Duffy 1 Joshua Duffy Professor Ronald Srigley Religious Studies 385 21 November 2011 The Antipriest Friedrich Nietzsche

seems to have a problem with the concept of a religious priesthood, to put it mildly. Indeed, not just he, but many people in society today seem to have disdain for concept of the priest. I should know; I speak to many about this very subject throughout the year. Be it in a church, on the street, at UPEI, or wherever, the concept of someone or something getting in between our own individual search for God is offensive and unnatural to our independent, prideful mindset. Nietzsche, seemingly, did not have a problem with Jesus as much as those who claimed to speak for Him. He speaks highly of Jesus, yet is critical of other points those same authors who wrote about Him entertain. The theology of Nietzsche baffles me, yet I endeavor to understand him more fully, as I enjoy reading him and think society would benefit from having more men with similar passion. In this essay I limit myself to aphorisms 24 - 26 from The Antichrist, and will focus on Nietzsche’s opinion that Christianity disvalues and desanctifies nature in regards to its concept of a priesthood which mediates to God on behalf of man. The strong claims presented surely deserve to be looked at and evaluated closely, as many generations and billions of people throughout history have had opinions very different than those advocated by Nietzsche.

Judaism begets Christianity?

Duffy 2 Aphorism 24 begins with the claim that Christianity is not a reaction to Judaism but an “inevitable product” of it, “one more step in the awe-inspiring logic of the Jews”. Aphorism 25 continues this thought by stating that the “old god could no longer do what he used to do. He ought to have been abandoned. But what actually happened? Simply this: the conception of him was changed - the concept of him was naturized; this was the price that had to be paid for keeping him”. Nietzsche wants to point out that through all of Israel’s history they revised their God as they had need. When circumstances arose that contradicted their previous revelation of “Jahveh” they simply recreated Him into the circumstances of the present, ensuring that He would never become irrelevant or outdated. Even though this may have been “awe-inspiring” Nietzsche finds it deplorable, and implies that Christianity is guilty of a similar injustice of taking the God of the Jews and molding Him into one that suited their own interests. The nature of Divine revelation can indeed lend itself to the danger of contradiction. In Genesis 22:1-19 God reveals to Abraham that he must sacrifice his only son, one that he had waited a lifetime to have. In what he thinks to be obedience, Abraham takes Isaac, ascends a mountain, and begins to carry out that sacrifice. As Isaac (who was thought to be old enough at the time to forcibly stop this act) lay under the ready blade, an angelic revelation came to Abraham to stop this sacrifice! How could God reveal Himself in two ways that are so contradictory? Had Abraham been so dogmatic about his previous revelation Isaac, his only son, would have been lost. Some revelation we receive is limited, bound by our present understanding of what we perceive at that time. The unfairness of maturity is that we are always presently immature in relation to it.

Duffy 3 Nietzsche does not accept this, and to a degree I do not blame him. Divine revelation should be for all times, through all cultures, across all lands, if it is indeed “God”-inspired. But it is mankind ourselves, who restrict this kind of revelation by our sheer imperfectness, thereby demanding another type whereby we can understand. Jesus was a revelation of this sort. As the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews so poignantly puts, “God, after He spoke long ago in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son”1, inferring that Jesus is the mature revelation that was withheld for the specific time in which He came. It is difficult for me to accept the argument that Christianity is “one more step in the aweinspiring logic of the Jews”, and that “the Christian church, put beside the ‘people of God,’ shows a complete lack of any claim to originality” when the Jewish majority, from its inception, rejected Jesus and the church that formed in His name. To be sure, the earliest Christians were Jews, and tried to prove to the Jewish religious leaders that they were no separate entity but the culmination of God’s plan through them, but it was to no avail. Jesus was crucified on the charge of blasphemy, Stephen was martyred for the same crime, and the remaining Christians of the day were persecuted. The Jews did not believe (nor do believe today) that Jesus was the promised Messiah, nor that Christianity was an acceptable progression of the revealed plan of God for Israel.

The Naturality of the Priest There is a deeper issue Nietzsche wants to emphasize though, and that is the concept of the priesthood.


New American Standard Bible. Grand Rapids, MI. 1995. Hebrews 1:1-2. Print

Duffy 4 In aphorism 24 he writes, “Men of this sort have a vital interest in making mankind sick, and in confusing the values of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘true’ and ‘false’ in a manner that is not only dangerous to life, but also slanders it”. The sickness of mankind is identified as sin. Nietzsche continues in aphorism 26, “‘sins’ are indispensible to every society organized on an ecclesiastical basis; they are the only reliable weapons of power; the priest lives upon sins; it is necessary to him that there be ‘sinning’”. The question must be asked, “Does the priest exist because of sin?” or “Does sin exist because of the priest?” In the present form of what I understand of Roman Catholicism (which is what I think Nietzsche is mainly alluding to) I would have to agree with him on this point, but only mildly, and only in regards to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Before the time of Constantine the Great, Christianity was much more natural in form. Even though they were considered pagan by the greater societal powers, they were, for the most part, characterized by selfless love and service. This was their foundation. Things changed when Constantine Christianized the Roman Empire. The defining marks of the “Christian” changed, as anyone can give lip service to a simple belief system. Christianity took on a more outward form, recognized by baptism, communion, and other sacraments, rather than by faith in Christ. To facilitate this adopted religion a “church” was born that was quite unlike what Jesus or the early apostles would have had in mind. Jesus traded in His cross of humility for a crown of power. When Jesus puts on the garments of an Emperor bad things start to happen, such as Inquisitions, and Crusades, and televangelists!! To keep this form of empirical Christianity strong amongst the masses, it must make sense politically, and the development of the priesthood becomes unnatural.

Duffy 5 The only document canonized which deals with the concept of the New Covenantal priesthood is that of the epistle to the Hebrews. In this document Jesus, and He alone, is referred to as our priest (no less than nineteen times2), mediating on our behalf before God. Without spending time on the spiritual notion that Christians constitute a priesthood of all believers (implying that all believers are qualified to approach God without such aforementioned priestly mediation), the development of the office of the modern day priest seems to lack support. The Roman Catholic church however, suggests their own tradition is as equally valid as the canonized apostolic teachings. This being the case, the priest as mediator is unsubstantiated and offensive to the cross of Christ. Nietzsche and I would agree? I think so, at least superficially.

Revelation: General (adopted) and Special (aborted) There are two witnesses of the revelation of God which the New Testament speaks of. Based on the writings of The Antichrist I think Nietzsche would adopt one and abort the other. The first is what has been termed ‘general revelation’, and I believe Nietzsche adopts this view. This is the idea that creation testifies to God, and that people can, and have known, God apart from the church. Several Biblical passages support this view. We are limited to just two: In his epistle to the church in Rome, Paul writes “for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscious bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them”3.


NASB. Hebrews 2:17; 3:1; 4:14, 15; 5:5, 6, 10; 6:20; 7:3, 11, 15, 17, 21, 26; 8:1, 3, 4; 9:11; 10:21. NASB. Romans 2:13-15


Duffy 6 The second is found in the Revelation of John. “And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgement has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and springs of waters”4. These two Scriptures can be looked at multiple ways, but they both speak of a gospel revealed by creation apart from any dogmatic caste system. The priest seems far removed from this gospel, and speaking in a general revelatory sense, he should be. But there is another form of revelation which Nietzsche aborts, and it is this form which holds utmost importance in the life of the Christian. It is that of ‘special revelation’, and ultimately points to Jesus as God made flesh. This is attested to throughout the whole of the Bible, most clearly recognized in the New Testament. It is the view that God has indeed revealed Himself through Jesus of Nazareth. The New Testament writings are the most reliable documents that historically testify to the life of this man who has since been known as the most influential being who has ever set foot upon this earth. It is from them that we argue for and against Him. If Jesus walked the earth as a man, and taught disciples certain doctrine, then those people hold power (for better or for worse) over those whom they also communicate those teachings. In any certain group, elitists inevitably separate from the pack and take on the role of leader. In some of the Protestant churches I know the pastor is more like a facilitator or guide in one’s search for God rather than a mediator between the congregant and him, and this is a more Biblical concept than a mediating priest.


NASB. Revelation 14:6-7.

Duffy 7 The main difference between the general and special forms of revelation is assurance. In the general sense, creation testifies to the existence of God, leaving men without excuse.5 But there is no assurance of salvation, which for the Christian is why the first coming of Jesus was necessary. The apostle John, who is stated to have been the disciple whom Jesus loved most, wrote, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know6 that you have eternal life.”7 To those who have experienced Jesus as Messiah through the Holy Spirit (not the priest) there is an assurance that testifies to the life, death, and resurrection of Him. This assurance is not attested to in the general mode of revelation. While it may possibly be sufficient, it is not assured.

Conclusion It is absurd of me to think I can do justice to the scope of this topic in a mere two thousand words. I hope I at least stated my position clearly and gave reasons for such conviction. Does Christianity disvalue and desanctify nature as Nietzsche claims? Yes, and no. In our present age, most of Christianity would undoubtedly disvalue the full role nature plays in its general revelation, but there is room in our scriptural tradition for change. There must be men (and women!) who are humble and confident enough to admit such things and be willing to risk ridicule for change. Even within Roman Catholicism a great attempt at change was made during Vatican II fifty years ago. Before that point they had the belief that the Catholic Church is the church of Christ. After Vatican II they stated that the Catholic Church subsists in the church

5 6

NASB. Romans 1:20-23. italics not in original NASB. 1 John 5:13.


Duffy 8 of Christ.While many leading Catholics still resist what was intended by the Council, there was given some flexibility to the Church’s previous rigidness. Nietzsche would not accept this definition still, but change has been happening, and is still happening within Christianity. It is slow going and painful at times, for Christians and nonChristians alike, but small steps are better then non at all. There is no doubt Christianity needs to enact change. Whether it can do this without compromising all it holds foundationally is another question for another paper.