Source: MECW Volume 1, p. 211;
Written: in early September 1842;
First published: in the journal Deutsche fahrbücher für Wissenschaft und Kunst, 5. jg., No.- 273, November 16, 1842 and Signed: K. M.;
Transcribed: in 2000 for marxists.org by Andy Blunden.
If someone in Germany wanted to write a comedy of dilettantism, Herr Dr. O. F. Gruppe would be an indispensable character in it. Fate has equipped him with that iron tenacity which great men cannot do without, least of all the great men of dilettantism. Even if most of his adventures, like those of Sancho Panza, meet with ambiguous signs of acknowledgment, the monotony of this success is relieved and varied by the con-dc ingenuousness and touching naivety with which Herr Gruppe accepts his laurels. One cannot fail to perceive even a certain magnanimity in the consistency which has taught Herr Gruppe to conclude: Because I have been thrown out of the schoolroom of philology, it will be my mission to be thrown out also from the ball-room of aesthetics and the halls of philosophy. That is a lot, but it is not all. I shall not have played out my role until I have been thrown out of the temple of theology: and Herr Gruppe is conscientious enough to play out his role.
In his latest performance, however, Herr Gruppe has to some extent departed from the height of his standpoint. We do not doubt for a moment that his latest work Bruno Bauer and Academic Freedom of Teaching has been by no means written “in the service of a party or under an influence”. Herr Gruppe felt the need to be thrown oat of theology, but worldly wisdom here came to the aid of his comic instinct. As is fitting for comic characters, Herr Gruppe up to now has worked with most delightful seriousness and most unusual pomposity. Incompleteness, superficiality, and misunderstandings were his fate, but they were not his tendency. The great man acted according to his nature, but he acted for himself and not for others. He was a buffoon by profession: we have no doubt that in his latest performance he is a buffoon by order and for remuneration. The evil intention, the unscrupulous distortion, the base perfidy, will leave the reader, too, in no doubt about it.
It would be contrary to our view of comic characters to waste an extensive critical apparatus on Herr Gruppe. Who wants a critical account of Eulenspiegel? Anecdotes are wanted, and we give an anecdote about Herr Gruppe which is the anecdote of his pamphlet. It concerns Bauer's exposition of St. Matthew 12: 38-42. The kind reader will have to put up with theological matters for an instant, but he will not forget that it is our purpose to deal with Herr Gruppe and not with theology. He will find it only fair that the characteristic features of Bauer's opponents should he brought to the notice of the newspaper public, since Bauer's character and teaching has been made a newspaper myth.
We shall quote the passage in question from St. Matthew in its entirety.
“Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.
“But he answered and said unto them. An evil and adulterous. generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here."
The Protestant theologians were struck by the contradiction that Jesus here rejects miracles, whereas otherwise he performs miracles. They were struck by the even greater contradiction that at the very time when the Lord refuses the demand for a miracle, he promises a miracle, and indeed a great miracle, his three days' stay in the underworld.
Since the Protestant theologians are too ungodly to admit a contradiction of the scripture with their understanding, since they are too sanctimonious to admit a contradiction of their understanding with the scripture, they falsify, distort and twist the clear words and the simple meaning of the scripture. They maintain that Jesus here does not counterpose his teaching and his spiritual personality to the demand for a sign; they maintain that
“he is speaking of the whole of his manifestation, which is more than the manifestation of Solomon and of Jonas, and of which 'in particular' his miracle also were a part”.
By the most thoroughgoing exegesis, Bauer proves to them the absurdity of this explanation. He quotes for them St. Luke [11: 29-30], in which the troublesome passage about the whale and the three days' stay under the earth is missing. It says:
“This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation”;
upon which St. Luke makes the Lord relate how the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonas and the queen of the south came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Bauer shows that the crux is given still more simply in St. Mark [8: 12-13].
“Why,” says Jesus, “cloth this generation seek after a sign? verify I say unto you, There shall no sign he given unto this generation. And he left them."
Bauer comes out against the theologians' false interpretation and arbitrary distortion of the texts, and he refers them to what is actually written by once more summing up the meaning of Jesus' speech in the following words:
“Keep away from me, theologian! For, it is written: a greater than Jonas is here, a greater than Solomon that is to say, the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonas, the queen of the south came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. But you have given no credence to my words, to my speech, yet these words are the expression of a personality, whose spiritual compass is infinite, whereas the personalities of Jonas and Solomon were still limited. But so it shall be, only the sign of Jonas shall he given to you, you shall not see any other sign than this my person and its expression, even if infinite, in the word."
After presenting Jesus' speech in this way, Bauer adds:
“Where then in particular are the miracles?"
And Herr Gruppe? Herr Gruppe says:
“'The most unusual thing in this connection is that Bauer in his own baroque manner presents himself as a prophet. On p. 296 we read the emphatic passage: keep away from me, theologian!” etc. (p. 20).
Herr Gruppe is so shameless as to want to make the reader believe that Bauer is speaking about himself, that he is making himself out to he the infinite personality, whereas Bauer is explaining Jesus' speech. Much as we might like to, we cannot excuse this qui pro quo, this Eulenspiegel trick, as due to Herr Gruppe's notorious weakness of intellect and dilettantist ignorance. Ale deception is obvious. It is not merely that Herr Gruppe does not tell the reader what it is all about. We might still think that the dilettante had accidentally opened Bauer's work at p. 296 and in the happy-go-lucky haste of compiling his book did not have time to read the preceding and following statements. But Herr Gruppe suppresses the conclusion of the “emphatic passage”; the conclusion, which is beyond all possible misunderstanding: “But so it shall be, only the sign of Jonas shall be given to you, you shall not see any other sign than this my person and its expression, even if infinite, in the word. Where then 'in particular' are the miracles?"
Herr Gruppe was aware that even the biassed reader, the reader who was so foolish as to look for Bauer not in Bauer's writings, but in the writings of Herr Gruppe, could not fail to he convinced that Bauer was not speaking on his own account, but that he was saying what is written. Disregarding all other absurdities, what else could have been implied by the words “Where then in particular are the miracles?"
We doubt whether German literature has a similar specimen of shamelessness to offer.
Herr Gruppe says in his foreword:
“During my work it has become increasingly evident to me that we are living in an age of rhetoricians and sophists” (p. iv).
If this is meant to he a confession, we must seriously protest against it. Herr Gruppe is neither a rhetorician nor a sophist. Until the period of his pamphlet on Bauer, he was a comical character, he was a rogue in the naive sense; since then he has lost nothing but his naivety, and hence he is now — but let his conscience tell him that. For the rest, Bauer can regard it an acknowledgment of his intellectual superiority that he could be opposed only by men so low in intelligence and so remote from any superiority that he could hit them only by allowing himself to fall to their level.