Strauss's Das Leben Jesu, kritisch bearbeitet (The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined) was a sensation. Carl August von Eschenmayer wrote a review in 1835 called "The Iscariotism of our days" (a review which Strauss characterised as 'the offspring of the legitimate marriage between theological ignorance and religious intolerance, blessed by a sleep-walking philosophy'). The Earl of Shaftesbury called the 1846 translation by Marian Evans "the most pestilential book ever vomited out of the jaws of hell." When Strauss was elected to a chair of theology in the University of Zürich, the appointment provoked such a storm of controversy that the authorities decided to pension him before he began his duties.
What made Das Leben Jesu so controversial was Strauss's characterization of the miraculous elements in the gospels as being "mythical" in character. Strauss's Das Leben Jesu closed a period in which scholars wrestled with the miraculous nature of the New Testament in the rational views of the Enlightenment. One group consisted of "rationalists", who found logical, rational explanations for the apparently miraculous occurrences; the other group, the "supernaturalists", defended not only the historical accuracy of the biblical accounts, but also the element of direct divine intervention. Strauss dispels the actuality of the stories as "happenings" and reads them solely on a mythic level. Moving from miracle to miracle, he understood all as the product of the early church's use of Jewish ideas about what the Messiah would be like, in order to express the conviction that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. With time the book created a new epoch in the textual and historical treatment of the rise of Christianity.
In 1840 and the following year Strauss published his On Christian Doctrine (Christliche Glaubenslehre) in two volumes. The main principle of this new work was that the history of Christian doctrines has basically been the history of their disintegration.
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