Monday, April 14, 2008

Napoleon's Proof for the Divinity of Jesus


I have recently been re-reading Hilarin Felder, who I am beginning to think of as "the Catholic Albert Schweitzer," both for the eloquence of his writing and the force of his arguments. In volume 2 of his book, Felder gives an amazing quote from Napoleon Bonaparte regarding the divinity of Jesus. I've never read anything like this before.

Felder states:
"Napoleon regarded this as precisely the most striking proof of the divinity of Jesus--namely, his power over men's hearts. The once wellnigh all-powerful Corsican, in the solitude of his last days, called up before his imagination all the heroic figures and master minds of the world, and measured them by his own gigantic greatness. But all of them combined, and he himself as well, vanished like empty shadows before the person of Jesus Christ:

Napoleon:
"What a conqueror!--a conqueror who controls humanity at will, and wins to himself not only one nation, but the whole human race. What a marvel! He attaches to himself the human soul with all its energies. And how? By a miracle which surpasses all others. He claims the love of men--that is to say, the most difficult thing in the world to obtain; that which the wisest of men cannot froce from his truest friend, that which no father can compel from his children, no wife from her husband, no brother from his brother--the heart. He claims it ; he requires it absolutely and undividedly, and he obtains it instantly.

Alexander, Caesar, Hannibal, Louis XIV strove in vain to secure this. They conquered the world, yet they had not a single friend, or at all events, they have none any more. Christ speaks, however, and from that moment all generations belong to him; and they are joined to him much more closely than by any ties of blood and by a much more intimate, sacred and powerful communion. He kindles the flame of love which causes one's self-love to die, and triumphs over every other love. Why should we not recognize in this miracle of love the eternal Word which created the world? The other founders of religions had not the least conception of this mystic love which forms the essence of Christianity.

I have filled multitudes with such passionate devotion that they went to death for me. But God forbid that I should compare the enthusiasm of my soldiers with Christian love. They are as unlike as their causes. In my case, my presence was always necessary, the electric effect of my glance, my voice, my words, to kindle fire in their hearts. And I certainly posses personally the secret of that magic power of taking by storm the sentiments of men; but I was not able to communicate that power to anyone. None of my generals ever learned it from me or found it out. Moreover, I myself do not possess the secret of perpetuating my name and a love for me in their hearts for ever, and to work miracles in them without material means.

Now that I languish here at St Helena, chained upon this rock, who fights, who conquers empires for me? Who still even thinks of me? Who interests himself for me in Europe? Who has remained true to me? That is the fate of all great men. It was the fate of Alexander and Caesar, as it is my own. We are forgotten, and the names of the mightiest conquerors and most illustrious emperors are soon only the subject of a schoolboy's taks. Our exploits come under the rod of a pedantic schoolmaster, who praises or condemns us as he likes.

What an abyss exists between my profound misery and the eternal reign of Christ, who is preached, loved, and worshipped, and live on throughout the entire world. Is this to die? Is it not rather to live eternally? The death of Christ! It is the death of a God."

(Quoted in Hilarin Felder, Christ and the Critics, vol. 2, pp. 216-17)

I never read that quote from Napoleon in my government-high-school textbooks! Being chained to a rock after having conquered the world evidently gives a man time to think.

11 comments:

Michael Barber said...

Whoa! Great quote!

Of course, I know that this has to be an authentic statement from Napolean because it is markedly dissimilar from all the other things I've seen attributed by him. I mean, I realize that Napolean's words have been transmitted to us through a community of historians who have shaped and re-shaped his words in order to fit their cultural needs and those of their hearers. That's why I am highly skeptical of anything I see attributed to him.

Of course, I presume that this statement is attested by at least two independent witnesses. If this was a statement passed on by an associate, I assume there were multiple other people who can confirm the validity of it. Virtually every authentic saying would likely be passed on by every single source.

Of course, it may be a combination of two different sources, since Napolean uses two names for Jesus, "Christ" and "the Word". That probably indicates that there are multiple layers of ancient sources behind this. What's important is that we have the "Napolean Remembered".

Put another way, I'm sure we have the ipsissima vox of Napolean, and that's what really counts.

Danny Garland Jr. said...

HA! Michael, that's hilarious!

Charles Augustine Rivera said...

Athanasius expresses a somewhat similar, though hardly identical, sentiment in De Incarnatione, as I have noted in my blog. It's always fascinating to find quotes like these from unexpected people like Napoleon!

kentuckyliz said...

Ooh, read N's alleged statement, then read Mary's Magnificat. Bam! Zam! Pow!!!

The only quote from N. that I knew before was

Able was I ere I saw Elba.

LOL

Anonymous said...

The Black Adder summed up this nonsense in his immortal phrase--UTTER CRAPP.

How many millions of peoples lives were ruined by this strutting monster?

Unknown said...

Anonymous, that really isn't the point.

Unknown said...

Napoleons own life demostrates superb insight wherever he chose to focus his attention, it's just that he didn't focus his attention on Jesus until he was imprisoned.

Adam Barthalt said...

Jesus alone has many names. and Napoleon just used two of them. plus even the Koran says he is the word of God.....so all in all as Napoleon said. there is no other person who can ever be compared to the Christ. why? because he is God who came to earth to show us how to live and love and die righteously.

Anonymous said...

If God can humble a king, who truly did conquer the entire known world as Nebuchadnezzar did ... Is it out of the question that he could do the same for Napoleon who displayed the same pride and arrogance as Nebuchadnezzar? God caused Nebuchadnezzar to lose his reign and made him eat grass like a cow! Then read his unbelievable account of who God is in Daniel 4. The same thing happened to Pharaoh in Exodus - the difference is that Pharaoh did not humble his heart and the remains of his army lie beneath the Red Sea near the present day town of Nuweibaa at the Gulf of Aqaba. History has proven that this same God delights in showing his sovereignty over the most powerful kings that ever lived. In the statue vision of Daniel 2:21 ff – Nebuchadnezzar is presented as the preeminent of all the kingdoms – he was the golden head!
So – is this statement from Napoleon out of character? Probably not any more than the incredible statement that Nebuchadnezzar made about God as recorded in Daniel 4. God can humble any king because he is the King of all kings and Lord of Lords as it says in Rev 19:16.

ANTHONY K NYAME, DBA, PhD said...

I FIRST HEARD OF NAPOLEON'S CONFESSION ABOUT THE DIVINITY OF JESUS MORE THAN 15 YEARS AGO FROM A HOLY PRIEST AND MY CONFESSOR IN ACCRA, GHANA, REV FATHER (NOW A MONSIGNOR)AGBENU, WHO FOR MANY YEARS WAS THE SECRETARY TO THE LATE ARCHBISHOP DOMINIC ANDOH, JCD OF MOST BLESSED MEMORRY, THE FORMER METROPOLITAN ARCHBISHOP OF ACCRA, GHANA.

THIS SAYING OF NAPOLEON JUST CONFIRMM WHAT ANY TRUE BELIEVER IN JESUS KNOWS: JESUS CHRIST IS "MY LORD AND MY GOD" JOHN 20:28, HE IS ETERNALLY MERCIFUL (PSALM 100:5, AND HE WILL SAVE EVEN THE MOST SINFUL SOUL IF WE , HIS SHEEP, CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR THE CONVERSION OF UNBELIEVERS AND SINNERS.

YES,JESUS CHRIST will save souls with our prayers and sacrifices be cause he is "the faithful and true" (rev 19:11).
REV 22:20 "AMEN! COME, LORD JESUS!

Peto Tashjian said...

I respect this man for his remarks about Jesus Christ in spite of imperialism, which was purely a commentary, a lot of writers and intellectuals