II HERMANN SAMUEL REIMARUS
|November 24, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter two||
HERMANN SAMUEL REIMARUS
“Von dem Zwecke Jesu und seiner Junger.” Noch ein Fragment des Wolfenbuttelschen Ungenannten. Herausgegeben von Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Braunschweig, 1778, 276 pp. (The Aims of Jesus and His Disciples A further Instalment of the anonymous Woltenbüttel Fragments. Published by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Brunswick, 1778.)
Johann Salomo Semler. Beantwortung der Fragmente eines Ungenannten ins’ besondere vom Zwecke Jesu und seiner Jünger. (Reply to the anonymous Fragments, especially to that entitled “The Aims of Jesus and His Disciples.”) Halle, 1779, 432 pp.
BEFORE REIMARUS, NO ONE HAD ATTEMPTED TO FORM A HISTORICAL CONCEPTION of the life of Jesus. Luther had not so much as felt that he cared to gain a clear idea of the order of the recorded events. Speaking of the chronology of the cleansing of the Temple, which in John falls at the beginning, in the Synoptists near the close, of Jesus’ public life, he remarks: “The Gospels follow no order in recording the acts and miracles of Jesus, and the matter is not, after all, of much importance. If a difficulty arises in regard to the Holy Scripture and we cannot solve it, we must just let it alone.” When the Lutheran theologians began to consider the question of harmonising the events, things were still worse. Osiander (1498-1552), in his “Harmony of the Gospels,” maintained the principle that if an event is recorded more than once in the Gospels, in different connexions, it happened more than once and in different connexions. The daughter of Jairus was therefore raised from the dead several times; on one occasion Jesus allowed the devils whom He cast out of a single demoniac to enter into a herd of swine, on another occasion, those whom He cast out of two demoniacs; there were two cleansings of the Temple, and so forth. The correct view of the Synoptic Gospels as being interdependent was first formulated by Griesbach.
The only Life of Jesus written prior to the time of Reimarus which has any interest for us, was composed by a Jesuit in the Persian language. The author was the Indian missionary Hieronymus Xavier, nephew of Francis Xavier, and it was designed for the use of Akbar, the Moghul Emperor, who, in the latter part of the sixteenth century, had become the most powerful potentate in Hindustan. In the seventeenth century the Persian text was brought to Europe by a merchant, and was translated into Latin by Louis de Dieu, a theologian of the Reformed Church, whose intention in publishing it was to discredit Catholicism. It is a skilful falsification of the life of Jesus in which the omissions, and the additions taken from the Apocrypha, are inspired by the sole purpose of presenting to the open-minded ruler a glorious Jesus, in whom there should be nothing to offend him.
Thus there had been nothing to prepare the world for a work of such power as that of Reimarus. It is true, there had appeared earlier, in 1768, a Life of Jesus by Johann Jakob Hess (1741-1828), written from the standpoint of the older rationalism, but it retains so much supernaturalism and follows so much the lines of a paraphrase of the Gospels, that there was nothing to indicate to the world what a masterstroke the spirit of the time was preparing.
Not much is known about Reimarus. For his contemporaries he had no existence, and it was Strauss who first made his name known in literature. He was born in Hamburg on the 22nd of December, 1694, and spent his life there as a professor of Oriental Languages. He died in 1768. Several of his writings appeared during his lifetime, all of them asserting the claims of rational religion as against the faith of the Church; one of them, for example, being an essay on “The Leading Truths of Natural Religion.” His magnum opus, however, which laid the historic basis of his attacks, was only circulated, during his lifetime, among his acquaintances, as an anonymous manuscript. In 1774 Lessing began to publish the most important portions of it, and up to 1778 had published seven fragments, thereby involving himself in a quarrel with Goetze, the Chief Pastor of Hamburg. The manuscript of the whole, which runs to 4000 pages, is preserved in the Hamburg municipal library.
The following are the titles of Fragments which he published:
The Toleration of the Deists.
The Decrying of Reason in the Pulpit.
The impossibility of a Revelation which all men should have good grounds for believing.
The Passing of the Israelites through the Red Sea.
Showing that the books of the Old Testament were not written to reveal a Religion.
Concerning the story of the Resurrection.
The Aims of Jesus and His Disciples.
 Hase, Geschichte Jesu, 1876, pp. 112, 113.
 Historia Christi persice conscripts simulque multis modis contaminata a Hieronymo Xavier, lat. reddita et animadd, notata a Ludovico de Dieu. Lugd. 1639.
 Johann Jacob Hess, Geschichte der drei letzten Lebensjahre Jesu. (History of the Last Three Years of the Life of Jesus.) 3 vols. 1768ff.
 D. F. Strauss, Hermann Samuel Reimarus and seine Schutzschrift für die tiernünftigen Verehrer Gottes. (Reimarus and His Apology for the Rational Worshippers of God.) 1862.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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