The Quest of the Historical Jesus

The Quest of the Historical Jesus

The Quest of the Historical Jesus

The Quest of the Historical Jesus


This groundbreaking work, which established the reputation of Albert Schweitzer as a theologian, traces the search for the historical figure of Jesus (apart from the Christ of faith) and establishes the author's own views.


Dennis Nineham

A revised edition of Schweitzer's classic work seems called for in view of the fact that all previous English editions have been based on the first German edition, published in 1906. in 1913, however, Schweitzer introduced modifications and additions (particularly the latter) so extensive as to make the second edition virtually a new book. the changes added very considerably to the value of the work, and as long ago as 1931 Schweitzer himself expressed his regret that the later English editions continued to be based on the original German one.

There may well be those, however, who feel that the publication of even a revised edition at the present time requires justification. the version now offered is based on the ninth German edition published in 1984, but Schweitzer made no changes of any significance after the appearance of the second edition, so even the latest strand in what follows dates from 1913.

At a time of unprecedented change in religious thought it may well be asked what useful contribution can be expected from a book published over ninety years ago, especially as many of the views and theories with which it deals were already very much past history at the time of its publication.

Schweitzer himself provides a partial answer when he remarks, as he does several times, how slow New Testament scholars are to learn from the experience of the past. If, as he rightly says, 'No one can justly criticize, or appraise the value of, new contributions to the study of this subject unless he knows in what forms they have been presented before', this book might be expected to have been a godsend to all those who wanted to engage in serious study of Gospel problems and the life of Jesus. in fact, however, what Schweitzer says about a book by David Friedrich Strauss can be applied all too exactly to his own work:

It is far from having lost its significance at the present day. It marked out the
ground which is now occupied by modern critical study and it filled in the
death-certificates of a whole series of explanations which at first sight have all
the air of being alive, but are not really so. If these continue to haunt present
day theology, it is only as ghosts, which can be put to flight by simply pro
nouncing the name of David Friedrich Strauss, and which would long ago
have ceased to walk if the theologians who regard Strauss' book as obsolete
would only take the trouble to read it.

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