Friedrich von Ammon, himself one of the most distinguished students in this department, in his “Progress of Christianity,”
|November 24, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter one||
We are now once more in the midst of a period of great activity in the study of the subject. On the one side we are offered a historical solution, on the other a literary. The question at issue is: Is it possible to explain the contradiction between the Messianic consciousness of Jesus and His non-Messianic discourses and actions by means of a conception of His Messianic consciousness which will make it appear that He could not have acted otherwise than as the Evangelists describe; or must we endeavour to explain the contradiction by taking the non-Messianic discourses and actions as our fixed point, denying the reality of His Messianic self-consciousness and regarding it as a later interpolation of the beliefs of the Christian community into the life of Jesus? In the latter case the Evangelists are supposed to have attributed these Messianic claims to Jesus because the early Church held Him to be the Messiah, but to have contradicted themselves by describing His life as it actually was, viz., as the life of a prophet, not of one who held Himself to be the Messiah. To put it briefly: Does the difficulty of explaining the historical personality of Jesus lie in the history itself, or only in the way in which it is represented in the sources?
This alternative will be discussed in all the critical studies of the next few years. Once clearly posed it compels a decision. But no one can really understand the problem who has not a clear notion of the way in which it has shaped itself in the course of the investigation; no one can justly criticise, or appraise the value of, new contributions to the study of this subject unless he knows in what forms they have been presented before.
The history of the study of the life of Jesus has hitherto received surprisingly little attention. Hase, in his Life of Jesus of 1829, briefly records the previous attempts to deal with the subject. Friedrich von Ammon, himself one of the most distinguished students in this department, in his “Progress of Christianity,” gives some information regarding “the most notable biographies of Jesus of the last fifty years.” In the year 1865 Uhlhorn treated together the Lives of Jesus of Renan, Schenkel, and Strauss; in 1876 Hase, in his “History of Jesus,” gave the only complete literary history of the subject; in 1892 Uhlhorn extended his former lecture to include the works of Keim, Deiff, Beyschlag, and Weiss; in 1898 Frentzen described, in a short essay, the progress of the study since Strauss; in 1899 and 1900 Baldensperger gave, in the Theologische Rundschau, a survey of the most recent publications; Weinel’s book, “Jesus in the Nineteenth Century,” naturally only gives an analysis of a few classical works; Otto Schmiedel’s lecture on the “Main Problems of the Critical Study of the Life of Jesus” (1902) merely sketches the history of the subject in broad outline.
Apart from scattered notices in histories of theology this is practically all the literature of the subject. There is room for an attempt to bring order into the chaos of the Lives of Jesus. Hase made ingenious comparisons between them, but he was unable to group them according to inner principles, or to judge them justly. Weiss is for him a feebler descendant of Strauss, Bruno Bauer is the victim of a fantastic imagination. It would indeed have been difficult for Hase to discover in the works of his time any principle of division. But now, when the literary and eschatological methods of solution have led to complementary results, when the post-Straussian period of investigation seems to have reached a provisional close, and the goal to which it has been tending has become clear, the time seems ripe for the attempt to trace genetically in the successive works the shaping of the problem as it now confronts us, and to give a systematic historical account of the critical study of the life of Jesus. Our endeavour will be to furnish a graphic description of all the attempts to deal with the subject; and not to dismiss them with stock phrases or traditional labels, but to show clearly what they really did to advance the formulation of the problem, whether their contemporaries recognised it or not. In accordance with this principle many famous Lives of Jesus which have prolonged an honoured existence through many successive editions, will make but a poor figure, while others, which have received scant notice, will appear great. Behind Success comes Truth, and her reward is with her.
 Dr. Christoph Friedrich von Ammon, Fortbildung des Christentums, Leipzig, 1840, vol. iv. p. 156 ff.
 Hase, Geschichte Jesu, Leipzig, 1876, pp. 110-162. The second edition, published in 1891, carries the survey no further than the first.
 Das Leben Jesu in seinen neueren Darstellungen, 1892, five lectures.
 W. Frantzen, Die “Leben-Jesu” Bewegung seit Strauss, Dorpat, 1898.
 Theol. Rundschau. ii. 59-67 (1899) ; iii. 9-19 (1900).
 Von Soden’s study, Die wichtigsten Fragen im Leben Jesu, 1904, belongs here only in a very limited sense, since it does not seek to show how the problems have gradually emerged in the various Lives of Jesus.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
|Also in print from Barnes and Noble
As an E-book at: