VIII STRAUSS’S FIRST “LIFE OF JESUS”
|November 20, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter eight||
STRAUSS’S FIRST “LIFE OF JESUS”
First edition, 1835 and 1836. 2 vols. 1480 pp.
The second edition was unaltered.
Third edition, with alterations, 1838-1839.
Fourth edition, agreeing with the first, 1840.
CONSIDERED AS A LITERARY WORK, STRAUSS’S FIRST LIFE OF JESUS IS ONE of the most perfect things in the whole range of learned literature. In over fourteen hundred pages he has not a superfluous phrase; his analysis descends to the minutest details, but he does not lose his way among them; the style is simple and picturesque, sometimes ironical, but always dignified and distinguished.
In regard to the application of the mythological explanation to Holy Scripture, Strauss points out that De Wette, Eichhorn, Gabler, and others of his predecessors had long ago freely applied it to the Old Testament, and that various attempts had been made to portray the life of Jesus in accordance with the critical assumptions upon which his undertaking was based. He mentions especially Usteri as one who had helped to prepare the way for him. The distinction between Strauss and those who had preceded him upon this path consists only in this, that prior to him the conception of myth was neither truly grasped nor consistently applied. Its application was confined to the account of Jesus coming into the world and of His departure from it, while the real kernel of the evangelical tradition—the sections from the Baptism to the Resurrection—was left outside the field of its application. Myth formed, to use Strauss’s illustration, the lofty gateways at the entrance to, and at the exit from, the Gospel history; between these two lofty gateways lay the narrow and crooked streets of the naturalistic explanation.
The principal obstacle, Strauss continues, which barred the way to a comprehensive application of myth, consisted in the supposition that two of our Gospels, Matthew and John, were reports of eyewitnesses; and a further difficulty was the offence caused by the word myth, owing to its associations with the heathen mythology. But that any of our Evangelists was an eyewitness, or stood in such relations with eyewitnesses as to make the intrusion of myth unthinkable, is a thesis which there is no extant evidence sufficient to prove. Even though the earthly life of the Lord falls within historic times, and even if only a generation be assumed to have elapsed between His death and the composition of the Gospels; such a period would be sufficient to allow the historical material to become intermixed with myth. No sooner is a great man dead than legend is busy with his life.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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