Strauss was born and died at Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart. At twelve he was sent to the Protestant (evangelische Gr.) seminary at Blaubeuren, near Ulm, to be prepared for the study of theology. Amongst the principal masters in the school were Professors Friedrich Heinrich Kern (1790–1842) and Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792–1860), who instilled in their pupils a deep appreciation for the ancient classics and the principles of textual criticism, which could be applied to texts in the sacred tradition as well as to classical ones. In 1825 Strauss entered the University of Tübingen. The professors of philosophy there failed to interest him, but he was strongly attracted by the writings of Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (1768–1834). In 1830 he became an assistant to a country clergyman, and nine months later accepted the post of professor in the Evangelical Seminaries of Maulbronn and Blaubeuren, where he would teach Latin, history and Hebrew.
In October 1831 Strauss resigned his office in order to study under Schleiermacher and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) in Berlin. Hegel died just as he arrived, and though Strauss regularly attended Schleiermacher's lectures, it was only those on the life of Jesus that interested him. Strauss tried to find kindred spirits amongst the followers of Hegel, but was not successful. While under the influence of Hegel's distinction between Vorstellung and Begriff, Strauss had already conceived the ideas found in his two principal theological works: Das Leben Jesu (Life of Jesus) and Christliche Glaubenslehre (Christian Dogma). Hegelians generally would not accept his conclusions. In 1832 Strauss returned to Tübingen, lecturing on logic, Plato, the history of philosophy and ethics with great success. However, in the fall of 1833 he resigned from this position in order to devote all his time to the completion of his Das Leben Jesu, published when he was 27 years old. The full original title of this work is Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet (Tübingen: 1835-1836), and it was translated from the fourth German edition into English by George Eliot (Marian Evans) (1819–1880) and published under the title The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined (3 vols., London, 1846).
Since the Hegelians in general rejected his Life of Jesus, Strauss defended his work in a booklet titled Streitschriften zur Verteidigung meiner Schrift uber das Leben Jesu und zur Charakteristik der gegenwärtigen Theologie (Tübingen: E. F. Osiander, 1837), which was finally translated into English by Marilyn Chapin Massey and published under the title In Defense of My 'Life of Jesus' Against the Hegelians (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1983). The famous scholar Bruno Bauer (1809–82) led the attack of the Hegelians on Strauss, and Bauer continued to attack Strauss in academic journals for years. When young Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844–1900) began criticizing Strauss, Bauer gave Nietzsche every support he could afford. In the third edition (1839) of Das Leben Jesu, and in Zwei friedliche Blätter (Two Peaceful Letters), Strauss made important concessions to his critics, some of which he withdrew, however, in the fourth edition (1840) of Das Leben Jesu.
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