LEV SHESTOV \ Speculation and Revelation \ Vladimir Solovyov


     It is highly probable that some readers will be astonished. But, indeed, they will say, so it is supposed to be: revelation, if it is fated to win the trust of men, must justify itself before reason and conscience. Is it really possible to accept a revelation that would go against the demands of our reason and our conscience? Nevertheless I would recall that Solovyov himself, in the foreword to Three Conversations, fell upon those who, considering that they themselves know what "is desirable and saving," still refer to the holy books. To be sure, only in the last years, indeed, the last months of his life, did he begin to feel thus - but this is all the more important for us. Further, independently of Solovyov and, indeed, contrary to him, Holy Scripture does not stand up to criticism. Before the tribunal of our reason it cannot be justified. We stand before a dilemma: either the way of prophetic inspiration - or the way of the rational or, as has been said, of philosophical searching.

     Before Three Conversations Solovyov did not see this dilemma, or, more correctly, he avoided it. He strained all the powers of his mind to show the opposite. In this consists the task of his first works, in this is the meaning of his Justification of the Good and those numerous essays that are collected in the eighth volume of his works. He always strives to "justify" revelation, he is honestly convinced that, seeking a "justification," he is leading men to Holy Scripture. "To believe (in the testimony of Christ) reason forces us, for the historical appearance of Christ as a God-man is indissolubly bound up with the entire world-process, and with the denial of this appearance the meaning and purposefulness of the universe collapses." Solovyov, therefore, believes in the appearance of Christ, because he understood that, if he did not believe in it, the universe would lose all meaning and purposefulness.

     I will not here investigate whether Solovyov's arguments are good or bad - but they are not taken from Holy Scripture. The apostle Paul writes: "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go" (Hebrews 11:8). Solovyov does not remember these words of the apostle Paul, but if he had remembered them and, according to his habit, subjected them to rational criticism, what would he have had to say? A man goes out, not knowing where he is going - can reason really not only approve such a thing but even forgive it? Nevertheless it is said in the eternal book that Abraham arrived in the Promised Land. In the same eleventh chapter of the apostle's letter a whole series of examples of how men acted precisely so is cited - going out without knowing where, obeying a call and not giving the slightest thought either about the "sense" or "purposefulness" of the universe. In the Letter to the Romans the apostle repeats the same thing and even more strongly: "For what does Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness'" (Romans 4:3).

     The whole Bible - the Old and the New Testament - is supported by this kind of a justification, and most of the letters of the apostle Paul speak of this truth that is incomprehensible and goes contrary to all the habits of our thinking, a truth that revealed itself many thousands of years ago to a small, half-wild people. To demonstrate, to ground this truth, as other truths are demonstrated, is not exactly impossible - it does not accept either groundings or demonstrations. Its very essence and all of its great importance consist precisely in the fact that it manages without demonstrations. The justification, i.e., the distinction, the prerogative of Abraham lies in the fact that he could go without knowing where he was going. Our sinfulness, our weakness, our nothingness, on the contrary, consist in the fact that we do not dare go without first having asked what awaits us in the new place. And no matter how much we inquire, we nevertheless do not arrive at the Promised Land but at best reach the idea of the "all-unity" in which we see the meaning and purpose of the universe.

     When Solovyov, in order not to lag behind Schelling and Hegel, planned his innumerable justifications, or when, instead of reading Holy Scripture, he began to immerse himself in the Philonic and post-Philonic theological constructions, in which the Jewish prophets were reconciled with the Hellenic sages - did he realize for what he was exchanging the Promised Land? Or, better thus, let us leave Solovyov for the time being and pose the general question: Have we the right to assert that the ways into the Promised Land about which the prophets prophesied coincide with the ways to the truth followed by the Greek philosophers?

     I do not think that two answers are possible here. Truth is truth and the Promised Land is the Promised Land. And prophetic inspiration is something quite different from philosophical investigation. The Greeks understood this superlatively. The Promised Land of the Jews seemed to them a wild phantasmagoria, and Abraham's readiness to go forth without knowing where he was going aroused in them all the indignation and even contempt of which they were capable. The polemic of Celsus, the first Greek who entered honestly into a serious controversy with the Christians, who at that time (this was at the end of the second century) were still regarded only as a Jewish sect, was mainly directed against the senseless and, for the Greeks, intolerable conviction that there are things that stand beyond or even above all proofs. Celsus wrote: "It is necessary that the faith you confess should be based on reason... But none of the Christians is willing either to listen or to present rational considerations in defense of his teaching. They all say: Do not investigate, only believe, your faith will save you. And still more: The wisdom of this life is bad, folly is good." And Celsus was right; so, precisely so, did the first Christians accept the revelation brought to them from the Orient. They did not justify it, they wished that everything be justified through it. "That your faith," wrote the apostle Paul, "might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (I Corinthians 2:5). The basic motif of Paul in all of his letters is as follows: "But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise" (I Corinthians, 1:27). He constantly cites the most enigmatic and mysterious sayings of the prophets, and the more audacious the prophet the more joyfully does the apostle welcome him. "Therefore, as it is written: 'Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord"' (I Corinthians, 1:31), he repeats after Jeremiah 9:24. And after Isaiah 64:4: "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him" (I Corinthians, 2:9). I could write out quotations from the letters of Paul endlessly but, indeed, there is no need for this; all know them without me. I would recall only one passage from the Letter to the Romans: "Then Isaiah is so bold (Greek apotolma - from the tolma that was hated by the Greeks) as to say, 'I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me"' (Romans 10:20). And, indeed: Can there be any greater audacity, can one deliver a greater insult to that which the Greeks called reason? But the apostle Paul rejoices and triumphs: the great audacity of Isaiah fills his soul with the highest delight. A Greek philosopher, the divine Plato himself, of whom Philo told us that he drew his wisdom from the Bible, would have been horrified and enraged at Isaiah's words and would have branded the apostle Paul, who repeats his words, with the most shameful term misologos ("a hater of reason"). To lose trust in reason seemed to Plato the greatest misfortune. For the prophets and apostles, however the greatest misfortune that could befall a man consists in setting reason - one's own or someone else, individual or universal - in God's place. Especially if it be universal reason. Indeed, about this it is said: "So that he takes his seat in the Temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God" (II Thessalonians, 2:4).

     Can it be said that the ways of the philosophers and prophets coincide? As little as the prophets resembled the philosophers in their character and even in their external appearance, so little did the tasks that they set themselves have in common. Plato and Isaiah, Aristotle and Ezekiel! A philosopher was and had to be, first of all, a calm, balanced, self-controlled man who knows where he is going and what awaits him. Or, if he were not such, he had at least to appear such to himself and to others. "Fata volentem ducunt, nolentem trahunt," ("the fates lead the willing; the unwilling, they drag"), said Seneca, repeating Cicero. A philosopher considered himself obliged, even when he felt that a power alien and hostile to him drags him along, to give himself the appearance of going of his own free will. In this lies the final mystery of Greek wisdom, naively divulged by the credulous Romans. Man "knows" that fate is insuperable. To struggle, therefore, is senseless. Only one thing remains to be done: to resign oneself to fate, to adapt oneself to it, and so to reeducate oneself, to refashion one's will, that one accepts the necessary or unavoidable as proper, as desirable, as the best. In this lies wisdom; everything else is folly.

     All of ancient philosophy rests on this. First reason reveals to men what is possible and what is impossible, then the same reason suggests to him that it is folly to strive after the impossible. From this, finally, the conclusion is drawn: the highest good is spiritual calmness, which is attained only through unconditioned fulfillment of all the commandments of reason and through the renunciation of one's own personal will. The prophets, in contrast with the philosophers, never know any rest. They are anxiety incarnate. They cannot bear satisfaction, as if they felt in it the beginning of decomposition and death. For this reason the philosophers were often respected and revered, while the prophets were always hated and persecuted. How can men really love those who seek the impossible, who struggle against the insuperable, who do not believe in the self-evidences, do not even submit to reason?

     For the Greeks, the universe is ruled by eternal, unchangeable laws, of which it is not known when and whence they came. One can study them, but one cannot enter into discussion with them; one must obey them, but one cannot move them by entreaties. The Hebrew prophet feels over him the living God who through His will, created the living person. "I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but Me, and besides Me there is no savior," (Hosea, 13:4). And later: "Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your destruction?" (Hosea, 13:14). For the prophets there is, first of all, the omnipotent God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, and only then - truth. For the philosophers truth is first and then God. The philosopher submits both to Sheol and to death and finds in this "willing" submission his highest good; the prophet challenges Sheol as well as death itself to a fearful and final struggle.


     Farthest of all from me is the thought of opposing to the "argumentation" of the philosophers the "authority" of Holy Scripture. After all, I know quite as well as anyone else that Holy Scripture does not enjoy any authority among educated men, and I think that this is not at all bad but even, rather, good. For I also know that Scripture does not make any claim to authority, or to put it better, it decisively rejects the very idea of authority, leaving authority at the disposal of those who discovered it and who need it.

     All the more firmly do I insist, contrary to Solovyov, that the way of prophetic inspiration among the Jews was not the way of natural discovery of truth that the Greeks followed. The truth of revelation has only the slightest similarity to rational truth, either in its essence or in regard to its sources. We can laugh over the prophets, we can despise them, we can assert that the prophets "invented" their "revelation," finally we can (this, to be sure, would be the worst thing, but it is very customary nowadays) respectfully admire the fantasy of their flaming imagination that is alien to us - all this is permissible. But one ought not, in the manner of Philo, Solovyov, or Tolstoy, to remove from Holy Scripture its soul only for the purpose of "reconciling" Greek reason with biblical revelation. All attempts of this kind lead inevitably to one result: the autocracy of reason.

     So it turned out also in Solovyov. He set himself the goal of justifying revelation in the face of reason at any cost - and, finally, nothing of revelation remained to him. I cannot say that Solovyov in his "justification" was especially original or resourceful. He says what all say; he repeats Spinoza, Kant, Fichte, and especially Hegel and Schelling. Like them, he also "justifies" not only the good, but God, and he also calls this, as they do, religious philosophy. He is convinced that one must justify God, that an unjustified God is not God. He writes as follows: "All the positive religions, not excluding the absolutely true, insofar as they appeal, in their mutual controversies for the purpose of confirming their rights and claims, to universal moral norms, by this very fact acknowledge themselves as, in some sense, dependent on these, just as litigating sides, both the one in the right and the one in the wrong, while the judicial proceedings are going on, are subject in the same way to the lawful court, and, if they have applied to it themselves, this means they have acknowledged such a subjection." (Collected Works, 7:28). In another place we read the following: "Religious faith in its own element is not interested in the intellectual verification of its content: it asserts it with absolute certainty, as given from on high or revealed truth. The philosophical mind will not deny this revelation - this would be a prejudice that is uncharacteristic and unworthy of a healthy philosophy; but ("but," as Shakespeare said, is a jailor who always leads an evildoer behind him), at the same time, even if it finds preliminary grounds in favor of religious truth, it cannot, without renouncing itself, renounce its right to subject these grounds to a free verification, to give itself as well as others a clear and logical account of why it accepts this truth. This right has not only subjective but also objective meaning, because it draws its power from one very simple but surprisingly forgotten circumstance, namely, from the fact that not one but several religions assert the absolute certainty of their truth, in that they demand a choice in their favor and by that very fact willy-nilly renounce their claims to exemption from investigation through free thinking, since otherwise choice would be the work of blind caprice which it would be unworthy to wish of others and foolish to demand. Remaining within the boundaries of reason and justice, the most zealous representative of any religion can wish from the philosopher only one thing: that through free investigation of the truth he arrive at a complete inner agreement of his convictions with the dogmas of the given revelation - an outcome that would be equally satisfying for both sides" (ibid., 8:153 - 54).

     I could cite as many passages of this kind from Solovyov's work as you please and also as many such from the works of Leo Tolstoy. Both Solovyov and Tolstoy call revelation before the tribunal of reason ("free investigation" - that rational investigation is free investigation was something that neither the one nor the other ever doubted in the least). And to both it seems that there can be nothing simpler and more natural. With Solovyov, at first sight, everything ends happily; he arrives at a result which, in his view, must satisfy both sides. And with Tolstoy it was also thus when he made his first attempts to verify revelation. But with what did it end? In the end reason and conscience condemned revelation. And a striking fact: when Solovyov had to defend revelation against Tolstoy, he forgot, he was forced to forget, the considerations of his that have just been adduced. There remained for him only one response: let him say what he wishes, let him think what he wishes; only let him do it in his own name, in other words, in the name of conscience and reason, and leave Holy Scripture in peace. But reason and conscience are, indeed, above revelation: we have just heard from Solovyov that all religions go willingly to the tribunal of reason - therefore, they are obliged to justify themselves before it. Why, then, does he reproach Tolstoy when the latter refers to the "well known historical figure" and quotes Holy Scripture? The "historical figure" and Holy Scripture are, indeed, just as responsible before reason and conscience and, therefore, may not and must not teach what appears to us foolish and immoral! We are entitled to expect to find in them that which is "understandable, desirable, and saving" in and of itself.

     Solovyov came up against these questions only toward the end of his life, when he planned and began to write his Three Conversations. Previously, for him to philosophize meant to call everything that there is in life before the tribunal of reason. He refers constantly to Holy Scripture - but only to show that there also only that is considered truth which is "understandable, desirable and saving in and of itself." Autonomous reason and autonomous morality hide revelation from him; in him the prophets and apostles go to the school of Plato, Kant, Spinoza, Schelling, and Hegel.

     Correspondingly, the ethical problem and the theory of knowledge that is directly bound up with ethics move into the foreground in him. He sets himself the task of finding the coercive norms of the true and the good. It is with this that he occupies himself in his large book The Justification of the Good, as well in his unfinished Studies in Theoretical Philosophy. Of course, he also has in view these coercive norms when he explains that "in our spirit there exists an independent, purely intellectual or theoretical need, without whose satisfaction the value of life itself becomes doubtful." (ibid., 8:49). But, a strange thing: although in Solovyov there is constant talk of coercive norms and although he himself, like his teachers, cannot even imagine a truth or a good which would not be given the power to coerce men, he does not cease, following the ancient philosophical tradition, to praise freedom. So the Greeks did, so the modern philosophers did - not only Hegel and Schelling but even Spinoza, and Solovyov does not feel any awkwardness at all at this complexio oppositorum. On the contrary, it seems to him that his "theoretical need" could be satisfied only in this way; until he understands everything life really has no value whatever.

     In what follows we shall dwell at length on how Solovyov and those from whom he learned persuaded freedom not to be afraid of compulsion. But now let us dwell on something else: what sort of thing is a "theoretical need without whose satisfaction the value of life itself becomes doubtful?" Furthermore, if such a need really exists in man, does it, indeed, impart value to our existence? Finally, from whom did Solovyov find out that without the satisfaction of the theoretical need life loses its value - from the Jewish prophets or from the Greek sages? Solovyov does not raise these questions; he thinks, apparently, that this is "understandable, desirable and saving in and of itself," and that, therefore, here there can be no arguments whatever, and that here, more than anywhere else, revelation coincides with natural thinking, prophetic inspiration with Greek gnosis. He is so convinced of this that he does not even find it necessary to confirm (I already do not say "to justify") his words, as he usually does, by reference to Holy Scripture. Or did some vague feeling tell him that he would not find any confirmation in Holy Scripture?

     In point of fact, immediately, in the first chapters of the Bible, it is told how the "theoretical need" brought our primal ancestor to the greatest misfortune. The fall into sin, from which death and, after it, all the terrors of our mortal existence on earth took their origin began with the fact that Adam gave himself up to his theoretical need and, despite the warning of the Creator, plucked and tasted the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil. So it is related in plain words, requiring and allowing no interpretation whatever, in the Book of Genesis. To be sure~, one cannot say that this is "understandable in and of itself." On the contrary, of everything that we read in the Bible, this perhaps is the most mysterious and eternally incomprehensible for our reason. I am prepared to agree that such a thing, according to our evaluation, is altogether undesirable and least of all saving, that it is even "worthless and senseless." The fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil, translated into ordinary language, mean reason and conscience. They mean "free investigation." How can one agree that death and all other misfortunes came from reason and conscience? To Tolstoy it seemed that one could not deliberately invent anything more absurd. That is why he openly refused to see in the Bible a source of truth and took from it only what seemed to him true in and of itself. Solovyov cannot give up the Bible; he honestly wishes to consider it a book inspired by God, but even less can he renounce the fruits plucked by our primal ancestor from the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil. Without these fruits life for him is not sweet.

     And, indeed, can we renounce the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? And what if Adam was right and that which in the Bible is called the fall into sin was not a fall into sin at all, but the expression of the natural striving of the spirit to satisfy a theoretical need, i.e., to find what makes life valuable? Solovyov does not dare to ask such a question: he is afraid or unwilling to rise up against Holy Scripture openly. But there were people who dared to ask in this fashion.

     A long time ago, at the beginning of our era (in the second half of the second century) there appeared among the Christians, who at that time had not yet managed to organize themselves into one church bound together by firm dogmas and a strict hierarchy, people whose "free spirit" refused to accept the revelation that had come out of the Orient or, to put it better, consented to accept only that which corresponded to their conception of good and evil. These were the Gnostics. Harnack characterizes them in the following way: "The Gnostic is a person who has freed himself from this world, a spirit who belongs to himself, who lives in God, who has prepared himself for eternity, who has already returned to God, by means of knowledge. All these were ideas that we find in the philosophy of this epoch. Poseidonius and Philo anticipated them in part, and in Neo-Platonism they are developed as the final result of Greek philosophy" (Dogmengeschichte, I, 257). Prince Sergei Trubetzkoy says the same thing in briefer and more expressive words: "The God of the law or the Demiurge (i.e., the creator of heaven and earth) was deemed (by the Gnostics) a false God, while the serpent, who gave man to taste of the fruits of knowledge, appeared as the bearer of true knowledge" (Uchenie o Logose, p. 364).

     The role of the Gnostics in the history of the development of Christian thought was enormous. With them begins that hellenization of Christianity about which the Protestant historians - especially their leader, the just mentioned Professor Harnack - have spoken so much. Hellenization - i.e., free investigation (or what is called free investigation), which summons revelation before the tribunal of reason. This means: In the Bible it is written that God, who created heaven and earth, God, who also created man, said to Adam and Eve that, though the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil is beautiful to look at, they must not eat of its fruits - for from them comes death. But the serpent, who was cleverer than all the beasts, said something else to the first people: No, you will not die. God is deceiving you, for He knows that if you taste of these fruits your eyes will be opened and you will be like God and know what is good and evil.

     According to the Bible, it turns out that God spoke the truth, while the serpent lied. The "free investigator," however, asks: But what if it were quite different, what if the serpent spoke the truth and God was a deceiver? The question arises: Whom shall one ask? Who shall judge between the serpent and God? For the Jewish prophets such a question did not exist; the Jewish prophets were prophets precisely because their inspiration lifted them up to realms which such questionings no longer reach. But the Greek philosophers and those who were brought up on Greek philosophy thought otherwise. They were persuaded that it is always appropriate to ask. We ask: What is heavier - quicksilver or iron? We ask what the sum of the angles of a triangle is, how long a raven lives, etc. It seems to us that one can also ask whether God exists, whether the soul is immortal, whether the will is free (Kant, indeed, was of the opinion that these are precisely the questions that metaphysics poses and that it is obliged to answer just as convincingly as the other sciences answer the questions that they set themselves). It appears to us completely "natural" that one can and must ask who was "right" - God or the serpent. And that there is someone whom one can ask - namely, the same reason that "freely" investigates. We ate directed toward reason by the theoretical need, without which - this we know from Solovyov - the value of life becomes doubtful. We must be prepared beforehand to submit to the verdicts of him who possesses all truths, that is, to accept what he approves and reject what he condemns. Now when the Gnostics went to the Hellenic judge to ask who was right, God or the serpent, the judge told them that the serpent was right, that the biblical God is a bad God, and that the world He created is a bad world. Of course, the Hellenic judge could not give any other answer - for he was judging his own case. To give another answer would have meant to exchange the role of the judge for the role of the accused. To such "self-denial," reason, even though it raises self-denial to the highest virtue, would not go under any circumstances. Highest virtues are for men, but reason can live without virtues.


     In a word, the "hellenization" which the Gnostics intended amounted to ridding oneself of the God who created heaven and earth and to worshipping the serpent who, although he created neither heaven nor earth, nevertheless undertook to teach people so to "judge" that heaven and earth, and everything else that came forth from the hands of the Creator, should lose their charm and fascination.

     The Gnostics, of course, could find support for themselves neither among the prophets nor among the apostles, neither in the Old nor in the New Testament. Jeremiah said, "The Lord is the true God: He is the living God and an everlasting King... Thus shall you say to them: The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall vanish from the earth and under the heavens" (Jeremiah 10:10-11). And in the Psalms we read, "But our God is in the heavens; He does what He wishes. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths but do not speak; they have eyes but do not see; they have ears but do not hear; they have noses but do not smell; they have hands but do not handle; they have feet but do not walk; and they do not speak through their throat. Those who make them are like them, and those who hope in them" (Psalms 115:3-8). Such is the truth of prophetic inspiration. The wrath, the indignation, and the horror of the prophets know no bounds when they see a person who worships a "work of his own hands." To be sure, we are inclined to think that the prophets meant only idols of gold and silver. However, it is not a matter of gold and silver, but of the fact that man sets a work of his own hands in the place of God. Ideological, ideal idols were just as much hated by the prophets as idols of any crude material you wish, as wooden logs or stone blocks.

     In this lies the basic, irreconcilable divergence between the Bible and Hellenism. Greek wisdom also knew how to rise above the vulgar worship of idols. But it believed that it was worshipping "in spirit and in truth" when it worshipped reason. Such were the end results, such was the last word of Greek philosophy - and the Gnostics set themselves the task of "raising" Christianity to the height of Greek wisdom. The young church immediately felt the danger threatening it, entered into a desperate struggle with Gnosticism, and overthrew it. Harnack, to be sure, shows in his Dogmengeschichte that the victory was only partial and even only purely external, that, although the Gnostics did not succeed in hellenizing Christianity immediately, its ideas little by little impregnated and confirmed church dogmas: the attempt, as he puts it, at an acute hellenization and secularization of Christianity met with a proper rebuff, but time accomplished its work, and, finally, although not immediately, Greek thinking gradually triumphed over biblical thinking. And so, according to Harnack's view, it remained until Luther, until the Reformation, whose meaning consisted in leading the congregation of the deputies of St. Peter back to the revelation that it had forgotten.

     Harnack related all this in his Dogmengeschichte. One must think that it then actually seemed to him that the Reformation freed itself from Hellenic ideas and led Christians back to Holy Scripture. But it only seemed so to him. In fact, something quite different happened. Even if one agrees with him that Catholicism, yielding to necessity, misinterpreted the Bible and adapted it to the understanding of the cultured Greco-Roman milieu, one must also admit that, despite the titanic efforts of Luther, the Protestantism created by him, and especially the Protestantism of Harnack himself, did not stop the process of hellenizing Christianity but led it to boundaries which the Catholics never attained. No matter how careful Harnack was, it is clear to the attentive reader of his Dogmengeschichte (and even more of his Wesen des Christentums) that the learned author, when he has to choose between biblical revelation and Greek wisdom, always takes the latter side, and no matter how much the inspiration of the prophets fascinated him, for truth he goes to the Greek philosophers.

     But in his Dogmengeschichte - I repeat - Harnack not only did not express this in direct form but struggled against tendencies of this kind both in himself and in others; perhaps the time had not yet come to express himself openly. Now, obviously, the time has come. Not so long ago he issued under the title Das Evangelium vom Fremden Gott a monograph on one of the most remarkable and most dangerous Gnostics of his time - Marcion. One of the most remarkable, because before him no one proceeded toward the goal envisaged by him as boldly and impetuously as he did. One of the most dangerous, because Marcion, in contrast to other representatives of Gnosticism, succeeded in creating his own church, which attracted an enormous number of followers, competed with the Catholic church for several centuries, and was overthrown only after a very hard and intense struggle.

     To be sure, Harnack asserts that Marcion must not be reckoned among the Gnostics in the strict sense of the word, because he was concerned not with scientific and philosophical but with soteriological problems and because he attached chief importance not to gnosis but to faith. But this is hardly correct. Greek wisdom also regarded the "salvation of mankind" as the central problem - not without reason do people speak so much about the "practical" tendency of ancient philosophy in general and its true creator, Socrates, in particular. Marcion must rather be reckoned among the Gnostics par excellence; he, more decisively than anyone else, rose up against the God who created heaven and earth and placed himself on the side of the serpent who laid all hopes on the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil. Marcion denied neither the existence of the biblical God nor even the veracity of the biblical story about the creation of the world. He admitted that this God created heaven and earth and man - in a word, the whole world. But, according to Marcion's understanding, heaven and earth and the whole world are bad, and consequently God Himself turns out to be bad. Like the other Gnostics, Marcion spoke only of the evil ruling in the world - "eadem materia apud haereticos (gnosticos) et philosophos volutatur: unde malus et quare," as Tertullian expressed himself. He makes the Creator responsible for everything bad - and from such a Creator, of course, nothing good is to be expected. Salvation, thus, must be awaited not from the Creator but from someone else. And as this savior appears Christ, who not only was not the son of the God who created the world but had never heard anything about the latter.

     Christ descended to earth in order to free men immediately from the God who created them and to tear them out of the repulsive world in which they live. That is why Christ is called by him "novus deus," that is why he calls his doctrine "xene gnosis," i.e., foreign or alien knowledge. Salvation consists in turning away from God and from the world created by Him. According to Marcion, Christ is the anti-God, and in this sense Marcion appears as a Gnostic par excellence. Harnack himself wrote in his Dogmengeschichte, "Gnosticism is anti-Christianity, insofar as it took away from Christianity the belief in the identity of the supreme God with the Creator of the world" (1, 283). In the same work he explains, "It is impossible not to see the innovations of' Marcion; the way in which he attempted to tear Christianity away from the Old Testament was a revolutionary act, demanding as a sacrifice that which was most precious to Christianity as a religion - namely, the belief that the God of creation was also the God of salvation" (ibid, p. 307). How did this happen, why did Marcion and those who thought as he did have to take up arms so passionately precisely against that which young Christianity considered its most valuable possession? In view of the extraordinary importance of all these questions that even today, after almost two thousand years, have still not lost their sharpness and significance, I quote a still longer passage from Harnack:
Durch dies nothwendige allegorische Umdeutung des Alten Testamentes kam ein determiniertes intellectuelles philosophisches Element in die Gemeinden, ein Gnosis die von den apokalyptischen Träumen, in denen Engelschaaren auf weissen Pferden, Christus mit Augen wie Feuerflammen, höllische Thiere, Kampf und Sieg erschaut wurden, völlig verschieden war. In dieser Gnosis begannen viele das specifische Gut zu erkennen, welches dem gereiften Glauben verheissen war und durch das er zur Vollendung kommen sollte... Aus den einfachen Erzthlungen des Alten Testamentes war bereits eine Theosophie entwickelt worden, in welcher die abstraktesten Gedanken Wirklichkeit erhalten hatten und aus der das Hellenische Hohelied von der Macht des Geistes über Materie und Sinnlichkeit und von der wahren Heimat der Seele hervortönte.

[Through this necessary allegorical reinterpretation of the Old Testament there came into the congregations a definite intellectual philosophical element, a gnosis that was quite different from the apocalyptic dreams in which hosts of angels on white horses, Christ with eyes like flames of fire, hellish beasts, battle and victory were beheld. In this gnosis many began to perceive the specific good that was promised to ripened faith and through which faith must come to completion... Out of the simple stories of the Old Testament there was already developed a theosophy in which the most abstract ideas had obtained reality and from which resounded the Hellenic song of songs about the power of the spirit over matter and sensuousness and about the true homeland of the soul.] (Dogmengeschichte, 1, 246.)
     Briefly, this means: Ripened faith rejected the apocalyptic of Holy Scripture. All, not only the Gnostics, were drawn from the Jewish prophets to Greek wisdom. To all it seemed that it is necessary to tear oneself away from the world of feelings, of deeds, and of hopes and to live in the world of Hellenic concepts and Hellenic metaphysics. The cultured world could not accept the revelation of the Jewish prophets and made desperate efforts to transform the prophetic visions into rational Hellenic ideas. The Gnostics wished to attain their goal immediately; this they failed to do. Christianity showed itself sufficiently strong to save that which was "most precious" to it from the Gnostics and even from Marcion. But what was not successfully attained at once was realized in the course of many centuries. Greek wisdom was finally introduced into Christianity, and only Luther, many centuries later, made Christianity come back to its true source, the Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments.


     So Harnack explained in his Dogmengeschichte the meaning and significance of Gnosticism and Marcion. He then thought that the hellenization of Christianity was the great sin of Catholicism. And that, accordingly, although the Gnostics, with whom the hellenization began, did a great deal for the organization of the church and for the development of spiritual life in Europe, they were nevertheless the enemies of Christianity, since they brought mankind to believe that the truth is not in Holy Scripture but among the Greek sages, or as Prince Sergei Trubetzkoy expresses himself, that the serpent which led our primal ancestor to the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil was God, while God was the tempter. But in his monograph on Marcion, Harnack breaks decisively with what he said in his Dogmengeschichte. Now he laments Marcion's lack of success. It seems to him that the Lutheran conception of faith was closer than all to that of Marcion (p. 225) and, as if forgetting completely what he had previously said, he writes, "To reject the Old Testament in the second century was an error that the great church rightly declined; to retain it in the sixteenth century was a fate from which the Reformation could not yet withdraw; but to preserve it since the nineteenth century as a canonical document in Protestantism is the result of a religious and churchly paralysis" (p. 214). These words hardly require explanation. It is only necessary to recall once more that in his Dogmengeschichte Harnack was of the opinion that Gnosticism was anti~Christianity, that Marcion demanded of Christians the rejection of what appeared most precious to them, and that Luther perceived his task as leading Christians back to the primal source of revelation - to Holy Scripture. There is not a single word by Harnack in the new monograph on Marcion either about what he wrote in his Dogmengeschichte or about how Luther (who himself translated the whole Bible into German) related to Holy Scripture. Apparently this was of no concern to him. He also probably had little concern with Marcion, even though the study about him is written with that conscientiousness and that mastery which distinguish the works of the outstanding German scholars.

     As I have remarked, one thing is obvious: already at the time that Harnack wrote his Dogmengeschichte and defended Christianity against Gnosticism, he was inwardly, with his whole soul, on the side of the Gnostics. This is a fact of extraordinary significance. As two thousand years ago, when Christianity began, so also now, when, according to the view of some, it is approaching its end, it is not the Biblical God, with his warning against the knowledge of good and evil, who was and is considered in the right before the tribunal of reason at which everything and all must appear, but the serpent who promised that, if people tasted the fruits of the forbidden tree, they would become like God. Harnack, an old man of seventy-five, proclaims this urbi et orbi.

     He also adds - for us this is completely unexpected, but extraordinarily significant - that Marcion has again appeared in latter times to the civilized world in the form - of whom, do you think? In the form of Leo Tolstoy, who, just like Marcion once did, proclaimed "his own" gospel and again, just like Marcion, purified the gospel of everything that does not correspond to our ideas, taken from the Greeks, of the true and good, i.e., that does not satisfy our theoretical need and thereby makes the value of life itself doubtful. Harnack, to be sure, always continues to talk about faith, as both Marcion and Solovyov talk about faith. But faith has long since flown away to where justifying documents are not demanded of it - and instead of faith there has remained only that which is "understandable, desirable, and saving in and of itself' and which the new Marcion, Tolstoy, calls simply conscience and reason.

     Harnack, apparently, absolutely does not notice that certainly not marvelous but altogether natural transformation which has taken place in him before his very eyes: first there was faith, and suddenly out of it came "free" investigation. First there were the prophets and the apostles, and suddenly, in their place, Marcion and Tolstoy. Why does he, who devoted his entire life to the study of the history of Christianity and who himself told us that Gnosis means the beginning of a thousand-year struggle with the revelation that once reached Europe from the Orient, not notice it? But Harnack is not concerned with revelation. To be sure, he can still pronounce this word, but his whole "spiritual" being is opposed to the idea that any meaning can be hidden under this word and that even the smallest rights of existence will be acknowledged to revelation before the tribunal of reason. But if this is so, then one must rely on one's own powers; one must save oneself by one's own intellect. And our intellect long ago, even before the appearance of the Gnostics, even before Holy Scripture reached the peoples of Europe, found a way out. The teaching of the Hellenic philosophers, who proclaimed the autonomy of the spirit, is based indeed precisely on this: the world is no good at all; the God who created it is also no good at all; it is necessary to flee from the world and to make for oneself a new God who is alien to the world and to the Creator of the world. Marcion only repeated in a new way what Socrates had fabricated six hundred years before him and what, following Socrates, all the Greek schools of wisdom preached. Marcion's "gospel" was actually "das hellenische Hohelied von der Macht des Geistes uber die Materie." This Hellenic song enchanted all men. Even Solovyov stands before us enchanted by the magical song: the theoretical need stifled in him all other spiritual needs. Throughout his whole life he, who wished to praise God, praised the gifts of the serpent, the tempter, i.e., he blessed what he wished to curse and cursed what he wished to bless.

Orphus system

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