With Strauss begins the period of the non-miraculous view of the Life of Jesus;
|November 20, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter nine||
In the end, however, all the efforts of the mediating theology, of rationalism and supernaturalism, could do nothing to shake Strauss’s conclusion that it was all over with supernaturalism as a factor to be reckoned with in the historical study of the Life of Jesus, and that scientific theology, instead of turning back from rationalism to supernaturalism, must move straight onward between the two and seek out a new path for itself. The Hegelian method had proved itself to be the logic of reality. With Strauss begins the period of the non-miraculous view of the Life of Jesus; all other views exhausted themselves in the struggle against him, and subsequently abandoned position after position without waiting to be attacked. The separation which Hengstenberg had hailed with such rejoicing was really accomplished; but in the form that supernaturalism practically separated itself from the serious study of history. It is not possible to date the stages of this process. After the first outburst of excitement everything seems to go on as quietly as before; the only difference is that the question of miracle constantly falls more and more into the background. In the modern period of the study of the Life of Jesus, which begins about the middle of the sixties, it has lost all importance.
That does not mean that the problem of miracle is solved. From the historical point of view it is really impossible to solve it, since we are not able to reconstruct the process by which a series of miracle stories arose, or a series of historical occurrences were transformed into miracle stories, and these narratives must simply be left with a question mark standing against them. What has been gained is only that the exclusion of miracle from our view of history has been universally recognised as a principle of criticism, so that miracle no longer concerns the historian either positively or negatively. Scientific theologians of the present day who desire to show their “sensibility,” ask no more than that two or three little miracles may be left to them—in the stories of the childhood, perhaps, or in the narratives of the resurrection. And these miracles are, moreover, so far scientific that they have at least no relation to those in the text, but are merely spiritless, miserable little toy-dogs of criticism, flea-bitten by rationalism, too insignificant to do historical science any harm, especially as their owners honestly pay the tax upon them by the way in which they speak, write, and are silent about Strauss.
But even that is better than the delusive fashion in which some writers of the present day succeed in discussing the narratives of the resurrection “as pure historians” without betraying by a single word whether they themselves believe it to be possible or not. But the reason modern theology can allow itself these liberties is that the foundation laid by Strauss is unshakable.
Compared with the problem of miracle, the question regarding the mythical explanation of the history takes a very subordinate place in the controversy. Few understood what Strauss’s real meaning was; the general impression was that he entirely dissolved the life of Jesus into myth.
There appeared, indeed, three satires ridiculing his method. One showed how, for the historical science of the future, the life of Luther would also become a mere myth, the second treated the life of Napoleon in the same way; in the third, Strauss himself becomes a myth.
M. Eugène Mussard, “candidat au saint ministère,” made it his business to set at rest the minds of the premier faculty at Geneva by his thesis, Du système mythique appliqué a l’histoire de la vie de Jésus, 1838, which bears the ingenious motto o? sesqfism?noiV m?qoiV (not … in cunningly devised myths, 2 Peter i. 16). He certainly did not exaggerate the difficulties of his task, but complacently followed up an “Exposition of the Mythical Theory,” with a “Refutation of the Mythical Theory as applied to the Life of Jesus.”
The only writer who really faced the problem in the form in which it had been raised by Strauss was Wilke in his work “Tradition and Myth.” He recognises that Strauss had given an exceedingly valuable impulse towards the overcoming of rationalism and supernaturalism and to the rejection of the abortive mediating theology. “A keener criticism will only establish the truth of the Gospel, putting what is tenable on a firmer basis, sifting out what is untenable, and showing up in all its nakedness the counterfeit theology of the new evangelicalism with its utter lack of understanding and sincerity.” Again, “the approval which Strauss has met with, and the excitement which he has aroused, sufficiently show what an advantage rationalistic speculation possesses over the theological second-childishness of the new evangelicals.” The time has come for a rational mysticism, which shall preserve undiminished the honesty of the old rationalism, making no concessions to supernaturalism, but, on the other hand, overcoming the “truculent rationalism of the Kantian criticism” by means of a religious conception in which there is more warmth and more pious feeling.
This rational mysticism makes it a reproach against the “mythical idealism” of Strauss that in it philosophy does violence to history, and the historic Christ only retains His significance as a mere ideal. A new examination of the sources is necessary to decide upon the extent of the mythical element.
 Auszüge aus der Schrift “Das Leben. Luthers kritisch bearbeitet.” (Extracts from a work entitled “A Critical Study of the Life of Luther.”) By Dr. Casuar (“Cassowary”; Strauss = Ostrich). Mexico, 2836. Edited by Julius Ferdinand Wurm.
 Das Leben Napoleons kritisch geprüft. (A. Critical Examination of the Life of Napoleon.) From the English, with some pertinent applications to Strauss’s Life of Jesus, 1836. [The English original referred to seems to have been Whateley’s Historic Doubts relative to Napoleon Bonaparte, published in 1819, and primarily directed against Hume’s Essay on Miracles.—TRANSLATOR.]
 La Vie de Strauss. Écrite en l’an 2839. Paris, 1839.
 Ch. G. Wilke, Tradition und Mythe. A contribution to the historical criticism of the Gospels in general, and in particular to the appreciation of the treatment of myth and idealism in Strauss’s “Life of Jesus.” Leipzig, 1837.
Christian Gottlob Wilke was born in 1786 at Werm, near Zeitz, studied theology and became pastor of Hermannsdorf in the Erzgebirge. He resigned this office in 1837 in order to devote himself to his studies, perhaps also because he had become conscious of an inner unrest. In 1845 he prepared the way for his conversion to Catholicism by publishing a work entitled “Can a Protestant go over to the Roman Church with a good conscience?” He took the decisive step in August 1846. Later he removed to Wurzburg. Subsequently he recast his famous Clavis Nova Testamenti Philogica—which had appeared in 1840-1841—in the form of a lexicon for Catholic students of theology. His Hermeneutik des Neuen Testaments, published in 1843-1844, appeared in 1853 as Biblische Hermeneutik nach katholischen Grundsätzen (The Science of Biblical Interpretation according to Catholic principles). He was engaged in recasting his Clavis when he died in 1854.
Of later works dealing with the question of myth, we may refer to Emanuel Marius, Die Persönlichkeit Jesu mit besonderer Rücksicht auf die Mythologien und Mysterien der alten Völker (The Personality of Jesus, with special reference to the Mythologies and Mysteries of Ancient Nations), Leipzig, 1879, 395 pp.; and Otto Frick, Mythus und Evangelium (Myth and Gospel), Heilbronn, 1879, 44 pp.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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