from the point of view of theological science
|November 16, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter fourteen||
Nevertheless, from the point of view of theological science, this work marks a standstill. That was the net result of the thirty years of critical study of the life of Jesus for the man who had inaugurated it so impressively. This was the only fruit which followed those blossoms so full of promise of the first Life of Jesus.
It is significant that in the same year there appeared Schleiermacher’s lectures on the Life of Jesus, which had not seen the light for forty years, because, as Strauss himself remarked in his criticism of the resurrected work, it had neither anodyne nor dressing for the wounds which his first Life of Jesus had made. The wounds, however, had cicatrised in the meantime. It is true Strauss is a just judge, and makes ample acknowledgment of the greatness of Schleiermacher’s achievement. He blames Schleiermacher for setting up his “presuppositions in regard to Christ” as an historical canon, and considering it a proof that a statement is unhistorical if it does not square with those presuppositions. But does not the purely human, but to a certain extent unhistorical, man, who is to be the ultimate product of the process of eliminating myth, serve Strauss as his “theoretic Christ” who determines the presentment of his historical Jesus? Does he not share with Schleiermacher the erroneous, artificial, “double” construction of the consciousness of Jesus? And what about their views of Mark? What fundamental difference is there, when all is said, between Schleiermacher’s derationalised Life of Jesus and Strauss’s? Certainly this second Life of Jesus would not have frightened Schleiermacher’s away into hiding for thirty years.
So Schleiermacher’s Life of Jesus might now safely venture forth into the light. There was no reason why it should feel itself a stranger at this period, and it had no need to be ashamed of itself. Its rationalistic birthmarks were concealed by its brilliant dialectic. And the only real advance in the meantime was the general recognition that the Life of Jesus was not to be interpreted on rationalistic, but on historical lines. All other, more definite, historical results had proved more or less illusory; there is no vitality in them. The works of Renan, Strauss Schenkel, Weizsäcker, and Keim are in essence only different ways of carrying out a single ground-plan. To read them one after another is to be simply appalled at the stereotyped uniformity of the world of thought in which they move. You feel that you have read exactly the same thing in the others, almost in identical phrases. To obtain the works of Schenkel and Weizsäcker you only need to weaken down in Strauss the sharp discrimination between John and the Synoptists so far as to allow of the Fourth Gospel being used to some extent as an historical source “in the higher sense,” and to put the hypothesis of the priority of Mark in place of the Tübingen view adopted by Strauss. The latter is an external operation and does not essentially modify the view of the Life of Jesus, since by admitting the Johannine scheme the Marcan plan is again disturbed, and Strauss’s arbitrary spiritualisation of the Synoptics comes to something not very different from the acceptance of that “in a higher sense historical Gospel” alongside of them. The whole discussion regarding the sources is only loosely connected with the process of arriving at the portrait of Jesus, since this portrait is fixed from the first, being determined by the mental atmosphere and religious horizon of the sixties. They all portray the Jesus of liberal theology; the only difference is that one is a little more conscientious in his colouring than another, and one perhaps has a little more taste than another, or is less concerned about the consequences.
 “I can now say without incurring the reproach of self-glorification, and almost without needing to fear contradiction, that if my Life of Jesus had not appeared in the year after Schleiermacher’s death, his would not have been withheld for so long. Up to that time it would have been hailed by the theological world as a deliverer; but for the wounds which my work inflicted on the theology of the day, it had neither anodyne nor dressing; nay, it displayed the author as in a measure responsible for the disaster, for the waters which he had admitted drop by drop were now in defiance of his prudent reservations, pouring in like a flood.”—From the introduction to The Christ of Faith and the Jesus of History, 1865.
 “Now that Schleiermacher’s Life of Jesus at last lies before us in print, all parties can gather about it in heartfelt rejoicing. The appearance of a work by Schleiermacher is always an enrichment to literature. Any product of a mind like his cannot fail to shed light and life on the minds of others. And of works of this kind our theological literature has certainly in these days no superfluity. Where the living are for the most part as it were dead, it is meet that the dead should arise and bear witness. These lectures of Schleiermacher’s, when compared with the work of his pupils, show clearly that the great theologian has let fall upon them only his mantle and not his spirit.”—Ibid
The lines of Schleiermacher’s work were followed by Bunsen. His Life of Jesus forms vol. ix. of his Bibelwerk. (Edited by Holtzmann, 1865.) He accepts the Fourth Gospel as an historical source and treats the question of miracle as not yet settled. Christian Karl Josias von Bunsen, born in 1791 at Korbach in Waldeck, was Prussian ambassador at Rome, Berne, and London, and settled later in Heidelberg. He was well read in theology and philology, and gradually came, in spite of his friendly relations with Friedrich Wilhelm IV., to entertain more liberal views on religion. The issue of his Bibelwerk fur die Gemeinde was begun in 1858. He died in 1860. (Best known in England as the Chevalier Bunsen.)
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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