Faith and belief in The Anti-Christ: A re-evaluation of Nietzsche’s relation to Jesus

Published in: South African Journal of Philosophy
Volume 36, issue 4, 2017 , pages: 525–540
DOI: 10.1080/02580136.2017.1370319
Author(s): David MitchellDepartment of Philosophy, South Africa


This paper re-evaluates the significance of Jesus for Nietzsche by looking at The Anti-Christ. Specifically we will ask whether a re-evaluation of this relation can shed new light on Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity. And we will do this first by surveying the standard interpretations of this issue, as well as the existing literature on The Anti-Christ. Arguing that the latter picks out nothing new regarding a critique of Christianity, we nonetheless suggest that a new criticism can be developed via the discussion of Jesus there. Further, this can be done by looking at the account given of faith and belief in that text. That is, we will explore the status of Jesus for Nietzsche by looking at the origins and development of “faith” as a mode of belief. In particular, we trace the former’s development as a type from a basic mode of faith. As such, we begin by looking at the psychological origins of this kind of belief in “decadence”, and why Nietzsche is critical of this. However, we will then discuss the emergence of a more positive faith in the form of Buddhism, and see how this represents an analogue for Jesus’s faith. Continuing, we will see how Jesus signifies a similar problematic development, but also “overcoming”, of initial decadence faith. And we will argue, also, that this overcoming is rooted in his emphasis on the immediacy of lived experience. Finally though, we will look at how Christianity returns Jesus’s more productive relation to the world again to a primitive mode of faith. In other words, we will see how Christianity converts the fluid, lived, “faith” of Jesus into something again based on transcendent belief. And lastly, we will ask what new light this point sheds on Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity, and his affinity with Jesus the man.

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