Strauss’s Life of Jesus being sometimes described by opponents of Schleiermacher as a product of the latter’s philosophy of religion
|November 22, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter seven||
In October 1831 he went to Berlin to hear Hegel and Schleiermacher. On the 14th of November Hegel, whom he had visited shortly before, was carried off by cholera. Strauss heard the news in Schleiermacher’s house, from Schleiermacher himself, and is said to have exclaimed, with a certain want of tact, considering who his informant was: “And it was to hear him that I came to Berlin!”
There was no satisfactory basis for a relationship between Schleiermacher and Strauss. They had nothing in common. That did not prevent Strauss’s Life of Jesus being sometimes described by opponents of Schleiermacher as a product of the latter’s philosophy of religion. Indeed, as late as the sixties, Tholuck thought it necessary to defend the memory of the great theologian against this reproach.
As a matter of fact, the plan of the Life of Jesus arose during Strauss’s intercourse with Vatke, to whom he felt himself strongly drawn. Moreover, what was first sketched out was not primarily the plan of a Life of Jesus, but that of a history of the ideas of primitive Christianity, intended to serve as a standard by which to judge ecclesiastical dogma. The Life of Jesus was originally designed, it might almost be said, as a mere prologue to this work, the plan of which was subsequently carried out under the title, “Christian Theology in its Historical Development and in its Antagonism with Modern Scientific Knowledge” (published in 1840-1841).
When in the spring of 1832 he returned to Tübingen to take up the position of “Repetent” in the theological college (Stift), these plans were laid on the shelf in consequence of his preoccupation with philosophy, and if things had gone according to Strauss’s wishes, they would perhaps never have come to fulfilment. The “Repetents” had the right to lecture upon philosophy. Strauss felt himself called upon to come forward as an apostle of Hegel, and lectured upon Hegel’s logic with tremendous success. Zeiler, who attended these lectures, records the unforgettable impression which they made on him. Besides championing Hegel, Strauss also lectured upon Plato, and upon the history of modern philosophy. These were three happy semesters.
“In my theology,” he writes in a letter of 1833, “philosophy occupies such a predominant position that my theological views can only be worked out to completeness by means of a more thorough study of philosophy, and this course of study I am now going to prosecute uninterruptedly and without concerning myself whether it leads me back to theology or not.” Further on he says: “If I know myself rightly, my position in regard to theology is that what interests me in theology causes offence, and what does not cause offence is indifferent to me. For this reason I have refrained from delivering lectures on theology.”
The philosophical faculty was not altogether pleased at the success of the apostle of Hegel, and wished to have the right of the “Repetents” to lecture on philosophy curtailed. The latter, however, took their stand upon the tradition. Straus was desired to intermit his lectures until the matter should be settled. He would have liked best to end the situation by entering the philosophical faculty. The other “Repetents,” however, begged him not to do so, but to continue to champion their rights. It is possible also that obstacles were placed in the way of his plan by the philosophical faculty. However that may be, it was in any case not carried through. Strauss was forced back upon theology.
According to Hase, Strauss began his studies for the Life of Jesus by writing a detailed critical review of his (Hase’s) text-book. He sent this to Berlin to the Jahrbücher für wissenschaftliche Kritik, which, however, refused it. His resolve to publish first, instead of the general work on the genesis of Christian doctrine, a critical study on the life of Jesus was doubtless determined by Schleiermacher’s lectures on this subject. When in Berlin he had procured a copy of a lecture note-book, and the reading of it incited him to opposition.
 Assistant lecturer.
 Ibid., June 1905, p. 343 ff.
 See Hase, Leben Jesu, 1876, p. 124. The “text-book” referred to is Hase’a first Life of Jesus.
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