Quest of the Historical Jesus

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Albert Schweitzer (1875—1965) German theologian, musician, and medical missionary, born in Alsace

Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694—1768)

G. E. Lessing (1729—1781) German dramatist and critic

Martin Kähler (1835—1912)

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The English translation of A. Schweitzer's Von Reimarus zu Wrede (1906) was published as The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1910), and this title has provided a label for the post-Enlightenment attempts to reconstruct the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth by critical historical methods.

The conclusions of the pioneer work of H. S. Reimarus became known when G. E. Lessing published the Wolfenbüttel fragments in 1774–8. The subsequent challenge to the historicity of the Gospels by D. F. Strauss in his Leben Jesu (1835) set Gospel criticism on its modern course. The floodgates of attempts to portray Jesus simply as a human person were opened by J. E. Renan in 1863. This became the central task of later liberal Protestantism in Germany and of the Social Gospel movement in America. Despite the repudiation of the quest by K. Barth and R. Bultmann, it was renewed by some of the latter's pupils in the 1950s (the ‘New Quest’), and outside the Bultmann school continued without a break. See also Jesus Christ.

Subjects: Christianity.

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