Synopsis of Schweitzer's QHJ [Ch.9, Reactions to Strauss]

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Irish1975
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Synopsis of Schweitzer's QHJ [Ch.9, Reactions to Strauss]

Post by Irish1975 »

Albert Schweitzer’s Quest of the Historical Jesus (1st ed., tr. Montgomery, 1910) is accessible here on Early Christian Writings.

Links to earlier posts on:

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapters 4 & 5
Chapter 6
Chapters 7 & 8


Chapter 9

1. An enormous controversy erupted in Germany over Der Leben Jesu, but no interesting responses to it appeared, and Strauss was poorly skilled in polemics and debate.
2. The book posed three main problems for Christian Germany: (a) the rejection of the miracle stories as historically valid; (b) the connection of the Christ of faith with the Jesus of history; and (c) the relation of the 4th Gospel to the Synoptics.
3. A certain supernaturalism and obscurantism was the refuge for many professedly scientific theologians reacting to Strauss, who said “Yes!” to all miracles with coquettish insincerity.
4. One critic invoked Pascal’s obscurantist credo: ”Everything is fine for the elect, even in regard to the darkest obscurities of scripture, which they revere, because of the divine illumination they perceive in them. But everything is terrible for the damned, even in the clearest revelations of scripture, which they blaspheme, because of the obscurities they cannot comprehend.” (Tout tourne bien pour les élus, jusqu’aux obscurités de l’écriture, car ils les honorent à cause des clartés divines qu’ils y vont; et tout tourne en mal aux reprouvés, jusqu’aux clartés, car ils les blasphèment à cause des obscurités qu’ils n’entendent pas.)
5. The fear of Strauss moved some Protestants towards Catholicizing ideas.
6. One of the most popular attempts to refute Strauss was August Wilhelm Neander’s Life of Jesus (1837), which ran through 7 editions until 1872. Neander adopted the essentials of Schleiermacher’s view of miracle as a divine “influence upon nature, human or material.” Schweitzer: “The real piety of heart with which [Neander’s book] is imbued cannot conceal the fact that it is a patchwork of unsatisfactory compromises. It is the child of despair, and has perplexity for godfather. One cannot read it without pain.”
7. Rationalism was put to confusion by Strauss, and never recovered, despite a late effort by Ammon in the 1840s.
8. Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg (1802-69), a conservative supernaturalist, welcomed Strauss’s clarification of the battle lines between belief and unbelief: “Two nations are struggling in the womb of our time, and two only. They will be ever more definitely opposed to one another. Unbelief will more and more cast off the elements of faith to which it still clings, and faith will cast off its elements of unbelief. That will be an inestimable advantage. Had the Time-spirit continued to make concessions, concessions would constantly have to be made to it in return.”
9. Roman Catholics in both Germany and France began to take note of the impact of Hegel and Strauss, likening them to barbarians of yore under the walls of the Holy City.
10. But Strauss had won, and supernaturalism permanently separated itself from the serious study of history. By the 1860s, no one argued anymore about the problem of miracles. But the problem remains and can never be solved. The modern theologian/critic can only leave a question mark beside these narratives. Some in Schweitzer’s own time engaged in the pretense of writing about the resurrection “as pure historians,” without admitting candidly whether or not they believed the event to be possible. Such complacency and sophistry is possible only because of the unshakable foundation laid by Strauss.
11. Most critics in the immediate aftermath of Strauss's book propagated the false impression that he had entirely dissolved the life of Jesus into myth. Three satires appeared which showed the lives of Luther, Napoleon, and Strauss himself to have been merely mythical.
12. The very idea of separating out a Jesus of history from the Christ of faith reflected Strauss’s Hegelian premises, which brought him to a certain attitude towards the truth of history that he expressed vividly in reply to one of his critics: “The question which can be decided from the standpoint of the philosophy of religion is not whether what is narrated in the Gospels actually happened or not, but whether in view of the truth of certain conceptions it must necessarily have happened. And in regard to this, what I assert is that from the general system of the Hegelian philosophy it by no means necessarily follows that such an event must have happened, but that, from the standpoint of the system, the truth of that history from which actually the conception arose is reduced to a matter of indifference; it may have happened, but it may just as well not have happened, and the task of deciding on this point may be calmly handed over to historical criticism.”
13. Prior to Strauss, Hase and Schleiermacher had retreated from the Synoptics into a Johannine fortress in order to protect rationalism. But now that retreat was exposed as fundamentally unsound, and doomed. The fall of the 4th Gospel was momentous, causing a surrender of the historical tradition as a whole. But only a few minds absorbed this result. “There is no position so desperate that theology cannot find a way out of it.” Elaborate theories of the prior editing of the material of the Gospels emerged as a conservative strategy.
14. In confused reaction to his critics, Strauss in the 3rd edition expressed doubts about his doubts about the authenticity of the Johannine Gospel; these were again retracted in the 4th edition. Thus in the Strauss era, criticism was at a stand-still about which of the 4 Gospels could possibly be the original framework or ground plan for the others. The time was ripe for the "Marcan hypothesis" to emerge.
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Re: Synopsis of Schweitzer's QHJ [Ch.9, Reactions to Strauss]

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The expressions of obscurantism and apocalyptic dualism in points 4 and 8 reflect an essentially permanent reflex response of conservative Christianity. People think exactly this way in 2021, even though no liberals today think like Strauss (much less Hegel). Century after century, the Biblical worldview asserts itself consistently and ruthlessly against its enemies. There is something here that never changes.

Which is why I cannot take postmodernism seriously as a hermeneutic stance. DC Hindley wrote in some earlier threads:
DCHindley wrote: Tue May 11, 2021 11:13 am You are right, though, when you suppose that "theologians, or any believers who practice scholarship, are blinded, not by erudition, but by a desire to construct whatever “historical” foundation they imagine to be necessary for the vindication of what they believe."

This is why I like to utilize postmodern interpretive schemas. It recognizes that in each age, "truth" re-invents itself in relationship to what the beliefs of the age are.

I am not sure why, but this idea scares the holy crap out of many moderns who wish for, even hope for, an "absolute truth."

DCH
DCHindley wrote: Wed May 19, 2021 2:53 pm This was before postmodernism. Schweitzer certainly had an idea of what historical scholarship should be about. However, I think he was concerned that Renan et al were just throwing out random ideas as to what Jesus was really like.

In postmodern talk, this means Schweitzer is aware that modern interpreters are influenced by the spirit of the age in which they write. However, Schweitzer was in pursuit of the "truth" which modernists believe can be approached with difficulty by means of rigorous methodological standards.

There is a discussion about this in Alun Munslow's Deconstructing History. Munslow is also heavily in debt to Hayden V White, who attempted (and largely succeeded) to critique this idea as romantic emplotment.

DCH
It is ideologically expedient, no doubt, for Christianity to clothe itself in the garb of postmodernism (not that this happens much anymore, but suppose that it does), and thus to assume a posture of epistemic humility. But it doesn't work that way. The text of the Bible essentially never changes, and that is the "grand narrative" that Christianity sneaks in underneath a generally specious rhetorical attack on Kant, the Enlightenment, Modernism, and Marxism, and other capitalized monstrosities. The Bible is always stronger than these because it is neither an abstraction nor belief, but words and text, i.e. real things that endure.

Alongside the Bible there is always the possibility (today, in 2021 in North America, a frightening actuality) of ultimate recourse to obscurantism and apocalyptic dualism. In practice it is only the critics of the Bible who must assume the burdens of modern criticism ("Well we don't know this and that, but we'd like to, and here's my conjecture, blah blah"), whereas Christian theology always gets exactly what it wants: the endurance of the Bible. Christians already have the truth as they want it, and their exegesis is always a game that they cannot lose as long as the Canon maintains its dominance. There is no actual "truth re-inventing itself according to the spirit of the age" for them, since they have the Canon in their favor.

(I always feel like an idiot when discussing postmodernism, but that's what I've got.)
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