Few books are revolutionary in their impact, but Strauss's LIFE
OF JESUS CRITICALLY EXAMINED is surely one of them. When
first published, it caused a sensation, and cost him his career as a
theologian, because it seemed to make solid historical knowledge of
Jesus impossible. Consequently, in one way or other all
subsequent "Lives of Jesus" area attempts, acknowledged or
not, to confirm, correct, or refute Strauss's analysis of the Gospel
evidence. Because the historical figure of Jesus continues to fascinate,
whoever wants to understand what is entailed in the "quest for
the historical Jesus" as well the "Lives of Jesus"
phenomenon, including its current forms, should read and ponder
Strauss's epochal book.
The Hodgson edition makes available nor only George Elliot's
translation of the fourth edition, but also provides an excellent
introduction, useful notes, and translations of Strauss's prefaces
to all previous German editions. Of these, the capital preface
to the still untranslated third edition, in which Strauss
accommodated his views in the direction of Schleiermacher, is
especially instructive. No student of 19th or 20th century
theology can ignore this book.
Leander E. Keck
Winkley Professor of Biblical Theology
Yale Divinity School
The two-volume LIFE OF JESUS by David
Freidrich Strauss in 1835 is one of the landmark treatments in Leben-Jesu
research. It is good to have it back in print in the
translation of Mary Ann Evans (novelist George Eliot) and with
the detailed introduction by Peter Hodgeson, providing setting
in the lifetime of Strauss and analysis of his subsequent editions.
Older assessments saw in Strauss roots for later eschatological
concerns, form and redaction criticism. We can now note that
he paid considerable attention to narrative, deconstructed many a
pericope, and sought the idea behind the imageries. So caught
up in his critical, negative analysis did Strauss become that he
provided only in a "Concluding Dissertation" his attempt
to "reestablish dogmatically what had been
destroyed." It is a book that cost Strauss his career in
a Swabian tragedy, but it sent studies of Jesus in new directions,
with impact even till today.
Professor of New Testament Studies
Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia