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The Quest of the Historical Jesus [Paperback]

By Albert Schweitzer (Author), W. Montgomery (Translator) & F. C. Burkitt (Preface by)
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Item description for The Quest of the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer, W. Montgomery & F. C. Burkitt...

In this groundbreaking work that made his reputation as a theologian, Albert Schweitzer traces the search for the historical person of Jesus (apart from the Christ of faith) and puts forward his own view of Jesus as an apocalyptic figure who preached a radical message of the coming of the Kingdom of God. Though Schweitzer's own proposals about Jesus no longer command assent, his lasting contribution, comprising the bulk of the book, is the critique of his predecessors. Through examining the works of more than 50 18th- and 19th-century authors and scholars, he shows conclusively that each historical reconstruction of Jesus was largely a fantasy made in their own self-image.
Schweitzer's work has proved the touchstone for all subsequent quests for the "Jesus of history." It also contributed in no small measure to the remarkable resurgence in Jesus studies in the latter part of the 20th century, which culminated in the much publicized and highly controversial findings of the Jesus Seminar.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Dover Publications
Pages   410
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.54" Width: 5.5" Height: 0.83"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 11, 2005
Publisher   Dover Publications
ISBN  0486440273  
ISBN13  9780486440279  

Availability  5 units.
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More About Albert Schweitzer, W. Montgomery & F. C. Burkitt

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Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. While still a young man he demonstrated extraordinary abilities in a wide range of pursuits, including science, theology, and music. In 1908 he published his magisterial study of the life and works of Johann Sebastian Bach. He studied medicine from 1905 to 1913 at the University of Strasbourg, then founded a hospital in French Equatorial Africa, where he spent most of the remainder of his life. Schweitzer used his Nobel Prize stipend to expand the hospital and to build a leper colony. His book The Primeval Forest is also available from Johns Hopkins.

Albert Schweitzer was born in 1875 and died in 1965.

Albert Schweitzer has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Albert Schweitzer Library
  2. Modern Spiritual Masters

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Authors, A-Z > ( S ) > Schweitzer, Albert
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Jesus > Historical Jesus
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Christology
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Quest of the Historical Jesus?

Orthodox Point of View  Apr 23, 2008
I am surprised the reviews are so one-sided over such a controversial subject matter. Let me provide an orthodox counterview.

Schweitzer spends 18 chapters going through various Germanic attempts at trying to remove all miracle and supernatural content within the Gospel texts while maintaining some coherent historical documentation that corrects the historical record.

The elimination of miracle and the requisite substitution of storyline from the imaginations of these men to fill the gaps leave Schweitzer to admit in more than one instance the ridiculousness of the "new history".

Schweitzer, however misses the starting point of what is at issue in his book. He presumes as axiomatic that neither miracles nor a theophany can happen in history. By definition this cannot be axiomatic because many great minds throughout history stedfastly believe both to be possible.

At a minimum Schweitzer should have presented the circular argument of Hume ("Miracles do not exist because I haven't witnessed any, therefore miracles cannot exist") before he began to present 18 meandering chapters of various theories from arm-chair historians postulated 19 centuries after the fact.

A tiring theme that Schweitzer harps on and on about is the sequence of events in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and John. However, the only Gospel that claims to record events in historical sequence is Luke and therefore Schweitzer is making an argument where there is none.

Opposed to the arm-chair theologians is the veracity of the text claimed to be told by eyewitnesses or close associates of eyewitnesses to the events and the price paid by them (death in over 90% of the cases) for the story they held to.

"The Quest of The Historical Jesus" will confirm, regardless of which side of the debate you are on, the following points:

1) The belief on Jesus Christ is a matter of Faith.
2) The Gospels stripped of miracles and the divinity of Christ become nonsense and incoherent.
3) The Christ of Schweitzer, who is merely a philosophical ideal of the early church rather than the God/Man in history, is no threat to the spirit of any age and does not get in the way of man being "the measure of all things."

It should not surprise that the Early Church and the power of its Miraculous Jesus of History, from a position of weakness, was able to transform the Roman Empire into the Holy Roman Empire, while the German Church of Schweitzer and his contemporaries with their philosophical ideal, from a position of strength and acceptance, could not withstand the forces of evil in Germany that would haunt mankind in the 20th century.
Quest of rhe Historical Jesus  Mar 4, 2008
The writing is a little thick at times, surely due to a combination of a century-old writing style together with the translation from German. However, the translation ends up being brilliant and captures the heart and soul of what Schweitzer was trying to say. I got caught up in the book. For anyone interested in the history behind the "Quest," or its current roots and currents, this book is a "must." For some Christians, parts of its contents may be troubling -- I believe in a way that challenges faith in a positive way, and ultimately, deepens it for many people.
Hasn't Lost a Bit of Relevance  Jan 7, 2008
Though it could benefit from 20th-century discoveries about the nature of Jewish apocalyptic, Schweitzer's majestically written, often devastating analysis of the covert theology-as-history of German academia is timeless. He gives all a fair shake, particularly Strauss, certainly the 19th century's boldest and most original quester, and finally shows that all are insufficient to account for the (apparently quite embarrassing) fact of Jesus' intense eschatology. His work is still applicable to the innumerable "liberal" portraits we're treated to nowadays (one thinks especially of John Dominic Crossan, though I find much of his work laudatory for other reasons), to say nothing of the televangelist's Jesus or the nauseating, "your best friend" youth-group Jesus. Indispensable.
Heroic Scholars  Dec 10, 2007
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. And his own naturalistic understanding of the man Jesus as a stark and mistaken prophet of apocalypse certainly has more in common with the other naturalistic views he surveys than with the entrenched supernaturalist camp.

By way of preparation, anyone not very familiar with the four gospels should first spend several days carefully reading all of them (or at the very least Mark and John) and taking good notes before beginning to read Schweitzer's dense book. That preparation will vividly reveal some of the glaring differences (and similarities) among the gospels. The historical reality behind those largely fictional gospels is the major focus of the scholars whom Schweitzer discusses. He makes it clear that the different versions of the mind of Jesus and the course of his career depicted in each of the four gospels are as much to blame for the many different scholarly "lives" of Jesus as are those scholars and their times.

After reading Schweitzer's "Quest," or at least a sizeable portion of it, please share it with friends or family members and ask them to do likewise for others. Spread the good word. Discuss it at length. We Americans especially, given our gullibility and inclination to extremes, urgently need to know the sobering facts behind our ancient religious legends.
Misunderstood classic  Jan 11, 2007
For over one hundred years people have been misinterpreting this book, or at least focusing on a secondary issue. Yes, Schweitzer does show how views of Jesus mirror the culture of the writers who write about him. But that is not as important as the fact that the Jesus who emerges from scholarship is probably not very appealing to modern people. He was not a loving Saviour giving his life for others. He was a Jewish apocalyptic prophet interested only in divine intervention to save Israel and destroy the Romans and other ungodly gentiles. He failed in that God did not intervene, neither to save Israel not to save Jesus from death. Thus Christianity as we know it is a hoax, a delusion, a fairy tale. This is the meaning of Schweitzer's great discovery.

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