August Friedrich Gfrörer, born in 1803 at Calw, was “Repetent” at the Tübingen theological seminary at the time when Strauss was studying there
|November 17, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter twelve||
August Friedrich Gfrörer, born in 1803 at Calw, was “Repetent” at the Tübingen theological seminary at the time when Strauss was studying there. After being curate at the principal church in Stuttgart for a year he gave up, in 1830, the clerical profession in order to devote himself wholly to his clerical studies.
By that time he had abandoned Christianity. In the preface to the first edition of the first volume of his work, he describes Christianity as a system which now only maintains itself by the force of custom, after having commended itself to antiquity “by the hope of the mystic Kingdom of the future world and having ruled the middle ages by the fear of the same future.” By enunciating this view he has made an end, he thinks, of all high-flying Hegelian ideas, and being thus freed from all speculative prejudices he feels himself in a position to approach his task from a purely historical standpoint, with a view to showing how much of Christianity is the creation of one exceptional Personality, and how much belongs to the time in which it arose. In the first volume he describes how the transformation of Jewish theology in Alexandria reacted upon Palestinian theology, and how it came to its climax in Philo. The great Alexandrian anticipated, according to Gfrörer, the ideas of Paul. His “Therapeutae” are identical with the Essenes. At the same period Judaea was kept in a ferment by a series of risings, to all of which the incentive was found in Messianic expectations. Then Jesus appeared. The three points to be investigated in His history are: what end He had in view; why He died; and what modifications His work underwent at the hands of the Apostles.
The second volume, entitled “The Sacred Legend,” does not, however, carry out this plan. The works of Strauss and Weisse necessitated a new method of treatment. The fame of Strauss’s achievement stirred Gfrörer to emulation, and Weisse, with his priority of Mark and rejection of John, must be refuted. The work is therefore almost a polemic against Weisse for his “want of historic sense,” and ends in setting up views which had not entered into Gfrörer’s mind at the time when he wrote his first volume.
The statements of Papias regarding the Synoptists, which Weisse followed, are not deserving of credence. For a whole generation and more the tradition about Jesus had passed from mouth to mouth, and it had absorbed much that was legendary. Luke was the first—as his preface shows—who checked that process, and undertook to separate what was genuine from what was not. He is the most trustworthy of the Evangelists, for he keeps closely to his sources and adds nothing of his own, in contrast with Matthew who, writing at a later date, used sources of less value and invented matter of his own, which Gfrörer finds especially in the story of the passion in this Gospel. The lateness of Matthew is also evident from his tendency to carry over the Old Testament into the New. In Luke, on the other hand, the sources are so conscientiously treated that Gfrörer finds no difficulty in analysing the narrative into its component parts, especially as he always has a purely instinctive feeling “whenever a different wind begins to blow.”
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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