The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Strauss, David Friedrich

STRAUSS, David Friedrich, a German theologian, born in Ludwigsburg, Würtemberg, Jan. 27, 1808, died in Berlin, Feb. 9, 1874. He was educated at Blaubeuren and Tübingen, was curate in 1830 and professor at Maulbronn in 1831, and in 1832 became Repetent in the theological seminary at Tübingen, where he also lectured on the Hegelian philosophy in the university. His name was unknown when he published Das Leben Jesu (2 vols., Tübingen, 1835; translated by Marian Evans, now Mrs. Lewes, 3 vols., London, 1846; new ed., 2 vols., New York, 1860), which was republished by him in 1864, after the appearance of Renan's work on Jesus, under the title Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk bearbeitet (latest ed., 1874). Its design is to critically establish for Christianity a mythical instead of a historical basis, to resolve the Gospels into popular legends, and the miracles into significant poetry. It supposes the existence of Jesus, an exemplary and reformatory rabbi of Galilee; that he lived and died an enthusiastic and admired teacher and innovator; that after his death many marvellous incidents concerning him gradually gained currency; that some of these were exaggerations of actual events, and others symbolical forms in which his disciples clothed his doctrines and precepts; that these wonderful narratives were not produced by single persons, but were the spontaneous outgrowth of poetical and philosophical tendencies in the early church, of which, after being circulated orally for about a century, various compilations were written. The second part of the work assigns a new meaning to the New Testament. The career of Christ symbolizes the moral history of mankind. Humanity is God manifest in the flesh, sinless, working miracles, dying, rising, and ascending to heaven. Thus the narrative applies not to an individual, but to the race; the dogmas are true, though the history is false. Strauss was deprived of his position as Repetent, and became a teacher at Ludwigsburg, and afterward in Stuttgart. In 1837 he replied to his critics by three volumes of Streitschriften, and in 1838 by Zwei friedliche Blätter, but subsequently availed himself of the new editions of his work to controvert his opponents. In 1839 he went to Zürich as professor of dogmatics and church history, but was soon dismissed with a pension, and his nomination resulted in the speedy downfall of the local radical government. In 1840 he married the vocalist Agnes Schebest, but was separated from her. In 1848 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Frankfort parliament, but was elected to the diet at Stuttgart, from which he withdrew in December on account of the unpopularity of his political conservatism. In 1872 he returned to his native town after a long residence at Darmstadt. His other principal works are: Die christliche Glaubenslehre in ihrer geschichtlichen Entwickelung und in ihrem Kampfe mit der modernen Wissenschaft (2 vols., Tübingen, 1840-'41); Der Romantiker auf dem Throne der Cäsaren, oder Julian der Abtrünnige (Mannheim, 1847); Ulrich von Hutten (3 vols., 1858-'60; 2d ed., 1871; English translation by Mrs. Sturge, London, 1874); Voltaire (1870; 3d ed., 1872); Krieg und Friede, his correspondence with Renan on the Franco-German war (1870); and Der alte und der neue Glaube, ein Bekenntniss (1872), showing the contrast between liberty of thought and ecclesiastical domination, and adhering to the latest results of scientific investigations and to materialistic views of the universe. This last of his works created a no less profound sensation than his first. Charles Ritter has published a selected French translation of his minor essays, under the title of Essais d'histoire religieuse et mélanges littéraires, with an introduction by Renan (Paris, 1872).—See David Friedrich Strauss in seinem Leben und seinen Schriften geschildert, by Eduard Zeller (Leipsic, 1874; English translation, London, 1874).