirations. He laid out a vast field before him, namely, “A History of the Origins of Christianity.” He outlined his contemplated work into four divisions, the first of which was to embrace the “Life of Jesus.” This work was completed with a polish and an erudition that won for him the foremost rank in authorship, and the privilege to subscribe himself Membre De L’institute, the highest literary distinction that can be obtained among the French people. This volume has found multitudes of readers and admirers, both in its original language and in its different versions. Its subtlety of thought, without being abstruse; its beauty of diction, preserved even in any fair translation; its warmth of feeling, breathing forth in every line; the peculiar tendency of an age in sympathy with the rationalistic sentiment
BSac 50:198 (April 1893) p. 310
which is everywhere apparent upon its pages,—all combine to make it the most popular of those works which purport to exhibit, in historical sketch, the Founder of the grandest and the most blessed of religions.
As already intimated, the peculiar feature of Renan’s work is his placing it entirely in the plane of nature, and exclusively in the human sphere. The supernatural is entirely ignored. Said a writer, years ago, in one of the numbers of The Contemporary Review: “He has done as much perhaps as any living man to destroy men’s faith in the supernatural.” His history proceeds in the regular flow of everyday occurrences. In following the footsteps of his German predecessor, David Friedrich Strauss, in this peculiar aspect of the question, he regards Jesus only as a noble specimen of the purely and exclusively human; and whatever pre-eminence he possessed was simply in a higher intellectual and moral grade of humanity, and in no endowment of the divine, except what all may participate in. However improbable it may be, yet the possibility of Christ’s attainments is within human reach. Jesus is only our brother, Adam’s son, nothing less, nothing ...
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