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Renan, Joseph-Ernest

Renan, Joseph-Ernest (1823–92). Historian of Jewish and Christian religion. He prepared for the priesthood in France, but felt unable to proceed to ordination. His work in Semitic languages led to his appointment as professor at the Collège de France. After an expedition to Syria and the Holy Land, he published, in 1863, Vie de Jésus, which won immediate fame (or notoriety). Renan attempted to rescue Jesus from the later impositions on his story made by enthusiastic disciples. Miracles, in particular, were either legends or embellishments of natural events. Renan was expelled from his post, not to be reinstated until the fall of the Second Empire in 1870. He continued to work on Histoire des origines du christianisme (1863–82, tr. 1897–1904), culminating in a study of Marcus Aurelius.

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