The translator is Thomas Common, and he has gone with a sort of KJV version. It didn't really work for me.
On top of that, the style is all in parables. When Jesus tells a parable, you can figure out what He is talking about. Nietzsche just kind of mumbles.
It's sort of like Robert Heinlein's social commentary - is he seriously putting forth an idea, or is he playing straight with his ridicule? Hard to tell.
Nietzsche is always held up as the ultimate atheist (Ravi Zacharias says he was true to his beliefs - he died cold, alone, and insane). It must be me, but it is sufficiently vague that you can read a lot into it...
"Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman"The most important idea in Nietzsche is that of the "Superman" (ubermensch). This is not a guy in tights, but a stage of evolution. The ubermensch, as it is usually retold, is the next stage of human evolution (I am unconvinced, but I am probably wrong).
His statements about Jesus seem to place him thoroughly in the unbeliever camp (page 77):
"He [Jesus] died too early; he himself would have disavowed his doctrine had he attained to my age!... But he was still immature. Immaturely loveth the youth, and immaturely also hateth he man and earth."What about "God is dead"? He does say that (first on page 6). He also says (page 294) to "the ugliest man":
"thou art the murderer of God" (italics in original)It is not evolution or rationalism which has killed God (elsewhere, he says "pity" killed God) - it is man's ugliness (what I would call sin).
And did God remain dead? Page 320:
"Only since he [God] lay in the grave have ye again arisen."I am reminded of Galatians 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me".
And as the book closes (page 366-368):
"slowly seated himself [Zarathustra] on the big stone... The doves, however, were no less eager with their love than the lion "And with that, I believe, Zarathustra died (seated on the Rock, with the Dove, and the Lion).
"'I come to seduce thee to thy last sin' [says the soothsayer]"
So is the "higher man" the rational atheist? Or the man born from above?
I don't think Nietzsche understood Christianity. I think his intent is more mocking (he comments on laughter being a weapon). But I think he was familiar with the language and ideas. Also, he has harsh words for the preachers of his day. Yes. So would Spurgeon.