David Strauss - Critique

Critique

F. C. Baur once complained that Strauss's critique of the history in the gospels was not based on a thorough examination of the manuscript traditions of the documents themselves.

As Albert Schweitzer wrote in The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1906; ET 1910), Strauss's arguments "filled in the death-certificates of a whole series of explanations which, at first sight, have all the air of being alive, but are not really so." He adds that there are two broad periods of academic research in the quest for the historical Jesus, namely, "the period before David Strauss and the period after David Strauss." Marcus Borg has suggested that "the details of Strauss's argument, his use of Hegelian philosophy, and even his definition of myth, have not had a lasting impact. Yet his basic claims—that many of the gospel narratives are mythical in character, and that 'myth' is not simply to be equated with 'falsehood'—have become part of mainstream scholarship. What was wildly controversial in Strauss's time has now become one of the standard tools of biblical scholars."

One of the more controversial interpretations that Strauss introduced to the understanding of the historical Jesus, is his interpretation of Virgin Birth. In the Demythologization, Strauss's response was reminiscent of the German Rationalist movement in Protestant theology. According to Strauss, Jesus' Virgin Birth was added to the biography of Jesus as a legend in order to honor him in the way that Gentiles honored great historical figures. However, Strauss believed that the greater honor for Christ would have been to omit the Virgin Birth anecdote and to recognize Joseph as his legitimate father.

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