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The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede [Paperback]

Albert Schweitzer , F C Burkitt , W Montgomery
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

19 April 2014
The Quest of the Historical Jesus - A Critical Study of its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede by Albert Schweitzer. The book here translated is offered to the English-speaking public in the belief that it sets before them, as no other book has ever done, the history of the struggle which the best-equipped intellects of the modern world have gone through in endeavouring to realise for themselves the historical personality of our Lord. Every one nowadays is aware that traditional Christian doctrine about Jesus Christ is encompassed with difficulties, and that many of the statements in the Gospels appear incredible in the light of modern views of history and nature. But when the alternative of “Jesus or Christ”is put forward, as it has been in a recent publication, or when we are bidden to choose between the Jesus of history and the Christ of dogma, few except professed students know what a protean and kaleidoscopic figure the “Jesus of history” is. Like the Christ in the Apocryphal Acts of John, He has appeared in different forms to different minds. “We know Him right well,” says Professor Weinel.1What a claim! Among the many bold paradoxes enunciated in this history of the Quest, there is one that meets us at the outset, about which a few words may be said here, if only to encourage those to persevere to the end who might otherwise be repelled halfway—the paradox that the greatest attempts to write a Life of Jesus have been written with hate.2 It is in full accordance with this faith that Dr. Schweitzer gives, in paragraph after paragraph, the undiluted expression of the views of men who agree only in their unflinching desire to attain historical truth. We are not accustomed to be so ruthless in England. We sometimes tend to forget that the Gospel has moved the world, and we think our faith and devotion to it so tender and delicate a thing that it will break, if it be not handled with the utmost circumspection. So we become dominated [pg vi]by phrases and afraid of them. Dr. Schweitzer is not afraid of phrases, if only they have been beaten out by real contact with facts. And those who read to the end will see that the crude sarcasm of Reimarus and the unflinching scepticism of Bruno Bauer are not introduced merely to shock and by way of contrast. Each in his own way made a real contribution to our understanding of the greatest historical problem in the history of our race. We see now that the object of attack was not the historical Jesus after all, but a temporary idea of Him, inadequate because it did not truly represent Him or the world in which He lived. And by hearing the writers' characteristic phrases, uncompromising as they may be, by looking at things for a moment from their own point of view, different as it may be from ours, we are able to be more just, not only to these men of a past age, but also to the great Problem that occupied them, as it also occup


Product details

  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (19 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1499197446
  • ISBN-13: 978-1499197440
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 21.3 x 27.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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The best introduction to the subject... Scholarly and urbane... A fine example of critical exposition... A mystery story on the highest possible level, enlivened by Dr. Schweitzer's wit, and enriched by his effective command of simile and metaphor... Affords a wide view of the whole library of critical theology.

(Saturday Review) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. While still a young man he demonstrated extraordinary abilities in a wide range of pursuits, including science, theology, and music. In 1908 he published his magisterial study of the life and works of Johann Sebastian Bach. He studied medicine from 1905 to 1913 at the University of Strasbourg, then founded a hospital in French Equatorial Africa, where he spent most of the remainder of his life. Schweitzer used his Nobel Prize stipend to expand the hospital and to build a leper colony. His book The Primeval Forest is also available from Johns Hopkins.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What did Jesus believe about himself? 20 July 2004
Format:Paperback
"The Quest of the Historical Jesus" is not a book for the devout Christian who wishes to strengthen his faith - this is a book for the theology student who wishes to deepen his understanding of Jesus. And the book does not make easy reading - it contains closely written argument that demands the reader's attention and assumes a knowledge of the Gospels. The book was written in 1910 but is still relevant for the person who wants an insight into what Jesus believed about Himself. Did Jesus secretly believe Himself to be the Messiah but not reveal this fact to His disciples and followers? Or did Jesus not even see Himself as the Messiah? Was Jesus not recognised as Messiah even during His last visit to Jerusalem? Was the Kingdom of God in a sense already present in the world? Or would God shortly usher in the messianic Kingdom? Would Jesus bring about by His death what He could not achieve through His life? Would God bring Jesus back to earth in glory shortly after His death? Or did Jesus perceive in His dying hours that He had failed? Schweitzer pays tribute to the unique contribution of German theologians in the 19th century in attempting to recreate a more authentic historical Jesus to replace the unhistorical Christ of Christian faith. But he sees that project as failing, in that we cannot recover what Jesus actually believed about himself. Schweitzer traces the attempts to rationalise the miraculous elements of the Gospels, the efforts to apply a psychological understanding to the words of Jesus, the identification of the problems presented by the sequence of events in the Gospels, and the forays of writers who embellished the Gospel facts with their own psychological and imaginative inventions. Read more ›
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monumental 12 Feb 2006
Format:Paperback
THE QUEST OF THE HISTORICAL JESUS is Albert Schweitzer's monumental attempt to review and comment on the research done on the historical Jesus mostly in the nineteenth century. The book covers the work of Herman Samuel Reimarus, Paulus, David Friedrich Strauss, Bruno Bauer and many others.
Strauss was particularly important since his analysis of the Gospels' miraculous stories was that they were mythical. For this he was attacked by other scholars of his time although his basic idea about the mythical character of the biblical miracles has steadily gained popularity among academics. Schweitzer, on the other hand, saw Jesus as a prophet who had a strong apocalyptic message for the world. Everything Jesus said and did was influenced by his belief that the end was near, according to Schweitzer.
Schweitzer's work helped to lay the groundwork for future research on the historical Jesus. All subsequent research, including that of the Jesus Seminar, has owed a debt to Albert Schweitzer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic 1 April 2013
Format:Paperback
The seminal book on the history of historical investigation of the life of Jesus. It takes the reader up to the beginning of the 20th century, and is still, over a 100 years later, a significant contribution to the study of the life of Jesus(Schweitzer's own perspective was that Jesus was a failed eschatological Jewish prophet, still remains a popular view). It isn't dull because of Schweitzer's enthusiasm, interest and empathy for those who had tackled the problem of writing an historical study of Jesus which he gets across in almost every page. The best sections are those on Strauss and Schweitzer's own final ruminations on what Jesus meant. That over a 100 years later it is still in print is testimony to its greatness. I'm sure it will remain important for this century too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The very best 3 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A classic presentation by a great scholar and thinker
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
107 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars better tahn anything on the subject since, Schweitzer summar 6 Mar 1999
By Robert M. Price - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is a turning point in the history of Jesus studies. Schweitzer demonstrates how previous research was really an (unwitting) attempt by liberal and rationalist theologians to proof-text a Jesus who would embarrass orthodox Protestantism and serve as a figurehead for liberal ("Fatherhood of God, Brotherhood of Man") Christianity. Schweitzer showed how each historical reconstruction of Jesus uncannily matched the beliefs and agenda of the scholar in question. But Schweitzer knew the Christ of orthodoxy was not the historical Jesus either. One could only discover the latter by being willing to find the unexpected, and Schweitzer thought he found a Jesus who was a prophet of the end of the world, who expected to judge the earth as the Son of Man, and who died tragically mistaken. Even so, he still serves as a beacon of spiritual force for the ages. As does Schweitzer's great book!
75 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "There is silence all around..." 8 Dec 1999
By Loren Rosson III - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This landmark classic demonstrates the cliche of "the painting telling more about the painter than the subject being painted". People use the gospels as a mirror for their own beliefs and reconstruct Jesus accordingly in their self-images. Schweitzer's Jesus, by contrast, stands on a foreign landscape of apocalyptic fanaticism -- a deluded prophet who thought he was God's instrument sent to announce the end of history; burning with apocalyptic zeal, marching to Jerusalem, confident he could force God's hand and usher in the kingdom through a voluntary death. But it didn't happen. Jesus was crushed by the system he defied, and the drama ended on the cross.

Even if Schweitzer's portrait of Jesus is a bit extreme, he got the basics right -- Jesus the eschatological prophet -- and closed the curtains on the liberal quest for Jesus. He was a prophet himself, for we have another liberal quest today in the work of the Jesus Seminar. Instead of Jesus the liberal Protestant, the Seminar gives us Jesus the liberal humanist, disguised as a non-apocalyptic sage. For more up-to-date works which follow Schweitzer's apocalyptic prophet, see E.P. Sanders' "The Historical Figure of Jesus", Paula Fredriksen's "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews", and Dale Allison's "Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet". Allison's book, in particular, is worth its weight in gold.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heroic Scholars 10 Dec 2007
By John Loken - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the greatest book ever written about the historical Jesus, and it should be required reading for every college student. It is brilliant, profound, thrilling, and fairly easy to read (no Greek quotations to puzzle over, and lots of colorful phrases). The book is an intellectual detective story embedded in the solid framework of a chronological survey, vividly illuminating the theories of dozens of courageous New Testament scholars from about 1750 to 1900.

Schweitzer spends little time on supernaturalist theologians, Catholic or Protestant, and their ancient mythological god, "Jesus Christ." Instead he focuses on pioneering, critical, inquiring scholars such as Reimarus, Bahrdt, Venturini, Paulus, Hase, Schleiermacher, Strauss, Weisse, Bauer, Renan, Ghillany, and others, who sincerely sought the real Jesus of history, long covered up with magic and metaphysics.

Conservative and/or supernaturalist Christians often like to claim that Schweitzer's book shows how previous Jesus researchers mistakenly depicted a Jesus who merely reflected themselves and their own soft modern times - a "gentle Jesus meek and mild," or such like. That generalization is partly true, but mostly very misleading. The "liberalism" of those 18th and 19th century scholars actually consisted of their common naturalism, their search for natural explanations for the bizarre stories in the gospels. They were not so much mistaken as they were correct (or at least more correct than their supernaturalist opponents). They were not so much failures as they were successes, even heroes. Schweitzer emphasizes their collective heroism on the first page of his book. And his own naturalistic understanding of the man Jesus as a stark and mistaken prophet of apocalypse certainly has more in common with the other naturalistic views he surveys than with the entrenched supernaturalist camp.

By way of preparation, anyone not very familiar with the four gospels should first spend several days carefully reading all of them (or at the very least Mark and John) and taking good notes before beginning to read Schweitzer's dense book. That preparation will vividly reveal some of the glaring differences (and similarities) among the gospels. The historical reality behind those largely fictional gospels is the major focus of the scholars whom Schweitzer discusses. He makes it clear that the different versions of the mind of Jesus and the course of his career depicted in each of the four gospels are as much to blame for the many different scholarly "lives" of Jesus as are those scholars and their times.

After reading Schweitzer's "Quest," or at least a sizeable portion of it, please share it with friends or family members and ask them to do likewise for others. Spread the good word. Discuss it at length. We Americans especially, given our gullibility and inclination to extremes, urgently need to know the sobering facts behind our ancient religious legends.
65 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST for theologians, pastors, & serious Christians 19 July 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I don't think the above review understood the central theme or the historical importance of this monumental work. Fortunately, Mr. Price's eloquent review (below) explains Dr. Schweitzer's theme well: that most theologians who attempt to reconstruct the Gospels & the life of Jesus are simply projecting their own values onto the subject. The result is a normative portrayal of a "Christ of Faith," NOT a "historical Jesus." In fact, the "real" Jesus recedes into historical background as the authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John also project their own values & interpretation onto Jesus' life. Who is Jesus, then? That is a question of faith, not a question of history.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monumental 12 Feb 2006
By Peter Kenney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
THE QUEST OF THE HISTORICAL JESUS is Albert Schweitzer's monumental attempt to review and comment on the research done on the historical Jesus mostly in the nineteenth century. The book covers the work of Herman Samuel Reimarus, Paulus, David Friedrich Strauss, Bruno Bauer and many others.

Strauss was particularly important since his analysis of the Gospels' miraculous stories was that they were mythical. For this he was attacked by other scholars of his time although his basic idea about the mythical character of the biblical miracles has steadily gained popularity among academics. Schweitzer, on the other hand, saw Jesus as a prophet who had a strong apocalyptic message for the world. Everything Jesus said and did was influenced by his belief that the end was near, according to Schweitzer.

Schweitzer's work helped to lay the groundwork for future research on the historical Jesus. All subsequent research, including that of the Jesus Seminar, has owed a debt to Albert Schweitzer.
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