Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Eulogy for Jesus by Ernest Renan

Ernest Renan (1823-1892), a French scholar, wrote the most popular biography of Jesus ever. Vie de Jésus first appeared in 1863 and was to become a "classic of French literature" (Baird, History of NT Research, 376). Renan, who did not believe in the bodily resurrection, wrote a eulogy for Jesus that I found interesting:

Rest now in thy glory, noble initiator. Thy work is completed; thy divinity is established. Fear no more to see the edifice of thy efforts crumble through a flaw. Henceforth, beyond the reach of frailty, thou shalt be present, from the height of thy divine peace, in the infinite consequences of thy acts. At the price of a few hours of suffering, which have not even touched thy great soul, thou hast purchased the most complete immortality. For thousands of years the world will extol thee. Banner of our contradictions, thou wilt be the sign around which will be fought the fiercest battles. A thousand times more living, a thousand times more loved since thy death than during the days of thy pilgrimage here below, thou wilt become to such a degree the corner-stone of humanity, that to tear thy name from this world would be to shake its foundations. Between thee and God, men will no longer distinguish. Complete conqueror of death, take possession of thy kingdom, whither, by the royal road thou hast traced, ages of adorers will follow thee. (Life of Jesus [New York: Modern Library, 1955], 368-69)

This passage hints at the fact that Renan believed that the early church invented Jesus' resurrection because of the "intense love which they bore toward him" (The Apostles, [New York: Carleton, 1886], 57). While I may disagree with Renan on the historicity of the resurrection, much of his eulogy beautifully describes the impact of the resurrection on the history of the world.

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