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The Quest of the Historical Jesus Paperback – February 11, 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

The best introduction to the subject... Scholarly and urbane... A fine example of critical exposition... A mystery story on the highest possible level, enlivened by Dr. Schweitzer's wit, and enriched by his effective command of simile and metaphor... Affords a wide view of the whole library of critical theology.

(Saturday Review) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Dover Ed edition (February 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486440273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486440279
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #391,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert M. Price on March 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is a turning point in the history of Jesus studies. Schweitzer demonstrates how previous research was really an (unwitting) attempt by liberal and rationalist theologians to proof-text a Jesus who would embarrass orthodox Protestantism and serve as a figurehead for liberal ("Fatherhood of God, Brotherhood of Man") Christianity. Schweitzer showed how each historical reconstruction of Jesus uncannily matched the beliefs and agenda of the scholar in question. But Schweitzer knew the Christ of orthodoxy was not the historical Jesus either. One could only discover the latter by being willing to find the unexpected, and Schweitzer thought he found a Jesus who was a prophet of the end of the world, who expected to judge the earth as the Son of Man, and who died tragically mistaken. Even so, he still serves as a beacon of spiritual force for the ages. As does Schweitzer's great book!
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Format: Paperback
This landmark classic demonstrates the cliche of "the painting telling more about the painter than the subject being painted". People use the gospels as a mirror for their own beliefs and reconstruct Jesus accordingly in their self-images. Schweitzer's Jesus, by contrast, stands on a foreign landscape of apocalyptic fanaticism -- a deluded prophet who thought he was God's instrument sent to announce the end of history; burning with apocalyptic zeal, marching to Jerusalem, confident he could force God's hand and usher in the kingdom through a voluntary death. But it didn't happen. Jesus was crushed by the system he defied, and the drama ended on the cross.

Even if Schweitzer's portrait of Jesus is a bit extreme, he got the basics right -- Jesus the eschatological prophet -- and closed the curtains on the liberal quest for Jesus. He was a prophet himself, for we have another liberal quest today in the work of the Jesus Seminar. Instead of Jesus the liberal Protestant, the Seminar gives us Jesus the liberal humanist, disguised as a non-apocalyptic sage. For more up-to-date works which follow Schweitzer's apocalyptic prophet, see E.P. Sanders' "The Historical Figure of Jesus", Paula Fredriksen's "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews", and Dale Allison's "Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet". Allison's book, in particular, is worth its weight in gold.
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Format: Paperback
This is the greatest book ever written about the historical Jesus, and it should be required reading for every college student. It is brilliant, profound, thrilling, and fairly easy to read (no Greek quotations to puzzle over, and lots of colorful phrases). The book is an intellectual detective story embedded in the solid framework of a chronological survey, vividly illuminating the theories of dozens of courageous New Testament scholars from about 1750 to 1900.

Schweitzer spends little time on supernaturalist theologians, Catholic or Protestant, and their ancient mythological god, "Jesus Christ." Instead he focuses on pioneering, critical, inquiring scholars such as Reimarus, Bahrdt, Venturini, Paulus, Hase, Schleiermacher, Strauss, Weisse, Bauer, Renan, Ghillany, and others, who sincerely sought the real Jesus of history, long covered up with magic and metaphysics.

Conservative and/or supernaturalist Christians often like to claim that Schweitzer's book shows how previous Jesus researchers mistakenly depicted a Jesus who merely reflected themselves and their own soft modern times - a "gentle Jesus meek and mild," or such like. That generalization is partly true, but mostly very misleading. The "liberalism" of those 18th and 19th century scholars actually consisted of their common naturalism, their search for natural explanations for the bizarre stories in the gospels. They were not so much mistaken as they were correct (or at least more correct than their supernaturalist opponents). They were not so much failures as they were successes, even heroes. Schweitzer emphasizes their collective heroism on the first page of his book.
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Format: Paperback
I don't think the above review understood the central theme or the historical importance of this monumental work. Fortunately, Mr. Price's eloquent review (below) explains Dr. Schweitzer's theme well: that most theologians who attempt to reconstruct the Gospels & the life of Jesus are simply projecting their own values onto the subject. The result is a normative portrayal of a "Christ of Faith," NOT a "historical Jesus." In fact, the "real" Jesus recedes into historical background as the authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John also project their own values & interpretation onto Jesus' life. Who is Jesus, then? That is a question of faith, not a question of history.
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Format: Paperback
THE QUEST OF THE HISTORICAL JESUS is Albert Schweitzer's monumental attempt to review and comment on the research done on the historical Jesus mostly in the nineteenth century. The book covers the work of Herman Samuel Reimarus, Paulus, David Friedrich Strauss, Bruno Bauer and many others.

Strauss was particularly important since his analysis of the Gospels' miraculous stories was that they were mythical. For this he was attacked by other scholars of his time although his basic idea about the mythical character of the biblical miracles has steadily gained popularity among academics. Schweitzer, on the other hand, saw Jesus as a prophet who had a strong apocalyptic message for the world. Everything Jesus said and did was influenced by his belief that the end was near, according to Schweitzer.

Schweitzer's work helped to lay the groundwork for future research on the historical Jesus. All subsequent research, including that of the Jesus Seminar, has owed a debt to Albert Schweitzer.
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