Straussâ•Žs Life of Jesus

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Strauss’s Life of Jesus

Theodore Parker

West Roxbury Unitarian Church

Paul Royster (depositor)

University of Nebraska-Lincoln,

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Parker, Theodore and Royster, Paul (depositor), "Strauss’s Life of Jesus" (1840). Electronic Texts in American Studies. Paper 7.










Published originally in the Christian Examiner for April, 1840. Reprinted 

from The Critical and Miscellaneous Writings of Theodore Parker (Bos-

ton: James Munroe and Company, 1843), pp. 248–308.

Strauss’s Life of Jesus.

Das Leben Jesu, Kritisch bearbeitet von Dr. D







. Tübingen: 1837. 2 voll. 8vo. The Life of Jesus, criti-

cally treated, &c. Second improved edition. (1st edition, 1835, 

3d, 1839, 4th, 1842.) 



 work above named is one of profound theological signifi -

cance. It marks the age we live in, and to judge from its char-

acter and the interest it has already excited, will make an ep-

och in theological affairs. It is a book whose infl uence, for good 

and for evil, will not soon pass away. Taken by itself, it is the 

most remarkable work that has appeared in theology, for the 

last hundred and fi fty years, or since Richard Simon published 

his Critical History of the Old Testament; viewed in reference 

to its present effect, it may well be compared to Tindal’s cel-

ebrated work. “Christianity as old as the Creation,” to which, 

we are told, more than six score replies have been made. We 

do not propose to give any answer to the work of Mr. Strauss, 

or to draw a line between what we consider false, and what is 

true; but only to give a description and brief analysis of the 

work itself, that the good and evil to be expected therefrom 

may be made evident. But before we address ourselves to this 

work, we must say a brief word respecting the comparative po-

sition of Germany and England in regard to Theology.

On the fourth day of July, in the year of Grace one thou-

sand seven hundred and fi fty-seven, died at Halle, in Ger-

many, Sigismund Jacob Baumgarten; a man who was deemed


a great light in his time. Some thought that Theology died with 

him. A few, perhaps more than a few, at one time doubted his 

soundness in the faith, for he studied Philosophy, the Philos-

ophy of Wolf, and there are always men, in Pulpits and Par-

lors, who think Philosophy is curious in unnecessary matters, 

meddling with things that are too high for the human arm to 

reach. Such was the case in Baumgarten’s time in Halle of Sax-

ony. Such is it now, not in Halle of Saxony, but in a great many 

places nearer home. But Dr. Baumgarten outlived this suspi-

cion, we are told, and avenged himself, in the most natural way, 

by visiting with thunders all such as differed from himself; a se-

cret satisfaction which some young men, we are told, hope one 

day to enjoy. Baumgarten may be taken, perhaps, as represent-

ing the advanced post in German theology in the middle of the 

last century. A few words, from one of the greatest critical schol-

ars Europe has produced, will serve to show what that post was 

a hundred years ago. “He attempted, by means of history and 

philosophy, to throw light upon theological subjects, but wholly 

neglecting philology and criticism, and unacquainted with 

the best sources of knowledge, he was unable to free religion 

from its corruptions. Everything that the church taught passed 

with him for infallible truth. He did not take pains to inquire 

whether it agreed with Scripture or common sense. Devoted 

to the church, he assumed its doctrines, and fortifi ed its tradi-

tions with the show of demonstrations, as with insurmount-

able walls of defence. His scholars were no less prompt and pos-

itive in their decisions than their master. Every dogma of their 

teacher was received by them, as it were, a mathematical cer-

tainty, and his polemics exhibited to them the Lutheran church, 

in exclusive possession of the truth, and resigned all other 

sects covered with shame and contempt to their respective er-

rors. Everything appeared to be so clearly exhibited and proved 

by him, that there seemed to be nothing left for future schol-

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