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Strauss, David Friedrich


Protestant theologian of the Tübingen school, the principal representative of the mythological interpretation of the Gospels through the application of the dialectic of G. W. F. hegel; b. Ludwigsburg, Germany, Jan. 29, 1808; d. there, Feb. 8, 1874. During his early years, Strauss embraced Hegelianism and made it the basis of all his subsequent speculative thought. His monumental two-volume work Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet (Tübingen 183536) profoundly affected Gospel scholarship of the following century. Beginning with Hegel's rationalistic a priori philosophic tenets and prejudices against the supernatural, Strauss extended the mythological theory of W. de Wette to the Gospels by asking whether it is possible to accept their testimony as historical. Strauss answered in the negative. The Christ of faith exists as the product of a credulous mythcreating community. The Evangelical myth falls into two types: (1) pure myth arising from the messianic portrait of the OT and from the application of this portrait to Jesus; (2) historical myth consisting of highly mythologized stories embodying the popular aspirations of the community. Christianity is not destroyed in its internal essence, according to Strauss, by the Evangelical myth since all religion is based on ideas, not facts. These extreme views provoked a reaction that produced the liberal school (e.g.,J. E. renan, A. von harnack) that vainly attempted to recover the historical Jesus and ended in finding only an ideal, dynamic personality. In turn, there arose the eschatological school (still under the influence of Leben Jesu ) that forever lost hope of recovering the historical Jesus (e.g., A. Schweitzer). Other important works of Strauss were: Der alte und neue Glaube (Leipzig 1872) and Der Christus des glaubens und der Jesus der Geschichte (Berlin 1865) mit Nachwort (1873).

Bibliography: f. mussner, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2 9:110809. e. schott, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart 3 6:416417.

[j. e. lazur]

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