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David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography
 0198859856, 9780198859857

Table of contents :
Contents
Preface
Introduction
1. Historical Significance of Das Leben Jesu
2. Reputation and Reality
3. Context and Background
4. Tübingen Lectures
5. Strauß’s Method and Its Problems
6. The Theory of Myth
7. Reaction, Demotion, and Exile
8. The Rogue’s Gallery
9. Crisis and Compromise
10. The Zurich Affair
11. The Doctrine of the Christian Faith
12. Career in Politics and Political Writings
13. Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk
14. Two Polemics of the 1860s
15. The New and the Old Faith
16. Three Critics
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

OUP CORRECTED AUTOPAGE PROOFS – FINAL, 25/7/2020, SPi

David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief

OUP CORRECTED AUTOPAGE PROOFS – FINAL, 25/7/2020, SPi

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David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief An Intellectual Biography FREDERICK C. BEISER

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Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP, United Kingdom Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries © Frederick C. Beiser 2020 The moral rights of the author have been asserted First Edition published in 2020 Impression: 1 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by licence or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available Library of Congress Control Number: 2020934981 ISBN 978–0–19–885985–7 Printed and bound in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, Elcograf S.p.A. Links to third party websites are provided by Oxford in good faith and for information only. Oxford disclaims any responsibility for the materials contained in any third party website referenced in this work.

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Contents Preface

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Introduction

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1. Historical Significance of Das Leben Jesu 1.1 A Revolutionary Book 1.2 The Political Reaction

6 6 9

2. Reputation and Reality 2.1 A Political Moderate 2.2 A Defender of the Faith

14 14 16

3. Context and Background 3.1 Early Education 3.2 Birth of a Rationalist 3.3 Discovery of Hegel 3.4 The Conflict between Reason and Faith 3.5 The Dilemmas of a Young Pastor 3.6 Journey to Berlin

21 21 24 27 30 34 36

4. Tübingen Lectures 4.1 A Philosophical Lecturer 4.2 Lectures on Logic and Metaphysics 4.3 Lectures on the History of Philosophy 4.4 Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy

40 40 42 45 51

5. Strauß’s Method and Its Problems 5.1 A Method without Presuppositions? 5.2 The Negative and Positive Sides of Critique 5.3 A Hegelian Method?

54 54 59 61

6. The Theory of Myth 6.1 Origins 6.2 Problems of Definition 6.3 Volksgeist

66 66 69 71

7. Reaction, Demotion, and Exile 7.1 The Verdict 7.2 Ludwigsburg Blues 7.3 The Second Edition

73 73 76 80

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8. The Rogue’s Gallery 8.1 Lining up the Duckies 8.2 Uncle Johann 8.3 The Revenge of Judas 8.4 The Art and Power of Criticism 8.5 Two Odd Bedfellows 8.6 An Internecine Quarrel 8.7 Looking Forward and a Missed Opportunity

84 84 86 91 97 101 105 109

9. Crisis and Compromise 9.1 The Crisis 9.2 The Third Edition: The Gospel of John 9.3 The Third Edition: Status of Jesus 9.4 An Olive Branch

114 114 118 123 125

10. The Zurich Affair 10.1 Hopes for Zurich 10.2 Apparent Success and Disaster 10.3 Schleiermacher and Daub

132 132 135 139

11. The Doctrine of the Christian Faith 11.1 An Apostate’s Compendium 11.2 Critique of Revelation 11.3 An Abiding but Ambiguous Hegelian Program 11.4 Sin and Evil 11.5 Reconciliation 11.6 Grace 11.7 Incarnation 11.8 Immortality of the Soul

147 147 152 159 163 167 170 173 176

12. Career in Politics and Political Writings 12.1 Strauß and Politics 12.2 A Romantic on the Throne 12.3 Political Fictions 12.4 The Jewish Question 12.5 Religious and Political Liberalism 12.6 Toward a Political Philosophy 12.7 Election Campaign for the Frankfurt Parliament 12.8 The Deputy of the Württemberg Parliament

180 180 183 186 189 193 196 202 207

13. Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk 13.1 A New Life of Jesus 13.2 The Origins of the Gospels 13.3 Revision and Defense of Myth 13.4 Jesus Christ, Revolutionary Moralist and Schwärmer 13.5 The Raising of Lazarus 13.6 Overview of the Editions

213 213 218 221 225 231 236

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14. Two Polemics of the 1860s 14.1 The Halves and the Wholes 14.2 Strauß, Schleiermacher, and the Sirens’ Song

238 238 245

15. The New and the Old Faith 15.1 A Catechism for Freethinkers 15.2 Standpoint and Aim of the Book 15.3 Are We Still Christians? 15.4 A New Theory of Religion 15.5 A Freethinker’s Cosmology 15.6 Strauß’s Alleged Materialism 15.7 A Humanist Ethic 15.8 The Politics of an Older Man

252 252 253 255 258 261 263 264 266

16. Three Critics 16.1 Nietzsche 16.2 Treitschke 16.3 Schweitzer

270 270 274 276

Bibliography Index

281 289

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Preface The purpose of this book is to help preserve the legacy of David Friedrich Strauß, a thinker on the brink of oblivion in the anglophone world. Although it is a defense of Strauß, it is not intended as a critique of Christianity itself. Even if we accept the full force of Strauß’s biblical criticism, it should be clear that this does not undermine the Christian faith, which need not depend on belief in the literal historical truth of the Bible. Strauß’s great achievement was the critique of that belief, which was a mainstay of orthodox Protestantism for centuries; but it should be clear that his critique does not foreclose the possibility of interpreting the Bible in all kinds of non-literal senses. The occasion of this book was an invitation to speak at a conference in Cambridge University on theology and politics in Germany from 1789 to 1848. The conference, which was held on July 10–11, 2017, was organized by Ruth Jackson and Hanna Weibye. I am extremely grateful for Mss. Jackson and Weibye for their invitation. It was the stimulus I needed to indulge my interest in David Friedrich Strauß. Given Strauß’s historical and cultural importance in Germany, there is a great need for a complete critical edition of his works and correspondence. Strauß’s Tübingen lectures, his many newspaper articles, and much of his correspondence have still not been published. Zeller’s 1876 edition of the Gesammelte Werke, despite the name, was by no means complete. Zeller collected only the works that Strauß wanted published according to his last will and testament; but these left out many writings he wished he never wrote, though for a historian they are sometimes the most interesting. Apparently, in the 1970s, the Frommann Verlag planned to publish a new edition of Strauß’s work; but, as far as I know, nothing ever came of it. My letter to this publisher concerning their plans went unanswered. This book contains the first account of Strauß’s Tübingen lectures in 1832–3. These lectures have been in manuscripts—either in Strauß’s hand or that of students—in the Württemberg Landesbibliothek and the Marbach Literaturarchiv. These libraries have digitalized these manuscripts for me, and they should now be available to whoever can read them. Reading them, however, is no easy task since they are in Kurrentschrift. They were transcribed for me into modern German by Edward Quinter, for whose efforts I am extremely grateful. I am also indebted to the College of Arts and Sciences of Syracuse University for financial support for the transcriptions. Syracuse, New York July 2019

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Introduction This book is an intellectual biography of one of the most controversial thinkers of nineteenth-century Germany: David Friedrich Strauß (1808–74). Such a study should need no apology. Strauß was a seminal figure of his age. He was nothing less than the father of modern unbelief in Germany. He was the leader of that parade of nineteenth-century German intellectuals—Feuerbach, Stirner, Marx, Schopenhauer, von Hartmann, Büchner, Haeckel, and Nietzsche—who attacked the authority of revealed religion and orthodox Christianity. This is the first comprehensive study of all Strauß’s most important theological and philosophical writings. It provides a close study of the content and context of all these writings and of his intellectual development from his youth to his final years. Although there have been several excellent intellectual biographies of Strauß, none of them can claim to be comprehensive. They have concentrated chiefly upon Strauß’s early work and his last one; but they have failed to investigate adequately, or have ignored entirely, many of his later works, more specifically, his 1840 Die christliche Glaubenslehre, his 1864 Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk, and his 1865 Der Christus des Glaubens und der Jesus der Geschichte. The present work provides a close analysis not only of these works, but also of many writings that have hitherto eluded scholarly attention, especially Strauß’s political writings. For the first time, this study will give an account of Strauß’s early Tübingen lectures,¹ which have been moldering in library basements. Though these lectures were “sensational” in their day, and though they also mark a crucial stage in Strauß’s intellectual development, they have been almost entirely neglected by scholars. The chief focus of this work is upon Strauß as a philosopher and theologian. Though Strauß was also a notable historian and biographer, no attempt is made to cover his historical and biographical writings. This work also does not attempt to be a complete biography. I have made no effort to cover the main events in

¹ The only account of these lectures I have been able to find is in Jörg Sandberger’s David Friedrich Strauß als theologischer Hegelianer (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1972), pp. 66–74. Sandberger did not work from the complete manuscript of the logic and metaphysics lectures but only from portions made available to him by Walter Sachs, who was supposed to publish the manuscripts for a new edition of Strauß’s works in Friedrich Frommann Verlag. This new edition has never appeared. The author had to obtain his copy of these manuscripts from the Württemberg Landesbibliothek in Stuttgart and the Schiller-Nationalmuseum in Marbach. David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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Strauß’s life, his marriage, travels, and friendships. If I write about his personal crises, that is only because of their important impact on his work. This study is not only an examination of Strauß’s work but also a defense of it. Strauß’s legacy remains very troubling for Christianity. His objections against the historical credibility of the New Testament remain as challenging today as they were nearly two centuries ago. For this reason, Strauß has been, and is still today, a controversial figure. After nearly two hundred years, it might seem a hopeless proposition to revive Strauß. He was very much a figure of his age; and he seems no more relevant today than the neo-Hegelian movement to which he once belonged. Hegel is indeed dead, now that the modern age has lost “its taste for the absolute”; and so, it would seem, Strauß must be dead too as a satellite of Hegel. Yet Strauß’s stature transcends his short-lived allegiance to Hegelianism. His main claim to fame rests on his critique of revealed Christianity, which remains as relevant today as it was in the 1830s. His critique presupposes no Hegelian metaphysics; and it is based solely on a careful and thorough internal examination of the canonical texts of the New Testament. It would be foolish to think that Strauß “refuted” Christianity; but it would be even more foolish to assume that one can ignore his criticisms. Strauß’s critique put the onus of proof on the defenders of Christianity; and it remains a burden to this day. In the late 1830s Strauß went through a gauntlet of criticisms from theologians of all confessions and parties; but it is painful to see how much his critics begged questions against him and how they failed to appreciate the challenge he posed. In the early twentieth century Albert Schweitzer and Karl Barth, two major Protestant theologians, acknowledged how much Strauß’s critics had failed to answer him.² Those who declared Strauß surpassed, they remarked, were precisely those who had been surpassed by him. The great strength of Strauß’s critique of Christianity is that it was entirely immanent, examining the Bible strictly according to its own claims of historical truth. It investigates the Bible according to the standards of historical criticism, which involve internal consistency, factual accuracy, and textual authenticity. It does not adopt therefore an external standard, whether be a psychological theory like Nietzsche’s or a scientific naturalism like Haeckel’s and Büchner’s. It is possible to reject these external criticisms wholesale if one does not accept the theory on which they are based. Strauß’s criticisms, however, have no such controversial premises; they can be rejected only on a case-by-case basis, by looking at the details of the text. It has often been said that Strauß’s critique presupposes a Hegelian metaphysics, as if one only has to reject that metaphysics

² Albert Schweitzer, Von Reimarus zu Wrede: Eine Geschichte der Leben-Jesu Forschung (Tübingen: Mohr, 1908), p. 82; Karl Barth, David Friedrich Strauß als Theologe, 1839–1939 (Zollikon: Verlag der Evangelishen Buchhandlung, 1939), p. 34.

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to protect Christianity. But Strauß’s method, for reasons we shall soon see, requires no metaphysics. He was primarily a practitioner of the method then called “historical critique,” which asks the same questions one uses to examine any historical document. Integral to Strauß’s critique of Christianity is his theory of myth, for which he became famous. Strauß called his own critique “the mythical standpoint” to distinguish it from other approaches to biblical interpretation. But it is then said: no part of his critique seems more antiquated today than his theory of myth. It seems to be a throwback to the romantic age, because it invokes the Volksgeist as its explanation for the origins of religion. The Volksgeist seems hopelessly obscure, an explanation obscurum per obscurius if there ever was one. There is some justification for this criticism insofar as Strauß, despite several attempts, never adequately explained his theory of myth, still less the idea of the Volksgeist behind it. Yet Strauß’s critics were too eager to throw the baby out with the bathwater. No one needs to believe in the reality of a mysterious entity to see the value of the concept of a Volksgeist. This concept denoted the whole and unity of a culture, the distinctive character of its art, religion, politics, and history. It does not refer to a kind of entity but should be understood as a regulative maxim, as a methodological rule which directs the researcher to investigate the social and cultural origins of a religion. The Volksgeist is not a thing but a maxim of holistic explanation, according to which the causes of religion lie in the characteristic values of a culture, in its unique history, institutions, and beliefs. The alternatives to such a methodological rule were, in Strauß’s day, the supernaturalist or naturalist theories: the supernaturalist believed that religion originated in revelation, the naturalistic in primitive science. Neither were plausible, however, and Strauß was correct to reject them. The great merit of his theory of myth is that it directs attention to the social, cultural, and political context and causes of religion. After his death in 1874, Strauß’s importance was quickly recognized. The year he died, Eduard Zeller, one of his closest friends, wrote an appreciative memoir about his life and work.³ Only two years later, in 1876, Adolf Hausrath published his pioneering two-volume study, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit,⁴ which still remains a crucial resource today for research on Strauß. Hausrath wisely decided to write on Strauß before memory of people, time, and place faded; his work therefore contains many interesting and important details which would otherwise have been forgotten. By the turn of the century, Strauß seemed to have become an established figure in the German intellectual pantheon. In 1899 Samuel

³ Eduard Zeller, David Friedrich Strauß in seinem Leben und seine Schriften (Bonn: Emil Strauß, 1874). ⁴ Adolf Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit (Heidelberg: Friedrich Bassermann, 1976), 2 vols.

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Eck,⁵ and in 1901 Karl Harraeus,⁶ published their studies of Strauß. The centennial of Strauß’s birth in 1908 gave a rich harvest: two studies, one by Kuno Fischer and another by Adolph Kohut,⁷ and another major biography, this one by Theobold Ziegler, David Friedrich Strauß.⁸ Ziegler’s two-volume work, which is in some respects the competitor and complement to Hausrath’s, is still valuable. After the 1908 centennial, scholarship on Strauß continued throughout the twentieth century. There has been a flood of articles, and at least two important monographs on the early Strauß, one by Gotthold Müller and another by Jörg Sandberger.⁹ After the centennial of his death, however, work on Strauß has steadily diminished.¹⁰ One exception to this rule is Jean-Marie Paul’s valuable study D. F. Strauss (1808–1874) et son époque.¹¹ Strauß has never been a complete stranger to the anglophone world. He was introduced to it early by George Eliot who translated Das Leben Jesu in 1846; since then, her translation, The Life of Jesus, has been published many times and is still in use. Resistance to Strauß began early too. In 1845 J. R. Beard published an anthology of translations of French and German clerics who wrote refutations of Strauß.¹² But the reaction to Strauß in the anglophone world never took on the dimensions that it had in Germany or France. In the twentieth century Strauß has been studied in the anglophone world mostly by those interested in the history of Hegelianism.¹³ The one major exception to this trend has been the biography by Horton Harris, David Friedrich Strauss and his Theology,¹⁴ which appeared for the centennial of Strauß’s death in 1974. Horton’s work is a careful and sympathetic biography of Strauß, based on a thorough knowledge of all the sources and the theology of his time.

⁵ Samuel Eck, David Friedrich Strauss (Stuttgart: J. G. Cotta, 1899). ⁶ Karl Harraeus, David Friedrich Strauss: Sein Leben und seine Schriften unter Heranziehung seiner Briefe dargestellt (Leipzig: Hermann Seemann Nachfolger, 1901). ⁷ Kuno Fischer, Über David Friedrich Strauß (Heidelberg: Carl Winger, 1908); and Adolph Kohut, David Friedrich Strauß als Denker und Erzieher (Leipzig: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 1908). ⁸ Theobold Ziegler, David Friedrich Strauß (Straßburg: Karl Trübner Verlag, 1908), 2 vols. ⁹ Gotthold Müller, Identität und Immanenz: Zur Genese der Theologie von D. F. Strauss (Zurich: EVZ Verlag, 1968) and Jörg Sandberger, David Friedrich Strauß als theologischer Hegelianer (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1972). ¹⁰ There are two notable recent German anthologies: David Friedrich Strauß als Schriftsteller, eds. Barbara Potthast and Volker Henning Drecoll (Heidelberg: Winter, 2018); and Führt Wahrhaftigkeit zum Unglauben? David Friedrich Strauß als Theologe und Philosoph (Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 2008). ¹¹ Jean-Marie Paul, D. F.Strauss (1808–1874) et son époque (Paris: Société les Belles Lettres, 1982). ¹² J. R. Beard, Voices of the Church in Reply to D. F. Strauss (New York, NY: Riley & Putnam, 1845). ¹³ William J. Brazill, The Young Hegelians (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1970), pp. 95–132; John Edward Toews, Hegelianism: The Path toward Dialectical Humanism, 1805–1841 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), pp. 160–75, 255–87; and Warren Breckmann, Marx, the Young Hegelians, and the Origins of Radical Social Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 133–48. ¹⁴ Horton Harris, David Friedrich Strauss and His Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974).

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The present work has relied heavily on these scholars, especially on Hausrath, Ziegler, and Harris. But this work has a different agenda from theirs. It does not aim to be a complete biography of Strauß but simply a study of his philosophy and intellectual development alone. Its focus is therefore upon an analysis of Strauß’s major philosophical and theological writings in their content and context. The work of Hausrath, Ziegler and Harris, for all its merits, sometimes does not study these writings or passes over them too quickly. This has been especially the case for the later writings, for the political writings, and for the lecture manuscripts. While this neglect is fully understandable given their broader biographical agenda, it makes for a constricted and superficial understanding of Strauß’s philosophical development. By focusing on Strauß’s thought and intellectual development alone, this study attempts to compensate for this shortcoming and to provide a fuller analysis of these works.

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1 Historical Significance of Das Leben Jesu 1.1 A Revolutionary Book If we ask ourselves which books of the nineteenth century had the greatest effect on the decline of religion, we would have to put first and foremost, even before Darwin’s Origin of Species, David Friedrich Strauß’s Das Leben Jesu. Among scholars, the book has never been forgotten, and to this day it has inspired many an article or book. But, among the general public, especially in the anglophone world, Strauß’s name has none of the luster of Darwin’s and, increasingly, it has been fading from memory. Ask any philosopher or historian today who was David Friedrich Strauß, and the reaction is likely to be a shrug; if anything, he is assumed to be a composer—a conflation with Richard Strauß—or perhaps a chocolate confectioner from Salzburg. This is a rather sorry state of affairs, because for anyone who wants to understand the intellectual origins of the modern age, it is necessary not only to remember but also to study Strauß. Why? Because the effect of Strauß’s book was to shake, dramatically and radically, Christian faith in the New Testament. It was no longer possible to believe that the New Testament was the product of divine inspiration, or that it was an infallible, or even remotely reliable, historical document. The fundamentalist faith that the Bible is a true historical narrative proved to be untenable. Das Leben Jesu first appeared in 1835 in two thick volumes, each consisting in around 750 pages.¹ Strauß had applied the new method of historical criticism, which was developed by Reinhold Niebuhr and Leopold Ranke in the first decades of the nineteenth century, to the complete story of the life of Jesus, from his birth in Bethlehem to his death on the cross in Jerusalem. Through an exacting and exhaustive study of all the sources, Strauß came to the conclusion that none of the gospel narratives are reliable as history. The apostles were not eyewitnesses of the events they described; they often contradicted one another; they were often at

¹ David Friedrich Strauß, Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet (Tübingen: C. F. Osiander, 1835), 2 vols. The first volume was published in June, the second in October 1835, though the title page of the second volume states 1836. All references to this edition will be to the paragraph number, marked by “§,” and to the page (Arabic) and volume (Roman) numbers. There is no English translation of the first edition. George Eliot’s famous translation is based on the fourth edition, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined (London: Chapman Bros., 1846). There have been many publications of her translation since then.

David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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odds with well-attested facts; and, worst of all, they were anything but impartial or objective. Desperate to justify their faith and to attract a following, the apostles wrote their stories to prove that Jesus was the messiah. What the ancient Jews expected of the messiah—working miracles, healing the sick and prophesizing— was fulfilled fully by Jesus, the apostles claimed. Hence the entire New Testament was written according to a Jewish legend, the myth of the messiah. Strauß argued that this could be easily confirmed by a careful comparison of the New and Old Testaments, which showed how much the apostles borrowed from the ancient Jews. With all this in mind, Strauß came to his final damning verdict: the New Testament is not history but myth. Neither in its methods nor in its conclusions was Strauß’s book anything new. Since the beginning of the eighteenth century, the idea that parts of the Bible are mythical had been steadily gaining ground.² The theory of myth had been originally formed to explain pagan religion; but it was eventually applied to the Bible itself. At first it was applied to the Old Testament; but, later in the eighteenth century, it was extended to parts of the New Testament. Strauß was well aware of these historical precedents, acknowledged them, and deliberately built upon them. He never claimed that his theory of myth, or that his method of critique, were new. All that was original about his book was that, for the first time, the theory of myth was applied to all four gospels of the New Testament. To appreciate Strauß’s profound effect on his age, it is necessary to consider his historical context. Although the mythical theory was gradually becoming more accepted, its appeal was limited to a few scholarly circles; the vast majority of the Protestant population in the early nineteenth century still saw the Bible as the foundation for their faith. Ever since the Reformation, the Protestant faith rested on Scripture, which the reformers (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli) had made their sole regula fidei. But faith in Scripture presupposed its historical credibility. In opposition to the mystical and allegorical readings of the Bible prevalent in the Roman Catholic tradition,³ the reformers had stressed especially the importance of its literal sense. But to read the Bible literally was to read it historically; it was to assume that its many reported miracles actually happened just as they were said to have happened. It was precisely this assumption that Strauß made the target of his criticism. Not surprisingly, then, the reaction to Strauß’s book among the Protestant public was drastic and dramatic. One contemporary described its effect as

² On the history of the theory of myth, see Christian Hartlich and Walter Sachs, Der Ursprung des Mythosbegriffes in der modernen Bibelwissenschaft (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1952). ³ On the Protestant view of Scripture, see R. H. Bainton, “The Bible in the Reformation,” in The Cambridge History of the Bible, ed. S. L. Greenslade (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963), pp. 1–37; and W. Schwarz, Principles and Problems of Biblical Translation: Some Reformation Controversies and their Background (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955), pp. 167–212.

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“a bombshell”;⁴ another likened it to “an electric shock”;⁵ still another wrote about the “panic-stricken terror” among the general public.⁶ Without any exaggeration, it can be safely said that Strauß’s book was the most controversial German publication of the entire nineteenth century. No other book aroused such a strong and sustained reaction.⁷ Understandably, Protestants were shocked by the book because, in questioning the historical credibility of the New Testament, Strauß seemed to attack the very basis of their faith. If faith rested upon the Bible, and if the Bible were not credible, what basis could there be for faith? So, for the orthodox Protestant in 1835, the sky was falling. The hostile reaction to Strauß’s book imposed a harsh fate upon him. Trained in the famous Tübinger Stift to become a cleric or theologian, Strauß found himself banished from these professions. It was impossible for him to find employment as a preacher or professor. He was forced to work as an independent author and to live off the meager royalties of his writings. Having acquired the reputation of an antichrist, Strauß was shunned by colleagues and friends, who feared for their reputations and careers if they were known to associate with him. Strauß soon became a lonely, bitter, and isolated man. He never joined a profession, never formed a lasting marriage, and never enjoyed domestic happiness. Like Ahasverus,⁸ he wandered around Germany from one city to another—Stuttgart, Heilbronn, Munich, Darmstadt, Cologne, Weimar, and Heidelberg—never finding a stable home. All the rest of his days, except for a brief disastrous marriage, he led the life of a sad recluse. Twenty-five years after the publication of the first edition of Das Leben Jesu, he summarized the effects of his book on his life and career: “It excluded me from public teaching, for which I had desire and perhaps even talent; it tore me out of natural relationships and drove me into unnatural ones; it made the course of my life lonely.”⁹ Because of his fate, Strauß became a very symbolic figure in Germany. Although the orthodox saw him as an antichrist, liberal intellectuals regarded him as a martyr for freethinking. The freethinker was someone who was willing to take his thinking to its ultimate limits, who had the courage of his convictions, and

⁴ See Eduard Zeller, Erinnerungen eines Neunzigj€ ahrigen (Stuttgart: Uhland, 1908), p. 100. ⁵ The words of one Karl Schwarz, cited in Adolf Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit (Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1876), I, 184. ⁶ See the letter of Ferdinand Baur to L. F. Heyd, February 10, 1836, as cited in Horton Harris, David Friedrich Strauss and His Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), p. 87. ⁷ Albert Schweitzer listed some sixty books written against Strauß between 1835 and 1839. See “Anhang I. Die durch D. Fr. Straußens Leben-Jesu hervorgerufene Literatur,” in Von Reimarus zu Wrede: Eine Geschichte der Leben-Jesu Forschung (Tübingen: Mohr, 1906), pp. 410–13. But as Theobold Ziegler notes, David Friedrich Strauß (Straßburg: Karl Trübner, 1908), I, 207, n. 1, this list is incomplete and omits even major literature. ⁸ The apt comparison is made by Adolph Kohut, David Friedrich Strauß als Denker und Erzieher (Leipzig: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 1908), p. 41. ⁹ See the “Vorrede” to Huttens Gespräche (1860), in Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Eduard Zeller (Bonn: Verlag von Emil Strauß, 1876), VII, 561.

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who stated his views in public, regardless of the consequences. This was an admirable ideal; but living by it was very dangerous in an age when religion was still closely guarded by the state. Strauß’s sad life had become a warning to all: watch what you say if you want to keep your reputation and livelihood. In suffering for this ideal, Strauß resembled no one more than Lessing, who underwent a similar fate. In 1772 Lessing published his W€ olffenbüttler Fragmente, which contained the radical biblical criticism of Hermann Samuel Reimarus. Of this precedent, Strauß was fully aware. In his worst years he was consoled by the thought of Lessing, whom he embraced as his hero. Strauß would in turn become a model for others. As Lessing was to Strauß, so Strauß became to the young Friedrich Nietzsche, who was inspired by him.¹⁰ The net effect of Strauß’s book on his generation was to force it to make a choice: one could retreat under the banner of faith or one could push forward with criticism. There was no middle path, however, where one could use reason to justify faith in the Bible. In the 1770s Lessing had presented the public with a similar dilemma; and now Strauß was renewing the challenge. In the face of this dilemma, Strauß grabbed the horn of criticism. He believed that it was the duty of everyone to examine the grounds of morality and religion, and that it was impossible to rest content with the imposition of any arbitrary limit on enquiry.¹¹ The modern individual could never accept the appeal to authority, whether it came from the state or church. He or she could rely on their reason alone, which was the only criterion of assent. But was there not a danger that enquiry would never cease, that it would ultimately result in skepticism or nihilism? In the 1830s Strauß was convinced that the quest for reasons would ultimately end, that it would finally come to rest in Hegel’s philosophy. But, by the 1840s, for reasons we shall eventually see,¹² Strauß had to abandon even that ultimate certainty. It was the fate of the modern individual, he now taught, to accept a life of limitless enquiry which led to no ultimate certainty.

1.2 The Political Reaction We cannot understand the importance of Das Leben Jesu for its age if we consider only its religious aspect. The book also occupies an important place in the history

¹⁰ Nietzsche wrote in Der Antichrist that a long time ago he tasted the work of “the incomparable Strauss.” See Nietzsche, S€ amtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe, eds. G. Colli and M. Montinari (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1980), VI, 199. Nietzsche seems to have first read Strauß on his vacation in March/ April 1865 when he listed him among authors to take with him on his travels. See Schriften der Studenten- und Militärzeit, 1864–1868, eds. Hans Joachim Mette and Karl Schlechta (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1994), III, 99–100. ¹¹ See Strauß, Streitschriften II, 181–3. ¹² See chapter 11, section 11.1.

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of German politics. Its publication gave rise to a controversy that would dominate German politics for the next ten years.¹³ This dispute concerned the degree to which the Christian revelation could be explained and justified according to Hegel’s system of philosophy. The famous distinction between right, left, and center Hegelianism revolved around this issue. The source of this distinction was no less than Strauß himself. According to Strauß,¹⁴ the Hegelian school could be divided into three camps according to the extent they were willing to accommodate the Christian revelation into the system of philosophy. Right Hegelians held that all, center Hegelians held that some, and left Hegelians held that none of the Christian revelation conforms to the concept or idea. Strauß did not state that he was a left Hegelian, but his position seemed to entail it.¹⁵ Since he maintained that all evangelical history is really myth, he implied that none of it conforms to the idea, so that, by his own criterion, he seemed to stand on the far left of the political spectrum. Not wishing to be associated with such a radical position, many Hegelians abruptly disowned Strauß’s views and argued for a more conservative or moderate interpretation of Hegel, according to which virtually all, or at least some, of the Christian revelation conformed to the Hegelian concept or idea; they therefore became right or center Hegelians. Thus was born the divisions in the Hegelian school, whose disputes were the main source of political controversy in the late 1830s and early 1840s. Although Strauß’s book is widely accepted as the starting point for these debates, the historian soon confronts a quandary in trying to explain the political significance of his book. Part of the problem is that Das Leben Jesu is a strikingly non-political book; its contents are entirely confined to exegetical matters in the interpretation of the New Testament; and its tone and style strive to be neutral and objective, giving away nothing about the author’s political attitudes.¹⁶ Thus the historian has to explain the political significance of a strikingly non-political book. ¹³ Thus Hermann Lübbe, Politische Philosophie in Deutschland (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1974), p. 33; Walter Jaeschke, Reason in Religion: The Foundations of Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1980), p. 377; and Warren Breckman, Marx, the Young Hegelians and the Origins of Radical Social Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 133–9. ¹⁴ Strauß first formulated the distinction in his “Verschiedene Richtungen innerhalb der Hegel’sche Schule in Betreff der Christologie,” in his Streitschriften zur Vertheidigung meiner Schrift über das Leben Jesu (Tübingen: Osiander, 1838), III, 95. ¹⁵ We will examine the whole issue of Strauß’s place in the Hegelian school in chapter 8, section 8.6. ¹⁶ Thus Strauß tells us in the “Vorrede” that no one will find “frivolity” in his book, and that everywhere there is nothing but “the seriousness of science.” On this score I must contradict Marilyn Massey’s thesis that it was primarily Strauß’s ironic tone and style that explains the hostile reaction to his book. See her Christ Unmasked: The Meaning of The Life of Jesus in German Politics (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1983), pp. 7, 71–80. There is very little comedy or irony in Strauß’s book. It was deliberately written in a cool, detached style because of Strauß’s intention to be objective and scientific. Massey ignores Strauß’s attempt to distinguish his work from the older freethinking tradition, which did treat revelation with irony, mockery, and derision. A more accurate account of Strauß’s style is provided by Ziegler, Strauß, I, 161–3.

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Another part of the problem is that very little is known about Strauß’s early politics. There is almost nothing in Strauß’s early publications or correspondence that reveals his political attitudes or aspirations. His publications from 1830 to 1840 are chiefly theological in content; and his correspondence for that decade is mostly silent about his political views.¹⁷ Hence the historian’s quandary: he or she has to explain Strauß’s political significance when there is virtually no information about his real politics. Of course, none of this is really surprising for the historian of early nineteenthcentury Germany. In that period politics is everywhere and nowhere. It is like the sun on a cloudy day: it warms everything but it is not visible. This is what we should expect from a period when censorship was heavy, and when politics and religion were inextricably intertwined. In the face of this quandary, the intellectual historian has no choice but to examine Strauß’s wider historical context. A brief look at the politics of the 1830s does indeed help to explain some of the controversy surrounding Strauß’s book. The early 1830s was very much a period of political reaction in German politics, with governments struggling to counter and contain the liberal ideas flowing into their lands from the July Revolution in France. To defend their legitimacy, some governments still clung to the old doctrine of the unity of throne and altar, the bond between state and church. According to that doctrine, the sovereign is God’s representative on earth, and he or she rules in virtue of the authority that God has invested in them. The evidence for this doctrine was usually held to derive from divine revelation, which was based upon the authority of Scripture. This was venerable doctrine, of course, as old as the Middle Ages. But, remarkably, it still lived on in Vorm€ arz Germany. The classic example is Friedrich Stahl’s Der christliche Staat,¹⁸ which was one of the most influential conservative tracts before and after 1848. Stahl argued that the state had to be founded on Christianity, the evidence for which rested on divine revelation.¹⁹ Though he realized that the authority of Scripture was waning, Stahl still insisted that faith in it could be maintained if governments supported their churches through a policy of strict censorship.²⁰ Given that government and conservative circles in Germany still relied on the authority of the Bible to legitimate the state, it should not be surprising that Strauß’s book would be nothing short of an outrage for them. For Strauß’s central

¹⁷ The only published letter to discuss politics is Strauß’s June 4, 1831 letter to M. Fraas, which treats the matter of the relation between state and church. The letter is published in J€org Sandberger, David Friedrich Strauß als theologischer Hegelianer: Mit unver€ offentlichen Briefen (G€ottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1972), pp. 226–8. Little can be derived from this letter, however, about Strauß’s later political views. ¹⁸ Friedrich Julius Stahl, Der christliche Staat, 2nd revised edition (Berlin: L. Oehmige’s Verlag, 1858). The first edition was published in 1847. But Stahl had already formulated the outlines of his theory in Philosophie des Rechts nach geschichtlicher Ansicht (Heidelberg: J. C. B. Mohr, 1830–7), 3 vols. ¹⁹ Der christliche Staat, p. 81. ²⁰ Ibid., pp. 85–6.

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thesis was that Christian revelation—the basis of the conservative theory of the state—had no reliable historical foundation, and that it should be regarded as a myth. On the face of it, that argument knocked the bottom out of the conservatives’ reliance on revelation to support their claim to political legitimacy. This was not a small part of that “panic-stricken terror” that gripped the German public upon first hearing news of Strauß’s book. This feature of historical context goes part of the way in explaining the controversial political dimension of Strauß’s book; but it does not go all the way. To do that, we must look more closely at Strauß’s text and what he says in the final chapter, the famous “Schlussabhandlung” of Das Leben Jesu. Here Strauß explains that the Hegelian idea—the unity of the infinite and finite—embodies and realizes itself in all of humanity and not only in the single historical figure of Jesus Christ.²¹ The central theme of Christianity, Strauß maintains, is the unity of the infinite and the finite; but he insists that unity cannot be instantiated in one individual alone (viz., Christ) but that it has to be found in all individuals in the finite world. Strauß never dropped the claim that Christ is the preeminent example of divinity in history; but he still insisted that he is only one example, and that we cannot deny divinity to humanity as a whole. His rationale for this thesis is straightforwardly logical: that the infinite, taken on its own, is the universal moment of the idea; and any universal is realized never in a single instance but in all instances of its kind. Even though the rationale for this thesis was not political, its implications certainly were, at least by pre-1840 standards. The doctrine was usually intended to be, and certainly was understood as, a theological rationale for equality, freedom, and democracy, which were, in a nutshell, the central political ideals of the 1830 Revolution. If God is within everyone, then they are all sources of sovereignty. No one can claim to be especially favored or authorized by God, so that neither the clergyman in his pulpit nor the prince on this throne can claim to be above the ordinary man. Authority should therefore come from the bottom up, rather than from the top down, because the source of legitimacy and sovereignty lies in everyman, not the favored few. When Strauß put forward his thesis in Das Leben Jesu there was no mention of its political meaning or consequences. But they would have been easily understood by the public of his day. There was no need to spell out the obvious. For Hegel’s ideas were, in one very important sense of the word, pantheistic;²² and everyone accepted that pantheism was, as Heine put it, “the secret religion of Germany.”²³

²¹ Das Leben Jesu, pp. 715, 717, §144; and pp. 734–5, 740, §147. ²² On Hegel’s pantheism, see my Hegel (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005), pp. 142–6. ²³ See Heinrich Heine, Zur Geschichte der Religion und Philosophie in Deutschland, in S€ amtliche Schriften, ed. Klaus Briegleb (Munich: Hanser Verlag, 1976), V, 571.

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Pantheism went along with the central ideals of the July Revolution, providing them with their religious and metaphysical rationale. Once we consider pantheism along with these ideals, it seems we are finally in a position to place the young Strauß in his broader cultural and political context. Some scholars see Strauß as a member of the intellectual movement known as Junges Deutschland.²⁴ The aim of this movement, which was primarily political²⁵ was to defend and publicize the ideals of the July Revolution. What Heine was for the poetry of this movement, what Gutzkow was for its novels, that Strauß was for its theology. Simply put, on this reading, Das Leben Jesu is the theology of Junges Deutschland. We will soon have to take a critical look at this reading.

²⁴ See Massey, Christ Unmasked, pp. 34–55, and Breckman, Marx, the Young Hegelians, pp. 133–9. Heinrich von Treitschke also placed Strauß among the young Germans. See his Deutsche Geschichte im 19 Jahrhundert (Leipzig: Hirzel, 1889), IV, 487–94. ²⁵ Junges Deutschland is almost always understood as a literary movement. But this does not agree with the understanding of its time, which explained its significance and goals primarily in political terms. This is especially clear from one of the earliest histories of the movement, written by one of its foremost apostles, Wilhelm Marr. See his Das junge Deutschland in der Schweiz: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der geheimen Verbindungen unserer Tage (Leipzig: Verlag von Wilhelm Juarny, 1846).

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2 Reputation and Reality 2.1 A Political Moderate It would seem, from all that we have seen so far, that David Friedrich Strauß was a radical, both in his religion and politics. Only a radical, it would appear, could be the author of such a revolutionary book. This was indeed how many of Strauß’s contemporaries saw him.¹ In the realm of religion, he was regarded as an atheist intent on destroying orthodox Christianity; and in the realm of politics, he was viewed as a radical eager to overthrow throne and altar. Yet it has to be said that the notoriety of Strauß’s book is very deceptive, leading all too easily to false inferences about his intentions and personal views. If the consequences of Strauß’s views were revolutionary, his intentions were never so. There is indeed a great discrepancy between Strauß’s reputation and his actual personal views. In both religion and politics, Strauß was not a radical but a moderate, someone who insisted on reforming rather than abolishing church and state. Regarding Strauß’s politics, the prevailing view is that he had to be a radical according to his own classification of the Hegelian school. This classification seemed to make him, fair and square, a left-wing Hegelian. Since Strauß held that no part of evangelical history could be reformulated into the Hegelian concept, and since he described that position as left-wing, it seems that he had to be on the left by his own recognizance. Yet there is no reason to regard Strauß’s classification as anything more than a metaphor; it does not describe actual political positions but theological ones, any of which is compatible with a wide range of political views.² If we take the metaphor literally as a description of Strauß’s politics, then we are caught in a difficulty: namely, that Strauß disapproved of the theological and political views of many of those thinkers who were regarded as leaders of left-wing Hegelianism. Strauß could not accept the radical views of Ludwig Feuerbach and Bruno Bauer; ¹ Those who voted for Strauß in the Württemberg Parliament were surprised by his politics; they expected the religious radical to be a political one. Strauß was regarded to have betrayed his mandate. On his politics during this period, see the excellent account in Theobald Ziegler, David Friedrich Strauß (Straßburg: Trübner, 1908), II, 409–87. ² Warren Breckman, Marx, the Young Hegelians, and the Origins of Radical Social Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 139, sees the distinction as intentionally political. Hermann Lübbe, however, is more accurate in regarding it as a metaphor. See his Politische Philosophie in Deutschland (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1974), p. 33. David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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his friction with them eventually led to his resignation in 1841 as a contributor to the Hallische Jahrbücher.³ Although there is scant information about Strauß’s early views during the 1830s, there is more than enough for the 1840s.⁴ It was during this decade that Strauß began to participate in politics, first as a candidate for the Frankfurt Parliament and later as a representative of Ludwigsburg in the Württemberg Parliament. In both activities Strauß’s political views are easily summarized: they were those of a moderate liberal, someone standing between radical and reactionary, between the extreme left and right. Like all liberals in that age, Strauß stood for basic political freedoms—freedom of conscience and the press, the rights of the citizen, the separation of church and state—and for constitutional government and national unity. But Strauß stood at the center rather than the left wing of liberal politics chiefly because he believed in the retention of the monarchy. What is most remarkable about Strauß’s political activities in the late 1840s is his persistent opposition against the left wing or the more radical faction of the Württemberg Parliament. He criticized their demagoguery, their lack of respect for law and order, their passion for destruction rather than reconstruction. If we examine Strauß’s addresses in this parliament,⁵ it is striking how much he seems to be intent on picking a quarrel with the left. Such was the friction between Strauß and the left that he eventually resigned his seat in the Württemberg Parliament because of it. The need to tone down Strauß’s apparent radicalism becomes more apparent when we realize that he was never a sworn devotee of the program of Junges Deutschland, the progressive movement in German philosophy and literature inspired by the 1830 Revolution. There is indeed some evidence that seems to bring Strauß into this movement. In the second volume of his Streitschriften he was a sharp critic of Wolfgang Menzel,⁶ who first raised the alarm about Junges Deutschland and called for its censorship. Strauß was also a minor contributor to Georg Herwegh’s Einundzwanzig Boden aus der Schweiz, a classic text of the Junges Deutschland movement.⁷ We have also seen how Strauß’s pantheism and moral ideals—liberty and equality—were also central to Junges Deutschland. Nevertheless, though he sometimes worked together with this movement, Strauß also stood apart from it and remained deeply ambivalent about it. It is striking that, when the Berlin authorities threatened to censor Das Leben Jesu, he blamed Junges Deutschland and stressed that he had nothing to do with the

³ On this episode, see William Brazill, The Young Hegelians (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1970), pp. 119–20. ⁴ See chapter 12. ⁵ See Ziegler, Strauß, II, 442–54. ⁶ See Strauß, Streitschriften, Zweites Heft: Die Herren Eschenmayer und Menzel (Tübingen: Osiander, 1837), pp. 91–247. ⁷ See “Xenien. Ein Thierkreis,” in Einundzwanzig Bogen aus der Schweiz, ed. Georg Herwegh (Zurich: Verlag des Literarischen Comptoirs, 1843), pp. 250–3. The verses are signed “D.F.Str.”

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movement.⁸ In any case, Strauß certainly could not accept the anti-clerical and anti-religious views represented by some prominent members of Junges Deutschland (viz., Wilhelm Marr and Georg Herwegh). The radicals of this movement would certainly have found Strauß much too liberal and bourgeois for their liking. They wanted revolution, or at least radical social and political change; he wanted gradual reform, historical continuity, and a constitutional monarchy.⁹

2.2 A Defender of the Faith The image most contemporaries had of Strauß, and the one some scholars still have of him today,¹⁰ is a radical critic intent on destroying Christianity. Fitting this image, the chief criticism of Das Leben Jesu is that it was entirely negative, failing to leave any positive doctrines for the Christian to believe in. This was the critique of Strauß’s book from his old teacher at the Tübinger Stift, Ferdinand Baur,¹¹ and it has been repeated constantly ever since. From the very beginning, Strauß protested against this interpretation. As if to anticipate this very criticism, he wrote in the first paragraph of the final chapter of Das Leben Jesu: The results of the previous investigation, it appears, is that everything the Christian believes about Jesus has been destroyed, that all encouragement his faith has given him has been taken away, that he is robbed of all consolation. The infinite treasure of truth and life, which have nourished humanity for the last eighteen centuries, appears to have been turned to waste, the most sublime truths crushed into dust, the mercy of God and the dignity of man have been lost, and the bond between heaven and earth has been torn into shreds. (II, 686; §140)¹²

⁸ See Strauß to Georgii, December 12, 1835, in Briefe von Strauß an Georgii, ed. Heinrich Meier (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1912), p. 13. ⁹ Samuel Eck points out that Strauß’s literary views were very different from Junges Deutschland and had their source in what he calls the “Schwäbishen Dichterschule.” See his David Friedrich Strauß (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1899), pp. 88, 131. ¹⁰ This image of Strauß still prevails in secondary literature. See Lübbe, Politische Philosophie, p. 35. Breckman, Marx, the Young Hegelians and the Origins of Radical Social Theory, p. 135, writes of Strauß’s “denial of the God-man” and “denial of the incarnation of Christ,” though it was not his intention to deny it. One of the first to repudiate the image of Strauß as a destructive critic was Albert Schweitzer, Von Reimarus zu Wrede: Eine Geschichte des Leben-Jesu Forschung (Tübingen: Mohr, 1906), pp. 78, 90. ¹¹ See Baur’s February 19, 1836 letter to L. F. Heyd, as cited in Horton Harris, David Friedrich Strauss and his Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974), p. 87. This point was also conveyed directly to Strauß. See Strauß to Baur, August 19, 1836, in “Briefwechsel zwischen Strauss und Baur,” Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 4 Folge, X.LXXIII (1962), 74–125, here p. 89. ¹² Das Leben Jesu (Tübingen: Osiander, 1835). The first numbers refer to volume (Roman numeral) and page number (Arabic numeral); the second to the paragraph number.

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Strauß goes on to warn his readers that this feeling is premature. Nothing is more dear to him, he assures his readers, than maintaining the fundamental truths of Christianity. His aim was not to destroy Christianity but to preserve it. Although, to be sure, he wanted to replace the traditional historical foundation, which proved ever more precarious and wobbly after the battering of decades of historical criticism, he wanted to provide it with a new speculative foundation. This was the central message of his “Schlussabhandlung,” the long concluding chapter of Das Leben Jesu. Such protestations notwithstanding, Strauß certainly seemed intent on a thorough historical critique of the New Testament. At least in one respect, his aim was entirely negative: to show that the New Testament is not a reliable historical document. Yet it is important to stress that Strauß’s target was a very limited and specific one: the doctrine that Christianity must be based on history, on the reports of revelation in the New Testament. For Strauß, this doctrine did not support but undermined Christianity for the very simple reason that these reports were easily exposed as myths. If one rested all his faith on these reports, which then turned out to be false, then faith itself would collapse. Strauß wanted to prevent just this kind of disaster. The deeper purpose behind his project was therefore to remove the rotten historical foundation of Christianity and to prepare the ground for a more solid speculative one. The central dogmas of Christianity were not to be destroyed but rescued; only their historical form was to be negated; but their conceptual content was to be preserved. That Strauß intended to support and strengthen Christian dogma is clear from some of his early letters, especially his February 6, 1832 letter to M€arklin.¹³ Here Strauß announces his plan to write a book consisting in three parts: the first part will be an account of the traditional faith; the second part will be a critique of the historical basis of this faith; and the third part will be a restoration of faith on a critical basis. As Strauß summarized the plan behind the work: “In this manner I will partly destroy, partly destabilize, the infinite content which faith has in this life—but, of course, only to restore it again in a higher manner.”¹⁴ It did not help Strauß’s reputation that he never wrote the third part of his project, and that he completed only its second or negative part, that which appeared in the two volumes of Das Leben Jesu. This led readers to conclude that his intentions were mainly negative and skeptical. But, in the concluding “Schlussabhandlung” of his book, Strauß made clear the outlines of that third missing part; and from it we can see how much he was indeed intent on preserving Christian dogma.

¹³ Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe, ed. Eduard Zeller (Bonn: Verlag von Emil Strauß, 1895), p. 12. Strauß formulated the plan even earlier. See his January 1, 1831 letter to Georgii, in Briefe von David Friedrich Strauss an L. Georgii, ed. Heinrich Maier (Tübingen: Mohr, 1912), p. 4. ¹⁴ Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe, p. 13.

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Now, at the close of the critique of the history of Jesus, Strauß writes, it is the task of the critic to restore what he has ruined (II, 686; §140). Although the form of history has been destroyed, its content must be kept in “a free place in the innerness of the believer” where it serves as “confession and dogma” (II, 688; §140). Of all the Christian beliefs, Strauß maintains that it is necessary to preserve two core dogmas: the incarnation and resurrection of Christ. The first dogma is of the greatest importance for Strauß. The central idea of Christianity, he insists, is that of the unity of the divine and human, that the divine or infinite embodies itself in human and finite form. Although Strauß regards Christ only as one example of the incarnation, as merely a symbol or representation for the true subject of the incarnation, which is all of humanity (II, 734–5; §147), he still insists that one must keep the essential content of this dogma: that the divine or eternal appears as man and in history. To understand Strauß’s position, it is important to make a distinction between the historical foundation for Christianity and its historical content. As much as Strauß is critical of that foundation, he still wants to preserve the historical content of Christianity. This point is essential but constantly neglected by commentators, who think that Strauß is intent on providing a purely conceptual or ahistorical form of Christianity.¹⁵ They interpret his distinction between form and content so that it is as if the form were entirely historical and as if the content were purely conceptual or ahistorical. But this misses the crucial point: for Strauß the content of Christianity is historical. The historical content of Christianity is evident for Strauß in the two central dogmas of the incarnation and resurrection of Christ. These dogmas mean that the spirit embodies or manifests itself in the finite world, which is temporal and historical. Strauß is highly critical of rationalist interpretations of the New Testament because they turn Christianity into moral doctrines and spiritual symbols, thereby depriving faith of its historical content and object. The problem with rationalist interpretations of Christianity—the readings of Kant, Spinoza, and Schleiermacher—is that they make this historical content the mere occasion or vehicle for the expression of moral and spiritual truths.¹⁶ Faith, however, needs a historical object and content, Strauß insists, and it never can or should resign itself to be a more abstract doctrine. What allowed Strauß to keep the historical content of Christianity was his Hegelian metaphysics. It was a central Hegelian doctrine that the idea must appear in the phenomenal world, that it must embody or reveal itself in some sensible form; but the very essence of that phenomenal world, of that sensible form, ¹⁵ Peter Hodgson, for example, complains about Strauß’s “abstract, ahistorical idealism.” See his The Formation of Historical Theology: A Study of Ferdinand Christian Baur (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 74. ¹⁶ See Strauß’s comments on Schleiermacher, Das Leben Jesu (1835), pp. 718–19, §144; and on G. K. Horst, pp. 727–8, §145.

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consists in time. Spirit is that which actualizes itself in time, and it does so in the specific form of history. Apart from its embodiment in time, the idea is a mere abstraction; and apart from its appearance in history, spirit is a mere potentiality. It was thanks to this metaphysical doctrine, then, that Strauß believed that he could preserve much more of the Christian revelation than his Enlightenment predecessors, who did not see the importance of history to the identity of the idea or spirit. They saw the preservable content of Christianity as its universal or abstract dimension, which were moral truths. They could not see, as Hegel did, that Christianity is fundamentally about history. It is essentially in his insistence on the historical dimension of Christianity, then, that Strauß shows himself as a preserver and guardian of Christian dogma. It is crucial to see here that he does not want to keep history simply on the level of representation, as if it were simply an example or prefigurement of abstract truths. No, the historical dimension belongs to the very concept or essence of Christianity itself. This is clear from Strauß’s account of the conceptual structure of Christianity, which he provides in the “Schlussabhandlung” (II, 729–31; §146). The deep speculative truth behind the Christian incarnation, we are told, is the Hegelian doctrine of spirit, according to which the idea goes outside itself and appears in history, and then returns into itself from history, making its content part of itself. Thus the temporal dimension of the concept belongs to its very essence and content; it is not a mere shell or vehicle for the expression of abstract or universal truths. The dogmas of the resurrection and the incarnation are crucial for spirit, because spirit is that which goes over into negativity (death) and then returns into itself from this negativity (resurrection). At this point it is necessary to warn against one interpretation of Strauß’s religious doctrine in the “Schlussabhandlung,” one which deprives it of all theological content. According to this reading, Strauß cannot be said to believe in God in any full-blooded or straightforward sense. What Strauß was attempting to establish in the “Schlussabhandlung,” we are told, was “a religion of humanity,” which reduces the divine down to humanity, as if it were nothing more than “the ultimate unity of all finite individuals.”¹⁷ This kind of interpretation of Strauß comes from a common misinterpretation of Hegel, a misunderstanding that Strauß himself shunned and warned against.¹⁸ Although Hegel does think that spirit exists only within finite individuals, and that its existence does not transcend them, he also holds that the essence of spirit is more than all the finite individuals in which it exists. The essence of spirit is the logos, the plan or purpose of history, which directs the activity of all the finite individuals in history, and which for just

¹⁷ John Edward Toews, Hegelianism: The Path toward Dialectical Humanism, 1805–1841 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), p. 266. Breckman, Marx, the Young Hegelians and the Origins of Radical Social Theory, p. 135, takes a similar position to Toews. ¹⁸ See Strauß’s Streitschriften, “Menzel und die Philosophie,” III, 210.

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that reason cannot be reduced to the activities of these individuals alone. We must make a distinction here, which is central to all teleology, and which ultimately goes back to Aristotle: that what is first in the order of explanation, the universal, is not first in the order of existence, the particular.¹⁹ In the context of Hegel’s philosophy, this means that spirit has explanatory priority over individuals because it explains what they do; but individuals have existential priority over spirit because it, as the universal, exists only in and through them. Strauß, as long as he was a Hegelian, never ceased to believe in the essential priority of spirit, and in this sense his belief in God is much more in accord with the traditional Christian doctrine than it appears. Strauß’s religion of humanity was never meant to eliminate God or reduce its activity down to the particular finite individuals in which it appears. Summa summarum, the common picture of Strauß as a radical critic of Christianity cannot succeed because it does not take seriously his attempt to justify the central dogmas of Christianity as conceptual or philosophical truths. It is essential to see too that Strauß wanted to preserve the historical content of Christianity, even if he intended to negate its traditional historical justification. It is important to keep this conclusion in historical perspective. It is true of Strauß essentially during the years from 1830 to 1838. However, sometime in the autumn of 1839, for reasons we shall soon see,²⁰ Strauß abandoned his project of attempting to justify Christianity through Hegelian metaphysics. He then thinks that Christian dogma cannot have any philosophical justification at all. All that remains is the purely negative result of criticism. Strauß’s later philosophical career will be one long attempt to learn to live with this result.

¹⁹ See Aristotle, Metaphysics Book V, 11, 1018b30–6; and Book IX, 8, 1050a3–20. ²⁰ See chapter 11, section 11.1.

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3 Context and Background 3.1 Early Education Strauß wrote Das Leben Jesu when he was only twenty-seven years old. It was indeed the work of a daring and impetuous youth. Despite his tender age, Strauß still had to undertake a long and difficult intellectual journey, one in which he would have to renounce and break with his own past. It was first of all necessary for him to liberate himself from the constraints of the institution that trained him, the Tübinger Stift, which was more like a monastic prison than a school or university. The Stift drummed into him the basic dogmas of Protestantism as if they were infallible truths, and as if there could be no alternative. Even more importantly, it was also necessary for Strauß to liberate himself from himself, from his own habits and ways of thought. Before Strauß became a philosopher, who prized the critical exercise of reason, he had been a mystic, a spiritualist, and a romantic poet. In those early days, he felt that reason was only a faculty for talking about the world; but he wanted to experience the world—to live, love, and see it— and not just to talk about it. So, before he became a philosopher, Strauß had to turn his back on his past, against his earlier mysticism, spiritualism, and romanticism. What brought about this transformation? To answer this question, we need to know a little bit more about his past. The Tübinger Stift gave Strauß an orthodox Protestant education. Its curriculum had not changed substantially from that which its most famous alumni— Hegel, Schelling, and H€ olderlin—had gone through a generation earlier. The Stift was a seminary whose purpose was to train students to become clerics of the Protestant church. For five years, they received a thorough education in theology, the Bible, ecclesiastical history, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. The Stift had been for ages a bastion of Protestant orthodoxy, teaching its students that the foundation of the faith lies in the Bible, which it held to be an infallible historical document.¹ During Strauß’s first years in the Stift from 1825 to 1828, this mentality hardly changed. It was as if all the most recent modern developments—the growth of freethinking, historical criticism, the rise and spread of Kant’s philosophy—had never really happened. The theological faculty, who were proud to be very

¹ On the mentality of the Stift and the professors there, see Gotthold Müller, Identit€ at und Immanenz: Zur Genese der Theologie von David Friedrich Strauß (Zurich: EVZ-Verlag, 1968), pp. 162–8. David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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conservative, were determined to carry on the institution’s traditions. Two of the four professors there—J. C. F. Steudel (1779–1837) and Ernst Bengel (1769–1826)—were staunch defenders of biblical Christianity and had no interest in responding to anything new and modern. The most philosophical of all the professors was C. A. Eschenmayer (1770–1852), but he was interested more in mysticism and the occult than philosophy. The most famous professor there, C. G. Storr (1746–1805), did have an interest in Kant but he was intent on domesticating him, in showing how his philosophy really posed no threat to the Christian faith. Since Kant had shown that reason could not demonstrate or refute faith, Storr reasoned, he left it invulnerable to rational criticism. Given such a traditional institution and such a conservative faculty, it is only natural to see Strauß’s Das Leben Jesu as an act of rebellion. One ray of light did eventually penetrate the gloom of the Tübinger Stift. In 1826 Bengel died and Ferdinand Baur entered the faculty to replace him.² For Strauß, this would have been very welcome news, because, during his school days in Blaubeuren, he had already had Baur, who had great pedagogical skills, as his teacher. In the 1820s Baur was already developing his pioneering biblical criticism, which would later make him famous.³ From 1828 to 1830, he gave lectures on the history of dogma, on church history, and on Paul’s Corinthian letters, all of which Strauß attended.⁴ We shall soon see what influence these had on him. In his early years Strauß was a very pious Christian. To an intense degree, he showed the piety that his parents, schools, and teachers instilled in him. He believed, as Hausrath later wrote, “certainly not too little but rather too much.”⁵ As a youth Strauß lived and thought in the religious atmosphere of his native Swabia, which was very far removed from his later rationalism. In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, Swabia was famous for its pietism and spiritualism; mysticism and theosophy were more at home there than in any other province in Germany. The chief spokesmen for these movements were two Swabian theologians, Johann Albrecht Bengel (1687–1752) and Friedrich Christoph Oetinger (1702–82), whose thought remained influential well into the nineteenth century. The atmosphere created by these thinkers crept right into the Straußian home. Johann Friedrich Strauß, David Friedrich’s father, loved and cultivated the mysticism of his fellow Swabians, which, much to the detriment of ² On Baur, see Peter Hodgson, The Formation of Historical Theology: A Study of Ferdinand Christian Baur (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1965); and Horton Harris, The Tübingen School (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), pp. 11–54, 137–80. ³ Horton Harris, David Friedrich Strauss and his Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974), p. 17, maintains that during his first Tübingen years Baur had “hardly begun” his critical research into the New Testament of his later years. Müller, however, has shown that Baur’s historicism was already apparent in the 1820s during his Blaubeuren days. See his Identit€ at und Immanenz, pp. 179–82. ⁴ See “Eigenh€andige Aufstellung der w€ahrend des Studiums von 1825–1830 in Tübingen geh€orten Vorlesungen,” in Müller, Identit€ at und Immanenz, pp. 265–7. ⁵ Adolf Hausrath, Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit (Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1876), I, 16.

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the family fortune, he preferred over his business interests. A good son and a true Swabian, David Friedrich inherited the father’s fondness for spiritualism and mysticism.⁶ Nowhere is Strauß’s early mysticism more apparent than in his love for the famous spiritualist shoemaker of G€ orlitz, Jakob Boehme.⁷ For decades, the philosophus teutonicus had been a favorite of the romantics, and Strauß fully shared their enthusiasm. With fervor, he peered into Boehme’s writings and pulled out spiritual treasures. Boehme’s mystical visions gave better proof of divine revelation than the Bible itself, he believed. The path to the divine lay not in the dead letter of Scripture but in living experience, in direct feeling or intuition. Strauß expressed his youthful enthusiasm for Boehme in a letter to a friend written August 10, 1827: “Read Jakob Boehme, if your pastor has something by him. His books satisfy me more than all others.”⁸ Such was the young Strauß’s hunger for immediate experience that he developed an interest in spiritualism. That people could have contact with the spirit world was something he would have to see for himself. In the summer of 1827 he visited a friend, Justinus Kerner, who had a woman living in his house reputed to have psychic powers. The woman, Friederike Hauffe, would later be immortalized by Kerner’s Die Seherin von Prevorst.⁹ When Strauß arrived at Kerner’s house, she was already talking with the spirits. When Kerner put Strauß’s hand on hers, Strauß had a powerful sensation, one he never felt before. It was as if the boards under his feet were swept away and as if he were falling into an abyss. In his entire life, Strauß said later, he never felt a comparable moment.¹⁰ The experience awed him. Friedrich Vischer, Strauß’s close friend, later described him after his visit: “I met Strauß just after his first visit with Kerner; he was as if electrified; a deep longing for the dawn of the spirit world overcame him; when in debate he noted the least trace of a rationalism indistinguishable from the shallow enlightenment, he became violently querulous; everyone who did not follow him into his moonlit magical garden was called pagan or turkish.”¹¹ Here Vischer insinuates that Strauß had turned his back on the legacy of the Enlightenment.

⁶ In his D. F. Strauss (1808–1874) et son époque (Paris: Société les Belles Lettres, 1982), pp. 39–43, Jean-Marie Paul questions the attribution of mysticism to the young Strauß on the grounds that he never aspired to a union with God in which his own self would disappear. But this is a narrow sense of the word “mysticism.” Here I use the word in a broader sense for any attempt to know some religious truth through some form of immediate experience. ⁷ See Strauß’s own account of his early fondness for Boehme in his essay “Justinus Kerner,” in Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Eduard Zeller (Bonn: Emil Strauß, 1876), I, 125–6. Henceforth this edition will be abbreviated GS. ⁸ As cited in Müller, Identit€ at und Immanenz, p. 204. ⁹ Justinus Kerner, Die Seherin von Prevorst: Er€ offnungen über das innere Leben des Menschen und über das Hereinragen einer Geisterwelt in die unsere (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1829). ¹⁰ See Strauß, “Justinus Kerner,” GS I, 129. ¹¹ Friedrich Theodor Vischer, Kritische G€ ange (Tübingen: Ludwig Friedrich Fues, 1844), I, 94.

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Mysticism and romanticism have always been happy cousins, and, in early nineteenth-century Swabia, they flourished alongside one another. It is not surprising to find, therefore, that the young Strauß had romantic as well as spiritualist tendencies. In 1822 Eduard M€ orike (1804–75), a student at the Tübingerstift, founded a club of “devotees of the romantic school,” which met in a hut alongside the Neckar to read plays and poetry together. Strauß himself was later invited to join the party.¹² One of the signs of his budding romanticism was a play he wrote in 1825, “Zauberei und Spengler, Eine National-Trag€odie in 3 Akten und 1 Prolog.”¹³ The play shows the influence of one of the club’s favorite romantics, Ludwig Tieck. Like all romantics, Strauß was attracted to poetry, and he even dabbled in verse. One of his earliest poems, “Dank für die Erweckung,” in true romantic style, thanks higher powers for his spiritual awakening.¹⁴ Following his romantic leanings, Strauß was especially fond of “the prince of the romantics,” i.e., his fellow Swabian F. W. J. Schelling.¹⁵ He was attracted to Schelling’s philosophy of identity, particularly its pantheism. Strauß also saw in Schelling a powerful support for his own mysticism, which he found in the doctrine of intellectual intuition. Just how much the young Strauß valued Schelling compared to Boehme is apparent from an examiner’s remarks on an early school essay: “The author has reserved all his energy for the discussion of Schelling, who is made to patch Jakob Boehme’s shoes.”¹⁶

3.2 Birth of a Rationalist Given such devotion to mysticism and romanticism, how do we explain Strauß’s later rationalism, his turn toward criticism? “The mystical fog,” as Strauß later called it, did not last long; it was strongest during the years 1826–7; but after that it seemed to weaken and wither, eventually evaporating entirely. What explains this shift? At some point along the way there would have to be a break in his intellectual development, indeed a reversal in attitude, because the later Strauß’s devotion to the ideal of critique was incompatible with his earlier belief in spirits and intellectual intuition.¹⁷ We can allow many points of continuity between the ¹² On Strauß’s relationship with Mörike, see Harry Maynr, “David Friedrich Strauß und Eduard Mörike (Mit zwölf ungedruckten Briefe),” Deutsche Rundschau 115 (April–June 1903), 94–117. ¹³ The full text is reproduced in Müller, Identit€ at und Immanenz, pp. 279–320. ¹⁴ GS XII, 9–10. ¹⁵ On Strauß’s relationship to Schelling, see Paul, D. F. Strauss, pp. 30–4. ¹⁶ As cited in Müller, Identit€ at und Immanenz, p. 211. The early essay was entitled “Das Wesen des Bösen in psychologischer und metaphysischer Hinsicht”; it has been lost. ¹⁷ Here I have to contradict Müller, Identit€ at und Immanenz, pp. 173–4, who sees a virtual continuum from Strauß’s early mysticism to his later standpoint in Das Leben Jesu. For reasons best known to himself, Müller describes this later standpoint as “Anti-Rationalismus.” I cannot assign any meaning to the phrase. His interpretation makes sense if we describe, as Müller does, Hegel’s philosophy as having “spekulativ-mystischen Voraussetzungen” (pp. 156–7). But Müller’s interpretation of Hegel is a misinterpretation because it assumes that Hegel’s thought had “keinen rechten

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early mystical and the later critical Strauß; we can see many points of his romantic heritage still persisting in his later philosophy. Nevertheless, there had to be a break because his later criticism, if it were only thorough and consistent, would have made him skeptical of the claims of both intellectual intuition and spiritualism. It is difficult, however, to find any dramatic or decisive event that turned Strauß away from his mysticism and romanticism. The break seems to have been gradual, almost imperceptible. One thing is certain: Kant played no decisive role. It is significant that in his later years, when Strauß began to think retrospectively about his own intellectual development, he laid great weight upon the absence of Kant in his education. This implies the counterfactual: that had he learned to be more appreciative of Kant, then none of his romanticism and mysticism would have ever happened, or at least none of it would have gone on so long. Strauß confessed of his early education: “I could not perceive the reason for all the fuss and mistrustful precautions with which Kant approached the knowledge of things.”¹⁸ With his fellow romantics, he tried to read the Kritik der reinen Vernuft; but they found it “a bitter apple”; they quickly learned that it was much more fun to read Jacobi, Boehme, or Schelling. Kant had indeed been a terrible gap in the curriculum of the Stift. There was no one in the philosophical faculty who was able and willing to put its students through the grist of the Kritik. Strauß later made good this omission; some of his first philosophy lectures in the Stift were on Kant. But by then Strauß had already left his romanticism and mysticism far behind him. It seems natural to ascribe the growing critical direction of Strauß’s thinking to the influence of Baur, whose lectures at the Stift he attended from 1828 to 1830. Baur had already developed his historical conception of theology in his Blaubeuren years, before he came to the Tübinger Stift; and he developed it further still during his lectures on church history in Tübingen. But Strauß himself later played down Baur’s role in helping him form his own biblical criticism. He conceded that Baur gave him some hints; but he insisted that his teacher’s own criticism was too underdeveloped to give him anything more. In his memoir Christian M€ arklin Strauß wrote of Baur’s lectures at Tübingen: “Here it was that Baur showed us some hints of critical light, although only from a distance. For he was far removed from the boldness of the author of the life of Jesus and this memoir [i.e., Strauß himself] from undertaking an assault on the walls of Zion; he had not even drawn the battle lines for a proper siege.”¹⁹ It could be that Strauß

Kontakt zur Kantischen Philosophie” (p. 156). This makes complete nonsense of Hegel’s critique of Schelling’s intellectual intuition, and his later attempt to introduce Kantian criticism into his dialectical method in the Ph€ anomenologie des Geistes. Strauß was keenly aware of these differences between Hegel and Schelling. See his Streitschriften zur Vertheidigung meiner Schrift über das Leben Jesu. Drittes Heft (Tübingen: Osiander, 1837), III, 64–6. ¹⁸ GS I, 125.

¹⁹ GS X, 221.

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was playing down his debts to Baur after his friendship with him had broken down; on the other hand, it would be foolish to ignore or underrate his own testimony. Strauß is certainly correct about one thing: that Baur did not dare to undertake “an assault on the walls of Zion.” He was too old, too conservative, and too cautious for that; he left such a brazen undertaking to his impetuous and imprudent student. In his later retrospective years,²⁰ Strauß wrote that there was one thinker in particular who freed him from his early mysticism, from that “ball of fog” that shrouded his early intellectual life: Friedrich Daniel Schleiermacher.²¹ At first he was attracted to Schleiermacher’s Reden and Monologen, because these works were like his own early romanticism. But then he read Schleiermacher’s Glaubenslehre, which seemed to open up a whole new world for him, an entirely new way of thinking. Of course, Schleiermacher’s Glaubenslehre was still a very romantic work because it saw the life of feeling as the key to unlocking the mystery of Christ. But it was not Schleiermacher’s Christology that appealed to Strauß; rather, it was “the intellectual magic of his exposition.” Schleiermacher developed his conception of Christ through sophisticated and intricate reasoning, through what Strauß called his “dialectical thinking,” which consisted in “opposing, distinguishing, and uniting.” Strauß learned to imitate this thinking, and it seemed to liberate latent powers within him, the power to think for himself and to construct his own intellectual universe. The net result for him and his friends he described as follows: “and before we knew it, we stood on completely new intellectual ground, from which the old magical world of clairvoyance, magic, and sympathy, when we looked back upon it, seemed to be standing on its head.”²² Still, despite all the importance Strauß gave to it, Schleiermacher’s influence could only go so far in explaining his turn toward rationalism. The chief problem was that Schleiermacher, despite his claims to the contrary, still had not settled the old conflict between reason and faith. The first to make this point against Schleiermacher was Baur in his inaugural lecture in Tübingen.²³ There he argued inter alia that Schleiermacher had left a dualism between his ideal of Christianity, which he had deduced a priori, and the traditional Christian faith, which is based on history. Many of his students, including Strauß, agreed with him, and this soon became a general complaint against Schleiermacher in the Stift. In the Reden Schleiermacher was already intent on isolating the sphere of faith from that of reason. He made the essence of ²⁰ See Strauß’s “Literarische Denkwürdigkeiten,” GS I, 12, and “Justinus Kerner,” GS I, 125. ²¹ The importance of Schleiermacher for Strauß’s development is stressed by Müller, Identit€ at und Immanenz, pp. 45, 217–18; and Hausrath, Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, I, 30, 34. ²² “Justinus Kerner,” GS I, 131. ²³ Prima Rationalisme et Supernaturalismi historiae capita potiora. Pars II: Comparatur Gnosticismus cum Schleiermacherianae theologie indole. Baur gave a German summary of this lecture in the Tübinger Zeitschrift für Theologie, “Anzeige der beiden academischen Schriften von Dr. F. C. Baur,” 1 Jahrgang, Erstes Stück (1828), pp. 220–64.

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religion consist in “the intuition of the universe,” and from it he excluded all discursive thinking. The Glaubenslehre claimed to reconcile reason and faith, but it too seemed to reintroduce, all the more subtly and slyly, the dualism between them.²⁴ There was the ideal of Christ, which was deduced a priori from religious self-consciousness; and then there was the Christ of history, which we could know empirically only from a study of the past. As Strauß later summarized the mood of disenchantment in the Stift: “The study of the Schleiermachian Glaubenslehre, far removed from pacifying us, only doubled our drive to pursue the issue further, because our master had arbitrarily set up border posts; the eternal peace between philosophy and theology, which he boasted of having settled once and for all, seemed to us only a fragile truce; instead, we found it necessary to prepare for war.”²⁵ The net effect of Schleiermacher’s dualism was that reason should have no right or power to criticize religion, because religion concerns the domain of feeling, which is distinct from that of reason. The criticism of the Christianity of history should therefore be irrelevant to the true interests of religion. To the young generation of students at the Stift, though, this seemed like Schleiermacher was giving a carte blanche to all the old traditional theology; his dualism had saved it from facing the tribunal of critique. So as much as Strauß had learned from Schleiermacher, as much as he was indebted to him, he still had not taught him to use his reason to examine the claims of traditional Christianity.²⁶ Learning how to think for yourself and to develop dialectical skills is a great step forward in a young man’s education; but it does not by itself teach him how to apply those skills, how to turn them against religion itself. Before that would happen, Strauß would need to study a philosopher who denied the dualism between reason and faith, and one who would stress the sovereignty of reason, its power to examine and criticize religion itself. As it happened, he would soon find just such a philosopher. His name was Hegel.

3.3 Discovery of Hegel It was a happy coincidence for Strauß and his fellow Stiftler that they learned of Hegel just as they were growing disappointed with Schleiermacher. They were introduced to Hegel sometime in the winter semester of 1828–9 by Matthias Schneckenberger’s lectures on the history of philosophy. Schneckenberger had heard Hegel’s lectures in Berlin, and had become an enthusiastic convert. In introducing Hegel to the Tübingen students, Schneckenberger knew all too well ²⁴ See, for example, Schleiermacher, Der christliche Glaube (Berlin: Reimer, 1821), I, 8, 11. ²⁵ See his Christian M€ arklin, GS X, 223. ²⁶ However, as we shall see (section 3.6), Strauß would learn about the critical use of reason from Schleiermacher’s early lectures on the life of Jesus. This development took place later, after Strauß’s visit to Berlin.

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that he was doing something novel, even naughty. Although Hegel himself was one of the most illustrious graduates of the Tubinger Stift, his alma mater did its best to forget him. Despite his reputation in the outside world, his philosophy was no part of the Stift’s curriculum. Schneckenberger’s references to Hegel seemed to tickle the curiosity of his students, who were eager to read more about their fellow Stiftler, who, in the late 1820s, was rapidly becoming the most famous philosopher in Germany. A group of five students, of which Strauß was the leader, formed a reading group in 1828 to study Hegel’s Ph€ anomenologie des Geistes. The group met for four semesters; yet even so their efforts were not enough to finish the book. Still, they were excited by the contents, and were intent to read more. What did Strauß and his friends see in Hegel? It was first and foremost his new rationalism, which not only gave reason unlimited critical powers, but which also provided it with a new method for knowledge of the absolute, i.e., the “one and all” or the universe as a whole. This rationalism overcame Schleiermacher’s problematic dualism between reason and faith, which had invented an autonomous realm of feeling for faith to escape rational criticism. It also had overcome the traditional problems of the old rationalism when it tried to know God or the absolute. According to Kant, the old rationalism lapsed into all kinds of logical fallacies— antinomies, amphibolies, and paralogisms—when it pushed the concepts of the understanding beyond their limits in sense experience. The dialectic of Hegel’s new rationalism showed how reason could avoid these problems while still giving us a knowledge of the whole of things. This method resolved the contradictions in the finite concepts of the understanding by showing how each of them were part of a single infinite whole. Thus Hegel gave reason the power not only to go beyond the limits of the understanding but also to ascend to a broader vision of the universe. When Strauß tried to explain the appeal of Hegel to himself and his friends, he stressed this new exhilarating holistic perspective: A more stimulating and demanding reading than the Phenomenology was not to be found for youths at our stage of education. While the understanding was instructed in the sharpest dialectical school, the mind was also given the deepest intuitions and the imagination the most surprising horizons; all of world history was illuminated for us; art and religion in their various forms were put in their place; and this whole kingdom of shapes came out of, and returned to, one selfconsciousness, which showed itself to be the power behind all things.²⁷

Around the same time that Strauß was discovering Hegel, he began to have doubts about some dogmas of traditional Christianity. One sign of a break with his past came in 1828 when Strauß wrote an essay on the resurrection of the dead, De

²⁷ Christian M€ arklin, GS X, 224.

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resurrectione carnis,²⁸ for the Catholic theology faculty in Tübingen. Strauß himself later said that “this was perhaps the first turning point in a critical direction.”²⁹ He told his friend Vischer that he proved “with full conviction” the immortality of the soul, both from Scripture and on natural-philosophical grounds. But then, after he wrote the final period and laid down his pen, he realized “there was nothing in the whole idea of the resurrection.” Strauß tells us nothing about why he came to this epiphany; but the mere fact that he had it, and ascribed such importance to it, is telling.³⁰ Another sign of a break with his past came with Strauß’s critique of his old spiritualism, which appeared in an article he published in 1830, “Kritik der verschiedene Ansichten über die Geister-Erscheinungen der Seherin von Prevorst.”³¹ This seeress of Prevorst was no less than Friederike Hauffe, whom Strauß visited the previous winter. Now Strauß examines critically the claims made for the seeress by his friend Kerner, and comes to a very skeptical conclusion. Although he does not deny that seers and somnambulists might have powers to communicate and act over distances, he doubts that there are ghosts at all. His main objection to their existence is metaphysical: since ghosts do not have organic bodies, they cannot have the power to communicate or interact with the physical world.³² Though Strauß wrote these two essays around the same time he was reading Hegel with his friends, there are still no clear signs of Hegelian influence on them. But Strauß’s doctoral dissertation, “Die Lehre von der Wiederbringung aller Dinge,”³³ which was written between April and May 1831, reveals a philosopher fully captivated by Hegel. The subject matter of the dissertation was the doctrine of the eternal return as it manifested itself in various world religions, especially Buddhism and Brahmanism. The language in which Strauß explains this doctrine is entirely Hegelian. As Strauß summarized his exposition: . . . this present world with its differences and oppositions is a contradictory one; and it drives thought forward to a future state which is without difference and opposition; but this too is unsatisfactory, and it must go back to the oppositions again; or, more strictly according to Hegel’s logic, if the universal excludes the

²⁸ This essay appears to have been lost. ²⁹ See Strauß to Vischer, February 8, 1838, Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe, pp. 51–2. ³⁰ Müller, Identit€ at und Immanenz, pp. 214–15, ascribes Strauß’s skepticism to the influence of Schelling, who had affirmed the immortality of the soul but denied personal immortality in his Philosophie und Religion. ³¹ “Die Seherin von Prevorst,” Hesperus. Encyclop€ adische Zeitschrift für gebildete Leser (1830), nos. 100–4. The article is reprinted in David Friedrich Strauß, Charakteristiken und Kritiken (Leipzig: Otto Wigand, 1844), Beilage XI, pp. 390–404. ³² Charakteristiken und Kritiken, p. 395. ³³ The complete dissertation was first published in Müller, Identit€ at und Immanenz, pp. 49–84.

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   particular (Indian religion), it becomes a particular itself; the good, when it excludes evil, becomes evil itself.³⁴

3.4 The Conflict between Reason and Faith So the young Strauß was a Hegelian. But why? We have already given a cursory explanation; but it was too vague and brief. What, more specifically, did he admire in Hegel’s philosophy? To understand Hegel’s appeal to Strauß, it is necessary to appreciate Hegel’s solution to one specific philosophical problem: the conflict between reason and faith. It was this conflict that especially concerned Strauß, who, without exaggeration, devoted his entire career to it. Strauß became a Hegelian first and foremost because he was convinced that Hegel had the best possible solution to this problem. What exactly was the conflict between reason and faith for Hegel? And how did he propose to resolve it? To answer these questions, we must go back in history. When Strauß came of age in the early 1830s, the conflict between reason and faith, which had plagued Christianity from its very beginning, still remained a central problem, to say the least. This conflict took on many different forms throughout history; but it never disappeared. The form in which this problem became known in the early nineteenth century had been set by the famous “pantheism controversy” between Moses Mendelssohn and Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi in the late eighteenth century.³⁵ This controversy revolved around one figure, a notorious heretic, Benedict de Spinoza. For Jacobi, Spinoza’s philosophy represented the epitome of rationalism. Its rationalism came not so much from Spinoza’s use of the geometric method but more from his radical application of the principle of sufficient reason. This principle meant that any event has a sufficient cause or reason, such that given that cause or reason, the event must occur and cannot be otherwise. If someone insists that this principle holds without exception, so that it applies to every possible event, then, Jacobi argued, he cannot accept two central religious and moral beliefs: creation ex nihilo and freedom (where freedom is understood to involve the possibility of acting otherwise). Hence Jacobi taught that Spinoza’s philosophy ends in atheism and fatalism. Implicit in his interpretation of Spinoza was a powerful challenge to all philosophy or rational thinking as such. Namely, one has to make a choice between either a rational atheism and fatalism or a leap of faith in a personal God and freedom. There is no middle path: rational belief in God and freedom. Faced with this

³⁴ This summary is from Strauß’s June 14, 1831 letter to Binder, which is reproduced in Müller, Identit€ at und Immanenz, pp. 84–7. ³⁵ On that controversy, see my The Fate of Reason (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), pp. 44–125.

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dilemma, Jacobi took his “salto mortale,” his belief, against all reason, in a personal God and freedom. Better to cling to one’s faith, he held, than be a rational atheist and fatalist. The challenge for youth in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century was to find some middle path between the horns of Jacobi’s dilemma. They did not want to be atheists or fatalists; the materialism of the French philosophes was abhorrent to them. But neither could they stomach Jacobi’s old-fashioned theism and supernatural concept of freedom. For most thinkers of the romantic generation—Herder, Schelling, H€ olderlin, Schleiermacher, Novalis, Friedrich Schlegel, and Hegel—there seemed only one way out: the reinterpretation of Spinoza. The very philosopher who created their problem seemed to offer a solution to it. According to their rereading of Spinoza, he was not an atheist but a pantheist; he held that all finite things are simply modes of a single infinite substance, which manifests itself through them. So far from being an atheist, Spinoza was the very opposite, “der Gott betrunkene Mensch,” as Novalis dubbed him. God was not simply the sum total or collection of all finite things, as the old Wolffian polemics against Spinoza had it; rather, he was the single infinite and indivisible substance. This God was what Spinoza called the natura naturans, the one dynamic force and power behind all of nature. Hence Spinoza would often say, as if the words were completely synonymous, “deus sive natura.” His pantheism was therefore one and the same with his naturalism, with the belief that everything in the universe acts according to laws and cannot be otherwise. This equation of pantheism with naturalism seemed the perfect solution to the conflict between reason and faith. For it not only divinized nature, it also naturalized the divine. The most serene piety could therefore manifest itself in the most rigorous science. Of course, the romantic solution to Jacobi’s dilemma worked only by rejecting his pia desideria. Jacobi’s faith was in a theistic God, a supernatural being who created the world ex nihilo, and who was distinct from his creation and all of nature. His God was much closer to the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition. He was a personal being and ruled over his creation with paternal concern; and he was a being to whom one could pray. For all those who accepted traditional theism, then, the romantic solution to the problem of reason versus faith was really not a solution at all; the problem simply took another form. Spinoza’s God gave no place to the most important tenets of theism: the beliefs in providence, immortality, a personal God. After all, who could pray to Spinoza’s God, this unyielding, cold, and brutal universe, which did not really care? Even for those who accepted pantheism, the Spinozist solution to the conflict between reason and faith posed problems all its own. Granted that God is a single infinite substance, how does one know this substance? How does one know that such a being even exists? Just to point to the world outside us is not sufficient, because this world seems to be nothing more than a composite, a heap of

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disconnected things. Furthermore, what ensures us that this world is anything more than our own consciousness? What right do we have to assume the existence of anything outside our own representations? For Spinoza, who had complete confidence in the powers of reason, these problems never really arose; the geometric method was his way to grasp God with demonstrative certainty. For a generation educated by Kant, however, Spinoza’s confidence in the powers of reason seemed utterly naïve; the geometric method would work only if one assumed its axioms and definitions; but they were by their very nature indemonstrable. Beside these difficulties, Kant and Jacobi stressed an even more serious problem: that reason seemed restricted to knowledge of the finite world, the world of our experience. If reason were limited to the principle of sufficient reason, as everyone seemed to admit, and if the sufficient reason for one event were another event or chain or events, then how could one ever know the infinite or unconditioned? To know anything is to trap it into a web of causal connections, making it finite and conditioned; but in that case the infinite or unconditioned eludes our grasp. The romantic generation accepted this paradigm of reason as mechanical explanation; but in doing so, they seemed to doom themselves to knowledge of the finite and conditioned, making the infinite and unconditioned an object of faith. As Novalis neatly summarized the dilemma: “We seek the unconditioned but find only conditions.”³⁶ To escape this predicament, the romantics would often appeal to a faculty of intuition or feeling (intellectual intuition) to grasp the infinite; but this was a desperate stratagem, given that intuition or feeling is indemonstrable and cannot provide reasons. Hence, for the romantic generation, the conflict between reason and faith never really went away; the gap between what we know (the conditioned) and what we believe (the unconditioned) seemed greater than ever. Such, around the turn of the century, was the problem of reason versus faith for the young romantic generation. The challenge for them was that their enthusiasm for Spinoza really did not square with the Kantian critique of knowledge. All the intuitions and feelings they had for the universe seemed to fade or evaporate before the nagging critical question: Is it really an intuition or feeling of the infinite? No thinker of that generation was more aware of that challenge, and no one was more keener to surmount it, than the young Hegel. In his early Jena years Hegel shared all the enthusiasm of the romantics for Spinoza, and he went along with their belief in an intuitive awareness of the divine. He accepted Schelling’s theory of intellectual intuition, according to which we have an immediate non-discursive knowledge of the divine. But, by his later Jena years, Hegel realized that intellectual intuition is no solution to the problem. What

³⁶ Novalis, Blütenstaub, in Schriften, ed. Richard Samuel (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1960), II, 413. The dictum, which is really untranslatable, is in the original: “Wir suchen überall das Unbedinge und finden immer nur Dinge.”

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if someone does not have this exalted faculty? And what if others question its findings? That concept simply begged the question against those who had different intuitions or those who could not have any at all. There had to be, then, some rational approach to the problem of the knowledge of the absolute, one that did justice to the critical demands for universality and necessity. The only philosopher who seemed to recognize those demands, and who tried to meet them, was Hegel. How did he meet these demands? The answer lay with his famous dialectic. The meaning of this method has been subject to endless discussion and analysis, which we cannot add to here. We can at best provide a simple and schematic idea of how it works. We can summarize this method by three simple steps: 1) show how contradictions arise of necessity in any attempt to know the infinite through finite concepts, i.e., concepts which are limited in their content by their negations; 2) show how the solution of these contradictions results in a higher concept which encompasses the finite concept and its negation; and 3) show that this process goes on until one reaches the highest concept which includes all finite concepts within itself. The contradictions arise because a) finite concepts each claim to have a selfsufficient meaning yet b) they also depend on their negations. There is only one way to resolve the contradiction that does justice to both a) and b): to claim selfsufficiency not for one concept but for the whole of both concepts. The same contradiction arises on the level of the higher concepts or wholes, which also depend on their negations; the process then goes on until we reach the highestlevel concept, the whole of all wholes, which does not depend on any negation because it has nothing outside itself. This highest concept will be adequate to the infinite because, like the infinite, its meaning will not be restricted by its negation, by anything outside itself. The dialectic is thus a process by which we attain knowledge of the infinite. It gives a rational knowledge because a) it uses finite concepts, because b) it resolves the contradictions between these concepts, and because c) it results in a holistic explanation of these concepts. But it avoids the standard objection to rational knowledge of the infinite because it shows how these finite concepts contradict themselves if they are used on their own. The dialectic therefore works by providing a new paradigm of rationality. The traditional paradigm assumes that the sufficient reason for a thing is a prior cause, some event prior in time which makes the succeeding event necessary. According to Hegel, however, the sufficient reason for something is not its external cause, another event (or series of events) outside it, but the whole of which it is a part. The dialectic, in other words, is a method of holistic explanation, according to which understanding something consists in showing its necessity as a part of a whole. This reinterpretation of the principle of sufficient reason means that reason is not confined to mechanism, to the series of events in the finite world, but that it has the power to grasp the whole, of which the series of events is only a part. If

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reason has the power to grasp the whole, the system of all our knowledge of the world, then it ipso facto has the power to know the infinite or unconditioned.

3.5 The Dilemmas of a Young Pastor Besides the dialectic, there was another Hegelian doctrine that was especially important for the young Strauß’s attempt to reconcile reason and faith. This doctrine consisted in two parts. One part was the distinction between the form and content of religion.³⁷ The form, the mode of exposition, consists in representation; the content, what is expounded, consists in the concept. The other part of this doctrine was the parallel distinction between representation (Vorstellung) and concept (Begriff). Representation is a symbolic or poetic mode of exposition; and the concept is a discursive or systematic mode. Religion for Hegel consists in representations which express the truth in a confused manner through images; philosophy consists in concepts, which express truth in a clear, distinct, and systematic manner. The task of philosophy, Hegel taught, is to transform representations into concepts; in this transformation the confused and particular element in a representation would be negated and the clear and universal element in the concept would be preserved. The great value of this doctrine for Strauß is that it seemed to reconcile reason and faith: reason could criticize the form of faith; but it also had to save and explain its content. Philosophy, therefore, could not be only negative criticism. The fact that faith had a content meant that there had to be limits to criticism, that there is a truth behind it which philosophy must acknowledge. As promising as this doctrine was in both encouraging and limiting criticism, it also raised problems of its own. What exactly is the concept? And what precisely is the representation? Where are the boundaries between concept and representation? Hegel had not completely or unambiguously answered such basic questions. The crucial question for Strauß, and indeed the whole post-Hegelian generation, was how much representation could or should be formulated into concepts; or, in other words, to what extent could or should the representations of evangelical history be expressed in terms of dogma? This was just the question that Strauß posed when he divided the Hegelian school into its right, left, and center. The mere fact that there were these divisions showed that these issues were very controversial. The whole question of reason versus faith had not been solved at all; it had only been shifted onto new territory. In Autumn 1830, after his graduation from the Stift, Strauß had to do his Vikariat, i.e., his stint as an apprentice pastor. His apprenticeship took place in the ³⁷ On the importance of this doctrine for the young Strauß, see J€org Sandberger, David Friedrich Strauß als theologischer Hegelianer (G€ottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1972), pp. 35, 54, 70.

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tiny village of Klein-Ingersheim, only a mile away from his home in Ludwigsburg. It was here that Strauß became aware of the new conflict between reason and faith in a very immediate, practical, and urgent form. The problem was how to reconcile his vocation with his philosophical doctrine. As a philosopher, Strauß fancied that he stood on the higher level of the concept; but his parishioners were on the lower level of representation, understanding their faith only in its literal historical form. This predicament posed a dilemma. On the one hand, it was clear that Strauß could not just preach Hegelian doctrine to his parishioners, who could not understand it, and who could never accept its content in place of the traditional faith. They wanted to hear about the life of Jesus, stories about the miracles and prophecies, all of which they took to be literal truths. If, on the other hand, he preached the traditional doctrines, he would be untrue to himself, a hypocrite on the podium. Strauß, it seemed, had to choose between honesty and hypocrisy: honesty was unacceptable to his parishioners; but hypocrisy was unacceptable to himself. Strauß discussed this dilemma in his December 20, 1830 letter to his friend Christian M€arklin.³⁸ A fellow Stiftler also serving his Vikariat, M€arklin complained about the same predicament as Strauß. His philosophical position too was in conflict with the duties of his vocation. Strauß told M€arklin that there were only three ways out. First, they could simply retreat to the old orthodoxy and abandon their philosophical positions; second, they could edit their sermons, so that they conformed more to their philosophy; or, third, they could leave their vocation entirely. Strauß said that the first option was impossible; the second was contrary to their vocation and the expectations of their parishioners; and the third was too drastic and radical, or as he called it “feuerreiterisch,” which was his term for the radical faction of the local fraternity, die Feuerreiter. It is revealing for Strauß’s political convictions at the time that the mere mention of that term was sufficient to reject that option. Strauß, for one, was not ready to quit his vocation simply because the world failed to conform to his ideals. But if all these options were unacceptable, what was the young pastor to do? In the end, Strauß opted for a version of the second, which was a compromise and form of pragmatic realism. Leaving their profession just because some of its parishioners were backward he likened to a king who abdicated simply because he could not liberate the serfs in his kingdom. Rather than fleeing one’s post, one should do the best one can and deal with the situation. History had thrown them into this predicament, and now they had no choice but to adapt to it. For Strauß, the pastor could best deal with the problem if he wrote his sermons so that “the concept can shine through the representation as much as possible.” He should strip away more and more parts of the representation obscuring the concept, so

³⁸ Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe, pp. 3–7.

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that he could finally reveal more of the concept itself. Strauß admitted that this was not an ideal solution; but this was the best someone could do in the present state of historical progress. One could only await the further movement of history, and do one’s little bit in helping it arrive. It would help the pastor’s conscience, Strauß felt, if he only remembered that there was a conceptual content behind all the representations of his sermons. There was no denying, though, that if the people were not ready for the concept, the pastor had to speak with them in the language of representation.

3.6 Journey to Berlin Having finished his Vikariat, Strauß resolved in the autumn of 1831 to travel and to see more of the world. The only place for a young Hegelian to go was Berlin. Here he could attend the lectures of Hegel and learn the master’s philosophy directly from its source. For the winter semester 1831–2, Hegel had announced lectures in the history of philosophy and the philosophy of religion. That was perfect for Strauß, who wanted to know more about Hegel’s views on just these topics. However, going to Berlin posed a problem. Strauß had been warned about traveling there because of a cholera epidemic. He had to weigh the danger to his health against the opportunity of learning philosophy directly from Hegel. Having heard that the epidemic was abating, he decided to take his chances; he departed for Berlin sometime in October 1831. Shortly after his arrival, Strauß threw himself into the intellectual life of the capital. He attended Hegel’s lectures, which were delivered several times a week. Hegel, he discovered, was not a master orator. “His lecturing gave the impression of the purest being for itself (das reine Fürsichseins), as if he were not conscious of the being of another, i.e., it was a simple meditating rather than a talk directed at an audience. Hence the soft voice, the incomplete sentences, which would only momentarily rise into full thoughts.”³⁹ After attending the first week of lectures, Strauß was introduced to Hegel himself. When he told Hegel his name and birthplace, Hegel was delighted to find a fellow Swabian. “Ah, ein Württemberger!” he exclaimed. Hegel asked Strauß many questions about their homeland. Hegel said that he had heard all kinds of bad things were being said about him in the Tübinger Stift; but he laughed it off, saying that one is never a prophet in one’s homeland. When one saw Hegel on the lectern, Strauß said, he seemed like an old man, bent over and coughing; but when one saw him close up, he seemed ten years younger. He had bright blue

³⁹ See Strauß to Märklin, November 15, 1831, Ausgewählte Briefe, p. 8.

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eyes, beautiful teeth, and a pleasant smile. At the end of their conversation, Hegel told Strauß that they should meet more often and that he should meet his wife. Through Strauß, Hegel probably hoped to establish some connection with his old alma mater.⁴⁰ Another reason Strauß came to Berlin was to hear Schleiermacher, the thinker who had once meant so much to him in learning how to philosophize. Strauß attended Schleiermacher’s lectures on the introduction to theology and the New Testament. Though familiar with Schleiermacher’s dialectic, Strauß found these lectures hard to follow because Schleiermacher restlessly and hurriedly extemporized. Because of this disappointing experience, Strauß confessed to his friend Märklin that he did not feel particularly attracted to Schleiermacher, though he said he would first have to meet the man in person.⁴¹ Strauß had a much higher opinion of Schleiermacher’s sermons at the university church, which he attended early Sunday mornings. These taught him the art of lively and popular exposition. One of Schleiermacher’s lecture topics in the early 1830s was the life of Jesus. This was of great interest to Strauß; unfortunately, Schleiermacher did not lecture on this topic while Strauß was in Berlin. Strauß had to content himself with two sets of lecture notes from previous semesters. These notes were of great importance for Strauß in developing his own views about the life of Jesus. When Schleiermacher’s lectures were published after his death, Strauß wrote a long review of them.⁴² Soon enough, Strauß had his opportunity to meet Schleiermacher. On November 15 he was introduced to the man, who immediately asked him why the cholera in Berlin had not scared him away. Strauß said he had little fear because he heard that the epidemic was abating. Well, Schleiermacher said, it had just carried off one last victim, who was “Professor Hegel.”⁴³ Strauß was stunned. He had just met Hegel the other day. And now he was dead? He was so shocked to hear this terrible news that he blurted out in front of Schleiermacher that he had come to Berlin for nothing. Since Schleiermacher and Hegel were bitter rivals, this outburst would have been a slight to Schleiermacher, who had assumed that Strauß wanted to study with him. With one indiscreet utterance, Strauß practically sabotaged his whole visit. Now that Hegel was gone, he could also expect little attention from Schleiermacher.⁴⁴ Indeed, the next time Strauß met Schleiermacher the great man was indeed rather rude. When asked whether he had met ⁴⁰ This is the suggestion of Theobald Ziegler, David Friedrich Strauß (Straßburg: Karl J. Trübner, 1908), I, 93. ⁴¹ Strauß to Märklin, November 15, 1831, Ausgewählte Briefe, p. 10. ⁴² David Friedrich Strauß, Der Christus des Glaubens und der Jesus der Geschichte: Eine Kritik des Schleiermacher’schen Lebens Jesu (Berlin: Duncker, 1865). We will discuss this piece in chapter 14 (section 14.2). ⁴³ This story is told by Strauß himelf in his November 15, 1831 letter to Märklin, Ausgewählte Briefe, p. 8. ⁴⁴ This story has been contradicted by Ziegler, Strauß, I, 94–5, who conjectures that it was a later fabrication of Strauß’s friends in the Stift. Horton, however, maintains that there is no evidence for Ziegler’s suspicions. He explains that Schleiermacher’s later reaction to Strauß is entirely consistent

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“Dr. Strauß,” Schleiermacher said curtly, “I know him already” and turned away.⁴⁵ Despite this mishap, Strauß resolved to stay in Berlin, hoping to learn enough philosophy and theology from Hegel’s disciples. Though Hegel was dead, he still had not died out, Strauß told himself.⁴⁶ Hegel had left behind many disciples, who were also giving lectures in Berlin. And so Strauß attended the lectures of Hennings on logic, Michelet on the encyclopedia of philosophical sciences, and Marheineke on the influence of philosophy on theology. It was probably from attending Marheineke’s lectures that Strauß developed a critical insight into the shortcomings of the conservative Hegelian school, one that would be crucial for the development of his own thinking.⁴⁷ Marheineke, in his view, assumed that the gospel narratives were historically accurate and from them he made complicated speculative constructions; a presumed fact of history was then made to seem logically necessary. What was lacking in this methodology, Strauß maintained, was the critical moment of the dialectic. This would have taught Marheineke to be more cautious before making speculative constructions, which were castles built on air because they were based on merely putative facts. Strauß came away with the belief that a preliminary critique of the gospels—a thoroughgoing examination of their historical testimony—was necessary before any philosophical explanation of them. The most important young Hegelian for Strauß during his time in Berlin was Wilhelm Vatke.⁴⁸ Strauß and Vatke quickly became friends and lived together in the same house at Spittelbrücke Nr. 3. They had much in common: a deep love of music, Hegel’s philosophy, and driving intellectual ambition. Both strived to develop the critical side of Hegel’s philosophy, which they wanted to apply to the Bible; and both were convinced of the value of the theory of myth. From Vatke’s lectures on the Old Testament, Strauß could see how that theory and the method of critique could be applied to that text; he resolved to do the same for the New Testament. Having so much in common, Strauß and Vatke resolved to found together a new critical journal; they visited Duncker of the prestigious Duncker & Humblot publishing house; Duncker told them to find someone more famous as an editor; they responded by telling him what he could do with himself. When Strauß was about to leave Berlin, he reportedly told Vatke during a walk in the

with him having made this faux pas. See Horton, Strauß, p. 29. At least the story is a good myth, symbolic of Strauß’s relations with Hegel and Schleiermacher. ⁴⁵ On this incident, see Karl Harraeus, David Friedrich Strauß: Sein Leben und seine Schriften unter Heranziehung seiner Briefe dargestellt (Leipzig: Hermann Seemann Nachfolger, 1901), p. 43. ⁴⁶ See Strauß to Märklin, November 15, 1831: “hier ist Hegel gestorben, aber nicht ausgestorben.” Ausgewählte Briefe, p. 8. ⁴⁷ See Strauß to L. Georgii, March 11, 1832, in Briefe von David Friedrich Strauss an L. Georgii, ed. Heinrich Maier (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1912), p. 6. ⁴⁸ On Strauß’s relationship to Vatke, see Heinrich Benecke, Wilhelm Vatke in seinem Leben und seinem Schriften (Bonn: Emil Strauß, 1883), pp. 71–80.

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Tiergarten: “Schleiermacher has stimulated me greatly, and I owe him much for that; but the man still has not satisfied me. He stands still half way, and he has not had the last word. That word I will say. I travel now to Tübingen, and, listen Vatke, I will write a life of Jesus according to my ideas.”⁴⁹

⁴⁹ Ibid., p. 75.

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4 Tübingen Lectures 4.1 A Philosophical Lecturer When Strauß returned to Tübingen in May 1832, he was filled with ideas for his forthcoming lectures at the university. As a Repetent, or graduate of the Stift, he had the right to give such lectures, which he immediately began to prepare. All that he had learned in Berlin he was now ready to impart to a curious and eager audience. Strauß’s return had been impatiently awaited by many students, who were keen to hear all about philosophy in Berlin.¹ While still in Berlin, Strauß had been thinking of giving lectures on the introduction to philosophy;² but, for unknown reasons, he abandoned these plans after his arrival in Tübingen. In the summer of 1832 he lectured on logic and metaphysics; then, in the winter of 1832–3, he taught the history of philosophy since Kant; and, finally, in the summer of 1833, he read “the history of morals.”³ By all accounts, these lectures were a spectacular success. The students packed the lecture halls, enthralled by Strauß’s lively style. According to Eduard Zeller, who was in the audience, Strauß closely followed his carefully prepared text; but his manner of exposition was still so stimulating that the students remained steadily engaged with the material.⁴ “There was no student at those lectures,” Zeller later said,⁵ “who did not remember them with gratitude and pleasure.” Not the least reason for Strauß’s success was that philosophy in Tübingen had been dry and barren. No one wanted to hear anymore the same old fare doled out by Eschenmayer and Steudel. Strauß’s lectures were like “a refreshing rain on parched earth,” Zeller wrote,⁶ because the interest in philosophy among the students finally found satisfaction. Karl Klüpfel, a historian of Tübingen university, wrote of Strauß’s reception there: “He was seen as a philosophical hero who left far behind him everything heard before. A crowd of listeners stormed into his lecture hall as rarely seen by any professor in Tübingen.”⁷

¹ Eduard Zeller, David Friedrich Strauß in seinem Leben und seinen Schriften (Bonn: Emil Strauß, 1874), p. 29. ² Strauß to Märklin, February 6, 1832, in Jörg Sandberger, David Friedrich Strauß als theologischer Hegelianer (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1972), p. 194. ³ Zeller, Strauß, p. 30. ⁴ Ibid., p. 30. ⁵ Ibid., pp. 30–1. ⁶ Ibid., p.29. ⁷ Karl Klüpfel, Geschichte und Beschreibung der Universität Tübingen (Tübingen: Ludwig Friedrich Fues, 1849), p. 377. David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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So Strauß began his academic career with a bang. One could predict only future success. But, strangely, Strauß stopped lecturing after the summer of 1833. Why? Why not continue with a career that had begun so well? Zeller said that Strauß wanted the time to write his book on the life of Jesus, an ambition he conceived in Berlin.⁸ But Ziegler contests this.⁹ Strauß abandoned his lectures on philosophy, he wrote, because of the resistance of the Tübingen philosophical faculty. The old guard of that faculty, especially Sigwart, Steudel, and Eschenmayer, were annoyed with Strauß because his popularity was depriving them of their normal audience, and along with that their lecture fees. They therefore did their best to impede Strauß. They prevented him from using the large lecture hall in the Stift; they complained to the Inspektorat that Strauß was diminishing attendance at the normal lectures; and they protested that, in one of his lectures, Strauß had spoken about one professor in an insulting manner. Because the faculty did not get full satisfaction from the Stift authorities, they eventually took their complaints to the Ministry of Education in Stuttgart. They wanted to end the old practice of giving students credit for hearing lectures from graduates; if abolished, students would continue to come to their normal lectures. The ministry appeared to accept the professors’ proposal; but then, remarkably, it allowed exceptions to the new rule. Strauß, it said, was one of those exceptions, which he had proven by his brilliant performance on the podium. The victory of the professors was thus turned into a humiliating defeat.¹⁰ But this turn of events still leaves us with our original question. If Strauß had routed the professors—if he had won approval at the highest level of the ministry—then why give up his lectures? He should have felt vindicated and motivated to continue. According to Ziegler, Strauß could foresee that the professors would create only more problems for him. If he were to continue with his philosophy lectures, he would have to habilitate in philosophy; and the professors would be sure to do everything they could to prevent that. Eschenmayer had already failed Strauß’s doctoral dissertation; and there was every reason to think he would do the same with a habilitation. Thus Ziegler concludes that it was the Tübingen philosophical faculty that forced Strauß to give up his lectures and turn to writing the life of Jesus.¹¹ The ultimate cause of this sad fate, Ziegler concludes, was nothing more than the “greed, jealousy, and envy” of the Tübingen professors.¹² If it were not for them, he implies, Strauß would have remained a philosopher and he might never have written his life of Jesus. Ziegler’s argument has been questioned by Heinrich Maier.¹³ He maintains that all that prevented Strauß from habilitating in philosophy was his growing ⁸ Zeller, Strauß, p. 31. ⁹ Ziegler, David Friedrich Strauß (Straßburg: Karl J. Trübner, 1908), I, 118–23. ¹⁰ Ibid., I, 121. ¹¹ Ibid., I, 123. ¹² Ibid., I, 121, 123. ¹³ Heinrich Meier, Briefe von David Friedrich Strauss an L. Georgii (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1912), pp. 9–10, n. 1.

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disinterest in the subject after the completion of his lectures. Strauß was not intimidated by the philosophy faculty, Maier insists, since they could not on legal grounds have prevented him from habilitating. For evidence that Strauß had turned away from philosophy, Maier cites Strauß’s May 7, 1837 letter to Rapp, where he says that “toward the end of my lectures in Tübingen the interest in philosophy began to die in me and it has not awakened again since then.”¹⁴ But Maier begs the question why Strauß’s interest in philosophy abated. His interest in philosophy remained very strong until all the troubles began. As late as January 1833, while giving his lectures on the history of philosophy, Strauß told Binder that he no longer had any interest in theology and that his chief concern was with philosophy.¹⁵ For the decline in interest in philosophy at the end of his lectures, Ziegler has a ready explanation: the philosophical faculty created too many problems for him. While the philosophers could not have legally prevented habilitation, as Maier argues, they certainly would have discouraged it. Not only could they fail a habilitation request, but they were not pleasant company. The prospect of joining such a hostile faculty could not have been enticing to Strauß. Whatever his reasons for abandoning his lectures, Strauß had long nurtured the plan to write a life of Jesus; and if he were to do that, he would have to spend all his time and effort on it. So the decision to stop lecturing was overdetermined, the combination of Strauß’s ambition to write his book and the obstructions of the Tübingen philosophy faculty.

4.2 Lectures on Logic and Metaphysics Strauß’s 1832 lectures on logic and metaphysics are primarily an exposition of Hegel’s Wissenschaft der Logik.¹⁶ They follow closely Hegel’s text, providing explanations for all of the key transitions in reasoning. There is therefore little novel or original in these lectures; they would have been exciting to Tübingen students in the early 1830s, who were not familiar with Hegel, and for whom Hegel was the latest fashion from Berlin; but, to later students, who have read Hegel’s text, they offer no news and no surprises. The logic and metaphysics lectures show, if nothing else, that Strauß was a diedin-the-wool Hegelian in the early 1830s. He understood Hegel’s logic all too well, down to the detailed niceties of his reasoning. There is, however, one part of the

¹⁴ Eduard Zeller, Ausgewählte Briefe von David Friedrich Strauß (Bonn: Verlag von Emil Strauß, 1895), p. 35. ¹⁵ Theobold Ziegler, “Zur Biographie von David Friedrich Strauß,” Deutsche Revue 2 (April–June 1905), p. 343. ¹⁶ These lectures are in manuscript only and in the possession of the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach. Signatur A: Strauß; Zugangsnummer.6828. I requested that a digitized copy be made; it was then made available to me by the Literaturarchiv.

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lectures that does reveal Strauß’s own thinking. This is the “Allgemeine Einleitung,” where Strauß explains his conception of logic and metaphysics. Although this conception is decidedly Hegelian, Strauß still gives his own explanation and rationale for it. Strauß begins by telling his students why he is focusing on Hegel. It is not simply because his is the latest philosophy but because it brings to completion the chapter of modern philosophy begun by Kant. This new period of philosophy is one where the alienation of subject and object has finally been overcome, where the object has been made spirit, and where spirit has been made object (8).¹⁷ Kant and Fichte made the ego into everything objective, while Schelling and Hegel made the objective into the ego or spirit. The Hegelian philosophy comprises all modern philosophy since its beginning with Kant. A new period of philosophy, Strauß informs us, is not to be expected. This is not because he thinks that all philosophy ends with Hegel but because he thinks that the dialectic of modern philosophy ends with him. What is beyond modern philosophy is beyond our ken in this historical epoch.¹⁸ Having explained his Hegelian starting point, Strauß proceeds to give his theory of the nature of logic and metaphysics. According to the conventional view, logic teaches one how to think correctly while metaphysics helps one form thoughts about objects (15). Metaphysics consists in concepts like being and non-being, quality and quantity, cause and effect. Logic should give me instruction about how to apply these concepts; it should tell me whether something is or is not, which is the cause and which the effect; and so on. But Strauß finds this conventional view objectionable, or at least that it has misleading implications. It seems to make logic only a matter of how we think about objects, having no direct reference or import for the objects themselves. Strauß maintains on the contrary that the form of judgment is not simply about how we think about objects but it also belongs to objects themselves (16). Judgment is joining the particular with the universal; the judgment “the rose is red” joins the particular rose with the universal red. Particular and universal are forms of being for Strauß, and it is these forms which are joined together in judgment. And so he writes: “All things are a judgment, because all things are an individual in which a universal concept or kind lives” (16). Strauß explains the objective meaning of logic by focusing on a typical syllogism. When I reason, “All men are mortal; Cajus is a man; therefore, Cajus is mortal,” this conclusion is true of Cajus and not merely my reasoning about him (17). The syllogism states a basic fact about Cajus: that, because he is a man, he is

¹⁷ The references are to the page numbers in the original manuscript. ¹⁸ See Hegel’s lectures on the history of philosophy in the next section, which make clear the limitations of Hegel’s philosophy to the modern era.

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mortal. The syllogism is therefore not simply ordering our thinking about Cajus but revealing something about the nature of Cajus himself. Because logic is not only about thinking correctly about objects but also about objects themselves, Strauß maintains that it is part of metaphysics (17). According to this conception of logic, concepts, judgments, and inferences are not only forms of thinking but also metaphysical essences (Wesenheiten). These essences are the totality of logical forms; but they also fall under metaphysics, which therefore encompasses all of logic (18). But the subordination of logic to metaphysics is only Strauß’s preliminary view. He maintains that logic not only falls under metaphysics, but that the fields of logic and metaphysics are really co-extensive, that they are indeed one and the same discipline (19). Logic would be only one part of metaphysics if there were other concepts of metaphysics besides those of logic; but all concepts of metaphysics, Strauß insists, must also fall under the domain of logic, insofar as they are not only objective but also “subjective functions of thinking”; they therefore fit under logic as a science concerned with correct thinking. Strauß therefore thinks we can identify logic and metaphysics as essentially the same science: “Logic and metaphysics are therefore one and the same” (19). How do we get to know the thoughts which are the content of logic? Neither by a priori nor by a posteriori means alone, Strauß answers. We must bring to consciousness “the essential laws and thoughts” which govern the world of appearances (21). This is partly an a priori business in making explicit what is implicit in our thinking; but it is also a posteriori because we must note how these laws and thoughts appear in the world. This was a very vague answer to a legitimate and important question. Given the identity of thought and being, one wonders why a posteriori methods are necessary at all. Are they intended only as confirmation for what one knows a priori? Unfortunately, the lectures do not address this point. Strauß makes it a requirement of logic that it show the essential unity of thought, i.e., how each of its parts are necessarily connected. Logic must reveal how concepts move into judgments, then how judgments move into inferences (23). Most ordinary logics order thought in a mechanical way, so that its contents are simply placed alongside one another. Instead, Strauß insists, we have to show how the contents of logic “move into one another.” Kant, Strauß maintains, had completely failed to establish the unity of logic (38). He derived his categories from the forms of judgment, which is like deriving metaphysical principles from their consequences and application rather than from pure thinking. He did not show why we use just these and no other concepts, and why some are basic and not others (40). He complained that Aristotle’s derivation of the categories is “rhapsodic”; but the same point applies to him.

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Following Hegel,¹⁹ Strauß explains that there are three moments, three sides to the activity of thinking (25). 1) The concept in its determinacy, its difference from other concepts, which is “thinking as the understanding.” 2) The concept as it turns into its opposite, which is a negative or destructive moment, “the negative dialectical” or “the dialectical.” 3) The positive activity of reason, which dissolves the negative moment and brings opposites into a higher unity (27). Because of the identity of thought and being, Strauß says that he recognizes no form of thought which is not also a form of objectivity (28). The three forms of thought—understanding, dialectic, and speculative—are developments which take place in all objects. The logical forms of thought are simply “the basic forms of the world” (29). Strauß is therefore happy to formulate in his own words one of the most grandiose metaphors of Hegel’s Wissenschaft der Logik: “Logic shows us the divine thoughts which God has actualized in the world, which are at the same time the living force through which he moves the world and the laws through which he governs it”²⁰ (19). To invigorate his audience for the lectures to come, Strauß calls his listeners “conquerors” of the realms of logic and metaphysics, which are now joined with them into one kingdom (29). We have carried no weapons for this conquest, he says, other than those forged by “old commander Hegel.” There was once an old logical territory—concept, judgment, and reasoning—but there is now a new logical territory—being, essence, quality, and quantity. We could divide logic into an objective and subjective side, where the logical forms belong to subjective logic; but these forms are only at first subjective; they prove to be objective, so that all the new logic is objective. After these rousing lines, Strauß then proceeds to introduce his students to the content of Hegel’s logic. They had to prepare themselves for a long battle. Strauß would complete the conquest only after 623 pages.

4.3 Lectures on the History of Philosophy After his lectures on logic and metaphysics, Strauß proceeded in the next semester, winter 1832–3, to give his lectures on the history of philosophy since Kant.²¹ ¹⁹ Hegel, Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften (1830), §§79–82. ²⁰ Hegel, Wissenschaft der Logik, ed. Georg Lasson (Hamburg: Meiner, 1971), I, 31. ²¹ Apparently, Strauß’s own manuscript of these lectures is lost. There are three sets of student notes on them in the Württemberg Landesbibliothek in Stuttgart. The notebooks are by Bildhuber, J. Weckherlin, and Adolf Camerer. Of these notebooks I have chosen that of Adolf Camerer because it has the most readable script. His notebook bears the title Mitschriften von Karl Adolf Camerer zu den Vorlesungen von David Friedrich Strauß an der Universität Tübingen, Wintersemester 1844/45. The date 1844–5 is an error because Strauß gave the lectures in 1832 (he was not employed in Tübingen in 1844–5). A note in pencil on the notebook states: “Vorliegendes scheint eine Abschrift die C[amerer] 12 Jahre Später von einer Nachschrift der Straußschen Vorlesungen genommen hat. B.” The dates therefore reflect the time of the later transcription.

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Unlike the previous lectures, these were no step-by-step commentary on a Hegelian text. They give us Strauß’s own views about the history of philosophy, though they are still heavily influenced by Hegel. Strauß begins his lectures by telling his audience that he will consider only a small part of the history of philosophy, namely, the history of philosophy since Kant. We will treat this period, he says, because it is the closest to us, and because it is the highest the history of philosophy has attained so far (I).²² But Strauß discusses not only the history of philosophy since Kant; he puts the modern period in a wider perspective by a survey of the history of philosophy since the Greeks. The modern period is seen as the culmination of this history, and modern philosophy as the height of the history of philosophy. There is a kind of relativism to Strauß’s statement about what is “highest” in the history of philosophy. It is for him only the highest “so far”; there is no claim that it is the highest conceivable, as if it were a non plus ultra. Strauß emphasizes that philosophy is in constant flux, that it is an infinite progression whose end point is unattainable (IV). All the philosophers see their systems as final, as the culmination of all philosophical history. But this is illusory, Strauß contends, because the progress of philosophy is infinite. The last system is indeed the greatest—but only the greatest so far (VI). Among the philosophers who have fallen prey to this illusion Strauß lists Hegel himself (VI). As Hegelian as the young Strauß was, he never believed that Hegel’s system was unsurpassable, the last word of wisdom; it was only the highest “so far.” Perhaps in the future there would be an even higher system of philosophy, of which the Hegelian would be only one moment. To understand the history of philosophy, Strauß says, we first must know what philosophy is. In its most general sense, philosophy is the “thinking consideration of things” (denkende Betrachtung der Dinge) (I). But this is much too generic, we are cautioned, because it encompasses all kinds of thinking, even the poetic and religious. It is still necessary, therefore, to supply the specific characteristic of philosophical thinking. Nowadays people see philosophy as “a worldview,” as if this were the specific characteristic of philosophical thinking. But Strauß is unsatisfied with this definition because it makes it seem as if philosophy were offering no more than one worldview among others (II). Philosophy does not claim to be only one worldview among others; it claims to be the worldview, to be the highest worldview. Despite the superlatives, the note of historical relativism Strauß introduced above still has not disappeared; even though there is only one worldview, it is still only the highest so far; the only relativism that Strauß rules out is one that allows many worldviews, all of them having an equal share in the truth. What makes philosophy the highest worldview? What gives one philosophy its exclusive claim to truth? Strauß states that this philosophy would be “the

²² The Roman numerals refer to the pagination in the original manuscript.

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comprehension of the highest and truly universal” (das Erfassen des höchsten und wahrhaften Allgemeinen) (II). The highest universal would be nothing less than all of reality, everything that exists. What Strauß means, though he does not explain it in these exact terms, is that the highest philosophy grasps the absolute, which is the whole of reality. That is, of course, a perfectly Hegelian definition of philosophy. If one philosophy were to know the absolute, then that would be indeed the highest standpoint of all, Strauß and Hegel think, because all other standpoints would be below it, grasped as parts of it. Strauß gives us a few more indications about this highest standpoint of philosophy. It considers how the subject and object, the ego and the world, relate to one another (III). It attempts to know which is prior, which is the cause and which the effect. Realism takes the object as prior to the subject; and idealism regards the subject as prior to the object. In just this sense, idealism and realism are opposed. But Strauß states that there is a higher idealism standing above the opposition between idealism and realism (III). According to this higher idealism, one must ascend to a more universal standpoint that is the ground of both subject and object; this is what he calls an “ideal realism” or “philosophy of identity.” Strauß does not move beyond this very sketchy account of his “ideal realism,” though the phrase “philosophy of identity” hints at the kind of position Schelling and Hegel developed around 1801. We must conceive the history of philosophy, Strauß says, as a constant striving to know the absolute. We cannot ever attain this goal, because there is an infinite distance between our starting and end points (IV). This does not mean, however, that the absolute is forever beyond our grasp, that it is an ever fleeing shadow. No, Strauß insists, the absolute is with us every step of our way, because it is progressively revealing itself to us (IV). The more we strive for truth, the more we know it, because the divine steadily reveals itself to us. Hence “the infinite divine being” is “the innermost heart, the moving soul of the entire development of philosophy.” The truth does not lie outside this development but inside it from its very beginning (VI). There are three moments involved in the history of the finite spirit, Strauß explains (IV): 1) the constant striving for truth; 2) continual approximation to the divine; and 3) the constant revelation of the divine. If these moments are characteristic of the finite spirit in general, Strauß reasons, they are also involved in the history of philosophy itself. All misunderstandings in the history of philosophy arise from neglecting one of these three moments. Of course, this is a very optimistic view of the history of philosophy. What helps Strauß to sustain it is his Hegelian dialectic, which makes the final system preserve the truths and negate the errors of all previous systems. Hegel constructed his own history of philosophy along these lines, making his system the Aufhebung of all previous systems in history. Strauß accepts the Hegelian theory; but, as we have seen, he cautions

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against adopting the view that the Hegelian system is the be-all and end-all of philosophical history. What should be the method of the history of philosophy? Strauß states that there are three ways of treating this subject: 1) the atomistic; 2) the psychologicalpragmatic; and 3) the speculative (VII). The first method takes each philosopher on his own without explaining how his philosophy arose from preceding ones. The second explains how a philosopher’s doctrine arose from interactions with his contemporaries and predecessors. Strauß thinks that this method is better than the atomistic one, which just takes a philosopher and his doctrines as a given. The third speculative approach assumes that an individual philosopher is an appearance of the substance of philosophy. According to this approach, it is not that philosophers make philosophy but that philosophy makes philosophers. When the philosophical spirit of an age is ripe, it takes an individual philosopher to exemplify itself. This third approach seems scarcely credible; but it does articulate some of Hegel’s assumptions about the philosophy of history. Needless to say, Strauß sees the third approach as his own. After his introduction, Strauß provides a short survey of the history of philosophy. He divides it into three main periods: 1) ancient Greek philosophy; 2) medieval philosophy; and 3) the philosophy of the modern world (1). He thinks that there is a characteristic concept for each period: 1) ancient Greek philosophy is the period of immediacy; 2) medieval philosophy is the period of dependence; and 3) modern philosophy is the period of freedom. Ancient Greek philosophy is a period of immediacy because of its naïve and uncritical identification of thinking with being; medieval philosophy retains this identification but sees the unity of thinking and being as something beyond us; and modern philosophy recovers this unity on a self-conscious and critical basis, so that the self reappropriates this unity and makes it part of its world. This periodization follows the Christian trope of innocence-fall-redemption, or the Hegelian trope of unity, division, and unityin-division. We cannot go into the details here of Strauß’s short history. But some aspects of his treatment of medieval philosophy anticipate his later philosophy. The great problem of medieval philosophy was how to reconcile the infinite and finite, God and man. The necessity to reconcile them was posed by the key doctrine of Christianity: the trinity. Here the divine and human were conceived as different and yet the same. But how is this possible when the divine and man are opposed to one another? The divine is eternal and infinite, the human is mortal and finite (8). Given such clear oppositions, how can the divine be in the human or the human in the divine? Strauß sketches the various conceptions of the trinity in medieval thought, viz., the Pelagians, Manicheans, and Augustinians. What is characteristic of all these medieval conceptions, Strauß finds, is that they conceive the unity of the divine and human as something abstract and external to us; it takes place in some metaphysical realm beyond human beings (8). The church saw this unity as

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taking place in a single individual—Christ—who had superhuman characteristics. The Christian was expected to believe in this unity, which was essentially supernatural and mysterious and therefore beyond human comprehension; the main object of his belief was Christ, who represented the unity of the divine and human. The most striking feature of Strauß’s treatment of medieval philosophy is his thesis that the trinity remains the chief problem of modern thought (8). Modern thinkers still have to grasp how the infinite and the finite, the divine and the human, can be the same. The central and characteristic doctrine of Christianity remains as valid in the modern world as in the medieval one. But the modern world, Strauß insists, takes a very different approach to this problem: it places the unity of the infinite and finite in our world and not beyond it in heaven. It sees this unity as taking place not only in one individual—Jesus Christ—but in all humanity. According to modern philosophy, “the whole history of humanity is nothing less than a continual becoming human of God” (die ganze Geschichte der Menschheit [als] eine fortwährende Menschwerdung Gottes) (10). Here, in these lines, Strauß states in a nutshell the theology of his later Das Leben Jesu. Protestantism marks for Strauß the crucial transition from the medieval to the modern period. Although it broke with the absolute authority of the medieval church, it still remained in some respects markedly medieval. It made the Bible its source of truth rather than the Pope and church councils; but the Bible is still a form of externality and dependence, because it does not give the individual complete authority to judge according to his critical reason (16). In Protestantism, therefore, the freedom of the modern world was only half executed; it will become fully realized only through the reason of philosophy. Here, in these lines about the Bible and Protestantism, we can see the rationale for Strauß’s forthcoming critique of the New Testament. His aim in Das Leben Jesu was to complete the promise of freedom in Protestantism; that promise could be realized only by demoting the authority of the Bible, which remained an external constraint on the spirit of the Reformation. Strauß calls the philosophy characteristic of the modern world “the philosophy of freedom” (16). There were three different forms of this philosophy depending on which faculty of the mind was liberated and seen as dominant: a philosophy of the senses, which appeared as skepticism and empiricism; a philosophy of the understanding, which appeared as rationalism; and a philosophy of reason, which became idealism or absolute philosophy (16). It was the philosophy of reason alone, Strauß insists, that completely realized the principle of freedom of modern philosophy. This is because the senses and the understanding have their common root in reason, which unites them and brings them to their perfection (27). The basic principle of the philosophy of reason is for Strauß idealism, which assumes that thinking is completely autonomous and creative, the source of all reality. The philosophy of the senses and understanding, empiricism and rationalism, still assumed that there is something given and real outside thought (27).

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But the philosophy of reason presupposes nothing more than thinking, from which it produces the entire objective world. The basic theme of idealism, according to Strauß, is “that spirit comes outside itself in the world, that it in all things has to do with its own forms, that the mind alone is object, and that all objects have the nature of the mind” (28). Just as there were stages of thinking before idealism, so idealism itself could develop only in stages, Strauß informs us (27). The first stage appeared in Kant, who made all the forms of reality depend on thought, but who insisted that its matter has to be given. He also postulated the existence of a thing-in-itself, which has to be eliminated for a complete and consistent idealism (28). The next stage in the development of idealism was represented by Fichte, who removed the remnants of realism still lingering in the Kantian system. Fichte saw that the determination of the subject by the object is really only the subconscious selfdetermination of the subject (28). Yet Fichte’s idealism, Strauß insists, is still one-sided. It gives all reality to the subject, and makes the reality of the object derivative. But a complete and consistent idealism, Strauß insists, makes not only the object depend on the subject but also the subject depend on the object. It begins not only from the subject to derive the object but also from the object to derive the subject. In other words, the true principle of idealism is subject-object identity, where each side, the subjective and objective, is given equal weight and reality. It was the contribution of Schelling, Strauß says, to have corrected Fichte’s idealism in just this way. His philosophy of identity insisted on deriving the subject from the object, in showing how the subject’s self-consciousness is the highest manifestation of the powers of nature. However, both Fichte and Schelling were one-sided: while Fichte gave all reality to the subject, Schelling gave it all to the object. But the principle of subject-object identity requires that we give equal reality to both the subjective and the objective. According to Strauß, this is the position of Hegel’s philosophy, which he calls “absolute idealism.” Only Hegel completely realized the governing principle of idealism by giving both the subjective and the objective full and equal weight in its grasp of the absolute. There was little new to the story of the development of idealism, as Straus explains it. In this very schematic and simplistic way he follows the account that Hegel himself gave in his Differenzschrift.²³ There Hegel argued that Schelling’s Naturphilosophie was a necessary complement to Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre by beginning with the reality of nature and deriving the subject from it. The very logic of the principle of subject-object identity demanded that one give equal reality to its objective and subjective side. But Hegel, just as Strauß represents him here, later held that only his system realizes complete subject-object identity because it ²³ Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Differenz des Fichte’schen und Schelling’schen Systems der Philosophie (Jena: Seidler, 1801).

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complements Schelling’s objective idealism with Fichte’s idealism. Hegel corrected Schelling by going back to Fichte.²⁴ So Strauß represents Hegel’s philosophy as Hegel would have wanted it to be represented: as the culmination of modern idealism, as the final resting place in the development of the principle of subjectobject identity.

4.4 Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy Strauß’s third and final lecture course, which he gave in the summer semester of 1833, was on the history of moral philosophy. These lectures were entitled by Strauß himself, somewhat prosaically, Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Moral.²⁵ True to their title, they are a broad survey of the history of moral philosophy, beginning with ancient Greece, proceeding through the Middle Ages, and finally ending with the modern era. They consist in 384 pages of nearly illegible scrawl in Kurrent script, with many passages crossed out. Strauß reveals an encyclopedic knowledge of his subject matter, which seems, at least in most cases, based on the reading of original sources. The knowledge he acquired in preparing these lectures would later serve him well, especially in the writing of his Glaubenslehre. Strauß divides the history of moral philosophy into three epochs: 1) the “political” morals of the ancient Greeks; 2) the “religious” morals of the Middle Ages; and 3) the “pure” morals of the modern age. Ancient Greek moral philosophy is “political” because it centers around the polis, which was the main topic of moral reflection for the ancient Greeks. The moral philosophy of the Middle Ages was “religious” because it revolved around the church and the Christian belief in God. The moral philosophy of the modern age is “pure” because it has made moral authority independent of the polis and the church; it has made the rational human agent autonomous, the source of moral obligation. Implicit in this classification is the idea of progress, of a growing self-consciousness of freedom as the purpose of the history of morals. Strauß is never so explicit, but given his general allegiance to Hegel it seems safe to ascribe this doctrine to him, which will often emerge in his later works. Having divided the history of moral philosophy into three epochs, Strauß proceeds to subdivide each epoch into three periods. The first period of the first epoch, ancient Greek philosophy, consisted in moral reflection on the polis, on the basis and limits of its authority. ²⁴ This aspect of Hegelian thought becomes clear in Jena in his 1802 Naturrecht essay, where spirit is seen as higher than nature. See Über die wissenschaftlichen Behandlungsarten des Naturrechts, in Kritisches Journal der Philosophie 2/2 (November/December 1802), p. 88. ²⁵ Strauß MS: Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Moral. Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach. Signatur A: Strauß; Zugangsnummer: 6825.

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The chief philosophers in this period were Socrates, Pythagoras, and Democritus. The second period of the first epoch is dominated by the Greek sophists, whose skepticism eroded the authority of the polis. Among these sophists Strauß lists Gorgias, Protagoras, Hippias, Polus, and Thrasymachus. The first and second periods seem to relate to one another as thesis and antithesis, as the attempt to explain and to criticize the authority of the polis. This conflict is resolved in the third period in the moral philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, which Strauß sees as an attempt to meet the challenge of the sophists and to put the polis on a more secure foundation. Strauß’s treatment of ancient moral philosophy is complicated by the fact that he intends to cover not only the Greeks but also the Romans. This makes it impossible to give specific dates for each period. But the inclusion of the Romans seems to be only an afterthought. Suffice it to say that Strauß examines only Greek thinkers, beginning with Socrates (470–399 ) and ending with Proclus (410–85 ). Strauß’s treatment of the Middle Ages is extensive, comprising nearly ninety pages of the whole manuscript (163a–249a). As we might expect for a graduate of the Tübinger Stift, Strauß does not accept the Enlightenment stereotype of the Middle Ages as an era of darkness, as a relapse between the lights of ancient Greece and the modern age. He considers Christianity as an important stage in the development of Western moral thought, and gives the Middle Ages equal weight to the ancient world. Strauß subdivides the Middle Ages into three periods. The first period, which takes place from the second until the ninth century, is characterized by a vacillation between Christian and pagan teachings. Among the figures treated in this epoch are Ambrosius, Gregorius, Jamblichus, and Proclus; but Strauß devotes most attention to Augustine, specifically his doctrines of free will and grace. The second period, which takes place from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries, covers the consolidation of church doctrine in scholasticism. Strauß examines Anselm, Abelard, Aquinas, and Duns Scotus. The third and final epoch, from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, concerns the development of a moral philosophy in the pre-modern era. Strauß thinks that this period is characterized by the growing independence of moral philosophy from the authority of the church. Strauß treats the rise of skepticism, the Reformation, and such thinkers as Hobbes, Gassendi, Grotius. Strauß comes to the modern epoch, which lasts from the eighteenth century until the present (i.e., early nineteenth century), only in the final third of his manuscript. Unlike the previous epochs, this epoch is divided more according to country and culture rather than specific periods. The first period, which is devoted to the English and Scottish thinkers, particularly Mandeville, Cumberland, Clarke, Hutcheson, Hume, Price, and Adam Smith. The second period concerns mainly French thinkers, such as Rousseau, Diderot, D’Alembert, de la Mettrie, Condillac, and Helvetius. The third period deals with the development of moral philosophy in Germany and Holland from the seventeenth century. Here Strauß examines

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Pufendorf, Thomasius, Wolff, Spinoza, and Kant. The exposition ends with a short treatment of Schelling and Hegel. Of all the modern thinkers, Strauß gives most of his attention to Spinoza and Kant, to whom he devotes more than ten pages. Strauß’s deficit in the study of Kant is now fully overcome, since he could claim to have a good grasp of his moral as well as his theoretical philosophy. Strauß also shows a good understanding of the basic concepts and problems of Spinoza’s metaphysics. It is significant that Strauß spends so much time and effort in the understanding of Spinoza, whom he would later acknowledge as a crucial precedent for his own biblical interpretation. Unfortunately, the lectures reveal a study only of Spinoza’s Ethica and not his Tractatus theologico-politicus, where Spinoza explains his hermeneutics. Exactly when and how Strauß was influenced by Spinoza in his approach to biblical exegesis remains unclear.

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5 Strauß’s Method and Its Problems 5.1 A Method without Presuppositions? What method did Strauß use in Das Leben Jesu? Given the historical significance of his book, it is important to ask this question, which has been the source of much discussion and dispute. On the most basic level, there was nothing revolutionary or new about Strauß’s method. It was well-known and practiced by many of his contemporaries, who called it simply the “critical” or “historical method.” This is the method employed by all historians when they assess the authenticity and reliability of historical documents. Its chief task is to determine the quality of the evidence for a historical statement. It raises the simple and basic questions: “What are the sources for this evidence?,” “Are these sources credible?,” “Who wrote these texts?,” “What motives were there for writing them?,” and, assuming the evidence is credible, “Is it sufficient for the conclusion drawn from it?” These are the kinds of questions that are asked in a court of law to determine the merits of a case, or that are raised by journalists to check the facts behind a story. In the early nineteenth century, historians, eager to demonstrate the scientific status of their discipline, began to raise these kinds of questions and to pursue them with more rigor and thoroughness than ever before. The two most celebrated historians to use this method were Barthold Niebuhr (1776–1831) and Leopold Ranke (1795–1886). In his R€ omische Geschichte (1811),¹ Niebuhr applied the method to test Livy’s famous narrative about the origins of Rome; and in his Geschichte der romanischen und germanischen V€ olker (1824),² Ranke engaged in a critical discussion of Guicciardini’s Storia d’Italia, which for generations had been one of the most trusted sources about Renaissance Italy. As a result of their investigations, Niebuhr and Ranke found these traditional sources to be completely unreliable, partly because they were filled with fabrications and myths, and partly because they passed off mere speculations as if they were facts. Niebuhr and Ranke were important precedents for Strauß and the entire Tübingen historical school. What Niebuhr did for ancient history, and what Ranke did for modern

¹ Barthold Niebuhr, Römische Geschichte (Berlin: Realschulbuchhandlung, 1811). ² Leopold Ranke, Geschichte der romanischen und germanischen V€ olker (Leipzig: Reimer, 1824). Especially relevant is the appendix to this work, “Zur Kritik neuerer Geschichtsschreiber: Eine Beylage zu desselben romanischen und germanischen Geschichten.” David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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history, that Strauß and the Tübingers now wanted to do for the New Testament. The importance of Niebuhr and Ranke for Strauß was neatly summarized by Eduard Zeller, a leader of the Tübingen school, when he wrote of its methods: “Its leading principles are the same as those used outside theology by all German historiography since Niebuhr and Ranke.”³ Strauß’s aim in Das Leben Jesu was, simply put, to determine whether the New Testament could be regarded as a reliable historical document. He demanded that the Bible meet the same standards of evidence as any historical writing. In the preface to his work Strauß insisted that his enquiry would be presuppositionless, which meant, among other things, that he did not want to prejudice his investigation either for or against the New Testament (vi). Whether it was a reliable historical document would have to be the conclusion, not the starting point, of his investigation. In saying this much, Strauß was simply stating what any historian would say before investigating the reliability of any document. But in the case of the Bible this was an especially important and controversial point to make. The traditional and orthodox assumption about the Bible was that it is the product of supernatural inspiration, that it was written under the guidance of the divine spirit itself, and that it is therefore an infallible historical source. When Strauß insisted that his enquiry be presuppositionless he had in mind especially this assumption. Rather than granting it, he would investigate it. We could prove the divine authority of the Bible only by determining whether its contents are true; we could not just assume that its contents are true because the Bible has divine authority. The assumption of the divine authority, and therefore historical truth, of the Bible was still very much alive among Strauß’s predecessors and contemporaries. It was shared by both schools of biblical interpretation in his day, i.e., the supernaturalists and rationalists. The supernaturalists held that the Bible is about supernatural events, viz., miracles and prophecies, and that these events actually occurred as described and as the authors understood them. The rationalists, however, maintained that the Bible is about natural events, which actually occurred but not as described because they were misunderstood by their authors as supernatural. For example, Jesus could indeed cure the sick, but not because of his supernatural powers but because of his superior medical knowledge. Whether about supernatural or natural events, both schools regarded the Bible as accurate history. It was this common premise of the rationalist and supernaturalist schools that Strauß now wanted to examine. It seems easy to accept that Strauß’s method is presuppositionless in this precise and limited sense, i.e., it does not assume but investigates whether the Bible is about actual historical events. But it has been questioned whether it is ³ See Zeller, “Die Tübinger historische Schule,” in Vortr€ age und Abhandlungen (Leipzig: Fue’s Verlag, 1865), I, 265–353, here 353. Cf. 275–6.

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presuppositionless in a bolder and broader sense. Some of Strauß’s critics charge that his method has presuppositions all of its own, some of which virtually guarantee its results. It has been claimed, for example, that Strauß presupposes the laws of natural science, and more specifically the naturalistic principle that the laws of cause and effect hold without exception over all events in nature and history. Since this principle excludes the possibility of miracles, these critics contend,⁴ Strauß easily comes to his negative conclusions about Christian revelation. On this reading, then, Strauß’s method yields its critical results simply by presupposing what is in question: that all events in the world are governed by laws of cause and effect. Whether this common criticism is correct can be determined only by looking more closely at Strauß’s texts. It should be noted, first of all, that the arguments in Das Leben Jesu rarely unfold by applying the principle of causality. Strauß never reasons like this: “Because people cannot walk on water, because they cannot be raised from the dead, because they cannot be cured of blindness by a simple touch, therefore none of these events really happened.” What he does instead is investigate the credibility of each of these reports on historical grounds. For example, he asks whether the reports are from reliable witnesses, whether they are first-hand or second-hand, whether all witnesses are consistent, whether all agree that and how these events occurred, whether they can be interpreted in alternative natural or non-literal ways, and so on. So Strauß questions the reports of miracles not because he assumes the principle of causality, but because he argues that, on these historical grounds, there is insufficient historical evidence for them. The belief in miracles is not to be ruled out a priori but has to be tested in each specific case. It is important to note that, in pursuing his historical enquiries, Strauß is proceeding according to a historical method, not a natural scientific one. The two methods have different aims and objects: the historical method investigates the evidence that a particular event or action has occurred; the natural scientific method investigates the phenomena of nature to determine why they happen according to general laws. These methods depend on one another. The scientific method presupposes that one makes good observations about what has happened; and the historical method presupposes the natural scientific one, given that one often assumes the laws of nature in order to investigate the reliability of historical statements. But it is important to see that there is no necessity that the historical method commits one to naturalism, i.e., the principle that everything that takes place in nature occurs according to uniform and regular laws. ⁴ One of the first critics to make this point was Ferdinand Baur. See his Kritische Untersuchungen über die kanonischen Evangelien (Tübingen: L. F. Fues, 1847), p. 43. It has often been repeated ever since. See, for example, R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History, revised edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 135–6; and Horton Harris, David Friedrich Strauss and His Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), pp. 42, 89, 139, 283.

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The historian cannot rule out a priori the possibility of miracles. If there is a question whether a miracle has occurred, the historian has to investigate it like any other event, accepting or rejecting it strictly according to the evidence for it. In the first edition of Das Leben Jesu Strauß is perfectly clear that his method does not commit himself to naturalism. Thus, in the preface and introduction, Strauß distinguishes his approach from the naturalism of the eighteenth century, which insisted on interpreting the Bible in naturalistic terms simply because it regarded miracles and supernatural revelation as incompatible with the principles of natural science (vii; 33–5, §8). Throughout Das Leben Jesu Strauß rejects naturalistic interpretations of the Bible because they import all kinds of arbitrary and artificial assumptions that are contrary to the intentions of the authors. Even though naturalism might be true, it does not provide a reliable guide for the interpretation of the Bible. The task of the historian is not only to determine what happened but also to interpret the text as it was understood by those who wrote it. Such was Strauß’s attitude in the first edition of Das Leben Jesu. However, in later editions (1837, 1838),⁵ and in his Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk bearbeitet (1864),⁶ Strauß states that the principle of causality is a fundamental principle of critique. If a biblical narrative states something that is contrary to the laws of nature, then that ipso facto stands as evidence against it. Now he makes a tight connection between the historical and natural methods: if a statement is historical, then it must report events that happen according to the laws of nature. Any historical statement about miracles shows that it is not really history but myth. The later Strauß therefore shows a tightening and hardening attitude against miracles. The difference between him and the earlier Strauß is that between a stricter and looser attitude toward the principle of causality. In the first edition of Das Leben Jesu Strauß does not treat the principle of causality as an a priori principle. It is still logically or conceptually possible that there are miracles; if one were to occur, we could conceive or understand its occurrence according to our human faculties. If everyone were now to witness a miracle, an event for which there is no possible scientific explanation, then we would have to accept that there are miracles. In the later editions, however, Strauß treats the principle of causality as an a priori principle, one based on the laws of our cognitive constitution, so that a miracle would be completely incomprehensible to us. Any claim that a miracle has occurred would have to be rejected with no need for further investigation. Reason and experience are “true in themselves,” Strauß insists, and that is because they are “grounded in the laws of human nature and thinking.”⁷ ⁵ Das Leben Jesu, Zweite verbesserte Auflage (Tübingen: Osiander, 1837), Einleitung §§14–15, I, 83–4 and 103; Das Leben Jesu, Dritte auf die Gegenschriften verbesserte Auflage (Tübingen: Osiander, 1838), Einleitung §14 & §16; I, 94, 116. ⁶ Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk bearbeitet (Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1864), pp. xv, 147–9. ⁷ Ibid., p. xvii.

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We can simplify and clarify all this by distinguishing between two claims: 1) that miracles are impossible a priori or conceptually, i.e., if one occurs we cannot even understand it; 2) that miracles have the highest degree of improbability, i.e., if one occurs, we can understand it but it has the lowest degree of probability. Kant would hold claim 1); Hume would adopt 2). In the first edition of Das Leben Jesu Strauß adopts 2); in the later editions, however, he embraces 1). An easygoing Humean Strauß is followed by a stricter and more dogmatic Kantian Strauß. Strauß himself discussed the question of the presuppositions of his critical enquiry in his Streitschriften,⁸ especially in his third volume where he treats the objections of Hengstenberg, who was one of the stalwarts of the orthodox and supernaturalist interpretation of the Bible. Hengstenberg criticized Strauß’s method for its many presuppositions, and protested that one could have a critique guided by faith as well as one motivated by a lack of faith, which was the very kind of critique written by Strauß (35–6). To this point Strauß replied that just to the extent that the critique is motivated by faith, it is not really critique at all. It is the business of critique to question all assumptions of faith, and not to accept any that will bias or move enquiry in one way rather than another. He admitted that there was some point to Hengstenberg’s objection: before one begins a critical examination, one must make some preliminary assumptions; but these should be tentative, Strauß insists, so that the critic is prepared to reject them pending the results of his enquiry (36). It is interesting that in his discussion of Hengstenberg, Strauß raises the question of the validity of standards of criticism, i.e., the criteria by which the critic assesses the truth or falsity of beliefs. Strauß mentions as one of these standards “the essential uniformity of all events” (37), by which he means, of course, the principle of causality. Here, it seems, Strauß is admitting that criticism does presuppose naturalism. But the force of this apparent concession is immediately deflated when Strauß goes on to say that the critic does not presuppose any specific natural laws, i.e., particular instances of the principle of causality. If the critic just assumes that certain laws are true without examining them, then he is of course presupposing them. But, Strauß insists, the critic need not do this. If the critic judges historical testimony according to specific natural laws, he assumes that these laws are true only because he knows that they are the result of appropriate inductive generalizations (37). If these generalizations have proven true in all cases observed so far, and if there are no instances contrary to them, then they are hardly presuppositions, Strauß argues. It is at this point that Hengstenberg could challenge Strauß: the appeal to induction does not work, he could argue, because it applies only to all cases

⁸ See Streitschriften zur Vertheidigung meiner Schrift über das Leben Jesu (Tübingen: C. F. Osiander, 1837), “Die evangelische Kirchenzeitung zur biblischen Kritik im Allgemeinen,” III, 5–54, esp. 35–7.

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observed so far; it is possible that there were cases in the past, and that there will be cases in the future, both of which exceed observation, where the laws of nature were, or will be, suspended or abrogated. If this is possible, so are miracles. But here Strauß falls back on a point made by Hume: that this possibility, which is merely logical, does not have probability on its side, because the evidence for the laws holding in all cases far exceeds the evidence for human testimony that they have been violated in a few exceptional ones.⁹ Testimony for miracles undermines itself by appealing to such extraordinary and improbable events. Though Strauß never explicitly appeals to Hume in the early editions of Das Leben Jesu, he did not fail to cite this important ally in later works.¹⁰

5.2 The Negative and Positive Sides of Critique One of the most common accusations against Strauß’s method in Das Leben Jesu is that it is entirely negative in its intentions and results. It seems as if it is difficult or impossible to answer satisfactorily all the questions it raises, as if the demand for sufficient evidence sets the bar so high that nothing can ever meet it. Hence Strauß’s method is seen as a deliberately skeptical one, leading to inevitable doubts about the historical testimony of any text. This objection is at odds, however, with both the practice and result of Strauß’s critique. It fails to understand how his critique works; and it misunderstands its central product, the concept of myth. In the first two parts of the first edition of Das Leben Jesu,¹¹ Strauß’s argument takes place in a typical pattern. First, he presents the traditional supernaturalistic interpretation, which he rejects for several reasons: either because it is too obscure, or because it conflicts with known facts, or because it contradicts other passages in the same gospel or in other gospels. The fact that the events it attests are supernatural, or violate the laws of nature, is taken as prima facie, but not as decisive, evidence against it. Second, he expounds the naturalistic or rationalistic interpretation, which he dismisses usually because it does not agree with the intention of the text, or because it resorts to artificial and arbitrary assumptions. Third, he explains the supernaturalistic meaning of the text by biblical history, by referring to the intentions of the authors, which were to establish the messianic status of Jesus. This procedure is negative or destructive, to be sure, because it shows how both the supernatural and naturalistic interpretations are false insofar ⁹ See Hume, An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, Section X, “Of Miracles,” in Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects (London: T. Cadell, 1777), II, 86–101. ¹⁰ See Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk, pp. 148–9; and Der christliche Glaubenslehre (Tübingen: Osiander, 1840), I, 238–43. ¹¹ The third part (Abschnitt), II, 301–685, §§107–39, has a different form, in which Strauß casts doubt on the historical status of the gospel stories by showing the inconsistencies between them.

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as they take Scripture to be history; but it is also positive or constructive, insofar as it shows that the narrative has a mythical meaning. To show that a narrative is a myth does not mean for Strauß that it is simply a fantasy or fiction, still less that it is self-conscious deception and trickery. Myth has for him, as he made clear in his later Streitschriften, an essentially symbolic or allegorical meaning, which is true morally or metaphysically even if it is false historically.¹² The interpretation I want to put forward here is that Strauß’s critique is not only a critical but also a hermeneutic project. This means that its aim is not only to debunk the historical credibility of the biblical text but also to restore its moral or metaphysical meaning. Strauß’s critique here operates like Hegel’s dialectic: it both negates and preserves; it negates the form (historical narrative) but it also preserves the content (moral or metaphysical truth). This drama of preservation and negation goes hand in hand with Hegel’s distinction between representation (Vorstellung) and concept (Begriff), according to which the representation is the form, which is negated, and the concept is the content, which is preserved. In thus stressing the positive or constructive side of Strauß’s historical critique, I seem to run afoul of his own assessment of his achievement in developing this side of his philosophy. In his critique of his Hegelian contemporaries,¹³ especially Marheineke and Rosenkranz, Strauß complained that they had not developed sufficiently the negative side of the Hegelian dialectic, and that they were too eager to justify the historical claims of Christianity according to Hegel’s system. It is clear from these passages that Strauß regarded his characteristic achievement as the development of this negative side, which, he argued, ended with the destruction of all the claims of revelation in the New Testament. So, it would seem that, on Strauß’s own self-understanding, his method was intended to be destructive, and that this is the distinctive feature of his use of it in contrast to that of Marheineke and Rosenkranz. But the more we place these passages from the Streitschriften in context, the less radical and destructive the method proves to be. The context is an interesting discussion of the kinds of critique.¹⁴ There are two fundamental kinds of critique, Strauß informs us. There is subjective or Kantian-Fichtean critique, which distinguishes the ideal from reality, and which judges reality by the ideal; and then there is objective or Hegelian critique, which attempts to show that the ideal is already in reality. Strauß further characterizes these kinds of critique in political terms. Subjective critique is on the side of revolution, because it wants to change reality to

¹² Strauß makes this point only in the Streitschriften, especially in the “Sendschreiben an Herrn Dr. Ullmann,” III, 153, 157, and in the “Einige Bemerkungen über die Recension meines Lebens Jesu von Herrn Dr. Müller,” III, 169. This symbolic dimension of myth is not stated by Strauß in the first edition of Das Leben Jesu. ¹³ Streitschriften, III, 61, 65–6. ¹⁴ Ibid., III, 62–3.

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match its ideals; objective critique is on the side of reaction, because it sees its ideals already in reality. Although Strauß does not stand on the side of reaction, it is striking that he still prefers objective over subjective critique. This is for the all too conservative reason that he thinks objective critique is not blindly destructive and that it appreciates the rationality in the institutions of the present. Not the least of these institutions, Strauß makes clear, is religion. The problem with subjective critique, he argues, is that it dismisses religion as a mass of deception and superstition; the advantage of objective critique is that it recognizes the rationality inherent in religious belief. These are hardly the remarks of a radical or revolutionary; on the contrary, they show that Strauß conceived of his criticism not only in negative but also in positive terms; its central task was to reveal the rationality as much as the irrationality of religious belief.

5.3 A Hegelian Method? One of the most controversial questions surrounding Strauß’s method concerns its relation to Hegel. Some commentators see his method as a complete break with Hegel, having no relation to the goals, methods, or leading ideas of his philosophy;¹⁵ others, however, regard it as an essentially Hegelian dialectic, as either presupposing or applying its central themes.¹⁶ As the mere existence of this controversy attests, the whole business is somewhat complicated. In the first place, it is worthwhile to point out that these conflicting parties are sometimes talking about different aspects of Strauß’s book. Those who stress Strauß’s dependence on Hegel are often talking about the “Schlußabhandlung” of his book where he outlines his own speculative theology; those who emphasize his independence from Hegel are usually thinking about the method and results of his historical investigations in the rest of the book. As much as Strauß’s speculative theology is clearly dependent on Hegel’s philosophy, his historical investigation, both in its methods and results, is independent of it. The historical method itself, as Strauß himself insists, is intended to be presuppositionless. There are indeed a few passages in the body of Das Leben Jesu where Strauß uses or applies

¹⁵ See Harris, Strauß, pp. 270–1; Gotthold Müller, Identit€ at und Immanenz: Zur Genese der Theologie von David Friedrich Strauß (Zurich: EVZ-Verlag, 1968), pp. 231–2; and Christian Hartlich and Walter Sachs, Der Ursprung der Mythos Begriff in der modernen Bibelwissenschaft (Tübingen: Mohr, 1952), pp. 5, 121–34, 147. ¹⁶ This was a claim of some of Strauß’s early critics. See, for example, J. C. Steudel, Streitschriften, I, 15–16; C. A. Eschenmayer, Streitschriften, II, 15; and E. W. Hengstenberg, Streitschriften, III, 13, 115. See too Carl Ludwig Michelet, Geschichte der letzten Systeme der Philosophie in Deutschland von Kant bis Hegel (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1838), II, 680–1. The same viewpoint reappears in Ziegler, Strauß, I, 126. The claim still appears in more modern expositions. See, for example, William Brazill, TheYoung Hegelians (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1970), pp. 108–9; and Jean-Marie Paul, D. F. Strauss (1808–1874) et son époque (Paris: Société les Belles Lettres, 1982), pp. 115–21.

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Hegelian metaphysics.¹⁷ But these are exceptional; and, at any rate, they are not essential presuppositions for the working of his dialectic itself. The whole question of the relation of Strauß’s method to Hegel is raised by Strauß himself in his Streitschriften.¹⁸ The Hegelians would be correct to say, he admits, that Hegel would not regard Strauß’s book as an explication of his meaning (61). It was notorious, Strauß notes, that Hegel was no personal friend of critique. We can see this from his hostile comments on Niebuhr in his introduction to the Philosophie der Weltgeschichte.¹⁹ Hegel felt that Niebuhr’s method gave only negative conclusions and that it left the reader with nothing to believe. As an exercise in criticism, the R€ omische Geschichte, Hegel complains, was really only a study in historiography rather than history itself. According to Strauß, Hegel was attached to the great historical figures of antiquity, whose heroic deeds he hated to see turned into myth. Hegel’s dislike of the critical method was not only personal, Strauß contends, but was built into his very philosophy. Hegel was opposed to the critical method of Kant and Fichte because it seemed completely destructive, dissolving all positive law and religion and leaving a mere vacuum with nothing to build upon. While Kant and Fichte opposed their critical reason to the present institutions of law, state, and religion, Hegel was determined to find reason in them through his concept of objective spirit. While the method of Kant and Fichte tended toward revolution, that of Hegel moved toward restoration, Strauß says (62). But since Strauß disapproved of restoration, one could argue, his remarks also distance himself from Hegel’s method. In these passages from the Streitschriften, then, Strauß seems to be leaning toward a complete disassociation of his method from that of Hegel. Both Hegel’s personal opinions and his philosophical sympathies seem to be turned against the critical method. It is striking, however, that Strauß does not further develop this line of thought. Rather, he reverses it, stressing that there is a critical side to Hegel’s philosophy after all, and that it is this side that he has developed more than most of Hegel’s disciples (65–6).²⁰ Strauß finds the critical side of Hegel’s philosophy in the Ph€ anomenologie des Geistes, which is a critique of Schelling’s view that the absolute can be known through immediate intuition without having to go through a dialectic of critical reflection. Before one can know the truth in religion,

¹⁷ The major exception is §136, II, 646, where Strauß finds the very idea of a resurrection problematic because the soul and body are simply different aspects of one another. This view of mind-body relations is essentially Hegelian. ¹⁸ Streitschriften, III, “Die Jahrbücher für wissenschaftliche Kritik,” “Allgemeines Verh€altniß der Hegelschen Philosophie zur theologischen Kritik,” pp. 57–75. ¹⁹ Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte, in Die Vernunft in der Geschichte, ed. Johannes Hoffmeister (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1955), pp. 20–1. ²⁰ These comments are ignored by Hartlich and Sachs. Their argument in Der Ursprung des Mythos rides roughshod over too many passages of Strauß’s Streitschriften. Pace Horton, Strauß, pp. 270–1, n. 30, theirs is far from the last word on the issue.

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Strauß declares, one must go through “eine ganze theologische Ph€anomenologie” (65). Strauß implies that this is exactly what he has done in Das Leben Jesu. The entire book is “a whole theological phenomenology.” Strauß clinches this point by claiming that the Hegelians have not been Hegelian enough because they have not developed this negative side of Hegelian dialectic. They are too ready to accept claims to revelation as they stand because they attempt to legitimate them by using Hegelian categories; they are therefore relapsing into the Schellingian position Hegel had overcome in the Ph€ anomenologie. So, ironically, in developing the negative or critical side of Hegel’s system, Strauß thinks that he is being more Hegelian than Hegel and those Hegelians who failed to explore the negative implications of his dialectic. It appears, then, that Strauß’s method is Hegelian after all. It seems that it develops the negative and critical potential in Hegel’s dialectic, which had been ignored and neglected by Hegel and the Hegelians. Unfortunately, however, we cannot rest content with this simple conclusion. This is because, in the Streitschriften, Strauß makes other comments to the effect that his method of critique falls entirely outside the province of Hegel’s system. We cannot simply identify, in other words, Strauß’s historical critique with Hegelian dialectic. This is for the very good—and all too Hegelian—reason that Strauß thinks that history— the domain of historical critique—falls outside the Hegelian system. The sphere of history, Strauß instructs us, is contingent and particular, and therefore stands outside the necessary and universal conceptual domain of Hegel’s system (70, 73, 90, 94). It is in this particular and contingent realm that historical critique works and holds sway; it alone deals with the details of history, which never can be derived from the universal categories of the system. For example, whether Christ, a particular historical person, is the unity of the divine and human cannot be demonstrated a priori, and it is a matter that has to be investigated empirically a posteriori (73). The net effect of this point is that the subject matter of Strauß’s method falls outside Hegel’s system. This is not to say, however, anything about the form or structure of his method.²¹ It is still possible that this is indebted to Hegel after all. If we take seriously Strauß’s comment about his book as a “theological phenomenology,” then there should be similarities between his method and Hegel’s. A closer look at Strauß’s method in Das Leben Jesu reveals that this is indeed the case. The method that Hegel used in the Ph€ anomenologie des Geistes had two salient characteristics: it was meant to be presuppositionless, bracketing all general standards and preconceived principles; and it was supposed to be internal, evaluating consciousness’s claims to knowledge from within, according to its own standards

²¹ This basic point is ignored in the extensive polemic of Hartlich and Sachs, Der Ursprung des Mythos, pp. 122–34.

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of knowledge. Strauß’s method shares these characteristics: it is presuppositionless, as we have seen; and it is internal in the sense that it attempts to understand biblical texts according to the intentions of their authors and according to the culture of their age. Thus throughout Das Leben Jesu Strauß rejects naturalistic readings of the biblical texts because they import assumptions alien to the author, and because they are contrary to the straightforward and literal meaning of a passage.²² Time and again he argues that the supernaturalistic reading of the text is the correct one because it is what the authors intended and it is in accord with the beliefs and values of their time. For just these reasons, it is wrong to accuse Strauß of trying to prove the mythical status of the Bible simply because it is contrary to modern science. Applying the standards and principles of natural science to the text would be both an external and presuppositionful critique—exactly the opposite of his own. It is noteworthy that Strauß’s method in Das Leben Jesu follows a common dialectical pattern typical of Kant and Hegel. He deals with the naturalist and supernaturalist interpretations of the Bible, which relate to one another as thesis and antithesis; and he resolves the contradiction between them by showing that they share a false common premise: that the Bible consists in historical reports. Kant adopted a similar strategy in treating the mathematical antinomies in the Kritik der reinen Vernunft: the contradiction between thesis and antithesis is dissolved by showing they share a common false premise. Similarly, Strauß wants to replace the false premise of naturalism and supernaturalism—here thesis and antithesis—by another interpretation of Scripture, according to which it is not history but myth. To say that it is myth means not just that it is false history, but also that it expresses the values and culture of a people. On this reading, then, Strauß’s method is as much hermeneutic as it is critical: it wants to make us reinterpret Scripture rather than to reject it. In striving toward a hermeneutic end, Strauß’s method could be seen as very similar to Hegel’s own, whose whole goal is to make the self understand itself and arrive at self-consciousness. It would be absurd, however, to insist too much on this analogy with Hegel’s Ph€ anomenologie. It is a remarkable fact about Strauß’s argument in Das Leben Jesu that it proceeds independent of Hegelian metaphysics and without the application of Hegelian jargon. Although Strauß is proceeding according to an Hegelian agenda—he wants to show that religion has be grounded conceptually rather than historically—this emerges only in the end, and nothing in his argument presupposes it. For the most part, Strauß strives to examine each text on its own terms and according to its own merits, without importing alien concepts and presuppositions. In doing this, Strauß is only following Hegel’s demands for ²² See Strauß’s comment in the “Einleitung,” p. 136, that applying naturalistic principles to the Bible leads to interpretations flatly in contradiction to the author’s intention. See too his critique of naturalistic interpretations of the holy conception, §24, I, 166–73.

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immanent critique—but to such an extent that he brackets even Hegelian assumptions and concepts. In this respect, then, Strauß’s method is at once non-Hegelian and all too Hegelian! That paradox is the best answer to the question of the Hegelian status of Strauß’s method.

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6 The Theory of Myth 6.1 Origins Strauß called his theory of biblical interpretation “the mythical standpoint.” He used these words to designate what was characteristic of his approach to the Bible as opposed to the orthodox and rationalist interpretations of his contemporaries and predecessors. The argument throughout Das Leben Jesu almost always ends with a vindication of his mythical standpoint, which, on any interpretive issue, is held to be the only way to avoid the problems of the orthodox and rationalist interpretations. Yet, for all the importance that Strauß gave to the concept of myth, he left its meaning unclear; one of the most common complaints about it was its obscurity. We can begin to get clear about Strauß’s theory of myth only if we identify its origins, and how it borrows yet differs from other theories of his day. Strauß never claimed that he was the founder of the theory, and always acknowledged that he was only one advocate in a long tradition of interpretation. Myth was a theme of many traditions of thought, and its meaning changes with them. The specific tradition important for Strauß began in the eighteenth century with the classical philologist Christian Gottlob Heyne (1729–1812), who saw myth as the imaginative and sensory way of thinking characteristic of early cultures.¹ What primitive man could not explain or conceptualize he would express in images and stories. Myth did not grow out of poetry, Heyne taught, but poetry grew out of myth, which was the imaginative and symbolic thinking characteristic of early man. Although Heyne developed his theory for the classical world, several thinkers in the early nineteenth century began to apply it to the Bible, first to the Old Testament and then to the New. Among these authors, who formed the socalled “mythical school,” were J. G. Eichhorn (1752–1827), Johann Philipp Gabler (1753–1826), and Georg Lorenz Bauer (1755–1806).² What was more distinctive about Strauß’s mythical theory was his thesis that the myths of the New Testament originated from the messianic tradition of the Old Testament. But even this thesis had its precedents, which Strauß also

¹ On Heyne’s theory of myth, see Christian Hartlich and Walter Sachs, Der Ursprung des Mythosbegriffes in der modernen Bibelwissenschaft (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1952), pp. 11–19. ² On the mythical school, see Hartlich and Sachs, Der Ursprung des Mythosbegriffes, pp. 20–47, 69–90. David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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acknowledged. Among these ancestors were several anonymous works: a 1796 article in Henke’s Magazin; another 1816 article in Kritisches Journal der neusten theologisches Literatur; and a 1799 book Ueber Offenbarung und Mythologie, whose author was most probably G. C. A. Grohmann.³ That these works were important for Strauß we know from the simple fact that he would sometimes discuss them. When we take into account all these precedents, then it is necessary to conclude: what was new to and distinctive of Strauß’s theory of myth was not its conception but its application; Strauß was the first to apply the theory systematically to the whole New Testament, i.e., its four canonical gospels. Strauß’s theory of myth has debts not only to Heyne and the mythical school, but also to the idealist tradition of Schelling, Baur, and Hegel. Crucial for the idealist tradition is its thesis that a myth is the sensible representation of an idea, where “idea” was used in the Kantian sense.⁴ This thesis first appears in Schelling’s 1793 work Ueber Mythen, historische Sagen und Philosopheme der a€ltesten Welt, which defined “mythical philosophizing” as the “sensualization of an idea.”⁵ Schelling maintained that the goal of the myth was to convince us of the value of the idea it represented, so that it did not matter if the sensualized form (a miracle in nature, or an historical event) was imaginary or true. These ideas were later taken up and developed by Strauß’s teacher, F. C. Baur, in his Symbolik und Mythologie.⁶ Since Baur lectured on the contents of this work at Blaubeuren while Strauß was his student, we can be confident that Strauß would have been familiar with its main ideas. Baur defines myth as “the imaginative presentation of an idea through an action.”⁷ He carefully distinguishes myth from symbolism. Both represent the supersensible idea through an image; but the form of the image differs: whereas in myth the image takes the form of an action, in symbolism it takes the form of nature. What Strauß would have taken from Schelling and Baur was their thesis that the purpose of myths is to represent ideas. This means that the real truth-value or content of a myth rests on its ideas rather than its historical form; even if the historical form turns out to be false, the myth still can have its truth. Already fully formed in Schelling and Baur, then, was the distinction between the form and content of a myth.⁸ From them, we can also see why Strauß did not claim that myths were falsehoods: the truth of the myth lay in its content, not in its form.

³ On all these sources, see Horton Harris, David Friedrich Strauss and His Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), pp. 265–70. In stressing these sources of Strauß’s theory, Harris takes issue with Hartlich and Sachs, p. 265, who, he says, ignore them and focus on the Heyne tradition. ⁴ KrV, B 377, 383, 435, 595, 649. ⁵ Schelling, Über Mythen, historische Sagen und Philosopheme der a€ltesten Welt, in S€ amtliche Werke, ed. K. F. A. Schelling (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1856–61), I, 57. ⁶ F. C. Baur, Symbolik und Mythologie oder die Naturreligion des Alterthums (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1824), 2 vols. ⁷ Ibid., I, 28. ⁸ Baur, Symbolik und Mythologie, I, 98–9; and Schelling, Über Mythen, I, 81–3.

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There has been some controversy about whether Hegel was an important influence on the development of Strauß’s theory of myth. This has been denied on the grounds that Strauß’s argumentation in Das Leben Jesu does not have any Hegelian presuppositions, and that Strauß strictly distinguished historical criticism from metaphysics.⁹ Although this is true, it is also the case, as the introductions to the first and second editions of Das Leben Jesu testify, that Strauß was very much concerned to give a correct philosophical account of the nature of myth. In giving that account, Strauß very much relied upon Hegel. The very concept of a myth for Strauß is tied to Hegel’s distinctions between representation and concept, form and content. Myth is for him the sensible representation of an idea, the form of conceptual content. In the introduction to the third edition of Das Leben Jesu Strauß says that the very concept of religion involves myth in this sense because religion is “the representation of conceptual content.”¹⁰ That phrase clearly reveals the Hegelian provenance of Strauß’s conception. The great importance of the Hegelian conception of myth for Strauß is that it allowed him not only to criticize the form of myth but also to preserve its content.¹¹ Without that distinction, his theory would lead only to a negative result for faith, a conclusion the young Strauß wanted to avoid. It is the idealist provenance of Strauß’s concept of myth that distinguishes it from another tradition of thinking about myth. This is the Epicurean tradition, whose greatest modern exponent is Spinoza.¹² According to the Epicurean theory, myth consists in a primitive attempt to explain phenomena by animating them, by attributing spirits to them as their causes. Religion arose as an attempt to placate these spirits through prayer and sacrifice. The Epicurean theory foresees and welcomes the eventual obsolescence of myth through the progress of science. So, unlike Hegel’s theory, there is no content or rational core behind myth which philosophy should preserve and explain. Rather, philosophy supersedes and defeats myth, which is sustained only by fear, prejudice, and superstition. Strauß, true to his Hegelian legacy, thinks that philosophy has to preserve the content of religion even if it has to negate its historical form. One of the reasons for the horrified reaction to Strauß’s theory of myth is that people conflated the Hegelian with the Epicurean theory of myth.

⁹ Hartlich and Sachs, Der Ursprung des Mythosbegriffes, p. 138. The same view is expressed, on slightly different grounds, by Harris, Strauss, p. 271. ¹⁰ Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet, Dritte mit Rücksicht auf die Gegenschriften verbesserte Auflage (Tübingen: C. F. Osiander, 1838), I, 88, §14. ¹¹ This important point is rightly stressed by J. Sandberger, David Friedrich Strauß als theologischer Hegelianer (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1972), p. 69. The interpretation of Hartlich and Sachs, however, misses this point by denying every Hegelian element of Strauß’s critique and theory of myth. ¹² On Spinoza and the Epicurean tradition, see Leo Strauss, Die Religionskritik Spinozas als Grundlage seiner Bibelwissenschaft (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1930).

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6.2 Problems of Definition Strauß’s own discussion of myth first appears in the introduction to the 1835 edition of Das Leben Jesu. Here he makes his first attempt at a general definition of myth. “Myth in general,” he writes, “is the exposition of an event or thought in historical form, but in the sensuous, imaginative manner of thinking and speaking characteristic of antiquity” (29; §8). In this sense, Strauß says, there are three kinds of myth: 1) historical, i.e., stories about actual events but expressed in an imaginative way; 2) philosophical, i.e., those that clothe an idea in some imaginative or poetic form; and 3) poetic, i.e., those that are expressed in poetic or literary language (30; §8). What is characteristic of the mythical standpoint, Strauß explains, is that it contests the literal historical truth of the Bible. In this respect it differs from both the orthodox and the rationalist interpretations of the Bible, which both assume that the Bible has historical truth, whether supernatural or natural. Strauß also distinguishes the mythical from the allegorical approach to the Bible, which understands its narratives as allegories about the spirit or morality (51–2; §12). He first notes the affinity between these approaches: both are antagonistic to the orthodox and rational interpretations because they deny the historical status of the Bible; both want to contest its historical form to uphold its spiritual, moral, or metaphysical content. Strauß stresses, however, that there is a fundamental difference between these approaches because they have different views about the origin of this content: the allegorical approach finds it in “the divine spirit,” whereas the mythical finds it in “the spirit of a nation or community” (53; §12). On this reading, then, the allegorical approach assumes that the allegory has “a mystical origin” or that it comes from divine inspiration. We might well ask, however, why allegory has to have such an origin. Cannot one suppose that the nation or community also produces allegory? We could then combine the allegorical with the mythical approach. That was indeed the position that Strauß later took. Thus, in his Streitschriften, he states that biblical myth appears as allegory.¹³ Whatever the status of allegory, Strauß was much less vague and vacillating about other aspects of myth. He insisted that myth is not fable. That is to say: myth is not deliberate fiction, a story invented by someone (29; §8). Whereas fiction is the creation of an individual author who knows that his story is false, myth is the creation of a whole community which believes that its story is true (74; §12). Strauß laid great emphasis on the fact that the creation of myth is unintentional and subconscious (74; §12). Part of the point of this contention was to distinguish his theory of myth from that of the freethinkers, who held that myth arises from

¹³ Streitschriften, III, 156–7, 169.

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the self-conscious deceptions of the clergy, who are intent on controlling and hoodwinking the people.¹⁴ If myth arose unintentionally and subconsciously, then it could not be said to be deception, which implies self-conscious trickery. Still aspiring to be a cleric until the late 1830s, Strauß had no time for the freethinkers’ more radical theories. Strauß’s thesis that myth arises subconsciously and unintentionally proved to be one of the most puzzling and problematic aspects of his theory. Surely, he could not mean to say, literally, that the authors of the myths wrote them subconsciously and unintentionally. It is not as if they wrote them while dreaming or suffering from delirium. What, then, did he mean? In some important paragraphs of the second edition introduction to Das Leben Jesu,¹⁵ Strauß tells us two important facts about the origin of myth, both of which shed light on its subconscious and unintentional sources. He stresses, first, that myth has many authors and not only one; and, second, that it arose over many generations (103; §14). This means that the origins of the myth cannot lie in the will and imagination of a single author. Rather, they lie in the values and beliefs of a whole culture, or in what Strauß called “the spirit of a nation or community.” Properly speaking, the myth is not written by an author at all but it is transmitted by a culture, handed down from one generation to the next. The authors are not the creator of the myth but simply the agents of its transmission. Even though the creation of a myth, as the product of a whole culture, is subconscious and unintentional, is it not still possible for a single author, consciously and intentionally, to write down what the culture believes? Was this not indeed the role of the ancient prophets and disciples? This was a point that Strauß himself eventually came to recognize. In the introduction to the second edition of Das Leben Jesu, he qualified his theory by admitting that not all myths are subconscious and unintentional creations; some arose from the self-conscious additions of later authors (104; §14). It is difficult to draw a clear and distinct line between the conscious and subconscious, he explained. Later, in his Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk bearbeitet, he admitted that it did not matter at all whether a myth was created consciously or unconsciously; the mode of origination was completely irrelevant to whether it was a myth.¹⁶ What made a story a myth, Strauß now said, was simply its lack of historical status.

¹⁴ On the freethinkers’ theories, see J. A. Champion, The Pillars of Priestcraft Shaken: The Church of England and its Enemies, 1660–1730 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), and John Redwood, Reason, Ridicule and Religion: The Age of Enlightenment in England, 1660–1750 (London: Thames and Hudson, 1976), pp. 174–223. On the freethinkers’ influence in Germany, see Hermann Hettner, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur im Achtzehnten Jahrhundert (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1979), I, 350–2. ¹⁵ Das Leben Jesu, kritisch bearbeitet, Zweite, verbesserte Auflage (Tübingen: C. F. Osiander, 1837). ¹⁶ See chapter 13, section 13.3.

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6.3 Volksgeist Strauß’s theory of myth arose to explain something initially very puzzling: Why did people passionately hold beliefs for which there was no evidence, or which were even contrary to the evidence? This was the case for the belief in miracles, which go against all the knowledge we have of the laws of nature. It is also the case for the belief that Jesus is the son of God, which goes against all the knowledge we have that people are fallible and mortal. There needs to be some explanation for these beliefs which goes beyond the cognitive state of the believer, i.e., his or her knowledge of matters of fact. The explanation Strauß provides states that we hold these beliefs because they express and support the values or ideals of our community. Without them, we would not be able to achieve our common goals or stay together as a group. When an individual creates, or just affirms belief in, a myth, he or she is acting as the mouthpiece of the community, expressing its values or goals through him or herself. Because these beliefs have this social and political function, we are willing to hold in abeyance the normal laws of evidence; this is because the justification of the beliefs is more pragmatic than logical; they serve our ends or ideals, even if they happen to be false. That Strauß held this theory is clear from his statement that myth arises from the “spirit of a nation or a community” (der Geist eines Volkes oder eine Gemeinde) (53; §12). The spirit of a nation or a community consists in the unity of its characteristic forms of social, political, and cultural life; it is what makes it this nation rather than any other, what is unique and distinctive about its culture, customs, and religious, and political institutions. The spirit of a nation does not denote a special kind of entity or substance—all its adherents insisted—because it exists only in and through the actions of its individual members. Still, it is not simply reducible to the actions of its individual members, first because it is an indivisible unity, and second because it explains the actions of its individual members. The Volksgeist is the whole of which all individuals are parts; and each part is inseparable from the whole, incapable of existing apart from it. It seems absurd to attribute causal actions or powers to the Volksgeist precisely because it is not an existing individual itself; but it makes perfect sense if understood as a metaphor for the common product of many individuals working together over many generations, all of whom are working within the same general social context or whole. Strauß’s adherence to the Volksgeist theory explains his insistence that myth did not arise consciously or intentionally. Since we cannot attribute consciousness or intentions to the Volksgeist, it follows that myth, whose source is the Volksgeist, cannot arise either consciously or intentionally. Positivists have dismissed the Volksgeist theory on the grounds that it is the source of mystification and obscurantism. But no one took the theory so literally

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that it refers to some spooky supernatural entity—no one except, of course, the positivists themselves. The point behind the theory is methodological rather than metaphysical. It lays down the demand for holistic explanation: it claims that all beliefs and actions have to be understood within the context of a culture as a whole because all aspects of a culture form a unity and are interdependent. In stressing the role of a nation or community in the creation of myth Strauß was upholding a characteristic tenet of romantic social and political theory: that the origin of social phenomena lies in the Volksgeist.¹⁷ Strauß himself does not provide a general theory of the Volksgeist, though this is only to be expected because the theory had become a commonplace by the 1830s. What we have described above as the core of the theory holds very well for one of its most sophisticated exponents: Hegel. Since Strauß follows Hegel on so many points, we should have no scruple in ascribing this theory to him. The great value of the Volksgeist theory—and by implication Strauß’s theory of myth—is that it stresses the cultural context of religion, its importance for the values and traditions of a community. It gets beyond the view, deeply entrenched within Protestantism, that religious belief is simply the personal belief of an individual; it sees how religious belief shapes the social and political world of which the individual is only a part.

¹⁷ The theory of the Volksgeist, which had its origins in Montesquieu’s Esprit des lois, became commonplace in the early 1800s. It was developed by Herder, Savigny, Friedrich Schlegel, and Hegel, among others. It was also a commonplace of the historicist tradition, and was eventually developed into an early form of anthropology, the V€ olkerpsychologie of Lazarus and Steinthal. On V€ olkerpsychologie see my The German Historicist Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 468–72.

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7 Reaction, Demotion, and Exile 7.1 The Verdict The first volume of Das Leben Jesu appeared in early June 1835. Since Strauß was the most popular teacher in the Tübinger Stift, the publication of his book was eagerly awaited by his students. But Strauß also had powerful enemies in the Stift, especially among the older philosophical faculty, who saw him as a competitor and who were very jealous of his success. They were alarmed to read an advertisement for Strauß’s book in the Schw€ abische Merkur which described it as written from “a mythical standpoint.”¹ For them, this was enough to set in motion procedures against Strauß. On June 11, J. F. Flatt, the Studienrath (director of studies) sent an enquiry to the Inspektorat, the governing council of the Stift, asking whether Strauß’s views were compatible with his status as a lecturer.² This did not bode well. Flatt was not only a convinced supernaturalist but also one of Strauß’s most ardent opponents in the philosophy faculty. On June 20, the Inspektorat gave a divided verdict. Some of the professors on the tribunal were sympathetic to Strauß’s book, which they saw as the culmination of a direction of thought in Protestantism. Other professors, however, especially the supernaturalists Flatt and Steudal, deemed the book a danger to the students of the Stift. Because they were so divided, the professors decided that it was best to defer judgment until the second volume of the book appeared. In the meantime, they gave Strauß the opportunity to explain himself before the Inspektorat. He was requested to answer the following questions: “Whether the views contained in the first volume of his book about the words and deeds of Jesus are compatible with his vocation as an evangelical teacher of religion, who has to base his sermons to his flock and his instruction of the youth on the historical foundation of the gospel, and how they are compatible with his official status as a candidate for the clergy?”³ Strauß wrote a thoughtful reply to the Inspektorat, which is dated July 12.⁴ His letter is interesting because it reveals not only why he published his book but also ¹ Schw€ abische Merkur Nr. 153 (1835), p. 682. ² The full text of Flatt’s enquiry is in T. Ziegler, David Friedrich Strauß (Straßburg: Trübner, 1908), I, 180. ³ Ziegler, Strauß, I, 182–3. ⁴ The full text was reprinted in Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit (Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1876), “Beylagen” to Band I, 10–14; it is also in Ziegler, Strauß, I, 183–90. David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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how he viewed its place in history. Strauß knew well that his book would be controversial and that it would be descried by the public; but he believed that he still had to publish it. The letter gives us his rationale. In having to explain himself before the Inspektorat, Strauß was cast in the role of a defendant. He knew that his career was at stake. So he chose his words wisely. It would be a grave error, Strauß begins his letter, to give way to first impressions and to assume that his book was the product of an impetuous young man who wanted to shock the world through the novelty of his opinions. The views expressed in this book are not the ideas of a single individual but they are the results of a whole tradition of theological thinking which began in the last century. There are two strands to this tradition: biblical criticism and Hegel’s philosophy. This book merges these strands, bringing them to their final conclusion regarding the Christian revelation. Nothing said in the book is outrageous or new; rather, it has only made clear, systematic, and self-conscious what has been left vague, scattered, and half-conscious in the tradition. Strauß admits: on his showing there is little left standing of the supernatural in the life of Jesus; he insists, however, that he has gone no further than the many rationalist theologians before him, most of whom still enjoy prominent positions in the church today. In any case, Strauß insists that his book does not doubt all evangelical history; it criticizes only the claims made for miracles and prophecies, and it reveals all the more clearly the teachings and sublime character of Jesus. Addressing the pedagogical problem head on, Strauß recognizes that there is a problem in having to teach evangelical history when one does not personally believe in it; the ideal situation is when the pastor and the flock share the same beliefs. Nevertheless, he assures the Inspektorat that it has been a constant of Christian history that there has been a distance between the pastor and his flock; the pastor is often more educated than his flock and sees more behind Christian doctrine than they. This does not mean, however, that the preacher has to be a hypocrite, having to preach what he does not believe. Since there is an identity of content between philosophy and evangelical history, the pastor knows that there is substance or truth behind the history he has to teach. Strauß confesses to the Inspektorat that he has thought of leaving the church because of this conflict between philosophy and faith; but he tells them that he came to the decision to stay for the sake of the church itself. If everyone with philosophical scruples were to leave the church, this would turn the church into an ignorant and superstitious mass. The church has always benefited from having the educated and philosophical among its teachers, even if there is sometimes conflict with official dogma. It was a good defense, the best Strauß could have given. But it was all in vain. It was the duty of Flatt as the director of studies to give a report and There is a complete English translation in Horton Harris, David Friedrich Strauss and His Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), pp. 59–63.

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recommendation to the Württemburg Minister of Interior about the Strauß affair. On July 20, only a week after Strauß’s letter, Flatt wrote the minister, advising him that Strauß be immediately dismissed from his post as lecturer in the Stift.⁵ He gave several reasons for his opinion. First, Strauß himself had admitted that his philosophical views were in conflict with his parishioners; to allow him to teach theology students was therefore dangerous because it would very likely corrupt them. Second, it was of the utmost importance that the public have confidence in the teaching in the Stift, and that they could rest assured that its students were trained according to church doctrine. Allowing someone like Strauß to teach there would make the public question the wisdom of the management. Third, though the mythical approach was indeed well-known in church circles, Strauß took it to an extreme, applying it to all four of the apostles, so that even the gospel of John was made into a myth. Though Flatt recommended Strauß’s dismissal as a lecturer, he did not go so far as to advise his removal from all public office. Rather than a lectureship, Strauß was to be given a position as a classics instructor in the Lyceum in neighboring Ludwigsburg. Flatt was anxious to avoid any appearance of an inquisition, which would make the public wonder about the reputation of the Stift. So he decided it was best to demote rather than to dismiss Strauß. Strauß was to be told in no uncertain terms, however, that it was the Lyceum or nothing; on no account could he be employed again in the church. Always concerned about the reputation of his employees, the Minister of the Interior agreed with Flatt’s advice, adding only that Strauß should be “called” (berufen) to his new post. That was the normal jargon for an academic appointment, which, if applied in this case, would avoid all air of a scandal and help Strauß save face. Strauß had little choice but to accept “the call” to Ludwigsburg. He asked only that he be allowed to stay a few weeks longer in Tübingen so that he could finish the second volume of his book. The request was granted, and the second volume of Das Leben Jesu duly appeared in October 1835. Thus the “Schlussabhandlung” of the second volume, which intended to save Christian dogma from historical criticism, arrived much too late to save Strauß. In any case, it would have probably only increased the ire of a supernaturalist like Flatt. Strauß’s decision to accept the post in Ludwigsburg has puzzled some of his most sympathetic spokesmen. Ziegler took it as proof of Strauß’s conservatism; a true radical, he implies, would have refused such an offer.⁶ Yet it was not simply conservatism, an irremediable bourgeois disposition, that made Strauß go to Ludwigsburg. Strauß was thinking more of his family than his own honor or vocation. To refuse the post would have meant leaving government service ⁵ The report is summarized in Carl Weizs€acker, “David Friedrich Strauß und der Württembergische Kirchendienst,” Jahrbücher für deutsche Theologie 20 (1875), 641–60, esp. 653–4. ⁶ Ziegler, Strauß, I, 194.

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entirely, which would have been a terrible disgrace to his parents, who had sacrificed much so that their son could go to the Tübinger Stift. The most difficult consequence of the judgment against him, Strauß later explained,⁷ was the tensions it aroused with his parents. He had to shield them from all the libels and obloquy cast against him. Their son was now known as “the Antichrist of Ludwigsburg,” and the parents felt the infamy. They were sometimes the target of the disapproval and derision directed against their son. Strauß himself was ashamed that his parents were subjected to this. The tensions between son and father grew so great that Strauß eventually had to leave the family home, where he had been living after he left Tübingen.

7.2 Ludwigsburg Blues Strauß came to Ludwigsburg in November 1835. It must have been clear to him that he could not stay there long. The town was small and depressing, offering no opportunities for entertainment or research. The work too was oppressive. The job turned out to be no part-time junket, as he probably first hoped. Strauß had to teach Latin and Greek three hours a day, and then he had to correct grammar and composition exercises. There was no time or energy to do his own work or to answer the many critics of his book. In short: the situation was dire; the need to escape was clear. And so Strauß made enquiries for a better position. It seemed that there might be prospects as a theology professor outside Württemberg, in Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, or Zurich; he had friends and colleagues in those places who were speaking for him. But all these opportunities eventually came to nothing. There was always the prospect of habilitating in philosophy rather than theology in Württemberg; the ban against him held only for the theology faculty. Strauß had been a philosophy lecturer in Tübingen for two years, so why not go further down that path? But Strauß, for reasons best known to himself, did not explore this opportunity. It is not difficult to guess his motives. He now felt, after his experience in writing Das Leben Jesu, that his training and vocation was in theology rather than philosophy; and he had terrible experiences with the philosophy faculty in Tübingen, whose professors went out of their way to impede him when he was a lecturer in philosophy in the Stift. Under these depressing circumstances, Strauß made a dramatic and desperate decision: he would leave Ludwigsburg and attempt to earn a living as an independent writer. The royalties from his book, which were considerable, gave him some financial support. This was a drastic step for Strauß, for now he would be

⁷ “Zum Andenken an meine Mutter,” in Gesammelte Werke, I, 102–3.

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leaving behind him government employment and security, and he would be turning his back on the career his family had foreseen for him. Though it was risky, the decision brought one great benefit: freedom. The precedent of Lessing, who made a similar choice as a young man, must have been clear in Strauß’s mind. This decision to leave Ludwigsburg should end all suggestions about Strauß’s Kleinbürgerlichkeit.⁸ A comfortable and secure life was no priority for him. Before Strauß could enact his decision, he first had to make sure that there was no future for him as a government employee in Württemberg. On September 20, 1836 he wrote a letter to King Wilhelm of Württemberg to see if there were any prospects for his future employment in his majesty’s government.⁹ Strauß painted a bleak picture of his situation in Ludwigsburg and confessed that for some time he had been pondering the possibility of beginning life as an independent scholar. What held him back from acting on this decision, he explained, was an important moral principle: that he should follow the career his government had set for him. This letter was not a relapse into Kleinbürgerlichkeit but the simple enactment of a civil obligation: Strauß was educated at government expense in the Tübinger Stift under the understanding that he would serve the government when he graduated. Before he set out on his own, he needed to get leave from that obligation. The letter was a formality. Strauß was probably expecting—and hoping for—a negative answer. For that Strauß did not have to wait for long. Since Strauß asked about his prospects in the church, the king forwarded his letter to the appropriate authorities: namely, the consistory of Württemberg. Who was the most powerful and vocal member of this committee? None other than Studienrath Flatt, of course. The decision against Strauß was therefore predictable: that, unless he recanted his book, there could be no future employment for him in the church.¹⁰ Strauß had already become so notorious, Flatt reasoned in a report to the Ministry of Education, that the public would not find it acceptable if the “Antichrist of Ludwigsburg” were allowed to become, in any manner, an officer of the church. As predictable as Flatt’s decision was, there was also something unpredictable about his report: for, now that he had bothered to read it, or at least some of it, the Herr Studienrath had changed his views about Strauß’s book. The book was not beneath the expectations that the Stift had for Strauß. It was not the sin of an impudent youth but represented a tradition of thought prominent in Protestantism. This was just what Strauß had said in his June 12th letter, and Flatt was now admitting it. Now that Flatt’s opinions had softened, he saw nothing wrong in giving Strauß a position in a university or a gymnasium, as long as he ⁸ Pace Hausrath, Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, I, 196. ⁹ The original appears to have been lost. The contents are summarized in Hausrath, Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, I, 197. ¹⁰ Flatt’s report, which also seems to be lost, is summarized in Hausrath, Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, I, 198–9.

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was not entrusted with religion. He even conceived giving Strauß a professorship in theology, though he then quickly rejected the idea only because the public would not stand for it. Amazingly, then, Flatt had become more generous, more liberal; but even this mood had its limits: he concluded his report by saying that the best career for Strauß would be that of a private scholar. The official reply to Strauß’s letter came on October 27, 1836, from the Ministry of Education. The decision could not have been more bluntly negative: until he recanted “his offensive and revolutionary opinions regarding the foundations of the Christian religion,” Strauß was not to have any position in the church of Württemberg. He could not teach in any theological faculty, and it was inadvisable to employ him even in a philosophical faculty because of the possible effect of his doctrines on the youth. All that remained open for Strauß was to teach at a Gymnasium.¹¹ It was left to Flatt to tell this news to Strauß. He spared him the worst of it: that Strauß could not even teach in a philosophy department.¹² So, in the autumn of 1836, Strauß’s prospects seemed dim. He was forbidden to teach in a university in Württemberg, whether in theology or philosophy; and, after several applications, there proved to be no opportunities elsewhere. His only option in Württemberg was to teach in a Gymnasium; but for that he was overqualified and had no inclination. Life as an independent scholar and writer was the only future for him. Bleak prospects were only the beginning of Strauß’s misfortunes in Ludwigsburg. Another great source of frustration were his many critics, who were abusing and taunting him when he could find neither time nor energy to reply to them.¹³ It was as if he were nailed to the school bench as his critics hurled sticks and stones at him. Few of these criticisms were of the civilized academic variety. In a letter to Rapp from August 1836, Strauß divided them into three classes: 1) “cries for help—a mere expression of surprise, terror, disgust, without going into details . . . Character: fanatical. 2) critique of details, but with no attention to the subject (the life of Jesus, the apostles) . . . Character: peevish, arrogant. 3) Those that go to the subject and attempt, once the mythical standpoint is discussed, to treat the evangelical narratives in their context; then one agrees with me on many points and changes the tone against me.”¹⁴ Strauß would eventually reply to all these criticisms; but for a full year he had to suffer them in silence. If it was difficult to bear these critics, it was even more galling for Strauß to see that his closest friends had also been silent, saying nothing to defend him. Strauß wrote his friend Binder in May 1836: “I honestly admit that I have been vexed by my isolated position and that I am angry because of my friends. Together, they ¹¹ The decree is summarized by Hausrath, Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, I, 200. ¹² Ibid. ¹³ That this situation was unnerving Strauß is clear from his September 22, 1835 letter to Binder, in Ziegler, “Zur Biographie von David Friedrich Strauß,” Deutsche Revue 30 (April–June 1905), pp. 346–7. ¹⁴ As cited in Ziegler, Strauß, I, 202.

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were happy to pull the cart with me for so long; but then, as things got serious, they left it standing there.”¹⁵ One of his closest friends was M€arklin, who apologized that, because of his family circumstances, he could do nothing to help. But Strauß bitterly dismissed his excuse: “So better to keep your hands from the kettle so that it will not get black from your dear friend D. F. Strauß.”¹⁶ As it happened, Strauß’s three best friends—M€arklin, Vischer, and Binder—did come to his aid and wrote polemics against his enemies.¹⁷ But their help came later in the day, not until 1838 and 1839. For the first years after the publication of Das Leben Jesu, 1835–7, Strauß stood alone as his enemies mercilessly bombarded him. The worst blow of the Ludwigsburger year came from unexpected quarters, from Strauß’s close friend and mentor Ferdinand Baur.¹⁸ He had been Strauß’s teacher since Blaubeuren days and they eventually became intimate friends. Or so Strauß had thought. When Hengstenberg, an orthodox supernaturalist, threw Strauß and Baur into the same pot,¹⁹ Baur became alarmed and went to great pains to dissociate himself from Strauß. Baur not only sharply distinguished his approach to the Bible from his former student, but he even censured him for the excessive negativity of his criticism.²⁰ For Strauß, this was not only cowardly but disloyal, an act of kicking a friend when he was down. He wrote Baur a friendly but frank letter on August 19, 1836, telling him in no uncertain terms how he felt: “I believe that I cannot conceal from you that in this respect your treatise [against Hengstenberg] belongs to the most depressing that I have experienced with regard to my book.”²¹ Later in the month, on August 31, 1836, Strauß told his friend Rapp exactly what he objected to in Baur’s conduct: “Under the present circumstances [when I am beset with enemies] a friend should not reproach me, even when the reproach is just. But that of Baur is not [just] at all.”²² Strauß explained that Baur found fault with his argument because he had criticized the apostles only because of their inconsistencies and did not consider other sources of evidence in their favor. But Strauß found this an artificial criticism. For what were these other sources? For most of the evangelical stories, there were no parallel histories that one could get from elsewhere. It seemed to Strauß as if Baur were going out of his way to distinguish himself from his old student. Not surprisingly, Baur’s actions

¹⁵ Strauß to Binder, May 1836, as cited in Ziegler, Strauß, I, 211. ¹⁶ In the same letter to Binder, in Ziegler, Strauß, I, 211. ¹⁷ On their writings in behalf of Strauß, see Ziegler, Strauß, I, 212–15. ¹⁸ On Strauß’s long and complicated relationship to Baur, see Ulrich Köpf, “Ferdinand Christian Baur and David Friedrich Strauss,” in Ferdinand Baur and the History of Early Christianity, eds. Martin Bauspiess, Christof Landmesser, and David Lincicum (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), pp. 3–44. ¹⁹ See “Die Zukunft unserer Theologie,” Evangelische Kirchen-Zeitung (May 1836), Nr. 36, pp. 281–5 and Nr. 37, pp. 289–91. Hengstenberg claims that Baur even stood under the influence of Strauß (p. 289). ²⁰ F. Baur, “Abgenöthigte Erklärung gegen einen Artikel der Evangelische-Zeitung,” in Tübinger Zeitschrift für Theologie 1836, III, 179–232. ²¹ Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe, p. 23. ²² Ibid., p. 24.

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led to a severe strain in his relations with Strauß, who declared to Georgii in August 1836 that his friendship was now at an end.²³ But by November fences were mended, because, as Strauß put it, “I cannot resist the honest man.”²⁴

7.3 The Second Edition In April 1836, in the midst of his Ludwigsburger doldrums, Strauß heard some surprising but welcome news: his publisher, C. F. Osiander in Tübingen, informed him that it was necessary to print another edition of Das Leben Jesu.²⁵ Amid all the doom and gloom, this was a sign of some success. At least people were reading the book. The first edition had already sold out, only six months after the second volume appeared. This was not bad for a hefty academic tome of two volumes. There was some urgency to the matter. To keep pace with demand, Osiander insisted that the second printing begin as soon as possible. Strauß was given only a few weeks to revise the book and to make any necessary corrections.²⁶ There was no time to make substantial changes or to reply to reviews and criticisms. In any case, Strauß was wary of making substantial changes: that would complicate and confuse the main idea behind the work, whose outlines should be firm and clear, free of added clutter. Despite such wariness and the time pressure, Strauß could not resist making some important additions to the second edition. Baur had advised him to clarify his concept of myth,²⁷ the obscurity of which Strauß recognized to be a major shortcoming of his book. A second edition was the perfect opportunity to correct the problem. So, to the new introduction of the second edition Strauß added three new sections discussing the concept of myth in its relation to Christianity. These sections, §§13–15, are the major change of the second edition.²⁸ They mark a significant clarification of Strauß’s position, which has been seldom discussed. The sections summarize in nuce Strauß’s whole case against the historical stature of the New Testament. The discussion in sections §§13–15 is systematic. §13 treats “the possibility of myths according to their external grounds,” i.e., those that concern the composition of the text; §14 considers “the possibility of myths according to their internal grounds,” i.e., those that concern the content of the texts; and §15 discusses the ²³ Strauß to Georgii, August 26, 1836, Briefe an David Friedrich Strauß an L. Georgii, ed. Heinrich Maier (Tübingen: Mohr, 1912), p. 16. ²⁴ Strauß to Georgii, November 4, 1836, ibid., p. 17. ²⁵ See Strauß to M€arklin, April 11, 1836, in J€org Sandberger David Friedrich Strauß als theologischer Hegelianer (G€ottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1972), p. 204. ²⁶ See Strauß to Binder, April 19, 1836, in Ziegler, “Zur Biographie,” p. 349. ²⁷ See Strauß to Binder, May 12, 1836, in ibid., p. 349. ²⁸ See Das Leben Jesu, “Zweite, verbesserte Auflage” (Tübingen: C. F. Osiander, 1837), I, 62–111. All references in parentheses above are to this edition.

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general criteria for judging whether and when a report is a myth. At first Strauß had misgivings about such an a priori discussion, because he found the general question of the possibility of myths difficult and indeterminable.²⁹ But Baur’s advice prevailed; the need to be clearer about the concept of myth eventually overcame these reservations. The main thrust of §13 is that there is no good reason to assume that any of the gospel stories—those of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John—are eyewitness accounts. The apostles were all dead by the first century; but all historical and philological evidence indicates that the gospels were written in the second third of the second century (72–3). These stories were first part of an oral tradition, and they were passed down—and altered—through generations. This gave plenty of time to attribute to the apostles books that they had never written (73). It is very naïve and foolish to assume that the names assigned to the gospel texts are really those of their authors. These names were given to them later; and they were assigned by the group of people who first read them. We have no reason to think, therefore, that the apostles themselves wrote the gospels ascribed to them. But if they are not eyewitness accounts, and if they were passed down over the generations by an oral tradition, we have reason to doubt their historical value. This does not mean that they are false, of course, but it does decrease their probability because stories are so often altered through their transmission. In section §14 Strauß asks himself to what extent myths are part of the general character of the Christian religion (76). The Christians have hotly disputed that their religion is mythical like that of the pagans. They have insisted that their God does not have the anthropomorphic characteristics of the pagan Gods, who get angry, jealous, and have marriages. The God of the Judeo-Christian tradition is conceived as eternal and supernatural, and so does not have the personal characteristics of the pagan gods. If the realm of myth is about the history of the gods, then Christianity stands above the realm of myth. Strauß is willing to accept this common contention, even though it is complicated by the Christian doctrine of the incarnation, according to which God cannot be entirely eternal and supernatural because he embodies himself in the historical figure of Christ (82). Laying aside this complication, Strauß still maintains that Christianity is mythical because it conflicts with the modern worldview, which he sees as completely naturalistic. According to this worldview, everything happens as part of nature and follows regular laws; the intervention of God in such a world through miracles and prophecies is simply impossible (87). The very essence of religion involves myth, Strauß argues, because religion by its very nature consists in the figurative representation of conceptual content (87–8). While the concepts of philosophy are universal, necessary, and systematic, the representations of

²⁹ See Strauß to M€arklin, May 27, 1836, in Sandberger, Strauß als Hegelianer, p. 207.

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religion are particular, sensuous, and imaginative. Christianity, it is obvious to Strauß, consists in the same kind of representations as all religions, and so for this reason its content is mythical. It must be said that Strauß just inserts and asserts his Hegelian views here and offers little or no argument for them. The most interesting part of §14 is Strauß’s explanation of the subconscious and unintentional character of myth. It has been asked how myth could arise subconsciously and unintentionally if it is the product of human activity. And if myth is something invented, then why would people be so naïve to believe it? In dealing with these questions Strauß cites a long passage from Otfried Müller’s Prolegomena zu einer wissenschaftliche Mythologie,³⁰ which he thinks marks a substantial contribution to the debate about myth. Müller stresses that myths are not the conscious and intentional product of one individual because they are the product of many generations which are passed down to future generations. One individual might add something to the legacy; but he does not create it. The myth is a collective story created and believed by generations, no single person is responsible for its authorship. The whole concept of invention (Erfindung) is inapplicable to myth, Müller insists, because it implies personal fabrication (91). Müller’s theory of myth is perfectly illustrated by the myth of the messiah, Strauß argues. This myth lay with the Israeli people for generations; the whole community waited for the messiah. It was a commonplace of the myth that the messianic age would be one of wonders and songs. Because the myth was so endemic and widespread, and because the hopes of the people for redemption were so high, it was not surprising that a charismatic person like Jesus would be regarded as the messiah. Armed with the concept of the messiah, the disciples and apostles read this concept into Jesus. They reasoned: 1) the messiah works miracles and wonders (definition); 2) Jesus is the messiah (by consent and teaching); therefore 3) Jesus works miracles and wonders. The conclusion would be verified by the sheer belief of the people, whose imagination was so strong that it mistook belief for reality. Section §15 discusses the all-important—and all too often postponed— question of the criteria of myth. How do we know—in any particular case— whether something is a myth or not? Strauß tells us that there are positive and negative criteria for a myth. There are two negative criteria: 1) a story is mythical if it is incompatible with known and universal laws of nature (103); and 2) if its content contradicts itself or other known facts (105). The positive criteria concern both form and content: the form is poetic; and the content arises from the preconceived opinions of a people rather than from its experience (106). Strauß is clear that no single one of these criteria is sufficient to establish a myth; several of them would have to be satisfied (107). ³⁰ Karl Otfried Müller, Prolegomena zu einer wissenschaftliche Mythologie (G€ottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1825), pp. 110–14.

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What is most striking about the discussion of myth in the second edition introduction is the emphasis Strauß now lays upon the naturalistic worldview. He makes a violation of this worldview a criterion of myth. We have already seen, however, that Strauß does not apply the naturalistic principle in his arguments in Das Leben Jesu. It would be a mistake to think that because Strauß invokes this principle here that he uses it to make his case in these arguments. Indeed, even in the introduction, Strauß himself is very cautious about the use of the principle. “I have been concerned to allow the possibility that something could still occur to emerge more clearly,” he wrote to M€arklin describing the argument of the new introduction.³¹ Strauß introduces the principle here because he wants to be clear and open about his general worldview; but he does not see this confession as revealing anything about the hidden premises of his argument. Strauß was not happy with the second edition. When it appeared he confessed to M€arklin that “it is here and there changed and possibly for the better; but the unity has been destroyed and a new one has not been won with all the new details.”³² The second edition, he said, was like the second moment in the Hegelian trilogy: it was the moment of finitude and opposition. Strauß already said that of the first edition; and the same point made of the second edition only seemed to repeat the promise of the first: that there would be a forthcoming third moment of the Hegelian trilogy, the synthesis that would resolve all opposition in a new whole. But, for reasons we shall soon see, this promise was never kept.

³¹ To M€arklin, May 27, 1836, in Sandberger, Strauß als Hegelianer, p. 207. ³² To M€arklin, October 10, 1836, ibid., p. 210.

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8 The Rogue’s Gallery 8.1 Lining up the Duckies On December 5, 1836, Strauß finally left Ludwigsburg for Stuttgart, where he would live for the next five years. The move was an enormous relief for him. He no longer had to endure the disappointment of his parents or the disapproval of the locals. Though his future was insecure, he still could enjoy the freedom of an independent scholar. Now, finally, he could do what proved to be impossible in Ludwigsburg: work and write for himself. There were not many opportunities for social life in Stuttgart; but that did not matter. It was enough for him to live on his own and to write what he wanted.¹ The first order of business in Stuttgart was to reply to the many critics who had made his life a misery in Ludwigsburg. For the next seven months, from December 1836 until June 1837, Strauß was preoccupied with answering his critics and justifying the standpoint he had taken in Das Leben Jesu. The product of these labors was his Streitschriften,² whose last installment finally appeared in June 1837. The entire work proved to be hefty: 608 pages! The most puzzling aspect of the Streitschriften is why Strauß wrote it in the first place. One would think that the satisfaction of answering his critics would be a sufficient reason. But in the preface to the first installment Strauß disavows any such satisfaction, and swears that he has always had “a profound aversion against everything called reply or anti-critique” (iv). It is pointless to write such books, he explains, because one never convinces one’s opponent, and because one never teaches anything to the public, who either do not understand the issues or who are interested only in the spectacle of a literary battle. But apart from the vanity of the whole enterprise, it is not pleasant to write such works, Strauß insists, because they do not permit one to explore the issues or allow rigorous systematic exposition (vi–vii). All of which raises the question: Why, Herr Strauß, did you write this book, some 600 pages long? Why did you go to such trouble? And why do you make such demands on the reader’s patience?

¹ On Strauß’s state of mind during his first weeks in Stuttgart, see Strauß to Zeller, January 25, 1837, Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe, ed. Eduard Zeller (Bonn: Verlag von Emil Strauß, 1895), p. 28. ² David Friedrich Strauß, Streitschriften zur Vertheidigung meiner Schrift über das Leben Jesu und zur Charakteristik der gegenw€ artigen Theologie (Tübingen: C. F. Osiander, 1837). David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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To that question, Strauß does not really give a satisfying answer. He says that he undertook the work in the hope that it would reveal something about the different directions of thought in contemporary theology (viii–ix). His book was attacked from all directions; and so in replying to each of them, he could educate the reader about them (viii–ix). But was it really this? Especially when he already said that the readers of polemics are not interested in learning anything? Truth be told: Strauß’s real motive is that he had to vindicate himself; he could not let all these things be said about himself without replying to them. He admitted that self-vindication is not fruitful, that one should not worry about reputation, and that one should let the merits of one’s philosophy speak for itself (viii). But it was never in Strauß’s nature—as we shall see time and again—to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Self-vindication was essential to his pride and self-esteem. Despite his disclaimers about his aversion to polemics, he confessed to Rapp that he was enjoying the writing.³ No small part of the pleasure was self-vindication. The Streitschriften were published in three installments or Hefte, each of which was devoted to a particular critic or school of criticism. There was no strict logical order in the exposition. In the preface Strauß said that he would begin with those writings dealing with more general issues and then proceed to those treating more particular or detailed ones (xv). But it is difficult to see how this applies to the content of the texts—the first examined concern very detailed issues while the last deal with very general ones—and it is in any case not the order that Strauß followed in writing the work. Strauß picked his targets at his pleasure, not following any order at all. Thus he wrote M€arklin that he was beginning with “the uncle”—meaning Johann Christian Steudel, who happened to be M€arklin’s uncle—but that he had no idea whom would be next.⁴ He later hit upon the idea of classifying his critics into camps according to whether they were professional theologians or philosophers; but he did not keep to that plan either, since the third Heft throws together a theologian with the philosophers. For a long time Strauß was also very unclear about whom he would include among his critics. He pondered discussing Vaihinger, Klaiber, and Harleß, though in the end he never wrote about them.⁵ Uncertainty about the organization and contents of the Streitschriften went along with uncertainty about its title. Strauß wanted to give the work the title Galerie der Gegner meiner Kritischen Bearbeitung des Lebens Jesu.⁶ He seemed to envision all his opponents lined up in a row like duckies for target practice in a country fair. Apparently, as he told Baur, a flea whispered this mischievous idea in ³ See Strauß to Rapp, February 1, 1837, Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe, p. 29. ⁴ Strauß to Christian M€arklin, December 25, 1836, in J€org Sandberger, David Friedrich Strauß als theologischer Hegelianer (G€ottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1972), p. 213. ⁵ See Strauß to Baur, March 4, 1837, in “Der Briefwechsel zwischen Strauss und Baur,” ed. Ernst Barnikol, Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 4. Folge, X.LXXIII (1962), 74–125, here 96. ⁶ See Strauß to Baur, January 20, 1837, in “Der Briefwechsel zwischen Strauss und Baur,” p. 93.

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his ear.⁷ But he eventually retreated to the more staid Streitschriften zur Vertheidigung meiner Schrift über das Leben Jesu. A second volume of the Streitschriften was planned. There were still plenty of critics for Strauß’s shooting gallery. But Strauß abandoned the idea. He was tired of polemics after the first volume, just as one would have predicted from its preface. The Streitschriften was a massive pièce d’occasion, and it seems to have little significance beyond its polemics. Yet the work is crucial for understanding Strauß’s philosophy, which becomes clear only through Strauß’s exchanges with his critics. From it, we can see better its strengths and weaknesses, its powers and limits. Most importantly, what we get from the Streitschriften is insight into Strauß’s commitment to reason, the rationale he gave for it and the criticisms he made against the fideism of orthodoxy and pietism. It is simply false to assume, as Strauß’s critics have done,⁸ that his rationalism was a sheer presupposition or a simple inclination of nature. In his encounters with his orthodox and pietist critics in the Streitschriften—Steudel, Hengstenberg, and Eschenmayer—Strauß makes clear his reasons for rationalism and why the commitment to reason in religion is a matter of necessity.

8.2 Uncle Johann The chief and only target of the first Heft of the Streitschriften is Johann Christian Steudel, professor of theology in Tübingen. The first Heft is over 180 pages.⁹ Why Strauß should devote so much attention to Steudel is at first sight puzzling. He did not think much of the intellectual caliber of the man. As he characterized him, Steudal was one of those self-righteous critics who cry and shout but who are incapable of examining anything. His lectures in Tübingen, delivered in a halting and dry style, were so unbearable that Strauß dropped them after only a few weeks. Strauß thought even less of the polemic Steudel wrote again him. Rather longwindedly entitled (in its short version) Vorl€ aufig zu Beherzigendes bei Würdigung der Frage über die historische oder mythische Grundlage des Lebens Jesu,¹⁰ this work was a screed written primarily to warn the faithful about Strauß’s

⁷ The mischievous flea is unknown. It might well have been Vischer, who liked the title. ⁸ See Adolf Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit (Heidelberg: F. Bassermann, 1876), I, 62–3; and Karl Barth, David Friedrich Strauß als Theologe, 1839–1939 (Zollikon: Verlag der Evangelischen Buchhandlung, 1939), p. 11. ⁹ Erstes Heft: Herr Dr. Steudel oder die Selbstt€auschungen des verst€andigen Supranaturalismus unserer Tage. ¹⁰ Johann Christian Steudel, Vorl€ aufig zu Beherzigendes bei Würdigung der Frage über die historische oder mythische Grundlage des Lebens Jesu, wie die canonischen Evangelien dieses darstellen, vorgehalten aus dem Bewußtsein eines Gl€ aubigen, der den Supranaturalisten beigez€ ahlt wird, zur Beruhigung der Gemüther (Tübingen: L. F. Fues, 1835).

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dangerous book. It deliberately did not examine the details of Strauß’s arguments, and it was published even before the second volume of Das Leben Jesu appeared. Why, then, bother to give it the dignity of a reply? The short and simple answer is that it gave Strauß the irresistible opportunity to take revenge.¹¹ Steudel was the Superattendent of the Tübinger Stift, and so had authority over Strauß and all the students there. He was on the commission that examined Das Leben Jesu and was especially active in making the case for Strauß’s dismissal. In the introduction to his Vorl€ aufiges Steudel himself rubbed salt into Strauß’s wounds by referring to his old position of authority over him. He wrote that the author whose work he was about to examine came from his own “cabinet,”¹² as if that was where Steudel normally kept him, and as if he now had to correct such an unruly young whippersnapper. Apart from personal motives, Strauß had good reason to take issue with “Uncle Johann.” Steudel was the figurehead of the old Tübingen school of theology, which represented the standpoint of supernaturalism, i.e., the beliefs that the Bible is the basis of the faith, and that the claims to revelation in the Bible should be taken literally and historically. A close examination of his work would therefore serve as an exposé of the weaknesses of supernaturalism and as a vindication of Strauß’s own mythical approach. Nothing irritated Steudel more than Strauß’s claim in the very first sentence of the preface of Das Leben Jesu that supernaturalism and rationalism were now “antiquated.” That was Strauß’s way of telling Steudel that his days were over and that they had now been overtaken by a more modern view, the mythical approach. Steudel felt that he represented the standpoint of the Christian church itself and not simply a contemporary school of theology; and he was confident that its standpoint would eventually prove victorious over rationalism. His Vorl€ aufiges is primarily a defense of supernaturalism, which he understands to be faith in the Bible itself.¹³ Strauß did not reject Steudel’s claim to orthodoxy—the church had indeed defended the literal truth of revelation for centuries—but he insisted that orthodoxy too was now antiquated. What made it obsolete? Strauß’s answer to this question is revealing about his ultimate commitments. It is inconceivable nowadays to think of a rejuvenation of supernaturalism and its victory over rationalism, Strauß argues, for the simple reason that the church cannot any longer claim dogmatic authority (18). All those who have tasted freedom of thought will resist any attempt of the church to claim that authority. “The basic demand” of the age, Strauß insists, is “autonomy of thought,” a demand which makes supernaturalism stand before the tribunal of critique and answer its questions. The only reason we ¹¹ Hausrath accurately said that Strauß’s tract was “eine unbarmherzige Rache” against Steudel. See his David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit (Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1876), I, 215. ¹² Steudel, Vorl€ aufig zu Beherzigendes, p. 18. ¹³ Ibid., pp. 12, 16.

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should accept the mythical approach over the supernaturalist, Strauß implies, is because it is the only one to receive the approval of that tribunal. Strauß saw this demand for autonomy of thought as the product of an intellectual revolution, one introduced into the modern age by Kant. He likened this intellectual revolution to the political one in France (19). This analogy gave his position a legitimacy over supernaturalism that went far beyond any arguments. For it meant that supernaturalism was finished, a legacy of a moribund past. Nothing could be said to rescue it. Just as it proved impossible to revive the ancien régime in France, so it was impossible to go back to the authority of dogmatic theology and the orthodoxy of the church. Steudel and his orthodox colleagues were like the reactionaries in France: they had forgotten nothing but they also had learned nothing. It was this claim of Strauß to represent the modern spirit, the revolution in modern thought, that made his reputation as a freethinker. It immediately becomes clear from Strauß’s examination of Steudal that the two authors are writing from diametrically opposed standpoints. It was a replay of the classical conflict between Lessing and Pastor Goeze in the eighteenth century. In Vorl€ aufiges Steudal writes from the classical Protestant standpoint according to which faith stands above reason, which should serve to explain faith but never question it. Reason is post fidem because we should believe in order to understand; it is not pre fidem, as if we should believe only after we understand. Hence Steudel insists on beginning from the standpoint of faith, stressing that reason cannot give or take away faith.¹⁴ Strauß thinks that this is the wrong standpoint to take if the task is to examine the historical foundations of Christianity. In that case, we do not want to know what faith means to the believer and why it is important to him or her; that is a strictly religious question. But the issue with the foundations of Christianity is a completely intellectual or historical question. Here it is necessary to bracket faith, to set it aside, and to refuse to allow it to lead enquiry. It would be inappropriate in the examination of these historical questions to ask if the enquirer is faithful, Strauß says, because that is like asking whether the artist who paints the human body is filled with sexual passion for it (9). Strauß’s rhetoric sometimes suggests that these standpoints are only complementary, as if they were equally valid perspectives on faith. But he does not really believe this any more than Steudal does. That is because each standpoint vies for sovereignty over the other. Strauß warns faith from taking over the standpoint of reason, so that it directs enquiry and skews its results in favor of faith; Steudel warns against reason dominating faith, judging it according to purely intellectual criteria rather than according to the heart of the believer. For Strauß, reason must have sovereignty because he believes in the absolute value of intellectual enquiry, whatever its results might be; for Steudel, faith must have sovereignty because

¹⁴ Ibid., pp. 10–11, 14–15.

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nothing less is at stake than the eternal salvation of the soul, whose chief precondition is faith. This was a conflict, Strauß was convinced, that reason should and would win for the simple reason that there is a vulnerability to the standpoint of faith: it assumes the truth of the historical foundations of Christianity, which is precisely what is in question. Assuming that reason does have sovereignty over matters of faith, the question remains what limits should be placed upon it? Should there be unlimited free enquiry, so that there should be no constraints over reason, even if its conclusions were socially or politically harmful? Or should one impose limits upon reason if it leads to damaging conclusions for society and state? On this question, Strauß took a firm stand in favor of free enquiry: “The truth is to be judged only according to itself; all interventions of an alien standpoint, such as its utility and edification, disturb the pure consideration of the subject itself; they do not belong to the investigation of the question whether something is true but only to the consideration of the manner in which the truth is to be introduced into the world” (90). Even if the truths found by free enquiry were disturbing for the public, it was still wrong to withhold them, because, ultimately, knowledge of the truth is what is best for the people themselves. Even if the truth were damaging in the short term, Strauß was confident that it would be beneficial in the long term. “What is true— so much trust do I have in the truth—will also be in the end good for our brothers; but I never conclude that, because something appears to be damaging to our brothers, it must be false” (90). For this reason, Strauß rejected Steudel’s insinuation that he should have written Das Leben Jesu in Latin. Steudel was simply proposing hypocrisy: that he write in Latin that the gospel is not history while still allowing the Christian community to believe that it is true history (89). Strauß realized that it would be often necessary for the theologian to introduce his views to the public slowly and gradually; the truth could not be told bluntly and all at once without upsetting people; but, ultimately, he would have to stick to his reason and principles. If he refused to educate the people, or if they rejected everything he had to say, then he would have to leave his post as a pastor (89). It was one of the great advantages of his own position, Steudel believed, that it avoided all the problems inherent in Strauß’s. If reason submitted to the guidance of faith, then there could be no conflict between faith and reason; and hence there would be no need for the question about withholding or revealing disturbing truths to the public. There really was no opposition at all between the theologian and the community, between “love of truth” and “love for one’s brothers.” Since the Christian faith is the truth, and since that faith brings the good tidings of salvation, which the whole community wants to hear, the theologian who preaches the Christian faith is in happy harmony with his community. It was only if reason were unrestrained, only if it broke free of the guidance of faith, that it would lead to the doubt or denial of faith. For Strauß, however, the belief in this happy harmony between the theologian and his community was only another one of

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Steudel’s “self-deceptions” which came from a failure to enquire, to ask questions; it was only because one feared the consequences of enquiry that one stressed the sovereignty of faith in the first place. One of the more interesting—and troublesome—questions Steudel raised for Strauß concerned the origins of Christianity itself. Steudel maintained that Christianity is a fact in the world and the problem is to explain this fact, i.e., how Christianity even arose in the first place.¹⁵ For Christianity to be a fact, people had to believe it, to accept its central teachings. But what made them believe it? Steudel argues that we can explain this fact only if we assume the historical truth of revelation—that miracles took place, that prophecies were fulfilled—because only this would have made people believe in Christianity.¹⁶ The Jews were a skeptical and incredulous people who clung all too stubbornly to their own religion. They could be moved out of their doubt and disbelief only if they saw miracles actually take place and only if they saw prophecies fulfilled. Strauß saw this whole argument as testimony to Steudel’s lack of faith in “the power of the idea,” and indeed to his “historical materialism,” because it implied that people would believe in Christ only if they saw his miracles (33). The true reason people believed in Christ, Strauß argues, was because of the force of his personality and his teaching. They believed in his miracles and prophecies only because they admired his personality and teaching; and they did not admire his personality and teaching because of his miracles (36). Besides personality and teaching, Strauß maintains that two other factors were necessary for the rise and spread of Christianity. First, the Jewish belief in the messiah; and second, the belief in Christ’s resurrection (33, 36–7, 88). The beliefs in miracles and prophecies arose only because people already believed that Christ was the messiah (36–7, 88). Strauß’s account of the origin of Christianity is riddled with ambiguity. He cannot make up his mind whether the belief in Christ’s resurrection was necessary for the reception and spread of Christianity. On the one hand, we are told in no uncertain terms that it was decisive (36–7); on the other hand, though, we are also told that it was unnecessary, that Jesus’ personality and teachings alone would have been sufficient for people to believe that he was a messiah (39, 88). Surprisingly, in one passage Strauß maintains that the belief in Christ’s resurrection is not really a myth and that it is “in the fullest sense historical” (37).¹⁷ But this contradicts his claims that the Jewish myth of the messiah played a powerful role in the rise of Christianity (33), and that it is behind the belief in the resurrection (39).

¹⁵ Ibid., p. 32. ¹⁶ Ibid., pp. 35, 42. ¹⁷ As we shall (sections 8.3 and 8.7), Strauß is later much bolder in saying that the belief in the resurrection is mythical. His hesitancy on the point has much to do with its heretical and controversial character.

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Such, in sum, were the issues and arguments of the first or defensive half of Strauß’s Streitschrift against Steudel. We will leave aside here its second or offensive half, which was an examination of Steudel’s interpretation of Scripture. Only witnessing Strauß’s self-defense was paramount here. Hausrath wrote that Strauß’s critique of Steudel marks the end of an era, the final demise of the supernaturalist tradition of theology.¹⁸ After Strauß no one wanted to be called a supernaturalist anymore. Anecdotal evidence for this view appears in a letter of Vischer to Strauß: “Poor old Steudel, who, like Louis XVI, has brought the guilt of his house under your sharp guillotine; everything now goes poorly for him. His lectures on John, once famous, now have no listeners; and even the people who are no friends of yours maintain that he has been knocked dead.”¹⁹ Steudel died on October 24, 1837, only seven months after Strauß’s tract first appeared on March 15. If Vischer were correct, the supernaturalism Steudel so persistently and doggedly represented went with him to his grave.

8.3 The Revenge of Judas The second part of the Streitschriften deals with two of Strauß’s most strident critics: Karl August von Eschenmayer (1768–1852) and Wolfgang Menzel (1798–1873).²⁰ It was an odd pairing, having nothing in its favor other than the fact that the two were not professional theologians. Otherwise, they had little in common: Eschenmayer was a philosopher and a doctor; Menzel was a politician and literary critic. The first half of volume 2 is devoted entirely to Eschenmayer. If there was ever a stereotypical romantic philosopher, it was he. Eschenmayer pursued ardently some standard romantic interests: Naturphilosophie, animal magnetism, and the occult. Like many late romantics, he was a critic of all forms of rationalism, especially its latest manifestation in Hegel.²¹ Following Jacobi, he stressed the limitations of discursive thinking and held that God is accessible only to faith and mystical experience. Of all the philosophers who influenced him, Eschenmayer was indebted most to Schelling, “the prince of the romantic philosophers.” It is remarkable, though, that his main claim to fame was his critique of Schelling’s

¹⁸ Thus Hausrath: “Der Eindruck, den die Schrift gegen Steudel machte, war ein ungeheuerer. Der Supernaturalismus, schon lange hinf€allig, erhielt hier seinen Todesstoß. Von da ab wollte kein Theologe mehr mit dem Namen bezeichnet werden, der einen so l€acherlichen Klang in den Ohren der Zeit erhalten hatte,” I, 213. ¹⁹ See Vischer to Strauß, April 21, 1837, Briefwechsel zwischen Strauss und Vischer, I, 31. ²⁰ Zweites Heft: Die Herren Eschenmayer und Menzel. ²¹ Karl August von Eschenmayer, Die Hegel’sche Religionsphilosophie verglichen mit dem christlichen Princip (Tübingen: H. Laupp, 1834).

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philosophy of identity.²² Even that philosophy, which stressed the central role of intellectual intuition, was too rationalistic for Eschenmayer. Schelling, he argued, equated God with the absolute, as if the properties we attribute to the absolute exhaust God’s identity; but God, as the basis for the attribution of properties to the absolute, transcends these properties and is therefore prior to them. Not least because of this criticism, Schelling began to rethink his philosophy of identity and started down the path that would eventually lead to his philosophy of revelation.²³ Given his mysticism and irrationalism, it is not surprising that Eschenmayer reacted violently to Strauß’s Das Leben Jesu. The book was for him a symptom of an overweening rationalism, of what happens when rational criticism fails to observe its limits. As soon as the first volume of Strauß’s book appeared, Eschenmayer wrote a bitter polemic against it, his Der Ischariothismus unserer Tage.²⁴ The very title of the book is abusive. “Iscariatism,” a reference to Judas Iscariot, is Eschenmayer’s own coinage. It implies that Strauß, like Judas, is a betrayer of the Christian cause. This was aimed at the fact that Strauß, at least at the time Eschenmayer was writing, was still officially a candidate for the clergy. What disturbed Eschenmayer was not simply that Strauß had denied the gospel but that he pretended to profess it, and indeed to preach it before the public. A Judas Iscariot on the pulpit indeed! Behind Eschenmayer’s pugnacious polemic and Strauß’s no less feisty reply lay a long personal quarrel, concealed by both authors. Since 1811 Eschenmayer had been extraordinary professor for medicine and philosophy in Tübingen, and among his students was the young David Friedrich Strauß. Eschenmayer was at pains to encourage Strauß’s fledgling interests in mysticism and the occult. When Strauß went to visit the seeress of Prevorst in the Easter of 1827, he stopped on the way “at the house of a Tübingen professor,” who happened to be Eschenmayer.²⁵ While studying the occult, Strauß took as his guide “Eschenmayer’s Archiv and other books.”²⁶ Attempting to form a circle of disciples around him, Eschenmayer offered Strauß and a friend special tutorials, every Sunday and Thursday, on the revelation of John.²⁷ But Strauß soon found these unilluminating and called them off. This seemed to be the beginning of a long process of alienation between the two. As Strauß soured on romanticism and mysticism, as he moved more toward ²² Karl August Eschenmayer, Die Philosophie in ihrem Übergang zur Nichtphilosophie (Erlangen: Waltherschen Kunst und Buchhandlung, 1803). ²³ Schelling’s reply to Eschenmayer is his Philosophie und Religion (Tübingen: J. G. Cotta, 1804). ²⁴ Karl August Eschenmayer, Der Ischariothismus unserer Tage: Eine Zugabe zu dem jüngst erschienen Werke Das Leben Jesu von Strauß, I. Theil (Tübingen: Fues, 1835). ²⁵ David Friedrich Strauß, “Ueber Justinus Kerner,” in Zwei friedliche Bl€ atter (Altona: F. A. Hammerich, 1839), p. 17. ²⁶ Ibid., p. 12. The journal was Archiv für den thierischen Magnetismus (Altenburg: F. A. Brockhaus, 1817–24), 12 vols. Strauß later told M€arklin how diligently he once studied this journal. See Strauß to M€arklin, July 22, 1846, Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe, ed. E. Zeller (Bonn: Emil Strauß, 1895), p. 182. ²⁷ T. Ziegler, David Friedrich Strauß (Straßburg: Trübner, 1908), I, 41.

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Hegel and rationalism, he naturally moved further away from Eschenmayer. The final break between them came in November 1831 when Eschenmayer initially refused to pass Strauß’s doctoral dissertation, which was far too Hegelian for him.²⁸ Though Strauß’s polemic never mentions his personal relationship with Eschenmayer, it is still crucial to understand the pathos and point of its arguments. The dispute with Eschenmayer gives Strauß’s rationale for his break with his former teacher’s irrationalism and mysticism. Correctly, Eschenmayer saw his position as the very antithesis of Strauß’s. While he worked his way into the gospel after working his way out of the servitude of logical forms and the laws of nature, he wrote,²⁹ Strauß worked his way out of the gospel by liberating himself from the constraint of faith through the forms of reason and the laws of nature. As he put the issues: “Who will teach us the true path, whether faith frees and the law constrains or the law frees and faith constrains?”³⁰ This was the “Gordian knot” between philosophy and religion, between reason and faith. “Who should be the judge over both, since both of them are partisan? How can philosophy claim to be right because it is party in this dispute, and the same holds for the Christian religion?” Strauß did not disagree with this formulation of the issues. But he believed that the choice was clear: it was not only inadvisable but impossible to alienate the authority of reason. The problem was that faith could never free itself from certain presuppositions, and the question was inescapable whether these presuppositions were true. To examine these presuppositions, to determine the worth of the reasons for them, required using one’s reason. To refuse to examine them was simple dogmatism; it was like closing one’s eyes before the telescope. Strauß’s polemic against Eschenmayer, like that against Steudel, should be seen as a defense of the sovereignty of reason over faith. It was with some misgivings that Strauß took up a refutation of Eschenmayer’s Ischariothismus. A careful scrutiny of its contents convinced him that the book was bereft of “all scientific significance” (21). It was more a harangue than a sober philosophical investigation of the issues. Strauß respected the author no more than the book. Eschenmayer was “a sanctimonious fantast” (10), who was filled with “devout intolerance and a pious urge for damnation” (19). Rather than examine the issues, he would condemn and censure someone who disagreed with him. He was a poor philosopher who asserted rather than argued, who begged questions instead of answering them. When he argued at all, it was all too easy to knock down his flimsy stack of cards. Strauß complained that in order to make sense of Eschenmayer’s obscure points he would often have to reformulate them more precisely; as he put it: “to fence against him, I must sharpen his own weapons” (51). Because of these blatant flaws, the tone of Strauß’s polemic is

²⁸ Ibid., I, 89–90.

²⁹ Ischariothismus, pp. vi–vii.

³⁰ Ibid., p. vii.

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caustic and severe. He even chides Eschenmayer for his “intellectual imbecility” (17). It was not surprising that Eschenmayer’s skills as an expositor and dialectician were lacking. After all, Eschenmayer did not value reason as a means of knowledge; he was more concerned to assert its limits than to use its powers. He regarded criticism as “a useless and fatal thing,” and warned that it could go much too far. To bring the gospel before the tribunal of critique, he wrote, was like the Jews dragging Jesus before Caiaphas and the high council.³¹ Eschenmayer gave young theologians the advice that, in spiritual things, they should act before they believe, while, in earthly things, they should believe before they act.³² He insisted that the real test of our faith is practical rather than theoretical, i.e., that it lies in the actions it inspires us to perform rather than logical demonstrations; if faith motivates us to works of justice and charity, then these stand as proof of the faith, which needs no higher tribunal.³³ Strauß finds this an ineffective defense of faith. The practical test of faith, he points out, is simply absurd when it comes to determining historical truth (24). Although the belief in the resurrection of Christ, for example, has a beneficial effect on my attitude and conduct, this does not decide anything about the historical truth of that belief. Even if this belief inspires my conduct, it is still possible for it to be false. Yet Eschenmayer argues as if the value of a belief, its beneficial consequences, were testament to its truth. Strauß found it remarkable that irrationalists like Eschenmayer, despite their contempt for criticism and argument, still resorted to argument themselves. This came from their dim but correct realization that reason, despite its flaws and limits, was still a necessary tool to persuade people. Sure enough, Eschenmayer was at pains to defend the historical truth of the gospels. He argued that if the belief in the resurrection were false, then the promises of Christ would have no validity at all and that there would be no possibility of salvation.³⁴ Without the fact of the resurrection, he further contends, the disciples and apostles would never have believed in Christ and so the entire Christian church would never have come into being.³⁵ Since that event is so well attested by so many witnesses, all of whom were initially skeptical, we have good reason to accept it. On that basis Eschenmayer then attempts to defend all the narratives in the New Testament, all of which center around and follow from the belief in the resurrection. Strauß has no difficulty in pointing out the weakness of this argument. It is a gross non sequitur. Even if the resurrection were true, it would not follow that the other stories about Jesus are also true. The truth of the resurrection implies only that these other stories could be true, not that they are true (50). It is indeed ³¹ Ibid., p. 16. ³⁵ Ibid., p. 29.

³² Ibid., p. viii.

³³ Ibid., pp. vii–viii.

³⁴ Ibid., pp. 10, 16, 30.

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possible for them still to be false even if the resurrection really happened. Evidently, Strauß does not share Eschenmayer’s assumption that the beliefs in the gospel form an organic unity around the belief in the resurrection.³⁶ That they do not is clear for him from the fact that we can accept the resurrection yet deny the other stories. But what if the belief in the resurrection were false? What would the consequences be for faith? Here, in this respect, Strauß is willing to accept Eschenmayer’s contention of organic unity; he accepts his argument that if the belief in the resurrection were false, then the whole Christian faith would lose its foundation. Strauß then seems to concede that this should be enough to justify this belief. This is sufficient, he writes, “to prove the reality of the resurrection” (um die Realit€ at der Auferstehung zu beweisen) (49). But there is really no concession here at all. Strauß’s argument is hypothetical: if the belief in the resurrection is false, then the foundation of the church collapses. But, though he hesitates to say it outright, Strauß thinks that this belief is in fact highly problematic. We are told on the very next page that the belief in the resurrection originates in two assumptions of the disciples: 1) that Jesus is the messiah, and 2) that the messiah is immortal. But it is the entire argument of Das Leben Jesu that these assumptions are, at the very least, questionable. Strauß writes that he would rather accept certain “historical accidents”—viz., the removal of Jesus’ corpse from the grave, or a natural revivification—than the truth of these assumptions (50). The reason for Strauß’s hesitation here is that he was not willing to admit publicly the full consequences of denying Eschenmayer’s premise: that the Christian church, based on questionable premises, has no foundation at all. Eschenmayer’s other attempts to justify the belief in Christian revelation fared no better in Strauß’s hands. Like all Christians, Eschenmayer believed that the prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled in Jesus, which for him proved Jesus’ stature as the messiah.³⁷ Eschenmayer declared that “he could hardly believe his eyes” in seeing the wonderful correspondence between Old Testament prophecy and its New Testament fulfillment. Strauß dampens such enthusiasm by pointing out that the Old Testament states nothing more than that there will be a messiah, and that this messiah will have certain characteristics (viz., prophesizes and works miracles); but it does not say that the messiah will be Jesus (62). This is simply a tendentious addition of later Christian apologists. That Jesus is the messiah cannot be proven, therefore, through the Old Testament prophecies alone. One of the main points of Eschenmayer’s polemic was to expose the weaknesses of Strauß’s concept of myth. But he fails in this objective, Strauß argues, because

³⁶ Eschenmayer expresses his belief in the organic unity of the gospel in many places. See, for example, Ischariothismus, pp. 27, 30. ³⁷ Ibid., pp. 29, 39–40.

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he proceeds from a false premise. He assumes that a myth is a fiction, a falsehood which is conceived and promulgated by one author. If the gospel stories are not historical truths, Eschenmayer reasons,³⁸ then they must be intentional lies (58). But this is a very simplistic concept of myth, Strauß replies, because it fails to consider the very complex process by which myths are formed. Myths have many authors because they arise over generations; and it is the very process of transmission from one generation to another that gives rise to falsehood and distortion. One person adds to or subtracts from the story not out of any intention to deceive but because this is his way of making sense of what he has received from others (58–9). Strauß is happy to deprive Eschenmayer of his one claim to fame: the merits of his argument against Schelling. Eschenmayer had argued against Schelling that the idea of God cannot be exhausted by the ideas of the true, beautiful, and good because God stands above all predicates and is what makes them possible. Strauß’s reply to this argument is classic Hegel: if the idea of God is simply the subject that makes all predicates possible, then it is an empty idea. “A subject without predicates,” he argues, is “a zero without any number before it” (39). Such are the most important points in Strauß’s polemic against Eschenmayer. One would think that Strauß had said enough and that the whole dispute would have ended here. But Eschenmayer was tireless. His fund of righteous indignation and pious outrage was inexhaustible; and nothing more excited it than Strauß’s book. In 1837 he wrote a tract about demonic possession in which he found ample opportunity to castigate Strauß.³⁹ The imprecations against Strauß were no idle digression, for Eschenmayer was convinced that Strauß himself was literally possessed and that he came from the lowest stage of hell. He believed in the existence of a realm of evil spirits which God had created to harass the disbelievers of recent times. Strauß’s work was one of the agents of the devil in transmitting disbelief. Only the lowest stage of hell was hot enough for Strauß’s offense against the holy spirit. Eschenmayer fantasized that a literary competition was held in this realm to discuss the question who had done most to discredit Christianity.⁴⁰ It was Strauß, of course, who won the prize! Not to be outdone, Strauß wrote a review of Eschenmayer’s book.⁴¹ He found it impossible to take seriously Eschenmayer’s belief in the existence of a spirit world. All his reasons for such a belief came from his observations of the possessed; but there were perfectly natural causes for their possession which Eschenmayer did ³⁸ Ibid., p. 24. ³⁹ Karl August Eschenmayer, Conflict zwischen Himmel und H€ olle, an dem D€ amon eines besessenen M€ adchens. Nebst einem Wort an Dr. Strauß (Tübingen: Verlag der Buchhandlung Zu-Guttenberg, 1837). The critique of Strauß appears primarily in the appendix, “Als Nachtrag ein Wort an Dr. Strauß,” pp. 186–215. ⁴⁰ Conflict zwischen Himmel und H€ olle, pp. 175–6. ⁴¹ Review of Conflict zwischen Himmel und H€ olle, in Journal für wissenschaftliche Kritik, February 1838, pp. 243–64; reprinted in Charakteristiken und Kritiken (Leipzig: Otto Wigand, 1844), pp. 355–76.

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not even consider. As for his consignment to the lowest stage of hell, Strauß was highly amused. It was sheer genius of Dante, he wrote, when he played the judge of souls and assigned them their place in heaven and hell; but when “a feeble-minded numskull” plays this role, one does not know what gains the upper hand: nausea or laughter?

8.4 The Art and Power of Criticism The second half of part II of the Streitschriften is devoted entirely to Wolfgang Menzel.⁴² This is by far the largest part of the Streitschriften, encompassing more than 150 pages. There is something of a mystery regarding this text: namely, why did Strauß write it? It is not as if Menzel wrote a hefty critique of Strauß’s book and that he had to reply to defend himself. In his preface Strauß himself tells us that Menzel’s few occasional comments on Das Leben Jesu would never have motivated him to write against him; these comments were not among the most incisive or piquant that had been said against his book, so if he bothered with them it would be much ado about nothing (91). The polemic against Menzel has very little to do, therefore, with the defense of the arguments of Das Leben Jesu. The reason for writing against Menzel, Strauß explains in his preface, has more to do with criticism than theology, and more specifically with how Menzel practices the business of criticism. From 1826 to 1848 Menzel had a powerful position in German letters as the editor of the Literaturblatt, a journal based in Stuttgart. In that capacity he wrote reviews and articles that passed sentences of life or death on authors according to a putatively authoritative tribunal. Strauß’s quarrel with Menzel concerned the claims and actions of this tribunal, which he regarded as flawed in principle and twisted in practice. There had already been many protests against Menzel’s judgments; but because these complaints were so isolated and piecemeal, they had not been very effective in stopping him. Strauß wanted to develop the principles behind these complaints and to discuss the general question of the standards and procedures of criticism (92). Strauß therefore admits that his polemic against Menzel is “a digression” because it does not deal much with theology, which is the main concern of the Streitschriften. Nevertheless, he insists that his concern with criticism has important theological implications. The chief vice of theological criticism is the same as that of other forms of criticism: it is judging works according to preconceived moral or religious standards. “What in discussions of Christianity is the charge of heresy is in other fields of literature moral suspicion” (93). If we cannot banish moral suspicion from these fields, neither can we hope to remove charges of

⁴² See Streitschriften, “Menzel,” II, 89–247.

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heresy in theology. So, Strauß concludes, he cannot be accused of not having in mind the interests of theology after all. In Strauß’s dispute with Menzel, it is impossible to overlook the Lessingian precedent. Lessing was Strauß’s model when it came to criticism, even if he felt that Lessing sometimes departed from his own ideals.⁴³ What Gottsched was to Lessing, Menzel was to Strauß. It was the chief flaw of Gottsched’s criticism, Lessing argued, that he measured the value of literary productions according to preconceived rules. Rather than evaluating a work from within according to what its author was trying to achieve, Gottsched had a classical canon that he applied to all works regardless of the intentions of the author. Menzel proceeded in the same way, failing to examine a work from within and dispatching it according to his own religious and moral standards. It was not simply an interest in criticism that was behind Strauß’s polemic against Menzel. There were also political issues at stake, and first and foremost among them freedom, especially freedom of speech and the press in matters of morality and religion. Menzel too had an interest in such freedom; but he drew much tighter boundaries around it than Strauß. Although himself a liberal, and in his younger days even a member of Junges Deutschland, Menzel had moved more to the right in his later years as he grew alarmed at the immorality, impiety, and lack of patriotism of the young Germans. Among the chief culprits were Heinrich Heine and Ludwig B€ orne. According to Menzel, they were freethinkers who ridiculed morality and religion without any concern for the feelings of the common man or for the social and political consequences. Heine, as Menzel put it, “takes the most sacred in his mouth as if it were nothing more than a cigar.”⁴⁴ In reaction to this frivolous impiety, Menzel set himself up as a protector of public morals and religion, and indeed as a spokesman for German patriotism. Whoever violated morals, whoever ridiculed religion, whoever made fun of the fatherland, they would be ruthlessly exposed by Menzel in his books and journal. In these selfmade roles, Menzel proved to be remarkably powerful and effective. When, in 1835, Karl Gutzkow published his Wally, die Zweiflerin, a novel about an emancipated woman, Menzel promptly denounced it as immoral and impious. The authorities were listening, and in December 1835 the Federal Diet (Bundestag) issued a decree preventing the publication of Wally and any likeminded books. All books related to the movement known as Junges Deutschland were to be proscribed, impounded, and pulped. In this atmosphere, Gutzkow was lucky to be imprisoned for only one month.

⁴³ See Streitschriften, II, 163, where Strauß complains that Lessing wrote his Nathan for moral ends, namely, to promote tolerance. ⁴⁴ Wolfgang Menzel, Die deutsche Literatur, Zweite vermehrte Auflage (Stuttgart: Hallberg’sche Buchhandlung, 1836), IV, 335.

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Menzel, then, was clearly a force to be reckoned with. In spite of that, or indeed because of it, Strauß was ready to do battle against him. While in Stuttgart he developed a dislike of Menzel and the liberal circles who stood around him. They had sold out on the ideals of the July revolution, and they were all too eager to conform to the status quo provided that it gave them a comfortable life. Strauß confessed to his friend Vischer in March 1837 that he was now consorting with anti-liberals because he had finally recognized that “there was no party more narrow-minded, cruder, more closed against science and art, more egoistic and perfidious than these liberals.”⁴⁵ To Vischer, he revealed that he was spoiling for a fight: “In case Menzel should attack you, please allow me . . . to go out against him.”⁴⁶ Freedom of enquiry was no mere side issue for Strauß. It was vital to all his thinking, and it was indeed what made it possible to write Das Leben Jesu. Freedom of enquiry meant the right to think for oneself, to investigate an issue, and to pursue the investigation to its ultimate consequences, regardless of moral, religious, and political dogma. It also meant the right to speak publicly about these consequences and even to publish them, even if the public did not want to hear them. This right had to be absolute and unconditional. If it meant questioning beliefs that were once held sacred, one should still have the right to do so. As Kant famously said: before the tribunal of critique nothing was sacred, not religion in its holiness nor even the state in its majesty.⁴⁷ For all his belief in the value of criticism, Menzel still betrayed its guiding ideal—freedom of enquiry—by laying down moral, religious, and political guidelines for it. That Strauß was ultimately concerned to defend this ideal of freedom of enquiry is fully apparent from his text when he attacks Menzel’s role as “the defender of religion, morality and patriotic honor” (180). Menzel regards it as dangerous whenever anyone even questions these values; but in doing so he is harking back to the old days when people obeyed any rule or law simply because it was commanded (181). But the modern spirit questions everything, demanding reasons for every belief and practice (182). Though Menzel would never admit it, there are good reasons even to question the sanctity of marriage, Strauß says (181). Of course, it is not clear a priori where all this questioning will end, and indeed whether it will ever end. But it is still impossible to stop it, and we have to learn to live with it and to accept it. Whatever the price of such radical freedom, it is far better than Menzel’s methods, which want to restore the old beliefs and practices by sheer force (184). So Strauß had his reasons—very good reasons—for including his critique of Menzel in the Streitschriften. Even if none of the conclusions of Das Leben Jesu ⁴⁵ See Strauß to Vischer, January 25, 1837, Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe, p. 28. ⁴⁶ See Strauß to Vischer, October 28, 1836, ibid., p. 26. ⁴⁷ Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, Axi Anmerkung.

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were at stake, the very freedom to write it had been called into question by the likes of Menzel. What was to prevent Das Leben Jesu from suffering the same fate as Wally, die Zweifelerin? Strauß was indeed worried that the authorities in Berlin were pondering censoring his book,⁴⁸ and he fretted too that Menzel might prosecute him for slander.⁴⁹ How, precisely, did Menzel practice criticism? And what, exactly, were Strauß’s objections to it? Strauß is clear and explicit enough. If someone is a critic in the unlimited and complete sense of the word, he writes, then he is not bound by any agenda (125). He examines each work in its own terms, by applying to it the standards of the discipline to which it belongs. Thus he examines a poem according to aesthetic standards, a work of philosophy according to the rules of logic, and a treatise on morals according to the principles of morality. The problem with Menzel’s criticism is that it violates this simple rule (124). When Baron von Gaudy published his songs celebrating Napoleon, the reviewer should ask if the poetry is any good, if the songs have verve or rhythm, and if they lift the spirits; but Menzel roundly condemns them. Why? Simply because they are written by a German who has betrayed his nation. Similarly, there are so many questions to ask about Gutzkow’s novel Wally, die Zweiflerin. What does one think about its basic idea? Does he succeed in executing it? What does one make of the characters? Menzel does not begin to ask, let alone answer, any of these questions. He simply censures the novel for its immorality and impiety. It is a Schmutzroman, he complains, because its characters indulge in lewdness and impiety. In pointing out these flaws of Menzel’s criticism, Strauß is careful to say that he does not think that the critic should lay aside all moral standards in judging a work. An offense against the rules of morality, he is confident, will eventually also appear as an offense against the rules of aesthetics. Still, he insists that in judging a work of poetry or art the critic’s first or immediate concern should be with the rules of aesthetics rather than morality. Never should the critic simply condemn the content of a work without even looking at its form. Form is of the first importance in any song, poem, or novel (128). Menzel, Strauß notes, concedes this very point; but the problem is that he does not observe it in his critical practice (126). He first judges the content according to moral, political, or religious criteria; the form is then dismissed as an irrelevance. Because of his moral approach to literature, Menzel treats a novel or a drama as if it were a kind of moral catechism. He equates the views of the main character ⁴⁸ See Strauß to Georgii, December 12, 1835, in Briefe von Strauß an Georgii, ed. Heinrich Meier (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1912), p. 13. ⁴⁹ According to Adolf Rapp, the editor of Strauß’s correspondence with Vischer, Strauß gave the manuscript of his polemic against Menzel to “Ober-Justiz-Prokurator Lang in Tübingen” to ask his opinion if places in the manuscript gave reason for prosecution. See Briefwechsel zwischen Strauß und Vischer (Stuttgart: Klett Verlag, 1952), I, 29.

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with those of the author himself, as if the author must identify with the character. He does not see that the author can speak with many voices, and that sometimes he deliberately sets himself apart from his creations. Nor does he recognize that the situation in which the author sets his character places moral limits on his standpoint. To understand a novel or drama, Strauß insists, the critic needs to be much more subtle and sophisticated, as much so as the author himself; in other words, he must know how to read between the lines (161). Strauß sees another problem with Menzel’s criticism (96). When one examines a work of literature, politics, or philosophy, it is a matter of common sense that one should leave the author’s personality out of account. One should consider the merits of the work itself rather than the character of the author. But Menzel does not observe even this basic rule. He considers first the author’s character and politics; and then on the basis of that he judges the merit of his work. Thus he judges Goethe’s works very harshly because he finds the man a lecher, and because he disapproves of his aristocratic attitude. For Strauß, the most glaring instance of this practice is when Menzel dismisses an author simply because he is Jewish (97). All the energy that Strauß expended against Menzel in the Streitschriften would abate with age. It is noteworthy that, in 1848, in his days in the Württemberg Parliament, Strauß worked with Menzel on many committees and found him a pleasant and efficient colleague. “We were at first reserved, then pleasant, and now properly friendly with one another.”⁵⁰ Strauß explained his change of attitude by saying it is one thing to know a person from his writings and quite another to know him face to face. When the committee finished its work, Strauß recommended that it form again under the leadership of “Freund Menzel.” The old passions of debates past were buried and well forgotten.

8.5 Two Odd Bedfellows Nothing more seems to hold together the final third part of the Streitschriften than the fact that Strauß’s opponents came from every direction of contemporary theology. Strauß found himself the target of the orthodox and pietists, the Hegelians, and those he called “the mediators,” i.e., those who tried to find a middle path between the pietists and Hegelians. Each direction was represented by its distinctive journal: the orthodox by the Evangelische Kirchenzeitung, the Hegelians by the Jahrbuch für wissenschaftliche Kritik, and the mediators by the Theologische Studien und Kritiken. Accordingly, Strauß divides his third part into three sections, each devoted to one of these journals. It was an ad hoc arrangement; there was very little joining these schools and very little tying them together

⁵⁰ Strauß to M€arklin, November 3, 1848, Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe, p. 226.

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other than Strauß’s critique of them.⁵¹ Yet we must not allow the flaws of organization to discourage us from examining the contents. Strauß’s reply to each of these opponents clarifies his own position greatly. The first section of part III was directed against Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg (1802–69), the editor of the Evangelische Kirchenzeitung and a stalwart champion of Protestant orthodoxy. This is another interesting part of the Streitschriften because it too reveals the reasons for Strauß’s commitment to reason, the rationale for his rejection of the orthodox Protestant position. Strauß had already begun to lay down his cards in his polemics against Steudel and Eschenmayer; but now he reaches more into the depths of his rationalism and faces more directly the challenge to it. Hengstenberg was one of the few truly appreciative critics of Strauß. He did not deplore but welcomed the publication of Das Leben Jesu, which he regarded as one of the most remarkable books of the age. This book was an “Organ des Zeitgeistes,” the perfect expression of the spirit of the times.⁵² Although it was not original, it deserved credit for bringing together all the strands of the critical tendency in modern Protestantism. Strauß made it clear that now was the time to make a decision for reason or faith, and so for or against the church.⁵³ There could be no healing without crisis; and no one made the crisis more plain than Strauß. He drew correctly all the conclusions that follow from applying the critical standpoint to the New Testament: the complete destruction of faith. Given such recognition, it was not surprising that Strauß began his polemic against Hengstenberg with the sincere declaration that it was a pleasure dealing with such an opponent. “I have to admit that it is not with displeasure that I have to deal with the Evangelische Kirchenzeitung. One knows where one stands with it, and with whom one is dealing” (7). Though Strauß and Hengstenberg represented diametrically opposite positions, they still agreed about certain fundamentals. Both insisted that the ultimate result of Hegelian speculation is pantheism; both recommended that the criticism of the Old Testament should be also applied to the New; and both saw that the synthesis of reason and faith in right-wing Hegelianism is very fragile and artificial. In more general terms, both recognized one fundamental point: that there is an irresolvable conflict between reason and the traditional Christian faith. There were only two exclusive options: one could follow reason to the bitter end and deny faith; or one could affirm one’s faith and ⁵¹ Strauß first thought of treating Hengstenberg along with Eschenmayer and Menzel on the grounds that they were all “fanatics.” See Adolf Rapp’s editorial comment in Briefwechsel zwischen Strauß und Vischer, I, 25. ⁵² “Betrachtungen,” Evangelische Kirchen-Zeitung 48, June 15, 1836, p. 382; and “Die Zukunft unserer Theologie,” Evangelische Kirchen-Zeitung 36, May 4, 1836, p. 284. ⁵³ “Betrachtungen, veranlaßt durch den Aufsatz Dr. Strauß: Ueber das Verh€altniß der theologischen Kritik und Spekulation zur Kirche,” in Evangelische Kirchen-Zeitung 50, June 22, 1836, p. 393. This “Aufsatz Dr. Strauß” was Strauß’s July 12 letter to the Inspektorat, which we discussed in chapter 7, section 7.1.

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stop reason in its tracks. There was no middle path, however, where one could provide a rationale for one’s faith. Where Strauß and Hengstenberg disagreed was with regard to which alternative they chose. Strauß stood on the side of reason; and Hengstenberg stood on the side of faith. “Either surrender everything or keep everything, that is the dilemma of the Evangelische Kirchenzeitung,” Strauß wrote. Strauß insisted on surrendering everything; Hengstenberg on keeping everything. As Hengstenberg portrayed his dispute with Strauß,⁵⁴ it seemed impossible to make the choice between faith or reason on rational grounds; one had to choose between opposing but equally valid standpoints where there was no reason to choose one over the other. To enter into the standpoint of faith one simply has to make a decision of the heart. Initially, Strauß himself seemed to accept this picture of the dispute, because Hengstenberg was at least giving the rationalist standpoint its own sui generis validity. But as one reads through Strauß’s polemic this initial impression dissipates and it becomes clear that he thinks that the standpoint of reason is superior to that of faith. The problem with the standpoint of faith, Strauß argues, is that it maintains itself only by imposing artificial limits on rational enquiry; it decrees that one should not question faith because that will undermine its certainty and sanctity. But this prohibition will not work for the simple reason that it does not really dispel suspicion and doubt. Unless the believer is willing to answer the question “why?” about his faith, he will not convince anyone, not even himself. Hence Strauß maintains that it is a disservice to faith itself to proscribe reason from its boundaries (21). If reason and faith are ever to be reconciled, then reason must be able to investigate faith through its own natural powers and it should not have to follow the guidelines laid down by theology (20). It was Hengstenberg’s position that no proof of the historical testimony of the New Testament would ever be sufficient for faith.⁵⁵ Faith was not a matter of having more or less evidence because it had to come first and foremost from a decision of the heart. Only when one made the decision to believe would one have the right perspective to grasp the spirit of the New Testament, and so be able to become a believer in its doctrines. Strauß, however, protests against this position in emphatic terms. He is eager to deprive the spirit of any role in determining the validity of faith; it has no right to speak in purely intellectual matters, because it biases the believer one way or the other when he or she should judge strictly according to reason or the merits of the case (24). This means that faith should not precede reason, as Hengstenberg believes, but that it should follow it. Hence Strauß transformed Hengstenberg’s rhetoric of a “rebirth of the heart” to speak instead of “a rebirth of reason.” Hengstenberg’s appeal to the heart was really ⁵⁴ See his “Vorwort,” Evangelische Kirchen-Zeitung 5, January 16, 1836, p. 35; “Die Zukunft unserer Theologie,” Evangelische Kirchen-Zeitung 36, May 4, 1836, p. 281; and “Betrachtungen,” Evangelische Kirchen-Zeitung 49, June 18, pp. 385, 387. ⁵⁵ Recension der Schrift von Johann Peter Lange, “Ueber den geschichtlichen Charakter der kanonischen Evangelien,” Evangelische Kirchen-Zeitung 55, July 9, 1836, pp. 434–5.

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premature and came from the timidity to accept the results of a rational examination. Hengstenberg, Strauß contends, really has no plausible reply to the rationalist who contests the standpoint of faith (25). The rationalist will lay down his reasons, and say that he cannot have faith because of X, Y, and Z. He asks the faithful to discuss these reasons because he wants to know if they are good or bad, strong or weak. If the believer engages in a discussion about the merits of these reasons, he implicitly recognizes the authority of reason. If, however, he refuses to give reasons for his faith, he has no other recourse but to denounce the corrupt heart of the rationalist, who has not been reborn and who still lies in the depths of sin. To this line of reply, Strauß admits that he is at a loss. For him it is an act of desperation, a refusal to discuss, from fear of the results of any discussion (24). It ends all discussion, and it does so on moral grounds. “The dagger of moral murder sticks me in the breast” (25). This is indeed against all rules of “the scientific laws of war and nations”; and whoever engages in it should be thrown out of the arena of the intellectual realm. Like many apologists for orthodoxy, Hengstenberg complained that Strauß’s criticism was not presuppositionless. It was a myth of its own that there is an impartial science of critique. Strauß’s critique had his own irreligious presuppositions, and it was only a matter of bringing these into question to free oneself from the tyranny of criticism. There was, Hengstenberg believed, either a faithful or an unfaithful critique; but there was no middle ground, a completely faithless critique.⁵⁶ To this Strauß responded: if there is only faithful or unfaithful critique, then there is really no critique at all (36). Critique has to be by its very nature presuppositionless, and any presupposition violates its ideal. Still, Strauß admitted that there was some point to this objection. Sometimes preliminary assumptions were necessary to start an investigation; and often the enquiry was directed by some vague impressions or engrained prejudices. Nevertheless, Strauß insisted that the goal of criticism was to correct these initial impressions and prejudices; it was to examine whether these preliminary assumptions really were in fact true. It would be a misuse of criticism if one engaged in enquiry only to prove the assumptions with which one began (36). At one point, however, Strauß seems to admit the force of one of the most common objections made against his tribunal of critique: that it presupposes the uniformity of nature (37). “One can express with a few words what is the presupposition of historical critique: it is the essential homogeneity of all events” (37). Armed with this presupposition, the critic could then cast doubt on the claims to miracles. The Christian apologist would then say that the critic’s denial

⁵⁶ Hengstenberg, “Betrachtungen,” Evangelische Kirchen-Zeitung 49, 18 June, 1836, p. 390.

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of miracles only proves what it presupposes. A closer examination of Strauß’s text, however, shows that he thinks that the critique should not take this presupposition for granted in the examination of any particular case (39). Before it is applied in any given case, one must examine the details of the case itself; perhaps examination will reveal factors in the case which mean that the law does not in fact apply. Of course, the report of a miracle has the odds stacked against it, because observation in the past has always confirmed inductive generalizations; but the wise and judicious critic always withholds judgment and does not make a priori generalizations. He judges each particular case on its merits.

8.6 An Internecine Quarrel The second section of part III of the Streitschriften concerns the Hegelian school, which was no less critical of Strauß than the orthodox Protestants. Though they shared a common ancestry in Hegel, Strauß and the Hegelians had an especially fraught relationship. Strauß was as critical of them as they were critical of him. What, exactly, was Strauß’s relationship with the Hegelians? What did he share with them? And where did he differ from them? These were not easy questions, either for Strauß or the other Hegelians. In the mid 1830s, the Hegelian school was a very amorphous beast, and it was difficult for Strauß to find his place among its various factions. Hence he invented his famous distinction between right, center, and left Hegelians, which was simply a convenient schema for him to define his own place within Hegelianism. We need to discuss exactly how Strauß fits into it. As Strauß originally explains his schema, one could use the speculative idea to justify all evangelical history, part of it, or none of it at all (95). These were the positions respectively of the right, center, and left wings of the Hegelian school. Among the right, Strauß included Karl G€oschel, Philipp Marheineke, Bruno Bauer, and Georg Gabler; among the center, he placed only one individual, Karl Rosenkranz; and among the left, he mentioned no one. Strauß says that he would place himself in the left—if the left itself did not prefer to exclude him from their ranks (126). Whatever the preferences of the other left-wing Hegelians, Strauß does seem to fit in their ranks given that he doubts the historical truth of the entire New Testament. It is important to keep in mind, however, the precise wording of Strauß’s schema. It makes the decisive criterion the position regarding evangelical history. It does not state, however, Christian doctrines. This is crucial because Strauß held that one could doubt all of evangelical history and still retain belief in central Christian doctrines, which could have a speculative rather than historical foundation. If one makes the criterion belief in doctrines rather than belief in evangelical history, then Strauß turns out to be a more conservative Hegelian, given that he still held the crucial Christian beliefs in the incarnation and resurrection.

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Strauß is often assumed to be a much more radical figure because one infers the denial of revelation or evangelical history also means a denial of Christian doctrine. The whole point of Strauß’s “Schlussabhandlung” was to prevent this confusion. Strauß begins his treatment of the Hegelian school with some revealing comments about its genesis. During his university years, he tells us, the fundamental problem for him and his friends concerned the relation between concept (Begriff) and representation (Vorstellung) in Hegel’s philosophy of religion (57). They were attracted to Hegel’s distinction between concept and representation because it seemed a promising way to reconcile reason and faith; it combined respect for biblical sources and church dogma on the one hand with freedom of thought on the other hand. The medium of philosophy is the concept, which is discursive, systematic, and logically structured; the medium of religion is representation, which is intuitive, singular, and imaginative. Though they are different media or forms, concept and representation still have the same content. To explain or justify religion, then, it seemed only necessary to translate the representations of religion into the concepts of philosophy. The problem that worried Strauß and his friends concerned the precise relation between concept and representation in religion. Are all representations formulable into concepts? Or only some of them? Or perhaps even none of them? At stake, then, was the general question to what extent, and indeed whether, religion could be rationalized or justified by philosophy. About these all-important questions, Strauß regrets, Hegel left his students in the dark (57). He was very obscure, and indeed ambivalent, about them, especially in his Ph€ anomenologie. Sometimes he would treat the whole realm of history as if it fell outside the concept; and sometimes he would write about history as if it were the realization of the concept. Desperate for clarity on this issue, Strauß and his friends would turn for explanation to members of the Hegelian school, especially Philipp Marheineke and Karl G€ oschel. But they soon became skeptical about what they heard. Marheineke and G€ oschel assumed that the gospel stories were true and that they were all translatable into concepts; it was as if there were no critical relation between religion and philosophy, and as if philosophy were nothing more than an apology for religion (58). Marheineke and G€oschel would begin with the representations of religion, which was usually the content of the gospel stories, and then formulate them into concepts, so that it seemed as if they had received a philosophical deduction. The gospel stories, just as told in the Bible, now had to be true; after all, they were not only facts but illustrations of the concept. For Strauß and his friends, this was a suspiciously non-Hegelian procedure. The Hegelian dialectic is supposed to transform its materials; it operates not only by preserving but also by negating them. When Das Leben Jesu appeared, the opponents of Hegel’s philosophy denounced it as an example of the damaging consequences of his philosophy for

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religion. For just this reason, the Hegelians struggled to dissociate themselves from Strauß’s book, which they claimed did not represent their views or those of Hegel’s philosophy (61). Despite his debts to Hegel, and despite his ready acknowledgment of them, Strauß was banished from the Hegelian club in Berlin. His name and company were toxic. Still, Strauß did not begrudge the Hegelians for excluding him. He did not want to belong to a club which was so intent on upholding Christian dogma and biblical history. And, at any rate, he knew that Hegel would never have approved of the historical critique in Das Leben Jesu (61–2). Whenever he had the opportunity in his lectures, Hegel would denounce the critical history of Niebuhr, which was a model for Strauß, for demolishing the myths of Roman history. Although he did not resent the expulsion, Strauß went out of his way to resist the claim that his work was contrary to the spirit of Hegel’s philosophy. In one important respect, he believed that it was closer to Hegel than anything of the Hegelians themselves. Hegel’s philosophy, he insisted, did not represent a onesided endorsement of the status quo, either in politics or in religion. To be sure, there was a conservative side to Hegel which attempted to find the rationality inherent in the institutions of the present; but there was also a more progressive side which criticized the status quo (62–4). This progressive or critical side of Hegel’s system is most apparent in the dialectic of the Ph€ anomenologie des Geistes, where consciousness ascends to the absolute standpoint only through its selfcriticism. The Hegelian school ignores this negative or critical aspect in Hegel’s philosophy and focuses instead on the more positive or conservative aspect. But in their attempt to reconcile reason with the present, the Hegelians resemble more the spirit of the late Schelling rather than Hegel, Strauß argues. Like Schelling, they want to attain absolute knowledge without going through the negative experience of the Hegelian dialectic. We can see just how anti-Hegelian they are when we recall that Hegel conceived his dialectic in the Ph€ anomenologie to counter this weakness of Schelling’s system (64). In this respect, Strauß concludes, the Hegelians have relapsed from the Hegelian into the Schellingian standpoint (66). One of the basic issues dividing Strauß from the conservative Hegelians was his thesis that the infinite realizes itself not only in one individual but in all humanity. For the conservative Hegelians, this was tantamount to denying the divinity of Christ and so the central doctrine of Christianity. They therefore protested strongly against Strauß’s thesis and made several objections against it. G€oschel claimed that Strauß refused to recognize the divinity of Christ because he denied in general that the infinite and eternal appears in the finite and temporal.⁵⁷ All Strauß’s doubts about the historical validity of the gospels, G€oschel argues, were based on this metaphysical premise. Strauß quickly corrected him: he did not deny ⁵⁷ C. F. G€oschel, “Erstes und Letztes: Ein Glaubensbekenntniß der speculativen Philosophie,” Zeitschrift für speculativen Philosophie 1 (1836), 92.

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that the infinite appears in the finite, that the eternal manifests itself in time; he denied only that it appears in one single individual (viz., Christ) at the expense of all others (98). There was no a priori reason for limiting the appearance of the infinite to one individual alone and denying it to all others. Gabler, for his part, claimed that the idea needed for its objectification one single individual; to see this idea in a multitude of individuals required an act of abstraction, which came from the subjective activity of the thinker (99).⁵⁸ But Gabler’s argument against abstraction applied just as well to a single individual, Strauß pointed out, because all the qualities of the universal were not given in the individual; we had to abstract the universal from similar appearances of the individual across time (100). Having quickly parried the thrusts of G€oschel and Gabler, Strauß turned to a more potent critic, the young Bruno Bauer, who wrote two long reviews of Das Leben Jesu for the Hegelian journal Jahrbücher der wissenschaftlichen Kritik.⁵⁹ In the 1830s Bauer was a right Hegelian, very far from the infamous radical he later became in the early 1840s.⁶⁰ Strauß went to great pains to reply to Bauer, devoting nearly twenty pages of the Streitschriften to his reviews.⁶¹ Why he did so is something of a mystery, given that he thought little of Bauer, whose criticisms he found arbitrary and bizarre. After his clash in the Streitschriften, Strauß shunned Bauer, whose early attempts to justify orthodox Christianity with Hegelian speculation he despised.⁶² When Bauer later became radical in the 1840s, Strauß liked him even less, abandoning the Hallische Jahrbücher not least because of him.⁶³ Like many of Strauß’s critics, Bauer objects that Strauß begins his investigation of the gospels with a critical attitude, so that he inevitably ends out rejecting its contents. The results of the investigation therefore only confirm the starting point.⁶⁴ Rather than beginning with a critical attitude, Bauer recommends that Strauß start with a more positive one, so that the goal of his investigation should be to make its subject matter entirely intelligible. The aim of criticism, Bauer assumes, should be to find the rationality already inherent in its object, not to impose the rationality of the critical philosopher upon its object. If Strauß had ⁵⁸ Georg Gabler, De verae philosophiae erga religionem christianam pietate (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1836), p. 42 note. ⁵⁹ Review of Das Leben Jesu, vol. 1, Jahrbücher für wissenschaftliche Kritik 109–13 (December 1835), 880–912; and review of Das Leben Jesu, vol. 2, Jahrbücher für wissenschaftliche Kritik 86–8 (May 1836), 681–704. These reviews are signed Lic. B. Bauer. ⁶⁰ On Bauer’s change of views, see William Brazill, The Young Hegelians (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1970), pp. 180–1. ⁶¹ Streitschriften, III, 100–20. ⁶² According to Eduard Zeller, Strauß wrote Wilhelm Vatke, January 17, 1836, telling him that he refused to collaborate with Bauer on a philosophical-theological journal. He complained of “the tower of Babel” that Bauer and other right Hegelians had built through their “meaningless confusion of philosophy and orthodoxy.” See Zeller, Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe, p. 16. ⁶³ See Strauß to Vischer, November 13, 1841, in Briefwechsel zwischen Strauß und Vischer, I, 105. ⁶⁴ Bauer, “Strauß, das Leben Jesu. Erster Band,” Jahrbücher für wissenschaftliche Kritik 111 (December 1835), 891–2.

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only begun with this more positive attitude, he would have seen the rationale for biblical doctrines that he has been too quick to reject, viz., the virgin birth. If, like Strauß, we assume that Jesus was born from the sexual union of his parents—if we presuppose that a virgin birth is impossible—then we cannot understand the belief in Christ, the God-man; for someone born from mortal parents is imperfect and mortal when the God-man is perfect and immortal. Furthermore, an individual born from human parents is fragile and mortal, subject to all the contingencies of ordinary existence; it would therefore be possible that Christ never existed. Without the appearance of the God-man, however, all history would have to be rewritten; we must assume, therefore, that the birth of the God-man was necessary, which excludes all the contingencies of a normal human birth. Strauß’s reply to Bauer is that the critic should not begin with either a positive or a negative attitude. His stance toward his object is tentative and hypothetical. Whether the subject matter is rational or irrational has to be the conclusion, not the starting point of the investigation (102). The only permissible presupposition of the critic is that there might be something irrational about his object; but the critic has to be open to the possibility that, upon closer examination, the object is indeed rational after all. Strauß finds Bauer’s theory of the virgin birth a tangle of confusion.⁶⁵ Bauer’s reasoning goes as follows: because sexual activity produces only a limited and imperfect being, and because Christ is an absolute and perfect being, the birth of Christ cannot be the result of sexual activity; it must therefore have happened without the aid of such activity, so that it is the product of the virgin birth (109). Here Bauer just assumes that Jesus is Christ, and then concocts a fanciful explanation for it; but he does not see that the whole point of critique is to investigate this very assumption (111). Bauer makes the same mistakes as the other right Hegelians: he assumes that the biblical stories are factually correct and then uses this as the basis for speculative constructions; he then infers that they must be correct because he has provided a speculative deduction for them. The procedure is just a vicious circle.

8.7 Looking Forward and a Missed Opportunity The last part of the Streitschriften was Strauß’s reply to two authors from the Theologischen Studien und Kritiken, Carl Ullmann and Johannes Müller.⁶⁶ Strauß considered these authors the most worthy of all his opponents: they were fair, thorough, and focused on the issues. His reply to them is important, partly ⁶⁵ Ibid., 111–12, pp. 891–9. ⁶⁶ Their articles were two long reviews of Das Leben Jesu in Theologische Studien und Kritiken, II, Heft 3 (1836), 770–816 and 816–90; the first review is by Ullmann and the second by Müller.

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because it clarifies his position on significant issues, and partly because it marks a shift in his position. The reply to Ullmann is considered, rightly, the beginning of Strauß’s move toward a more moderate position around 1838. On the crucial issue of the relationship between science and faith, Ullmann maintained that there should be a twofold standpoint for the judgment of theological works: a purely scientific one and a religious-ecclesiastical one (130).⁶⁷ The difference between these perspectives is that science is a theoretical outlook while religion is a practical one. Nothing in religion should be surrendered to science, Ullmann says, because religion, unlike science, is concerned with moral action, with how people act and live in the world. Although Strauß agrees that these perspectives should not be indiscriminately mixed, he also insists that science cannot adopt an independent standard for religion. If nothing in religion is to be surrendered to science, nothing in science should be surrendered to religion. If science finds that there is something in religion contrary to its standards, then it has a right to demand that religion abandon it (131). Not two standards but only one should be used in judging a work of theology: the scientific. It cannot be the case, Strauß insists, that what is true in science is false in religion; what is true in science is the real or true interests of religion. Strauß thus repudiated the classic dualism of orthodox Protestantism, which radically separates the heavenly and earthly realms, the interests of religion and science. Like Steudel, Ullmann was one of those critics of Strauß who greatly feared the promulgation of the results of criticism. In the hands of the less educated or devious, they could become a potent source of disbelief and sink the public into a “religious nihilism.”⁶⁸ Ullmann asked why Strauß had not published his investigations in Latin. Strauß thought that Ullmann had overstated the danger of his book for the general public. The faith of the people would prevail over criticism, he replied, because it was immediate and lively, “a rock” that would shatter “the weapons of critique” (132). But even if he had written in Latin, Strauß argued, the theologians would make the results known in the pulpits and journals, if only to refute and reprehend them; thus, sooner or later, they would become known to the public anyway (134). Such was the parti pris and strife among theologians that they would be happy to publicize the thinking of a colleague they considered heretical. Better to write the book in German, then, so that the educated public could at least judge for themselves. Ullmann took exception to the tone of Strauß’s book no less than its content. He acknowledged that Strauß did not write in a frivolous or derisory manner and that his main interest was in the subject matter rather than creating an effect on the reader.⁶⁹ Yet he still feared that Strauß’s tone could be offensive because it was

⁶⁷ Theologische Studien und Kritiken, 776.

⁶⁸ Ibid., 777.

⁶⁹ Ibid., 779.

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cold, detached, and ruthless; one should not allow beliefs people have held dear for centuries “to burst like bubbles.”⁷⁰ If one must criticize them, it should be with respect and with regret. One should adopt, in short, a “tragic” tone. Strauß’s reply to this objection is important for understanding the tone of his work. He insists that his tone is detached because it has to be objective. It is not tragic, because it does not represent the standpoint of the believer, nor even the personal feelings of the author. Rather, his discourse deliberately shows no feelings at all. “Science thinks, it does not feel, and if my exposition is really ‘indifferent’, as your lordships say, it is what a scientific exposition should be” (138). The only feeling Strauß permits himself is that of “serenity” (Heiterkeit) because it adopts a balanced and disinterested attitude. If critical discourse should not adopt a tone of tragedy, it also should not have one of “wit or comedy.” Both tragedy and comedy are not indifferent or detached enough because they are invested in the outcome of the investigation. Strauß was pleased that the early critics of his book acknowledged that it did not have the irreverent tone of a Voltaire or Reimarus (133).⁷¹ About his use of the critical method, Strauß thinks that Ullmann has some distorted ideas, which he goes to some pains to correct. Ullmann warns us against thinking that if we grant the critique a foothold in one part of the New Testament, then we will have to concede that the whole is mythical.⁷² He stresses that critique should be always “an art of making fine distinctions,” of treating each piece of text on its own merit. Strauß agrees with Ullmann that we should not reason in this way; but he insists that he has not done so. He wholeheartedly endorses Ullmann’s point about critique being an art of making fine distinctions. We must not take a rigid criterion and apply it right and left to every aspect and fact of the New Testament, as if they all had to be mythical, Strauß says, but we must examine each part for its own sake (144). If one part is found to be mythical, it does not follow that all others must be so but only that they can be so. Critique is therefore a piecemeal rather than wholesale business where each specific case has to be considered on its merits. Strauß goes on to concede that some parts of the New Testament are indeed reliable, especially those dealing with Jesus’ words rather than his deeds (145). Strauß is even willing to admit that many of Jesus’ deeds also can be real or historical, because they describe an uncommon but natural event, viz., the exorcism of demons and the healing of the sick. Such events are extraordinary but they are not superficial because they can be explained by animal magnetism, which

⁷⁰ Ibid., 779. ⁷¹ Marilyn Massey, one of the few scholars to treat Strauß’s style, considers Ullmann’s objections to Strauß’s text. But she completely ignores Strauß’s reply to it. See her Christ Unmasked: The Meaning of The Life of Jesus in German Politics (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1983), pp. 71–80. ⁷² Theologische Studien und Kritiken, p. 788.

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displays the extraordinary influence of the mind upon the body (154). Strauß then seems to make the extraordinary admission that the resurrection stands among the “basic facts” of the New Testament (145). If the resurrection is a fact, then the mythical theory is weakened on one very salient point. But this concession is not as great as it seems. For Strauß then says that if the belief of the disciples in the resurrection cannot be explained according to inner psychological grounds, then we would have to explain it as an instance of the extraordinary but natural phenomenon of reawakening (146). This phenomenon Strauß seems to regard as another instance of animal magnetism or hypnosis (153, 155). This readiness to admit reports of miracles as historical provided that they can be explained according to natural causes will become more evident in the third edition of Das Leben Jesu. It does not amount to a change in principle but it is a relapse into the old position of the rationalists. One of the more interesting and surprising results of Strauß’s polemic against Ullmann is a change in his description of his theory of the New Testament. Strauß called his theory the mythical theory in the first edition of Das Leben Jesu; but now he seems to reject that description. Ullmann invented a threefold classification of theories about the New Testament: first, the orthodox theory that it is the word of God; second, the mythical theory that it is almost completely myth and has only a small historical core; and, third, a symbolical or allegorical theory, according to which the important content of the Bible consists in its ideas and not in a historical narrative.⁷³ One would think that Strauß would be an example of the second theory; but he now resists that and insists instead that his theory is more like the third (127). This is an important concession because it is in effect to say that we must not look in the Bible for historical truth but for a kind of moral and spiritual truth. No one would guess from Das Leben Jesu that this was in fact Strauß’s view, which seems more like the second. But, remarkably, here Strauß is ready to concede that the Bible is really about ideas, symbolism, and allegory, and he insists that only as such is it myth. All that Strauß objects to is inferring that if the Bible is true on the level of symbolism and idea, then it has to be true on the level of history, which is the mistake of the conservative Hegelian school (157). This theory of the New Testament is really not developed in Das Leben Jesu, where Strauß even rejects the idea that the Bible is an allegory or symbol. Here in the Streitschriften Strauß was on the verge of a new, more constructive, and positive theory of the New Testament. He even goes so far as to suggest that there should be other criteria for its truth rather than history. The first of these criteria is “moral-religious significance,” according to which a narrative should be not merely a fact but the exposition of an idea (156). Among the other criteria are 1) illuminating divine purposiveness (einleuchtende g€ ottliche Zweckm€ aßigkeit), 2)

⁷³ Ibid., pp. 786–7.

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a connection with indisputable facts and truths, and 3) historical effects of truly world-historical significance (157).⁷⁴ If Strauß had only developed this theory, he would have avoided the most common objection against his mythical theory: that it is totally negative and destructive. But the new theory was suggested only to be neglected. Sadly, nothing more came of it.

⁷⁴ These criteria were proposed by Ullmann himself, ibid., p. 804.

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9 Crisis and Compromise 9.1 The Crisis From the spring of 1837 to the spring of 1838, Strauß went through a spiritual crisis which deeply affected his work and life thereafter. The crisis was severe enough to bring him to the verge of suicide, to the point where he told himself he could endure and exist no longer. He wrote at the time of “the complete bankruptcy of my life.”¹ In retrospect he said that that year—spring 1837 to spring 1838—had been “the unhappiest in my entire life.”² What had gone wrong? What were the sources of this crisis? To understand Strauß’s work during these and later years, we must have an answer to these questions. In no small measure, his work was an attempt to resolve the crisis. Its first signs appear in early May of 1837. Strauß told his friend Ernst Rapp about his inner unrest: “Since spring, an unease has come over me which does not allow me to rest, and which makes me inclined to change my dwelling only because its old walls are painful and boring to me . . . I know well that the spring is not to blame; it is the unease of the prophet Jonah: my place in the world is unbearable to me and I seek to flee from it . . . ”³ What Strauß meant by “his place in the world” was not simply his life in Stuttgart but how he conceived himself and his future life. He first doubted whether he should be a theologian: “Many theological points, which once were dear to my heart, interest me no longer and I wish to be out of this whole sphere.” But his doubts were still more extreme. For he doubted even whether he should be a writer or intellectual: “the pure intellectual sphere has become dry for me. I am not made to be a scholar; I am too dependent on my moods and have too much to do with myself.”⁴ Strauß revealed that he was now more interested in art than scholarship; but art offered him no new opportunities because he felt that he had no talent for it; his powers of reflection, which he so assiduously cultivated during his university years, had suffocated his imagination. As his long May 1837 letter to Rapp unfolds, it becomes apparent that the source of Strauß’s unease had been sexual. He complains that “envious gods” or ¹ To M€arklin, Easter Tuesday, 1838, in Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe von David Friedrich Strauß, ed. Eduard Zeller (Bonn: Emil Strauß, 1895), p. 63. ² To Frau Georgii, April 9, 1839, in Briefe von David Friedrich Strauss an L. Georgii, ed. Heinrich Maier (Tübingen: Mohr, 1912), p. 28. ³ To Rapp, May 7, 1837, in Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe, p. 35. ⁴ Ibid., p. 36. David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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“spiteful demons” have laid all kinds of traps for him to take him away from theology. These gods or demons, it turns out, take on the shape of “beautiful and seductive female forms.” Strauß goes on to hint that before the winter he had had an affair that greatly unsettled him; he has gotten over it now; but, still, it “broke the ice,” and since then he has not been able to find firm ground. Finally, he reveals the source of his present unease: the singer Agnese Schebest, whom he has seen recently in the Stuttgart opera. Strauß confesses that he has been pursuing her—he organized a dinner for her and her friends—and that he has even written a sonnet for her. But he wishes she would leave Stuttgart soon so that he could be rid of this “thorn of unrest.”⁵ As it turned out, five years later he would marry Schebest. The letter to Rapp is as revealing as it is deceptive. It is revealing because it shows the sexual side of Strauß, which, as he confesses, was a driving force in his life. But it is also deceptive because this seems to be an old story: Strauß has finally found his blue angel, like so many intellectuals, and he does not know how to handle the feelings unleashed in him. Yet Strauß was no naïf in sexual matters—he had already had several sexual affairs—and there were other sides to his crisis which had little to do with sex or “the eternal feminine.” It would be excessively reductivist to think that sex alone was the problem. Another source of Strauß’s crisis was his work. He had grown tired of it and took no pleasure in it. The first volume of the Streitschriften had appeared in the spring of 1837, and he had planned future volumes. But he found it difficult to muster the spirit and energy to write more. After completing the third part of volume I, he confessed to Vischer, on August 21, 1837: “That the third part pleased you makes me happy; that much is missing, especially concerning the Hegelians, is no wonder, because I wrote that part in a state of distraction, confusion, and faintheartedness . . . Unfortunately, I still take no pleasure in my present work; the constant rechewing of earlier work is fatal for me; this matter persecutes me like a demon, or better yet I am a demon who has been banished to this place . . . ”⁶ So it is not surprising to hear that Strauß gave up the writing of the Streitschriften.⁷ This ennui was the forerunner of an even bigger problem, which emerged a few months later. After the completion of Das Leben Jesu and the first volume of the Streitschriften, Strauß felt depleted and exhausted; but, even worse, he did not know what to do with himself. He worked with passion on these works because he felt that he had a mission and that he needed to communicate it. But now that the ⁵ Ibid., p. 37. ⁶ To Vischer, August 21, 1837, in Briefwechsel zwischen Strauß und Vischer, ed. Adolf Rapp (Stuttgart: Klett, 1952), I, 39. ⁷ T. Ziegler, David Friedrich Strauß (Straßburg: Trübner, 1908), I, 266, takes Strauß at his word when he says that he gave up the Streitschriften because he would incorporate his replies to future critics in the third edition of Das Leben Jesu. But Strauß does not engage in polemics in the third edition of Das Leben Jesu; Strauß’s statement was an excuse. The truth of the matter is that he was weary of all polemics.

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work was done, it seemed that there was nothing more to do. His raison d’être was gone. Where could he go? What could he do? He explained the whole syndrome to Rapp, on February 7, 1838: “You can see beyond a doubt that a man of my nature has to be obsessed if things are to go well for him. It was that way for me for several years when I had a definite scientific idea. Now that this idea has been lived out, now that it has flown out of its pupal or larval stage, the inner core is empty . . . From the distance I can see another scientific demon and it is crucial that I be able to execute it. I very much wish so, because without a demon I go to ruin . . . ”⁸ What this new demon was Strauß does not explain; but it still had not taken hold of him. In December 1838 he wrote Rapp again to confess that he had not yet begun to write the great work that would bring him restitution and redemption.⁹ He had been writing smaller pieces which gave him little satisfaction and which robbed him of time. It seems that he still had very little idea of what this greater work would be, because he told Rapp that, from working on the smaller pieces, he had only a few inklings about it. So it seems that Strauß had lost all orientation and direction with his work. Seen from this angle, the malaise was not that he doubted his intellectual or scholarly nature; it was that he did not know what to do with that nature. After all, only intellectuals or scholars wait for inspiration to direct their work. But it would be pedantic to charge Strauß with confusion. It was the very nature of his crisis that it was irrational, that it consisted in contradiction and ambivalence; Strauß not only lost all direction as a scholar but he also doubted whether he should even be a scholar. But there was even more to this crisis. Another part of the problem is that Strauß was suffering from anomie and isolation. He had been thrown out of the church, and he had quit his job in Ludwigsburg. He was now trying to make his life as an independent scholar. But, almost by definition, such a scholar belongs nowhere. In January 1838 he told Rapp that he had withdrawn from all society and lived alone;¹⁰ and in March he complained to him about his growing isolation: “I take pleasure no more in social life . . . and just stay at home. This is unnatural and leads to a choleric mood.”¹¹ In April the problem intensified and he felt that there was no place for him in the world. He wrote his old friend M€arklin on Easter Tuesday 1838: “For some time now I feel so sick of this life as I now lead it, not having any office (Amt) and not belonging to any corps, that the phrase ‘No dog can live longer like this’ has become my morning and evening prayer; this mood increases more and more, so that I am incapable of work and close myself off from all society.”¹² If only he had some office in life, Strauß says, then he would not have to write for money, and he would not have to isolate himself to earn a living. He ⁸ To Rapp, February 7, 1838, Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe, p. 51. ⁹ To Rapp, December 20, 1838, ibid., p. 74. ¹⁰ To Rapp, January 10, 1838, ibid., p. 49. ¹¹ To Rapp, March 2, 1838, ibid., p. 54. ¹² To M€arklin, Easter Tuesday, 1838, ibid., p. 63.

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longs to have some settled “domestic existence”; but he has no idea with whom this would be or how it would be possible. Vischer could see how the isolation and anomie was sapping his friend’s morale and told him that only a wife or an office would cure him. “In the end everything depends on being in contact with people; everything else will follow from there.”¹³ This was perhaps a bit simplistic; but it still contained a good core of truth. Not the least source of Strauß’s isolation was his reputation as a heretic. It made him virtually a social leper. Because of the stigma, Strauß had to avoid contact with friends or colleagues who had employment in the church; he feared that his reputation would cast suspicion on them too. When his old school friend Mehl, now a deacon in Stuttgart, visited him, Strauß had to warn him that he would make no return visit to his home because he did not want to make him suspicious among his parishioners.¹⁴ He was also afraid of visiting his old friend M€arklin, who was now a pastor in Calw, for fear that it would compromise him with his pietistic flock.¹⁵ The garrison pastor in Stuttgart did not like seeing Strauß visiting his sister and promptly showed him the door.¹⁶ There were other similar incidents, but these suffice to show that Strauß was a shunned man, one who, so it was said, had to walk the alleyways at night.¹⁷ Strauß complained bitterly about how the church ban against him poisoned all his relationships, and he confessed to Rapp that it put him into “a painful rage.”¹⁸ The world has such a perverted image of me, he told M€arklin, that he wanted to change his name.¹⁹ In sum, Strauß’s crisis had three sources. One was romantic: the lack of a partner. Another was intellectual: the lack of a project or great work. And still another was social: the lack of a position or office in the world. All of them combined to make Strauß’s life miserable. One could be cynical and see the crisis as the result of Strauß’s bourgeois background and expectations. What did he want, someone might say, other than the comfort and status of a wife, family, and good job? But Strauß did not really want security—his income was already sufficient—and he did not really need status—he was already famous. His crisis was—for a lack of a better word—existential: he needed a sense of purpose, the feeling that he mattered and that he could make a difference to the world. That need can be satisfied only in social network, in living and working for others and for some cause bigger than oneself. Such was Strauß’s crisis. But in the late 1830s Strauß could not see any easy way around it. There were no obvious solutions. He could not find a university position, because no one would employ a heretic. And he could not find a suitable partner, because he lived in virtual isolation and it was difficult to meet women.

¹³ ¹⁴ ¹⁶ ¹⁹

To Strauß, May, 27, 1838, Briefwechsel zwischen Strauß und Vischer, I, 59. Ziegler, Strauß, I, 260. ¹⁵ To Vischer, Briefwechsel zwischen Strauß und Vischer, I, 29. Ziegler, Strauß, I, 260. ¹⁷ Ibid., I, 261. ¹⁸ Ibid. To M€arklin, February 1838, Briefwechsel zwischen Strauß und Vischer, I, 41.

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He complained to Vischer and Rapp that his isolation kept him from meeting women from good families, and that the only women he knew were either from bars or from the theater.²⁰ Having no moorings or place in the world, a miserable Luftmensch floated over Stuttgart. Reflecting on his crisis in later years,²¹ Strauß said that the fear of being completely alone drove him to reach out to people. His reputation as a radical and heretic had alienated him from the public; it had created a gulf between him and them. Now he wanted to build a bridge to overcome it. He would attempt to do this in the third edition of Das Leben Jesu, where he would attempt to moderate and qualify some of his doubts about the New Testament, and in his essay “Verg€angliches und Bleibendes in Christenthum,” where he would portray Jesus as a figure worthy of Christian worship. Most importantly, he would attempt to end his isolation by obtaining a position as a professor of theology at the University of Zurich. What came of all these efforts, and what exactly they involved, we will now have to consider.

9.2 The Third Edition: The Gospel of John The need to escape isolation—and the stigma of heresy—forced Strauß to take desperate measures. The basis for his notoriety had been, of course, Das Leben Jesu. If he could only modify the conclusions of that work, if he could only reformulate its arguments, then perhaps people would think differently of him. It almost seemed as if Strauß were ready to revise, if not to recant, his views. The opportunity to do so came in the summer of 1837 when Strauß’s publisher asked him to prepare a third edition of his book. The revisions Strauß made to the third edition have been regarded as drastic and dramatic, as a complete overthrow of the main principles and argument in the first edition.²² Supposedly, Strauß surrenders the mythical interpretation of the gospels, and he allows for the historical authenticity of at least one part of them. Strauß himself later described the changes “as a virtual destruction of the original work.”²³ What were these changes? Were they as great as described? And did they really amount to a recantation? It is important to look closely at the wording of the preface to the third edition where Strauß describes the editorial changes. All the ²⁰ To Rapp, March 2, 1838, Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe, p. 54; and to Vischer, July 29, 1838, Briefwechsel, p. 67. ²¹ “Literarische Denkwürdigkeiten,” in Gesammelte Schriften von David Friedrich Strauß, ed. Eduard Zeller (Bonn: Emil Strauß, 1876), I, 13. ²² Horton Harris, David Friedrich Strauss and His Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), p. 121; and John Toews, Hegelianism: The Path toward Dialectical Humanism, 1805–1841 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), p. 276. ²³ See Strauß’s “Literarische Denkwürdigkeiten,” in Gesammelte Schriften, I, 5.

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alterations of the third edition more or less reflect, he writes, his new study of the gospel of John. He had been reading de Wette’s commentary and Neander’s new life of Jesus,²⁴ which made him reconsider his earlier arguments against the genuineness and authenticity of this text. They have made him, as he put it, “doubt his earlier doubt” of its historical value (v).²⁵ However, this does not mean—Strauß is quick to add—that he now accepts the genuineness and authenticity of the gospel; it is just that he is not convinced of its inauthenticity. He admits that in his first edition he was too quick to stress the evidence against its authenticity; but now the evidence for its authenticity has become clearer to him. Even here, however, Strauß insists that, unlike de Wette, he is not going to sacrifice the evidence against the gospel. It is necessary to consider the evidence pro and con, and, he implies, it is almost impossible to reach a definitive conclusion one way or the other. Read closely, it is clear that Strauß does not now believe in the authenticity and genuineness of the gospel of John. All that he admits is that the evidence is not clear either for or against such a conclusion. There is only, as he puts it, “clashing and intercrossing signs (Merkmalen) of credibility and incredibility, of nearness and distance from the truth” (v). What Strauß admits is only that he was too quick in the first edition in accepting the arguments against the gospel; now he sees that the question is much more complicated because the evidence is not so clear or decisive. It is important to see that, in holding off on a definitive conclusion, Strauß is only following his original historical method, which insisted on withholding a decision on a belief where there is not sufficient evidence for or against it. Hausrath and Harris think that Strauß’s method in the third edition marks a major change because Strauß now makes “the deeper concession that miracle stories, without further ado, should not be regarded as mythical.”²⁶ Yet, as we have seen,²⁷ it was never Strauß’s procedure in the first edition to regard miracle stories, immediately and without further examination, as mythical; whether they were mythical depended on other evidence against them. In this respect, therefore, there is no change from the first edition.

²⁴ Strauß does not provide explicit references. He is probably referring to August Neander, Das Leben Jesu Christi in seinem geschichtlichen Zusammenh€ ange und sein geschichtlichen Entwicklung (Hamburg: Perthes, 1837) and Wilhelm de Wette, Einleitung in das Neue Testament (Berlin: Reimer, 1833). ²⁵ David Friedrich Strauß, Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet. Dritte mit Rücksicht auf die Gegenschriften verbesserte Auflage (Tübingen: C. F. Osiander, 1838). ²⁶ Adolf Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit (Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1876), I, 319. The same mistake is made by Harris, Strauss and His Theology, p. 121. It is noteworthy that the third edition makes no change in the second edition criterion of the mythical: “that it is contrary to the known, and universally valid, laws of events.” The third edition keeps this passage but makes it a criterion of the “unhistorical” rather than “mythical,” which is more a verbal than a substantive change. ²⁷ See chapter 5, section 5.1.

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The most significant changes between the first and third editions concern, as Strauß tells us, his attitude toward the testimony of John. In the first edition Strauß deliberately challenged the received wisdom about the gospel of John, which was generally regarded as the most historically reliable of all the gospels because of John’s (alleged) personal knowledge of Jesus. Directly contrary to that tradition, Strauß contended that John was the least plausible of all the gospels, because more than any other gospel it referred to Jesus as the messiah. The messiah idea was obviously mythical, because it cannot be proven, and because it so obviously descends from Jewish myth and tradition. For these reasons Strauß writes in the first edition that he has adopted the “canon” that that gospel is the least plausible which refers most often to Jesus as the messiah.²⁸ Since the gospel of John does this more than any other, it should be regarded as the least plausible. In the third edition Strauß simply deleted this passage. He now regards John not as the least plausible gospel but at least as one on par with the others. Concerning the gospel of John, the most apparent changes between the first and third editions appear in chapter 7 of the second section of volume I, which corresponds to §79 in the first edition and §82 in the third. This chapter deals with the latest research on the credibility of John, and it attempts to come to some conclusion about it.²⁹ In the first edition Strauß doubts the gospel’s credibility on the grounds that there is no difference between the speeches of Jesus and those of John. If the speeches attributed to Jesus were really his own words, one would expect some difference in style between them and John’s own writing. But both the content and style of Jesus’ speeches are the same as John’s. It therefore seems that John, rather than simply recording Jesus’ speeches, reconstructed them according to his memory and imagination. The gospel of John, Strauß therefore concludes, was most probably “freely invented” (frei fingiert).³⁰ This was surely a non sequitur and Strauß was right to reconsider it. Accordingly, in the third edition he rewrites most of this chapter and he comes to a different conclusion. Now Strauß thinks that John has probably captured something about the life of Jesus, though he thinks that it is partial and one-sided and has to be complemented with the other three gospels.³¹ It is noteworthy, however, that Strauß still does not think that John has given a completely accurate picture of Jesus, and that he insists the whole picture of Jesus has been created by John.³² All that is a true picture of Jesus’ life are parts of his narrative; but the structure of the whole is due to his creative imagination and memory.

²⁸ Das Leben Jesu, Erste Auflage, I, 413, §58. ²⁹ It is entitled in both editions “Die neueren Verhandlungen über die Glaubwürdigkeiten der johannischen Reden. Resultaten.” ³⁰ Das Leben Jesu, Erste Auflage, I, 673–4. ³¹ Das Leben Jesu, Dritte Auflage, I, 737. ³² Ibid., I, 740.

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Another important change, often commented upon,³³ concerns Jesus’ reference to his “real pre-existence” before Abraham and the creation of the world. This passage, which appears only in the gospel of John,³⁴ raised the question whether it was an invention of John’s or a real opinion that Jesus had about himself. In the first edition Strauß questioned that Jesus would ever have ascribed this opinion to himself. This would be to destroy Jesus’ common sense and to ascribe to him a kind of “mystical enthusiasm.”³⁵ Strauß implies that the attribution of this view to Jesus was therefore more likely to have come from John, who had a Platonic metaphysics about the pre-existence of the soul. In the third edition, however, Strauß allows that Jesus might have held such a view: “we cannot know whether a mind of the religious inwardness of Jesus conceived its communion with God, in the reflection of fantasy, as a memory of its previous existence with God.”³⁶ This possibility would mean that Jesus could well have stated this view, so that it is not just the construction or imposition of John. To save the credibility of John’s testimony, then, Strauß seems willing to attribute a rather extravagant metaphysical view to Jesus himself. It would be tendentious, however, to regard this as much of a concession. Strauß is careful to say that Jesus could have held this view; but he does not state that he actually did so. He leaves open the possibility that Jesus could have learned this view from the Jewish theology of his day and that he applied it to himself; but he is still suspicious that the view really came from Jesus, because John had this metaphysical view and he was the only evangelist to apply it to Jesus.³⁷ On no account is Strauß willing to accept the orthodox Christian view of Jesus, according to which he is a divine being who enjoyed pre-existence with God.³⁸ Even in the third edition, Strauß views Jesus as a human being alone, though a rather extraordinary one. While he enjoyed a special communion with God, that came from his powers of genius rather than any divine quality. There are some passages in the third edition where Strauß is willing to concede that some of the reports of miracles in the gospel of John could have been eyewitness accounts. It immediately becomes clear, however, that the phenomena reported have a plausible naturalistic explanation. John reports that Jesus had the power to cure people from a distance; so, for example, while he was staying in Galilee, he saved an ill boy in Capernaum.³⁹ Strauß states that such a “gift” is sometimes seen in somnambulists, who have the power, for unknown reasons, not only to read the thoughts of people but also to affect those who are not in contact with them.⁴⁰ Similarly, Strauß thinks that the stories of Jesus’ rapid intellectual development, of his astounding gifts as a young boy, though influenced by the

³³ ³⁴ ³⁶ ³⁹

Ziegler, Strauß, I, 270; and Hausrath, Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, I, 322. John, 8:58; 17:5. ³⁵ Das Leben Jesu, Erste Auflage, I, 484, §60. Das Leben Jesu, Dritte Auflage, I, 539, §62. ³⁷ Ibid., I, 542, §62. ³⁸ Ibid., I, 539, §62. John 4:46–53. ⁴⁰ Das Leben Jesu, Dritte Auflage, I, 579–80.

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Jewish tradition of exaggerating the early powers of the prophets, are still perfectly consistent with the intellectual development of genius. Jesus was a genius, and so we should expect him to develop in very rapid and remarkable ways. We therefore should not dismiss these stories without further ado as unhistorical.⁴¹ What is interesting about these and other examples is that Strauß does not really concede that a miracle occurred but only that it has a plausible naturalistic explanation. In that case Strauß is relapsing into the strategy of the old rationalists: that the reports of the miracles can be regarded as historical if one has a plausible naturalistic explanation for them. Strauß had rejected such explanations in the first edition in favor of his own mythical hypothesis; here in the third edition he allows them more room. But on no account does Strauß go beyond this point to give concessions to supernaturalists and to grant reports of miracles without a natural explanation. So, even in the third edition, Strauß shows great caution and wariness in attributing truth to the gospel of John. This is perfectly in accord with his earlier statements about the complexity and ambivalence of the evidence. All that he admits is that parts of the gospel of John might be true; but he could have said as much in the first edition. It is only now that he wants to accentuate the positive. The difference between the third and first editions regarding the authenticity of John is therefore more in tone and attitude rather than in substance. In a retrospective look at the third edition of Das Leben Jesu, which he wrote in 1866,⁴² Strauß conceded that it was a distortion, and indeed a “self-destruction,” of the original work. But he still insisted that all the objections of his enemies did not affect either his principles or his conclusions. They showed something only about the author, though not that he had revised his work too quickly and lightly. What, then, did they show? Strauß confessed that it was one of his great weaknesses that, in revising a work he had written years earlier, he had lost the intuition and feeling for the whole. This is what allowed him to revise the work in ways that were contrary to the original idea. If they did not affect its principles or arguments, how was the third edition a distortion (Entstellung) of the whole? Strauß claimed that the revisions amounted to depriving the work of its former unity. That unity came from the consistently negative and critical orientation of the first edition; but now that Strauß dropped that orientation in the third edition in his treatment of the gospel of John, the book lost its characteristic negativity. But this change was mainly one of tone and orientation rather than substance, and it concerned only a small part of the book. So, despite all the talk about concession and compromise, the old book remained essentially unchanged.

⁴¹ Ibid., I, 353–4.

⁴² “Literarische Denkwürdigkeiten,” in Gesammelte Schriften, I, 5–7.

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9.3 The Third Edition: Status of Jesus Besides his more positive attitude toward the gospel of John, there was another important change in the third edition of Das Leben Jesu. This is Strauß’s replacement of the final section of the “Schlussabhandlung,” which was entitled “Letztes Dilemma,” with a new section, which is now entitled “Vermittlungsversuche.” In the first edition, the final section treated the dilemma of the pastor who had learned the basic results of criticism: How could he preach a doctrine in which he no longer believed, and which was found to have no historical credibility? There was no easy solution to that dilemma, Strauß found. In the third edition Strauß again attempts to address the dilemma and to mediate the divide between the enlightened pastor and his flock; but now he thinks that he can overcome that divide by focusing on its source: the diminished stature of Jesus from the standpoint of criticism. The metaphysics of the “Schlussabhandlung” in the first edition did not seem to make Jesus worthy of special respect, let alone worship, because it made him, along with everyone and everything else, one manifestation of the divine. Jesus could not claim to be the only divine being on earth. But, in that case, why should we worship him? Strauß now thinks that he can answer that question by modifying the conclusion of his metaphysics. We have already seen Strauß struggling with this question in the Streitschriften.⁴³ The position he develops here in the third edition is a further development of it. The basis for his solution is the claim that although all things are a manifestation of the divine, some things are a greater manifestation than others; they develop the divine energies and powers within themselves to a higher degree. This is only a difference in degree rather than kind, of course, because all individuals have the divine within them; but the difference in degree is still a great one, and allows for all the possibility for revering those who stand at the apex of the pyramid of humanity. Strauß elaborates this claim by saying that all the different directions in which the divine manifests itself in humanity—in art, science, and religion—have their great individuals or outstanding personalities. These individuals or personalities are known, in the non-religious fields, as geniuses. Appropriating that secular concept, Strauß now attributes genius to Jesus himself (771). The concept of genius was an especially strategic one for Strauß, because it recognized the humanity of Christ but still did not reduce him to the status of an ordinary person; geniuses are by their very nature exceptional, extraordinary, and rare, and so deserve special respect. This concept put Jesus among the great figures in the history of humanity, so that in his pantheon of heroes he stands alongside Orpheus and Homer, Moses and Muhammed.

⁴³ See chapter 8, section 8.6.

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But it was plain to Strauß that this would not be enough to satisfy the Christian. As a genius, Christ was extraordinary, of course, but he was not unique. No Christian could bear to see Christ put on the same level as Orpheus and Homer. So, to satisfy Christian sensibilities, Strauß pushes his claims on behalf of Jesus even further. He makes two further points about the genius Jesus: 1) that he was a genius in the field of religion, which is the highest sphere of human activity; 2) that within this sphere, Jesus assumes the highest place because Christianity is the highest religion (771–2). So, Jesus, as a genius, stood in the highest sphere of human activity, which is religion; and within that sphere, he represented its highest form or manifestation, which is Christianity. This was better, to be sure, but it was still not enough. Although Strauß’s Jesus stands at the pinnacle of human achievement, he is still not unique because there can be other individuals who stand on the same level. Even worse, there might be, in the future, individuals who surpass him. Although Strauß envisions these possibilities, he struggles to reassure the Christian that they cannot take place. He admits that in the progress of history a later genius often stands on a higher level than an earlier one, because he can take advantage of all that has been accomplished before him (773). Nevertheless, Strauß insists that there are some fields where there cannot be a higher degree of development in the future. This is the case in art, in the sphere of sculpture, for example, where we cannot get beyond the achievements of the Greeks. But this is also the case in religion, Strauß claims, where humanity has already achieved its highest and cannot go beyond it. Religion is a product of feeling and imagination, and these faculties, unlike the intellect, have a threshold beyond which they cannot go. Humanity, in the figure of Christ, has already come to that threshold and cannot go beyond it. So there cannot be anyone, in the future, who will stand on a higher level than Christ. Strauß attempts to justify this last claim with a theory of religious development, the outlines of which are derived from Hegel (775). The goal of such development is the complete reconciliation between man and God, that point where man and God are completely one. That development goes through several dialectical stages: one of primitive unity, where the self only feels its unity with the divine; another of opposition, where the self negates its unity with God; and then finally a stage of reconciliation, where the self overcomes opposition and achieves on a higher selfconscious level complete unity with God. This stage of complete unity was achieved by Jesus, whose every thought and action was devoted to and permeated with the divine. So perfect was his unity with the divine that no one can go beyond it. Yet, despite all these efforts, Strauß was still not able to remove the qualms about Jesus’ unique status. Though no one could go beyond him, perhaps in the future there could be other individuals who would stand on the same level as he? Perhaps there could be others who enjoyed the same unity with God as Jesus?

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Strauß regarded this as unlikely; but he still had to admit that it was logically possible. He tried to reassure the Christian believer that these were only “abstract possibilities,” and that they were as probable as a comet coming into collision with the earth (778). Still, doubt remained. More important, there was still a gap between Strauß’s Jesus and that of the church. Even if Jesus were a unique figure, even if one were certain that no one else would ever surpass him, he was still human and therefore not someone who could bring salvation. To bring salvation, Jesus must be Christ, a divine figure as well as a human one; he must be a man-God who can mediate between the divine and human. Strauß’s Jesus, being merely human, cannot bridge the gulf between the divine and human and therefore cannot mediate salvation for sinful humanity. It was not surprising, therefore, that all Strauß’s attempts at bridging the gulf between him and the church came to nothing. His efforts were spurned as insufficient by almost everyone.⁴⁴ The results of all his efforts at reconciliation were, as Hausrath put it, that “he was all the more rudely shown the door.”

9.4 An Olive Branch In the summer of 1838, Strauß was still determined to make peace with the world. He wanted to convince the public that he was not the horrible atheist he had been made out to be. A little bit of publicity, he hoped, might help his cause to gain acceptance. On no account would he alter his views to pacify the public; but he would bring out their more moderate and positive side. With this in mind, Strauß wrote an essay that summer called “Verg€angliches und Bleibendes im Christenthum,” which appeared in the new journal Freihafen.⁴⁵ Because this essay proved a success, Strauß published it, along with his earlier essay “Justinus Kerner,” as a book, which he entitled Zwei friedliche Bl€ atter.⁴⁶ The Kerner essay was also part of the publicity, because it showed Strauß to be interested in spiritualism and the paranormal. The whole book was an olive branch extended to the public. As Hausrath so nicely put it: the first essay (that on Kerner) declared: “This is what I am”; the second told it: “This is what I believe.”⁴⁷ To “Verg€angliches und Bleibendes im Christenthum” Strauß gave the subtitle “Selbstgespr€ache” or “Soliloquies,” which well describes the atmosphere and structure of the piece. The whole essay has the style and tone of a personal meditation. The reader is invited to enter Strauß’s own soul and to think along ⁴⁴ On the reaction to the third edition, see Hausrath, Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, I, 326–7. ⁴⁵ “Ueber Verg€angliches und Bleibendes im Christenthum. Selbstgespr€ache,” Freihafen, I, Heft 3 (1838), 1–48. ⁴⁶ David Friedrich Strauß, Zwei friedliche Bl€ atter (Altona: J. F. Hammerich, 1839). All references in parentheses will be to this later edition. ⁴⁷ Hausrath, Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, I, 340.

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with him. Strauß asks himself: What meaning does Christianity still have for me? Or for a modern man who thinks for himself? The essay is an invaluable conspectus of Strauß’s views of Christianity after the first edition of Das Leben Jesu. It occupies a middle position in Strauß’s intellectual development: it reveals his thinking about Christianity between the first edition of Das Leben Jesu in 1835 and Der alte und neue Glaube in 1872. It represents his moderate stance on this question, and his greatest effort to reach out to the Christianity of his day. Although Strauß is eager to present the milder side of himself, he also does not want to retract anything he has said so far. From the very outset he makes it clear that he does not want to give a version of Christianity that restores comforting illusions. Thus he begins his meditations with the lines: “No, I cannot do it, even if I wanted to. And if I could do it, hopefully I would not want to. I do not want to pretend anything just so that I have peace of mind and so that others can remain in peace” (61). We shall soon see, however, that Strauß was not able to keep this intention; he had to conceal some of his most important ideas to give birth to a palatable version of Christianity for the public of his day. The first comforting illusion that Strauß wants to banish is the idea that there has been a reconciliation between faith and knowledge, between revelation and reason. This idea has become fashionable and has been espoused by “the latest philosophy,” which claims to be Christian. Although Strauß does not explicitly mention it, he is referring to the conservative Hegelian school in Berlin, who are now the academic powers that be. They believe that they can justify the Christian revelation because they can deduce its dogmas from the idea. Strauß does not want his readers to nurture such an illusion. He wants them to recognize that there has been a battle between reason and faith, a conflict which began with the criticism of the New Testament in Das Leben Jesu. Now that this battle is over, the problem is to pick up the pieces, to see what remains and what should be discarded, of the Christian faith. The first doctrine that has to go is the transcendent realm of Christianity, its belief in a supernatural world beyond this one where the soul finally finds justice and peace (63). The core of apostolic teaching was that we should do good and suffer evil because Christ will come soon and dispense eternal justice (64). But this conception of the last judgment has receded from the minds of Christians, who no longer believe in Christ’s imminent return on earth. They now believe that they will receive judgment after death and in the next life. But Strauß confesses that this belief is not for him. He feels no motive to do good because of the prospects of receiving a reward in a life after death (65). What happens during this life should have its own rewards and punishments here and now; if there is an afterlife, it should have its own rewards and punishments independent of those on earth (69). It was sheer self-deception on the part of the apostle Paul to believe that if there is no resurrection, it is best to eat, drink, and be merry because tomorrow we die (63). We must learn to find meaning and purpose in this life, Strauß insists, which

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is the only one we have, or at least the only one we know. If there must be a reward for work, it must lie in the work itself, and not in some realm beyond it. We should understand that virtue is its own reward, that we should do good because it is good, and not for the sake of some reward in heaven. Strauß understands the Christians’ motivations for belief in an afterlife. They have imagined that there is a heaven because they regard it as the only hope for justice; they regret that good actions go unrewarded and that evil ones succeed in this life. But Strauß still thinks that Christians have not looked deep enough into themselves. He has found that even in this life there is a connection between virtue and happiness, between vice and misery. It has been his experience that, as he puts it, “credit and debt (Verdienst und Schuld) pay cash,” so that all investment in a future life is unnecessary (67). Strauß does not explain exactly why he thinks that there is a connection between virtue and happiness in this life. But he goes some way to providing the missing premise when he states that acting according to my being and vocation produces the feeling of life and power, and so brings pleasure, while not acting according to my being and vocation hinders my feeling of life and power, and so brings displeasure (67). These reflections were Spinozist in inspiration.⁴⁸ In all these reflections on the afterlife, Strauß is careful to say that he does not deny the doctrine of immortality (65). He insists, however, that belief in immortality should not be founded on the prospects of retribution but on something else. What this something else is, however, he does not explain. It is on the matter of immortality that Strauß seems intent to conceal his own personal beliefs. In a letter to Rapp, written at the end of February 1836, Strauß was explicit that he did not believe in “immortalitatem et vitam alteram” and that his mother told him that for this reason she would not like to die in his presence.⁴⁹ There is no evidence that Strauß ever departed from this early disbelief. It was clear, however, that Strauß could not confess to it in a writing attempting to reconcile himself with the ordinary believer. Without the belief in immortality, Christianity cannot stand because it loses its core doctrines of salvation and the resurrection of Christ. On this score, Strauß was violating his own intention of not retracting anything. The defining doctrine of Christianity is the divinity of Christ. Many of Strauß’s reflections in his essay will turn on what this doctrine should mean. It is remarkable that Strauß puts forward an argument whose clear implication is that Jesus is not divine. Strauß does not explicitly state this point; but it is still the obvious ⁴⁸ Spinoza, Ethica, Pars Tertia, Prop. VI–XV. Strauß does not cite the text and does not mention Spinoza in this context; however, given his general debts to Spinoza, we should not hesitate in finding the source of his view in him. ⁴⁹ See Adolf Rapp, “David Friedrich Strauß in einem bedeutsamen Abschnitt seines Lebens 1835–1842,” in Zeitschrift für Württembergische Landesgeschichte 12 (1953), 1 Teil, 147–68, here 149. Strauß lost his faith probably even earlier. He wrote Vischer that, in 1828, his beliefs reached “der erste Wendepunkt” because he realized that there was nothing to the belief in the resurrection. See Strauß to Vischer, February 8, 1838, Briefwechsel, p. 48.

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implication of his argument. At its most fundamental the divinity of Christ should mean, he maintains, that Jesus is the ideal for a human being, that we must strive to imitate him even if we cannot fully succeed. But this ideal, Strauß then insists, should be based on the life of Jesus and not in any belief in his supernatural character or resurrection (70–1). We cannot conceive of a man who, before his appearance on earth, existed on the right hand of God in heaven, and who kept a memory of his life there when he came to earth. But if a being is not really and fully human, we cannot regard him as a model for ourselves at all (97). His life should rest on a completely different foundation than our own. In other words, if Jesus is to be a moral model for us, then he cannot really be divine. On this point, without admitting it, Strauß departed from the most important Christian doctrine: the divinity of Christ. Another Christian doctrine that must go, Strauß believes, is that of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice. This doctrine Strauß finds to be flatly immoral, contrary to our most basic moral principles and intuitions. Normally, we think that the worth of a person depends on the core of his or her character and not on external success. But, remarkably, in the case of Jesus we measure the worth of his character on what he has done for us, on the fact that he has died for our sins and so has protected us from the wrath of God (73, 76). But Strauß finds this whole doctrine even more troubling, even more reprehensible. It assumes not only that God is a vengeful being, who does not act from love and mercy, but also that his vengeance can be satisfied through the suffering of someone innocent (viz., Jesus) (77). We now know that the forgiveness of sins can take place only between the individual and God, and not through the intervention or mediation of Jesus, who is really only a symbol for divine forgiveness (80). Yet another belief of Christianity that should not, and indeed will not, survive in the modern era, Strauß is convinced, is its belief in miracles (82). We are gradually learning the wisdom of Hume’s point, he writes, that the certainty of miracles grows less with each generation, and that it has much less force than for those who were eyewitnesses. But we have good reason to have doubts even about these eyewitnesses. If I know of the miracle only from an old writing, what shows me that the author was really an eyewitness? And assuming that he was an eyewitness, what ensures me that he observed it correctly? Even if he was present when the event happened, it is possible that he saw it wrongly or only from some distorted perspective (83). There might have been a natural cause for the event which he did not observe because he did not look closely enough. All reflection on miracles assumes that if an event is unusual or uncustomary, it must have some supernatural cause. But this is a false dilemma, Strauß argues. An event can be unusual or uncustomary and still have a natural cause, viz., electrical phenomena and animal magnetism. Just as in the third edition of Das Leben Jesu, Strauß thinks that many of the miracles reported in the New Testament can be explained this way, viz., the healing of lepers and the curing of the lame; but he

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admits that not all of them can be, viz., the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (89). Those that cannot be so explained should be abandoned, he advises. One such miracle is the virgin birth because it presupposes something that is contrary to natural law; we know from countless instances of our experience that human beings are generated only through sexual union between male and female. We would do well to abandon the belief in the virgin birth, Strauß says, because it leaves an opening for skeptics to claim that Jesus was a bastard (95). At the close of Part 1 of his tract, Strauß returns to the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, which he now affirms, though in a very minimal sense. Christ is divine after all, but he is so because everyone and everything is divine. Just as in the “Schlussabhandlung” of Das Leben Jesu and in the Streitschriften, Strauß denies that Christ is the sole and unique manifestation of the divine in the finite world. That the absolute appears in the totality of all finite beings is a necessary concept; but that it appears in only one finite being is an impossible one (98). To claim that is like saying that all harmony is revealed in a single tone. Either we see the revelation of God in all finite things or we see it in none; but it makes no sense to see it only in one finite thing or person. So much for those Christians who still insist on the old dogma that Christ is the only manifestation of divinity in this world. So far, at the end of Part 1, Strauß has not left much standing of traditional Christianity. His Christianity is one without miracles, without the supernatural, without heaven, and without a savior who died for our sins. It is a completely naturalistic religion, and a totally humanist one. It leaves a place for Jesus as an ethical role model, but it denies him his divinity. Of course, Strauß realized that his new Christianity would be unacceptable to Christians; and so he develops his teaching to bring out its most positive side, those aspects which might still be palatable to Christian sensibilities. The reflections in Part 2 of his discourse have one goal: to rescue the special status of Jesus, so that he is still deserving of at least some of the veneration traditional Christianity accords him. Strauß sets his new Christianity on a remarkable foundation: paganism. Christianity saw paganism as its antithesis, as everything it despised and surpassed. Now Strauß bases it upon paganism. There is a new paganism afoot in Germany, he says, which he greets as the dawn of a new age (100). This paganism sees the divine in many profane things. It creates a new pantheon, many of whose heroes are pagans. Jesus too is in this pantheon, but he stands alongside pagans and not only the saints. These pagans also deserve veneration, no less than the saints, because they too have contributed to the development of humanity. Strauß’s appeal to paganism is puzzling because it is such a slap in the face of traditional Christianity. His enemies latched onto it and rested their case. Now at this point in his argument Strauß reintroduces a theme he had already brought forward in the third edition of Das Leben Jesu: genius. This theme is now developed in more detail. After the collapse of religion, Strauß says, there is only

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one cult left, which is that of genius (101). Strauß’s new pagan religion will re-establish this cult. The new object of veneration and worship will be a genius. A genius is an exceptional individual, to be sure, but he has no supernatural powers. He is after all a human being; and even if he has extraordinary abilities, they still fall within the realm of nature. But Strauß reassures us that the cult of genius does not mean the end of Christianity (102). It is precisely through this cult that we can begin to rehabilitate the status of Jesus. Although Jesus was not the messiah, he was still a genius (102). Jesus fulfills the requirements of the idea of genius because, like many geniuses, he lived for an ideal and he sacrificed himself for it (103). He also showed himself to be a genius in how he attracted and inspired people (103). The idea of genius was a very strategic one for Strauß, for it elevated Jesus as much as it demoted him. Jesus was only one more individual in the natural world; but he was also a genius, which made him exceptional and worthy of admiration. In this new cult of genius, he had an ambiguous status. On the one hand, Jesus had to step down from the throne of the son of God and take a seat on the bench of genius, next to the likes of Socrates, Napoleon, and Goethe (104). On the other hand, he could claim to have a very special status even among geniuses, for, in the cult of genius, the founders of religion occupy the highest place (108). They have the power to set us in relation to the infinite and to bring harmony to all our powers, to feeling, thinking, and willing (108). Insofar as the founders of religion are at the apex of genius, and insofar as Christianity is the most perfect religion, its founder deserves special status as “the first among those whom we honor with the title of genius” (108). Among the geniuses of mankind, Jesus was first among equals (109). There are two kinds of geniuses, Strauß explains. There are those who create great works of art and science, and there are those who work within themselves, so that their own personalities are their works of art (109–10). Galileo and Leonardo are examples of the first kind; Socrates was an example of this latter kind, because, although he created no works of philosophy, he showed us how to live through his own personality. Jesus too was an example of this kind of genius (117). Like Socrates, he produced no great work of art. His great gift lay in developing his powers as a person, and in showing how a human being can stand in relation to the infinite (118). The founders of religion are always geniuses in this second sense, and their genius is very rare because it is especially challenging to focus all one’s creative energies on one’s own inner self rather than something outside oneself. Yet Strauß still had one nagging doubt in his attempt to make Jesus a special and unique genius. Was it not possible to say that, with the progress of history, a genius would come along who had even greater powers than Jesus? In the Streitschriften Strauß had posed this very question and admitted that it was “a precarious certainty” that Jesus was the highest manifestation of the divine in

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history. After all, we do not know a priori what history will bring, and we cannot prove that Christ is the greatest religious genius in history. In the third edition of Das Leben Jesu Strauß was at pains to remove this uncertainty through his theory of history, which made it difficult, if not impossible, to go beyond Jesus in attaining the unity of the divine and human, the infinite and finite. In his essay, Strauß reaffirms that theory but now goes one step beyond it. In the third edition there was still a metaphysical possibility that someone could come along and surpass Christ. But now Strauß seems to rule out even this metaphysical possibility because he states categorically that we cannot go beyond Christ (127). Christ is the highest that we “can think” and beyond which nothing more is even “possible” (132). But in going beyond his previous limit—in stating that we cannot logically go beyond Jesus—Strauß was violating his own doctrine, stated explicitly in the Streitschriften, that it is a contingent fact that Christ is the ideal of the unity of infinite and finitude. If it is only a contingent fact, then it should be possible for it to be otherwise, so that it is logically possible for someone else to fulfill Christ’s role or indeed to go beyond it. Apart from this problem, Strauß had gone as far as he could go in rehabilitating the figure of Jesus in his new pagan religion. Jesus was not only a religious genius, the highest form of genius, but he was also the genius for the highest religion, which is Christianity. That, Strauß firmly believed, should be enough to make Jesus a figure of veneration, even without his traditional metaphysical attributes. It was precisely in clearing away these metaphysical attributes, Strauß believed, that we can see Jesus pure and simple, that we can rescue him from the criticism of these attributes. Finally now we can venerate Jesus for what he really is, the genius who is the founder of Christianity, the most spiritual of all religions. Such was Strauß’s new pagan gospel. But his gesture of reconciliation was abruptly rejected. The Christian public made it very plain they were not ready to worship a mere genius; however great his powers, he was still human. They wanted to worship a divine Christ who resided in a supernatural realm, and who was ready to forgive them their sins. Strauß soon realized that his strategy was a mistake, that trying to meet the public half way would not satisfy them, and that it was too much of a compromise for him. Sure enough, he eventually disowned the essay, refusing to include it in his collected works.

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10 The Zurich Affair 10.1 Hopes for Zurich The deep personal crisis in which Strauß found himself in Stuttgart eventually forced him to look for some “office,” for some place in the world. The office he had conceived for himself was a university professorship in theology. This was what he was trained for, and this is where his interests and abilities lay. Treitschke made fun of Strauß’s search for a theology professorship: this was like Luther asking for himself and his wife Katherina to be made superintendents of the Augustinian order.¹ But Strauß, however heterodox his beliefs, did not conceive himself as an atheist or materialist; he still placed his beliefs within the Christian tradition. Why not, then, a theology position? Strauß thought that he would give the church just the broad and liberal vistas that it needed. The crucial question was: Where could that position be? Since there was no position for Strauß in Württemberg, it was necessary to look beyond its borders. He had already looked at Bern, Baden, and Heidelberg, but to no avail. There was still one place to which Strauß looked with great interest: Zurich in Switzerland. In the early 1830s, Switzerland was a much more liberal country than Germany; the July Revolution had been more successful there and many of the radicals were in positions of power. Zurich was a prime example of the new liberal order in Switzerland. The radicals were in control of the city council and they had begun a series of reforms in the canton. Among these reforms was a new university, which had been founded in 1832. It had some of its greatest talents in the theology faculty, most of them political refugees from Germany. Because of its liberal reputation, and because of its eminent theology faculty, Strauß looked upon Zurich as the ideal place for himself. If only some prominent person there could speak in his behalf. As it happened, there was one such person: Ferdinand Hitzig (1811–88), professor of theology at Zurich since 1833. As the cousin of Gustav Binder, Strauß’s close friend, Hitzig was well-informed about Strauß’s fate and took an interest in him. He recognized Strauß’s great talents and believed that he had been poorly treated by the elders of the Tübinger Stift. A gross injustice had been done to Strauß, Hitzig believed, and he felt it his duty to rectify it. Starting in spring

¹ Heinrich von Treitschke, Deutsche Geschichte im 19 Jahrhundert (Leipzig: Hirzel, 1889), IV, 491. David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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1836, Hitzig, along with the philologist Orelli, tried to recruit Strauß for the theology faculty in Zurich. The professorship for church history and dogmatics had become available and Strauß seemed to be the ideal candidate for the post. Strauß’s application quickly ran into determined opposition in the theology faculty. Many professors felt that Strauß’s book showed that he was not suitable to be a teacher of future clerics. If he did not believe in the dogmas, how could he teach them to his students? In June 1836 there was a vote among the faculty regarding Strauß’s appointment; it went fifteen to four against him. The Schleiermacherian Eduard Elwert, another Swabian, got the job. Strauß was disappointed in the result, but he was not discouraged. He wrote Hitzig on October 10, 1836 to thank him for all his support, and told him: “It seems that now is not the time that something like this would work for me.”² But that was to leave open the possibility that the time might come. Though Strauß was defeated, he still had hope. There were indeed signs that he might have a future in Zurich after all. Strauß’s application turned out to be no mere academic affair. It aroused enormous interest among the public, both hostile and sympathetic. Strauß had many supporters in Zurich, most of them outside the theology faculty. During an academic festival in August, a toast was drunk to Strauß’s health, which was said to be “a deed not seen since the days of the French Revolution.”³ But the conservatives in the city, university, and canton were alarmed at the very thought of Strauß’s appointment. His reputation had reached Switzerland, where his name was known “in every hut.” An anonymous tract appeared—Laienworte über die Hegel-Straußische Christologie—warning that Strauß’s philosophy would corrupt the young and undermine the faith of the people.⁴ Strauß taught that religion would soon disappear, and he encouraged the youth to live “an easy life” without the constraints of law or religion.⁵ To understand why Strauß’s application had such importance, we must place it in its political context. In 1831 a radical government had come to power in Zurich and had embarked on an ambitious program of reforms. Law, the school system, the economy, and taxes were all modernized. But the aristocracy and peasantry resisted many of the reforms, with the fiercest resistance coming from the clergy, who feared that the radicals would institute a religion of reason like that of the French Revolution. Because of the strong resistance, the reform of the church had stalled. The radicals therefore sought a leader to give new impetus and legitimacy

² See A. Hausrath, “Briefe von Strauß an Hitzig,” in David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit (Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1876), I, Anhang IV, 15. ³ Ibid., I, 345. ⁴ Anon, Laienworte über die Hegel-Straußische Christologie (Zurich: Orell, Füßli und Compagne, 1836). The author was Hans-Georg N€ageli, a member of the Zurich board of education or Erziehungsrat. ⁵ Ibid., pp 10, 31.

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to their program of reform. Their ideal candidate for that role was, of course, David Friedrich Strauß. It was no accident that all the leading radicals behind church reform in Zurich—Hitzig, Orelli, and Hirzel—were strong supporters of Strauß. It was just for this reason that the clergy were so opposed to Strauß. His theology was offensive, of course, but it was not so dangerous as his prospective role as a church reformer. Hence, under the motto “the church in danger,” the clergy went on a campaign to rouse the public against Strauß’s appointment. They knew that, sooner or later, there would be future appointments in the theology faculty; and they had to be prepared to fight Strauß’s many and powerful supporters. Thus Strauß’s appointment, through no fault of his own, had become a political football. The burning question among the Zurichers was who would control their church, the radicals under Strauß or the traditional clergy. Strauß was well aware of the political connotations of his appointment; but for just this reason he was eager to stand apart from the struggle. He assured the Zurichers that, if he were appointed, he would not interfere with their church and he would respect their traditional faith.⁶ But, as we shall soon see, these reassurances were all in vain. The opportunity for a new appointment came soon enough. In November 1836 the old rationalist Schultheß of the Zurich theology faculty died, leaving open his position in practical theology and exegesis. This position was not as attractive as the earlier one because it did not offer the same pay and status. It was only for an extraordinarius and only for 800, at best 1200, francs per annum. Still, Hitzig wrote Strauß whether he would be interested in the position. Strauß’s reply was not enthusiastic.⁷ This would mean a drop in the income he could receive as an author; and he was in the middle of writing his Streitschriften, which he did not want to interrupt with academic duties. Yet, on second thoughts, Strauß told Hitzig that he was interested after all. He was attracted by the idea that, as he put it, “My employment in a theological professorship would be an event for the whole critical direction in theology.” That was Strauß’s vanity speaking; but his self-interest had a say too. He told Hitzig that he would consider an offer from Zurich provided that it did not disadvantage him, and provided that he did not have to accept conditions less than those offered to Prof. Elwert. In closing, Strauß pleaded with Hitzig to make things less public than the last time so that it could be kept out of the reach of newspapers. But in this respect Hitzig proved powerless. The opposition got wind of Strauß’s second application and already mobilized themselves. A pastor in St€afa put together a little collection of opinions on Strauß, entitled Stimmen der deutsche Kirche über

⁶ See “Die Annahmeschreiben von Strauß,” February 18, 1839, in Hausrath, Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, Anhang VI, 27–8. ⁷ See Strauß to Hitzig, in Hausrath, Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, I, Anhang IV, pp. 15–17.

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Doctor Strauß, which consisted in nasty gems from Ullmann, Weiße, Neander, and the like.⁸ Despite or because of such voices, Strauß reconsidered again. Only three weeks after stating that he would consider an offer, Strauß wrote Hitzig on January 31 to tell him that he would accept it only if he were to receive the salary of a full ordinary professor.⁹ He knew that under the circumstances this was as good as declining the offer. Now Strauß’s self-respect was speaking. Receiving a lesser salary than an ordinary professor was to lower his own worth, and as a result his self-esteem. Accepting the lesser salary, Strauß could foresee, was a recipe for “discontent.” Despite his virtual withdrawal, Hitzig took the matter to the faculty anyway, who voted on it on February 25, 1837. Strauß’s insistence on a higher salary killed his chances, just as he foresaw. The faculty voted, nearly unanimously, to appoint Otto Fridolin Fritzsche to the post.

10.2 Apparent Success and Disaster And so the matter rested for a while, until the summer of 1838. Then Elwert had fallen ill and had to retire, so that the position Strauß originally applied for was now open again. This time Strauß eagerly pursued the opportunity, and promptly wrote Hitzig to tell him that he was definitely interested.¹⁰ He admitted he had to apply “out of a duty of spiritual self-preservation”: “I cannot suffer a life without immediate intellectual stimulation or activity; it cripples me.” Now the struggle could begin in earnest again. The discussions on Strauß’s appointment dragged on through the winter of 1838/9. Hitzig defended Strauß on the grounds that his mythical approach had been vindicated and had been widely accepted since the publication of the first edition of Das Leben Jesu. Hitzig also emphasized the changes in the third edition of Strauß’s book and stressed that Strauß was moving toward a more positive conception of the personality of Jesus. If Strauß were only given the post, this would have a further moderating influence on him, Hitzig argued, because it would force him to develop the positive side of his thinking. Strauß’s opponents were not at all convinced by these arguments. Alexander Schweitzer, the leader of the opposition, contended that it was unwise to give a chair for the Christian faith to a freethinker who had become notorious for casting it into doubt. The announced changes in Strauß’s thinking were also barely visible, he complained, because even in the third edition of Das Leben Jesu the same basic critical attitude toward Christianity prevailed. Deacon Füßli, the leader of the Zurich clergy, proclaimed against Strauß’s view of Jesus: “A savior who stands on

⁸ Ibid., I, 345–6.

⁹ Ibid., I, Anhang IV, p. 17.

¹⁰ Ibid., I, Anhang IV, p. 18.

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the same bench as Napoleon and Phidias is one the Christians of Zurich do not need.”¹¹ Finally, on January 26, 1839, the Erziehungsrat, or education council, met to decide the issue. The vote was tied, seven for Strauß and seven for his competitor, Albert Landerer, a conservative theologian from Württemberg. Fortunately, Hitzig, as mayor and chair of the committee, had the deciding vote. He broke the tie, so the case was decided in favor of Strauß. Hitzig wrote Strauß to tell him the happy news. Yet this was only the first hurdle. The case still had to be referred to the Großer Rat, or general council of citizens, before it reached the Regierungsrat, or government council, which would have the ultimate vote. Now the whole matter became highly contentious because the general council included not only academics but also members of the public, many of whom, especially the clergy, were hotly opposed to Strauß’s appointment. Much was at stake. Both radical and conservative factions could see that the appointment would mean a drastic reform of the Zurich church; but the radicals were as passionately for the reform as the conservatives were against it. On January 31 the general council met to debate whether to approve the decision of the Erziehungsrat. The debate lasted for hours and went on well into the night. Füßli brought forth a motion that, in the general council, the church should have the right to vote in personal matters affecting it. Since the church council was overwhelmingly opposed to Strauß, it was understood that an approval of the motion would mean the defeat of Strauß. It was widely expected that the general council would overturn the decision of the Erziehungsrat. But when it came to the vote, Füßli’s motion was defeated. The general council endorsed the decision of the Erziehungsrat by a vote of ninetyeight to forty-nine. On February 2 the Regierungsrat endorsed the decision of the Großer Rat by a vote of fifteen to three. In other words: Strauß had won! He was to be appointed professor with a salary of 2000 francs. Or so it seemed. No sooner had the decision been made than the opposition started to organize itself. From all the pulpits in the land the alarm was sounded with the refrain “Religion is in danger!” Protests were organized, petitions were written, and committees were formed. In more words or less, the government was threatened: retract the appointment or face revolution. Though it tried to moderate the storm of protest, the government backed down and decided to postpone the appointment. Strauß’s supporters pushed back, but they found that they were suddenly fewer in number. The Erziehungsrat, in a further sign of weakness, asked one of the protest committees to appear before it; they were asked—as if they did not know the answer—whether Strauß should be retired even before taking up his post.

¹¹ Ibid., I, 359.

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Strauß was fully informed of all these developments taking place in Zurich. At first he greeted the news with cautious optimism. On February 4 he wrote Hitzig that he would “warmly accept” the appointment if it were formally offered.¹² He wrote Vischer only five days later that he would go to Zurich, though he still did not know exactly when.¹³ All the “Parteiwuth” there did not trouble him, not least because he was told the uproar was settling down. Someday, he told Vischer, they would see one another in Switzerland! On February 18 Strauß wrote a formal letter to Hirzel, the mayor of Zurich, to accept the offer of the professorship.¹⁴ He was confident that he would have little difficulty in reassuring the citizens of Zurich that he had no intention of disturbing their faith. But in writing his acceptance letter Strauß did not know that his appointment was already doomed. No sooner had he posted his letter than he heard some very disturbing news. The very next day, on February 19, he wrote Vischer: “In Zurich it is as bad as possible, and I regard everything as lost.”¹⁵ This was extraordinary testimony, given that only the day before he accepted the offer. The explanation of the mystery is rather banal: Strauß had received a letter from Hitzig about the mounting resistance to his appointment after he wrote his February 18 letter. He had been away in Ludwigsburg to visit his sick mother. As soon as he received Hitzig’s letter on February 20, he wrote back to say that he would wait for his advice about what to do regarding the “storms” in Zurich.”¹⁶ He found the situation there very worrisome, though he still hoped that things would settle down. While the agitation in Zurich grew, Strauß’s supporters there convinced him to make a plea on his own behalf, which, they hoped, might have a calming effect. Strauß reluctantly complied, writing an open letter to his chief supporters, Hirzel, Orelli, and Hitzig, which he finished on March 1.¹⁷ It has been rightly said that this was an ill-considered move, which only “poured more oil on the fire.”¹⁸ The letter was unlikely to pacify the protesters, who would have seen it as confirmation of their worst suspicions. A preface was added by Orelli which was directed to ordinary citizens, asking them patiently to hear out what Strauß had to say and to discuss it with their pastors. This was a prudent move; but, unfortunately, Strauß undermined it. His own letter is directed to his supporters, with whom he sympathizes for how they have been treated by the Zurich “mob.” Strauß then ¹² Ibid., I, Anhang IV, 19. ¹³ Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe von David Friedrich Strauß, ed. Eduard Zeller (Bonn: Emil Strauß, 1895), p. 79. ¹⁴ Hausrath, Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, I, Anhang IV, 27–8. ¹⁵ Ibid., p. 80. ¹⁶ Ibid., I, Anhang IV, 20. ¹⁷ David Friedrich Strauß, Sendschreiben an die Bürgermeister Hirzel, Professor Orelli und Professor Hitzig in Zürich, Zweite rechtm€aßige Auflage (Zurich: Orell, Füßli und Compagnie, 1839). ¹⁸ As Harris puts it, David Friedrich Strauss and his Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974), p. 129. Ziegler and Hausrath agree about the effect of the open letter. Cf. Ziegler, David Friedrich Strauß (Straßburg: Karl Trübner, 1908), I, 302–3 and Hausrath, Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, I, 383–5.

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goes on to describe his “new view of Christianity,” which was more likely to alarm than mollify his opponents. “The old Christian faith,” Strauß says categorically, consists in nothing but myths. Their untenability becomes more apparent with every new decade, he says.¹⁹ No one with a modern view of the world can believe them. Those who believe literally in miracles have no understanding of the natural order of things. Strauß then compares the attitude of the Zurich clergy toward his new version of Christianity to the English Luddites’ attitude toward the new machinery.²⁰ They will eventually get used to it, just as the Luddites now accept these new inventions. This open letter, filled with condescending remarks, was more than enough to give the Zurich clergy a taste of what awaited them if Strauß and the radicals were to take over the church. Not surprisingly, the flames of dissent grew only higher. The reaction to Strauß’s tract was contempt and damnation. In one of his more foolish remarks Strauß expressed his reluctance to explain himself before the Zurich public by saying that he did not want to throw “the gems of religious conviction” before “the agitated masses.” He was alluding to the biblical saying of throwing pearls before swine. Picking up on this reference, Deacon Füßli, in a speech before the great council, said that Strauß had compared Zurich citizens to swine. He retorted: “No, when a Swabian comes before our people with such rubbish, then the people will say to him: keep your pearls!”²¹ The whole affair drew rapidly to a climax. The protesters had organized themselves into committees, who preached the gospel “religion in danger” throughout the canton. “Doctor Strauß must and should be dismissed” was the battle cry. The central committee had written a petition, which was to be submitted to the Regierungsrat, demanding retraction of the offer to Strauß, the cessation of all activity on his behalf, and the employment of a more orthodox professor in his place. The committee made it clear that complying with their demands was a necessary condition of peace, and that the government would be responsible for whatever happened should it refuse their demands.²² On March 10 the petition was taken to the great council, where it was put to the vote. The motion was passed by a majority of 39,225 for and 1048 against. Virtually a fifth of eligible voters in Zurich had voted, and their voice was resoundingly clear. It was a crushing defeat for the radicals and Strauß. After the March 10 vote, the government could only surrender. Hirzel bravely tried to save Strauß’s appointment by offering to create a second post for a more traditional professor to balance Strauß’s radical views. But, when put to the vote, this motion did not pass. Since Strauß had been officially offered the position, and since he had accepted it, the government could honorably dismiss him only by offering him a pension of 1000 francs. Remarkably, the motion to pay the pension

¹⁹ Ibid., 12.

²⁰ Ibid., 9–10, 22.

²¹ As told in ibid., I, 385.

²² Ibid., I, 378.

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was approved even by Strauß’s enemies, who regarded this as a small price to pay for the souls of Zurich parishioners. They later suggested that, if Strauß were honorable, he would refuse the pension. After all, he had done nothing to deserve it; and, in any case, he did not need it because of his income as an author. Remarkably, Strauß did claim the pension. In a long letter he wrote to the Zurich Erziehungsrat,²³ he explained his reasons for doing so. That he did not need the money was not relevant; the question was whether he had a right to it. And it was clear to Strauß that he did have such a right. Of course, he had done no service to Zurich; but that was not his fault but that of the committees. He could claim that 1000 francs was barely adequate compensation for the damage to his reputation caused by the baseless slanders of his opponents; but he would not make that argument because the slanders would only damage the reputation of those who made them. The more important point was that he deserved compensation because, had Zurich not pursued him, he could have received an offer from some other German university. Now after all that happened in Zurich any such opportunity was lost. Every German government would have second thoughts about employing him. It was a compelling argument, but only because it failed to mention a basic fact: that no government in Germany would hire Strauß even before the events in Zurich. As it happened, Strauß did get the money; but he gave it to a fund for the poor in Ludwigsburg. After the Zurich affair, Strauß abandoned all hopes for a position in the world as a professor. He now learned a bitter lesson: it is futile trying to compromise or placate the church. There could be only one response to those who conspired against him: unremitting, uncompromising war.

10.3 Schleiermacher and Daub In November 1838, after the publication of Zwei friedliche Bl€ atter, and in the midst of all the strife in Zurich, Strauß summoned the will and energy to embark upon another theological project.²⁴ This was a comparison between two recent theologians: Friedrich Schleiermacher (1756–1836) and Karl Daub (1765–1836). Strauß chose these figures to pay tribute to them. Both had recently died and deserved a fitting monument. They also represented for him opposing poles of contemporary theology: Schleiermacher stood for its “subjective” pole and Daub its “objective.”²⁵ (What exactly these adjectives mean we shall soon see.) A study ²³ “Erkl€arung,” in Hausrath, Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, Anhang VIII, 31–4. ²⁴ See Strauß to Vischer, November 22, 1838, and November 26, 1838, in Briefwechsel zwischen Strauβ und Vischer, ed. Adolf Rapp (Stuttgart: Ernst Klett Verlag, 1952), I, 72, 74. See also to Georgii, December 24, 1838, Briefe von David Friedrich Strauss an L. Georgii, ed. Heinrich Maier (Tübingen: Mohr, 1912), p. 25. ²⁵ See Strauß to Rapp, December 20, 1838, Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe, p. 74.

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of them would therefore give Strauß a good idea of the extent and issues facing contemporary theology. Though Schleiermacher and Daub represent opposing poles of thought, Strauß accuses both of one fatal flaw: the failure to recognize and appreciate the power of critical rationality. There were also more personal reasons for undertaking this project. Most probably, Strauß began it to help himself recover from the personal crisis of the previous year. He needed to show himself that he could still work on theology, and that he was still au fait in the field. After all, if things only worked out in Zurich, he soon would be a professor of theology. Working on the two main contemporary theologians would be good preparation for that profession. Whatever his reasons for it, the experiment succeeded. It was from working on this essay, he told Rapp, that he was able to tell himself he was still a theologian and not indifferent to its proceedings. “You are right,” he wrote, “nothing can cure me more than work.”²⁶ The eventual product of these labors of convalescence was the weighty essay “Schleiermacher und Daub in ihrer Bedeutung für die Theologie unserer Zeit,” which was first published in 1839.²⁷ Though often neglected,²⁸ “Schleiermacher und Daub” is important in Strauß’s philosophical development. It is here that Strauß reveals his attitude toward Schleiermacher’s theology, which was, on so many points, the direct antithesis of, and main alternative to, Hegel’s theology. It is also here that Strauß states, more explicitly than anywhere else, the shortcomings of romantic or speculative theology. Finally, here too is the birthplace of ideas central to Strauß’s own forthcoming Glaubenslehre. Strauß’s essay is divided into three parts. The first part treats Schleiermacher’s main works from his 1799 Reden über die Religion to his 1821 Der christliche Glaube.²⁹ The second part, which is the longest in the essay, examines Daub’s main writings from his 1801 Lehrbuch der Katechtik to his 1833 Die dogmatische Theologie jetziger Zeit.³⁰ In the first two parts Strauß’s method is historical, examining the intellectual development of both authors through the lenses of their main works. The third part is a comparison of both authors and a consideration of their meaning for contemporary theology.

²⁶ Ibid. ²⁷ It was first published in the Hallische Jahrbücher, February–March 1839, Nr. 13–17, pp. 97–102, 105–36; and Nr. 39–48, pp. 305–7, 313–82; and in Charakteristiken und Kritiken: Eine Sammlung zerstreuter Aufs€ atze aus den Gebieten der Theologie, Anthropologie und Aesthetik (Leipzig: Otto Wigand, 1839), pp. 3–212. All references in parentheses will be to the latter edition. ²⁸ Hausrath neglected the essay; Harris dispatched it in one paragraph. But Ziegler, who also devoted little attention to the essay, wrote that “Sie [die Abhandlung] gehört zum Feinsten und Tiefsten, was Strauß geschrieben hat.” See his David Friedrich Strauß, II, 327. ²⁹ Friedrich Daniel Schleiermacher, Über die Religion: Reden an die Gebildeten unter ihren Ver€ achtern (Berlin: Unger, 1799); and Der christliche Glaube (Berlin: Reimer, 1821). ³⁰ Karl Daub, Lehrbuch der Katechtik (Frankfurt: August Herman, 1801); and Die dogmatische Theologie jetziger Zeit (Heidelberg: Mohr, 1833).

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Why did Strauß choose to write so much about Daub? Strauß asked himself this question some twenty years later.³¹ Even in his own day Daub was a neglected thinker whose influence did not extend beyond a small circle of students in Heidelberg. His writings were notoriously obscure and challenging, even for the most determined and devoted reader. Furthermore, Daub was not the intellectual equal of Schleiermacher, so that it seemed odd to compare the two; the comparison seemed appropriate only if one saw Hegel standing behind Daub. Whatever his retrospective regrets, Strauß had good reasons to examine Daub. He represented perfectly the strengths and weaknesses of romantic speculative theology, which was the right foil for Schleiermacher’s views. Strauß knew all too well that Daub was not a weaker or lesser version of Hegel, because his main philosophical works—his Theologumena (1806) and Judas Ischariot (1816–18)—were influenced by Schelling rather than Hegel. It is these Schellingian views of Daub which attract most of Strauß’s attention. One other reason moved Strauß to write about Daub: it was not despite but because of his obscurity. Like his great model, Lessing, Strauß made it his cause to rescue forgotten figures from undeserved oblivion. The section on Daub was therefore a classic Lessingian Rettung, even if it never announced itself as such. Writing about Schleiermacher needed no explanation. “Schleiermacher is the Kant of Protestant theology,” Strauß wrote in some memorable lines (205). It was in many respects an accurate comparison. Schleiermacher represented the critical, reformative spirit in theology just as Kant did in philosophy. Just as Kant smashed the foundations of the old Wolffian dogmatism, so Schleiermacher did the same to the old theological scholasticism. What Kant had done against dogmatism and skepticism in philosophy, so Schleiermacher did against supernaturalism and rationalism in theology. Both thinkers also placed the subject at the center of their intellectual universes. For Schleiermacher it was the feeling subject, for Kant the knowing subject. How did Schleiermacher and Daub represent opposing poles of theology? This statement, not at all obvious, is the key to Strauß’s understanding of these figures. He explains his meaning best in the final paragraphs of Part 2. Both Schleiermacher and Daub accepted, he writes, the main intellectual principle of their age, which is “the absolute concept.” This was the principle that Hegel stated in the preface to his Ph€ anomenologie des Geistes: that the absolute is not only substance but also subject. The absolute is substance in Spinoza’s sense; but it is also subject in that it possesses the two decisive characteristics of subjectivity: freedom and self-consciousness. Of these two poles of the absolute, Schleiermacher stands for the subjective one and Daub the objective one. Schleiermacher represents the subjective pole because he stressed the centrality

³¹ See Strauß to Vischer, February 7, 1858, in Briefwechsel, II, 139.

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of the feeling subject in his theology; Daub represents the objective pole because he emphasized the primacy of substance, the existence of one universal whole of which everything is only a mode. The best theology, Strauß maintains, will be one where both poles are balanced and given equal weight. Neither Schleiermacher nor Daub have succeeded in doing this, he maintains. What is the main flaw of Schleiermacher’s theology? It is for Strauß his rigid and dogmatic separation between philosophy and theology. Schleiermacher insisted upon such a separation because he placed the essence of religion in feeling, which cannot be expressed in the concepts, judgments, and syllogisms characteristic of philosophy. Reduce the feeling of religion down to concepts, judgments, and syllogisms, Schleiermacher warned, and you miss what is characteristic about religion. Strauß thinks that Schleiermacher keeps this distinction only by paying a terrible price. Because Schleiermacher pushes all philosophy out of theology, he runs into difficulties in justifying his system of dogmatics. He provides an admirable systematic exposition of the chief dogmas of Christianity, showing which are primary and how other dogmas depend upon them. But simply showing the internal structure of the dogmas, Strauß insists, does not provide a demonstration of their truth (51–2). While Schleiermacher has no difficulty in justifying the form of the dogmas—in showing their coherence and interdependence—he cannot demonstrate anything about their content (159, 161). As soon as he tries to provide such a demonstration, he must fall back on the concepts, judgments, and syllogisms of philosophy, which he wants to avoid at all costs. Of course, Schleiermacher would reject this argument. He felt that the intuitions and feelings characteristic of religion have an immediate certainty, and that they therefore do not require the discursive media of concepts, judgments, and syllogisms to demonstrate their truth. What an individual feels is an experience, and as such it is no matter for demonstration or refutation any more than anything I see or hear. The taste of an orange, the tone of a sound, the softness of silk—these are matters that simply have to be tasted, heard, and touched; they cannot be demonstrated or refuted; it is a matter of perceiving what is there. And so similarly for my feeling of dependence upon, and my feeling of love for, the whole universe, Schleiermacher would add. These too have to be felt or experienced; conception, judgment, and demonstration play no role here. Strauß, however, is not impressed by these points. It is just a basic lesson of logic, he notes, that we cannot derive any universally valid proposition from experience; but the dogmas of religion claim to be such propositions (159). The universal validity of the proposition never follows from the data of experience, no matter how much data there might be. Of course, we can feel that Christ is our redeemer; but this feeling by itself does not prove that he is our redeemer. The problem is that any such claim goes beyond the content of feeling itself. It implies, for example, that belief in Christ will save our soul, remove the stain of sin, and so

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on. What we get from experience, Strauß suggests, is very much a matter of what we read into it in the first place. We experience something because a proposition is valid; but the proposition is not valid because we have an experience of it (159). For similar reasons, Strauß contests Schleiermacher’s famous formulae for the essence of religion. These were “intuition of the universe” in the Reden,³² or “feeling of dependence on the universe” in the Glaubenslehre.³³ But these phrases are misleading, Strauß maintains, because we really cannot ever have such an intuition or such a feeling. We can never have an experience of the universe as a whole, because it cannot ever be an object of feeling (163). The objects of feeling are particular things in our environment, not the universe of which they are only parts. Schleiermacher tries to get around this point by insisting that all particular things are internally connected, so that when we experience one we experience all. But Strauß replies that the other particular things are only implicitly in our consciousness, that they are not an immediate object of awareness. When we connect the immediate contents of consciousness with others, we do so only through inference, through a chain of reasoning (164). Hegel had famously objected to Schleiermacher’s formulae on the grounds that even a dog can have such feelings of dependence. Strauß called this Hegel’s argumentem a cane. He admits that there is something scurrilous about such a refutation. However, as it stands, it is not valid, he thought, because Schleiermacher was referring to a specific kind of feeling of dependence, one found among humans alone (153). Schleiermacher’s theory was more complicated than Hegel made it out to be. There is not only a quantitative dimension of feeling—its intensity and duration—but also a qualitative one in Schleiermacher’s account. Its qualitative dimension depends on how it affects and connects with self-consciousness, on how its energy is directed and focused upon objects. Fetishism, polytheism, and monotheism, for example, are simply different kinds of feeling depending on how the subject focuses its attention, whether on one particular object, on many objects, or on one universal object. Despite noting the greater nuance and complication of Schleiermacher’s theory, Strauß still does not think that it avoids all reference to thinking. Although feeling accompanies these various kinds of religion, it still does not cause them (154). It is not feeling but thinking, Strauß insists, that moves us from one, to many, or to all objects. Feeling by itself is too inchoate and indeterminate to determine the specific nature of its object. Schleiermacher insisted that the essence of any object of feeling is its standard of perfection, which measures the rising or falling of feeling about it. But this standard of perfection, Strauß claimed, has to be formulated by thinking rather than feeling (155).

³² Reden, p. 55.

³³ Der christliche Glaube, I, 33, §9.

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Strauß insisted that Schleiermacher’s attempt to avoid philosophy in his theology was as artificial as it was futile. It was necessary to ask whether the propositions of his Glaubenslehre were concepts rendered into feelings or if they were feelings rendered into concepts. That a good measure of his book was really philosophy becomes apparent, Strauß argues, when one notes the profound affinity of its doctrines with Spinoza’s Ethica. Schleiermacher never admitted this affinity; but it was apparent to any reader familiar with Spinoza. And to remind his readers, Strauß cites many passages from the Ethica to bring out the affinity. Noting the connection with Spinoza makes the content of Schleiermacher’s treatise so much more comprehensible, because one does not have to take so seriously and literally all the rigmarole overlaying it, which tries to disguise a philosophical proposition as if it were a feeling. Even Schleiermacher’s distinction between philosophy and theology, Strauß pointed out, had a Spinozian precedent (170).³⁴ What was the chief shortcoming of Daub’s theology? Strauß puts his finger on the main problem in the final section of his essay: it is the absence of critique (205). Daub himself wrote much about criticism, and, especially in his late period, he insisted upon incorporating it into theology. Die dogmatische Theologie jetziger Zeit, his last major work, was regarded as the greatest critique of dogmatic theology in his era (123). Because of the demand for criticism, Daub insisted that the traditional sources of ecclesiastical authority—the Bible and church— could not serve as criteria of the faith. Yet Strauß still finds something half-hearted and incomplete in Daub’s appeals to criticism. Daub claims that complete doubt leads to the negation of doubt, to the negation of the negation, which leads to a positive result, which is the restoration of dogma (145)! Daub thus leaves the content of faith still standing; he eliminates only its traditional forms, the appeals to Scripture or church authority. But true criticism, Strauß insists, should be directed against not only the form but also the content of faith (145). This was the same criticism that Strauß once directed against the right Hegelians. It was a point that he will develop more fully as his skepticism toward Christianity grew.³⁵ The lack of a critical spirit in Daub is most evident, Strauß thinks, in his defense of miracles. In his earlier work, most notably his Katechetik, where he was most influenced by Kant, Daub denied the possibility of miracles; but in his later work, starting with his Judas Ischariot,³⁶ he argues for their necessity. Daub now declared that there are three basic miracles: 1) the self-creation of God; 2) the origin of time and becoming; and 3) the origin of the unnatural and irrational. All ³⁴ Strauß is referring to the preface of the Tractatus theological-politicus. See Spinoza, Opera. Werke, eds. Günter Gawlick and Friedrich Niewöhner (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgeselleschaft, 1989), I, 16–19. ³⁵ See chapter 13, section 13.1. ³⁶ Karl Daub, Judas Ischariot oder B€ ose im Verh€ altnis zum Guten (Heidelberg: Mohr und Winter, 1816).

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rational explanation stops before these miracles, because it presupposes the creation of the world, the existence of time and becoming. Judas Ischariot, Strauß wrote, was the most gnostic of all Daub’s works. It showed all the traits of a full-flown gnosticism: the personification of fictions, the fantastic conversion of the abstract into the concrete, and, in a word, fetishism. This gives the book a creepy quality, he says, as if in reading it we see the devil grinning at us. But this gnosticism is a perfect symptom of the absence of criticism, Strauß contends, because criticism was always intended as a therapy against hypostases. All throughout his Judas Ischariot, Strauß notes, there is “an annoyance with critique” (Verstimmung gegen die Kritik), which culminates in Daub’s claim that the source of doubt lies in egoism (120). The faithful surrenders and banishes all such doubt—and with it criticism. Speculative theology in Daub’s hands does not think that it needs to purify itself through criticism because it attains a universal perspective, seeing everything sub specie aeternitatis; it is, as if like an eagle, one can fly over all the little difficulties and blemishes pointed out by criticism. But this flight, Strauß insists, is merely a delusion, a dream. In his last work, his Prolegomena zur Dogmatik,³⁷ Daub defended the necessity of miracles from a more radical viewpoint. He admitted that miracles are physically, morally, and historically impossible, and that they have the judgment of the understanding against them (189). Nevertheless, he still insisted that there are miracles and that we should believe in them. This was a return to the old dictum of Tertullian, credo quia absurdum. But Daub gave a new twist to it, because he insisted that the very essence of religion consists in the belief in miracles, which are irrational and incomprehensible. Religion, he explains, consists in the attempt to synthesize ideas and facts; but such a synthesis of contraries—of supernatural and noumenal ideas with natural and phenomenal facts—is nothing less than a miracle itself because it is inconceivable according to the intellect (191). The middle term between ideas and facts is nothing less than a miracle. The prime case of such a miracle is for Daub the figure of Christ, who unites the divine and human, the supernatural and natural, the ideal and the real, in one person. Daub argued that the incarnation was the central, decisive miracle of Christianity; but if this were so, the skeptic who banished miracles had ipso facto denounced the incarnation itself. Strauß admits Daub’s point that the idea of the incarnation, understood as the realization of the divine in one individual, is indeed a miracle; but this, he contends, is a reason for rejecting rather than accepting this idea. Daub’s arguments for miracles is circular: we must accept miracles because it is a miracle that God reveals himself in Christ. But what if we do not accept the miracle of Christ in the first place (193)?

³⁷ Vorlesungen über die Prolegomena zur Dogmatik (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1839).

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For all the shortcomings of Daub’s theology, Strauß derived some benefit from studying it, and most notably from his Der dogmatische Theologie jetztiger Zeit. Karl Rosenkranz characterized this work as a kind of “Ph€anomenologie der Dogmatik” because it criticized all positions in modern theology. Daub acted like the cicerone for the reader who took him through all the stages of hell (123, 128). This was the model for Strauß’s own forthcoming Glaubenslehre, which would also subject the whole history of theology to searching criticism. Strauß’s work too would be a “Ph€anomenologie der Dogmatik.” But it would be that in the true and proper sense of the word, because Daub left the content of the dogmas in place whereas Strauß was planning on subjecting them to criticism.

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11 The Doctrine of the Christian Faith 11.1 An Apostate’s Compendium After Das Leben Jesu, the most important work Strauß wrote in theology was his Die christliche Glaubenslehre,¹ which appeared in 1840–1.² Although this later work had none of the influence or success of the earlier one, some regard it as more important.³ It is not difficult to see why. Das Leben Jesu had a limited focus and agenda. Its aim was to consider the historical evidence for the claims to revelation in the four gospels of the New Testament. The Glaubenslehre, however, has a much more ambitious goal: to examine all the essential and characteristic doctrines of Christianity; in other words, it brought under scrutiny the whole extent of Christian dogma. While Das Leben Jesu left Christian dogmas still standing, even if it deprived them of their historical basis, Die christliche Glaubenslehre examines these dogmas themselves, which it often finds lacking any foundation, historical or rational. If the public found reason to complain about the negative results of Das Leben Jesu, which had annihilated the claims for revelation, they had much more reason to protest against the negative results of the Glaubenslehre, which left few Christian doctrines intact. Strauß’s Glaubenslehre raises many puzzles, which begin with the very title of the book. If Strauß is so skeptical of Christian doctrine, why does he call his book Die christliche Glaubenslehre? That title seems more appropriate for a theological compendium, a book which teaches theology students what they are expected to preach as clerics. This first impression is not entirely inaccurate. Strauß’s book was probably originally conceived as the basis for his planned theology lectures in Zurich, where he would have been teaching future pastors.⁴ But, when he was denied the professorship there, Strauß had to abandon those plans. Still, the title ¹ David Friedrich Strauß, Die christliche Glaubenslehre (Tübingen: F. C. Osiander, 1840), 2 vols. All references in parentheses are to the volume and page numbers of this edition. “§” indicates a paragraph number, which are consecutive throughout both volumes. ² The first volume appeared in September 1840; the second volume appeared in June 1841. ³ T. Ziegler, David Friedrich Strauß (Straßburg: Trübner, 1908), II, 354–5, 360. ⁴ This rests on circumstantial evidence. In June 1838 Strauß had his greatest and most realistic hopes for a position in Zurich. After Hitzig wrote him that the position had again become available as an ordinarius, he replied on June 14, 1838 that this time he would definitely apply for the post because his life without employment was “crippling” him. See A. Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit (Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1876), I, Anhang IV, p. 18. Several months thereafter we find the first clear evidence that Strauß was planning “eine große wissenschaftliche Arbeit.” See Strauß to Vischer, November 26, 1838, Briefwechsel zwischen Strauss und Vischer, ed. Adolf Rapp David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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remained. Strauß probably kept it because it indicated, accurately enough, the subject matter of the book; what it disguised, however, was his new attitude toward it. The Zurich affair had left Strauß in a desperate and depressing situation. It had now become clear to him that he would never become a theology professor; his reputation as an “antichrist” was inexpungable, denying him all prospects in his preferred profession. This fate was the direct result of the campaign against him by his Zurich enemies. It had never been Strauß’s temperament or character to allow attacks on himself to go unanswered. The clerics had declared war on him; and now he would declare war on them. The defense came in the form of a counterattack, one which took place in an intellectually sublimated form: a philosophical assault on the entire extent of Christian doctrine. Strauß was now intent on becoming a fox in a Christian henhouse; and his deceptive title served him very well by concealing his intentions. After the Zurich affair, a notable change took place in Strauß’s attitude toward Christianity. As late as 1838 Strauß was conciliatory toward his critics, and he was eager to prove his Christian loyalties to those who doubted him. In the third edition of Das Leben Jesu, which was published in 1838, he cast doubt on his own previous doubts in the first edition about the credibility of the gospel of John; and in his Zwei friedliche Bl€ atter, which was written in the summer of 1838, he argued that Christ was central to Christianity and a paragon of what religion should mean. But, after the Zurich affair, he dropped all these efforts at reconciliation, and he deeply regretted having compromised his more radical position. In the forthcoming fourth edition of Das Leben Jesu the editorial changes of the third edition were duly revoked and recanted. No longer would there be any artificial holds or bars on his critique of Christianity. In reaction to the Zurich affair, even Christianity lost its meaning for Strauß. This becomes clear from a very revealing letter Strauß wrote to his friend Christian M€arklin on November 3, 1839: I confess to you openly that I no longer accept the Hegelian viewpoint, which should no longer speak of the virgin birth and the resurrection, etc., as if they were eternal truths . . . I appeal to the results of your own proper selfexamination. Our participation in, and our attempt to support philosophically, Christian dogmas is an idle affectation; no single religious feeling of ours can be clothed in a Christian form; indeed religious feelings flee from that which forces them again into the old stinking cage of Christian doctrine . . . Christ can be who and whatever he wants; that is indifferent to our religion, because we do not want

(Stuttgart: Klett, 1952), I, 74. Cf. Strauß to Rapp, December 20, 1838, Ausgew€ ahlte Briefwechsel, ed. Eduard Zeller (Bonn: Emil Strauß, 1895), p. 74.

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any redeemer outside ourselves, and because we do not want any oracle anymore.⁵

Strauß’s new attitude toward Christianity made him reconsider his earlier position on the conflict between reason and faith. Where he previously believed that there could be some reconciliation between them, so that speculative philosophy could prove doctrines like the incarnation, he now abandoned all hope. He now writes in the introduction to the Glaubenslehre that the early promise of peace between philosophy and theology has been shattered (4–5). One either retreats to the credo quia absurdum or moves forward to pure enquiry freed from all the constraints of faith. The great promise of a reconciliation between reason and faith came with the Hegelian philosophy’s strategic distinction between concept and representation. Philosophy seemed to be able to reformulate the representations of religion into conceptual form. As we have seen, Strauß himself had been one of the chief advocates of that distinction. Now, however, in the introduction to the Glaubenslehre, he insists that it has proven to be a mistake. The problem with the distinction is that pure form is not so neatly separable from its content; one cannot change or remove the form without affecting the content (12). Sometimes, the content is just as objectionable as the form itself (15–16). We should not attempt to rationalize all the content of religion, Strauß warns, because so much of it is not worthy of rescue or reconstruction (17). Given Strauß’s introduction and the November 3 letter to M€arklin, one would not expect to find in the Glaubenslehre any attempt to save Christianity through a reformulation of its dogmas into Hegelian concepts. Yet, to a certain extent, this is exactly what we do find. In its second half or “Dogmatik,” Strauß still defends a Hegelian account of the trinity, incarnation, and personality of God.⁶ For all his repudiation of Christianity and Hegel, Strauß could not bring himself to renounce them completely. He is still very much a Hegelian; and he still is something of a Christian, holding onto his own philosophical versions of central Christian beliefs. Still, Strauß could claim to be consistent with his new anti-clerical and antiChristian animus by insisting that his version of these beliefs was anything but orthodox church doctrine. That Strauß had not entirely dropped his original intention of reconciling reason and faith in the Glaubenslehre is apparent from its preface where he states that he had the plan for the work even before he wrote Das Leben Jesu (v). That plan was to write a dogmatics after the critique of revelation; this dogmatics would consist in a reconstituted and reconstructed Christian doctrine. In the “Schlussabhandlung” of Das Leben Jesu he gave a foreshadowing of that new

⁵ The letter is printed only in Ziegler, Strauß, II, 333–4.

⁶ See section 11.3 below.

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rational version of Christianity, which was essentially a Hegelianized reading of the Christian incarnation. From his statement in the preface of the Glaubenslehre, therefore, the reader has every reason to expect that this plan will be extended, so that other Christian doctrines will be rationalized according to the Hegelian concept. Some extension of that plan indeed appears since Strauß also gives a Hegelian reading of the concepts of the trinity and personality of God. Nevertheless, the plan is downplayed; instead, one finds an emphasis on the tension between reason and faith. There is indeed an ambivalence or tension in Strauß’s account of the relation between reason and faith in the Glaubenslehre. Much of the old reconciliation program is still in play in the “Dogmatik,” where Strauß provides a Hegelian account of the trinity, incarnation, and personality of God; but at the end of the “Apologetik,” and at the end of the “Dogmatik” in volume I, Strauß stresses how reason and faith should go their separate ways. Part of this tension is due to the remarkable composition of the work, which occurred before and after the Zurich affair. Strauß began writing the work at the end of 1838, when he still had hopes of a university post in Zurich; but he published the first volume in September 2, 1840, eighteen months after the Zurich catastrophe. In between these dates Strauß partly revised the work to conform to his new anti-clerical and anti-Christian stance. This is most apparent in §22, the end of the “Apologetik,” and in §40, the end of the first part of the “Dogmatik,” where Strauß concludes with a statement about the conflict between reason and faith. This conclusion is at odds, however, with the first part of the “Dogmatik,” whose earlier sections engage in an argument for the Hegelian position. Some of this ambivalence is apparent in the introduction to the Glaubenslehre where Strauß gives his account of the concept of faith. On the one hand, Strauß finds an important corrective of the Hegelian concept of faith in Feuerbach’s claim that the real content of religion is not the concept but feeling and fantasy (18). On the other hand, however, he also regards Hegel as a correction of Feuerbach’s concept of faith because religion is just as much a product of reason as it is of practical need (19–20). Feuerbach made a sharp distinction between the theoretical and practical, so that religion falls entirely in the practical sphere; but this distinction is too abstract and extreme, Strauß says, because it makes all intelligence fall outside the practical sphere (20). There was always “a beautiful humanity” in the Hegelian view, he maintains, according to which there is some kernel of truth lying behind the religious shell (21–2). If in stressing the affective dimension of faith, Strauß left a distinction between faith and reason, he still believed that there was a close tie between them by insisting upon the rational dimension of faith. To this diminished degree, then, he still kept alive his program for reconciliation. So the Glaubenslehre was a schizophrenic work, torn between conflicting personalities, one of which was intent on reconciliation with Christian dogma,

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and another of which was intent on its destruction. These conflicting personalities reflect a change in Strauß’s thinking which took place in the middle of the composition of the work. It was therefore only a half-truth when Treitschke characterized the Glaubenslehre as “an open declaration of war against Christianity.”⁷ This reflects at best only one of the personalities of the book. The method of the Glaubenslehre was what Strauß called “genetic exposition” (genetische Darstellung) (ix). It would present the development of dogma in Christian history, telling the story of how each dogma originated in the early church, how it developed through scholasticism in the Middle Ages, and finally how it was criticized in modern life by the Socinians, Arminians, and Spinozists. Strauß believed that this historical approach was the proper method for philosophy to deal with theology. Philosophy could enter into theology in two ways: from concept to dogma, so that one descends from speculation to faith; or from dogma to concept, so that one ascends from faith to the concept.⁸ Strauß prefers the second or historical approach over the first or philosophical one. Only the second approach assures us that we are not reading the concept into faith, that we are not undertaking an illegitimate rationalization of representation. Strauß called this method objective rather than subjective critique: the agent was not the historian but the content of history itself, which moved according to its own immanent logic. And so Strauß declared: “The true critique of dogma is its history” (71). An interesting account of the method of the Glaubenslehre was given by Friedrich Vischer, Strauß’s close friend, who described it as “a phenomenology of the history of dogma.”⁹ Vischer implies that this is Strauß’s own description because Strauß said that such a phenomenology is what dogmatics should be from a scientific viewpoint. Vischer says that this phenomenology proceeds in several stages: it will first explain the dogma as it appears in the New Testament; it will then set forth the historical development of the dogma in its mystical and rationalist variants; and finally it will show the failure to achieve a synthesis of these variants, which will result in the “philosophical dissolution” of the dogma. This is a more or less accurate account of how Strauß’s method proceeds. It is interesting that the dialectic of this phenomenology ends with a negative result: the dissolution of the dogma. There is no culminating Hegelian synthesis. Despite its historical importance, the Glaubenslehre met a tepid reception. Even though it was more critical in its tone, scope, and implications, there was none of the scandal or outrage that greeted Das Leben Jesu. Compared to its predecessor, the book sold poorly. Strauß complained that it never went beyond its first printing of 3000 copies. How do we explain this discrepancy in reaction? Part of

⁷ Heinrich von Treitschke, Deutsche Geschichte im 19. Jahrhundert (Leipzig: Hirzel, 1889), IV, 492. ⁸ See Charakteristiken und Kritiken (Leipzig: Wigand, 1839), pp. 172, 208. Strauß himself refers to his earlier work in the Glaubenslehre, I, 71, n. 2. ⁹ Vischer to Strauß, February 18, 1839, in Briefwechsel zwischen Strauß und Vischer, I, 82.

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the reason is that the public had now become used to even more radical writers than Strauß himself. In 1838 Arnold Ruge began the publication of the Hallische Jahrbücher, which rapidly became the organ of the left Hegelians. Here one could read writings of such radicals as Ludwig Feuerbach, Bruno Bauer, and Karl Marx, who were proclaiming a new humanism and materialism. Strauß too participated in the Hallische Jahrbücher; but, in comparison with these radicals, he seemed rather tame and conservative. Strauß, who still had not abandoned his Hegelianism, seemed to be left behind; he was, as the radicals called him, “ein Halber,” someone who stood halfway between the theological past and the humanist future. The reception of the Glaubenslehre by Strauß scholars has been no less tepid. The biographies of Hausrath, Harris, Cromwell, Paul, and Ziegler pay it little attention. Hausrath devotes no more than twenty pages to it, most of which concern its composition and reception; and he is antipathetic to Strauß’s whole project, which he rejects because it does no justice to the roots of religion.¹⁰ Harris gives the whole work less than ten pages, providing only the sketchiest idea of its contents.¹¹ Cromwell barely mentions the book, failing even to cite its proper title.¹² Paul writes only a few pages about it, justifying his decision on the grounds that it would repeat too much of the critique of revelation in Das Leben Jesu.¹³ Ziegler is much more sympathetic to Strauß and regards the Glaubenslehre as a neglected masterwork; but even he does not engage in an analysis and appraisal of its content.¹⁴ We can understand this scanty treatment of Strauß’s work because these scholars were all biographers who had limited space and many other interests besides his philosophy; but as philosophical historians we have no such excuse. A philosophical study of Strauß cannot afford to pass over its essential doctrines and arguments; accordingly, the next sections will be devoted to the conceptual content of Strauß’s work. Here we will have space to reconstruct only some of its highlights, to give a partial selection from its very rich and dense argumentation.

11.2 Critique of Revelation The first part of Strauß’s Glaubenslehre, which comprises nearly 300 pages of volume I, is very misleadingly entitled “Apologetik.” It sounds as if it were an ¹⁰ Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauss und die Theologie seiner Zeit, II, 13–33. ¹¹ Horton Harris, David Friedrich Strauss and His Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), pp. 134–41. ¹² Richard Cromwell, David Friedrich Strauss and His Place in Modern Thought (Fair Lawn, NJ: R. E. Burdick, 1974), p. 107. ¹³ Jean-Marie Paul, D. F. Strauss (1808–1874) et son époque (Paris: Société les Belles Lettres, 1982), pp. 309–13. ¹⁴ Ziegler, Strauß, II, 325–60.

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apology for, or defense of, Christianity. But the very opposite is the case: in this part of his work, Strauß engages in a thoroughgoing critique of Christianity. His specific target is revelation, i.e., the beliefs in miracles, prophecies, and the supernatural inspiration of Scripture. As we would expect of the author of Das Leben Jesu, his central thesis is entirely negative: that all these beliefs are indefensible and have to be abandoned. Strauß claims no originality for the many arguments he brings forward against revelation. The arguments had been accumulating over the centuries; Strauß simply assembles them in one thick phalanx to make the most powerful case against revelation. The method of the Glaubenslehre is very different from that of Das Leben Jesu. Strauß does not examine or criticize specific biblical passages; rather, his argument is entirely general, considering the case for revelation as a whole. Thus the “Apologetik” does not go into the content of the Bible but deliberately stands outside it; it deals instead with the attempt to justify this content through revelation. For this reason Strauß calls the subject matter of the “Apologetik” the “formal” rather than “material” element of Christianity. All religions are at first, Strauß tells us, based on revelation (76). Man, as he exists as a natural being, does not have a developed power of reasoning; he lives and is aware of the world more as a sensible being who knows things by their appearance to his senses. At this stage of his development, then, revelation is the appropriate means for him to know of God, because revelation, whether in the form of miracles or prophecies, appears to his senses. Strauß is wary of accepting visions as a source of revelation alongside miracles and prophecies. The problem with visions is that they can have entirely psychological causes. It is only because the visionary does not know the sources of his vision inside himself that he ascribes them to a supernatural cause outside himself (77). Miracles and prophecies, however, if they are to succeed, require the working of some cause outside the person (85). The crucial question to ask about revelation, Strauß writes, is how one knows that a teacher is truly inspired, or that a doctrine is really the product of divine revelation (84). One must have a criterion to distinguish between true and false revelation. We cannot determine whether a doctrine is revealed from its content, because that content lies beyond the sphere of the human and natural, and it therefore transcends all human and natural means of assessing it. One can know whether a doctrine is divine only from its form, i.e., from its origin, by determining whether its source lies outside the powers of man or nature (84). Hence the source of revelation is thought to be prophecies or miracles, because these do not have normal human or natural causes (85). Strauß immediately points out a significant weakness in using prophecy and miracles as a demonstration of revelation. They are necessary criteria of divine revelation, to be sure, because they show that its causes cannot be natural or human; but they cannot be a sufficient proof of divine revelation, because

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Scripture warns us that there are false prophets who are also able to work miracles and to make prophecies (89, 100). If these are not sufficient criteria, then there must be some additional criterion to distinguish between true and false revelation. This is normally understood to be, in the case of the Old Testament, whether the prophet’s teaching is in accord with the “the principles of monotheism and theocracy” (89, 101). In the case of the New Testament, it is held to be the good character of the prophet and the beneficial effects of his prophecy (101). Both the Old and New Testament therefore insist that the true prophet has to follow authorized doctrine. But this insistence on doctrinal orthodoxy reveals, Strauß argues, a vicious circle: miracles and prophecies are used to justify doctrine; but doctrine is employed to justify the miracles and prophecies (224–5). The appeal to revelation as the main means of justifying religion eventually made the Bible the chief source of religious knowledge, Strauß notes. The Bible gained enormous authority simply because it contained the written record of revelation. Revelation alone could not be an effective and persuasive means of establishing divine doctrine, Strauß explains, because miracles and prophecies took place at a specific time and location, so that only a few people could witness them (103–4). It was necessary, therefore, to record these events, to keep a written document to certify their occurrence; only in this way could they be remembered and promulgated. The written record of revelation quickly proved itself to be the most reliable and effective means of making revelation known to the people. But there soon arose a problem with using only the written word as a source of revelation. The written word is silent and cannot speak, as Plato said (104). It is also necessary therefore to interpret this word, to understand it in the appropriate way. But how are we to interpret it? What is the proper way to understand it? All kinds of interpretations are possible, and there seem to be as many interpretations as there are confessions, sects, and individuals. To combat heretical readings of the text, the early church therefore resorted to sources outside Scripture itself: these were oral and unwritten traditions, whose meaning and validity were certified by the decisions of church councils (109, 115–16). For the early church, then, tradition became as important as Scripture itself in interpreting revelation. The rule of faith became “retain what is credited always, everywhere and by everyone” (tenere quod semper, quod ubique et quod ab omnibus creditum est) (109). There were three kinds of traditions: divine, apostolic, and ecclesiastical (traditiones divinae, apostolicae et ecclesiasticae). Divine traditions were imparted by Christ to the apostles; apostolic tradition was handed down by the apostles under the working of the holy spirit; and ecclesiastical tradition was that made by the church and that which attained the force of law by the consent of the people (110). Strauß is sympathetic with the Catholic appeal to tradition as a regula fidei. He recognizes that there has to be some check and control over the proliferation of interpretations. He approves the statement of Vincentius von Lirinum: “Because of the depth of its meaning, Scripture cannot be understood by everyone in the

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same way; it is understood by one in this way, and by another in that way, so there are as many senses as there are heads; hence it is necessary, to prevent error, that the lines of scriptural interpretation follow the guidelines of catholic faith and ecclesiastical tradition” (141–2). Although, for just these reasons, the appeal to tradition is understandable, it also has problems all its own, Strauß warns us. There was no unanimity among the Catholics themselves about the nature of their faith and tradition. Even the church councils were not a reliable means of settling disputes, because they would sometimes contradict one another, e.g., the councils regarding Arianism reversed themselves several times (116). The Catholic church was supposed to be an infallible authority in determining the proper interpretation of Scripture. But, in the face of conflict and controversy within the church, one still had to face the embarrassing question: What is the decision of the church? Which doctrine really is infallible? To bestow infallibility on one faction in the church might be an effective means of silencing dissent and securing unanimity, but it still raised the question why this faction is infallible and not some other. The Protestant attempt to justify the authority of Scripture grew out of a reaction against the Catholic one. The reformers held that the Catholic appeal to ecclesiastical infallibility to settle matters of interpretation granted arbitrary power to a merely human institution (143). The reliance on tradition was also groundless, because tradition too has only a human authority. All the Catholic forms of tradition were, in the view of the Protestants, really only traditiones humanae (110). Nothing better revealed the merely human side of tradition, the Protestants argued, than the fact that there were conflicts about tradition among Catholics themselves. What in fact were these traditions? And what did they mean? Here again there were opposing interpretations. As an antidote to these problems, the Protestants insisted that Scripture should be left to interpret itself (111, 143). The meaning of the Bible is ultimately very simple, they assured us, because its central message about what is necessary to salvation is comprehensible to every man (112). Rather than determining the meaning of Scripture from dogma, one only has to derive dogmas from Scripture. To determine what these dogmas should be, one only has to read Scripture without prejudice or presuppositions. To gather the meaning of one passage, one should consult all similar passages; and to understand obscure passages, one only has to explain them from clearer ones. Eventually, from a careful examination of the text itself, the meaning of Scripture, and the dogmas to be based on it, will become plain to all. Despite his Protestant heritage, Strauß had little sympathy with Protestant hermeneutics. The Protestant doctrine that Scripture interprets itself he found to be terribly naïve. The ultimate source of any interpretation lies less in the text than in human beings, who naturally find different meanings according to their beliefs and education (144). It is not surprising that each of the Protestant sects and confessions had their own interpretation of the Bible (145). Now that they have overthrown tradition and the Pope, what control is there over the plethora of

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interpretations (145)? And so the problem pointed out by Vincentius von Lirinum—the sheer chaos of interpretations—became worse rather than better. The ultimate problem with Protestant hermeneutics, Strauß argues, is that it really cannot justify the authority of Scripture itself. One cannot appeal to the miracles and prophecies of the prophets and disciples to justify Scripture, and that is for the very simple reason that we know of them only through Scripture, whose very authority is in question (170). Luther and Calvin would often appeal to the testimony of the spirit, the feeling of the presence of the divine spirit when reading the Bible (136, 156). They insisted that it is not our human spirit that testifies to the authority of Scripture but the divine spirit that works through us (134). But that thesis only raised the question: How do we know that the spirit we feel within ourselves is really the divine spirit? We cannot ground this feeling upon the Bible because the purpose of invoking it is to ground the Bible itself (157). This desperate appeal to the presence of the divine spirit Strauß called “the Achilles heel of the Protestant system” (136). Both Protestant and Catholic hermeneutics assumed that the Bible was the product of divine inspiration, that it was written, as it were, “by the hand of God” (122). If this were so, then the Bible must be a perfect document, an organic whole where all parts are necessary, and where no part is missing. But everything known about the composition of the Bible seemed to belie this assumption. Rather than written all at once under divine inspiration, the Bible was a compilation of many texts composed at different times. Apparently, some books had gone missing, because other books refer to them, though now they appear nowhere in the text, not even under another name (129). Furthermore, the Bible was made from copies of original documents, all of which were lost. What ensured that the copies handed down to us are faithful reproductions (128)? Any document handed down through the generations becomes altered or mutilated in the course of transmission. Richard Simon, in his Histoire critique du vieux testament,¹⁵ found thousands of such errors (128). The presumed perfection of the Bible was further undermined by the presence of many grammatical errors in Hebrew in the Old Testament and in Greek in the New Testament. The authors of these texts, it seemed, were very far from the perfection and infallibility claimed for the holy spirit (126). Was their ignorance and crudity to be ascribed to the divine spirit itself, to the auctor primarius scripturae? Hardly. If the Bible is not perfect in its text or composition, it is no better in its content, Strauß contends. One could not derive from Scripture any satisfactory moral or metaphysical doctrine. Many parts of the Old Testament contained objectionable anthropomorphic concepts of God, viz., its references to God’s anger and jealousy, or to his movement from one place to another (183). And there were

¹⁵ Richard Simon, Histoire critique du vieux testament (Rotterdam: Reinier Leers, 1689).

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contradictions in its morals, viz., although Moses declared one ought not to kill, God commanded the Jews to wipe out the Canaanites (183–4). Regarding morals, there were also irreconcilable conflicts between the New and Old Testaments, viz., the Old Testament promised the Jews earthly happiness but the New Testament foresaw bliss only in heaven; the Old Testament allowed vengeance but the New Testament preached forgiveness of one’s enemy (184, 198). Because of these conflicting passages, one could put together from the Bible only an incoherent morals or a very selective and arbitrary one. For moral reasons, Strauß thinks that the whole concept behind revelation is very problematic. Catholics and Protestants maintained that the knowledge based on revelation is necessary for salvation. But the problem is that such knowledge is limited to a lucky few, namely, those who witnessed the original events, or those who have read and believe the reports about them. Are we then to condemn pagans, Jews, and Muslims simply because, for no fault of their own, they do not have such knowledge? That seems an unjustly harsh verdict, especially considering that these non-Christian groups had as many specimens of moral virtue as Christian ones. Those who believe that the reception of the Christian revelation is necessary to salvation then have the task of explaining how their belief is consistent with the goodness and mercy of God (269). It is one of the great achievements of modern moral consciousness, Strauß thinks, that it no longer judges people by what they believe but by how they act; they are willing to accept people of all faiths provided that they act charitably (296). Once the belief took hold that the only thing necessary for salvation is good action and a moral will, revelation ceased to be so important as a source of religious knowledge. It is a good Christian saying that one should judge actions and people by their fruits; but many Christians still damn the fruit (actions) because of the tree from which it fell (doctrines) (297). The culmination of Strauß’s critique of revelation in the Glaubenslehre is his attack on the credibility of miracles. Here he does not consider the testimony for this or that miracle described in the New Testament, which he had done in Das Leben Jesu, but the credibility of miracles in general, whether in the New Testament or the Old. The question that guides Strauß is whether there can ever be sufficient empirical evidence for the possibility of a miracle. It is noteworthy that, in examining this question, Strauß relies heavily on Hume, especially his essay “Of Miracles.”¹⁶ While Hume’s arguments played virtually no role in Das Leben Jesu, they are now a decisive influence on Strauß in considering miracles in general. Following Hume’s lead, Strauß maintains that no human testimony about a miracle can have probability, let alone certainty (243). He accepts Hume’s thesis that a miracle is such an incredible event that it discredits the testimony of the person who reports it (238). “I would not believe that if Cato told me” was a ¹⁶ See Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, section X, “Of Miracles,” in Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects (London: T. Cadell, 1777), II, 86–101.

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famous saying in Rome cited by Hume; Strauß duly repeats it because it so perfectly illustrates the problem of accepting testimony about miracles. This saying means that the reported event is by itself so improbable that it undermines the credibility of the person reporting it. The miracle has all the laws of probability against it. By definition a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and because experience, in every instance, shows the constant working of these laws, the proof against a miracle is as strong as any proof from experience ever can be (239). No human testimony ever reaches the standard that it would have to be believed even though what it reports is very improbable (240). Reports of miracles cannot begin to be credible unless human testimony for them fulfills certain stringent conditions. They would have to be observed by a) a sufficient number of people, b) educated people, c) people of honesty and integrity, and d) they would have to take place somewhere accessible to witnesses (240). No testimony about miracles, however, has ever met all these exacting standards. When we consider the motivation behind such testimony—factors like religious zealotry, and the human proclivity for arousing wonder and amazement—the testimony for miracles becomes even less credible (240). Behind Strauß’s argument against the authority of Scripture in the “Apologetik” there lay one important historical figure, a figure to whom Strauß frequently refers, and whom he deeply respects: Spinoza. In Das Leben Jesu Spinoza scarcely appears, except in a few passages in the end; but in the Glaubenslehre he looms large.¹⁷ Strauß sees Spinoza as the father of not only modern philosophy but also modern biblical criticism (193). This is because Spinoza not only interprets the Bible in its historical context, but also insists that the truth of the Bible should be the conclusion rather than starting point of one’s investigation. Too many interpreters have proceeded the wrong way around: they make the truth of the Bible the starting point rather than conclusion of their enquiries. They assume that the Bible is true and then interpret it so that it must be so; to ensure that it comes out true, they impose their own philosophical doctrines upon it. But Spinoza was perfectly correct, Strauß says, to distinguish between the meaning of the Bible and its truth (151–2). For all the credit that Strauß gives to Spinoza, he thinks that he went astray in encouraging both the rationalist and accommodationist theories of the Bible. Spinoza would interpret passages referring to miracles as hyperbolic ways of talking about natural events; or he would explain them as attempts of the writers to accommodate the prejudices of their audience. In both cases he was departing from his own rule that the meaning of Scripture should be interpreted in its own light. What about those passages in the Bible where writers were not hyperbolic or accommodationist, those passages where they clearly literally believed in miracles ¹⁷ See the discussions of Spinoza in the “Apologetik”: pp. 151–3, 155, 167–9, 170–2, 189–90, 193–4, 202–3, 228–9, 234–7, 243, 290–2, 339–46.

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and prophecies? It is at this point, Strauß argues, that Spinoza’s approach has to be complemented with the mythical one (237). Only the mythical approach, he implies, allows us to explain the fact that these writers really did believe in the miracles and prophecies. It shows us that they were part of the culture of the early Christians and Jews.

11.3 An Abiding but Ambiguous Hegelian Program The second part of Strauß’s Glaubenslehre, which is entitled “Dogmatik,” is an examination of the essential dogmas of Christianity. While the first part treated the attempt to justify these dogmas through revelation, the second examines their content. Hence Strauß called the first part “formal” and the second “material.” The second part examines the whole extent of Christian doctrine, from the trinity, to sin, to salvation. Such a broad agenda means that the structure of the book is uneven or lopsided: the second part, which comprises the second half of volume I and all of volume II, is much longer than the first, which is only the first half of volume I. The first part is only 353 pages whereas the second is over a thousand. The discussion of Christian dogma in the second part of the Glaubenslehre is no less critical of Christian doctrine than the first part. Strauß examines all the central Christian dogmas and constantly finds them wanting. This does not mean, however, that he rejects these doctrines entirely; some are still maintained, though in a heavily rationalized form which does not pretend to preserve their specifically Christian content. True to his new anti-clerical and anti-Christian stance, Strauß’s specific target is what he calls “ecclesiastical doctrine,” i.e., doctrine as it is expounded and prescribed by the churches, whether Catholic or Protestant. Some religious beliefs survive this critique, though expressly and emphatically not in their orthodox Christian form. In the introduction to his Glaubenslehre Strauß forswore the Hegelian program of defending the Christian faith through philosophy. He insisted that there was now a gap between Christianity and speculative philosophy, which meant that Christian beliefs could not be expressed in concepts or justified through reason. It is noteworthy, however, that Strauß still had not deserted the Hegelian philosophy itself, and that he still used it to justify religious, if not Christian or ecclesiastical, beliefs. Strauß’s Hegelian loyalties first reveal themselves in the first main section of the “Dogmatik,” which is his treatment of the existence of God. In the first subsections (§§26–7), Strauß surveys the traditional proofs for the existence of God, viz., the cosmological, the physico-theological, and the ontological, and he finds most of them deficient for all the standard reasons. The cosmological proof, which infers the existence of God as a first cause, assumes that we can extend the principle of causality beyond this world when it has meaning only within it; (381); and even if

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such an extension were permissible, there is no warrant for the belief that the cause of the world is a single infinite being (382). The physico-theological proof infers from the order of the universe a single perfect and infinite designer; but the proof is a non sequitur—there could be many designers—and it assumes, incorrectly, that the order of the cosmos is perfect even when there are many empirical examples of its imperfection (383–4). The ontological proof, at least in Descartes’s version, reasons that the concept of the most perfect being must exist because for it not to exist would be for it to be less perfect; but that presupposes what it is to prove: that the concept of the most perfect being already denotes something that exists (396). Strauß, like Schelling and Hegel before him, finds problems with Kant’s critique of the ontological argument. Kant argues that we cannot infer existence from essence, which is true for all finite things, to be sure; but this does not do justice to the essence of God, which is infinite (399). This is where Strauß sees a loophole which allows him to maintain his own proof for the existence of God. And this is exactly where his lingering Hegelianism reveals itself. Strauß seems to regard Hegel’s own demonstration of the existence of God as satisfactory. This proof, at least as Strauß expounds it here, maintains that the mere thinking of the idea of God is identical with the being of God because our thinking of God is God thinking through us (399). This argument begs the question, however, because it does not answer the question how we know that our thinking of the idea of God really is God thinking that idea through us. The proof presupposes pantheism, a doctrine which is still in need of proof. Yet that Strauß stopped his exposition here is significant, because he seems to leave Hegel the final word on the proofs for the existence of God. Another major place where Strauß’s persistent Hegelian sympathies reveal themselves is in his discussion of the personality of God (§33). The very idea of a personal God, which is so important to Christianity, seems to contradict itself, Strauß says. God is supposed to be an infinite being; but the idea of personality only makes sense for a finite being, because we identify one person only by excluding other persons (503, 506). I. H. Fichte tried to avoid this problem by saying that God’s personality is unlike that of all finite persons because he is an absolutely independent being who creates all other finite ones; but this still does not solve the problem, Strauß objected, because it destroys the very concept of a person to make it an absolutely independent and infinite being (506). If we are to be a person, we must have other people independent of us, from whom we are all distinguishable. Strauß finds more plausibility in explaining the personality of God through the Hegelian idea of substance as subject. The subjectivity of substance, as Hegel understood it, did not exist outside and beyond the world but in the totality of its manifestations in finite subjects in the world (516). Strauß is careful to say that this is not the idea of God’s subjectivity now prevalent in the Hegelian school, according to which God’s subjectivity is something complete in

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itself apart from and prior to the world (520). It is essential to Hegel’s doctrine, Strauß insists, that God attains self-consciousness only in and through all finite beings, so that his self-awareness is the self-awareness of finite beings as God. Thus Strauß still clings to the idea of God he once expounded in the “Schlussabhandlung” of Das Leben Jesu: “the personality of God must not be thought as an individual personality but as the personality of all; instead of personifying the absolute, we must learn to conceive it as the self-personifying into infinity” (524). Crucial to Strauß’s discussion of Christian dogma in the “Dogmatik” is his treatment of the trinity. Strauß devotes five whole sections to this dogma (§§28–32), all of which are very critical. There is no evidence for the dogma either in the Old or New Testament, he argues (§30). There are no scriptural passages that state that Jesus was the son of God; all the relevant passages reveal is God, his hypostasized spirit, and a human being who is on a messianic mission (419). The writers of the New Testament hold that there is really only one true God, who is the father; and next to him, but still underneath him, they place the holy spirit, who is his agent (424). Nowhere can we find explicitly stated, in either the Old or New Testament, the later doctrine that God, Christ, and the holy spirit are three distinct persons. Strauß engages in a long survey of the traditions that attempted to conceptualize the trinity. These traditions were so many attempts, he explains, to satisfy two conflicting demands: monotheism, according to which there should be only one God; and the tendency to deify Jesus because he brought redemption to mankind (425). For centuries, there were two main parties to these debates: the monotheists, who stressed there is only one God, of which the son and holy ghost are only subordinate manifestations; and the trinitarians, who insisted that there are three distinct persons, who are all equal to one another. The monotheists regarded Jesus as a human being standing under the direction of the divine spirit, while the trinitarians saw him as the incarnation or manifestation of God, which was one with him in substance (431). If the monotheists accused the trinitarians of polytheism, the trinitarians charged the monotheists with Judaism (431). The debate between these parties went back and forth for centuries; in the modern era, though, it eventually came to an end with both parties having exhausted themselves. Strauß claims that the whole dispute came to a close with the Socinians and Arminians, who made powerful arguments on behalf of monotheism. The Socinians maintained that the contradiction between monotheism and the three persons of the trinity is the result of an ambiguity in the concept of a person (468). A person could be either a substrata seconda, which is a substance in a generic sense, or a substrata primera, which is substance in a numerical sense. While there could not be three substances in one in the numerical sense, there certainly could be such in the generic sense, though its unity would be only abstract. The three persons of the trinity were eventually demoted, by the Socinians and Arminians,

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to three distinct powers (481). They effectively revived the old doctrine of Sabellius, according to which there is only one divine person who has different names according to the relations in which he stands (434, 481). Strauß notes that there were many modern attempts to explain the trinity in more philosophical terms. There was a tradition, which began with Leibniz and which ended with Hegel, to expound the trinity in terms of self-consciousness (484–8). Just as the self becomes conscious of itself through positing an object different from and yet identical with itself, so the persons of the trinity are distinct but united. The subject, before its self-awareness, is God the father; it gave birth to the son when it posited itself as an object; and the whole movement from subject to object and from the object back to the subject was the holy spirit. The problem with all such constructions, Strauß maintains, is that they make God finite; selfconsciousness is possible only if there is someone opposed to myself; a self has a distinct identity only in contrast to others; but that is a form of finitude that we cannot apply to God himself (488, 567). Strauß exempts Hegel from this problem because Hegel always realized that God became self-conscious only by embodying himself in the world of finite subjects. Though Strauß seems to think that Hegel has an effective means of explaining the trinity through his own construction, he still does not credit him with having saved the doctrine. His own version of the trinity was much too heterodox to count as a rescue of the orthodox doctrine, which required the attribution of self-consciousness to God independent of his externalization into all finite subjects. A large part of the “Dogmatik” of volume I of the Glaubenslehre consists in Strauß’s account of the traditional properties of God, viz., his eternity, omnipresence, omniscience, love, and so on. From §34 to §40 Strauß devotes a section to each of these properties. He finds most of them problematic because they attribute some anthropomorphism to God. It is absurd to ascribe love or a will to God, he remarks in a manner reminiscent of Spinoza, because this is to make God stand in need of something (578–80, 605, 609). The whole attempt to ascribe properties to God is problematic, Strauß argues, because it introduces division into the divine nature, which should be an absolute unity (540). We can understand these properties either in a subjective or objective sense: in the subjective sense they are only our ways of conceiving God, though they are somehow still inherent in his nature; in the objective sense, they are inherent in his nature but they are still very partial and cannot grasp him as a whole (540). Because we cannot conceive of the absolute unity of God, some theologians claim that God is a thing-in-itself and his determinations or properties are only his appearances (542). Hegel, we are told, avoided this problem by insisting that there is no thing-in-itself and that a thing consists only in its relations with others (543). Thus, throughout the “Dogmatik” in the Glaubenslehre, Strauß continues his old program of rationalizing religious doctrine through Hegel’s philosophy. These rationalizations appear in his discussion of the trinity, the personality, and the

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existence of God. They do not contradict Strauß’s new declaration that there is a division between philosophy and religion, reason and faith, if one takes “religion” or “faith” to mean orthodox Christian doctrine; if they result in a doctrine which is still recognizably Christian, it is still far from orthodox. This conclusion would be perfectly unproblematic, and it would be enough to save Strauß from inconsistency, if it were not for the fact that, at the end of his long discussion of the divine attributes, Strauß attaches a section forswearing any attempt to give a speculative construction of them (§40). Here he maintains that a speculative construction of these properties cannot succeed because this would be to move illicitly from the realm of the speculative into the realm of the nonspeculative or ordinary experience (610). Philosophy cannot deduce the divine properties, he explains, because it destroys all their anthropomorphisms, on which their very conception depends. Though this problem of speculative construction is perfectly in keeping with Strauß’s new distinction between the realms of reason and faith, it is in remarkable contrast to what he himself has just done in the second half of the first volume of the Glaubenslehre. There Strauß himself engaged in a philosophical construction of the trinity, incarnation, and personality of God; and he did so precisely by stressing the need to move from the realm of the idea into that of finite experience. There was no dualism between the realms of reason and finite experience but rather an attempt to overcome that very dualism. Even though this construction is not intended to preserve Christian dogmas, because its results are much too heterodox, it is still an attempt to conceptualize and explain the divine attributes, which Strauß now declares to be impossible. Section §40 therefore seems to be a post-Zurich addendum attached to an earlier text where Strauß still stuck to his original program of deriving the divine attributes.

11.4 Sin and Evil Having treated the existence, essence, and attributes of God in the first part of the “Dogmatik,” Strauß proceeds in the second part to a discussion of Christian myths about the origin of evil.¹⁸ He first considers the role of the devil and demons in the early Christian church. We must not underrate, he warns us, the importance of the devil in early Christianity. The more Christianity spread in the ancient world, the more the kingdom of the devil grew, both in power and extent (II, 4). The Christians needed a principle to explain opposition against their faith, a reason for all their sufferings and defeats in spreading the gospel. That principle was the devil, of course, who symbolized everything anti-Christian and therefore evil. But the devil was more than a symbol, more than a personification, because the early

¹⁸ “Der Dogmatik zweiter Theil. Erster Abschnitt. Zweites Hauptstück. Vom Sündenfall,” §§53–7.

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Christians conceived him as a very real force actively working in the world. The devil was for them “the prince of this world,”¹⁹ the power behind all evil. The myth of the devil plays a crucial role in the New Testament, Strauß insists. The mission of Jesus on earth, his whole raison d’être, was to combat the devil and to wrestle control from him (II, 15). “The whole idea of the messiah and his kingdom,” he writes, “is as little possible without its opposite, a kingdom of demons with its personal head, as the north pole of a magnet is without the south pole. If Christ has come to destroy the work of the devil, then, if there is no devil, he does not need to come at all; but if there is a devil—and only as a personification of the evil principle—then the idea of Christ is valid as an idea” (II, 15). Strauß bluntly rejects Schleiermacher’s rationalistic view that belief in Christ did not require belief in the devil.²⁰ The naïve pious view that feared losing Christ if the devil did not exist, he insists, had seen more correctly than Schleiermacher into the essence of early Christianity. That the Christian worldview gave such importance to the devil is for Strauß just another proof of its obsolescence. He regards belief in the devil as the product of a primitive animism, as a mere projection of human fears and hates. The belief in the devil is completely contrary to our “contemporary worldview,” he insists, which explains everything according to natural causes. This worldview is governed by what Strauß calls “the principle of immanence,” which states that all reality is found in this world. “The principle of immanence tolerates neither a transcendent spiritual world beyond the human world nor the search for a transcendent cause for any phenomenon in the human world” (II, 17). Even if we eradicate the devil, Strauß realizes, we still are not finished with Christian views about the origin of evil. Crucial to Christianity was the dogma of original sin, which was its official explanation for the existence of evil. According to Christian tradition, the source of evil lies in sin, which came from man’s disobedience to God in the Garden of Eden (II, 27). God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil; but Adam did so anyway, and from that original act of disobedience came sin. All evil in man, and indeed in the universe, the Christian tradition holds, arose from this first fateful and fatal act. It was the source of the corruption of human nature, according to which man desires to do evil even when he knows it is wrong and contrary to the law. Strauß finds “the chief difficulty” of the theory of sin to lie in God’s puzzling command to Adam. Why did God command Adam not to eat from the tree of good and evil? Prima facie the command is quite arbitrary; it is as if God wanted to forbid Adam the innocent enjoyment of eating fruit (II, 28). It seemed that God wanted to test man, to see if he would remain obedient; but it was not a fair or effective test, because the prohibition against eating fruit only stimulated the ¹⁹ John 12:31; 14:30. ²⁰ See F. Schleiermacher, Der christliche Glaube (Berlin: Reimer, 1821), §§55–8, I, 218–34.

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transgression. It was perfectly right of Adam, Strauß insists, to disobey a command for which there was really no good reason (II, 29). Strauß finds especially problematic the Christian concept of original sin, what Augustine called peccatum originale hereditarium or vitium originis (II, 43–4, 49). This is the idea that the sin of Adam is inherited and passed down to future generations, so that all human beings share in the guilt for his misdeed. Adam’s sin was so great, the church fathers taught, that it has corrupted human nature itself, which is now tainted with the temptation to do evil. Strauß analyzes this idea into three main components: 1) the attribution of legal guilt and the forfeiture of all gifts and privileges that God gave Adam; 2) the inheritance of corruption, so that Adam’s sin was passed down to the whole human race; and 3) the participation of everyone in the sinful actions of Adam, so that we are all co-sinners along with him (II, 51). The dogma of original sin had been criticized for centuries, especially by the Pelagians, Arminians, and Socinians. Of the many criticisms of the doctrine, Strauß discusses only those he finds especially telling. One of these concerns whether Adam’s sin really could have corrupted human nature. We cannot accuse Adam of having corrupted the powers God gave to him, Strauß maintains with the Pelagians, because these powers involved freedom of choice. Although Adam made a wrong choice in eating the fruit, this does not mean that he damaged or affected his power of choice itself (II, 53–5). That power remained intact even though he misused it on a single occasion. One transgression could not have destroyed his whole character. But if it could not destroy Adam’s character, a fortiori it could not do that to his progeny. The dogma also seems contrary to all justice, Strauß contends (II, 56–7). What would one say of a prince, he asks with Bayle, who put down a rebellion by punishing all the descendants of the rebel? In punishing Adam with inherited sin, God punished one crime by making people more prone to committing others (II, 56). In any case, the idea that sin is inherited—that it applies to the progeny of the criminal as much as the criminal himself—violates one of the fundamental maxims of justice: that one is guilty only for what one has done (II, 59). Hence there cannot be any such thing as inherited sin, because what is inherited is involuntary while sin is voluntary (II, 59). Unborn progeny cannot be guilty of anything because they cannot have done anything (II, 66). The condition of all imputability is having a free will, but the progeny of Adam have not exercised any act of will in inheriting the guilt of his misdeed (II, 66). Once we deny original sin, Strauß argues, we have no reason to accept the other Christian dogmas connected with it. We have no reason to argue for the virgin birth, for example, because the only rationale for that doctrine was to keep Jesus free from the taint of original sin (II, 95). If the redeemer cannot be born through sin, it is better to say that there is no redeemer at all than to invent some special kind of birth for him (II, 96). More importantly, if there is no original sin, what

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reason is there for a redeemer, someone who is to take on the burden of our guilt and to save us before the eyes of God? All these ideas—original sin, virgin birth, redemption—are connected with one another, so that to accept one is to get caught up in a chain of nonsense (II, 98–9). It is necessary to deny all of them if one denies only one. Why did God permit sin? Why did he not create human beings so that they could never sin? To pose that question is to raise the classical problem of evil, which Strauß duly treats in §§74–8 of the Glaubenslehre. As Strauß formulates this problem, evil is the felt restriction of life. Since God is unrestricted life and the giver of such life, he cannot be the source of evil (II, 365–6). Since God cannot be the cause of evil, there must be some other cause. But what could this be? The traditional answer is that man is the chief source of evil, because evil arises from the free decisions of human beings. If God compelled man to obey the law, then his actions would have no moral value (II, 369). Strauß finds two problems with this answer. First, although God does not will evil, he has still not willed that there be no evil; it is still the case that he permits it to happen when he gives human beings the freedom to do evil actions. If God really and absolutely wanted no evil to occur, he would not have even allowed it and he would have created the universe completely differently (II, 370). Second, even if God permits human beings the freedom to commit evil actions, he can still prevent, in virtue of his absolute power, their actions from succeeding (II, 371). While he allows freedom to their choices and intentions, he denies it to their actions. Whatever view one takes of God, Strauß argues, there is a problem in explaining evil (II, 357). On the theistic view, God allows evil to occur by granting freedom to human beings. But this seems to be a limit on God’s absolute power. On the pantheistic view, God has absolute power and everything occurs in and through him because he is the substance of the entire universe; but then man has no freedom and God himself has to be the source of evil. In the face of problems like these, some scholastics resorted to the theory that evil is not a reality at all, that it is a negation or privation (II, 372). But, Strauß replies, this still left the problem: Why did not God create a world that is pure reality? Why pose any limits at all? His answer is that without limits there cannot be a world at all (II, 373). A world without limits cannot be a good world any more than an evil one because good has its meaning only in contrast to evil. Strauß finds every explanation of the problem of evil problematic. Although he is sympathetic with pantheism, he cannot accept Spinoza’s solution to the problem of evil, which dismisses good and evil as human inventions, and which advises resignation in the face of divine necessity (II, 378–9). Spinoza is in danger of lapsing into a complete indifferentism, he says, because his system of rigorous necessity makes it pointless to struggle against evil. It is at this point that Strauß invokes his youthful hero—Jakob Boehme—and claims that he avoided Spinoza’s

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indifferentism. Boehme is now seen as providing the best solution to the problem of evil. Unlike Spinoza, Boehme is not a quietist or indifferentist, because he sees an eternal struggle between good and evil taking place in the universe, and he advocates the victory of good over evil (II, 381). Like Hegel, Boehme explains the very existence of evil because he sees it as a necessary stage in the development of the good. Evil is that point in the universe where spirit goes outside itself and alienates its essential nature; but without such self-alienation it cannot fully become spirit, which returns into itself after going outside itself. In his treatment of evil, then, Strauß very much remains a Hegelian. The appeal to Boehme was really another way of affirming Hegel, whose philosophy Boehme anticipates. But, because his commitment to Hegel was now waning, Strauß’s affirmation of Hegel in §78 is still implicit and done through Boehme.

11.5 Reconciliation A central topic of the “Dogmatik” is the so-called theory of reconciliation (Vers€ ohnungslehre), the doctrine of how it is possible for man to achieve salvation. Strauß devotes much attention and space to this topic, which takes up nearly 250 pages of the second volume of the Glaubenslehre.²¹ A crucial part of this doctrine is the theory of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice, according to which Christ died to save mankind from divine punishment for its sins. Strauß treats this part alone in great detail, discussing it in nearly 100 pages.²² According to traditional church doctrine, man’s original sin was his act of disobedience to God’s command in the Garden of Eden. Man chose to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge, which had been expressly forbidden by God. The punishment for such sin was nothing less than eternal death. Sinful man therefore stood in desperate need of redemption. It was the task of Christ to save man from damnation. Although innocent himself, Christ took upon himself the guilt of mankind and sacrificed himself before God. The death of Christ was therefore like a ransom paid for the release of others from punishment (II, 244). At first blush this doctrine seems very primitive and puzzling, an affront to common sense and morality. It seems to portray God as vengeful rather than loving, and it appears to rely on the ancient idea of sacrifice as a means of satisfying his anger and wrath. However repellent, the doctrine still played an important role in the traditional church; it not only explained Christ’s death but it also held out hope for redemption from sin. The earliest form of the doctrine stated that Christ had given his soul to the devil as a ransom to free mankind from ²¹ Specifically, “Drittes Hauptstück. Von der Erl€osung,” II, 75–336. ²² Specifically, section II, which is entitled “Von dem Gesch€afte Christi,” II, 240–336, of the “Drittes Haupstück.”

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his clutches (II, 252). But this myth proved untenable, Strauß explained, because the devil should have known he would never receive his ransom. In any case, there was felt to be something “undignified” in the whole idea of God having to pay ransom and to buy something from the devil which he should not have had in the first place (II, 255–6). The classic exposition of the doctrine of Christ’s sacrifice was given by St. Anselm, Strauß tells us (II, 260–6). Anselm removed all objectionable references to the devil and emphasized the role of justice in accounting for Christ’s sacrifice. He explained that God’s desire to punish man simply stemmed from the demand for justice, which God could not simply retract without creating worse consequences (viz., allowing people to sin). It was a great injustice of man not to give to God what was owed to him—obedience—and it would have been unjust if God were to allow man to dishonor him by disobeying him. Men were like children, and children have to be punished if they are to know and do better. In punishing man, therefore, God was only maintaining the sanctity of the law. Since man is guilty and unworthy, there is nothing that he can do to redeem himself before God. Rather, he must be saved by a being higher than himself, by someone who is sinless, and by someone whose merit is so great that he can make up for all the sins of mankind. There could only be one such person: Christ himself, who was not only human but also divine. Though adopted by the Catholic and Protestant churches, Anselm’s account of the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ had already come under attack in the Middle Ages, especially in the theory of Duns Scotus (II, 274–80). Scotus elevated the arbitrary power of God over everything else, so that he was not obliged by rules of justice at all. If God wished to hold in abeyance the laws of justice, he could do so; and if he wished to pardon man, even though he had sinned, he could do so, so that there was no need for Christ to sacrifice himself. There was also no need that the being bringing satisfaction to God had to be infinite, because it lay in the absolute power of God to accept even the sacrifice of a finite being, or indeed no being at all. Scotus was a Vorspiel for the later dissolution of the doctrine, Strauß writes, because his supernaturalism, in the guise of the infinite power of God’s arbitrary will, flipped over into a rationalism, according to which man alone had it in his power to earn his salvation without the mediation of Christ (II, 282). The most important stage in the dissolution of the theory of Christ’s sacrifice, according to Strauß’s account, came in the mid-sixteenth century with the Socinians. They claimed that the theory is incompatible with the divine perfection and justice. It was in the power of God to forgive man for his sins without demanding any sacrifice (II, 292). To Anselm’s thesis that divine justice demands punishment or satisfaction, the Socinians replied that this rests on a confusion about justice, which consists essentially not in punishment but in fairness and rectitude. Justice is a permanent quality of God only in the latter sense; whether God forgives or punishes for infractions of justice in this sense is up to him, so that

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there is no necessity that God punishes the sins of mankind (II, 293). The whole theory of satisfaction is self-contradictory, the Socinians further argued, because it assumes that God forgives our sins once Christ sacrifices himself; but forgiveness implies that the demand for satisfaction is already abrogated (II, 293). The Socinian critique of the theory of Christ’s sacrifice questioned the underlying metaphor behind it. Crucial to the theory was the idea that the guilty could have his guilt paid off by another (II, 290, 294). But neither merit, nor guilt, nor punishment are transferrable, the Socinians claimed (II, 294). Merit and guilt cannot be transferred because they belong essentially to the person who has done, or not done, an action. Of course, a money debt can be paid off by a third party; but a moral debt cannot be, because it attaches essentially to the person who has done or not done something. If the person who has done a deed has not paid for it through punishment, then it is as if his debts are still unpaid. What must one think of God, the Socinians asked, if he allows guilt to be transferred to some innocent party? If punishment consists in transferring guilt from a guilty party (mankind) to an innocent one (Christ), then it is an act of injustice (II, 295). But even supposing that all objections against the theory are invalid and the theory perfectly true, the Socinians argued, the results would be intolerable for any Christian (II, 301). For if Christ had done all that he were supposed to do and absolved us of all our sins, then we would no longer need to fulfill the law and God could not punish us, because he would have fully received his demands through Christ’s sacrifice; God could not demand further payment beyond what he had already received, and so mankind would be left free to do whatever it wanted. Although Strauß accepts the Socinian critique of the theory of Christ’s sacrifice, in the interests of fairness he also considers an important reply to it. This reply was made by Hugo Grotius in his Defensio fidei Catholicae de satisfactione Christi.²³ While Grotius admits the Socinian point that God has the right and power to leave sins unpunished, he still disputes the Socinian claim that one can expect this of God. The right to punish belongs to God as a ruler, who is bound by law to consider the common good (II, 311). Forgiveness for transgressions of the law eventually leads to the breakdown of law and order. As the ruler of the universe, therefore, God has to uphold the law and punish those who break it. Having defended God’s right to punish sinful man, Grotius then went on to respond to the Socinian point that merit and guilt are not transferrable. Lawyers have always recognized, he explained, that sometimes the best way of dealing with violations of the law is through exchange (commutatio) or substitution (compensatio). Instead of suffering punishment, one can still pay for one’s transgressions by offering compensation; this is like avoiding punishment by paying for an object one has ²³ Hugo Grotius, Defensio fidei Catholicae de satisfactione Christi, adversus Fastum Socinum Senensem (Leiden: Johannes Patius, 1617).

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stolen or damaged (II, 312). Hence it is not true that merit or guilt cannot be transferred, because this happens all the time in civil law. Christ, in sacrificing himself, is removing our guilt by paying enormous compensation to God, who has been injured by his disobedient children. Strauß does not leave the final word with Grotius. The problem remains, he insists, that the theory, in its official version and as Grotius understands it, allows injustice even though it insists on the importance of justice. For the difference between guilt and innocence seems to make little difference to God, because he allows Christ, who is totally innocent, to be punished for the sins of mankind (II, 313). In any case, Grotius’s idea that the sacrifice of Christ serves as a moral example is absurd. Since when can the suffering of the innocent ever work as a deterrent to sin (II, 314)? Strauß goes on to consider the Arminian objections against the theory of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice, though these add little to what he had already said through the Socinans. On the whole, he finds the theory pointless and unnecessary. In the spirit of Scotus’s critique, he writes that God could punish and forgive completely by himself without the work of a mediator or redeemer. Furthermore, he adds, the whole idea that God would punish us eternally is contrary to his goodness (II, 323).

11.6 Grace After his treatment of the theory of Christ’s sacrifice, Strauß proceeded to examine another important issue involved in the Christian doctrine of salvation, namely, the roles of God and man in determining salvation. Is salvation entirely the result of God’s action, so that the individual alone cannot determine whether he is saved? Or is salvation the product of the human will, so that salvation is partly, or indeed entirely, a matter of choice? This issue was a matter of intense controversy from the very beginning of the Christian church. Strauß critically examines all the major positions in this controversy, devoting more than 100 pages to their exposition.²⁴ But, again, he does not take sides. He shows how the dispute between opposing parties eventually lead to an aporia where no one could prove his position without getting caught in fatal problems. Strauß concludes that the whole dispute has no meaning in the modern era. The central presuppositions that once gave it such great meaning and importance have proved to be untenable. It was the general doctrine of the early church, Strauß informs us, that salvation involved a combination of divine grace and free will (II, 400). Salvation required

²⁴ “Zweiter Abschnitt, Zweites Hauptstück. Die Sünde und die Gnade,” II, 391–497.

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divine grace—the supernatural act by which God directly empowers us to will and do the good—because man had so corrupted his natural faculties through sin that he lost the power to will and do the good on his own. But salvation also could not be due to grace alone, because salvation was also conceived as the reward for having a good will and acting on it. On no account could grace work on man through coercion, as if he had no choice in the matter. According to this early doctrine, then, salvation was the common product of man’s free decision and divine grace working together (II, 401). The combination of the two elements was expressed in the idea that man must make himself worthy of divine assistance through grace. This compromise position, which assigned equal roles to the will and grace, was later torn apart by controversy. Some disputants asserted the dominant role of grace for salvation, while others insisted upon the role of free will independent of grace. It was Augustine who became famous for stressing the role of grace in man’s redemption. The natural powers of man had become so corrupted through the Fall, Augustine taught, that man no longer had the power to do, or even to choose, the good through his own efforts alone. It was grace that would free us from our natural predilection to sin and determine us to do good (II, 410–11). While the human will was indeed involved in our salvation, it was still guided by grace, so that what we willed and how we strived to achieve it were the result of divine activity within us. As Strauß explains Augustine’s view: “the human will became only the selfless medium of the divine working through it” (II, 411). Opposition to Augustine’s doctrine came from the fourth-century theologian Pelagius, who stressed the role of free will for attaining salvation. Augustine’s doctrine provoked a hostile reaction, which Pelagius articulated and exploited, because it seemed to undermine all motivation to do the good and to earn one’s salvation. There seemed to be fatalistic consequences attached to Augustine’s position because God saved or damned according to what he alone had already preordained. Pelagius therefore deemed Augustine’s position as little more than fatum sub nomine gratiae (II, 414). Like Kant, Pelagius reasoned that what one ought to do—be free from sin—one should be able to do, so that human will and action should still play a decisive role in one’s salvation. Pelagius did not completely deny the role of grace in effecting salvation; but he demoted it to the role of an aid which allowed us to do the good more easily (II, 407). As important as it seemed to give some role to the will in earning our salvation, Augustine still could not accept the basic tenets of the Pelagian position. It failed to appreciate the consequences of the Fall. Because of the deep depravity of sin, the human will was unable to do good on its own and still required divine grace. After the fall, the will no longer had a power to choose between good and evil; it was simply the irresistible inclination to do evil, which we could be liberated from only through divine assistance (II, 410–11). Given the natural human propensity to will and do evil, all humanity deserved damnation; that God saved a few of his

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creatures was due to his mercy alone (II, 414–15). But if God could save a few from damnation, why did he not in his infinite mercy save all? Because, Augustine thought, only if a few were saved would man appreciate and thank God for his mercy (II, 415). The dispute between the Augustinians and Pelagians continued well into the early modern era. The Reformation saw a rebirth of the classical Augustinian view. Luther and Calvin stressed the sinful nature of man and insisted that natural man could do nothing to achieve or earn his salvation. They denied that the will is free—that it has the power to do good or evil—and taught that grace alone enables us to will and to do the good. But the Socinians and Arminians, just like the Pelagians once had, protested strongly against the apparent fatalistic consequences of Augustine’s position. Following Pelagius, they too asserted that the “ought” of the moral law involved “can,” so that man should have the power to do the good on his own. The Socinians and Arminians were never so bold that they completely denied the role of grace in making man ready for salvation. But they insisted that it was up to the will of man to make use of the grace that God already provided by giving us the power of freedom of choice. In this manner grace became demoted to a mere enabling condition, the result of God’s general will to create all human beings with a power of choice. In the early modern era the dispute about salvation seemed to be caught in an aporia where disputants simply rehearsed the positions their forbears worked out centuries ago. But Strauß insists that the dispute was not eternal but the mere product of a pre-scientific and critical era. The early modern era was a more scientific one where the idea was rapidly growing that nature formed a selfsufficient whole, so that God’s role was limited to the creation. The idea of grace then became discredited because it presupposed that God supernaturally intervened in the workings of the natural order (II, 455). It multiplied beyond necessity the acts of God in nature by assuming that he saved or damned individuals not according to laws but according to his arbitrary will; it would have been more plausible to limit the acts of grace to the creation of human capacities in general; but then grace seemed to add nothing to what is already present in God’s creation (II, 456). Even more fatal for the idea of grace was the advance of rational criticism, which demanded to know the criteria by which one could determine the presence of grace (II, 455–6). The crucial question was how one could know that these acts of grace really were supernatural, whether they truly were due to the workings of God. Just as one had problems in determining this of miracles and inspiration, so one now had the same problems in assessing the authenticity of acts of grace. And so, Strauß maintains, through the rise of science and criticism, the whole dispute about salvation lost its interest and efficacy. It was no surprise to him that this dispute, which so obsessed the pre-modern church, eventually just withered away.

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11.7 Incarnation One of the central and characteristic dogmas of Christianity was the incarnation, i.e., the doctrine that the divine appears in human form in Christ, or that Christ unites in one person divinity and humanity. This doctrine was important not only for the church but for Strauß himself, who rehabilitated it in his own speculative theology. We have already seen how Strauß reformulated this doctrine in the “Schlussabhandlung” to Das Leben Jesu, so that the unity of the divine and human appeared not only in the person of Christ but in all humanity. In the Glaubenslehre Strauß revisits this doctrine, first to consider its historical origins and development (§§61–4), and then to defend his own formulation of it (§66). In his study of the history of the doctrine Strauß uncovers problems that he failed to solve in his own speculative theology. We are left wondering why Strauß retained the dogma at all. The idea of the incarnation arose in the early church, Strauß says, when it tried to explain Jesus’ role as the messiah (II, 99). Jesus had human properties because, like any human being, he walked on the earth, had fleshly needs, and then died; but he also had divine properties because he had the power to work miracles and to save mankind from death. The question was how to combine the human and divine natures in Jesus into one person. In trying to conceive the unity of the divine and human, some stressed more his divine nature, others more his human nature. The early church had to steer between two extreme heretical doctrines: docetism, according to which the body of Christ was unreal and his sufferings only apparent; and ebionitism, according to which Christ was only human, the son of Mary and Joseph rather than God. Hence Christ was either God as he appeared in man or just a man merely favored by God. The more orthodox view was that Christ was as much man as he was God, and that he was both in true unity (II, 102). But the question remained: How could one conceive the unity of the two natures in Christ? Each nature had to be conceived as complete, as not lacking anything, so that Christ is as much God as he is man. This seems impossible, however, because the two natures of Christ are incompatible (II, 116). The divine comes from heaven, performs miracles, resurrects, and goes to heaven; the human, however, is born from Mary, grows naturally, becomes tired, suffers, and dies. How do we conceive one person having such opposed natures? The danger was that one would so separate the natures that one could have only two persons, one for each nature. But church dogma insisted that there could be only one person or substance. An important attempt to solve the problem came from Apollinarius, who was the Bishop of Laodicea in Syria from 361 to 390. He maintained that Christ had a human body and a human soul but that the divine Logos resided in his reason or

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spirit (II, 104). It was objected against this theory that the human side of Christ was still not complete because it also resided in his reason, which is no less human. Apollinarius replied to this objection: if a complete God united with a complete human being then there would be two persons, and so a double Christ; a single Christ could not be completely human and completely divine. The orthodox responded: Apollinarius hypostasizes the two natures of Christ, as if they were independent substances; he fails to see that the two natures have a purely spiritual meaning and as such can cohabit the same space (II, 105). It is therefore two natures that are in Christ, not two persons. Commenting on this dispute, Strauß declared that Apollinarius’ opponents simply begged the question: For how could there be two opposing natures in Christ without dividing him (II, 106)? Another important attempt to address the problem came with Johannes Damascenus, aka John of Damascus (652–750). His theory of the community of the divine and human natures in Christ was influential and persisted throughout the Middle Ages. He taught the reciprocal interpenetration of the two natures in Christ, so that what was said of Jesus as man could also be said of Jesus as God, and conversely. It was as true to say, therefore, that the man Jesus creates the world as that the son of God died on the cross. But, to an important degree, John limited the extent of this interpenetration because he said that it had its source in the divine, which was active, while human nature was passive (II, 119). This meant that the divine acts on the human but not conversely, and that the person of Christ is the divine nature. The difficulty with this theory, Strauß tells us, became apparent when John insisted that the divine, the person of Jesus, did not suffer on the cross but only his body (II, 120). But, Strauß asks, can we talk about suffering that is not that of a person? If only the body suffered, how can we say that Christ himself suffered on the cross? Luther developed a theory of the incarnation that was much like that of John. He maintained that there is a communio naturarum in the person of Jesus. This unity is such that one nature, though it does not transform into the other, still takes on the properties of the other (II, 124). All the properties of one nature can be attributed to the other, so that it is possible to say that man is God as well as God is man (II, 124). Luther differed from John, however, in his insistence that Christ’s suffering on the cross could not be limited to his human nature, let alone his body. Christ would be a poor savior if his suffering were limited to his human nature alone. Christ’s sacrifice had redeeming power for man precisely because it was his divine nature that suffered for us (II, 122). Strauß maintains that all these theories of the incarnation suffered from fatal weaknesses, difficulties which were laid bare by the Socinians in the early modern era. Adopting as their maxim nulla natura in se ipsam recipit contradictoria, they insisted that it is impossible for one person to have opposing natures (II, 155–6). In their view, the idea that Christ had a divine nature was a mistake arising from the hypostasis of his divine properties. These properties did not belong to the

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inherent nature of Christ but only to his office (II, 156). It was Christ’s mission on earth to save mankind from sin; but this did not confer upon him any special divine nature. We should cherish Christ not because he has any mystical properties but simply because he is the founder of a religion (II, 174). It is clear from Strauß’s exposition that he accepts the thrust of the Socinian objection against the idea of the incarnation. Thus he criticizes the reformers— Calvin and Zwingli—for rejecting Luther’s theory while still holding onto the idea that one and the same person could have opposed natures. He who rejects the communicatio naturarum, he argues, cannot hold onto a unio naturarum (II, 154). But this leaves us wondering why Strauß himself kept the incarnation in his own speculative theology. That theology still had to explain how the divine and the human, the infinite and the finite, could be joined in a single conception of the absolute. In his final section on the topic of the incarnation, §66, Strauß treats what he calls “speculative Christology,” i.e., the interpretation of the incarnation by Kant, Schelling, and Hegel. What is characteristic of speculative Christology, Strauß explains, is the elevation of the person of Christ to the status of an idea. In speculative theology it is no longer Christ the person that matters but the idea that he represents, which is the idea of humanity. From the speculative standpoint, it is not necessary that any one person (viz., Christ) represents the idea; there are many possible people who can be candidates to represent the ideal of humanity. To select one figure alone as the embodiment of the idea is simply a fetish, a reification of an idea as if it were a thing. Throughout this section Strauß defends his thesis, first expounded in the “Schlussabhandlung” to Das Leben Jesu, that the idea of humanity is realized not only in the single historical figure of Christ but in the whole of humanity. He continues to hold that this was Hegel’s meaning and intention. There can be no doubt at all about Hegel’s meaning, he claims, after the publication of his Philosophie der Religion (II, 220). It is clear from Hegel’s exposition, Strauß claims, that the unity of man and God is first experienced for man in the figure of Christ; but this is only a primitive stage in the development of this idea because man at first needs to see his ideas embodied in a particular sensual form (II, 218). But Hegel makes it clear that self-consciousness eventually moves beyond the figure of Christ and that it finally sees the idea embodied in humanity as a whole. Note that now Strauß drops his previous attempts to elevate the personality of Christ, those that appeared in the third edition of Das Leben Jesu and in Zwei friedlichen Bl€ atter. Christ has now been demoted to a strictly educational role; he illustrates for a more primitive humanity the unity of the divine and human. It is clear from §66 that Strauß thinks that speculative theology does not suffer from the same problems as traditional Christology. After all, if Christ is only an idea and not a single person, there cannot be any problem of seeing how the divine and human are attributes of one and the same person. On a more general level,

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however, Strauß does not avoid the problems of traditional Christology because the problem still persists how the absolute—forget about Christ—can have the attributes of the infinite and finite, eternal and temporal. That was the deeper and broader problem involved in the incarnation, and it remains a weakness of Strauß’s account that he has no answer to it.

11.8 Immortality of the Soul The final chapter of the Glaubenslehre is devoted to the topic of immortality. This was to leave the most important topic for last. For Strauß tells us that belief in immortality is “the very soul of contemporary religiosity” (II, 697). It is so important for the pious Christian soul that he will be deprived of his beliefs in God and Christ before his belief in immortality. Without batting an eyelid, he will consign “the whole apparatus of Christian eschatology” to “the critical flames” as long as he can rescue his “persistence after death.” Strauß refers approvingly to Kant’s opinion that of the three ideas of reason—God, freedom, and immortality—the most important is immortality.²⁵ But Strauß, unlike Kant, is happy to abandon belief in immortality. The enormous importance Strauß gives to immortality inevitably raises the question: What if there is no immortality? What if the soul is only mortal and disappears with this life? The consequences for religion will be incalculable. If the soul is mortal, there will be no point in developing theories of salvation, reconciliation, and grace, given that all these topics presuppose that the soul has a life in the hereafter. And if Strauß is correct that belief in immortality is more important to the modern self than beliefs in God and Christ, then those beliefs will cease to matter if immortality should prove to be false. “What is the point of God and Christ,” Strauß’s believer asks, “if everything ends in death?” (II, 697). Strauß defends the modern ego for giving such importance to its own immortality. It might seem like sheer egoism to place “the dear self” above the beliefs in God and Christ; but this “subjective turn,” he says, is perfectly in accord with “the modern spirit” (II, 698). We should not blame “the modern enlightened ego” that it places itself above “the extramundane God, Christ, and his second coming with legions of angels” given that these beliefs have proven themselves to be scarcely tenable (II, 698). The modern ego has good reason to believe in itself, Strauß adds, given that its critical powers have been the crucible in which religious beliefs have been tested and destroyed. ²⁵ Strauß refers to Kant’s opinion in Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der bloßen Vernunft, Schriften VI, 126, that Judaism cannot be considered a religion because it lacks the belief in immortality. This does not show that immortality is more important than the beliefs in God and freedom. He would have done better to refer to Kant’s statement in Tr€ aume eines Geistersehers, Schriften II, 349–50, that only the belief in a future life makes him depart from the ideal of complete impartiality of judgment.

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The crucial question for Strauß is not whether the self is infinite but whether it has correctly grasped its infinitude (II, 699). It sees its immortality as an endless straight line of unlimited duration. This way of conceiving of its infinitude is the product of its religious education, which has made it conceive of the infinite within itself as an infinite outside itself; the self has grown used to externalizing and reifying things in Christianity, so that the world within becomes a world outside and beyond itself. In this way, by conceiving its immortality as an infinite series, the soul has rendered its infinitude finite (II, 699). Strauß implies that it is more appropriate to conceive the infinity of the soul along the lines of Schleiermacher in his Reden über die Religion: “To be one with the infinite in the midst of the finite and to be eternal in the moment.”²⁶ That is for Schleiermacher, and for Strauß,²⁷ the proper sense of immortality of religion. The main reason for the persistence of the belief in immortality, Strauß claims, is the deep human need for justice (§107). In this world it is notorious that the virtuous suffer and that the vicious prosper, so we hope that there is another world where the virtuous will be rewarded and the vicious will be punished. If we believe that the kingdom of Christ is limited to this world, Strauß says, then we will be “the most miserable of human beings.” We will have no reason to hope for a better world where justice will finally prevail. Without belief in such a world, we might as well eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we will die.²⁸ As understandable as the need for justice might be, it still does not provide anything like a proof of immortality. For let us assume, Strauß asks us, that souls persist long enough after life for justice to be meted out to them. Why do they have to exist any longer, or indeed for eternity (714)? Strauß therefore rejects all practical proofs for immortality that are based on the need for justice. But his main objection against such proofs is more on moral than logical grounds. Those who demand a reward for virtue and a punishment for vice fail to understand that virtue should be its own reward and vice its own punishment. They have not really understood that the truly moral person does not ask for a reward for his virtue but is ready to sacrifice him or herself to do good deeds. The great paragon of modern morality, Strauß insists, is Spinoza, who makes virtue and the love of God ends in themselves which are attainable in this life.²⁹ Compared to Spinoza’s noble ethic, Strauß says, the doctrine of the theologians seems like “dirty laundry against snow” (II, 710).

²⁶ F. D. Schleiermacher, Über die Religion, Reden an die Gebildeten unter ihren Ver€ achtern (Berlin: Unger, 1799), 133. ²⁷ Strauß endorses Schleiermacher’s lines in the penultimate paragraph of Book II, §110, II, 738–9. He also criticizes Schleiermacher’s views of immortality in his Die christliche Glaubenslehre, II, 736. ²⁸ Strauß cites 1 Corinthians 15:32. ²⁹ Straus refers to Spinoza’s January 28, 1665 letter to Willen von Blyenbergh, which appears in Spinoza, The Letters, ed. Samuel Shirley (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1995), p. 156.

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All proofs for the immortality of the soul Strauß finds deficient. The teleological proof, which had been recently revived by I. H. Fichte,³⁰ claims that the vocation of the individual is to realize all his powers; since this does not happen in this life, there must be some other life beyond this where this is possible (II, 715). The premise behind this argument is that there is a teleological order designed by God, according to which all creatures develop their powers to the fullest. Strauß claims that it is easy to find empirical refutation against this reasoning. Whenever we cut down a Christmas tree, and whenever we eat caviar, we are preventing a tree and a fish embryo from reaching their fullest potential (II, 715). We do not postulate another life for the tree or the fish. The reply to this objection is that the argument applies only to rational or human beings, not to less spiritual beings like trees or fish. But Strauß insists that there is a lack of evidence for the inexhaustibility of human potential on earth. With the weakness of the body the powers of the soul also decline, so that there is nothing left to develop in a second life. Even a genius like Goethe was exhausted by the age of eighty. The argument at best applies to those who die tragically early; but most of us would have to confess that their talents are rather limited, that they wane with age, and that they are not candidates for future cultivation. The presupposition behind the arguments for immortality, Strauß observes, is the dualism between mind and body (II, 727). While the soul is held to have an immortal principle, the body is assumed to decay and die. But the proofs for this dualism are sadly lacking, Strauß contends. For Leibniz, the soul was immortal because it is simple and does not consist in parts; but it is only of something that consists in parts that we can say that it is born or dies, because all coming into being or passing away is nothing more than the addition or subtraction of such parts. Such a proof, Strauß points out, goes too far because it proves that the soul exists before life as well as after. If the soul has no end, it also has no beginning, so that the assumption of pre-existence has to be revived (II, 737). The idea of a being with a beginning and no end is just as absurd as a thing with an end but no beginning. In his final section (§110) Strauß passes in review all the latest attempts to prove immortality on a Hegelian basis. Some Hegelians argue that if absolute spirit is eternal, and if it manifests itself in individual subjects, then these too should be eternal. But this argument is a non sequitur, Strauß finds. The eternal activity of absolute spirit is just as well realized if all the finite subjects in which it appears are mortal; as long as there are finite subjects for it to realize itself in, it does not matter whether they pass away and die; all that is important is that there be other finite subjects to take their place. This is indeed just what happens in history, and for just this reason Hegel called it the “Sch€adelst€atte des absoluten Geistes.” ³⁰ Strauß cites I. H. Fichte, Die Idee der Personlichkeit und der individuellen Fortdauer (Elberfeld: Büschler, 1834), p. 107.

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Strauß’s Glaubenlehre ends on an anticlimactic note. It stops abruptly after its treatment of recent speculative attempts to prove immortality. The reader is left to draw his own conclusions about the viability of religion in the modern world if there is no reason to believe in immortality. That Strauß himself did not personally believe in immortality we have already seen in a previous section.³¹ We have every reason to think, therefore, that he believed that all the dogmas of the church, because dependent on immortality, were no longer tenable. In an earlier section (§99), shortly before his final paragraph, Strauß made perfectly clear his attitude toward the future of the church and theology. In the modern world, he writes, theology has been under siege by the new natural sciences and by criticism. One wall after another has crumbled in the assault on its fortress and now the only thing to do is to wait for its eventual collapse. Theology has been productive in the modern world only insofar as it has been destructive, i.e., only insofar as it has used philology and critique to demolish the dogmas that have been the mainstay of the church for millennia. The future of theology is therefore only to carry away the ruins of the church that no longer fit into “the plan for the construction of the new world” (II, 625). It is absurd under these conditions, Strauß argued, to educate a new generation in the science of theology. The universities and seminars, insofar as they devote themselves to the ideals of science and criticism, are only training grounds for the demolition of theology. It is unreasonable to expect them to teach antiquated dogmas to young minds. Strauß left his most radical advice for a footnote ending the chapter. Here he advised nothing less than the abolition of his alma mater, the Tübinger Stift. What point was there in keeping it alive now that theology had no role to play other than a destructive one? Now that the age had grown out of the kind of theology that was once taught there? And so Strauß pronounces its death sentence: “Have a heart and cut out the cancer from the root. Abolish the Stift in Tübingen.” Strauß then poses a question: “ ‘Are you really serious in giving this advice?’ ” And he answers: “I am indeed . . . For theology has now become a sphinx, and a much worse one than before, because that older one killed only those who could not guess its mysteries; now it tries to consume even those who know how to solve them” (II, 626, n. 17). The last lines are, of course, a reference to Strauß himself. It was he who had solved the riddle of the sphinx; and now the theologians of the institution who protected it were trying to do away with him. In this struggle for life and death, Strauß could recommend only the abolition of the institution itself. This was the ultimate gesture of revenge.

³¹ See chapter 9, section 9.4.

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12 Career in Politics and Political Writings 12.1 Strauß and Politics It is only natural to assume that the best account of Strauß’s attitude toward politics would come from Strauß himself. In a passage from his autobiography he reveals his attitude by describing his reaction to the 1848 Revolution, the major political event of his age. Strauß’s reaction was mainly negative, even hostile.¹ It was not because he was a conservative, still less a reactionary; it is just that he hated politics and its intrusions into his intellectual world. The Revolution was a nuisance for him, he complains, because it had interrupted his literary activity, which he had just revived after a disastrous marriage. Hitherto he had been devoted entirely to intellectual problems, and he had little or no interest in politics. Now, however, the Revolution was dragging him away from these problems and forcing him to confront harsh reality. Because he disapproved of all revolutions, it was self-evident to him that he could play no active role in current politics. This passage from the autobiography has set in stone the image of Strauß as an apolitical thinker. While it contains an important element of truth, which we will have to examine, it is also misleading because it does not begin to come to terms with Strauß’s complex attitude toward politics. The very man who professed to be indifferent to politics was a candidate for election to the Frankfurt Parliament; he also served actively in the Württemberg Parliament; and he wrote many articles and essays about politics, some of which are crucial for understanding his general worldview. Strauß’s initial reaction to the 1848 Revolution does not entirely conform to the stock image of him. He was astonished by the news of Louis Philippe’s abdication on February 23, and by the proclamation of a republic in nearby Enslingen. “The news surprised me just as the Roman soldiers had Archimedes,” he told his friend Rapp on February 29.² The comparison with Archimedes is just what we would expect for an intellectual whose activity was interrupted by political events. But the rest of Strauß’s letter reveals another side of his reaction. The very thought of a republic in Enslingen excited him, so much so that he had to pinch himself that he

¹ See “Literarische Denkwürdigkeiten,” GS I, 18. ² To Rapp, February 29, 1848, Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe von David Friedrich Strauß, ed. Eduard Zeller (Bonn: Emil Strauß, 1895), p. 204. David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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was not dreaming. As he told Rapp: “What times we live in, dearest Rapp! And I believe we only stand to gain. At least I do not know what we have to lose that is worth talking about.”³ Strauß was even more exuberant about his hopes and prospects: “All our youthful dreams, all our innermost thoughts, are now coming to fulfillment,” he confided to Rapp. Although he recognized that this was perhaps exaggerating, he still was confident that the new age would be “healthier” (gesünder) than the old one. Strauß’s hopes are not difficult to understand. He had suffered enough under the old order, which had banished him as a heretic, which had forced him to live in isolation, and which kept him from academic employment. Perhaps, finally, that order was now coming to an end. At least, as he told Rapp, he had nothing to lose. So, in the next months, Strauß became an anxious observer, hoping the old order would collapse and the new would be born. Strauß’s February 29 letter to Rapp reveals only one side of his reaction toward the Revolution. Another side appears in his April 3, 1848 letter to Rapp,⁴ where Strauß makes it clear that he cannot practically engage in politics. While the ideals of the Revolution are admirable, he still cannot take action to make them become a reality. That is for the work of others and not for himself. Still, Strauß does imagine himself taking an intellectual role on behalf of the Revolution. If he will undertake no practical role on its behalf, he will undertake a theoretical one. If he has to do battle against its enemies, he will do so “with pen and lancet.” Strauß even regrets that this new revolution, unlike that of 1789, has given less place to the intellectuals. While Sieyès was crucial for the National Assembly, the new radicals have not waited to hear from the intellectuals and have already passed them over. In his April 13 letter to Vischer,⁵ Strauß has similar reservations about his ability to take part in the events of the Revolution. His old friend had urged him to throw away all scruples, modesty, and indifference and to serve the fatherland in the new parliament.⁶ But Strauß candidly and bluntly replied that this was not in his nature. While Vischer was knightly and militant, ready to do battle on behalf of the republican cause, he could find none of this spirit within himself. “A nature like my own,” he confessed, “had it better under the old state than the new,” because at least then it was quiet in the streets and one did not run across excited people shouting political slogans. In this letter Strauß did not even envisage a theoretical or intellectual role for himself. He seemed eager to avoid all contact with the Revolution, theoretical or practical.

³ Ibid. ⁴ To Rapp, April 3, 1848, Ausgew€ ahlte Briefe, p. 205. ⁵ Briefwechsel zwischen Strauß und Vischer, ed. Adolf Rapp (Stuttgart: Ernst Klett Verlag, 1952), I, 213. ⁶ See Vischer to Strauß, March 23, 1848, Briefwechsel, I, 211.

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While Strauß approved the basic ideals of the National Assembly—national unity, civil freedoms, and human rights—he had the deepest misgivings about the culture of the modern age. This culture was for him fundamentally egalitarian, and it disapproved of all elitism, whether in the realms of politics or culture. Thus Strauß told Rapp in his February 29 letter that they were fortunate to have lived in a more privileged age which prized individuality and intellectual accomplishment; but now that age was coming to an end, it was being replaced by a new egalitarian one opposed to all intellectual superiority. It hated culture as much as property. How much he could now appreciate Goethe, Strauß said, who, just for these reasons, had deep misgivings about the French Revolution. What Goethe feared had now become a reality. This was the age of the common man, who would bring down all people to his level. Nowadays there was little room for individuality; there were simply too many people, so many that they were crushing one another. The great problem of Europe, Strauß opined, was overpopulation, which was making it impossible for the individual to earn a living and have a space of his own. To escape this dire situation, Strauß then proposed to Rapp a remarkable strategy: move to America.⁷ Strauß elaborated his fears about the culture of the modern age in his April 13 letter to Vischer. He described himself as “an epigone of that period of individual culture whose type was best drawn by Goethe.”⁸ What he meant by “individual culture” (Individualbildung) was the ethic of Bildung, according to which the end of life is the realization of all one’s powers into a harmonic whole. Strauß contrasted such an ethic of personal self-realization to an ethic based on the common good, whose ideal is of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. If Vischer were to appeal to such a utilitarian ethic, then, to counter him, he would insist on his principle of individuality, according to which he would do something for others only when it suited him. There was an elitist or aristocratic dimension to this Goethean ethic, which Strauß recognized and explicitly affirmed. Toward the new democratic mentality of the age he had nothing but contempt. As he told Vischer: “Odi profanum vulgus et arceo is and will remain my motto.”⁹ Such was Strauß’s initial reaction to the Revolution. The letters to Rapp and Vischer help us to understand much about his attitude toward politics and his age. Yet we cannot take them as a reliable indicator of everything Strauß would think and do. Even if he disliked politics, he would find himself taking part in it and writing a great deal about it. Strauß was a reluctant politician; but he was, even for a short time in his life, a politician nonetheless.

⁷ Ibid., I, 206. ⁸ Ibid., I, 213. ⁹ Ibid. The dictum is from Horace. It can be roughly translated as: “I hate the vulgar and keep them distant from me.”

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12.2 A Romantic on the Throne The 1848 Revolution was the crucible in which the mass of Strauß’s political thought was formed. Strauß wrote very little about politics before 1848; and almost everything he wrote about politics appears in 1848. It is only natural to assume, therefore, that Strauß’s political thought was entirely the product of the Revolution. But this assumption, however plausible, proves to be false. Strauß’s interest in politics was not so occasional; and it was not simply a short-lived reaction to a single event. This becomes clear as soon as we recognize that Strauß’s first major political writing was published in 1847, a year before the Revolution. This was one of his most successful and celebrated tracts, his Der Romantiker auf dem Throne der C€ asaren.¹⁰ This work is one of the most remarkable Strauß ever wrote. Ostensibly, it is an account of Julian the Apostate (332–63), who strived to revive the pagan gods after Rome had already become Christian. But the book is really a satire on the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV, whose policies and personality Strauß much despised. Strauß finds many analogies between Julian and Friedrich Wilhelm IV, which is surprising because they lived centuries apart, and because they had opposing religious ideals: Julian strived to revive paganism as Friedrich Wilhelm aspired to restore medieval Christianity. Surely, one would think, because they come from different epochs, and because their ideals are so opposed, these personalities have nothing in common. But the irony and interest of Strauß’s text lies precisely in showing the many affinities between them. Above all, Strauß’s tract was a critique of romantic politics, its reactionary nostalgia, and longing for the past. Nothing better defines Strauß’s liberalism than his faith in progress, in the advent of a better future for humanity; but that faith emerges at its firmest and clearest in his reaction against romanticism. Even in the early 1840s Strauß was taking potshots at the romantics. In 1843 he wrote some Xenien for Georg Herwegh’s Einundzwanzig Bogen aus der Schweiz in which he satirized Friedrich Wilhelm IV’s efforts to rebuild Cologne Cathedral because they did not “leave the dead in peace.”¹¹ And in 1847, in two articles for Albert Schwegler’s Jahrbücher der Gegenwart, he attacked the romantic aesthetic of self-reflexivity for its self-indulgence and aridity.¹² These were mere foretastes of what was to come. Der Romantiker auf dem Throne der C€ asaren was more

¹⁰ David Friedrich Strauß, Der Romantiker auf dem Throne der C€ asaren oder Julian der Abtrünnige (Mannheim: Friedrich Bassermann, 1847). Reprinted in GS I, 175–216. All references are to this later edition. ¹¹ David Friedrich Strauß, “Xenien. Ein Thierkreis,” in Georg Herwegh, Einundzwanzig Bogen aus der Schweiz (Zurich: Verlag des literarischen Comptoirs, 1843), pp. 250–3. ¹² David Friedrich Strauß, “Aesthetische Grillen, erster Fang,” Jahrbücher der Gegenwart (April 1847), 379–84; and “Aesthetische Grillen, zweiter Fang” (February 1848), 61–9.

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sustained, more substantial criticism. Now romanticism as such comes in for criticism.¹³ When Friedrich Wilhelm IV ascended the throne on July 7, 1840, he was determined to revive the faltering Christian faith in Prussia, which had fallen on hard times ever since the late eighteenth century and the reign of his godless grandfather Friedrich II. Friedrich Wilhelm lived in a fantasy world which he deeply believed in, and which he fervently hoped for; he wanted nothing less than the return of the Christian culture of the Middle Ages. He saw himself as a Christian emperor whose task was to unite state and church on the model of the Middle Ages. His political ideals came straight from the romantics, from Wackenroder, Friedrich Schlegel, Tieck, and above all Novalis, whose Christenheit oder Europa was his inspiration and guidebook. True to these ideals, Friedrich Wilhelm planned to reorganize the Prussian church along hierarchical lines so that it had all the offices of the medieval church. The king would be the first bishop of this new church, and whatever he decreed would have to be followed down the line. There was no place for dissension in his church. When the Lichtfreunde, a group of rationalist pastors, held their own meetings, they were duly banished from the church. Orthodoxy was the order of the day, which was enforced ruthlessly and passionately by no less than Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg, the cleric with whom Strauß had once quarreled in his Streitschriften. Despite the fifteen centuries that separate them, and despite their conflicting religious beliefs, Strauß sees the greatest affinity between Friedrich Wilhelm IV and Julian. Just like Friedrich Wilhelm, Julian wanted to unite throne and altar, and he had a mystical idea of the dignity and vocation of the ruler (209). Julian, again just like his Prussian analogue, went to great trouble to revive the old priesthood and he too was very punctilious in observing the rituals and customs of the past (201–2). Friedrich Wilhelm IV wanted to build new cathedrals and restore old ones; but so did Julian, who devoted much of his time to rebuilding the shrine of Daphne and the hecatombs. Both had their own court philosophers: Julian had the Neoplatonists, and Friedrich Wilhelm IV had their modern counterparts in the romantics. Not only in their religious ideals and practices, but also in their personalities there were striking similarities between Julian and Friedrich Wilhelm IV (207). Both were self-conscious and affected in their piety, missing no occasion to display it publicly. It was as if Julian were always on stage or as if he held a mirror before him. Beyond these analogies, Strauß goes on to make many others, but it would be tiring to mention them all. What is of interest here, though, ¹³ I cannot agree with the interpretation of Stefan Gerber that Strauß’s tract was aimed against the institution of monarchy as such. See his “Die Romantiker auf den Thronen,” in David Friedrich Strauß als Schriftsteller, eds. Barbara Potthast and Volker Henning Drecoll (Heidelberg: Winter, 2018), pp. 159–95, esp. 169, 173. While Strauß’s tract might well have been appropriated by later antimonarchists, as Gerber argues, it was not Strauß’s intention to criticize monarchy but only one misuse of it. Strauß’s monarchism is clear from several of his political writings. See section 12.3 below.

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is that all these analogies are implicit; it is left to the reader to see the comparisons. With the censor standing over him, Strauß never mentions Friedrich Wilhelm IV; only once does he draw an explicit analogy with the present by saying that Julian’s efforts to revive the past “remind us of the decrees and rules of cultural ministries and consistories of our time” (202). If the term “romantic on the throne” applies to anyone, it would seem that it should apply to Friedrich Wilhelm IV, who really was a child of the romantic age. But Strauß is very careful in extending the phrase to Julian. Such usage is clearly anachronistic, given that romanticism is a modern intellectual movement. But Strauß did not worry about the anachronism, primarily because he defined “romanticism” in a very broad sense. Romanticism was for him any attempt to restore the old by giving it an attractive appearance (186). A romantic is for him anyone who has a nostalgia for the wisdom of the ancients—whether Christian or pagan—and who attempts to apply it to his own era. In this sense, Julian was indeed just as much a romantic as Friedrich Wilhelm. Julian wanted to restore the old pagan faith for his age just as much as the Prussian king wanted to revive medieval Christianity. In defining romanticism in such broad terms, Strauß was making a political point: that the romantic is devoted to a lost cause; that he wants to go back to the past when history has marched forward and beyond him. Julian was as out of touch with his times as much as Friedrich Wilhelm is with his. Rome was becoming Christian just as Prussia was becoming secular. Both rulers were relics of an earlier age. Although the romantic wants to restore ancestral morals and an ancient faith, he is still a child of his own age, whose ideas and goals he strives to integrate with those of the past. There is a deep tension in romanticism, Strauß thinks, because the romantic stands in the present age though he still longs for the past. The only way he can legitimate his interest in the past is to resort to “a fantastic obscurity” or “a dark mysticism,” which appeals to feeling and the imagination. “Romanticism is essentially mysticism, and only mystic souls are romantics,” Strauß declares (188). On his analysis, the mysticism and obscurantism of romanticism is the direct consequence of its attempt to revive the past: the realities of the present, and the ideals of the past, have to be concealed or obscured to hide the impossibility of applying such ideals to the present. But this mysticism and obscurantism is not an exercise in deceit, Strauß insists, because the romantic is not fully self-conscious of his motives or insincere in his ideals. “Self-deception,” he therefore insists, also belongs to the very essence of romanticism. For all his criticisms of Julian, Strauß still attempts to make a fuller and fairer appraisal of his personality and accomplishment (213–15). There were several positive characteristics of Julian. First, he had the spirit of a true philosopher, someone who strives to investigate the natural causes of things and who shuns the appeal to spirits and final causes. Second, he had a deep feeling for nature, for the presence of the divine in everything around him, which made it impossible for

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him to understand the Christians, who worshiped a dead human being whom they never saw. Third, he was a capable military commander, having the ability to lead troops, and the courage and endurance needed for battle. All these characteristics were pagan in origin; the first two Julian inherited from the Greeks and the third from the Romans. In his final assessment of Julian, Strauß states that we moderns find it difficult to sympathize with his attempt to revive the past, to recapture what is gone forever. We know the power of history, and we appreciate the need to adapt to it. In this respect we are sympathetic to his ancient Christian critics, who then represented the future and who knew that the old gods belonged to the past. However, Strauß says, we are more sympathetic to the content of Julian’s ideas; what he wanted from the past is what we now live for in the future: “the free harmonic humanity of Greece, the self-reliant virility of Rome” (216). While Christianity was the wave of the future in Julian’s era, it is now a relic of the Middle Ages; and we should not attempt to revive Christianity in a forthcoming secular age any more than paganism in a growing Christian one. What is most surprising about Strauß’s tract is this closing affirmation of Greek and Roman ideals. There is no mention of the Christ figure who once played such an important role in the third edition of Das Leben Jesu and in Zwei friedliche Bl€ atter. In the late 1840s and 1850s the Christian element will play a very minor, indeed a negligible, role in Strauß’s statements of his ethical ideals. We have already seen how Strauß deliberately pushed Christ aside in 1839 in reaction to the Zurich affair;¹⁴ he will continue to remain on this course, with minor relapses, in the 1840s and 1850s. The new direction of Strauß’s thought was now clear: he was moving toward paganism, toward a secular culture.

12.3 Political Fictions The first piece Strauß wrote in response to the Revolution was his article “The king cannot do wrong. Eine theologische-politische Parallele,” which appeared in March 1848 in the Jahrbücher der Gegenwart.¹⁵ This was a fateful date because it marks the beginning of the 1848 Revolution in Germany. In that month the future of Germany was entirely uncertain. Would the Revolution succeed or fail? Would Germany finally be united? What would its constitution be, a republic or a monarchy? No one knew the answers to these questions, though everyone had a stake in them.

¹⁴ See chapter 11, section 11.1. ¹⁵ David Friedrich Strauß, “The king cannot do wrong. Eine theologische-politische Parallele,” Jahrbücher der Gegenwart, Nr. 25 (March 1848), 97–8. This article is divided into two columns, designated “a” (left) and “b” (right).

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The crucial question for Strauß concerns the form of government. Should Germany follow the recent example of France and go the way of a republic? Or should it follow the older precedent of Britain and go the way of a constitutional monarchy? Strauß’s article is a defense of constitutional monarchy. But it is a remarkable defense, just the opposite of what we expect from a man whose commitment to reason in theology is total and uncompromising. The central thesis of Strauß’s article is that reason should and must have limits in politics, at least for the common man or the people. Nothing in his earlier writings prepares us for such a contention. The article centers around Strauß’s reflections on the old maxim in his title, “The king cannot do wrong.” This maxim is a fiction, Strauß notes, though he states that in its homeland, Britain, it is a truth. There the sovereign is truly above the law; for his or her missteps and failures, the government alone is held responsible. The French have their own version of this maxim: “Le roi règne, mais il ne gouverne pas.” But it has not been so successfully applied in France as in England. Louis Philippe made it his business not only to reign but to govern; and because the people did not like the results of his governing, they overthrew him. The German sovereigns would like to adopt this maxim; but no one really thinks that it describes the working of their constitutions, because in the larger states, Prussia and Austria, the sovereign is not independent and above the law; there is a close connection between the sovereign and the government because the sovereign chooses the cabinet, which is the main organ of government. Strauß does not think it would be wise for Germany to follow the French example in pursuing political reform. The French have gone too far too fast. They have been radical in making changes, but they have not been thorough (gründlich) because their changes have been too sudden and unstable. It would be better for the Germans to follow the British precedent because they are more akin in nature and descent to the British than the French (97a). Referring to the House of Hanover, Strauß says that the German house cat has been the physical cousin of the English lion. For decades after the French Revolution, the English constitution had been a model for German politicians eager to reform Germany but also to avoid a revolution. This was the central thesis of the so-called “Hanoverian school,” which Strauß seems to follow here.¹⁶ It is striking that Strauß notes the main objection against the English model: that it is the unique product of English history, which is so individual that it cannot be copied in Germany. He even admits that Germany and France are more alike in their political history than Germany and Britain. Neither Germany nor France have had the gradual evolution of liberal institutions like Britain; and both,

¹⁶ On the Hanoverian school, see my Enlightenment, Revolution and Romanticism: The Genesis of Modern German Political Thought 1790–1800 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), pp. 288–309.

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unlike Britain, have been constrained by absolutist systems of government (97b). Nevertheless, Strauß still insists that it would be better for Germany to imitate their English counterparts and to establish a constitutional monarchy rather than a republic. Alluding to a famous metaphor of Hegel’s,¹⁷ he states that he would prefer a government where the monarch dots the “i” rather than one where there is no monarch at all (97b). Why this preference? Strauß states that he has many reasons, but he gives only one here. It is a remarkable reason, one which he confesses he is almost ashamed to state, and one which he admits is very old-fashioned. The chief reason for his preference is, as he puts it, “theological.” “Why a theological basis for a political opinion?” Strauß asks. It is because, he says, the Germans are a theologicalpolitical people. Nothing can take place in Germany which is not reflected in its religious pulse (97b). German theology is the weathervane of German politics. This weathervane is now pointing in the direction of British constitutional monarchy rather than a French republic. This metaphorical answer raises more questions than it answers. What does theology have to do with politics? And why does it point toward a constitutional monarchy rather than a republic? We can answer these questions most directly and swiftly if we note the underlying premise behind Strauß’s argument: that the ultimate foundation of political power lies in religion, and indeed in religious mystery. The alliance of throne and altar, which has been seen as the main target of Strauß’s theology by his conservative critics, is here his central premise. It is wise to have a constitutional monarchy, Strauß thinks, because its foundation lies in religion. The wisdom behind the maxim “The king does no wrong” is that the sovereign is not accountable because he stands above all criticism. If he stands above criticism, he also stands above all the controversy and strife of politics. Only in this way does the state have a permanent and certain source of sovereignty. That the king cannot do wrong is the only proper conclusion we can draw from the development of theology in Germany, Strauß tells us. At the very heart of this theology, in his opinion, is the Tübingen school of criticism. One would think that this school, with its radical criticism, would destroy the religious beliefs behind political power. But Strauß insists that the very opposite is the case. All the historical criticism of the Tübingen school has done is revealed the problems with the testimony of the apostles; but the more problems it has revealed, the more the figure of Christ himself remains a mystery (98a). All that the critique ever does, Strauß says using a Kantian analogy, is peel back the layers of appearances; but behind those appearances lies the unknowable thing-in-itself. The truth behind the maxim “The king does no wrong,” Strauß maintains, is that there must be a limit to questioning in politics. If we question forever, we

¹⁷ Philosophie des Rechts (1820), §280, Zusatz.

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jeopardize the basis of sovereignty, which must stand above the political fray. That there should be a limit to questioning is apparent from religion itself because, no matter how much we enquire, we will never come to terms with the real meaning of religion, which, in the case of Christianity, is the meaning of Christ. It is important that we note the limits of Strauß’s argument. Strauß was not breaking in principle with his rationalism. There were no intrinsic limits to enquiry, at least not for the intellectuals; but there were such limits for the common man, for the people, who needed to maintain their beliefs for the sake of obedience. In declaring that the king cannot do wrong, Strauß was expressing one of the characteristic doctrines of the Hanoverian school: that politics needs illusions. The English did everything they could to distinguish their king from common mortals, Justus M€ oser taught,¹⁸ but they knew perfectly well that he was just a man like everyone else. If we maintained that illusion, the business of government would go so much more smoothly. Whatever its merits, Strauß’s argument determined his place in the politics of his age. Just as Romantiker auf dem Throne der C€ asaren made clear his position against the old conservatives, so this essay revealed his position with respect to the radical republicans. The republicans were the ultra-rationalists and ultrademocrats of German politics, determined to smash all sources of mystery because they were only a subterfuge for the abuse of power. Strauß was aware of the chief problem raised by the maxim “The king cannot do wrong”: it sanctioned all corruption. He states that the thrones of the two chief states of Germany— Prussia and Austria—use this maxim to make everything they do seem “good and flawless” (97a). He obviously thought, however, that the benefits of the maxim—political stability—outweighed its flaws—hiding corruption.

12.4 The Jewish Question One of the most interesting articles Strauß ever wrote on politics—one that reveals his political allegiances like few others but one that has also been completely neglected by scholars—is his discussion of the so-called “Jewish question,” “Judenverfolgung und Judenemancipation.”¹⁹ The article appeared in April 1848 in Jahrbücher der Gegenwart, only a month before the opening of the Frankfurt Parliament, which would debate this question with great passion and in great detail.

¹⁸ See Möser’s essay “Wer die Kunst verstand, verriet den Meister nicht,” in Sämtliche Werke, Historisch-Kritische Ausgabe, ed. Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen (Osnabrück: Wenner, 1943–81), X, 203–5. ¹⁹ David Friedrich Strauß, Jahrbücher der Gegenwart, Nr. 30 (April 1848), 117a–119b. “a” stands for the left-hand column and “b” for the right.

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The Jewish question concerned the advantages and disadvantages, the rights and wrongs, of Jewish emancipation, i.e., whether and to what extent Jews should be given civil and political rights. The question had a long history in Germany. Christian Dohm first raised it in 1788 in his Bürgerliche Verbesserung der Juden;²⁰ and it had become even more topical since the French Revolution and with the liberal movements of the 1820s and 1830s. The 1848 Revolution seemed to make Jewish emancipation a virtual certainty. To maintain the old restrictions against Jews now seemed to be a legacy of the prejudice and superstition of the Middle Ages. Sure enough, the “Verfassung des deutschen Reiches” of March 1849 guaranteed every German citizen, including Jews, religious freedom.²¹ It was stated that, as part of this freedom, civil or political rights could not be limited by religious confession; in other words, Jews should have the same civil and political rights as everyone else. One would think that Strauß, as a liberal and humanitarian, would be a champion of emancipation, especially in the 1840s when it had become such a popular cause. Yet here again Strauß defies our expectations and shows his idiosyncratic and independent streak. Rather than advocating liberal and humanitarian views, he criticizes them and reveals his conservative colors. He is explicitly and pointedly critical of those liberals who would grant Jews equal civil and political rights without preconditions and without thinking of the social and political consequences. In reading his article we seem to hear the voice of an earlier era—the voice of a Heinrich Paulus, a Jakob Fries, or a Friedrich Rühs,²² who railed against emancipation decades earlier because they feared it would sanction a state within the state in Germany. But, as we shall soon see, Strauß being Strauß, he does not really belong in their camp either. According to Strauß’s account of the controversy, the opposing camps in the Jewish question come from different social and economic strata (117b). Those in favor of Jewish emancipation are from the educated urban classes; and those against it are the less educated rural classes or peasants. Many people think that culture, education, and humanity are totally on the side of emancipation, while opposition to it comes from prejudice, superstition, and old privileges. But this opinion fails to understand, Strauß argues, the reasons for the peasants’ hostility toward emancipation. No one would say that the revolt of the peasants against feudal burdens has been unjust and willful (117b). But the peasants’ feelings ²⁰ Christian Wilhelm Dohm, Ueber die bürgerliche Verbesserung der Juden (Berlin: Friedrich Nicolai, 1781). ²¹ Die Verfassung des deutschen Reiches vom 28 März 1849, Dritter unveränderte Abdruck (Leipzig: Engelmann, 1905), Abschnitt VI, “Die Grundrechte des deutschen Volkes,” §144, p. 31. ²² H. E. G. Paulus, Die jüdische Nationalabsonderung nach Ursprung, Folgen und Besserungsmitteln (Heidelberg: C. F. Winter, 1831); Jakob Fries, Ueber die Gef€ ahrdung des Wohlstandes und Charakters der deutschen durch die Juden (Heidelberg: Mohr und Winter, 1816); and Friedrich Rühs, Ueber die Ansprüche der Juden an das deutsche Bürgerrecht, Zweiter, verbesserter und erweiterter Abdruck (Berlin: Realschulbuchhandlung, 1816).

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toward the Jews are just part and parcel of their general revolt against such oppression (118a). Just as the peasant has been oppressed by his landlord, who demands ever higher payments for the use of his land, so he has been oppressed by the Jew, who demands ever increasing interest on his loans. If the peasant fails to pay, he suffers a terrible fate: the landlord takes away the land and the Jew takes away his property. It is not surprising, then, that the peasants oppose emancipation; they think that it is only to give the Jew carte blanche for further exploitation. Anyone who speaks against abolition of the death penalty or emancipation nowadays, Strauß writes, is likely to be shunned by the liberal and treated as if he were a medieval barbarian (118a). All the newspapers speak in one voice about the need for emancipation, though they express mainly the interests of the urban classes and ignore the grievances of the rural ones. The liberal and humanitarian ideas behind emancipation are a fashion, Strauß insists, and they stand just as much in need of criticism as the old patriarchic and religious ideas (118a). Strauß reveals the core of his position through an anecdote. In 1842 he was sitting in the gallery of the Baden Estates Assembly listening to a debate about emancipation with his friend Züllig, who was the stenographer for the occasion. He heard the views of one speaker, a certain Herr Zittel, who dared to oppose the liberals. Zittel said that he agreed with the liberals that in the modern state religion should not be a reason to exclude any citizen from receiving full civil and political rights; but for him the crucial question was whether Jews really were citizens (118b). “Are the Jews full members of our nation?” he asked. It would seem not, he argued, because they do not share the same descent as we, and because they separate themselves from us as if they were better than us. The state cannot allow such a “separate organism” within itself, such “a state within a state,” Zittel continued. As long as the Jews are like this, it is not religious intolerance but political prudence to grant them civil rights only under certain conditions. Such was the view of Herr Zittel; but, without hesitation or qualification, Strauß assures us that it is his view too. “This seemed to me to be cogently said not only then but even today,” he writes; “I still have not heard anything that has refuted it” (118b). Zittel’s views, as Strauß briefly expounds them, were essentially those of Paulus, Fries, and Rühs, who had made their case against emancipation in the first decades of the nineteenth century. Their argument was that the Jews were an alien people within the German nation, and that therefore they did not deserve full civil and political rights. Just as we do not grant a Frenchman or Englishman resident in Germany such rights, so we should not do so to Jews, who, no less than Frenchmen and Englishman, are guests or resident foreigners. A Jew has his homeland in Israel, just as a Frenchman has his in France and an Englishman in England. Under these circumstances, Paulus and Fries argued, it would be foolish for the state to grant civil and political rights to the Jews, because this would be to allow a state within the state, which either divides or severely limits sovereignty.

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Strauß virtually endorses this argument in his article. He refers to the Jews as “uninvited guests” (119a); he warns against the state within the state; and he explains why the Jews, because of their religious heritage, will always want to be separate from the rest of the community (118b). Yet Strauß does not draw the same conclusion from this argument as his more conservative predecessors. For all his agreement with them, he offers a solution to the Jewish question that they could not accept at all and that is not even conservative. Strauß has nothing in principle against emancipation, nothing against granting Jews full civil and political rights, provided that they meet one condition. This condition is that they are willing to forswear their separation from non-Jews; this does not mean abjuring their faith but it does mean living on an equal basis with non-Jews. Strauß admits that the Jews are not likely to agree with this. How, then, overcome the rift in the body politic, the separation between Jews and Gentiles? Strauß refers us to the example of the ancients. When the Romans faced the increasing division of their body politic into patricians and plebeians, their solution to this problem was connubium.²³ In other words, intermarriage. If Cupid is only allowed to do his work, Strauß imagines, then the division in the modern community will slowly heal, just as happened in ancient Rome. Strauß realizes that with the present status quo, families on both sides will refuse to allow intermarriage. But he is confident that this resistance will disappear with the passage of time (119b). Now that the state does not regard itself as Christian, he reasons, families too will have no special reason to regard themselves as Christians; and if the Christians do not regard themselves as such, the Jews will follow suit. The general tendency of the time is moving toward greater religious fragmentation and the multiplication of sects, Strauß observes, so that it will not be long before the Jew will cease to appear “a strange bird” (ein so ganz besonderer Vogel) (119b). This vision of a single nation, where religious differences cease to play any role at all, was not that of the conservatives, who wanted to keep religious differences, with all the laws enforcing Christian privileges, intact. Strauß’s position is more akin to the political left—to thinkers like Bruno Bauer, Karl Marx, and Wilhelm Marr—who opposed Jewish emancipation on the grounds that it would keep intact religious differences. Strauß, like these thinkers, looked forward to a future where all religious differences were overcome and where everyone had their rights and duties simply as human beings. It is not clear that Strauß kept to the position he outlined in this article. When he was campaigning for a seat in the Frankfurt Parliament he explicitly affirmed its principle that everyone deserves equal civil and political rights regardless of

²³ Strauß uses this Latin term and offers no translation. According to the Oxford Latin Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), p. 408, the correct term is coniugium, which means marriage or wedlock in general. The meaning Strauß gives it here is what we now call intermarriage.

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religious confession.²⁴ No conditions are attached to Jews receiving such rights. It was understandable that Strauß would want to affirm this principle because, it turned out, the Jews were among his most stalwart supporters during the election.²⁵ To complete the irony: the peasants, whose interests Strauß defended in his article, were his most vehement opponents.

12.5 Religious and Political Liberalism Strauß, like all liberals of his age, was devoted to the ideal of German unity. One of the major roadblocks to that goal was the traditional religious divisions of Germany, especially the division between Protestant and Catholic. Since the Thirty Years War that had been the main source of German disunity. However, there was no sign, even in the nineteenth century, that the old religious strife would ever end. For this reason, many liberals in the 1840s insisted that religious dissension was dangerous, and that unity should not be sacrificed for the sake of religious liberty, which had been the chief source of all the old quarrels. They insisted, therefore, that confessional differences be laid aside and that people suspend religious discussions for the sake of national unity. One of these liberals was Georg Gervinus (1805–71), who made it an editorial policy in his popular newspaper Deutsche Zeitung not to discuss theology and to consider ecclesiastical matters only from a political standpoint. Other liberals, however, feared that stressing German unity at the expense of religious liberty was no less dangerous. Of the two great liberal ideals—unity and liberty—liberty should never be placed beneath unity, they insisted. A unity at the expense of liberty was not worth having; to make politics the be-all and end-all was simply to surrender one’s soul. Among these liberals were the Lichtfreunde, the association of liberal Protestants (Verein der Protestanten Freunde) who, in 1841, formed their own independent congregations against the strict orthodoxy mandated from Berlin. They took offense at Gervinus’ editorial policy, which seemed to sideline their religious ideals within the liberal cause. Strauß was sympathetic to the Lichtfreunde. They seemed to him to be one hopeful sign that Protestantism could reform itself from within and break away from the deadening orthodoxy enforced by Friedrich Wilhelm IV and Hengstenberg in Berlin. No doubt it warmed Strauß’s heart to see that one of the Lichtfreunde, Gustav Adolf Wislicenus (1803–75), had referred to him and had embraced his biblical criticism. In a gesture of solidarity with the persecuted

²⁴ See section 12.7. ²⁵ Thus Hausrath informs us that the only rural communities that overwhelmingly supported Strauß were Jewish. See David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit (Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1876), II, 121. Anti-Jewish tactics were used by some of his opponents. Cf. ibid., II, 118.

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Lichtfreunde, Strauß wrote an article for their journal Die kirchlichen Reform, “Der politische und theologische Liberalismus,”²⁶ which appeared in 1848. Strauß’s article, which was his reply to Gervinus, would attempt to defend the place of religion within the liberal movement. No less than Gervinus and other liberals, Strauß too was troubled by the problem of religious difference in Germany. This had been the main concern behind his article on the Jewish question in Jahrbücher der Gegenwart; and it was now the central issue behind his article for Die kirchlichen Reform. While the subject of the first article was the difference between Jew and Christian, that of the second was the difference between Protestant and Catholic. If there was to be one nation in Germany, it could not tolerate a Jewish state within a state any more than a state that was exclusively Catholic or Protestant. There would have to be one nation with a secular state, neither Protestant nor Catholic nor Jewish. But how could there be such a state, given the importance of religion for the state, and given the traditional divisions between Protestant and Catholic? In his Reform article Strauß rejects the position of those liberals who would place national unity above religious liberty. Is it not better, he asks, to have Germany’s spiritual and intellectual development rather than France’s political greatness and strength (4)? Should not national unity emerge from individual development, as the Germans want, rather than individual development from national unity, as the French have it (4–5)? As these questions imply, Strauß thinks that unity should evolve from individual development rather than conversely. He fears the consequences of an absolutism and political centralization like that in France, which would determine everything from above and stifle individual liberty and initiative. But, absent a single powerful state, how will the traditional religious differences in Germany be overcome? Strauß is skeptical that these differences can be overcome by strictly political means. Some liberals think this is possible, and as proof they refer to the experience of 1819 when religious differences were set aside for the great national cause of liberation. Whether Protestant, Catholic, or Jew, everyone came together as a German to defeat French oppression. But, Strauß remarks, this unity lasted only as long as the French posed a danger; once they retreated beyond the Rhine, the old religious differences came back as if nothing had happened (6). National defense, however admirable and worthy a cause, provided too flimsy and fleeting a basis to overcome deep religious differences. If there is to be a stable and lasting bond between Protestant and Catholic, Strauß argues, it cannot come from political means but must come ultimately from religion itself, from the inner sources and strengths of religious conviction. ²⁶ “Der politische und theologische Liberalismus,” Die kirchlichen Reform, Heft 3, 1848. This article was also published separately as Der politische und theologische Liberalismus (Halle: C. A. Kümmel, 1848). All references in parentheses will be to the separate publication.

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There must be some higher synthesis, he says in true Hegelian fashion, where each side preserves some beliefs and willingly abandons others (5). But Strauß admits that the prospect of such a synthesis is unlikely. The customs and beliefs most dear to the Catholics are precisely those that are most repellent to the Protestants, and vice versa (8). Nothing is more objectionable to Catholicism, in Protestant eyes, than Catholic ultramontanism, i.e., its allegiance to the Pope. But that allegiance is definitive for the Catholic. So what, if anything, can overcome the differences between Protestant and Catholic? At this point Strauß’s argument takes a surprising turn. He reminds the Protestant that he too has an external authority for his faith and actions, which is Christ (9). In the end, Protestantism is as ultramontane as Catholicism, we are told, because Christianity puts the guide for our action and happiness outside ourselves in the authority of Christ. This strange comment about the ultramontanism of Protestantism, and indeed all Christianity, is a crucial premise behind Strauß’s argument. He thinks that all Christianity involves an alienation of our human autonomy, a placing of the source of authority outside ourselves when it should really come from within us. Christianity has never really settled well with the Germans, he claims, because it demands the forfeiture of their autonomy and individual judgment. This is exactly what miracles, for example, require of us. We are asked to believe that we can heal the sick through a simple touch, or that we make thousands of loaves in an instant for the needy, though we know from our own experience that we cannot make this happen. Instead, we know that we can become happy, that our beliefs will be reliable, only if we trust our own judgment and experience against the claims of any miracle-working religion. Hence Strauß stresses the importance of autonomy as the precondition of all our beliefs and actions: “The most certain and closest thing we know is man himself; what he knows as a law of his own being is more dear and precious to him than all the promises of a God or the son of God” (13). Whatever this new religion is to be, then, it will have to be true to our autonomy, and it will have to lay aside all the sources of heteronomy of traditional religion. It will banish miracles and the supernatural, and it will have to arise from our own thinking and experience, from “the laws of our own being.” Such a religion will be, in other words, not really a religion but a kind of humanism. Having introduced the theme of humanism, Strauß then shifts his discussion away from the division between Protestant and Catholic to the broader division between the two main sources of German culture. One is “Asiatic” Christianity, the other is “occidental” Greece and Rome. Strauß’s synthesis is what he calls “a pure humanism,” which unites the rationalism and naturalism of classical culture with the spirituality and ethics of Christian culture. One wonders, though, how this synthesis serves to unite Catholic and Protestant? The answer is that both are subsumed under this new pure humanism. “This development of Christianity toward pure humanism,” Strauß writes, “or rather the growth of pure humanism

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from the general ground of modern European culture, of which Christianity is only a part, is the only way to get beyond the opposition between Catholicism and Protestantism” (15). Pure humanism will now work as the source of belief for a new German nation, Strauß argues, because it, unlike Christianity, is in accord with our autonomy, the right and power of everyone to think for themselves. Such a solution to the problem of religious differences was not likely to please the Lichtfreunde. They were advocating a purer form of Protestantism, not a humanism to overcome the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism. Even more troubling from their point of view, Strauß’s solution to the problem of religious difference, as he already intimated in the essay on the Jewish question, seems to rest on the eventual obsolescence of religion itself. Religion will cease to divide man, Strauß seems to be saying, provided that it disappears. The association of religion with heteronomy is, in Strauß’s thinking, tantamount to a death sentence upon it. The culture of the future for Strauß is a “pure humanism” where religion will play no role at all. Another aspect of “Der politische und theologische Liberalismus” gives us reason to pause. The great emphasis upon autonomy, of the need of every individual to exercise his own judgment in matters of religion and politics, hardly chimes with Strauß’s earlier claim in “The king can do no wrong” that there must be some limit to such judgment, that there needs to be some mystery behind the exercise of sovereign power. But the limits of rationalism imposed in “The king can do no wrong” are deliberately and explicitly removed in “Der politische und theologische Liberalismus.” How are we to reconcile this contradiction? We can remove it provided that we recognize that the limits on autonomy and reason are only limits for the common man but not for the intellectual. Strauß hints at this in the final page of his article when he writes that some kind of authority, mystery, or supernatural beyond is always necessary “to chain the animal in man to prevent the ruin of the family and the state” (16). This means that, in the end, Strauß did not abandon his rationalism after all, at least not for the intellectual. He imposes limits upon it only for the sake of the common man. To the end, then, Strauß remained true to his radical rationalism.

12.6 Toward a Political Philosophy In April 1848 Strauß wrote five articles for the Schw€ abische Kronik which were fundamental for his nascent political thought.²⁷ Three of the articles were on central topics of political philosophy: the meaning of sovereignty, the value of

²⁷ The articles are Nr. 26, April 6, 1848; Nr. 102, April 12, 1848; Nr. 106, April 16, 1848; Nr. 112, April 22, 1848; and Nr. 131, May 11, 1848. Because of the poor quality of the microfilm, the page numbers are often illegible.

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socialism, the best form of government. Two articles dealt with more immediate issues raised by the March revolution: the urgent need for unity, the problems of German particularism. The articles appeared without title and two of them under the pseudonym “D. vom Neckar.”²⁸ Remarkably, despite their importance for Strauß’s political thought, the articles have been neglected by scholars. Not least for this reason, we will examine them here. The first of the articles, Nr. 26 from April 6, concerns a central problem of German liberalism. As we have seen, there were two fundamental ideals of German liberalism: freedom and unity. Freedom meant fundamental civil liberties, such as liberty of the press, speech, and association; and unity meant a single sovereign state having power over all the German territories. But these ideals could come into conflict with one another. The demand for unity, if pressed to an extreme, could lead to the suppression of liberty; and the demand for freedom, if pushed too far, could lead to anarchism and the loss of unity. The tension between these ideals led to an interminable discussion about which, in case of conflict, deserved priority. Should there be liberty at the price of unity? Or unity at the price of liberty? The opening lines of Nr. 26 seem to take the side of liberty. Strauß begins with a citation from the poet Uhland: “I want that freedom that creates unity for us.” It is an excellent slogan, he writes. Freedom is indeed the highest and ultimate goal which the German nation, like any nation, should strive toward (405a). But Strauß then quickly turns around and corrects Uhland. He insists that unity should be the “first and immediate goal” the Germans should attain. Why? This is for the simple reason that unity is the precondition for freedom. The thesis of Strauß’s article therefore proves to be the very opposite of the Uhland dictum: that we must first have unity, and only then will freedom be given to us (405b). In defending this thesis Strauß takes the opposite stance of his earlier article, “Der politische und theologische Liberalismus,” which gave priority to freedom over unity. The main argument Strauß gives for his new position shows the profound realistic streak of his politics. Germany, he says, is caught between two great powers, both of them having a single centralized executive, and both of them having powerful armies. One of these powers is France, the other is Russia. The way Germany is constituted now in a weak confederation of eighteen states, none of which has much military power, these neighboring nations can do with it whatever they want. Germany, as Strauß puts it, is “like a lamb lying between two wolves” (405b). So, if Germans are to have freedom, they must first have security and the power to protect it. They must first have, in other words, a single, strong

²⁸ There is no doubt about Strauß’s authorship. At the end of 106, Strauß signed the article with his name, referring to the previous one as also coming from his pen. Vischer wrote Strauß on April 12, 1848 asking him why he did not put his name under his “excellent articles.” See Briefwechsel zwischen Strauß und Vischer, I, 212.

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centralized power, which has the authority to compel conformity from its constitutive parts. Without such a power, Germany could easily find itself the slave of France or Russia. Those liberals who stuck to the Uhland maxim tended to be republicans. They assumed that unity would arise from a republican constitution, which was one where every citizen was guaranteed certain basic rights, and where the sovereign arose from a common agreement among individuals. Strauß questions that freedom exists only in a republic—take the case of England—and that a republic necessarily brings true freedom—take the case of the recent French republic (405a). But his main contention here is that the freedom of a republic alone cannot create unity but rather depends upon it (405b). Without a single central power, he contends, a republic is likely to disintegrate into a multiplicity of separate atoms. All republics in history show a tendency toward independence among their parts, which has made it impossible for them to form an enduring stable union. This has been the case in the ancient republics, in Switzerland, Holland, and Italy, he says. North America seems to be an exception to this rule, because there a single federal government has been formed from many independent states. But Strauß seems to think that the future of the United States is still uncertain—he would be proved right in 1861—and that, in any case, its unity has been formed under circumstances that do not apply in Europe. Unlike Germany, the United States does not have to worry about powerful neighbors capable of crushing it (405c). The second of the articles, Nr. 102 from April 12, gives Strauß’s reaction to the new socialist ideas coming out of France. He examines specifically the ideas of Louis Blanc (1811–82), whom Strauß calls “the Sieyes of the new worker’s republic.”²⁹ Understandably, Strauß writes, the workers in France, having started the Revolution, now claim its benefits. They are demanding higher wages and shorter hours. They are not fully aware, however, of the consequences of acceding to such demands. If their employers grant them, they will have to raise their prices if their businesses are to survive; but the consumer is not willing to pay higher prices. Blanc does not see this as a problem because he maintains that the government can buy the business and offer suitable compensation to the employer. Although the French state is now in debt, it can still buy the business with letters of credit, which the employer can redeem at a later date. We Swabians, Strauß replies, are all too familiar with this scenario. We had a similar situation in Swabia with the linen, porcelain, and iron industries, which were ruined by foreign competition and which the government had to take over to save workers’ jobs. But government ownership of these industries proved to be a disaster, forcing the ²⁹ Strauß does not make a specific citation but only refers to “a speech Blanc gave in the Luxembourg Palace.” This would most probably be Blanc’s Discours aux travailleurs (Paris: Gustave Havard, 1848).

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government to sell them off again to new private owners. The industries failed because the state was so poor at managing them, and because it had little incentive to improve them. People found by bitter experience that businesses are better run by private individuals than the state. This is because, as long as men are men, their private advantage is a better stimulus to prudence, thrift, and calculation than any directives of the state (407b). Hence the first principle of Blanc’s economic theory—that the state should be the only employer and entrepreneur—Strauß pronounces to be “absurd” (verkehrt). Another absurdity of Blanc’s socialism, Strauß contends, is its insistence on absolute equality in economic life (407b). According to Blanc, the state as the main employer should pay all its employees equally, as is only fitting for a state founded on the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity. This sounds like an admirable policy, but it is contrary to nature, Strauß insists. It is just a brutal and sad fact of nature that people are not equal in their abilities; some have more energy, intellect, and application than others. Because those who have these qualities contribute more to a business, it would seem only right to reward them more (407b). But Blanc insists that having more abilities does not give oneself a right but a duty; “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs,” as he famously said. Blanc does not see, however, that his egalitarian policy will be a disincentive to the better qualified, so that they will work no more than the less qualified. The result will be reduced productivity. Since, however, the state has to increase wages and diminish hours, there will be even less productivity and at a much greater cost to the business. Because everything in the marketplace will have to be more expensive to cover the increasing costs of business, the worker’s cost of living will greatly increase; for the same goods he will have to pay much more (407c). Since his expenses will rise with his wages, he will be no better off than before. Strauß maintains that this new socialist economy will eventually have to become an absolute autarky which neither exports nor imports. Since the new socialist firms will have to pay higher wages for shorter hours, they will have to raise their prices, so that it will be impossible for them to compete against foreign competition (407c). Eventually, then, the state will have to erect import barriers so that its own firms do not go bankrupt. Because state-owned businesses will not be able to compete against any remaining private ones, the state will have to take over all businesses. The French economy will then become one giant machine which is planned, directed, and controlled by the state. There will be no room for private initiative, creativity, or independence; the state will become everything and the community nothing (408a). A rather ironic result for a country devoted to the principles of liberty and equality. The third article, Nr. 106 from April 16, is Strauß’s response to the republicanism of his day. A certain “Herr Rau von Gaildorf” had tried to provide a proof from history that a republic is not only the best constitution but also the cheapest.

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Strauß thinks that the historical evidence he provides is not very convincing. Whether a republic is the cheapest form of government depends on circumstances, so that it is impossible to state this as a general rule. The French republic after 1789 was far more expensive than the governments under Louis XIV or Louis XV. Rau contrasts the splendor of the king’s crown with the poverty of the people; but if all the gold on the crown were melted down with all the royal jewels, it would not be enough to nourish the people if their form of government led to the breakdown of credit and the absence of work. Strauß implies here that the French republic has done just that. Rau thought that ancient republics of Greece and Rome were a model for a new workers’ republic in Germany. But these republics, Strauß insists, were not republics in the modern sense; they were closer to aristocracies because only a minority were citizens having the right to rule; and, in any case, the workers in them were slaves rather than citizens. Against the common objection that the German people are not ripe for a republic, Rau had pointed to the German city states, which were governed in a semi-republican fashion for centuries. But Strauß thinks that these city states did not really have much experience of republicanism; they were not completely independent republics because they still stood under the sovereignty of the emperor; and they were more aristocratic than democratic in their institutions. Strauß agreed entirely with Rau that there should be no dangerous political experiments with the German people as there were in France; but he thinks that instituting a republican form of government for all of Germany would be just such a dangerous experiment. The historical form of government most common in Germany was a monarchy; and to follow that precedent would be far less dangerous than trying to install a republic. Rau, like all republicans, mistrusted monarchy because it often led to a form of tyranny where the will of the monarch prevailed over the people. But Strauß insisted that the constitutional monarchy he advocated would remove the source of that abuse. The essence of a constitutional monarchy, whose worth has been proven in Britain, is to govern according to the rule of law, which the monarch represents; his own personal will therefore plays no central role. The fourth article, No. 112 from April 22, concerns the concept of sovereignty. The sovereignty of the people is a phrase now on everyone’s lips, Strauß says. It has been made popular by the Revolution. But what is sovereignty? Before we bow before this Moloch, we should know what it means and who should have it. Sovereignty is the highest authority in the state, the power to which all others ought to submit. But who should be the sovereign? One person, several persons, or everyone? Before we answer these questions, Strauß advises, we must first answer a prior one: What is the purpose of sovereignty? What good does it achieve? It is not difficult to answer this question. Without doubt, the purpose of sovereignty is the welfare of the people, the common good. It would seem, therefore, that the sovereign should be the people, everyone in the commonwealth, for their welfare

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is the purpose of sovereignty. But we must distinguish, Strauß insists, between two aspects of sovereignty: its ends and its means. Just because the common good is the end of sovereignty, it does not follow that everyone should be the sovereign; the sovereign should be whoever has the best knowledge of the most effective means toward the common good, which might be one person or several, not necessarily everyone alike. The question who should be sovereign boils down to who has the best knowledge of the means toward the common good. Strauß doubts that any single person—viz., an absolute monarch or dictator—can know the most effective means to the common good. This is an extremely complicated matter of which no single person can have sufficient knowledge. We also cannot assume that all the people know the best means of the common good, because the people consists in nothing but an aggregate of individuals, each of whom pursues their own private interest, and most of whom are not concerned at all with the common good. The best we can assume is that some people have knowledge of the best means to the common good; if not all have such knowledge, and if not one has it, then it must be some. But then the problem is thrown back another step: How do we know who these people are? In other words, who should be the representatives of the people? Unfortunately, we really cannot know who they are, precisely because we do not yet know the best means to the good. All that we can do is lay down requirements for the electorate, the qualifications of those who will choose our representatives. These include independence, maturity of judgment, and so on. There is one type of person, however, who we can be sure to exclude from the electorate: those who are bent on revolution. The first condition of any successful polity is that it has stability and security, which is precisely what these persons want to undermine. To ensure that one excludes revolutionaries from the electorate, it is important to lay down a property requirement for the franchise. In excluding the poor and the revolutionary from the electorate, Strauß shows himself to be writing in the interests of property, the aristocracy, and bourgeoisie. Strauß’s final conclusion about sovereignty is skeptical. He doubts that any one person, some persons, or even the people as a whole has sovereignty. That is because none of them know the most effective means toward the common good. Accordingly, he questions whether the phrases “princely sovereignty” or “popular sovereignty” have any definite meaning. The best way to approach such knowledge is through the collaboration between the executive and the representatives of the people. If it makes sense to talk about sovereignty at all, Strauß writes at the close of his article, it lies only in this collaboration. The fifth and last article, Nr. 131 of May 11, is the most political of them all. A critique of German politics after the March revolution, the article reveals Strauß’s passionate German nationalism. It is a bitter expression of his disappointment with the failure to attain German unity six weeks after the events of March 1848. Now that the situation is stabilizing, now that the great flood is

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receding, now that the mountain tops are visible again, Strauß writes, everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. But what has been the result of it all? What has been left behind? Flotsam and jetsam. In the March days people held to the mast of German unity to weather the terrible storm; now everyone clings to a floating plank. We do not find any sign of a new united Germany. We find only that everyone has gone back to their old ways, seeking their self-interest above all. Each separate territory has stubbornly clung to its sovereignty, which it has refused to surrender for the sake of a united fatherland. Prussia at first seemed ready to dissolve itself into Germany; but now it insists that Germany dissolve itself into Prussia. And Austria has shown its lack of feeling for the German nation by declaring that its delegates to the Frankfurt Parliament be answerable to it alone. Strauß notes the reluctance of Austria to be the center of a new German nation, how it invokes the feelings of its indigenous Bohemians and Slavs to resist being even a part of it. Rather than being patriotic toward its German fatherland, the Austrian government has catered to its Slavs, the archenemies of the Germans, who will not hesitate to separate from Austria whenever the moment is right. Strauß also censures the negotiations of the Frankfurt Parliament, which has been too willing to make concessions, and too weak to make demands on anyone. The Germans are too ready to pay their debts and too weak to collect those owed by others to them. They have thought first and foremost about a new independent Poland, which is a very generous idea, except they have not even thought about their own situation. They are ready to cede all of Posen to the Poles, even though it has many German citizens; and they are willing to surrender virtually all the Bohemian provinces, even those where the Germans are nearly half of the population. They never bother to ask what they might get in return for Posen or Bohemia. Alas, Strauß laments, the Germans are proving themselves to be the same old impractical, idealistic people they have always been held to be. They are “generous toward others, stingy toward one another.” In his closing lines Strauß says that one almost wishes for a war under the present circumstances, because that alone will force the Germans to act together. He did not have to wait long for his wish to come true.

12.7 Election Campaign for the Frankfurt Parliament In his April 13, 1848 letter to Vischer, Strauß made a firm resolve to stay out of political life. He might write about politics, but he vowed he would never engage in it. At least he made it very clear that he had no interest in political office, whether in Frankfurt or Württemberg. When Vischer spoke with friends (Paul Pfizer, Friedrich R€ omer, and Adolf Goppelt) about finding a political position for him, Strauß flatly told Vischer that he was not interested: “You have already spoken to

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the ministers [i.e., Pfizer, R€ omer, and Goppelt]. Only I do not want any office. Right now is when I want one least. As long as I can eat [I am fine] without one.”³⁰ But the fates were soon to test Strauß’s resolve. Only a week earlier an election assembly in Ludwigsburg had met at the inn Zur Kanne to form a committee to determine the candidate for the forthcoming election to the Frankfurt Parliament. Strauß’s name was proposed along with several others. Since Strauß’s uncle and several friends were on the committee, his chances to get the nomination seemed good. In some respects he was an ideal candidate: well-spoken, well-educated, famous throughout Europe yet knowledgeable of local affairs. But others were not so convinced. They feared Strauß’s reputation as a heretic would make him unelectable, especially among the more conservative rural voters. To settle these doubts, several of Strauß’s friends decided to bring him to Ludwigsburg so that people could see his qualities for themselves. But, first, they would have to convince Strauß to be a candidate. And so, on April 16, these friends travelled to Heilbronn with the mission of persuading Strauß to be precisely what he did not want to be: a politician. Remarkably, Strauß, with some reluctance, agreed. It was an extraordinary decision for someone who had just foresworn politics three days earlier. What brought about such a volte face? As Strauß later explained his decision: “Fate had caught me with a bait that was irresistible to me.”³¹ The bait was the hopes of the citizens of Ludwigsburg, which Strauß said he did not have the heart to deny. Strauß makes it seem as if local patriotism were the sole motive for his decision. But this seems unlikely. He was never very fond of Ludwigsburg; he had been eager to escape it; and he hardly knew anyone there anymore. While we should not doubt Strauß’s abiding local patriotism, it is likely that other motives played a role in his decision. One of these was the miseries of Strauß’s personal life, which came from his divorce and separation from his children. There was one effective medicine against them: distraction. That politics would provide in plenty. Now that Strauß had decided to run for office, he had to prepare speeches, first for his nomination and then for the election campaign. The campaign was to begin immediately, the very next day, and it would last ten days, with the final election held on April 30. Because of the short deadlines, Strauß had to compose his speeches early in the morning. “To write those speeches,” he later wrote,³² “stress would wake me at 3 or 4 in the morning; I wrote them by lamp and they would be finished by dawn.” Strauß’s speeches, which were delivered in various locations in Württemberg from April 17 to April 29, 1848, present to the Swabian electorate the political

³⁰ Briefwechsel zwischen Strauß und Vischer, p. 214. ³¹ Literarische Denkwürdigkeiten, GS I, 18. ³² Ibid.

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philosophy of a moderate liberal.³³ They advocate German unity under Prussia, constitutional monarchy, and basic civil rights. That was the majority position in the Frankfurt Parliament, so Strauß had every reason to support its work. His speeches present these themes in clear, simple, and lively prose. We are living, Strauß declared in his first speech, in remarkable times. Everything in the past seems to have been a preparation for them, and it now seems that, finally, we have the opportunity to determine our own future. All the rights we have strived to achieve for so long have been suddenly granted to us. But a heavy responsibility now rests upon our shoulders. We must take advantage of the opportunity granted to us, but we must beware of overplaying our hand (243). We have suffered for so long from the princes; but we should be careful not to abolish them entirely. For all the injustices the princes have committed, they are still our historical heritage and we need to have something to build upon in the future. So Strauß pleads for moderation, which is the only way to avoid strife and violence. If he were elected to the Frankfurt Parliament, Strauß tells the electorate, his main aim would be to ensure that Germany finally has a strong central power. The greatest need of Germany is for unity, which will come only if it has a single sovereign. This sovereign should have the power to enforce his decisions against the will of the separate provinces (266). The great curse to Germany in the past came from its disunity, the division of the country into hundreds of small independent states, each of which could act on its own regardless of others. The German Confederation established after 1815 reduced the number of states to eighteen, but it still granted them sovereignty so that it was impossible to act in unison. The emphasis on unity in this speech is consistent with Strauß’s position in Nr. 26 of the Schwäbische Kronik where he also stressed the paramount importance of unity. The older position in “Der politische und theologische Liberalismus,” where he gave priority to liberty over unity, now seems a distant memory. But that position was not completely abandoned. Though Strauß now insists on the greater importance of unity, he is also careful to say that unity should never be at the price of diversity (244). He does not want a single centralized bureaucracy which controls everyone and everything, and which does not provide for sources of local autonomy. The independent provinces in Germany—Swabia, Prussia, Rhineland, Saxony, Bavaria—all had their independent cultures and traditions, which should be left a degree of autonomy in the new national state. Hence Strauß pleaded for not only unity but unity with diversity. He opposed the French model

³³ David Friedrich Strauß, Sechs theologisch-politische Volksreden (Stuttgart: J. G. Cotta, 1848). Reprinted in GS I, 237–72, which is the edition cited here. For a fuller account of the context and content of the Volksreden, see Norbert Waszek, “David Friedrich Strauß im Revolutionsjahr 1848,” David Friedrich Strauß als Schriftsteller, pp. 211–51.

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of unity which would control everything from above, leaving no room for local initiative and autonomy. Strauß conceives the new sovereign of Germany as a monarch, which he thinks is practically and symbolically the most effective way to establish a single executive. This new monarch he also wants to be Prussian rather than Austrian. Prussia is now much stronger than Austria, and it is growing in power while Austria is declining, and indeed almost on the point of dissolution (245). Swallowing his pride, Strauß admits that this new ruler of Germany will have to be no less than “the romantic on the throne,” Friedrich Wilhelm IV. Strauß was well known for his tract against the Prussian king, and the inconsistency in proposing Friedrich Wilhelm as the new ruler of all Germany seemed glaring to the public. But he tried to smooth over the discrepancy by saying that Friedrich Wilhelm was at least not a bad person, and that his personality would matter less in a constitutional government (246). Even though Friedrich Wilhelm would personally rather be a medieval king, Strauß reassured the public, he still could become a constitutional monarch (246). But here Strauß was deluding himself and the public. Considering how Friedrich Wilhelm abruptly rejected the role of a constitutional monarch, Strauß’s judgment proved to be tragically mistaken. Regarding civil liberties, Strauß reassured his audience that he was an advocate of the separation of church and state (253, 264). Religious profession, he insisted, should be no barrier to civil rights (257, 253). This emphasis on equal civil rights is remarkable because, flatly contrary to his article “Judenverfolgung und Judenemanzipation,” which was also written in April 1848, Strauß now expressly includes Jews as candidates for such rights. Thus he says that it does not matter whether one chooses to baptize or circumcise one’s children; as long as one obeys the law, one should have the same rights of citizenship (253). Furthermore, he states emphatically and explicitly that Jews, as much as Christians, should be able to vote and hold office of any kind (266); in other words, to use the language of the day, they should have the same political as well as civil rights. Strauß even argues that laws against “Wucher und Schacher”—i.e., charging interest and bargaining—should be directed not only against Jews but also against certain trades, whether plied by Christians or Jews (266–7). These comments on behalf of Jewish emancipation are just what we expect of Strauß as a liberal; but, as we have seen,³⁴ only weeks before he took a position contrary to them. The most difficult issue Strauß had to face was his religious beliefs. He and his friends strived to keep this out of the election contest; they insisted it was not relevant because almost everyone agreed about the importance of separating religion and state. After all, if Strauß were to go to Frankfurt, he would be discussing political, not religious, issues. But Strauß’s opponents saw his weakness

³⁴ See section 12.4.

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in this respect and they exploited it relentlessly. Did the people want to elect an antichrist? A man who wanted to abolish the church and who would not educate children in it? In four of his six speeches Strauß was forced to confront these questions. He insisted that those who called him an antichrist were misinformed (249). He had the highest respect for religion, and he never intended to deprive the common man of his faith. Yes, some fifteen years ago he wrote a book for scholars about the lack of evidence for miracles in the New Testament; but that book was never intended to be popular, so it was not intended to spread unbelief. On the whole, Strauß appealed to the principle of the separation of church and state, insisting that his affairs in Frankfurt would concern the state and not religion (262–3, 264–5). If the public were to reject him because of his religious beliefs, then they too would be violating that principle, which most of them fully accepted (265). We now regard it as silly when pious people say that they only want to have a Christian shoemaker, a Christian weaver, a Christian hairdresser; but is it any better to insist upon a Christian politician (262)? It is common to portray Strauß as a man of aristocratic values and sensibility, therefore having little or no concern with the affairs of the common man.³⁵ But his speeches belie this impression. The German Reichstag will have to pay special attention, he declares, to the needs of the working classes (259, 263). He even announces socialist principles, though he would never call them such. All social burdens should be shared equally by all, and no one estate or class should have special or inherited privileges, he insists (266). Capital and income should be in proportion to one’s public contribution, and taxes should be equally distributed (259). Strauß even recommends “a principle of association,” according to which workers would help themselves through hard times by providing cheap meals and insurance (268).³⁶ But these socialist principles do not derive from any understanding of a modern industrial economy. As if he were an old physiocrat, Strauß stresses that agriculture is the basis of the modern state, and that the state will go to ruin if the needs of agriculture are not met (263). Strauß fought a good spirited fight against his opponents. For someone who claimed to hate politics, he threw himself into the struggle and did his best. But, in the end, it was not good enough. He lost to his main opponent, Christoph Hoffmann, the pietist director of a Ludwigsburg school, who received 5851 votes to Strauß’s 3365. He was defeated overwhelmingly in rural districts where Strauß’s religious views were a central factor. In Ludwigsburg itself Strauß received 2162 votes to Hoffmann’s 1516. Strauß’s supporters were furious at his loss, which they blamed on the chicaneries of Hoffmann’s campaign. After the ³⁵ Thus Horton Harris, David Friedrich Strauss and His Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), pp. 176–7. ³⁶ On this proposal and its origins, see Norbert Waszek, “David Friedrich Strauss in 1848,” in The 1848 Revolutions and European Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. 236–53, esp. 252–3.

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election Strauß had to plead for his supporters to accept the result and to do nothing violent. He had stressed the need for moderation during the campaign; and now he begged his supporters to practice it. Fortunately, they followed Strauß’s example. Once again, Strauß had found that his reputation for heresy had cost him his place in public life.

12.8 The Deputy of the Württemberg Parliament Strauß’s many supporters in Ludwigsberg soon found a consolation prize for their defeated candidate. If they could not bring him into the federal Frankfurt Parliament, they could at least find a place for him in the regional Württemberg Parliament. As a “good city,” Ludwigsberg had one representative in the Württemberg Parliament, for which Strauß seemed the ideal candidate. Because the voters for this seat came only from Ludwigsberg, which had supported Strauß in the previous election, and because the many rural voters who were behind his defeat were no longer eligible to vote in Ludwigsburg, Strauß, if he ran, would be virtually assured of a place. Still unable to disappoint the citizens of Ludwigsberg, who had been so kind to him, Strauß again agreed to be the candidate. On May 20, 1848 he was duly elected to the Württemberg Parliament by an overwhelming majority, by 101 of the 126 eligible voters. The first session of Parliament opened on September 20, 1848. At first Strauß seemed to be the man of the hour; he was warmly greeted by his colleagues, and he was asked to serve on several committees. But Strauß was apprehensive from the very beginning. He found that the Parliament was dominated by radicals whose motives he mistrusted and whose politics he disapproved. The radicals wanted “a second revolution” which would finally realize the ideals of March. But Strauß was a moderate who wanted reform rather than revolution. His political philosophy was the very opposite of the radicals: he wanted a constitutional monarchy while they insisted upon a republic; and he wanted “a small Germany” under Prussia, whereas they hoped for “a large Germany” under Austria. The scene was thus set for future conflict. Strauß’s first skirmish with the radicals came only days after the Parliament opened. The radicals protested the use of government troops to quell a disturbance in Schwäbisch Hall. The cause of the trouble came from the republican civil guard, who had attempted to arrest an agent of the government. The government asked for troops to protect their agent and other citizens of the town. The radicals complained that sending the troops to protect the town was an unnecessary expense and a burden on the public purse. The few conservatives—the aristocrats and clergy—protested that sending troops was a necessity because many of the citizens were threatened by a mob. The radical delegates laughed at this danger, which they felt was grossly exaggerated. In the midst of this dispute, Strauß stood

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up and spoke for the conservatives. Since the troops had hindered an open rebellion, and since they had protected the property and lives of the citizens, was not the expense well worth it?, he asked.³⁷ After Strauß’s statement, many other deputies joined him, so that the radicals were silenced. This was a little victory for Strauß, who seemed to carry the day, at least in the minds of most deputies. For the first time, he showed that he had an independent mind and that he had the courage to express it openly. No one was more pleased by the stand he took than the king of Württemberg, who praised Strauß for his courage and independence of mind. “That he had courage I always believed,” the king said, “else he would not have picked a quarrel with the clerics.”³⁸ If the radicals had any doubt about Strauß’s differences with them, they would soon disappear at the session of October 6. There was a debate about the government’s attempt to introduce public proceedings in press trials, which would help it control the press. Strauß was a convinced liberal about freedom of the press; but in this case he again spoke out in defense of the government. He felt that the radical press had been excessively vulgar and strident in expressing its views; no one dared to contradict it for fear of having their characters maligned. If someone spoke out against the press, they would be branded an aristocrat or reactionary and have their character dragged through the mud. The public was regarded as too passive in the face of this danger; but their passivity Strauß blamed on the press; people were afraid to speak their mind because the press had become intimidating, creating a climate of fear. It was against this intimidation that Strauß spoke. He was advocating not propriety or decency but the right of the public to hold and speak their opinions without fear of reprisal. This should be regarded not as a violation but as an affirmation of his liberal principles. Strau did not always side with the conservatives in the parliament. Since he regarded himself as independent of any faction, he would speak on behalf of either conservatives or radicals, depending on what he thought right. On November 15 he spoke for the abolition of tithes, which demanded that every citizen give one tenth of his income to the church.³⁹ Strauß’s reasoning regarding this measure, which would be a blow to the church, is obscure but it seemed to rest on his belief that the church was a moribund institution in the modern world which had no right to claim such financial support from its citizens. Given his general views about the church and the need for its separation from the state, this is what we would expect him to say. On another occasion around the same time, Strauß opposed a law that would limit hunting rights to the land owned by each citizen. He questioned the motives of the aristocrats who proposed the law: since they owned great estates, they could expect deer in their pots; the peasant, who had

³⁷ See Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, II, 155. ³⁸ Ibid., II, 156; T. Ziegler, David Friedrich Strauß (Straßburg: Trübner, 1908), II, 454–5. ³⁹ Ibid., II, 441.

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only a small plot, would have to content himself with rabbits. In any case, the deer had to be better controlled because they were eating the peasant’s crops.⁴⁰ Neither conservative nor radical, Strauß felt that he belonged to the moderate center. Because of his distaste for the radicals, he would often sit with the conservatives, who were mostly clergy and aristocrats. Among the conservatives was his old opponent Wolfgang Menzel, whom he attacked back in the days of the Streitschriften. But, remarkably, Strauß found Menzel more reasonable in person than in print, and a friendship soon formed between them. However, despite spending more time with conservatives than radicals, Strauß made it clear that he felt uncomfortable with them too. He later wrote that he had “no kind of sympathy” with the “privileges and special interests of these classes [i.e., the aristocrats and clergy].”⁴¹ Strauß’s most important dispute with the radicals concerned the execution of Robert Blum by the Austrian government, which took place on November 9, 1848. Blum was a deputy of the Frankfurt Parliament, and as such he should have been protected by the clause in its constitution granting immunity and safe passage to all its deputies. While in Vienna, Blum acted as a leader of the popular revolution there; when the revolution failed, he was arrested and then shot for taking part in an insurrection. Because he was a very popular man, Blum’s execution provoked a wave of protest and outrage in Germany. His execution was not only illegal—the immunity clause surely applied to him—but it also seemed political, designed to stab the Revolution in its heart. Its most popular leader was now dead. Almost everyone in the Württemberg Parliament, even the aristocrats and clergy, expressed their indignation at Blum’s peremptory execution. On November 16 the Württemberg deputies sent a letter to the Frankfurt Parliament urging them to make an official protest against Blum’s death and to take action against the reactionary forces there.⁴² No one dared to contradict the opinions and sentiments of the November 16 letter—no one except, of course, David Friedrich Strauß. He gave a speech on November 16 explaining why he had to dissent from his estimable colleagues.⁴³ Strauß said that it was basically “an error of judgment” to have executed Blum. It is always a mistake of judgment to make a martyr out of an opponent; but this is exactly what the Austrians have done. The Baden government was much more prudent when it refused to execute Struve, another revolutionary leader, because it knew that it would make a martyr for the republican cause. The radicals felt that

⁴⁰ Ibid., II, 442; and Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, II, 161. ⁴¹ See “Niederlegen des Mandats,” in Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, II, Beilage VII, p. 15. ⁴² See “Adresse der Württembergischen Ständeversammlung in Sachen von Robert Blum, am 16 November, 1848,” in Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, I, Beilage I, 3–4. ⁴³ See “Rede des Abgeordneten Dr. Strauß in der Ständeversammlung um 16. November 1848,” in ibid., Beilage II, 4–6.

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Blum’s execution violated the dignity of the National Assembly in Frankfurt. But Strauß asked if this could really be the case. When Blum stood on the barricades in Vienna, he was no longer acting as a member of the Frankfurt Parliament; he was acting on his own beliefs, which were not those of the parliament. Of course, deputies of parliament are inviolate; but Blum was not acting as such a deputy in Vienna. He had laid aside “the coat of a deputy” and put on “the blouse of a barricader.” Blum was in Vienna as a “Freischärler,” Strauß said, choosing a word that would offend nearly everyone, as it meant something like an “insurgent” or “guerilla.” So it was not surprising that he suffered the fate of all captured insurgents: death by firing squad. Strauß believed that there was something deeply hypocritical in the sentiments and actions of his fellow deputies. They had no regret when the conservative deputies Auerswald and Lichnowsky were murdered in Frankfurt; they too were deputies and should have been as inviolate as Blum. But Strauß’s colleagues never protested and never said a word. What, then, did the condemnation of Blum’s execution amount to? It was, Strauß intoned in the final words of his speech, “partisanship, dangerous partisanship.” Because of such partisanship, Strauß refused to support the November 16 letter. Why, exactly, did Strauß refuse to oppose Blum’s execution? It was not that Strauß believed the Austrian government did the morally right thing. He makes it clear in his November 16 speech and his “Declaration” of November 19 that he thinks that the execution is morally wrong; if the Austrian government acted prudently and humanely, they would not have executed Blum. However, they were within their rights in executing him, because they were bound by no treaty to Frankfurt, and because Blum was not acting in his capacity as a deputy. By the standards of international law, the execution was permissible but not obligatory. Still, it was imprudent and inhumane. Ultimately, the main reason Strauß opposed the execution was political rather than moral. Strauß did not believe in the republican cause, and he believed that the Austrians were wrong to have unwittingly supported that cause by making a martyr out of Blum. Thus Strauß would not support his parliament’s letter of protest because he disapproved of radical republicanism, of which Blum was the most famous champion. But there was still another reason for his refusal to support the November 16 letter. Strauß believed that his colleagues were very naïve and overly idealistic: they failed to understand the way the world works. If someone takes part in an insurrection, they are punished; and it was too much to expect mercy from the Austrians, at least not under the circumstances when they were fighting for the very existence of their state against the rebels. Whatever Strauß’s motives, the reaction to his November 16 speech was near universal incomprehension and condemnation. How could Strauß, who was famous for his radical views in religion, be so conservative in politics? How could he be so publicly unsympathetic when Blum was so dearly loved and respected by everyone in the assembly? Even the clergy and aristocracy expressed

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their indignation at the execution of Blum. If a few of them did not like Blum, they at least were more sensitive to the feelings of others and did not openly express their disapproval of him. Strauß’s supporters in Württemberg were aghast at his opinions and conduct. Hoping for a negative answer, Strauß asked them if they would like him to lay down his mandate and resign. They formulated their response in a letter of November 23, signed by twenty-five delegates of the town council and by an extra ninety citizens.⁴⁴ They assured Strauß that they respected him, that they did not expect him to resign, and that they did not assume that a representative always had to be answerable to his electorate. But they expressed their surprise that Strauß had turned out to be so conservative when his writings on religion made them expect someone more radical. They also made clear to Strauß their differences of opinion with him. They did not see the source of unrest, as he apparently had, in anarchist agitation but in the justifiable fear that the achievements of the Revolution were endangered by reactionary activities. They also rejected Strauß’s criticism about their softheartedness and lack of realism; having some idealism and feeling for the fatherland was appropriate and necessary. Last but not least, they censured Strauß for his intemperate language. It was wrong of him to call some of his colleagues “Lumpen” (i.e., scoundrels) and to refer to Blum as “an insurgent.” Strauß’s reply to his supporters is revealing and characteristic of him.⁴⁵ He said he found their letter puzzling. What did they expect of him? They could not expect him to change his views just because they disagreed with him. Those who wanted a mere “yes man” (Jaherrn) of public opinion were wrong to elect him in the first place, for all his life he had been the very opposite of that. He regarded his own opinion as so important that he would not change it just because it incurred public disapproval. “I have always gone my own way, whether it pleases or displeases anyone, and so I will remain.” This was the principle by which Strauß acted in the sphere of religion, and it was the same principle that he was now following in politics. The clash with the radicals and his old supporters left Strauß on the verge of resigning. He had one foot out of the door and was looking for an excuse to quit. That opportunity came on December 20 when the radicals made a motion for a new voting law to convene a new constitutive assembly for Württemberg. Strauß found the motion ambiguous because it was unclear whether the assembly would make laws with or apart from the government. Because of this ambiguity, Strauß declined to vote for the motion. He suspected that the radicals really wanted the assembly to be sovereign, independent of the government; but they did not state this for fear that their motion would be rejected. Hence they resorted to ⁴⁴ “Erklärung des patriotischen Vereins in Ludwigsburg,” in ibid., II, Beilage IV, 8–10. ⁴⁵ “Antwort von Strauß an den vaterländischen Verein in Ludwigsburg,” in ibid. II, Beilage V, 10–12. Originally published in the Schwäbishe Kronik, Nr. 311, p. 1698.

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ambiguous language. This was a trap, Strauß claimed, and he advised others to steer clear of it. He called the proponent of the bill, Ludwig Seeger, a leader of the radicals, a trickster (Taschenspieler). When Seeger protested against the implications of such a word, the President of the Chamber demanded that Strauß retract it. He refused. When he was reprimanded a second time, he walked out of the chamber, never to return. On December 23, 1848 Strauß wrote a letter of resignation to the citizens of Ludwigsburg.⁴⁶ He explained to them that it was pointless staying on because he could not get anything done in the assembly. At first he was excited to serve it because he thought that he could help to institute reforms as formulated by the National Assembly in Frankfurt. But he found that any attempt at reform was blocked by the radicals, who regarded the March revolution only as a first step and who now demanded a second one; they saw all reform as mere tinkering with a rotten structure which would soon collapse. Because of his opposition to the radicals, Strauß said that he was often forced to side with the conservatives; but he felt no more comfortable sitting with them than the radicals. Hence there was clearly no place for him in the Württemberg Parliament. He could achieve nothing; and he was on his own, an independent but lonely voice. Ultimately, Strauß was very honest about his motives for resigning. Everything, he said, depended on what one saw as the purpose of one’s life. Politics was not his life’s purpose, he said, because he was “in the first instance a servant of literature” (in erster Linie ein Dienstmann der Literatur). Politics was only a sideline for him, which he would engage in only if it were a duty. But since the conditions of fulfilling that duty no longer obtained, he would now resign to devote himself again to literature. And so Strauß’s career in politics came to an abrupt end. He would continue to take an interest in politics and would often write about it; but he would never again be active in politics. He had spent only three months in the Württemberg Parliament; but even that was too much for him. Those three months had taught him much, not least that he was not suited for the life of politics.

⁴⁶ “Niederlegung des Mandats,” Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, Beilage VII, II, 13–16. The letter was published originally in the Schwäbische Kronik, 1848, Nr. 336, p. 1847.

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13 Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk 13.1 A New Life of Jesus In 1864, after nearly twenty-five years of silence, Strauß finally published a major work in theology. It was, on his own confession, “the last large book” he would write in the field. The title of Strauß’s book is Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk bearbeitet.¹ The final phrase suggests that this book would be a popular edition of the 1835 book. This was indeed what Strauß intended, at least to some extent. In the preface to his new edition he informs us that it is written specifically for the layman (xi). The first edition of his book was directed at theologians; even though it was written in German, it was still filled with foreign words and technical terms which made it hard for the laity to understand. Now Strauß will eliminate these words and terms, and he will express the issues in comprehensible language. But in another respect Strauß’s title is very misleading. It suggests that the new book is simply a popular summary of the conclusions of the 1835 edition. But this is scarcely the case. What we have is a completely new book, one which covers the same ground, and which reaches the same conclusions, as the earlier work, but one which does so by using a totally different method and by providing a completely new exposition. There is a maturity and sophistication in the later work, and a simplicity, clarity, and directness of argument, which is absent in the earlier work. This was Strauß’s final statement on the topic of the New Testament, and it was his best statement, superior to the 1835 work and his 1840 Die christliche Glaubenslehre. There is another respect in which Strauß’s title is misleading. Strauß wanted to produce a new edition of his old book that addressed the many issues, and that answered the many objections, of the past thirty years. This meant that he would have to take into account recent scholarly literature, which, inevitably, would make his work more academic and less popular. Sure enough, we find Strauß citing and taking issue with the latest works of some of his contemporaries, e.g., the books and articles of Ewald, Shneckenburger, Heß, Baur, and Schleiermacher, to name a few. This made the book into reading that was not likely to appeal to laymen. With some justification, Strauß’s friends told him that he had misjudged

¹ David Friedrich Strauß, Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk bearbeitet (Lepizig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1864). All references, unless otherwise indicated, will be to this edition. David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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his audience and written another scholarly book. Taking note of this common criticism, Strauß could do little more than admit “mea culpa.”² Nevertheless, Strauß’s title has to be taken very seriously, because, on a deeper level, it reveals the intention and strategy behind his new work. There was a new public in Germany in the 1860s, one very different from that of 1835, and it could not be ignored. In the past thirty years the public had become much more educated and enlightened. Though the Revolution of 1848 had failed, it still opened the eyes and ears of the public to a new world. The people no longer expected to receive instructions or orders from on high—whether from the throne or pulpit—about how it should live and think. Now people wanted to judge for themselves, in religion as well as politics. Just as the people had learned to think for themselves and to participate in politics, so now they wanted to do the same with religion. Strauß’s book was directed primarily to this new more mature, more sophisticated, more politicized public. It was a very wise and timely decision, even if Strauß’s lapse into scholarly issues did not realize it so directly. This choice of audience was a political decision on Strauß’s part. On the great theological issues of his day, he wanted the public to be on his side, and he was appealing to the people in the hope that they would decide for him rather than the clerics who had ostracized him. Strauß believed that the laity could understand the issues not only as well as the clergy but even better than they. The clergy were a corrupted and interested party: they wanted to preserve at all costs the record of revelation, which it was their vocation to administer to the public. He pointedly reminds us: “For every class or estate its first concern is its preservation” (xii). The laity, however, were more impartial and less interested than the clergy; their common sense was unclouded and they would judge issues as they saw them. Just as Paul went to the heathens because the Jews would no longer listen to him, Strauß wrote, so he would go to the laity because the clergy would not listen to him (xii). This was an extremely bold and radical strategy on Strauß’s part. It was directed against the very existence of the clergy. Strauß’s ultimate hope was that the new enlightened and educated laity would destroy the need for a clergy, and that they could start building the new humanism of the modern age. He attempts to disguise his dreams in his preface when he states that it is indifferent to him whether it is just or unjust that the clergy disappears (xii). In his heart, however, he believed its persistence to be undesirable. We know his attitude from the end of the Glaubenslehre where Strauß stated unequivocally that theology—and therefore the clergy—had no place in the modern world.³

² See D. F. Strauß to Friedrich Vischer, May 2, 1864, in Ausgewählte Briefe von David Friedrich Strauß, ed. Eduard Zeller (Bonn: Emil Strauß, 1895), p. 469. ³ See chapter 11, section 11.8.

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Strauß’s radical political agenda appears in the preface when he states that the German people—the audience of his book—is the people of the Reformation (xvii). The Reformation, Strauß stressed, is a work in progress, and it continues to this day and will do so tomorrow. We have lived in constant crisis since the Reformation, he says, where two sides of Christianity have been in constant conflict with one another: an unbearable and an indispensable part. The unbearable part was once the weight of the Roman Catholic hierarchy; and the indispensable part was the Bible, which was used to appeal against its authority. Now the same crisis continues but the unbearable and indispensable parts are within the Bible itself. Its unbearable part is the dead weight of the letter; and its indispensable part is its ethical and spiritual teachings. The task of Protestantism in the present age is to distinguish between the unbearable and indispensable parts of the Bible, Strauß declares. He is very clear what should be the criterion to distinguish between these parts: it is “reason and experience,” “the laws of human nature and thought” (xvii). It was ironic to appeal to these criteria to find the indispensable side of the Bible, for, in a short while, they would be sure to make the Bible completely dispensable. Reason, experience, and human nature, Strauß implies, are sufficient guides to determine what we should do, and we therefore need no extra biblical sanction. That Strauß was looking forward to a new humanism which would dispense with the church and the Bible is apparent from his remarks in the preface about overcoming the religious divide in Germany. There must be a third standpoint, he maintains, that stands above both Protestantism and Catholicism, one which strips away those characteristic features of each that are repellent to the other (xx). Strauß does not identify here what this third standpoint would be. But we know from his earlier writings in the late 1840s, especially Theologische und politische Liberalismus, what it would be: the new humanism.⁴ Of course, Strauß says that this humanism would come from “the inner core of religion,” as if the substance of religion would be maintained; but it turns out from the earlier writings that the inner core is nothing more than the ethical values of Christianity. Fitting this new humanist agenda, the new edition of Das Leben Jesu is much more explicit and dogmatic about its naturalism than the earlier 1835 one. Although many issues about the New Testament are unsettled and unclear, Strauß says, one thing should be settled a priori and made clear from the very beginning: that there is nothing supernatural in the personality or actions of Jesus (xv). The modern point of view is for Strauß decidedly the naturalistic one, according to which everything happens according to natural laws, and according to which there cannot be miracles (xiv, 14). Strauß connects this naturalism with his historicism, as if they are two sides of the same coin. The more we investigate a

⁴ See chapter 12, section 12.5.

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phenomenon historically, he explains, the more we see that it has natural causes, which suffice to account for the origin of the phenomenon. As we have seen,⁵ however, Strauß never explicitly announced his naturalism in the 1835 edition; and he was careful to separate a scientific naturalism from historicism. In the earlier work, naturalism plays no explicit role in Strauß’s arguments and he considers the evidence for miracles on a strictly historical basis; in the later work, however, Strauß constantly appeals to naturalism as a metaphysical principle, and concludes that any reference to miracles proves ipso facto that the text cannot be historical. The purpose of this naturalism, Strauß now makes perfectly clear, is nothing less than “to help future generations to liberation from the yoke of faith” (xiv). The new edition is not meant to provide a new life of Jesus, one purged of the supernatural and miraculous and therefore more acceptable to a scientific and historical age. Strauß’s intention was much more radical: to destroy the very genre to which he seemed to contribute. It was central to Strauß’s argument in the introduction to his work that there could be no such thing as a scientific or historical life of Jesus. The very idea was self-contradictory and oxymoronic. “The very idea of a life of Jesus is not only a modern one but it is selfcontradictory,” Strauß wrote (5). It is self-contradictory because a biography in the modern sense makes certain assumptions contrary to the biblical conception of Jesus. A modern biography assumes that Jesus is an ordinary human being, one who goes through struggles between desire and moral principle, one who is under the influence of his environment, and one who is born of a father and mother. But the God-man of the Bible is no ordinary human being; he goes through no struggles between desire and moral principle; he is subject to no such influences; and he has no human father. Furthermore, a modern biography treats everything that Jesus does, or everything that happens to him, as a natural event occurring according to the principle of causality; but the God-man of the Bible has the power to work miracles and to dominate nature rather than being subject to it. The idea of a life of Jesus is self-contradictory, therefore, because its form conflicts with its content. If we impose the modern biographical form, which is humanistic and naturalistic, on the biblical content, which is divine and supernaturalistic, then what emerges is not the Jesus we have known and loved from biblical narrative but a monster. The rest of Strauß’s introduction consists in an attempt to show how all the lives of Jesus of the past one hundred years—those of Hess, Herder, Schleiermacher, and Hase—have all failed to resolve the contradiction between the form and content of a life of Jesus. Thus, if the Glaubenslehre was a theology to end all theologies, the new edition of Das Leben Jesu was a biography to end all biographies. We shall soon see, however, that Strauß, in spite of himself, would

⁵ See chapter 5, section 5.1.

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write something of a biography in his book, though it will not take the form he explicitly prescribes. Although Strauß is never so explicit, his new edition also marks an important change in his conception of Jesus. Gone are all the concessions of the late 1830s when Strauß, in the third edition and in Zwei friedliche Blätter, bent over backwards to stress the unique status of Jesus. There Strauß had denied that Jesus is divine, but he stressed how he is unique in history, and how his accomplishment—the perfect realization of humanity—is unsurpassable. Now, in the new edition of Das Leben Jesu, Strauß drops the insistence on Christ’s uniqueness and unsurpassability. Like any human being in history, Christ’s achievement can be surpassed by others who come after him (xix, 38). And like any human being, Christ has his weaknesses as well as his strengths; there is no human being who is the highest of his kind, and whose perfections cannot be complemented by others (38). Christ’s achievement in religion is like that of Socrates and Aristotle in philosophy; and just as there has been progress in philosophy after Socrates and Aristotle, so there can be in religion after Jesus. These last propositions, as we have seen, were explicitly and adamantly denied in the third edition of Das Leben Jesu and in Zwei friedliche Blätter. Strauß goes even further in his new book in demoting the status of Jesus: it turns out that Jesus not only has the strengths and weaknesses of any human being; he also has some extraordinary vices and flaws. Strauß’s new Jesus, as we shall eventually see,⁶ is a Schwärmer, i.e., a zealot and fanatic. What motivated Strauß to write this book? In the 1840s and 1850s he had often declared that his romance with theology was over and that he would not write another book on the subject. But now here he was in the early 1860s struck again with the furor theologicus. What ignited this old passion was the concern to protect his legacy. In the preface to the third volume of his Ulrich von Hutten,⁷ he found himself defending Das Leben Jesu against those who deemed it an antiquated text, as if the latest theology had now surpassed it. No, Strauß protested, no one had refuted his book, and it was indeed now part of the new culture of the age. Only those theologians who had not learned its lessons, those who continued to write theology as if nothing had happened since 1835, i.e., those who were ignorant of the progress of criticism since then, would presume to declare his book dead and finished. In a fit of indignation, Strauß then declared at the end of his preface that he would write a new book in theology, one to show these reactionary theologians what they should have learned from his former book. This would be, as far as he was concerned, the nail in the coffin of all theology. ⁶ See section 13.4. ⁷ See David Friedrich Strauß, Gespräche von Ulrich von Hutten (Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1860), vol. 3 of Ulrich von Hutten (Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1858), p. lvi. In his November 9, 1862 letter to Julius Meyer, Strauß wrote that the preface to his Gespräche was the starting point for his “Rückkehr zu meinem theologischen Anfängen,” Ausgewählte Briefe, p. 449.

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Strauß was as good as his word. The preface to the third volume of Ulrich von Hutten is dated May 1860. Shortly after that, Strauß set to work on his new book, collecting materials and reading the latest theological literature. At first he was undecided between a new edition of the old book or a new popular book;⁸ but in the end he decided for neither. After rereading his book, he confessed it all seemed alien to him.⁹ One had to put it down and write a completely new book. And so that is what it became. It would have been better had Strauß chosen a new title for his new book; that would have been less misleading, and that would have given himself more credit for what was another major achievement.

13.2 The Origins of the Gospels It was one of Baur’s chief criticisms of the original edition of Das Leben Jesu that it had failed to consider the sources of the gospels.¹⁰ It had examined the gospels in their content but not in their origins. When were they written? By whom? And in what context? These questions were surely important for a thorough investigation of the historical reliability and authenticity of the gospels. But such was Strauß’s singleminded emphasis on the content—its consistency and its correspondence with fact—that he had laid them aside. In his new book Strauß was determined to make up for this deficiency. In its long introduction, which is more than 160 pages, Strauß proceeded to examine these questions. The conclusions he reached only bolstered his original doubts about the historical reliability of the gospels. Strauß first tells us about the earliest evidence for the existence of the gospels. An important source in tracing their history, we are told, is Justin the Martyr, who wrote during the reign of Antoninus Pius (138–61 ). He refers to written sources which discuss speeches and events from the life of Jesus (56). We do not know, however, whether these sources are the same as the three synoptic gospels, i.e., Mathew, Mark, and Luke. Justin’s account has roughly the same content as these gospels and most resembles that of Matthew (59). But because there are many discrepancies, he probably used other sources beside these; what sources these were is unknown to us. The oldest evidence for the four canonic gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—goes back to the second century  (47). By then, they were established in the church and they were cited by the church fathers (Irenaeus, Clemens,

⁸ See Strauß to Gervinus, March 26, 1861, Ausgewählte Briefe, p. 431. ⁹ See Strauß to Julius Meyer, November 9, 1862, Ausgewählte Briefe, p. 449. ¹⁰ See Strauß to Baur, May 1, 1836, in “Briefwechsel zwischen Strauss und Baur,” Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 4. Folge X.LXXIII (1962), 74–125, here p. 82. Horton Harris assumes that this criticism came much later, after 1836. See his David Friedrich Strauss and His Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), p. 90. It is clear from this letter, however, that Baur made the criticism already in 1836.

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Tertullian). This would be at least a century and a half after the events portrayed in the gospels (61–2), and at least a century after the lives of the reputed authors (48). There were many other gospel stories around this time—the gospels of Peter, of Thomas, of Bartholomew, of the Hebrews—but these four were regarded as the foundation of the Christian faith. Why did the church decide on these four authors? Strauß does not explain why exactly these four were chosen over the others, probably because it is not known. However, he makes one point clear: it was not because of their historical reliability or authenticity (71). The first consideration for the church fathers was whether a text was dogmatically correct; if it were so, they regarded it as historically plausible and did not investigate further. It was only if the text were dogmatically incorrect that they would question its historical plausibility. It is a mistake to assume, Strauß cautions, that the gospel stories are eyewitness accounts, and that they were written by the apostles themselves. One makes these assumptions because the texts are named after the apostles, so that it seems like they are its authors. But this is a very risky assumption because it was a common practice in antiquity to ascribe texts to people who had not written them (113). One did this not to pass off a forgery but to honor the person. All the gospel stories are secondary accounts, based on many oral and written fragments which were found in the places where Jesus lived and taught and where his followers still lived (138). These fragments were collected together and then unified in narrative form by the church (118). They were probably composed by the second generation after Christ, when the memory of his life had already faded and passed into legend. The oldest and most reliable gospel, Strauß agrees with Baur, was that of Matthew (115). The other gospels borrow from it while it does not seem to borrow from them. We should not believe, however, that Matthew, just because it is the oldest gospel, is the oldest of the New Testament writings. The Pauline letters, and the revelation of John, are even older (137–8). Matthew was said to be written originally in Hebrew but then translated by an unknown person into Greek (49–50). The original text was worked over many times by many hands, and the text we have today is the product of many additions and deletions to the original, which is lost (50, 138). This “working over” (Ueberarbeiten) of the original text was “a constant business” (ein fortgehenes Geschäft) among the early Christians. After reviewing all the theories about the origin of the gospels—those of Lessing, Eichhorn, Gieseler, and Schleiermacher—Strauß puts forward his own theory, which incorporates many of the features of his predecessors. Like Lessing and Schleiermacher, Strauß assumes that the gospel stories arose from an original stock or collection of fragments, which were both oral and written, about the sayings and speeches of Jesus (138). They say little about the life of Jesus, however, because less was known about it; one is told only the most general facts about the most striking events, viz., his birth, death, and resurrection. This dearth of information about the life of Jesus was the result of the fact that the primary

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concern of the early Christians was with their future, with the second coming of Christ, rather than the past. It was only when they were looking for signs about their future that they began to look into the past and took an interest in Christ’s life. Then the collection of the fragments began and a little later the composition of the gospel stories. Because so little was known about Jesus’ life, the first authors found it necessary to use their imagination to fill in the story line. Hence arose the different versions of the life of Jesus, and hence arose all the stories of miracles (138). Whatever the merits of this theory, Strauß emphasizes one point: that all the theories about the origin of the gospels assume that they cannot be eyewitness accounts (89). The stories came after the original collection of fragments and they were not written down as a whole from memory just after the events occurred. Schleiermacher was certainly correct, therefore, that the gospel stories did not come from the apostles themselves, who played only a small or non-existent role in their composition. The names were only traditional and were not meant to be the authors themselves. One of the notable features of Strauß’s new book is his reaffirmation of his original opinion about John. With apparent gusto and bravado, he returns to his older view in the first edition of his book about the unreliability of John. All the concessions he made about the fourth gospel in the third edition are happily pushed aside. This gospel was considered by many to be the most reliable because a note at its end states that its author is John himself. Yet this note counts for very little, Strauß says, because it was obviously a later addition and we do not know the author of it or even that he knew John (63). In any case, there is good evidence that the author of John could not have been the apostle. The apostle came from Palestine and would have known its people, constitution, and geography; but the author shows that he had no such knowledge because he makes all kinds of mistakes about these facts (78). Furthermore, the writer seems to be a philosopher because he has knowledge of current Greek philosophy—a telltale sign about the late origin of the gospel—while the apostle was known to be a common fisherman (78). Strauß happily reverses the older view of John as the most reliable source; he insists that it the most unreliable. The only historical elements in it came from the other gospels; what is original to it is not historical at all (140). Yet in his final paragraphs about the origins of the gospels, Strauß finds something redeeming in the gospel of John after all. This is not its historical element, to be sure, but its more mystical or speculative element. In trying to explain this latter element, Strauß takes issue with Baur’s comment that John is the least historical but the most spiritual of all the gospels (141). We understand only half of John’s mystical or speculative doctrine, Strauß argues, if we take it as purely spiritual or intellectual; it is rather a synthesis of the spiritual and the sensual, of the intellectual and the physical. This sensual or physical element appears in John’s indulgence in miracles and in the word made flesh. This

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paradoxical combination of the intellectual and physical, the spiritual and sensual, is also apparent in Plato’s philosophy, which operates with the imagination just as much as the intellect. Thus the author of the fourth gospel is “a Correggio, a master of chiaroscuro” (144). It is just this aspect of the gospel of John, Strauß argues, that makes him so appealing to our contemporaries. So many of them are romantics, and like all romantics they strive for the ideal of the infinite. John is “the most romantic of all the gospels,” Strauß says, because he sees the object of faith as a spiritual ideal, as something we have to strive for although we will never attain it (143). For the romantic, faith is never something given but something one has to forever aspire toward, something one has to strive for. It is just this modern aspect of faith that seems to be prefigured in the mysticism of John. This explanation for the popularity of John leaves unstated, however, Strauß’s dislike of romanticism. Was that dislike the ultimate reason for his contempt for John?

13.3 Revision and Defense of Myth In the twenty years Strauß had stopped writing theology his contemporaries had not been silent on the subject. The first editions of Das Leben Jesu came in for more criticism during those years, especially with regard to Strauß’s signature doctrine: myth. The most eminent and potent of these critics were Bruno Bauer, Matthias Schneckenburger, and Ferdinand Baur. The net upshot of their criticisms was drastic: that the myth theory explained nothing and therefore should be abandoned. If that theory were to be a contender in the new theological landscape, Strauß would have to defend it. He did so in the penultimate chapter of his long introduction.¹¹ These reflections mark an important stage in the development of his theory of myth. It was a shock for Strauß to find that his old teacher, Ferdinand Baur, whose views seemed so similar to his own, now brusquely dismissed his theory. In his 1847 Kritische Untersuchungen Baur refused to apply the theory of myth to his analysis of the gospels and bluntly stated it was inconsistent with all his recent thinking.¹² He contended that Strauß’s theory that myth is an unconscious creation of the Volksgeist could not explain many passages in the gospel of John. These passages are so self-consciously and deliberately composed, he claimed, that they cannot be regarded as an attempt at history; rather, they are self-conscious and deliberate inventions, which were written to make not a historical but a moral or metaphysical point. The passages that Strauß wanted to describe as myth Baur ¹¹ “Der Begriff des Mythus,” section 25, pp. 150–9. ¹² Ferdinand Christian Baur, Kritische Untersuchungen über die kanonische Evangelien, ihr Verhältniß zu einander, ihren Charakter und Ursprung (Tübingen: Fues Verlag, 1847), pp. 121–2.

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claimed to derive from “the basic idea of the gospel,” which was no mere myth. There were many other passages like those from John in the other gospels, Baur added, so that the mythical theory had a very limited validity. The content of the gospels consisted more in ideas than myths. Strauß’s response to this criticism was that Baur, in describing the passages in John as ideas, was just using different language to make the same point. Both regarded the narratives as unhistorical; but he called them “mythical” while Baur called them “ideals” or sometimes even “fictions” (157). Strauß felt that Baur was simply evading the negative associations of the word “myth” and making a verbal difference to avoid any association with his notorious old student. But he was confident that any serious reader of Baur’s tome would see through this negligible difference. Strauß’s complaint against Baur here was an old one: nearly thirty years ago he had accused him of disguising the similarity in their ideas to avoid charges of heresy.¹³ Trying to undercut Baur’s pretensions, Strauß pointed out that Baur himself accepted in his Kritische Untersuchungen the applicability of the theory of myth to the gospel of Matthew (158). He disliked the word “myth” but accepted, at least for that gospel, the substance of the theory.¹⁴ Yet, for all his dislike of Baur’s motives, Strauß conceded that he had a point (159). Many of the stories in the Bible were deliberately or consciously constructed, even though their authors knew them to be false, literally or historically. This did not mean that the authors intended to deceive the people, as the deists and Epicureans charged; rather, they believed that their narratives were true but in a higher or symbolic sense. Hence Strauß decided that he would now give greater space to conscious and intentional myth in his theory. Not all myths were the subconscious creation of the Volksgeist; some of them were self-conscious and intentional productions of the apostles themselves. The effect of this concession was greater than Strauß admitted because it led to a new, broader conception of myth. A myth was now defined as any unhistorical religious narrative, whether it arose consciously or subconsciously (156, 159). The mode of origination— whether conscious intention or subconscious creation—was no longer an element of the definition of a myth. “The chief question,” Strauß now says, “is not whether the myth is consciously or subconsciously fabricated but whether it is history or fiction, where in the latter case any further theological determination is a side issue” (157). The question remains where this revision of the theory leaves the Volksgeist. All that matters for the theory now is whether a narrative is historical or fiction, regardless of its mode of origination. But the Volksgeist was essentially introduced to explain how the narrative arose, and so it would seem irrelevant. Yet, despite this implication, Strauß still clung to it, and even went so far as to declare that “the ¹³ See Strauß to Baur, August 19, 1836, Ausgewählte Briefe, pp. 22–3. ¹⁴ Baur, Kritische Untersuchungen, p. 603.

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progress in modern times of the science of mythology” consists in its doctrine that myth is “a product of the common consciousness of a nation” (154). How do we explain this contradiction? The important point to see is that the Volksgeist hypothesis, though not necessary to the concept or definition of a myth, could still serve as a useful explanation of its origin. The concession that myths could be self-conscious and intentional fictions, as Strauß saw, did not necessarily eliminate the Volksgeist as an explanation of their origin. It could be that the evangelist, in self-consciously making a narrative that he knows to be false, is still acting according to the Volksgeist because he is choosing ideas that represent the beliefs and values of the community. For something to be a myth, it is not necessary that its creator believes that it is true as a historical narrative. It is perfectly possible for him to believe that his narrative is historically false; it is just that he constructs it according to the values and beliefs in the community. Nevertheless, it soon turned out that there were other reasons for doubting the existence and value of the Volksgeist. A new wind was blowing through Tübingen in the early 1840s which began to shift the direction of research away from any interest in this ghost.¹⁵ In 1841 Matthias Schneckenburger, the old teacher of Strauß who had introduced him to Hegel, came out with an innovative theory that would soon sweep over the entire Tübinger Schule.¹⁶ According to Schneckenburger, to understand the gospels it is crucial to take into account the controversies among the early Christians; each of the gospels could be understood as taking a position in them. Chief among these disputes concerned the question of the relation of Christianity to Judaism and how inclusive the new church should be. Matthew took the position that the new faith should be Jewish in many fundamentals; Paul held the view that the church had to be universal, taking all gentiles into its fold. Between these exclusive and universalist extremes, there were many attempts at mediation, specifically the efforts of Mark and Luke. This attempt to find the specific party to which an apostle belonged, and to explain the characteristics of his gospel according to his party affiliation, was called Tendenzkritik. This new kind of criticism was soon adopted by Baur, who conceived it as the replacement for the theory of myth.¹⁷ Tendenzkritik had a very troubling implication for Strauß’s theory of myth: it seemed to show that there was not a single Volksgeist working its way through the nation. Rather than one spirit manifesting itself in all branches of a culture, there were just opposing positions that could not add up to one “common consciousness.” The more one examined a gospel in its historical context, the more one ¹⁵ Here I follow A. Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit (Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1876), II, 266–8. ¹⁶ Matthias Schneckenburger, Ueber den Zweck der Apostelgeschichte (Bern: Christian Fischer, 1841). ¹⁷ Baur, Kritische Untersuchungen, p. 76.

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looked into its individuality and how it differed from other gospels, the more the gospel seemed to embody a specific “tendency,” a particular stance on issues. Hence the metaphysics of the Hegelian spirit, which saw one idea working through all the forms of a culture, seemed to be a mere abstraction; it seemed to get in the way of more detailed research on the tendency of each gospel. Strauß was fully informed about Tendenzkritik and readily acknowledged its importance. His own analysis of Mark was essentially an application of this new form of criticism.¹⁸ He interpreted Mark’s gospel as an attempt to formulate one common doctrine behind the various tendencies and disputes among his Christian contemporaries. Strauß contested, however, that Tendenzkritik could or should be a replacement for the theory of myth (158–9). Although each gospel took a position in an early controversy, and although many of its features could be seen to flow from that position, how did that explain the belief in miracles, which was common to all the gospels? How, indeed, could it explain the supernatural status of Jesus, which again appears in all the gospels? In any case, Baur himself had unwittingly admitted myths into Tendenzkritik when he stated that the more pronounced a tendency was in a gospel, the less historical it would be.¹⁹ If the narratives are non-historical, Strauß replied, then they are ipso facto myths (159). Strauß further contended that, whatever their specific tendency, there were still some myths that all the gospels had in common. They still had, as he vaguely put it, “the general character of a free-forming legend,” which was enough to allow for a Volksgeist (159). What Strauß meant by this “general character” he did not explain. But from our knowledge of his theory it is not difficult to identify it. There was one myth that he thought all the gospels had in common: the messiah legend. This was a theme Strauß had insisted upon ever since the first edition of Das Leben Jesu,²⁰ and which he now reaffirmed in his new edition.²¹ The messiah theme was crucial to all the gospels, he had argued, and that more than anything else explains their mythical character. Not everyone was happy to grant Strauß his thesis about the messiah, however. Bruno Bauer contested it on the grounds that the messiah myth was not already present in Judaism but arose only later in the Christian era.²² Since the myth did not exist prior to Christianity, the Christians could not have used it in the formation of their religion. Although Bauer conceded that the myth originated around the time of John the Baptist, he still insisted that it did not exist fully formed until after the composition of the gospels. Strauß response to this point is mocking, fully in accord with his contempt for Bauer: “That no distinct concept of the messiah preceded Christianity could be maintained only by a Bruno Bauer” ¹⁸ Das Leben Jesu (1864), “Das Markus-Evangelium,” pp. 127–37. ¹⁹ Baur, Kritische Untersuchungen, p. 76. ²⁰ Das Leben Jesu (1835), I, 71–4. ²¹ Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk bearbeitet (1864), pp. 150–3. ²² Bruno Bauer, Kritik der evangelische Geschichte der Synoptiker (Leipzig: Otto Wignad, 1841), I, 391–416.

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(151). He objected to the premise of Bauer’s argument: that if the concept of the messiah was not present in all its characteristics, then it was not present at all. Strauß protested that he never said that the concept was already present among the Jews in all its characteristics. He admitted that the concept was at first quite indistinct and inchoate, melding together different sources in a vague way (152). Nevertheless, he insisted that it is quite clear that the concept existed in the Jewish tradition before Jesus—Strauß cites passages from Jewish authors to confirm this²³—and that there are many passages in the New Testament which try to prove that Christ fulfills the Jewish expectations of a messiah.²⁴ In his chapter on the development of Judaism,²⁵ Strauß explained how the belief in the messiah came from the ancient Jewish prophets—Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah—who proclaimed a new ruler for Israel who would free it from bondage and begin a golden age (170–1). When the word “messiah” came into use is unknown, Strauß admits (172), but the concept for it—a new ruler bringing deliverance for Israel—was as old as the prophets. Looking back over these criticisms and Strauß’s replies to them, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the theory of myth was still at least tenable, and indeed in the formulation that Strauß gave it. Bauer’s objection was extravagant; and Tendenzkritik was still compatible with the theory of myth. The theory was still a legitimate explanation of why people in biblical times believed so firmly in miracles and the divine status of Jesus. The one valid objection—that some myths were self-consciously and deliberately composed—could be accommodated in the theory with no difficulty. This does not mean, however, that the theory was still not laden with problems. The theory of a Volksgeist was still vague and in need of refinement. This would eventually happen in the social anthropology of Moritz Lazarus and Chaim Steinthal.²⁶

13.4 Jesus Christ, Revolutionary Moralist and Schwärmer At the close of his long introduction to Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk, Strauß makes some revealing remarks about the method he will use and the method he had used in his lives of Jesus. In the earlier book he proceeded according to “the analytic method,” which begins from the parts or phenomena as they are given, and then ascends to the whole or the principle behind them (160). He had to follow step by step the story of the life of Jesus as it was given in ²³ Das Leben Jesu (1864), p. 152, n. 2. ²⁴ Strauß cites Matthew 11:4; Luke 4:25–6 and 7:22. ²⁵ Das Leben Jesu (1864), “Der Entwicklungsgang des Judenthums,” pp. 168–79. ²⁶ On their social anthropology, see my The German Historicist Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 472–9. The doctrine of a Volksgeist stands in need of reappraisal, which I cannot give here. Suffice it to say that most positivist objections to it have rested upon misunderstandings.

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tradition, so that he had to undertake a close examination of the particular narratives about Jesus’ life. In his present book, however, he will proceed in the opposite direction. He will follow “the synthetic method,” which begins from the idea of the whole and then descends to all its parts (161). Just what this abstract characterization means in more concrete terms, we will find out in section 13.5, which provides an account of an application of these methods. Book 1 of Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk is remarkable because it is the only place in Strauß’s corpus where he attempts to give a positive portrait of Jesus. It is strange, however, to find Strauß writing about the life of Jesus, given that he already told us in his preface that there could be no such thing. But it is important to notice a difference between the life he attempts to construct here and those biographies he banished in his preface. They were either supernaturalistic—and therefore not scientific—or they were naturalistic—and therefore imposed alien ideas onto the text. And just as he had insisted earlier, Strauß thinks that if we focus only on the facts of Jesus’ life as a human and natural being, there cannot be any biography about him for the simple reason that too little is known; and, at any rate, we cannot separate Jesus from the superhuman and supernatural ideas that others attributed to him and that he had about himself. Remove these ideas and what is left? Borrowing a term from Kant, Strauß calls it an unknowable thing-initself. Despite all these problems, he still thinks that there is something that we can do: construct the story about how Jesus formed these extraordinary ideas about himself, or trace the natural history of his self-awareness as the messiah. This will be what Strauß attempts to do in Book 1.²⁷ Strauß begins his treatment of the early life and ideas of Jesus by considering a personality with whom he has been always closely associated: John the Baptist. John, a hermit, ascetic, and prophet, has often been portrayed as the forerunner of Jesus. It was John, of course, who baptized and taught Jesus. Strauß believes, therefore, that knowing something about the ideas of John should shed some light on those of Jesus. First of all, it is important to know, he insists, that John shared many of the ideas of the Essenes, a Jewish sect which flourished during the second Temple. The Essenes are for him the crucial link between Judaism and early Christianity. At least there are striking similarities between the ideas and practices of this sect and the earliest Christians (175). The Essenes had a social life based on communal ownership of property and democratic election of leaders. They valued poverty, chastity, and humility; and they practiced intense prayer and purification rituals. The goal of their community was to free the soul from the bonds of the body, and they therefore required of their members abstention from sensual pleasure. Strauß also finds a similarity between these Essene teachings and those

²⁷ “Erstes Buch. Das Leben Jesu im geschichtlichen Umriß,” pp. 165–318.

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of the Pythagoreans, who were based not too far away in Alexandria. The Essenes therefore indicate for him a connection between Judaism and Greek philosophy. From John and the Essenes Jesus inherited a devotion to God, a commitment to teaching, a contempt for materialism, and a spiritual conception of the human being. Yet, for all the importance of John for Jesus, there were still important differences between them, Strauß notes. He argues against the very common assumption that John was the first to point out that Jesus was the messiah (190). John was not sure that Jesus was the messiah, and he was hesitant in sending his students to study with Jesus, which he would not have done if he really believed this. Jesus also had a very different style of teaching than John: while John was severe, Jesus was gentle (196). Jesus also could not accept the dark moods that were part of John’s asceticism (197), Strauß opines. He thinks that Jesus would have disapproved of John’s strict asceticism, which he would have regarded as an objectification of religious life, as if religion were only a matter of following rituals and precepts rather than cultivating the inner heart (196). Apart from Jesus’ relationship with John, Strauß informs us that the only other sources for the life and ideas of Jesus are the gospels. He warns us against taking our conception of Jesus from the gospel of John, which shows scant regard for historical truth. John just imposes metaphysical and mystical ideas upon Jesus, making him sound like a second-century Neoplatonic philosopher schooled in Alexandria (201). He makes Jesus into a devotee of Plato’s doctrine of reminiscence. According to John, Jesus said he had a divine existence prior to his birth on earth; and after he was born, he still had a memory of his divine life when he once sat at the right hand of God (John 3:1–15). He had a human body only temporarily, during his mission on earth; and then after his resurrection, he returned to his purely spiritual state. The Jesus of John’s gospel therefore has a self-awareness as a divine being; he sees himself not just as a human being but as “a worldcreative undergod” (200). Strauß insists that all this discourse cannot be taken literally, and that anyone who talks of himself as having a pre-existence with God is either a fool or deceiver (201). Not that Strauß thinks that Jesus was really guilty of this folly, which, he thinks, comes from the author of John. It was one thing for this author to have attributed these ideas to Jesus from his own philosophical perspective, Strauß contends, but it was quite another thing when he went on to put these ideas into Jesus’ mouth, as if they were first-person utterances (201–2). Since we cannot infer anything reliable about Jesus from John, Strauß advises us to consult the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Luke, and Mark (204). All of them give a central place to the sermon on the mount, which is indeed the heart of Jesus’ doctrine. The core of that sermon is the “eight beatitudes,” i.e., those passages where Jesus lays down his precepts for a spiritual life (Matthew 5:3–10). Strauß maintains that these precepts amount to a revolutionary ethic, “a new view of things” in opposition to heathen and Jewish ethics. He characterizes this new ethic as one of “innerness” and “spirituality,” which prizes the state of one’s soul and

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heart over outward conformity to ritual and law (205). There was the greatest contradiction between this ethic and those of the Jews and heathens, who valued strict justice and retribution, and who practiced loving one’s friends and hating one’s enemies. Flatly contrary to them, Jesus demanded loving one’s enemies and turning the other cheek. Jesus said: “Love your enemies . . . so that you may be children of your father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). No other statement in the entire New Testament, Strauß asserted, was more revolutionary, more authentically and characteristically Christian, than this one (206). This meant that Christians, who should imitate God, should love everyone alike, their enemies as well as their friends. If all human beings are the children of God, they should be brothers and sisters to one another (Matthew 5:22). One should therefore treat others as one would be treated oneself (Matthew 7:12). “The highest religious spirit that lived in his [Jesus’] consciousness was just this allcomprehensive love, a love which overcame evil only through the good; this love Jesus attributed to God as the basic determination of his being” (207). This ethic of love brought with it a new conception of God, Strauß explained. If the Jewish God is a strict, jealous, and angry ruler, Jesus’ God is a loving father. One of the more revolutionary doctrines of Jesus, Strauß maintains, is that the poor and meek should inherit the earth. The happy should not be the rich, powerful, and fortunate, Jesus taught, but the hungry, weak, and unfortunate (Matthew 5:1–5). All revolutions succeed, Strauß tells us, because they appeal to the needy and unsatisfied against the wealthy and satisfied. Christianity was no exception to this rule (205). What made Jesus’ teaching so popular is that it addressed the feelings of indignation among the poor and oppressed of Galilee. But who, exactly, were these poor? Were they those who were deprived physically or those who were deprived spiritually? On this question Strauß finds a difference between Luke and Matthew. Luke sees the poor as those needy in body, the hungry and thirsty, whereas Matthew calls them those who suffer injustice (204–5). Strauß resolves the contradiction by claiming that Matthew is a needed addition to Luke, an attempt to correct the misunderstanding that the poor are only those who suffer from physical need. Jesus intends to help those who suffer injustice as well as those who are poor and hungry. If Strauß’s portrait of Christ’s revolutionary doctrine is not revolutionary itself, it is still surprising for an author who, by 1840, had turned his back on Christianity and who was now proclaiming the need to return to a pagan humanist ethic. But Strauß played down the contradiction because he could see many anticipations of his humanist ethic in Christianity. No thinker of antiquity was more like Christ than Socrates (181), he writes. And he insists that all of Platonism could be seen as “a Greek preparation for Christianity” (182). If the fundamental Christian doctrine was treating others as oneself, this, he claims, was also the basic concept of humanity, which is the core conception of humanism

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(207). Strauß sees the basic contradiction between Christianity and humanism in their opposing conceptions of virtue: Christianity promises a reward for virtue in the heavenly realm, whereas humanism, at least in Platonism and stoicism, sees virtue as its own reward (182). But even here Strauß stresses and admires the inwardness of Christian ethics, its stress on purity of heart and intention over action and ritual observance. If Christ conceived a reward for virtue, it was still only a heavenly or spiritual reward, not an earthly or physical one (205). That he promised a heavenly reward was only in keeping with the historical expectations of the Jewish people of his time. Given the importance Strauß gave to the idea of a messiah in his account of Christian myth, it was crucial that he examine in what sense Jesus conceived of himself as the messiah. This Strauß does in section 37 of Book 1.²⁸ The investigation takes a surprising turn. We learn that it is not so easy to claim that Jesus regarded himself as the messiah (225). He refused to call himself “the son of David”—one common expression for the messiah—on the grounds that the term has inappropriate connotations: David himself acknowledged the messiah but he would not have regarded his son as the messiah (223). Jesus also told his disciples not to call him “messiah,” a demand that appears in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew 16:20; Mark 8:30; Luke 9:11). The word he preferred to refer to himself was “son of man,” which designates a mortal human being with lowly status, someone who suffers and who is a servant rather than someone served (224–5). Perhaps one should assume, then, that Jesus saw himself as a simple mortal human being who happened to have a divine mission, someone ordinary but entrusted with an extraordinary task. Strauß suggests, then, the Socinian view that Jesus was not divine but simply had a divine task or mission.²⁹ The mistake of the standard conception of Jesus as the messiah is that it made a property of Jesus’ task into a property of his personality. As tempting as the Socinian view might be, Strauß thinks that we should reject it on historical grounds. This is because there is much textual evidence that Jesus did conceive of himself as the messiah after all, and that he stated that, at the end of the world, he will sit at the right hand of God to cast judgment on sinners and to sort the good from the evil (226). In these passages he clearly expressed the selfawareness that he was more than a simple human being. But how does that square with his directions to the disciples not to call him the messiah? Why did he prefer the expression “son of man” rather than “son of God”? The answer can only be, Strauß says, that when Jesus laid down these directions he still did not conceive himself as the messiah. His self-awareness as the messiah only came later in his life, after he had done most of his teaching (222, 227). ²⁸ “Erstes Buch.” “Jesu Verhältniß zur Messiasidee,” pp. 222–30. ²⁹ Strauß does not refer to this view as Socinian here; but elsewhere he describes the Socinian view in just these terms. See Der christliche Glaubenslehre (Tübingen: Osiander, 1840), II, 156.

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There was another motive Jesus had for refusing to call himself “messiah,” Strauß suggests (228–9). Namely, he wanted to avoid the traditional associations of the Hebrew word, according to which the messiah referred to a king who would renew Jewish national life. Jesus’ conception of the messiah was not political but moral, Strauß says (229). He feared that if he were regarded as the messiah in this political sense, then he would rouse the people against their Roman rulers and occupiers, which had led to disastrous rebellions in the past. It was only later in his preaching and teaching career, therefore, that Jesus would allow the people to refer to him as a messiah, because by then he would have made it clear that he intended to use the word strictly in a moral rather than political sense. So, even though Jesus initially refused to be called messiah, he later accepted this term and therefore understood himself to be the son of God, a semi-divine being. That Jesus understood himself in this sense becomes apparent, Strauß says, from his beliefs in his resurrection and second coming. He wanted his followers to accept these beliefs in a literal sense, Strauß insists (238). They were understood literally by the church, which was founded upon them (236). One might interpret expressions like “kingdom of heaven” in a more metaphoric sense, Strauß concedes, as if they referred to the pure state of our conscience or to some spiritual realm. However, it is clear, Strauß argues, that Jesus did not understand them in this sense. He interpreted them literally because he saw himself as playing a central role in the second coming when he would open the heavens and call forth judgment on people (242). A person who has such a conception of himself suffers from self-delusion (Überhebung); he has a shaky hold on reality and lacks all judgment and common sense. This is what we call “an enthusiast” (Schwärmer). We cannot give up the possibility, Strauß says, that Jesus was really an enthusiast. Just because it offends our religious sensibilities is not a reason to reject this conclusion. Though Strauß’s language here is hypothetical and hedged, it is clear enough that it reflects his ultimate beliefs about Jesus: the man was not a genius but an enthusiast, a zealot lacking all common sense and suffering from the delusion of self-aggrandizement. In his November 9, 1862 letter to Julius Meyer, written while in the midst of writing his new book, Strauß suggested another interesting view of the messiah which did not make it into the final draft.³⁰ Here Strauß suggests that the most important thing for Jesus was not to be the messiah but to found a new religion. The messiah idea was simply a means toward establishing this new religion. What Strauß probably had mind here was Jesus’ new non-political conception of religion, which was devoted to the cultivation of the heart, and which rendered unto Caesar what was Caesar’s. Traditionally, the messiah was seen in political terms as the deliverer of the Jewish people from oppression. In the book, Strauß

³⁰ Strauß to Meyer, November 9, 1862, Ausgewählte Briefe, p. 449.

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seemed to step back from this thesis because he continues to attribute the role of a messiah to Jesus, and he does not stress the creation of a religion. It is striking, though, that Strauß now distinguishes between a political and non-political conception of the messiah, where Jesus is characterized as an advocate of the non-political conception.

13.5 The Raising of Lazarus A good example of Strauß’s synthetic method is his treatment of the story of Lazarus, which appears in two sections (§§76–7) of Book 2.³¹ Strauß maintains that every feature of this story is constructed to prove a dogmatic point: that Christ, as the messiah, has the power to resurrect the dead at his second coming. If we treat the story as Christian propaganda, then all its narrative twists and dramatic features appear well-conceived and cleverly designed. If, however, we regard it as historical narrative, then it appears incredible in content and puzzling in design. Strauß treats the story of Lazarus in great detail in the first edition of Das Leben Jesu,³² but the method he uses there is more analytic than synthetic. In the first edition Strauß is chiefly concerned to show that the Lazarus story is a myth. He spends much time and energy refuting details of the naturalistic interpretation of the story and showing that the supernaturalistic interpretation is more plausible and in accord with the intention of the text. But he spends very little time and energy—only a few sentences—in explaining how the myth arose. In the later 1864 version Strauß discusses in much greater detail the intention behind the text, and he also makes it his chief business to explain how the details of the story arose from that intention. Though it would be a mistake to assume that Strauß uses only the analytic method in the first edition and only the synthetic method in the later edition—he uses both methods in both editions—there is still a difference in emphasis and degree: the first edition uses more the analytic method, the later edition more the synthetic one. This difference is especially apparent in Strauß’s treatment of the Lazarus story. Christianity was, Strauß tells us at the beginning of §76 of the later edition, the religion of resurrection and immortality in the ancient world (464). It was able to gain so many followers because it promised nothing less than immortality to its believers. The heathens had no such doctrine; and the Jews were ambivalent about it, some holding onto some form of it (the Pharisees) while others roundly condemned it (the Sadducees). The Christians, however, were never ambivalent: it was a cardinal doctrine of their faith that believers in Jesus Christ would receive ³¹ §76 “Die Todtenerweckungen,” pp. 463–69, and §77 “Die Aufweckung des Lazarus,” pp. 470–86. ³² Das Leben Jesu (1835), II, 142–73.

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eternal life. This seemed to clash with the brute empirical fact of death; but that apparent fact was countered with the doctrine of the second coming of Christ. When Christ returned to earth, so it was prophesized, the dead would be resurrected and meet their final judgment. “One knew this because one wished it,” Strauß says, “and one knew it with certainty because one wished for it so fervently” (464). The belief in the second coming was so vivid among the early Christians that Paul hoped to see it in his lifetime.³³ If Jesus were to make good on his promises of eternal life, he had to demonstrate that he had the power to raise the dead in this life. What he did during his life to a few persons would stand as a proof of what he would do in the hereafter to everyone. This was the point of the stories about Jesus raising the dead in the synoptic gospels, Strauß tells us. In Matthew (9:18–26), Mark (5:21–3, 35–44), and Luke (8:40–56), Jesus raises from the dead the daughter of Jairus, the leader of a synagogue; and in Luke (7:18) he also resurrects at a funeral in Nairn the only son of a widow. These cases were amazing; but they still were not sufficient proof of Jesus’ power to raise the dead at the second coming. They show that power at work only for the recently deceased or unburied. But to raise the dead at the second coming Jesus would have to raise people who were dead and buried for a much longer time. What about those early believers in Jesus who had passed away months, even years, before? This is where the story of Lazarus, which is told only in the gospel of John, becomes so important. Here Jesus shows that he has the power to raise someone from the dead after four days. Four days is significant, Strauß says, because, according to Jewish doctrine, the soul left the body after three days (472). The author of John therefore had to fill in this gap in the proof of Jesus’ power. And so he wrote the story of Lazarus, which appears in John 11:1–44. The story begins when Lazarus, a friend of Jesus and the brother of Martha and Mary, falls gravely ill. Mary asked Jesus, through a messenger, if he could come and cure her brother. Jesus was then in Perea across the Jordan river, while Martha and Mary were in Bethany, near Jerusalem. The personae and setting of the story are very important for its dramatic effect, Strauß says (471). We sympathize with Lazarus because he is a friend of Jesus, and with Mary because she is his admirer and follower. Their situation is desperate because Lazarus’ health is steadily worsening. The author was also very careful to place the story in Bethany, which was far enough from Jerusalem for Jesus not to be arrested, yet near enough for the Jewish elders in the temple to hear about it and to start their persecution of Jesus. After receiving the news, Jesus did not immediately embark for Bethany. Oddly, he lingers and stays two more days in Perea. Why such a delay, especially if

³³ 1 Thessalonians 4:15–19.

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Lazarus was gravely ill? Jesus told his disciples that Lazarus had only “fallen asleep”; but he knew that Lazarus was already dead when he received the message. He calculated on his death because he wanted to resurrect him; that would provide the proof he needed that he was indeed the messiah. Raising Lazarus from the dead would, as Jesus said, “bring glory to the son of God” (11:4–5). Strauß roundly condemns Jesus’ conduct. He finds such an action—wanting a friend to die so that one can bring him back to life for one’s own glory—“inhuman and outrageous” (472). When Jesus finally arrives in Bethany, he meets a grieving Martha, who tells him that Lazarus has been dead for four days. Mary laments that had he arrived earlier, he would have saved him. Mary and Martha weep, and their house is filled with mourning Jews, who are also weeping. Filled with sorrow, Jesus too weeps. This weeping scene was chosen carefully to dramatize Lazarus’ forthcoming resurrection: the more sorrow at Lazarus’ death, the more joy at his resurrection. It is also significant that the mourners are Jews, Strauß says (473). This contrasts the Jewish and Christian views of death; and it sets the stage for the Pharisees, who hear of the event in neighboring Jerusalem, to plot Jesus’ arrest and death. Having shown his power to raise the dead, they fear that Jesus will gather too many followers, which will endanger their temple and nation (John 11:48). There was something strange about Jesus’ conduct after entering the tomb. Before he commands Lazarus to rise, he thanks God for having heard his request (John 11:41–2). Why such self-confidence that God would listen to him? Strauß thinks that the explanation is obvious (475). According to John’s doctrine, Jesus is part of the creative word of God, who therefore has the power to do whatever he wills to do. He does not really need to pray to God because he is part of God’s eternal word, so that whatever he does, God does through him (475). The prayer, Jesus tells God, was made only for the sake of the public, who need to know that Jesus was really sent by him (John 11:41–3). The raising of Lazarus was not, therefore, really the feat of a human being. It was the enactment of a divine power in Jesus which he had fully at his command. For this reason there is really no drama to the story, Strauß thinks. Drama requires real human actors who might succeed or fail in what they try to do; but Jesus, being divine, could not fail. One of Strauß’s opponents, Christoph Ernst Luthardt, had made fun of his critical view that Jesus is a personified concept on the grounds that no concept goes to funerals or has sympathy with mortals.³⁴ But the story of Lazarus lacks drama, Strauß replied, precisely because it is the deed of a personified concept (475).

³⁴ Christoph Ernst Luthardt, Das johanneische Evangelium nach seiner Eigenthümlichkeit geschildert und erklärt (Nürnberg: Verlag von Conrad Geiger, 1852), I, 95–6. Luthardt stresses the very human qualities of Christ, viz., that he cries and has sympathy with the mourners; Strauß is saying that this emphasis cannot explain his metaphysical powers to raise Lazarus.

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Strauß notes some remarkable similarities between the tomb of Lazarus in Bethany and that of Christ in Jerusalem (475). In both cases the tomb is hewn out of rock and a stone is placed before the entrance. Moreover, both Lazarus and Jesus were dressed in the same kind of shroud. The similarities are not accidental, Strauß argues. The raising of Lazarus would serve as a proof not only of the resurrection at the second coming but also as a foreplay of Jesus’ own resurrection (474–5). Strauß finds it suspicious that the other apostles never mention the story of Lazarus’ resurrection. Surely, such an amazing story—“the miracle of all miracles”—if it really took place, would be known by them (477). Indeed, we are told that news of Lazarus’ resurrection passed swiftly to Jerusalem and gained Jesus many followers. The most plausible explanation for why the other apostles did not tell the story is that they were not in fact eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus’ life but had to piece together their accounts from fragments (476). Somehow, there was no fragment reporting this event, even though it was so remarkable. But the real reason why the other apostles did not mention Lazarus’ resurrection, Strauß claims, is that the story was written by John, or whoever was the author, in the second century, after the other apostles wrote their gospels (477). John’s story is a deliberate construction, designed to address the weaknesses in previous accounts of Jesus’ powers of resurrection. Above all, we must abandon the assumption, as Strauß argued earlier,³⁵ that John was the eyewitness of the events he describes. He was writing more than a century after the purported events and he was writing with a definite agenda in mind: to convince people that Jesus is the messiah. Strauß goes to great lengths to explain how the various components of John’s gospel arose from joining together characters and incidents from the other gospels. In the other gospels Martha and Mary were reported to have lived together in a village in a house where Jesus once stayed, but it is not mentioned where this house was; but Mary was stated to have anointed Jesus in the village of Bethany (479, 480). So John put these together so that Martha and Mary lived in Bethany where the resurrection took place. To these ingredients, he added the character of Lazarus, who is indeed mentioned in Luke (16:19–31) but in a very different context. There Lazarus is not the brother of Mary and Martha but a poor man covered in sores outside the palace of a rich Jew in an unspecified place. Still, John had good reason to choose this Lazarus in his resurrection drama: when he was dead, he sat in heaven as a reminder of the better life to come for the poor Christian as opposed to the rich Jew (481). To bolster his own account, Strauß shows how other scholars have failed to explain the story of Lazarus. He first takes the case of Schleiermacher (482). He thinks that the resurrection stories in the other gospels are dealing with only

³⁵ See section 13.2 above.

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apparent deaths. Naively, he takes Jesus at his word when he says that the Jairus’ daughter was sleeping; and he claims that the boy in Nairn was still alive, the victim of a premature burial.³⁶ The case of Lazarus was more difficult for Schleiermacher because he was supposedly dead for four days. But Schleiermacher appeals to his distinction between miracles which Christ does and those which happen through him, and claims that God directly resurrected Lazarus through his special providence while Jesus served only as an instigator.³⁷ But this was still to admit a miracle, if not in the case of Lazarus then in the case of God’s special providence. Schleiermacher thought that the story of Lazarus had very little dogmatic value; Strauß finds this surprising and untenable, because the original meaning of the story is the central message of Christianity: eternal life for those who believe. The only reason Schleiermacher says this, Strauß retorts, is because he gives such a paltry account of the story, one which removes all immortality from it (482). The account of Renan is even worse (484). He sees the whole story as the result of a plot of the Lazarus family.³⁸ They were very concerned about Jesus’ morale after his teaching failed to convince people in Jerusalem. What would raise his spirits would be a miracle, especially a resurrection. Lazarus does become ill but he quickly recovers. They then hit upon the idea of having him hide in the cave where they send Jesus. Lazarus is still pale enough after his illness to make Jesus think he was resurrected. We must give up the view propagated by Heinrich Ewald, Strauß argues, that there is a historical core to the story of Lazarus.³⁹ The assumption that there is such a core comes from the stubborn but false belief, which Ewald holds, that John was an eyewitness to the events he narrates; but everything that we know about the composition of the gospel and its author shows that it was written long after the event. There is no core to the story which anyone can identify, Strauß insists. He pleads passionately: “No! let us put to rest the miserable remainder of a supposed natural event which is not worth talking about . . . let this propertyless ‘thing-initself ’ completely disappear and confess that we are dealing with nothing more than an ideal construction, a free invention, from which we can infer nothing about the real Jesus . . . but only what happened in the mind of an Alexandrianeducated Christian” (486).

³⁶ F. Schleiermacher, Das Leben Jesu. Vorlesungen an der Universität zu Berlin im Jahr 1832, ed. K. A. Rütenick (Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1864), p. 233. Strauß does not cite this edition, which was not published in time. He did, however, have his own notes on Schleiermacher’s lectures. ³⁷ Ibid., pp 208, 214, 233. ³⁸ Ernst Renan, Vie de Jésus (Paris: Michel Lévi Frères, 1863), pp. 359–63. ³⁹ Heinrich Ewald, Geschichte Christus und seiner Zeit (Göttingen: Dieterichischen Buchhandlung, 1855), pp. 358–9.

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13.6 Overview of the Editions We conclude with a brief summary of the major similarities and differences between the 1864 version of Das Leben Jesu and the 1835 version. These are the fundamental similarities: 1. In both editions Strauß considers Christianity as historically unfounded and fundamentally mythical. 2. In both editions Strauß applies a distinction between the form and content of the biblical text. The form consists in the historical narrative, which is false and misleading, and the content consists in moral or metaphysical ideas, which are valid for either moral or metaphysical reasons but not historical ones. 3. In both editions Strauß denies the supernatural and superhuman status of Jesus. Jesus is not, therefore, the messiah. These are the basic differences: 1. In the 1835 edition Strauß follows an analytic method, examining the details of each narrative; in the 1864 edition he adopts a synthetic method, attempting to explain each narrative by the main intention or general idea of the author. Since Strauß uses both methods in both editions, this is not an absolute distinction but a quantitative one: he uses the synthetic method more in the 1864 edition, the analytic method more in the 1835 edition. 2. In the 1835 edition Strauß examines chiefly the content of the biblical narratives and does not investigate their origins; in the 1864 edition he considers not only the content but also the origins of the narratives. 3. The exposition of the 1864 edition is more popular than the 1835 one in only one respect: Strauß does not use Greek and Latin terms and sentences. The text of the 1864 edition is entirely in German. 4. Both editions consider, to an equal degree, secondary literature or scholarship on the New Testament. The 1864 edition, however, limits itself to considering recent literature between 1840 and 1864. 5. The intended audience or public of the 1835 edition was biblical scholars; for the 1864 edition it was the educated laity. Despite Strauß’s intentions, more popular attention was given to the 1835 edition. 6. The 1835 edition adopts a distinction between form and content where the content consists in the ideas of Hegelian metaphysics. The 1864 edition keeps this distinction but drops the thesis that the content consists in Hegelian metaphysics. The content is explained in moral terms.

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7. In the 1835 edition Jesus’ significance is explained in metaphysical terms: he is the highest appearance or manifestation of the idea in history. In the 1864 edition his importance is discussed entirely in moral terms: Jesus marks an important stage in the development of the idea of humanity; but he is not the highest stage, nor the first or last. In places Strauß even questions Jesus’ sanity and calls him a zealot or Schwärmer. 8. In the 1835 edition Strauß does not explicitly apply the principle of causality in his arguments for the non-historical character of biblical narratives; in the 1864 edition he explicitly appeals to this principle and makes it the fundamental criterion of the mythical. 9. In the 1835 edition the mythical consists in non-historical narratives which are not known by the author to be non-historical, i.e., the author believes that the narratives are true as history. In the 1864 edition the mythical also consists in non-historical narratives but the author might know them to be non-historical. 10. The 1835 edition is written by an author intent on joining the Protestant clergy; the 1864 edition is written by a resentful author intent on destroying the Protestant clergy. The 1864 edition did not have the success of the 1835 edition. The 1835 edition had been a succès de scandale; but there could be no such scandal in the 1860s. The 1860s witnessed the rise of Darwinism and materialism in Germany, which made the entire religious Weltanschauung seem antiquated. A detailed critique of religious revelation would by then have seemed like a foregone conclusion. No one contributed more to the rise of this new secular worldview than Strauß himself. But, for just that reason, he made a new version of his original book superfluous. As it happened, there were many later printings of the 1864 book;⁴⁰ but these were only dimmer echoes of the greater appeal, power, and success of the first book.

⁴⁰ According to the 1902 edition, which appeared in vols. 3 and 4 of the Gesammelte Schriften, there had been twelve printings. Another edition appeared in 1924 with A. Kroener Verlag in Leipzig.

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14 Two Polemics of the 1860s 14.1 The Halves and the Wholes Only months after he published Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk Strauß became involved in a bitter controversy, one which had little to do with his recent book and much to do with theological-political affairs. This dispute was with David Friedrich Schenkel (1813–85), professor of theology and director of the theological seminary in Heidelberg. Schenkel had published a book in 1864 on the personality of Jesus, Das Charakterbild Jesu,¹ which had gotten him into trouble with the preachers and laity of the Evangelical Church of Baden. They were shocked by the book’s heterodoxy. Schenkel was charged with denying miracles, the incarnation, the infallibility of Scripture, and the supernatural birth and sinlessness of Christ. A petition signed by 119 pastors was sent to the Oberkirchenrath, the Higher Consistory in Baden, demanding Schenkel’s resignation. His beliefs were deemed incompatible with his office, which was to prepare future clergy for the duties of the ministry. The consistory, however, rejected the petition, since government guidelines expressly stated that liberal standards were to be applied to books written by the clergy which were not for use in the church itself. So Schenkel escaped dismissal, though barely so, because the clergy were still fighting for his removal. On the face of it, one would think that Strauß could only be sympathetic to the plight of Schenkel. After all, their cases were so alike. Schenkel too questioned Protestant orthodoxy, and he too was the victim of persecution. And, no less than Strauß, Schenkel upheld fundamental liberal principles, such as academic freedom and the separation of church from state. However, rather than defending Schenkel, as one would expect, Strauß savagely attacked him. His assault appeared in an article in the National-Zeitung on September 21, 1864.² The liberals in Baden were stunned by this attack, which seemed to be the work of a traitor. Why would Strauß, of all people, move against Schenkel, the leader of the liberals in Baden?

¹ David Friedrich Schenkel, Das Charakterbild Jesu, Ein biblischer Versuch, Dritte Auflage (Wiesbaden: Kreidel’s Verlag, 1864). ² “Der Schenkelsche Handel in Baden,” National-Zeitung, September 24, 1864. Reprinted in GS V, 137–47; and in Kleine Schriften, Dritte Auflage (Bonn: Emil Strauß Verlag, 1898), pp. 203–14. David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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In a later polemic, Die Halben und die Ganzen,³ Strauß explained some of his motives, though his account is more a metaphor than an explanation. The problem with Schenkel, he said, is that he is a counterfeiter (Falschmünzer), and whenever counterfeiting takes place, at least if the notes are high enough in value, one has a responsibility to expose it. That was a heavy charge against Schenkel. What did Strauß mean by it? Basically this: that Schenkel was not really deserving of the title that Baden liberals were so willing to confer upon him, namely, a martyr for liberal values. Strauß complained that Schenkel was at pains to conceal his liberal position by making it seem much more orthodox; rather than openly and honestly stating his position regardless of the consequences, Schenkel disguised it to avoid them. He was a university professor, and he was the head of the seminary, and he did not want to jeopardize his social status, not at any cost. In this respect, Strauß felt that, despite appearances, there was a great disparity between his fate and Schenkel’s: while he honestly stated his position and faced the consequences, Schenkel dishonestly disguised his and avoided them. In engaging in a polemic against Schenkel, then, Strauß had the opportunity to make clear this disparity and to counteract the comparisons between him and Schenkel. If anyone is a martyr, Strauß was saying, it should be him. But it was not simply Schenkel’s timidity that bothered Strauß. It was also his hypocrisy, his attempt to forget and to conceal his own past. Schenkel was disguising not only his present liberal doctrines to make them look more conservative, but also his past more conservative doctrines. Schenkel was playing a double game: look more conservative than you are to please the conservative laity; look more liberal than you are to please the liberal theologians. The conservative side of Schenkel emerged in 1854 when, in his new capacity as head of the Heidelberg seminary, Schenkel embarked on a campaign to remove Kuno Fischer, then a young philosophy professor in Heidelberg, from his post. Fischer’s offense was having expounded on the podium a version of pantheism, which contradicted the official theism of the evangelical church. Fischer was forced to resign, and thus became a martyr for academic freedom.⁴ Now, in 1865, Strauß could not help to express the irony in Schenkel’s new role: the present-day martyr was in fact once the inquisitor. In his dispute with the conservative Baden laity, Schenkel did his best to play down his previous prosecutorial role; he espoused academic freedom and liberal theological views and never mentioned his dubious past. But Strauß would not let him forget his past sins, not least because they revealed his lack of honesty and character. He had, however, another reason to help Schenkel overcome his

³ Die Halben und die Ganzen: Eine Streitschrift gegen HH.DD. Schenkel und Hengstenberg (Berlin: Duncker, 1865). Also reprinted in GS V and in Kleine Schriften, 215–94. ⁴ On Fischer’s clash with Schenkel, see my The Genesis of Neo-Kantianism, 1796–1880 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 228–32.

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amnesia: Strauß was a close personal friend of Fischer, whom he first met in 1854, the very year Fischer was banished. Strauß knew from first hand, then, what Schenkel had done to Fischer, and he had great sympathy for his plight, which was much like what he had endured in Tübingen some thirty years earlier. Was it not high time, then, to expose Schenkel, to show that this apparent martyr was once an inquisitor? The great lesson of Strauß’s article and polemic is that one ought to have the courage to live by one’s convictions and conscience, despite the consequences for one’s personal life. One must take one’s position to its ultimate conclusions, even if those are uncomfortable for oneself, and even if they incur the displeasure and the disapproval of the public. This was the principle behind Strauß’s own freethinking, and for which he had already sacrificed so much. It was therefore outrageous to him that people were suggesting that Schenkel was a model of acting on such a principle when he had been doing the very opposite. In his monumental biography of Strauß, Adolf Hausrath, who was usually very sympathetic with his subject, censured Strauß severely for his criticism of Schenkel.⁵ Rather than supporting Schenkel and the liberal cause in Baden, whose very survival was at stake, Strauß chose to attack Schenkel, and thus by default gave aid and comfort to his conservative enemies. Strauß’s critique was undertaken for personal reasons—his dislike of Schenkel, his sympathy with Fischer, the defense of his honor—but it was politically imprudent and naïve. What did it matter that Schenkel was once a conservative and that he engaged in questionable actions? Now he was fighting for the cause of academic and religious freedom, which had been imperiled by the attacks of the conservative clergy and laity. If Schenkel had to resign—and he was on the verge of doing so after Strauß’s attack—then the liberal cause in Baden would have collapsed. Hausrath contended that Strauß shared the typical fault of all idealists: he sacrificed the good, which could be achieved, because it was not the best, whose realization was impossible. From a political standpoint, Hausrath’s criticism is justified. But in fairness to Strauß it has to be said that he viewed the Schenkel affair from a moral rather than political angle. Schenkel had such a corrupt character that he was not deserving of victory, even if it were for a good cause. Those who act in the political world, Strauß thought, were not exempt from moral standards. In holding up Schenkel as a martyr and a model of moral integrity, the liberals were living a lie which had to be exposed. In some cases, morals trumps politics, Strauß thought, and the Schenkel affair was one of those cases. The strange title of Strauß’s polemic against Schenkel—Die Halben und die Ganzen—is a metaphor for two kinds of intellectuals. It states that some people ⁵ A. Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit (Heidleberg: Bassermann, 1878), II, 326–41.

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are halves and some are wholes: the halves stand half way and do not take the extra step of taking their ideas to their ultimate conclusion; the wholes take the second step and take their ideas to the end. The halves are timid and compromisers; the wholes are courageous and make their stand, regardless of the consequences. Following this metaphor, Schenkel was a half rather than a whole. The metaphor was a well-known and widely used one in the 1840s. Strauß himself had always disliked those who were halves; but he had been accused of being one himself in the 1840s by those who were more radical than himself. Now he would protest that accusation and announce all too loudly: I too am a whole! Halfway thinking in theology arises when one tries to establish a compromise, one which will satisfy the claims of both reason and faith, but which inevitably satisfies neither. Strauß maintains that Schenkel’s Das Charakterbild Jesu is a perfect example of this compromise theology. What it gives with one hand it takes with the other (209). For reason, it concedes too much to faith; and for faith, it concedes too much to reason. Schenkel’s book leads to such an unsatisfying compromise because it was very much in the rationalist tradition of theology, which tried to rescue biblical doctrines by explaining them in naturalistic and human terms. Thus Schenkel interprets Christ as a model human being; he claims that the resurrection is an event that happened in the minds of the disciples; he denies that miracles occur singly and on their own against the order of nature, although he insists that the existence of nature itself is a miracle. In making these interpretations, Schenkel thinks that he is saving the rational content of the traditional beliefs; but, Strauß contends, he does so only by destroying their original meaning. The orthodox Christian wants that original meaning. He thinks that Christ is divine, not only human; he believes that the resurrection is a real event and not only in the minds of the disciples; and he holds that a miracle is an extraordinary event within the general order of the universe, not just the existence of the universe itself. What makes Schenkel’s halfway theology possible, Strauß contends, is his hermeneutics, which claims to interpret the Bible not in its historical but in its spiritual sense, i.e., according to what Schenkel calls “the inner essence and ultimate goals” of Jesus’ life (208). Strauß objects to this method because it is anachronistic or unhistorical. The goals and ideas attributed to Jesus turn out to be those of Schenkel’s own contemporaries. It is like ascribing to Luther the ideas of Lessing, or to Calvin the ideas of Schleiermacher (209). Of this method, Strauß maintains, “historical science knows nothing.” It is a book about our time and how it understands Jesus; but it is not a book about Jesus’ time and how people then understood themselves. As soon as we adopt a properly critical and historical method, Strauß implies, the basis of halfway theology collapses because it is necessary to take biblical doctrines on their own historical terms, which is very unlike the rationalistic terms of our contemporaries.

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After the appearance of Strauß’s National-Zeitung article, Schenkel felt that he had no choice but to defend his reputation, and so he responded in an article in the Allgemeine Kirchlichen Zeitschrift.⁶ Schenkel found it extraordinary that Strauß attacked not only his latest book but also his character. He could find no motive for it, and the charges made against him were baseless. This was especially the case with regard to the Fischer affair, where Strauß did nothing more than dig up “Klatsch” that was more than twelve years old. Schenkel repudiated everything Strauß said about his role in this affair. It was a “great falsehood” that he played the main role in getting Fischer dismissed from the university. All that he ever did is confer his misgivings about Fischer’s teachings in a private conversation with the “Oberkirchenraths,” i.e., the superior chief church council. But he did not take part in the proceedings against Fischer, which was the work of the church council alone. Rather than approving of the council’s decision, he advised against dismissing Fischer, and he advocated instead employing another philosophy instructor to act as a counter to Fischer’s teachings. If Strauß knew what he were talking about, if he knew the documents of the academic senate regarding this affair, Schenkel charged, he would see that he was opposed to the decision to remove Fischer. Die Halben und die Ganzen is first and foremost Strauß’s reply to Schenkel’s defense. He finds Schenkel’s attempt to play down his role in Fischer’s dismissal incredible. Schenkel writes as if he had no role in the proceedings against Fischer because he was not on the consistory board; yet he was the person who lodged the original complaint against Fischer and who started the whole process in motion against him (230). Who was it with whom Schenkel had “a private conversation,” and with whom he communicated his misgivings about Fischer? It was no one less than the “Oberkirchenrath,” the top official in the consistory. It was Schenkel, therefore, who started “the avalanche” against Fischer, and he did so quite intentionally and with full knowledge of the consequences for Fischer. Schenkel protested against Strauß that he always upheld the principle of academic freedom, and that is why he disapproved of the action taken against Fischer. But Strauß discredits this by citing the following lines from Schenkel himself: “I had approved the right of the superior church council, in cases where the foundations of Christianity are attacked in public lectures, to invoke the intervention of the state.”⁷ “Some academic freedom, that!” Strauß exclaims (234). If this were not enough, Strauß finds Schenkel’s memory of the Fischer affair deliberately inaccurate. Schenkel writes as if his intention were to speak out

⁶ “Das Christenthum und die Humanitätsreligion des Herrn Dr. D. F. Strauß,” Allgemeine Kirchlichen Zeitschrift 6 (1865), 225–36. ⁷ Dr. D. Schenkel, Abfertigung für Herrn Kuno Fischer in Heidelberg (Heidelberg: Akademische Anstalt für Literatur und Kunst, 1854), p. 9.

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against “atheism.”⁸ But in his official charges against Fischer at that time (c.1854) he complains not about “atheism” but “pantheism.”⁹ Schenkel later substituted “atheism” for “pantheism” so that his charges would appear more acceptable for the new generation. No one in the 1860s worried about pantheism anymore, which had virtually become the unofficial religion of Germany. Atheism, though, they were more troubled about because it was associated with materialism. So, Strauß insinuates, in 1854 Schenkel was a far more severe and dogmatic man than he now likes to appear; he brought the full weight of the church authorities against pantheism because it was not the theism officially sponsored by the state church. It was easy enough for Strauß to expose the holes in Schenkel’s self-defense. It was much harder for him, however, to respond to one of Schenkel’s criticisms. Strauß had accused Schenkel of being a half rather than a whole, of being a man all too ready to make compromises with his philosophy to appeal to the man of faith. But Schenkel pointed out that Strauß was such a man himself, for during his attempt to get a professorship in Zurich, he bent over backwards to say accommodating things to the public there. Thus in his Sendschreiben he swore that he believed Jesus is not only a human being but also the son of God.¹⁰ If Strauß could use such expressions, Schenkel thought, then why couldn’t he? Strauß was guilty of double-dealing, blaming his antagonist for what he himself had done. Strauß’s response to this criticism is extraordinary, and results in one of the most illuminating passages he ever wrote about his philosophical development. To some extent, his reply is a mea culpa. He admits that in his earlier days he did have a half position. Rather than going all the way and making a clean sweep of Christian doctrine, he attempted to save as much of it as possible. In the years after Das Leben Jesu and prior to the Glaubenslehre, he was a firm believer in the Hegelian distinction between the form and content of representation, whose whole purpose was to save the spirit of Christian doctrine. Although the form of representation was myth, its content was a concept, the stock-in-trade of a discursive reason. Strauß explained that Das Leben Jesu was directed against the right Hegelian school, who believed that there was a complete unity of representation and concept. Because of this unity, they reasoned that the Bible must be a

⁸ Schenkel, “Christenthum,” p. 230. ⁹ Schenkel, “Das Christenthum und modernes Philosophenthum,” Allgemeine-Kirchenzeitung, January 21, 1854, No. 12, pp. 98–104. Only once in this article does Schenkel mention “atheism,” which he does in citing Heine’s famous dictum that pantheism is “verschämter Atheismus” (p. 104). But the brunt of Schenkel’s charge against Fischer is directed against his pantheism, which he regards as the wrong conception of God rather than none at all. The main flaw of pantheism, he argues, is that it makes the world into God rather than separating God from the world. ¹⁰ D. F. Strauß, Sendschreiben an die hochgeächteten Herren Bürgermeister Hirzel, Orelli und Professor Hitzig in Zürich (Zurich: Zurcher und Furrer, 1839), pp. 14–15.

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true historical document. It was just this assumption Strauß proceeded to attack. He wanted to show that one could not derive the historical truth of the gospels from the logical truth of the ideas contained in Christianity. Still, Strauß admits that in saying this he was only going halfway; if one went the whole way, then one would have to deny that there is any logical justification of the ideas of Christianity. One would have to question the truth of Christianity not only in its form but also in its content. This, Strauß says, is just what he has done since his Glaubenslehre. He now denies that we can make any clear distinction between the form and content of Christianity, and he rejects the content as well as the form. There was, he confesses, one man in particular who helped him to take this second step: Ludwig Feuerbach. Thanks to Feuerbach, he could see that it was impossible to make a sharp separation between the form and content of religion, and that its content was as mythical as its form. As Strauß presents his philosophical development here, it was one long process of becoming a whole, of denying all middle positions in theology and in taking the only possible extreme position: secular humanism. Now that he has taken the second step, Strauß goes further than he ever did before in denying the special status of Christ. He states that there are two possible positions regarding the status of Christ. There is the church’s position: that absolute perfection is only possible and actual in Christ; and there is the modern position: that relative perfection is possible in all persons, therefore it is actual in other persons as well as in Christ (249). The modern position is Strauß’s own. Thus he now denies all his previous compromise positions, i.e., those that insisted on the special status of Christ, that stressed he alone could completely realize divinity and that no one could ever surpass him. If this is now Strauß’s position, then he is perfectly correct to insist on his differences from Schenkel, who continued to hold that Christ is singular, the only person to ever achieve complete virtue. Schenkel formulated their differences as follows: he holds that Christ is the only person to realize fully the ideal of humanity, while Strauß maintains that he is only one of many.¹¹ Unlike Strauß, Schenkel also wanted to uphold not only the human but also the divine status of Christ. He had asserted that Jesus realized the divine in his life “as perfectly as this is possible within the limits of human nature.”¹² But Strauß insisted that such a qualification virtually admitted that Christ was really only a human being. Nevertheless, Schenkel wanted to continue to talk about Christ as the redeemer of our sins; he seemed to be unaware that the concept of a redeemer goes beyond Christ’s purely moral qualities; it attributes a metaphysical or cosmic property to him, viz., the power to erase sin and to make someone pleasing to God.

¹¹ Schenkel, “Christenthum,” p. 235.

¹² Ibid.

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14.2 Strauß, Schleiermacher, and the Sirens’ Song In June 1864, even before the Schenkel affair, a book appeared that must have aroused the greatest interest for Strauß. This was the edition by K. A. Rütenik of Schleiermacher’s lectures on the life of Jesus.¹³ Strangely, for obscure reasons, these lectures, which Schleiermacher had given in 1832, and which had received much attention in their day, had gone unpublished for more than three decades. Strauß had studied earlier manuscript versions of them in Berlin in 1831 before writing Das Leben Jesu. They had an important influence on his own work, which, it is no exaggeration to say, was a reaction to Schleiermacher’s lectures. When Strauß defiantly declared to Vatke in 1832 that he would write his own life of Jesus, he was referring to Schleiermacher’s lectures.¹⁴ Now that they were finally published, Strauß had the opportunity to take issue with them. And so, in late 1864, probably after he wrote his first article against Schenkel, Strauß wrote a critique of them, Der Christus des Glaubens und der Jesus der Geschichte.¹⁵ A careful look at this critique promises to reveal much about the intentions behind Strauß’s Das Leben Jesu. Remarkably, this work has been ignored as much as Schleiermacher’s lectures.¹⁶ This is especially surprising because it is one of Strauß’s best writings, clear in argument, elegant in style, sure and firm in conception. It is the best statement of the Zeitgeist around 1864. Strauß had his own impish explanation for why it had taken so long to publish Schleiermacher’s lectures (5–6). Rütenik complained that there were not enough manuscripts and that it took much time to collect the few that existed; but Strauß pointed out that the same could be said about Schleiermacher’s other lectures, all of which had been published some time ago. The real problem, Strauß maintained, was that his Das Leben Jesu, which appeared just after Schleiermacher’s death, seemed to surpass his more conservative opinions. For the poison of my work, Strauß said, Schleiermacher offered no antidote. So, Strauß was implying, Schleiermacher’s disciples withheld publication so that their master would not appear too antiquated. Now thirty years later, in the face of so much mediocrity in theological writing, it seemed all the more worthwhile to publish Schleiermacher’s lectures. “Where the living are so like the dead, it is appropriate for the dead to rise again and give witness” (6). It is questionable, though, whether Strauß’s work posed such a threat for the Schleiermacher school, whose influence was only growing. Indeed, Strauß himself ¹³ Friedrich Daniel Schleiermacher, Das Leben Jesu: Vorlesungen an der Universität zu Berlin im Jahr 1832, ed. K. A. Rütenik (Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1864). ¹⁴ See chapter 3, section 3.6. ¹⁵ David Friedrich Strauß, Der Christus des Glaubens und der Jesus der Geschichte: Eine Kritik des Schleiermacher’schen Lebens Jesu (Berlin: Duncker, 1865). Reprinted in GS V, 1–136. All references in parentheses are to the edition of the Gesammelte Schriften. ¹⁶ Given its importance, it is remarkable that this work is neglected entirely by Hausrat and Harris; it is noted only briefly by T. Ziegler, David Friedrich Strauß (Straßburg: Trübner, 1908), II, 619–28.

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admits that Schleiermacher’s fame in Germany now stands at its zenith. It was, as Strauß called it, “the accepted wisdom of the age” (Durchschnittweisheit des Zeitalters) (3). The majority of theologians, who did not want to relapse into orthodoxy or stride ahead with the freethinkers, were disciples of Schleiermacher. His theology seemed to represent the sweet reasonable middle path between recidivistic orthodoxy and reckless freethinking. The reputation of Schleiermacher’s theology today, Strauß wrote, is much like that of Kant’s philosophy sixty years ago (6). While in the 1780s it was far ahead of its time and very controversial, it has become gradually accepted and is now the status quo. What made Schleiermacher’s theology so attractive to the modern age, Strauß opined, is that it seems perfectly modern, in accord with the natural sciences and critique. It appears to be the final synthesis in the age-old struggle between reason and faith. Accordingly, to modernize Christianity, Schleiermacher went far in cutting down its supernatural dimension. There was no need to believe in the virgin birth, the resurrection, angels, and personal immortality. Indeed, all miracles should be suspect to the Christian. Thus Schleiermacher had famously stated in his Glaubenslehre that no faith worthy of the name required suspension of natural laws.¹⁷ Schleiermacher reduced the number of dogmas required of the Protestant faith, so that there was now only one fundamental dogma: “the personality of Christ.” By this phrase Schleiermacher meant the magical, mystical, and mysterious person of Christ, who is both human and divine—in other words, the God-man (der Gottmensch). This became for Schleiermacher the sole defining dogma of Christianity. The main aim of his lectures was to show that, though only a human being, Christ was also divine, and therefore a fitting object of religious devotion. With this single dogma, Schleiermacher rested his case for Christianity. If it were true, faith would be saved; but if it were false, faith would collapse. This single dogma of Schleiermacher’s theology was the chief target of Strauß’s critique. It attempts to show that Schleiermacher’s synthesis collapses, that Christ cannot really be the human being Jesus or that the human being Jesus cannot really be Christ. The delusion that Christ could be a man in the full sense of the word and somehow still be divine Strauß calls “the chain that separates the harbor of Christian theology from the open sea of rational science.” “The chief goal of the present work, and all my theological writings, is to shatter this chain,” he wrote in the final sentence of his forward (4). This sentence reveals how important the refutation of Schleiermacher had been for Strauß’s own work. Strauß’s critique of Schleiermacher is immanent, applying standards and ideals that are adopted by Schleiermacher himself. In his opening lectures Schleiermacher himself professes to follow the ideal of historical criticism

¹⁷ See Schleiermacher, Der christliche Glaube, Zweite umgearbeitete Ausgabe (Berlin: Reimer, 1830), I, 256, §47.

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(20–1, 23).¹⁸ The life of Jesus is about matters of fact, he reasons, and it therefore has to be investigated according to the same standards as hold for all matters of fact. His biography of Jesus therefore will be constructed strictly according to the historical evidence for it, and he will not let prior dogma or faith determine his result. If the results are contrary to dogma or faith, he will accept them, and so much the worse for dogma and faith. To some extent, Schleiermacher did proceed according to this ideal. He was a harsh critic of the synoptic gospels, whose credibility and historical authority he questioned. They were, in his view, mere collections of fragments, giving no coherent history. To another extent, however, Schleiermacher did not really practice his ideal of criticism. There were limits to his adherence to it, Strauß maintains, because Schleiermacher insisted that faith and criticism, religion and philosophy, have to harmonize.¹⁹ Faith had to be formulated so that it fit the standards of critique, and the conclusions of critique had to be fiddled to fit the demands of faith. Schleiermacher was never willing to allow criticism to end in a complete skepticism, total doubt about the Bible and the central dogma of the faith. Although he was mistrustful of the synoptic gospels, he was all too happy to believe the gospel of John, whom he naively assumed to be a disciple and eyewitness.²⁰ Before the gospel of John, Schleiermacher made criticism stand still, for he knew if that gospel too were subject to scrutiny faith itself would collapse (34).²¹ Schleiermacher’s obscure formula for the existence of the divine in the human, which he works out in great detail, is that “the divine is thought not under the form of an actual determinate consciousness but it is what lies at the basis of common consciousness” (das gesammten Bewußtsein zum Grunde liegende) (103–4). Alternatively, he states that the divine in the human must be conceived as “the driving power in the greatest innerness” (die im innersten treibende Kraft) of the human. Because the divine lies at the basis of common consciousness, it is not something individual; and because it lies in the innermost part of Christ, it is not something external which we can perceive through our senses. This means in more concrete terms, Schleiermacher explains, that whatever Christ does, he does through the will of God which works through him (103–4). Jesus was selfconscious of the will of God working in and through him and he did everything through and because of it (111).

¹⁸ All references in parentheses to Schleiermacher’s lectures are to the Rütenik edition cited above, note 13. ¹⁹ Strauß cites Schleiermacher’s 1819 letter to Jacobi: “My philosophy and my dogmatics have firmly decided not to contradict one another; for just that reason neither can be complete; and as long as I can think, they will have to be harmonized and approximated to one another.” Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben, In Briefen (Berlin: Reimer, 1858), II, 343. ²⁰ Strauß criticizes Schleiermacher’s preference for John in greater detail, GS V, 30–6. ²¹ Strauß, Der Christus des Glaubens, p. 34.

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Whatever the intrinsic merits of this formula, Strauß points out that it is problematic for one compelling reason: it does not meet the requirements of Christian orthodoxy. The orthodox conception of Christ requires that divinity be realized only in him, in him alone, and in no one else; but Schleiermacher’s formula deliberately excludes this by making the divine appear in “common consciousness” and not in any one individual. His common consciousness should appear in all individuals, not simply in Christ. What we ultimately get from Schleiermacher’s formula, Strauß contends, is a Spinozist conception of the divine which makes it present in all human beings (21). In both Schleiermacher and Spinoza, the divine manifests itself in Christ preeminently; but it does not manifest itself exclusively in him, which is required by the orthodox conception. Of course, this implication was probably intentional since Schleiermacher was an admirer of Spinoza’s pantheism; still, it was not made explicit to avoid its heterodoxy. Whether orthodox or not, Strauß finds this formula objectionable for another powerful reason, namely, it makes it impossible for Jesus to develop like a normal human being (24, 26). A normal human being grows from the less to the more perfect, from gradually learning to control impulses and feelings and by making them conform to the principles of morality. He suffers from constant temptations which he has to battle against, a struggle he sometimes wins but also sometimes loses. Schleiermacher’s Jesus, however, does not develop in this normal human fashion. He is perfect from the very beginning; he does his duty naturally and spontaneously and never suffers from temptation. Schleiermacher insists on Christ’s original perfection because he must be sinless and serve as moral model for us. Furthermore, if Jesus were like us in going through a natural development, Schleiermacher contends, then he would not be deserving of faith and reverence (114–15). But in insisting on this assumption, Strauß replies, Schleiermacher deprives Christ of his common humanity. To assume a human being who is perfect and sinless from birth is to violate the laws of nature, which allow only slow and gradual growth toward perfection (25, 26). Throughout his exposition Strauß raises many other problems which arise for Schleiermacher’s assumption that Christ is not only human but also divine. This assumption creates many puzzles and questions because it seems to conflict with the biblical text on many points. Consider the following examples. 1) After his baptism, Jesus went into the wilderness where he was tempted for forty days and nights by the devil. But, if he had divine moral powers, why did he suffer temptation at all (22)? 2) If Jesus were divine, he would be without sin. Why, then, did he undergo baptism, whose purpose was to wash away sin (57)? 3) Why did Jesus allow his enemies to persecute, even execute, him? If he truly had divine powers, he could have rescued himself (78). 4) Why did Jesus select Judas among his apostles? It was either because he was ignorant or because he foresaw his betrayal and wanted to lead him to destruction (84). The first option makes Christ

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human; and the second makes him no lover of humanity or his enemies. 5) Why were Jesus’ dying words, according to Matthew and Mark, “My God why have you forsaken me?” If he were divine, he would be forever united with God, so that God could not forsake him (98). All these problems disappear, Strauß argues, once we assume that Jesus was nothing more than a normal human being. Strauß complains that, on point after point, Schleiermacher rejects interpretations of the text, which seem perfectly natural and straightforward, simply because they are contrary to his dogma. For example, he questions the assumption that Jesus had a frail physical constitution because only that would not have supported the divine nature within him (94–5).²² And he rejects the hypothesis that Jesus would have had close relationships with his teachers because it would be contrary to his divine nature for him to have to depend on others (50).²³ These examples attest how much Schleiermacher would read his dogma into the text rather than deriving it from it. The most illuminating part of Strauß’s critique lies in his general characterization of Schleiermacher’s program. His project was essentially an attempt to find a middle path between the docetic and the ebonite interpretations of Christ (119). While the docetic representation saw Christ as divine and his human existence as illusory, the ebonite representation viewed him as only a human being whose divine status was fictional. Schleiermacher wanted to get the best of both extremes; he attempted to conceive Christ as divine but still as human. He strived to show, therefore, that Christ’s divine status could still be reconciled with his human appearances, so that everything Christ did as a human being he did through God, and everything he did through God he did as a human being. But the whole project faltered, Strauß claims, because there were too many contradictions between the claim for divine status and what Christ did in history. Too many biblical passages are better understood, as the above examples show, if we simply assume that Jesus was only a human being. Schleiermacher’s general position, as Strauß describes it, was paradoxical and apparently contradictory. He was a supernaturalist in his Christology but a rationalist in his critique and exegesis (129). The supernaturalism of his Christology appears in his basic dogma that Christ is God, the appearance of the divine on earth. The rationalism in his exegesis and critique surfaces in his effort to remove the mysterious and the miraculous sense of the Bible. These two aspects are ultimately contradictory, but as Schleiermacher understood them they depend on one another, Strauß insists. Because Schleiermacher still believed in the divinity of Christ, he could not do away with Scripture entirely; for he saw Christ as an historical personality, and the only historical record of him was in Scripture. But Schleiermacher was also a rationalist because he believed only his rationalism

²² Cf. Schleiermacher, Das Leben Jesu, p. 445.

²³ Cf. ibid., pp. 114, 120, 128.

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would make Scripture firm and secure by cleansing it of all the detritus of its miraculous and mysterious content (129). Yet this combination of supernaturalism and rationalism ultimately falls apart because the rationalism, if taken to its limit, undermines the evidence for the supernatural status of Jesus. The sustaining belief, and ultimate illusion, behind Schleiermacher’s program, Strauß explains, is his assumption that the ideals of humanity must have some historical instantiation, that there must be, or at least must have been, some living exemplar of these ideals (134). This would show that we not only should act according to these ideals but that we can act according to them. This alone would show humanity that there is some hope for its salvation, that it is not completely stuck in sin. This is why Schleiermacher believes so passionately in the divinity of Christ; and this is why he even goes as far to say that his life would not be worth living if there were no such Christ. But Strauß questions whether this assumption is really necessary after all, and he even calls Schleiermacher’s passion “an anachronism” (134). Kant has shown, he argues, that the ideals of morality have their own foundation in reason, and that they cannot be established through any form of experience. Although we cannot ever attain perfection, we can still make progress toward that goal if we only try hard enough. Though Strauß does not explicitly invoke the concept, the references to Kant make clear his general point: that the assumption of the divinity of Christ is a hypostasis of the ideal of reason; it reified the ideal of morality by making it into the qualities of a person. This was the reason Strauß said that Schleiermacher’s passion for an existing Christ was an anachronism; it came from the primitive habit of hypostasizing the ideals of reason, from treating as a thing what cannot be given in experience at all. The more we interpret the Bible honestly and historically, Strauß contends, the more we see that the authors of the gospels really did think that Jesus was divine, that he was the messiah who was born with divine powers. Rationalism was never willing to concede this view of Jesus because it wanted to make the Bible consistent with the modern world, to make it still believable for us today. But that led to all the distortions and complications of rationalist exegesis, which did not agree with the natural sense of the text. Once we drop the rationalist program, then we can finally see the Bible as its authors saw it; but at the same time that will show us that it is no longer an authoritative text for us. What the ancient disciples and prophets believed is really no longer credible for us today. We cannot accept the gospels as they were meant and intended by their authors. “Our God is another, our world is another, even Christ cannot be for us who he was for them” (130). This means that the Bible can no longer be a definitive or authoritative text for us. The Jesus of history is no longer a relevant figure for us today in the modern world. We find it impossible to believe in miracles, in angels, in the devil, and for that matter in any human being who has divine powers. We must learn to accept that Jesus too was a normal human being, having all the flaws and deficiencies pertaining thereunto.

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Anyone who wants to say more about any human being is either a deceiver or flatterer (132). In his final assessment, Strauß writes that Schleiermacher’s was the last great attempt to save the Christian faith and the authority of Scripture (130). His efforts were heroic; but ultimately they failed. One must pay tribute to him because he was so far ahead of his predecessors and contemporaries. In one telling metaphor, Strauß sums up all his merits and flaws (30). The theologians before Schleiermacher stopped their ears so that they could not hear the sirens’ song; he was braver than they because he kept his ears open. Still, he insisted that he be chained to the mast. This was his tragic mistake. This made him only a half critic; but the true critic not only hears the sirens’ song but breaks the chains tying him to the mast. He then has to face the wide open sea, not sure when or where, or indeed whether, he will make a landing.

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15 The New and the Old Faith 15.1 A Catechism for Freethinkers In 1872 Strauß published his last book, which he intended to be his final will and testament. Its title was Der alte und der neue Glaube,¹ the old and the new faith. This was Strauß’s attempt to define the new faith of the future now that the old faith of the past two millennia was on the verge of collapse. This new faith will not be a new religion to replace that of old; but it will be a new worldview, the beliefs by which a freethinker guides his life and actions. It was a constant criticism of Strauß’s earlier writings that they were too negative, too concerned to show what we should not believe. Strauß now attempts to address this shortcoming; he will try to show us, if only in a cautious and tentative way, what we should believe. He calls his book, appropriately, “Eine Bekenntniß,” a confession. It is very much a personal statement of belief. This is another reason Strauß writes about a new “faith.” His work does not pretend to be a doctrine or system. Ziegler informs us that we know less about the preparation and composition of this work than any of Strauß’s writings.² Indeed, going by the published sources, there is a dearth of information about the origins of this book. They seem to go back to a suggestion of Strauß’s brother, Wilhelm, who proposed in the early 1860s that his brother write “a catechism” for those who had liberated themselves from religion. At the time Strauß liked the idea—“eine schöne Sache,” he called it—but he doubted if the world was ready for such a book; he also was not sure if he could write it.³ But Strauß revered the memory of his brother, who had died in 1863, and he treated his suggestion as a last will that he should attempt to carry out.⁴ It seems that Strauß did not begin composition of the work until early 1871.⁵ Later that year he wrote Käserle that he was writing a “little work” that would be

¹ David Friedrich Strauß, Der alte und der neue Glaube: Ein Bekenntniß. Zweite Auflage (Leipzig: Verlag von S. Hirzel, 1872). All references in parentheses are to this edition. ² Theobald Ziegler, David Friedrich Strauß (Straßburg: Karl J. Trübner, 1908), II, 678. ³ See Strauß to his brother Wilhelm, March, 1861, in Ausgewählte Briefe, ed. Eduard Zeller (Bonn: Emil Strauß, 1895), p. 430. ⁴ This is the view of Ziegler, Strauß, II, 676, which seems entirely correct given Strauß’s reverence for his brother. ⁵ See Zeller’s statement in the “Vorwort des Herausgebers” of the 12th edition of Der alte und der neue Glaube (Bonn: Emil Strauß, 1895), p. vii. David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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the “punctum finale” of his authorship.⁶ Because he lost the mood, he let the project languish for three months; but then he picked it up again in May 1872.⁷ The book would not appear until October of that year. The reception of the work was stormy. Strauß was surprised by the amount of criticism, and by the ferocity of it.⁸ No one seemed to approve of “the little book.” Among its harshest critics was Strauß’s intimate friend Friedrich Vischer, who had plans to write against it. Strauß felt offended that Vischer did not tell him of his plans or reservations about the book.⁹ On that sour note, the old friendship of nearly forty years came to an end. At least Strauß could be satisfied that people were reading his book. It went through four printings by December, each of which consisted in 2000 copies.¹⁰ But Strauß found it difficult to cope with all the “disturbance and vexation” his book caused him. He wanted to enjoy quietly “the evening of his life”; but there he was surrounded by hostile and noisy critics. He confessed that he had lost the “Kampflust” of his earlier years. Still, he must have enjoyed the fact that he was getting the same kind of attention he aroused some thirty-seven years earlier when he first published Das Leben Jesu. He excused himself, and all the hubbub, with the lines: “Who can write something against his genius?”¹¹

15.2 Standpoint and Aim of the Book The introduction of Der alte und der neue Glaube is important because it explains the standpoint from which Strauß wrote it. True to his intention to write a confession, Strauß states that his standpoint is very personal, indeed “the most individual position possible” (4). He calls it the standpoint of the “I,” though it is a very special “I”: an “I” “without connections, without commitments.” At first the “I” here seems much like the “I” in Descartes’s Meditationes: it strips itself of all its old beliefs in the search for certainty. Just like Descartes, Strauß appeals to someone of impartial judgment, to a pure self whose perceptions have not been clouded by confession or dogma. Yet Strauß’s “I” turns out to be very different from Descartes’s. Strauß does not think that he can provide certainty; he will content himself with a statement of belief. Though he will attempt to base his faith on science, he fully recognizes that the results of the sciences are always tentative and changing.

⁶ See Strauß to Käserle, December, 27, 1871, Ausgewählte Briefe, p. 533. ⁷ See Strauß to Rapp, May 28, 1872, Ausgewählte Briefe, p. 536. ⁸ See Strauß to Kuno Fischer, December 3, 1872, Ausgewählte Briefe, p. 541. ⁹ See Strauß to Vischer, December 11, 1873, in Briefwechsel zwischen Strauß und Vischer, ed. Adolf Rapp (Stuttgart: Klett Verlag, 1953), II, 296–7. ¹⁰ See Strauß to Zeller, December 7, 1872, Ausgewählte Briefe, p. 542. ¹¹ See Strauß to Käserle, January 14, 1873, Ausgewählte Briefe, p. 545.

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Strauß’s standpoint becomes even more complicated when we learn that this “I” is also a “We,” someone who speaks for more than one person. Strauß uses the expressions “I” and “We” almost interchangeably, as if they were synonymous. This is because his “I” wants to speak for a group of likeminded people, specifically those who share his views about the modern church. His audience consists in those people who are not satisfied with the old faith, be they Catholic or Protestants. Among these people, there are two sorts, Strauß says (5–6). There are those who think that the old faith should be retained but only reformed; but there are also those who think that the old faith should be abandoned entirely, who believe that all the old dogmas are rotten to the core. When he writes of the “We,” Strauß says, he is speaking for the second group, i.e., all those people who think that the old faith and church should be abolished (7). Strauß further defines these two groups. The first is the majority, the second is a much smaller minority. He criticizes the first group for its inconsistency (6). The Catholics of the first group only want to dispense with the infallibility claims of the Pope; but if one is a Catholic and insists on retaining the hierarchy of the church, i.e., if one still believes that faith has to be determined by authority, then ultimately one has to recognize a Pope. The Protestants of the first group want to retain all the church rituals; they deny only the divinity of Jesus. But if one denies the divinity of Jesus, why pray to him? Why keep the rituals? The second group or minority sees through these inconsistencies and therefore insists on the need for a complete change. To use the language of the day, the second group are “the wholes” and the first group are “the halves.” Strauß is assuming, therefore, that the group he represents consists in freethinkers, all those who are consistent and have taken the result of their thinking to its limits. There is something odd about Strauß’s standpoint. He claims to be speaking for a group of people who agree with him, i.e., those who think that the old faith is rotten and that the church should be abandoned. But if he is speaking for only them, why does he ask his reader if he still is a Christian? Presumably, he, and his group, already know that they are not Christian. Why bother, then, to ask this question? This suggests that Strauß’s audience are not among the “We,” that they are still faithful but need to be convinced that they should not be so. But Strauß refuses to speak to this audience because he doubts if he will ever convince them, and because he does not want to deprive them of their faith. So his book foundered on a dilemma: it addressed either those who were already convinced of his new faith or those who held the opposing views and whom he could never convince. On either account, his book was pointless. Whoever the “We,” Strauß stresses that he does not want to establish a new church or party. He insists that he does not aim to destroy the old faith or the old church. He recognizes that they are still necessary for many people (8). Nevertheless, the time is not ripe for the foundation of new organizations, he warns, because the new faith is still too vague and tentative (7). It would be absurd

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to set up a new church just to abolish the old churches, or to create “an organization for the dissolution of all organizations.” So Strauß is saying: the “We” will not destroy the old and it will not create anything new in its place. But this seems to be a recipe for maintaining the status quo. Strauß explains, however, that the “We” will attempt to indicate, if only provisionally, the path to be taken toward the new. He indicates that there is a basis for the new faith. This is “the modern worldview” (die moderne Weltanschauung), the view of the world that results from modern science, from “historical and natural research” (10). The opposite of the modern worldview is the “Christian-ecclesiastical worldview.” Strauß stresses that he can put forward this modern worldview only in a tentative and cautious manner. He is making only “an attempt” (Versuch) at its exposition. Whether this worldview, at least as he expounds it, will be consistent and well-grounded, whether it will have “unity and completeness,” he still does not know (10). Perhaps his exposition will still have holes in it or inconsistencies. Above all, the reader cannot expect a rigorous and closed system, at least not now at this stage of the progress of the sciences. Whatever the weaknesses of this new worldview, Strauß is convinced that the reader will find it more consistent and rigorous than the old.

15.3 Are We Still Christians? The first section of Strauß’s book has for its title a simple question: “Are we still Christians?” The question became famous, reverberating throughout Germany. These were probably the most cited words from any of Strauß’s books. The negative answer that Strauß gave to his question—“We are no longer Christians”—also became famous, a challenge to Christians as much as a rallying cry for ex-Christians. To say that we are no longer Christians was Strauß’s own version avant la lettre of Nietzsche’s notorious “God is dead.” There was not only no reason to believe in Christianity, Strauß was saying like Nietzsche after him, but there was also no motivation to believe in it. Its doctrines did not speak to the heart or the soul of modern man. As we would expect, some of the first section rehearses and summarizes earlier arguments from Das Leben Jesu and Die christliche Glaubenslehre. It was the opinion of Hausrath that this section did not get beyond a superficial restatement of these arguments. Indeed, this section was for him “the weakest that Strauß had ever written.”¹² This was because, he explained, Strauß had imitated the style and

¹² Adolf Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit (Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1878), II, 359.

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reasoning of Voltaire, whose life and works he had only recently studied.¹³ In that nationalist era it was high treason for a German to imitate a Frenchman. Whatever the merits of that charge, Hausrath failed to see the main point behind Strauß’s arguments. He was correct that there is much repetition in this section; one could hardly have expected otherwise. But there was much new to it too, something which went beyond anything Strauß had written before and that was crucial to his whole case. The thrust of this section is a moral argument, not a metaphysical or exegetical one. Strauß maintains that the essential and characteristic Christian doctrines are immoral, that they are contrary to the moral and spiritual values of the modern age. This is the main reason why he thinks we cannot be Christians any longer. Strauß summarizes his whole case against Christianity in these lines: “If we open our eyes, and if we honestly admit the findings of doing so, then we must confess: the whole life and striving of the civilized peoples of our age is based on a worldview flatly opposed to the worldview of Jesus” (75). The opposition between these worldviews is such that what one finds evil the other finds good. What Strauß means by “a worldview” here is not simply a cosmological or metaphysical doctrine, but something even more basic: namely, fundamental beliefs about the value and purpose of life. For the Christian, the value of life does not lie in this mundane world in space and time but in another higher spiritual world beyond space and time, for which our life in this world is only a preparation and proving ground. For modern man, however, the value of life lies in this world alone and there is no world beyond it. Our life in this world is not just a means to an end—a pilgrimage and preparation for heaven—but an end in itself. As Strauß puts it: “Life on earth has its own law, its own rule in itself, just as it has its own purpose, its goals in itself” (82–3). This opposition between Christian and modern values is apparent in the problematic moral consequences of many Christian dogmas, Strauß contends. These consequences are completely unacceptable to modern man. Consider the following three examples. First of all, take the doctrine of original sin, which means that everyone, through no fault of his or her own, inherits sin and is therefore worthy of damnation. The modern view is just the opposite: that moral merit cannot be inherited but that we acquire it through our own actions. Secondly, consider the doctrine, central to Christianity, that teaches only Christians can be saved (51). Because it makes faith in Christ a condition of salvation, it damns the entire non-Christian world; all Jews, Muslims, and pagans, no matter how virtuous, are condemned to eternal perdition (34). This too violates our modern moral sensibilities. It seems immoral to condemn the great mass of humanity to eternal torment not because of anything it has done but simply

¹³ David Friedrich Strauß, Voltaire: Sechs Vorträge (Leipzig: Hirzel, 1870).

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because it does not hold a certain belief. Thirdly, ponder the doctrine of reconciliation, which states that Christ died for our sins on the cross (27–9). A righteous God will forgive our sins, it teaches, only if Christ sacrifices himself for us. This derives from the old Jewish rituals of sacrifice, but, in place of an animal, it puts an innocent human being. Can we accept today, Strauß asks, the moral ideas behind this doctrine? That God is vengeful? That he accepts the sacrifice of an innocent? That the sacrifice of an innocent life exonerates those who are guilty? No one believes these doctrines anymore, Strauß insists, not because they are false but because they repel our moral sensibilities. Strauß does not dispute that there are many Christian precepts that are still followed in the modern age. We still try to live by the maxims of love and charity; and we still strive to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. But this does not mean, he argues, that we are still Christians. This is because these maxims are not unique to, or characteristic of, Christianity (83). Buddhism preached humanity and sympathy five centuries before Christ; Rabbi Hillel taught the value of treating others as oneself a century before Jesus; and the Stoics, who were pagans, cultivated the virtues of helping others and brotherly love. All these moral principles were around well before Christianity, Strauß asserts, and they will continue to be around when Christianity disappears (85). Another reason we do not follow a specifically Christian ethics, Strauß contends, is that we cannot make its faith the basis for our ethics (86). The Christians recommend that we follow their precepts because God commands them; but God’s command alone has no binding force; we should follow it only because of its moral content. Christianity also pollutes the source of morality because it appeals to heavenly rewards and punishments to motivate people to act morally; but moral action should be an end in itself, regardless of the rewards for doing it or the punishments for not doing it (127–8). There are many spheres of moral life where Christianity simply does not offer us any guidance at all, Strauß adds (64–5). Because Christianity separates the heavenly from the earthly, and because it places all value in the heavenly, it has no ethics for many facets of our earthly life. It has no ethics for the family, and it places no value on patriotism or civic life. It is completely blind to the value and importance of economic life (64). It does not see how money plays an important role in life and culture. As much as an excessive love of money can be a source of vice, the value of money is indispensable to civilization; without it, we would all sink into barbarism (64). In all these respects—to the extent that we live and act in the domestic, economic, and civil spheres—we are not Christians simply because there is no Christian ethic to follow. What makes Christianity so morally problematic, Strauß thinks, is that it places too much value on the personality of its founder (47–8). The other monotheistic religions (Judaism and Islam) make a distinction between the value of their founders or creators (Moses and Mohammed) and the value of their doctrines.

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Even if their founders or creators have moral flaws, the doctrines still have their value independent of the personalities who discovered and preached them. But in Christianity it is different. Because Christ is the son of God, he is the object of faith and devotion; we therefore worship and pray specifically to him. If Christ were not himself divine, then Christianity would collapse as a religion. But Strauß thinks that Christ’s claim to be the son of God is inherently problematic. What reasons do we have to accept it? What makes him so wonderful independent of the value of his doctrines? Should not the merits of the personality be based on his teaching rather than conversely? If a human being claims to be the son of God, Strauß argues, then he has ipso facto declared himself to be a fanatic or zealot, a Schwärmer (80). One of the main problems in making Christ himself the object of devotion, Strauß argues, is that we know so little about him (79). We do not know his views about the most important issues. We do not know, for example, whether it was Jesus’ intention to spread the gospel among the pagans and non-Jews or if he wanted to keep it for the Jews alone (53–8). But if it becomes difficult to know in such a basic case what his intentions were, how can we take him as a model for us to follow in more difficult and obscure cases? The polemic against the personality of Jesus in the first section of the book is in many ways a repetition of earlier themes from the post-1839 writings. But Strauß is now breaking explicitly with another theme of the pre-1839 writings in a way he did not do before.¹⁴ In the third edition of Das Leben Jesu and Zwei friedlichen Blätter Strauß attempted to make Jesus an object of religious devotion even though he was still a human being; he made Jesus a genius, a person of exceptional human powers. But now Strauß is explicit that a genius, despite his exceptional qualities, is still only human and therefore does not deserve to be the object of devotion: “the object of religion, of devotion, can only be a divine being,” he writes (48). If this is so, and if Jesus is not divine, then he does not deserve to be the object of devotion.

15.4 A New Theory of Religion Although Strauß thinks that we are Christians no longer, he still leaves open the possibility that we are still religious. It is just this possibility that he investigates in his second section, whose title is, appropriately enough, “Do we still have

¹⁴ This important point is not seen by Ziegler, Strauß, II, 682, who seems to think that Strauß still held the view that one did not have to be divine to be an object of religious belief. But as the above quotation makes clear, Strauß had now decisively abandoned that view.

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religion?” To answer this question, Strauß expounds a new concept of religion, one which departs in important respects from that in his Glaubenslehre.¹⁵ Strauß tells us right away that religion is “an excellence of human nature” (95). That statement steers toward the positive conclusion to come. It is by no means trite or self-evident to say this because the Epicurean tradition, the traditional enemy of religion, thought that religion is not a virtue but a vice of human nature. Religion, the Epicureans held, springs from superstition and fear. Although Strauß has a more positive view of religion, he still agrees with some of the basic premises of the Epicurean theory of religion. This is a new development in Strauß’s thinking because, as we have seen,¹⁶ he rejected the theory of myth of the Epicurean tradition. His own theory of myth assumed that there is a rational core to religion, an assumption which the Epicurean tradition rejected. According to the Epicureans, religion arises not from reason but from feeling, and from one feeling in particular: fear. We fear the workings of nature because our welfare depends on it, yet we have no control over it. We animate nature, projecting our feelings onto it and personalizing it, as if there were spirits behind all its forces; we attempt to address and placate these spirits, so that we can have some degree of control over things. By pleasing these spirits through sacrifice, prayer, and ritual, we believe that they will work in our favor. Strauß takes over this whole theory of the origin of religion (96–8). But that raises the question: how does he avoid the consequences that the Epicureans drew from it? From their theory, the Epicureans argued that religion is bound to disappear with the progress of the sciences. Religion is nothing more than superstition, an ignorance of the natural causes of things. Once, however, we have sufficient knowledge of these causes, we will be able to control nature ourselves, so that we will no longer need to resort to prayer or sacrifice. Although Strauß agrees with the Epicureans that the sphere of religion will decrease with the progress of the sciences, he refuses to draw the conclusion that religion will disappear entirely. Why not? The answer is simple: that no matter how much we know and control nature, there will still be much that we cannot know and control. We will never totally escape our finitude, which means that our powers of knowing and making are limited. To just the extent that we cannot know or control nature, we will develop a feeling of dependence upon it. It is this feeling of dependence, Strauß thinks, following Schleiermacher, that is the fundamental and distinguishing feature of religion. Thus Strauß’s new theory of religion is a hybrid, a paradoxical mixture of Schleiermacher and Feuerbach, who represents for him the Epicurean element. In his Glaubenslehre Strauß had already expressed his agreement with Feuerbach that religion arises more from feeling and need than from rational reflection.¹⁷ ¹⁵ See chapter 11, section 11.1.

¹⁶ Chapter 6, section 6.1.

¹⁷ Chapter 11, section 11.1.

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This agreement persists with Feuerbach, whom Strauß now uses to correct Schleiermacher. What Schleiermacher does not see, Strauß contends, is that religion is not simply a feeling of dependence but also the need to free oneself from dependence (136). Mere dependence is what we get from an overwhelming power; but such a power would oppress us; and there would still remain in us a striving to free ourselves from such a power (138). Although Feuerbach was right to stress this striving to liberate ourselves from dependence on nature, he went too far by failing to recognize a persistent degree of dependence on nature. In his Glaubenslehre Strauß’s theory of religion was also a strange hybrid, but then he tried to combine Feuerbach with Hegel. Although Feuerbach was right to see that religion first arises from human needs and feelings, Strauß argued, he failed to see the element of thinking that is involved in it, a component that Hegel always recognized.¹⁸ So, in 1840, religion was still for Strauß a confused representation of conceptual content. Now, in the 1870s, however, Strauß seems to have dropped the conceptual element entirely. Since he is no longer a Hegelian, he cannot see any cognitive content behind religion; that cognitive content once consisted in speculative truths, but there are no such truths any more. All cognitive content now comes from natural science, none from speculation. The idea that religion has cognitive content through natural science was just the biblical naturalism that Strauß had rejected so many years ago. If we want to, Strauß says, we can call the universe or nature, insofar as it lies beyond our rational control, God (141). Just as it was for Spinoza, Strauß thinks that “God” and the universe or nature mean one and the same. But Strauß, unlike Spinoza, refuses to equate nature with power alone.¹⁹ This would mean that religion is nothing more than subjugation, that it is only submission to a higher power. God is not just “a crude power,” he insists, because there is also order and harmony in the universe (142). The degree to which there is order and harmony means that the universe is also “rational” and “good.” If the universe is rational and good, then we should feel not only dependence on it, but also respect and admiration, surrender, and joy (143). Thus Strauß thinks that his universe can still be the object of piety (146). Although Strauß thinks that we can still have some degree of piety in his new religion, he is careful that this should not be a reason for re-establishing any church (144). The church would bring back the old rituals, prayers, and superstitions of the past, which are always involved in ecclesiastical practice. Belief in God—the universe or nature—should be individual or personal. But this leaves us asking: How can there be a personal faith in such an abstract and impersonal object as the universe?

¹⁸ See chapter 11, section 11.1. ¹⁹ See Spinoza, Ethica, Pars I, Proposition XXXIV: “Dei potentia est ipsa ipsius essentia.”

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Now Strauß feels that he can finally answer the question with which he began: Are we still religious? Yes and no, he says, it all depends on what you mean by religion. It was an almost flippant answer, and probably intended to be an evasive one. The concept of religion we get at the close of the section is a very abstract and thin one: God is the universe, nothing more and nothing less.

15.5 A Freethinker’s Cosmology The third section of Der alte und der neue Glaube sketches a new cosmology or metaphysics for the freethinker. This is the most speculative part of the book because it made grand generalizations about the whole universe. But Strauß did not hesitate: he had already made his cautionary disclaimers to ward off the worst critics; and he would base the principles of this metaphysics upon the latest natural science. Strauß first expounds a theory about the material universe, then one about the origins of life itself. The intent behind both theories is to remove the need to postulate any supernatural cause, whether for the existence of the cosmos or for life itself. This new metaphysics will be a strict monism and naturalism: it maintains that every individual thing that exists is only one part of nature; beyond nature there is only nothingness. The opposite of this metaphysics is the dualism of the old Christian metaphysics, which postulated distinctions between the divine creator and nature and between mind and matter. It is not inaccurate to see Spinoza as the inspiration for Strauß’s new worldview; he cites him at least twice.²⁰ But there were other important influences upon him, most notably Kant, Darwin, and Haeckel. Strauß’s theory of the material universe is greatly indebted to Kant’s Allgemeine Weltgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels. Strauß warmly approves of Kant’s thesis that the systematic order of the cosmos—that the planets are round, that they orbit around a sun in a plane—has its origin in the nature of matter itself. If we assume the existence of a primal mass, and if we also accept the operation of the forces of attraction and repulsion upon it, Kant argues, then we can explain this structure completely. There is no need to refer, as Newton did, to the “hand of the creator” to account for it. “Give me matter and I will explain a world for you” was Kant’s motto.²¹ Like the young Herder, Strauß prefers the early to the later Kant because he likes the naturalistic program behind Kant’s early cosmology; the dualism of Kant’s later metaphysics was to be avoided at all costs. Strauß’s theory of the origins of life, which he derived from Darwin and Haeckel, is simply an extension of his theory of matter. Now Strauß announces: ²⁰ Der alte und der neue Glaube, pp. 127, 215. ²¹ See Kant, “Vorrede,” Allgemeine Weltgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels, Schriften I, 229.

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Give me matter and I will explain life from it. Kant had famously insisted that matter alone could never explain so much as a blade of grass; but Strauß is bold enough to go far beyond that, to venture that it is sufficient to explain the origin of a human being (220). There is no dualism between the organic and inorganic, he maintains (173–4). There is no special kind of substance characteristic of life alone, and nor is there anything like a sui generis vital force. There is no chemical element that is specifically organic and which is not found among the inorganic elements (174). What is characteristic of life, he writes, is nothing more than a specific kind of movement and combination of material elements. The great step forward of Darwin was that it became possible to explain the origins of life without any appeal to teleology; he showed how we can explain the origin of species through mechanical causes alone, through the workings of natural selection (215, 219–20). There is no longer any need to appeal to a general creator of nature, therefore, who creates everything according to a plan (217). Among the many interpreters of Darwin in Germany, Strauß was one of the most severe and radical, banishing all final causes and stressing that there is no longer any need to assume the existence of a primal non-material form of life. Many argued that Darwin still presupposed a kind of internal teleology in the mere struggle to survive; but Strauß makes no such concessions. As a radical hard-core Darwinian, Strauß resembles most Haeckel, whom he greatly admired.²² Strauß was such a radical Darwinian that he had no trouble at all with the theory of the descent of man from apes (198–9). This had been a great stumbling block to Darwin’s reception because so many people, especially those of religious conviction, found it contrary to human dignity that human beings descended from apes. Strauß found it impossible to sympathize with them and made light of their difficulties. Is it not better, he asked, to prefer someone who has worked themselves up in the world to an idle aristocrat? Similarly, is it not better to prefer a creature who has worked itself up in the ladder of evolution to someone who was born a complete human being at the beginning and then lost his innocence by a fall into sin? Nothing more depresses the mind than the idea that one has lost something forever and never will regain it (199). Strauß maintained that just as we can explain the origin of life from material causes, so we can explain the origin of consciousness or mental phenomena. There is no need to postulate a special mental substance any more than a vital one (209). A human being is just one being; there are not two beings, one physical and the other mental. It is much easier to explain mental-physical interaction when there is one human being than a distinction between two heterogeneous substances (209–10). Strauß admitted that there is not yet an explanation for this interaction, and even ventured that there would probably never be one. Nevertheless, he

²² See Strauß to Ernst Häckel, August 24, 1873, Ausgewählte Briefe, p. 554.

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suggested that the law for the conservation of energy indicated that it should be possible to explain how a physical stimulus can have a mental effect (210). This law shows how movement can create heat, which is a phenomenon very different from movement itself. If movement can create heat, why cannot it by the same token create the sensation of warmth?

15.6 Strauß’s Alleged Materialism All these theories about the origin of the cosmos, life, and mind seem to lead to only one conclusion: that Strauß’s new metaphysics was not only naturalistic but also materialistic. The universe seemed to him to be nothing more than matter in motion. Strauß seemed to have become a materialist, which was clear enough from his citations of Feuerbach, Vogt, and Haeckel, three notorious materialists. That, at least, was how many contemporaries now thought of Strauß. They were surprised by his apparent “conversion to materialism.” He had been an idealist, a Hegelian, for so long; but now he had done a complete volte face and become a materialist. How was this possible? Hausrath declared the conversion to be a complete mystery.²³ To him, it demonstrated that Strauß had little independent intellectual substance, that he was too open to the influences of his intellectual milieu. Once absolute idealism had been the fashion; but now it was materialism, so Strauß just stepped into line. Vischer too was surprised by Strauß’s materialism, which became one of the breaking points in their old friendship.²⁴ Strauß, for his part, found it very odd that people objected so much to his materialism. In his view, his basic metaphysics had not changed much at all. Of course, he was no longer a Hegelian who strives to reconcile philosophy and faith; but the basic principles behind his philosophy were still the same. He was still a pantheist, still a monist, and indeed still an idealist. As Strauß explained, there is no great difference in principle between materialism and idealism; they are simply different ways of explaining one and the same thing, which is nature or the universe. Idealism explains “from above,” according to representations and forces of consciousness, what materialism explains “from below,” according to atoms

²³ Hausrath, Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit, II, 355. Samuel Eck, David Friedrich Strauss (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1899), pp. 243–8, agrees with Hausrath that Strauß’s materialism involves a break with his absolute idealism. He also sees the influence of Voltaire as crucial for this shift in Strauß’s views. Neither Hausrath nor Eck seems to have a precise concept of absolute idealism and virtually equate it with what Schelling and Hegel would have called “subjective idealism.” On the meaning of absolute idealism, see the author’s German Idealism: The Struggle against Subjectivism, 1781–1801 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), pp. 349–74. ²⁴ On the relationship between Strauß and Vischer, see Francesca Iannelli, “Die kontroverse Freundschaft zwischen David Friedrich Strauß und Friedrich Theodor Vischer,” in David Friedrich Strauß als Schriftsteller, eds. Barbara Potthast and Volker Henning Drecoll (Heidelberg: Winter, 2018), pp. 359–96.

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and forces of matter (212).²⁵ Materialism and idealism are therefore alternate forms of monism; they are not opposed to one another but to dualism, which mistakenly hypostasizes a difference in forms of explanation into a difference in kinds of things. To a certain extent, Strauß was certainly right about this point. The absolute idealism of Schelling and Hegel differed from the idealism of Kant and Fichte in that it made the difference between idealism and materialism a difference in forms of explanation. We could begin from the subject and derive the object, as idealists do; or we could begin from the object and derive the subject, as materialists do. Both are complementary ways of explaining one and the same thing, which is the absolute, the identity of subject and object. Absolute idealism does not exclude, therefore, a complete naturalism but incorporates it as one part of itself. But, to another extent, Strauß’s critics were right. Though it was less visible, there was a fundamental break between Strauß’s new materialism and absolute idealism. What made absolute idealism a form of “idealism” was its insistence that all of reality is governed by the concept or idea, which is the purpose or end of things. Strauß had abandoned such an idealism because he could no longer accept teleology at all. His repudiation of it was total: Spinoza was right to banish it from his metaphysics (215). It was indeed the lingering element of teleology in the systems of Hartmann and Trendelenberg which made Strauß reject them.²⁶ The attractions of a radical materialism for Strauß seem plain enough. He wanted to make a clean break from religion, to sweep away anything that could support it or that was even a remnant of it. Teleology seemed to bring back the old theistic God who had planned everything. And yet Strauß, as we have seen, was still ambivalent. He still wanted that old sense of piety for the universe. For all his hostility toward Christianity, Strauß still could not break entirely with religion. He could not bring himself to make a clean sweep of it all.

15.7 A Humanist Ethic The fourth and final section of Der alte und neue Glaube, which is aptly titled “Wie ordnen wir unser Leben?,” is devoted to ethics. This is the only systematic treatment of ethics in all Strauß’s writings. Ever since Der politische und theologische Liberalismus of 1848, Strauß wrote about a humanist ethics that would replace a Christian one; but he did not develop this idea beyond giving it a name. Now, finally, Strauß attempts to explain the principles of his humanist ethics.

²⁵ Cf. Strauß to Vischer, February 11, 1873, Briefwechsel, II, 296–7. ²⁶ On the rejection of Hartmann, see Der alte und der neue Glaube, pp. 145, 217–18, 222; and on the rejection of Trendelenburg, see p. 215.

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Strauß conceives his humanist ethics as the negation of a religious one. According to the Judeo-Christian tradition, moral laws derive their authority from God, who creates and enforces them (234). Thus Jehovah appeared before Moses on Mount Sinai and laid down the laws for the Jewish people; the prophets claimed to be the mouthpieces of God when they made their prophecies; and Jesus claimed to be the messiah to give his moral precepts their authority. But these myths no longer work for us today, Strauß says. We realize that we must derive the authority of Christ and the prophets from their moral teachings, not the authority of their moral teachings from the authority of Christ and the prophets (235). But on what authority can we base their teachings? That is the crucial question. Strauß says that it must be, for a start, the needs of human society (234). Moral laws will be justified if they are necessary for the maintenance of society, if without them all social intercourse collapses. But this social justification of moral laws only goes so far, Strauß argues, because it makes moral laws nothing more than maxims of social expediency; something more is necessary to give the moral laws a deeper authority: namely, their derivation from human nature (234–5). But what, exactly, is human nature? The concept is so vague that it cannot serve as a principle of morality. Strauß notes how the Stoics struggled with this concept and strived to give it a more precise definition (236). One of their definitions made human nature equivalent to reason. Kant gave a more precise account of how reason can act as a criterion of morality: “Act so that the maxim of your will can always be valid as the principle of universal legislation” (237). Strauß gives a straightforward account of Kant’s criterion and how it is supposed to work; and he seems to find it unproblematic. But then he expresses his agreement with Schopenhauer’s main objection to Kant: that a moral principle has to be based not on abstract concepts alone but on some real drive of human nature (238). Schopenhauer attempts to find the criterion of morality therefore in human pity, which expressed itself (negatively) in the principle not to harm others or (positively) in the principle to help others when they are in need. Strauß then gives us reason to think that Schopenhauer’s criterion is too narrow. It considers only the duties we have to others; and since we cannot make ourselves the object of pity or sympathy, it excludes the important class of duties to oneself (238–9). Having made these points against Kant and Schopenhauer, Strauß then boldly and bluntly states his own criterion: “All moral action of human beings . . . is a selfdetermination of the individual (Sichbestimmen des Einzelnen) according to the idea of the species” (240). That we must act according to the “idea of the species,” i.e., according to our humanity, was the core idea of this humanist ethic. But, again, what exactly does this mean? Strauß explains that it means recognizing that all others are also human beings like myself, that they have the same needs and demands as myself (242–3). It is not clear, however, how this criterion avoids the problems Strauß found in Kant’s criterion. Did Strauß mean that seeing others as exemplars of humanity like myself would make me more inclined to act morally?

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That it would make me more prone to feel sympathy for them? Unfortunately, Strauß never raises or answers these questions. It is somewhat clearer, though, how it avoids the problems of Schopenhauer’s criterion. There can be duties to oneself as well as to others, Strauß explains, because it is only a matter of recognizing the same idea of humanity in myself as in everyone else (240). There are three problems with Strauß’s criterion, at least as he explains it and as it appears in his text. First, vagueness, because it is still not clear what humanity means, what needs and demands constitute it. Second, the danger of relativism, because it is very controversial that all people have the same needs and demands. Wisely, for just this reason, Kant rejected basing morality on them. Third, consistency. This last problem arises when Strauß goes on to say that, in man, nature goes not only upwards but beyond itself (245). He constantly insists that we must recognize that man is not only a natural being but also a rational being whose needs and desires go beyond nature. But if the duties characteristic of man transcend nature, in what sense can we claim to base morality on the idea of human nature? It was a hallmark of the humanist ethic as it was developed by Strauß’s predecessors—Wieland, Herder, Schiller, Goethe, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Forster—that it stressed the need to develop all human capacities, not only reason but also sensibility. But sensibility involved first and foremost the sexual needs of human beings. These needs were to be cultivated no less than our moral and intellectual capacities. Strauß picks up on this theme and defends it against the Christian tradition, which he feels never honored or understood sexuality (251–4). The Christians saw sexuality as something that should not be and they did much to repress it. Strauß admits that some of the pagans took sexuality too far, so that they overindulged it and allowed it to become perverse or depraved. The Christians were in part reacting against this corruption; but they went too far in the opposite direction by condemning it. The task is to recognize sexuality as a constitutive of our human nature and to ennoble it. This we can do in two ways: through art and through marriage (254).

15.8 The Politics of an Older Man Having sketched his general ethical principles, Strauß moves into the arena of politics. Here his political views are very much those he outlined in his writings around 1848; the only difference is that Strauß has moved even more rightwards than then. Like so many of us, the older he became, the more conservative grew his sensibilities. It is in his political opinions that Strauß’s humanism differs from his predecessors’; his ethical principles were those of all the humanists, but his political views make his humanism unique if not inconsistent.

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The humanist tradition in Germany was very much cosmopolitan. It taught the German that he was a citizen of the world; and though it took special pride in German culture, this was never meant to exclude a wider sense of belonging to humanity as a whole. This is where Strauß seems to depart from this humanist tradition. He grew up in a much more nationalist age than his predecessors; every decade that passed by in the nineteenth century seemed to bring Germany closer to unity. In 1871, a year before the publication of his book, the Prussians won their victory over France and Germany become one nation united under Prussia. Strauß, always the German patriot, celebrated these events. This nationalism appears unashamedly in Der neue und der alte Glaube. The middle term between humanity and the individual, he writes, is the nation (Volk) (262). Nations are for him the natural form of humanity; one’s belonging to a nation is not accidental but essential to one’s identity. We know ourselves as Germans, Frenchman, Italians, and Englishman before we know ourselves as a member of humanity or as a cosmopolitan. Whoever does not recognize his own nation, Strauß asserts confidently, cannot be a person of culture but is a mere egoist (263). It was part of the cosmopolitanism of the humanist tradition that it was also pacifist. It abhorred war as a destruction of the brotherly bonds that all human beings have with one another. But here too Strauß departs from this tradition. He thinks that war is perfectly natural and that it is as unavoidable as the weather (259). This opinion about war came from the streak of Realpolitik that was inherent to his political thinking.²⁷ To exist and to endure in the political world requires power, Strauß insists; otherwise, one is destroyed or taken hostage by those who have power. But the tendency to acquire power, combined with military means, inevitably leads to war. Hence Strauß declares that the “ultima ratio” of nations consists in cannons. A cosmopolitan and pacifist humanist makes perfect sense; a nationalist and hawkish humanism makes less sense and verges on self-contradiction. But we can regard these as legitimate subspecies of humanism if we define “humanism” more broadly as the opinion that the ends of life consist in its general ethical precepts about the cultivation of all human powers as a whole. It is in this regard that it makes perfect sense to regard Strauß as a humanist. Strauß’s conservatism asserts itself in many forms in Der alte und der neue Glaube, but it is most evident in his attitude toward the social and political structure of his day. He does not call for a reform of that structure but explains the rationale for it. The source of all political evil comes from the left, in his view, because they advocate revolution. The classical moderate middle path between reaction and revolution was always reform. But Strauß presents no proposals for reform; it is as if everything were fine just as it stands.

²⁷ See chapter 12, section 12.6.

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Strauß continues to advocate for the cause of a constitutional monarchy, just as he did in 1848. There is no evidence that a republic is the best form of government, he argues, because which form of government is best depends on circumstances and history (266). In some circumstances a monarchy can even be better than a republic. All forms of government have their advantages and disadvantages, and among the disadvantages of a republic is that the freedoms it allows also encourage factions, conspiracy, and subversion (268). The great advantage of a monarchy is that it encourages the development of the arts and sciences and “the higher intellectual interests” (268). The arts and sciences in a republic, like that in the United States and Switzerland, are far too practical and realistic, failing to encourage “the finest intellectual atmosphere” (269). Alongside Strauß’s sympathy for monarchy goes his acceptance of aristocracy. Unlike so many on the left in his age, he refuses to call for the abolition of the aristocracy. This social class can serve as a social barrier against the excesses of a tyrant or a mob. The aristocracy protects the freedom of citizens against a tyrant as well as the rights of the monarch against a mob (273). The government should allow aristocrats to keep their estates, within definite limits, though it should not reserve careers in the military for them. Despite his acceptance of the aristocracy, Strauß clearly sees its abuses. All too often aristocrats fail to heed the privileges given to them; rather than working for the public good, they devote themselves to idle pleasures. Strauß himself never envied the aristocracy, and he even thought it was sad when a member of the bourgeoisie aped their conduct and bought their titles. He was very self-conscious as a Bürger and very proud of it (273). The middle class was the core of the people and the source of its morals. It was part of Strauß’s acceptance of the aristocracy, and of his pride as a Bürger, that he approved of the distribution of property in his society. This approval is perfectly explicit when he states that property is “the indispensable foundation of morality and culture” (282). It is not only the right of ownership he defends but also the right to inherit property, to accumulate it for the good of one’s family and children (282). To strike at inherited property, as some of the social democrats do, is to strike at the root of the family, and with it the very basis of society and the state (282). Given his position on property, it should not be surprising that Strauß disapproves of the political activities on behalf of the working classes, or, as it was known then, the “fourth estate.” Here is where his political views show a greater leaning toward the right. In 1848 Strauß showed some sympathy with the workers, who, he insisted, needed better housing and a living wage. But that sympathy does not appear anywhere in Der alte und der neue Glaube. Here he is content to warn us about the leveling tendencies of the social democrats, and he expresses his disapproval of the Paris commune (277). The people who burned down the Louvre are “the Huns and vassals of modern culture” (278). What should the workers do to improve their condition? Strauß not only does not provide answers

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but he also does not even raise the question. The source of inflation he finds in the workers’ demands for higher wages (280). Strikes are an evil because they are “a piece of anarchy in the middle of the state, of war in the middle of peace” (279). Strauß saves for last his views on the relationship between church and state. It should be obvious that he demands a strict separation of church and state; but he wants even more: the right to belong to no church at all, to have no ecclesiastical affiliation whatsoever (294–5). The government had declared freedom of worship, so that all confessions (Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish) were equal in their legal rights; but one wanted the right not to have anything to do with the church. It was a mere prejudice that one always needed to have a church. Many people could not do without them; but there were also some people who could, and they too should have the freedom to not belong. For these reasons, Strauß is remarkably unsympathetic to the “free community” movement, which attempted to base the church on reason and science. He said that when he went to some of the services given by this movement, he found them very dull and spiritless. Why did one need a church at all, he asked? This was sticking to the past simply because of habit. Better to make a clean break of it. This all goes back to his claim at the beginning that his “We” did not plan to make a new church of any kind. It was altogether fitting that Strauß ended his last book with a plea for religious liberty. His entire career had aspired toward this ideal. But in his case religious liberty meant not only the freedom to hold any religious belief but also the freedom to be free of all religious belief. The Straußian freethinker strived for freedom from all religious affiliation, freedom from religion not only as an institution but also as a system of beliefs. Strauß’s ultimate value, at the beginning and end of his life, had been freedom of enquiry, the intellectual freedom to examine all beliefs no matter the consequences. As Strauß fully realized, this freedom involved the commitment to live with uncertainty and insecurity, the willingness to detach oneself from all comforting dogmas and final systems of belief. When Strauß died in February 1874 he could console himself that, despite all the persecution and suffering this ideal brought upon him, he at least had remained true to it. A life devoted to this ideal had been, in his view, one worth living.

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16 Three Critics 16.1 Nietzsche For some thirty-five years in Germany, Strauß had the reputation of the freethinker par excellance. He was the courageous man who dared to question church dogma and who paid the bitter price for it. Strauß was therefore placed within the tradition of Lessing and Reimarus as the most recent martyr for freethinking. In 1873, however, Friedrich Nietzsche published the first of his Unzeitgem€ aße Betrachtungen, David Strauss: Der Bekenner und der Schriftsteller,¹ which viciously attacked Strauß’s reputation. For Nietzsche, Strauß was the very opposite of a freethinker; he was a cultural philistine, someone who had ceased to think about the central problems of life, and who was all too ready to conform for comfort and security. Nietzsche’s criticisms were aimed at one book of Strauß’s in particular, his last book, his 1872 Der alte und der neue Glaube,² where Strauß tried to encapsulate his final philosophy of life. Nietzsche found Strauß’s waning effort a feeble failure: his thinking was timid and superficial, attempting to avoid problems rather than to think through them. Most objectionable for Nietzsche was Strauß’s attempt to fill the vacuum left by the decline of religion with a life of cultural consumption, as if listening to Mozart, reading popular science, and taking daily walks in the Tiergarten would solve the problem of the meaning of life. Although what Nietzsche writes against this book has some merit, the problem is that he does not qualify or limit his criticism.³ It is as if what he wrote against the late Strauß were also true for all of Strauß. Though Nietzsche knew better, his many readers and admirers did not; they took his critique as an indictment of Strauß simpliciter. The damage to Strauß’s reputation was incalculable; even worse, it made it easy for reactionaries to ignore the challenge of his critique of Christianity. ¹ Unzeitgem€ aße Betrachtungen, Vol. 1: David Strauss: Der Bekenner und der Schriftsteller (Leipzig: E. W. Fritzsch, 1873). This work will be cited according to the edition: S€ amtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe, eds. G. Colli and M. Montinari (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1980), I, 157–242. ² David Friedrich Strauß, Der alte und der neue Glaube (Leipzig: Hirzel, 1872). ³ It is typical of Walter Kaufmann’s uncritical treatment of Nietzsche that he accepts his criticisms of Strauß and makes no attempt to put them in a broader perspective. See his Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (New York, NY: Random House, 1968), pp. 134–41. He accepts at face value Nietzsche’s account of Strauß’s relation to Lessing and even agrees with him about Strauß’s “uncomfortable and untroubled renunciation of Christianity” (136). David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography. Frederick C. Beiser, Oxford University Press (2020). © Frederick C. Beiser. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198859857.001.0001

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Nietzsche wrote his essay on Strauß in spring 1873, very early in his career. Unzeitgemäße Betrachtungen was only the second of his published books. It was telling that he opened his literary career with a critique of Strauß. This was in itself a tribute to Strauß’s importance for him. We must not forget: Nietzsche was once an admirer of Strauß, whom he regarded as the greatest freethinker of his age.⁴ Now, however, Nietzsche wanted to inherit that mantle; he would attempt to steal it from Strauß by showing that he had betrayed the ideal of freethinking.⁵ Nietzsche’s main charge against Strauß is that he is “a cultural philistine.” The oxymoronic term was commonplace but Nietzsche gave it a special meaning. Nietzsche intends it to explain a paradox: that the Germans highly value culture yet are utterly bereft of it. They boast that Germany is the most developed culture in Europe; but they do so much to undermine its culture. The explanation for this peculiar phenomenon, Nietzsche maintains, is cultural philistinism, which is not true culture but its very opposite: the perversion of culture. A cultural philistine is for Nietzsche someone who pretends to cherish culture but who really adopts only its outward trappings. He goes to the theater, concerts, and museums; he enjoys the latest novels and reviews; and he even reads some classics. But he treats culture as a good to be consumed; it adorns his life but it does not alter it. Having culture is a sign of conspicuous consumption, of social standing. Cultural philistinism is therefore not the possession but the affectation of culture; one thinks that it is sufficient for culture to have the appearance of it, so that one stops striving for real culture. It is in this way that cultural philistinism undermines real culture. But this explanation still leaves unanswered an important question: What is culture? Why should we aspire to it? Nietzsche defines culture as “the unity of aesthetic style in all expressions of a people” (163). But this definition does not take us very far; it does not help us to understand what is behind the charge of cultural philistinism. The cultural philistine is an enemy of real culture, Nietzsche thinks, because he conceals, and helps us forget, its real purpose: to make us think about the ultimate questions of life. Why are we here? Why should we live? Is life worth living (202)? A person who is truly devoted to culture is forever mindful of these questions, and he never stops searching for an answer to them. The difference between the philosopher and the philistine is that the philosopher constantly reflects on such questions, and he realizes that there is no final answer to them, whereas the philistine assumes that the answer to them is very simple, so that there is no point in striving after it. Rather than thinking about the purpose and value of life, the philistine would rather lead a life of comfort and ease. Culture ⁴ Nietzsche wrote in Der Antichrist that it was a long time ago that he tasted the work of “the incomparable Strauss” (S€ amtliche Werke VI, 199). ⁵ That Nietzsche felt that Strauß had betrayed his own ideals is clear from G€ otzend€ ammerung, where he writes that Strauß represents “the degeneration of our German free spirit.” S€ amtliche Werke VI, 104–5.

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in the true sense—constant reflection on the value and meaning of life—disturbs the philistine’s lifestyle. Given this meaning of cultural philistinism, is it fair or accurate to apply it to Strauß? On the face of it, there is something absurd and outrageous in such a criticism. The very opposite is the case. Strauß possessed to an eminent degree what Nietzsche himself regarded as the hallmark of a freethinker: the passion to push his thinking to its ultimate conclusions, and the willingness to accept and live by the consequences for it. Strauß’s life became a case study of what happens to someone who questions and writes against authority and tradition: persecution and isolation. Strauß’s fate was notorious in Germany. Why, then, did Nietzsche ignore it? The obvious answer is that it would complicate Nietzsche’s case against Strauß. It would make it necessary to qualify it in important ways. Rather than doing that, Nietzsche resorts to caricature. Hence Strauß’s ideal of heaven is portrayed as the philistine’s perfect day: reading the newspapers in the morning, taking a stroll in the Tiergarten in the afternoon, and visiting the beerhall in the evening (179). The weakness of Nietzsche’s case against Strauß becomes apparent when we consider another important fact that Nietzsche ignores: namely, Strauß’s relation to Lessing. Both Nietzsche and Strauß were great admirers of Lessing, whom they praised for very similar reasons: Lessing, of all the Aufkl€arer, was willing to take his thinking to its final end and to suffer the consequences. Hence his publication of the Wolffenbüttler Fragmente was prohibited by the authorities and Lessing was threatened with dire punishment. It was for this reason that Strauß, when the authorities began to persecute him, looked upon Lessing as a model to give himself courage. Nietzsche, however, conveniently overlooks this fact. He mentions Strauß’s admiration for Lessing, but he takes it only as another symptom of his philistinism, as if Strauß never considered Lessing a daring freethinker (182–3). He notes that Strauß admires Lessing for two reasons: because of the universality of his mind and interests; and because of the unity of the man and the writer. But Nietzsche conveniently overlooks the main reason Strauß admired Lessing: his intellectual courage.⁶ So Nietzsche chooses to ignore Strauß’s fate and his real relation to Lessing, and by doing so makes him seem a philistine when he is the very opposite. Yet it would be to miss the point of Nietzsche’s argument to summarize it in this way. Nietzsche’s real point is that Strauß betrays his own ideal of freethinking. While he was willing to sacrifice himself for that ideal in his early life, he had compromised it in his later life. Nowhere are these compromises plainer, in Nietzsche’s view, than in Der alte und der neue Glaube. Here Nietzsche complains that, in ⁶ See Strauß, Streitschriften zur Vertheidigung meiner Schrift über das Leben Jesu (Tübingen: Osiander, 1837), II, 98, 163.

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several respects, Strauß has violated his own ideals. First, he should have accepted the full consequences of his Darwinism, which undermines conventional morality by upholding the right of the stronger and the war of all against all (194–6). Second, Strauß never accepted the full consequences of his pantheism—his identification of God with the universe—because he maintained a vestigial religiosity by recommending “a feeling of piety” toward the universe (189). Third, Strauß refused to offend the faith of the masses and insisted that his new faith was only for a few select intellectuals (194). In a sense Nietzsche was right. Strauß could have been more radical in asserting his new modern faith. He could have gone further in eliminating all traces of religion from his new worldview; and he could have done much more to explore the implications of Darwinism for ethics. But, to be fair, Strauß would have contested Nietzsche’s account of the consequences of his new faith. He did not think that pantheism should banish all religious feeling; and he did not believe, like many in his generation, that the right of the stronger was the ethical meaning of Darwinism. We might accept Nietzsche’s account of what Strauß should have admitted about the consequences of his new worldview. But the problem is that it still does not warrant Nietzsche’s charge of philistinism. Nietzsche could come to that conclusion only by ignoring the broader purpose of Strauß’s book. Its central contention is Strauß’s notorious dictum that “We are no longer Christians.” That dictum created a sensation throughout the Protestant world, and it is the chief reason Strauß’s book became so controversial. The effect and meaning of his statement was much the same as Nietzsche’s dictum more than a decade later that God is dead. Stating his theme so boldly and clearly, as Strauß did, was an act of courage and defiance against the religion and morality of his day, which would rather live off of antiquated traditions than face up to the implications of modern science and criticism. In stating this point so boldly and frankly Strauß, once again, brought down obloquy and opprobrium on his head; only now that he was so old he could afford to be more relaxed and resigned. Strauß had the misfortune to live long enough to read Nietzsche’s critique,⁷ which had created quite a stir. Perhaps because he was too old, perhaps because he had gone through so many polemics, he took it all with a mixture of good humor and resignation. “First decapitated, then hung,” he wrote. What he could not understand was the source of Nietzsche’s animosity, which he did nothing to provoke. When Strauß died in 1874, Nietzsche regretted the ferocity of his attack, hoping that he did not trouble Strauß and that Strauß never knew of him.⁸ It was a confession that Strauß did not deserve his criticism. ⁷ See Strauß to Rapp, December 19, 1873, in Ausgewählte Briefe, ed. Eduard Zeller (Bonn: Emil Strauss, 1895), p. 570. ⁸ Nietzsche to Carl von Gersdorff, February 11, 1874, as cited in Kaufmann, Nietzsche, p. 135.

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16.2 Treitschke Nietzsche’s attack on Strauß was only the first in a longer tradition. In 1889 Heinrich von Treitschke, the nationalist historian, wrote a critique of Strauß for his Deutsche Geschichte im 19. Jahrhundert.⁹ What Treitschke had to say would be read by many, since he was the most celebrated historian of his day, and then much more renowned than Nietzsche. Treitschke became famous as “the herald of the Reich,” the writer who had predicted and defended the founding of the second Reich in 1871. He had been a leading figure of the German liberal party in the 1860s, but his thinking gradually moved more rightwards, so that by the 1870s he stood with the conservatives and Bismarck. His chief concern became the fragile unity of the new Reich, which was divided between Catholics and Protestants, liberals and conservatives, workers and bourgeoisie. One of the main ways of holding the Reich together, Treitschke was convinced, was through religion.¹⁰ Transcending confessional, regional, and social differences, Christianity was the most potent spiritual bond to hold the nation together. Hence Treitschke’s profound aversion to freethinking and Junges Deutschland. He despised Heine and Börne because of their ridicule of Christianity; but he especially hated Strauß for his criticism of the New Testament. Das Leben Jesu was in his view a vastly overrated book, which only the shallow spirit of the modern age could elevate to such importance. In his Deutsche Geschichte im 19. Jahrhundert Treitschke paid Strauß the compliment of devoting some ten pages to him. Strauß, he recognized, had become a central figure in the culture of the modern era. His Das Leben Jesu was the most important and influential work of the young Hegelians. Because his critique of Christianity was so dangerous for the tender social fabric of the new nation, Treitschke felt he had no choice but to criticize it. Treitschke began his critique by calling Strauß “a Swabian philistine”—an echo of Nietzsche’s theme, which he had read and gleefully repeated. He portrayed Strauß as an unhappy youth who, like Schiller, rebelled against the oppressive atmosphere of the Tübinger Stift. If he had not suffered so much from that education, Treitschke implies, he would never have taken his revenge on the church by criticizing its dogmas. Strauß’s most famous work was his first one, Das Leben Jesu; none of his later writings came near to its success. After the succès de scandale of his first work, his career went downhill (488). In other words,

⁹ Heinrich von Treitschke, Deutsche Geschichte im 19. Jahrhundert (Leipzig: Hirßel, 1889), IV, 487–94. For a contemporary reaction to Treitschke’s critique of Strauß, see Theobold Ziegler, “Treitschke’s Urtheil über David Friedrich Strauß,” Die Nation 16 (1890), 231–5. ¹⁰ Treitschke stated his views about the role of religion in national life most clearly in his polemic against Moritz Lazarus, “Noch einige Bemerkungen zur Judenfrage,” Preussische Jahrbücher 45 (1880), 85–95.

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Treitschke was saying, Strauß became “a loser.” He concedes that Strauß was a talented critic in analyzing texts and revealing their contradictions; but, as a historian, he lacked all creative and synthetic power, failing to show how the pieces fit together into a meaningful whole (489). All his criticisms of Christianity were simply about the historical accuracy of the gospels—though that was running against open doors, since no serious historian ever thought that the gospels were reliable historical documents (489). Strauß was not even a good critical historian, Treitschke charged, because he examined only the content of the gospels but not their sources; as a result, he stopped where he should really have begun. The chief failing of his history, however, was that it did not give a positive portrait of the personality of Jesus; it is impossible to understand from his book why Jesus became so influential and why he mattered so much to his age (489). Apart from his failings as a historian, Treitschke also questions Strauß’s concept of religion. It was a much too intellectual concept, he complains, because it understood religion as nothing more than confused thinking (490). But, in Treitschke’s view, religion consists more in sentiment and comfort rather than intellect and truth. Its aim is to provide support for the soul in times of affliction. Treitschke also objects to Strauß’s concept of faith because it is deeply elitist, giving the clergy “a papal power” over the laity because only the clergy have the intellect and education to grasp the real meaning of faith (492). Hence it was a deep misunderstanding when Strauß looked upon Lessing as his model, Treitschke contended, because Lessing, unlike Strauß, understood and respected the faith of the common man, which he knew had to be based on feeling rather than reason. Much of Treitschke’s critique has a plausibility about it, but that is only because it repeats points that had been made before. All that is new to his critique is the conviction and certainty with which it is put forward. It is true that Strauß, in the first three editions of Das Leben Jesu, did not investigate the sources of the gospels; that was a criticism often made by his contemporaries. But Strauß’s reply to them also held for Treitschke: that it is difficult, if not impossible, now, after two millennia, to obtain reliable information about the origins of the sources; in any case, the first step to a critique of the sources is to investigate in detail the content itself, which yields the most reliable clues about who wrote the gospels and when. A similar point holds for Strauß’s alleged failure to provide a positive portrait of the personality of Jesus. Strauß addressed this issue in the 1864 edition of Das Leben Jesu where he argued that it was impossible to separate the historical from the mythical Jesus, and that there was simply not enough impartial information about the historical one. Finally, Treitschke’s critique of Strauß’s concept of religion, his insistence that it is based on feeling rather than reason, begs the question against Strauß’s own critique of romanticism. Strauß had argued that religion, if it makes any claim to truth at all, cannot escape the sovereignty of

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reason, because the question of justification, the reason why you believe something, is always appropriate and inevitable.¹¹ Strauß did not live to read Treitschke’s critique of him. But he was very familiar with Treitschke from his earlier works, and, not surprisingly, he did not like him. Rapp had encouraged Strauß to read Treitschke, which he dutifully did. Strauß could see his merits; but his intellectual style revolted him. This is what he has to say about Treitschke in his June 30, 1873 letter to Rapp: All respect for Treitschke!, for his extensive knowledge, his deep insight, solid common sense and stimulating exposition. From all those things the reader reaps a rich reward, but in the end also a biased mind. What from? It is because the man’s basic characteristic is pathos, and that is no good, least of all for an historian. Before I went to Darmstadt, because my other books were packed, I read much Treitschke; I found myself instructed but not really convinced. I meditated: What could it be that, despite all the qualities of the man, made me so unsympathetic. I finally realized: it is the piece of Fichte that sits in him.¹²

The piece of Fichte in Treitschke was his pathos, conviction, self-rectitude. This was indeed the tone of all Treitschke’s writing, not least his section on Strauß in Deutsche Geschichte des 19. Jahrhundert.

16.3 Schweitzer One of the most remarkable studies of Strauß, which helped to shape his reputation more than any other, was that of Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965). His influential study of the history of German scholarship on the life of Jesus—Von Reimarus zu Wrede—contains three chapters on the life, work, and influence of Strauß.¹³ These chapters are remarkable not only for their vast knowledge of the Protestant tradition, but also for their sympathy with their subject matter. The first chapter on Strauß begins with the memorable lines: “To understand Strauß, one must love him.”¹⁴ In accord with this opinion, Schweitzer’s treatment of Strauß is marked by a deep internal understanding of his position and a true

¹¹ See Chapter 8, sections 8.5 and 8.6. ¹² Strauß to Rapp, June 30, 1873, Ausgewählte Briefe, p. 549. ¹³ Albert Schweitzer, Von Reimarus zu Wrede: Eine Geschichte der Leben-Jesu Forschung (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1906), pp. 67–119. This book was translated into English by W. Montgomery as The Quest for the Historical Jesus (London: A. & C. Black, 1910). It has been reprinted at least thirteen times since then and has gone through a second (1911) and a third (1954) edition. ¹⁴ Ibid., p. 67. Schweitzer’s “love of Strauß” probably came from the supervisor of his PhD, Theobald Ziegler, whose David Friedrich Strauß (Straßburg: Karl Trübner, 1908) was, and in many ways still is, the chief biography of Strauß.

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appreciation of his work. This was a rare feat, not least because so much work on Strauß, before Schweitzer, was marred by partisanship and polemics. Schweitzer’s second chapter on Strauß begins with a generous assessment of his literary achievement: “As a literary work, Strauß’s first life of Jesus belongs to the most perfect of scientific world literature. Over 1400 pages but not a sentence too many; an analysis into the most minute details and no getting lost in trivialities; the style is simple, rich in images, at times ironic but always respectful and dignified” (76). Strauß’s main contribution to theology, according to Schweitzer, lay in his dismantling of the rationalist and supernaturalist traditions, which never recovered from his searing critical indictment (82). There are still ghostly remnants of these traditions haunting contemporary theology, Schweitzer says, but one only needs to mention the words “David Friedrich Strauß” to scare off these ghosts. They would not still be bothering us today, he adds in a rebuke of contemporaries, if only those who proclaim Strauß’s book as surpassed had bothered to read it.¹⁵ Unlike almost all Strauß’s critics, Schweitzer insists that his achievement was not only negative and critical but also positive and fruitful. He had opened new lines of investigation into several fields: into the origins of the gospel of John, into the Jewish context of Jesus, into the relation between John and the synoptic gospels, into the meaning of the terms “messiah” and “son of God,” and into the social origins of Christianity itself. If his critics had not gotten so lost in polemics, in defending the indefensible, Schweitzer opines, they could have taken these lines of investigation further and advanced their discipline. Despite all this praise, Schweitzer was not lacking in criticism for Strauß. He thought that Strauß took his mythical explanation too far (82). He overestimated the importance of the Old Testament motifs for the genesis of the gospels; they explained at best only the form of the narrative but not its content or origination. For example, the miracle of the loaves and fishes is not fully explained simply by referring to its precedent in the prophet Elijah. The New Testament stories are too individual and unique, too tightly bound to their own historical context, to understand them simply by reference to motifs in the Old Testament. Furthermore, Schweitzer insists, there was often a historical basis for the New Testament narratives, though Strauß too often neglects or ignores it (83). There are indeed mythical elements in the narratives; but that does not mean that they are myths. It has to be said in Strauß’s defense that it is not at all clear, once we subtract the mythical elements, what facts lie behind the biblical narratives. Even assuming that there are facts behind them, it is not obvious that they have much importance beyond providing a background to what Jesus says or does. The point behind most of the narratives is to demonstrate that Jesus is the messiah, and that he therefore ¹⁵ No less than Karl Barth agreed with Schweitzer in this respect. See his David Friedrich Strauß als Theologe 1839–1939 (Zollikon: Verlag der Evangelischen Buchhandlung, 1939), p. 34.

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has supernatural powers. This is the case with the narrative about the loaves and fishes, for example, whose aim was to show that Jesus had greater powers than Elijah because he could provide for many more people. Once we remove the mythical element, the story loses not only its content but also its interest. Apart from exaggerating the element of myth, Schweitzer thinks, like many others, that Strauß’s critique is much too negative in its results. The critical tendency of his book is so intense and so emphatic, he argues, that it becomes impossible to see the life of Jesus behind it (88). We do not get a clear idea of the duration of Jesus’s career, of when he became aware of himself as the messiah, of even the general chronology of events (89). In the end, Schweitzer complains, “skepticism triumphs” (89). Strauß accepted much of this criticism. He admitted that he did answer many questions, and that he was guilty of raising more than he answered. But he held back on many issues, he explained, simply because he did not have adequate evidence one way or the other. One of the results of the rigorous application of his critical method was agnosticism, not pronouncing on issues for which there was insufficient evidence. This reply speaks to Strauß’s merits as a historian, even if it means he was not a satisfying theologian. For all his scholarly knowledge of Strauß, Schweitzer sometimes makes regrettable errors. We are told that the second edition of Das Leben Jesu was unchanged (76), though we have already noted its important changes in Strauß’s concept of myth.¹⁶ Schweitzer also tells us, confidently and categorically, that what separates Strauß from the theologians of his day was not his application of the concept of myth but his position on personal immortality (72). He is right that Strauß was a long way from the theologians on this issue: Strauß denied personal immortality, the theologians affirmed it. But Schweitzer goes on to write as if this difference were already public by the time of the 1835 edition of Das Leben Jesu where, at the close of the second volume, Strauß struggles with the issue of personal immortality. But, in truth, Strauß does not deal with the issue of immortality there. That happens only much later, in the final chapter of his 1840–1 Glaubenslehre.¹⁷ Although Schweitzer correctly cites the closing lines from this work, he places them in a context as if they came from the first edition of Das Leben Jesu. Apart from scholarly errors, Schweitzer was sometimes tempted to make bold and sensational judgments which turn out to be very misleading. It is clear from Strauß’s texts, he argues, that he accepted it as a historical fact that Jesus was selfconscious as the messiah (90). This point is perfectly correct; but what it means, more precisely, is that Strauß held that Jesus ascribed the status of messiah to himself and that it was not only ascribed to him later by his disciples and

¹⁶ Chapter 7, section 7.3. ¹⁷ David Friedrich Strauß, Die christliche Glaubenslehre (Tübingen: Osiander, 1841), II, 738–9, §110.

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followers. The evidence from biblical texts is clear that Jesus saw himself as the messiah, at least in his later years. From this simple point, however, Schweitzer goes on to draw the conclusion that it is “nonsense” to say that Strauß dissolved the life of Jesus into myth (90). But this inference is a mere confusion: because Strauß held that it is a historical fact that Jesus believed he was the messiah, it does not follow that Strauß did not believe that the whole idea of the messiah is mythical. Schweitzer goes too far in chastising the common opinion about Strauß, which is perfectly correct in holding that Strauß held that Jesus’ idea of himself as the messiah was mythical. On another important point Schweitzer made another error in judgment. He praises Strauß not only as a critic of untenable views about Jesus, but also as “a prophet of coming science” because he placed Jesus in the Jewish tradition (93–4). This is all well and good. But then he goes on to say that in his 1864 Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk Strauß abandoned the project of explaining Jesus in his Jewish context because he now saw him as “a liberal rather than a historical Jesus” (94). What exactly Schweitzer meant by “a liberal Jesus” is unclear; but it is misleading to think that Strauß liberalizes Jesus or makes him a teacher of liberal morals. In this later work Strauß continued to place Christ in his Jewish context, and he never once saw him as a preacher of contemporary liberal values. In referring to a liberal concept of Jesus, Schweitzer is probably referring to Strauß’s humanist ethic, which indeed does contain liberal values; but Strauß does not see Christ as a proponent of this ethic, which was designed specifically to overcome the shortcomings of Christian ethics. Apart from these errors of judgment and fact, Schweitzer is to be credited with providing a sympathetic and constructive assessment of Strauß, which was truly exceptional in his age.

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Bibliography There is no complete bibliography of the writings of David Friedrich Strauß. His lectures, and many of his letters, have still not been published. The closest approximation to a complete bibliography of his published writings is in Horton Harris, David Friedrich Strauss and His Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), pp. 287–95, though this contains notable gaps, especially with regard to his many important newspaper articles. Zeller’s edition of the Gesammelte Schriften, despite the name, is very incomplete. It was published according to Strauß’s last wishes, which meant excluding writings he renounced or did not wish to be remembered by. This bibliography makes no attempt at completeness; the works cited below are only those that I have used in preparing this book.

Published Writings Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet. Tübingen: C. F. Osiander, 1835. 2 vols. Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet. Zweite, verbesserte Auflage. Tübingen: C. F. Osiander, 1837. Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet. Dritte mit Rücksicht auf die Gegenschriften verbesserte Auflage. Tübingen: C. F. Osiander, 1838. The Life of Jesus Critically Examined. Trans. George Eliot. London: Chapman Bros., 1846. A translation of the 4th edition. Streitschriften zur Vertheidigung meiner Schrift über das Leben Jesu und zur Charakteristik der gegenwärtigen Theologie. Tübigen: C. F. Osiander, 1837. Zwei friedlichen Blätter. Altona: Hammerich, 1839. Sendschreiben an die Bürgermeister Hirzel, Professor Orelli und Professor Hitzig in Zürich. Zweite rechtmaßige Auflage. Zurich: Orell, Füßli and Compagnie, 1839. Die christliche Glaubenslehre. Tübingen: C. F. Osiander, 1840. 2 vols. “Xenien, Ein Thierkreis,” in Einundzwanzig Bogen aus der Schweiz, ed. Georg Herwegh. Zurich: Verlag des Literarischen Comptoirs, 1843. Charakteristiken und Kritiken: Eine Sammlung zerstreuter Aufsätze aus den Gebieten der Theologie, Anthropologie und Aesthetik. Leipzig: Otto Wigand, 1844. Der Romantiker auf dem Thron der Cäsaren oder Julian der Abtrünnige. Mannheim: Friedrich Bassermann, 1847. “Aesthetische Grillen, erster Fang,” Jahrbücher der Gegenwart, April 1847, 379–84. “Aesthetische Grillen, zweiter Fang,” Jahrbücher der Gegenwart, February 1848, 61–9. “ ‘The king cannot do wrong.’ Eine theologische-politische Parallele,” Jahrbücher der Gegenwart 25, March 1848, 97–8. “Judenverfolgung und Judenemanzipation,” Jahrbücher der Gegenwart 30, April 1848, 117–19. Der politische und theologische Liberalismus. Halle: C. A. Kümmel, 1848. Untitled article under the pseudonym D. Neckar, Schwäbische Kronik 26, April 6, 1848. (Pagination illegible)

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Untitled article under the pseudonym D. Neckar, Schwäbische Kronik 102, April 12, 1848. (Pagination illegible) Untitled article, Schwäbische Kronik 106, April 16, 1848. (Pagination illegible) Untitled article, Schwäbische Kronik 112, April 22, 1848. (Pagination illegible) Untitled article, Schwäbische Kronik 131, May 11, 1848. (Pagination illegible) Sechs theologisch-politische Volksreden. Stuttgart: J. G. Cotta, 1848. “Rede des Abgeordneten Dr. Strauß in der Ständeversammlung am 16 November 1848,” in Adolf Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit. Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1876, Band II, Beilage II, 4–6. “Erklärung von Strauß in Betreff von Robert Blum,” Schwäbische Kronik 305 (1848), p. 1666. “Niederlegung des Mandats,” Schwäbische Kronik 336 (1848), p. 1847. “Antwort von Strauβ an den vaterländlichen Verein in Ludwigsburg,” Schwäbische Kronik 311 (1848), p. 1698. Gespräche von Ulrich von Hutten. Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1860, Vol. 3 of Ulrich von Hutten. Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1858. Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk bearbeitet. Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1864. Der Christus des Glaubens und der Jesu der Geschichte: Eine Kritik des Schleiermacher’schen Lebens Jesu. Berlin: Duncker, 1865. Die Halben und die Ganzen: Eine Streitschrift gegen HH.DD. Schenkel und Hengstenberg. Berlin: Duncker, 1865. Voltaire: Sechs Vorträge. Leipzig: Hirzel, 1870. Der alte und der neue Glaube: Ein Bekenntniß. Zweite Auflage. Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1872. “Predigt zur dritten Jubelfeier der Augsburgischen Confession, gehalten in der Schloßkirche zu Tübingen, den 24 Juni 1830,” in Adolf Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit. Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1876, Band I, Beilage I, 1–9. “Vertheidigungsschrift des Repetenten Dr. Strauß in Sachen seines Buches das Leben Jesu, eingereicht bei dem Württembergischen Studienrath,” in Adolf Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit. Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1876, Band I, Beilage III, 10–14. “Die Annahmeschreiben von Strauß,” in Adolf Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit. Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1876, Band I, Beilage VI, 27–8. “Erklärung von Strauβ in Betreff seiner Pensionirung,” in Adolf Hausrath, David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit. Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1876, Band I, Beilage VIII, 31–4. Gesammelte Schriften von David Friedrich Strauß, ed. Eduard Zeller. Bonn: Emil Strauβ, 1876. 12 vols. Kleine Schriften. Dritte Auflage. Bonn: Emil Strauß Verlag, 1898.

Correspondence Ausgewählte Briefe, ed. Eduard Zeller. Bonn: Emil Strauß, 1895. “David Friedrich Strauß und Eduard Mörike (Mit zwölf ungedruckten Briefe),” ed. Harry Maynr, Deutsche Rundschau 115 (April–June 1903), 94–117. “Politische Briefe von D. F. Strauß,” ed. Otto Leuze, Ludwigsburger Geschichtsblätter 6 (1911), 34–50. Briefe von David Friedrich Strauss an L. Georgii, ed. Heinrich Maier. Tübingen: Mohr, 1912.

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Briefwechsel zwischen Strauß und Vischer, ed. Adolf Rapp. Stuttgart: Ernst Klett Verlag, 1952. 2 vols. “Der Briefwechsel zwischen Strauss und Baur,” ed. Ernst Barnikol, Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 4. Folge X.LXXIII (1962), 74–125. Adolf Hausrath, “Briefe von Strauß an Hitzig,” in David Friedrich Strauß und die Theologie seiner Zeit. Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1876, I, 15–23. Beilage IV. Theobold Ziegler, “Zur Biographie von David Friedrich Strauß,” Deutsche Revue 30 Jahrgang (1905), 2 Band (April–June), 196–208, 342–51; and 3 Band (July–Sept), 99–108. (Correspondence with Binder)

Manuscripts “Vorlesungen über Logik und Metaphysik,” Tübingen, Sommersemester 1832, Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach. Nachlaβ Strauß. Signatur 6828. “Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Moral,” Tübingen, Sommersemester 1833, Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach. Nachlaβ Strauβ. Signatur 383Bl. 6825. Microfiche 14 284–14291. “Geschichte der neuesten Philosophie,” Tübingen, Wintersemester 1832/33, Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart. Nachlaß Strauß. Signatur 2439.

Primary Sources Anon, Laienworte über die Hegel-Straussische Christologie. Zurich: Orell, Füßli und Compagne, 1836. Bauer, Bruno, “Das Leben Jesu, Band I,” Jahrbücher für wissenschaftliche Kritik 109–13 (December 1835), 880–912; “Das Leben Jesu, Band II,” ibid., 86–8 (May 1836), 681–704. Bauer, Bruno, Kritik der evangelische Geschichte der Synoptiker. Leipzig: Otto Wigand, 1841. Baur, Ferdinand, Symbolik und Mythologie oder die Naturreligion des Alterthums. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1824. 2 vols. Baur, Ferdinand, “Anzeige der beiden academischen Schriften von Dr. F. C. Baur,” Tübinger Zeitschrift für Theologie 1 Jahrgang, Erstes Stück (1828), 220–64. Baur, Ferdinand, “Abgenötigthe Erklärung gegen eine Artikel der evangelische Zeitung,” Tübinger Zeitschrift für Theologie Heft III (1836), 179–232. Baur, Ferdinand, Kritische Untersuchungen über die kanonischen Evangelien. Tübingen: L. F. Fues, 1847. Blanc, Louis, Discours aux travailleurs. Paris: Gustav Havard, 1848. Daub, Karl, Lehrbuch der Katechtik. Frankfurt: August Herman, 1801. Daub, Karl, Judas Ischariot oder das Böse im Verhältnis zum Guten. Heidelberg: Mohr und Winter, 1816. Daub, Karl, Die dogmatische Theologie jetziger Zeit. Heidelberg: Mohr, 1833. Daub, Karl, Vorlesungen über die Prolegomena zur Dogmatik. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1839. Dohm, Christian Wilhelm, Ueber die bürgerliche Verbesserung der Juden. Berlin: Friedrich Nicolai, 1781.

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Index For the benefit of digital users, indexed terms that span two pages (e.g., 52–53) may, on occasion, appear on only one of those pages. Anselm 168–9 Apollinarius 173–4 Aristotle 19–20, 44, 217 Armenianism 161–2, 165 on grace 172 Augustine 165 on grace 171–2 Barth, Karl 2, 277n.15 Bauer, Bruno 108–9, 221, 224–5 Baur, Ferdinand 22, 56n.4, 80–1, 219–22 criticisms of Strauß 16, 79–80, 218 influence on Strauß 25–6, 67, 221–2 on Strauß’s theory of myth 67, 80–1, 221–4 Bengel, Ernst 21–2 the Bible, allegorical interpretation 69–70, 112–13 as the foundation of faith 7–8, 49 Hegelian interpretation of 38–9, 243–4 as historical document 6–7, 21–2, 55–6, 58, 64, 79–80, 87–8, 112–13, 156–7, 243–4, see also Protestantism, and the Bible, Strauß, and method of historical criticism as myth 66, 112–13, see also Strauß, theory of myth naturalistic interpretation of 57, 64, 158–9, 241, 250–1 and the state 11–12 Spinozistic interpretation of 158–9 as written record of revelation 153–4, see also the Bible, as historical document see also, Strauß, David Friedrich, and, method of historical criticism and the Bible Bengel, Johann Albrecht 22–3 Blanc, Louis 198–9 Blum, Robert 209–11 Boehme, Jakob 23–4, 166–7 Börne, Ludwig 98 Breckman, Walter 14n.2, 16n.10 Calvin, John 175 on grace 172 on scripture 2, 156

Catholicism 2, 154–7, 159, 168, 215, 254 and the bible 154–5 and German Unification 193–6, 274 Christianity, and the afterlife 126–7, 176–9 conflict between reason and faith 102–3, 126 see also reason vs. faith conflict divinity of Christ 127–8, 224–5, 246–51, see also, Strauß, views on, Jesus as Messiah on incarnation and resurrection 18–19, 94–5, 105–6, 173–6, 231–5 as myth 3, 81–2, 138 see also Strauß, theory of myth and original sin 163–7 origins of 90, 105–7 and revelation 9–10, 55–6, 157 and salvation 167–72 and the state 11–12, 184, 274 Strauß’s critique of 2–3, 6, 16, 20, 75, 137–8, see also, Strauß, and method of historical criticism and the Bible Strauß’s views on 18–20, 75, 90, 105–7, 126–31, 147–79 see also Strauß, theory of Christianity as humanism, Christianity as myth the trinity 48–9, 161–2 see also Catholicism, Protestantism, Hegelianism, Strauß, theory of Darwin, Charles 261–2 Daub, Karl, theological views 139–42, 144–6 Descartes, Rene 159–60, 253 Epicureanism, and religion 68, 222, 259–60 Eschenmayer, Carl August 21–2, 40–1, 91–7, 102 criticisms of Das Leben Jesu 92–3, 95–6 romanticism 91–2, 94–5 Ewald, Heinrich 235 Feuerbach, Ludwig 150, 244, 259–60 Fichte, Immanuel Hermann, on immorality 178 on personality of God 160–1 Fichte, Johann Gottlieb 43, 50–1, 62, 264, 276 Fischer, Kuno 239–40, 242–3

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Flatt, Johann Friedrich 73–5, 77–8 Friedrich Wilhelm IV (Emperor of Germany) 183–5, 193–4, 205

Hitzig, Ferdinand, relations with Strauß 132–5 Hoffmann, Christoph 206–7 Hume, David, on miracles 58–9, 128, 157–8

Gabler, Georg 107–8 Gaildorf, Rau von 199–200 Gervinus, Georg 193–4 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 101, 182 Gottsched, Johann Christoph 98 Grotius, Hugo 169–70

Intellectual Intuition 31–3, 91–2

Haeckel, Ernst 261–2 Hanoverian School 187, 189 Harris, Horton 5, 67n.3, 119, 152, 218–19 Hartmann, Eduard von 264 Hauffe, Friederike 23, 29 Hausrath, Adolf 3–5, 87n.11, 137–8, 152, 193n.25, 255–6 on Strauß’s criticisms of Schenkel 240 on Strauß’s critique of supernaturalism 91, 263 on Strauß’s materialism 263–4 on Strauß’s method 119 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich 2, 10, 24n.17, 72, 91–3, 96, 124, 140–3, 160, 223, 263n.23, 264 on conflict between reason and faith 30, 32–4, 106–8 distinction between concept (form) and representation (content) 34–6, 60, 67–8, 81–2, 106, 149, 243–4 doctrine of spirit 18–20 incarnation 175 immortality of the soul 178 influence on Strauss 27–32, 60–5 logic and metaphysics 42–5 and method 62–3 and pantheism 12–13 personal relations with Strauß 36–9 and philosophy of history 45–51 philosophy of religion 159–63 theory of dialectic 28, 33–4, 50–1, 60 and the trinity 162; , 187–8 unity of the infinite and finite 12 Hegelianism 2, 18–20, 38, 83, 102–3, 144, 223–4, 236, 243–4, 260, 274 and Christianity 9–10, 105–9, 149–50 division into right, left and center 9–10, 14, 34, 105–6 Heine, Heinrich 98 Hengstenberg, Ernst Wilhelm, criticisms of Strauß 58–9, 79–80, 193–4 Herwegh, Georg 15–16 Heyne, Christian Gottlob 66

Jacobi, Friedrich Heinrich, and Pantheism controversy 30–2 Jesus Christ, see Strauß, views on John of Damascus 174 John the Baptist 226–7 John Duns Scotus, on Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice 168 Julian the Apostate 183–6 July Revolution 12–13, 132 Junges Deutschland 13, 15–16, 98, 274 Justin the Martyr 218 Kant, Immanuel 18, 58, 62, 64, 88, 99, 144–5, 175, 226, 245–6, 264 and Christianity 21–2, 99 critique of speculative metaphysics 28, 31–2, 160 on immortality 176 on morality 250, 265–6 on the origin of the material universe 261–2 see also, Strauß, views on Kaufmann, Walter 270n.3 Kerner, Justinus 23, 29 Klüpfel, Karl 40 Lazarus, Moritz 225 Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm 162, 178 Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim, as freethinker 9, 76–7, 88, 98, 141, 219–20, 270, 272–3, 275 Lirinum, Vincentius von 154–6 Luthardt, Christoph Ernst 233 Luther, Martin 132 on grace 172 on the incarnation 174–5 on scripture 2, 156 Maier, Heinrich 41–2 Marheineke, Philip 38, 60 Marr, Wilhelm 13n.25, 15–16 Massey, Marilyn 10n.16, 111n.71 Mendelssohn, Moses 30–1 Menzel, Wolfgang 15, 91, 209 see also, Strauß, views on Mörike, Eduard 24 Müller, Gotthold 3–4, 22n.3, 24n.17, 29n.30 Müller, Johannes 109–10 Müller Otfried 82

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 Mysticism 23n.6, 24 see also Strauß, views on Myth 66–8, see Strauß, theory of Neander, August 118–19 Niebuhr, Barthold 54–5, 62, 107 Niebuhr, Reinhold 6–7 Nietzsche, Friedrich 255, 274–5 on Strauß as cultural philistine 270–3 Strauß’s influence on 9n.10 Novalis 31–2 Oetinger, Friedrich Christoph 22–3 Pantheism 12–13, 242–3 see also Strauß, and pantheism Pantheism Controversy 30–4 Paul, Jean-Marie 3–4, 23n.6 Pelegianism 165 on grace 171–2 Plato 220–1, 227 Protestantism 7–8, 21–2, 72–3, 77–8, 88, 102–5, 110, 168, 193–6, 215, 254, 273–4 and the bible ix, 7–8, 49, 88, 154–7, 215 Ranke, Leopold 6–7, 54–5 Rationalism 30–2, 141, 249–51 see also, Strauß, and Reason vs. Faith conflict 30–4, 88–90, 102–5, 149–50 see also, Strauß, views on Renan, Ernest 235 Romanticism 24–5, 92–3, 184–5 Rosenkranz, Karl 60, 146 Sabellius 162 Sandberger, Jörg 1n.1, 3–4 Schebest, Agnese 115 Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm 24, 24n.17, 29n.30, 32–3, 50–1, 62–3, 67, 91–2, 96, 107, 141, 160, 175, 177, 263n.23, 264 Schenkel, David Friedrich 238–44 Schleiermacher, Friedrich Daniel 18, 28, 219–20, 234–5 influence on Strauß 26–7, 38–9 personal relations with Strauß 37–8 see also Strauß, views on, Schleiermacher’s theology Schneckenberger, Matthias 27–8, 221, 223 Schopenhauer, Arthur, criticisms of Kant’s ethics 265–6 Schweitzer, Albert 2, 276–9 Simon, Richard 156 Socinianism 161–2, 165 on Christ’s divinity 174–6, 229

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on Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice 168–70 on grace 172 Socrates 130, 217, 228–9 Spinoza, Baruch 18, 141–2, 144, 162, 166–7, 177, 248, 260–1, 264 influence on Strauß 53, 127 and pantheism controversy 30–3 on religion as myth 68, 158–9 Stahl, Friedrich 11 Steinthal, Chaim 225 Steudel, Johann Christian 21–2, 40–1, 85, 92–3, 102, 110 see also, Strauß, views on Stoicism 257, 265 Storr, Gottlob Christian 21–2 Strauß, David Friedrich, and: analytic vs. synthetic method 225–6, 231, 236 distinction between concept (form) and representation (content) 19, 34–6, 60, 67–8, 81–2, 106, 148–9, 236, 243–4, 260 (see also Strauß, theory of myth) Hegelianism 2–4, 12–15, 18–20, 27–32, 42–51, 60–5, 81–2, 105–8, 124, 149–50, 159–63, 260, 263–4 intellectual intuition 24–5 Junges Deutschland 15–16 materialism 263–4 method of historical criticism and the bible 2–3, 6–9, 11–13, 17–20, 49, 54–7, 59–62, 64, 151, 215–22, 236, 250–1 method in theology 60–5, 97–8, 104–5, 108–9, 111–12, 241 naturalism 55–9, 81–3, 104–5, 122, 215–17, 237, 261–3 pantheism 12–13, 15, 24, 260–1, 263–4, 272–3 rationalism 18–19, 28, 31–2, 55, 59–60, 63–4, 69–70, 86–7, 93–4, 102–5, 112, 183–6, 188–9, 196, 249–51 romanticism 24–5, 92–3, 140–4, 184–5, 221, 275–6 spiritualism 23, 29 supernaturalism 55–6, 59–60, 63–4, 69, 87–8, 91, 128–31, 231, 249–51 Strauß, David Friedrich, theory of: Christ as genius 121–2, 129–31, 230, 258 (see also, Strauß, views on, Christ) Christianity as humanism 16–20, 129–31, 195–6, 215–17, 228–9, 243–4, 258–9, 264–7 Christianity as myth 80–3, 95–6, 118–19, 122, 221–5, 237, 278 myth 3, 7, 59–60, 64, 66–72, 112–13, 118–19, 122, 158–9, 231, 243–4 Strauß, David Friedrich, views on: Brahmanism 29 Buddhism 29, 257

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Strauß, David Friedrich, views on: Brahmanism (cont.) Catholicism 193–6 Christian morality 112–13, 186, 255–8, 265 the devil 163–4 Eschenmayer 93–7 ethical teachings of Jesus 129, 225–31 Jesus as Messiah 12, 48–9, 63, 71, 82, 95, 120–1, 123–5, 127–31, 173–6, 224–5, 227, 229–31, 236, 244, 246–51, 257–8 (see also Strauß, views on, incarnation) Jesus as Schwärmer 121, 230, 237, 258 Jesus’ propitiatory sacrifice 128–9, 164, 167–70, 256–7 freedom of inquiry 8–9, 89–90, 98–100 German unification 193–8, 201–2, 204, 207–8, 267 God’s attributes 162–3 the Gospel of John 75, 118–22, 220–1, 232, 234–5 immortality 126–7, 129, 176–9, 231–3, 278 incarnation 18–19, 81–2, 105–9, 129, 145, 148–50, 165–6, 173–6 Kant 25, 40, 43–6, 50, 53, 141, 160, 176 miracles 55–9, 71, 104–5, 112, 121–2, 128–31, 153–4, 157–9, see also Strauß and, naturalism, rationalism Menzel 97–101 original sin 164–6, 256–7 personality of God 160–1 Platonism and Christianity 228–9 politics 10–11, 14–16, 187–9, 199–201, 204–5, 207–8, 266–9 problem of evil 166–7 proofs for the existence of God 159–60 Protestantism 102–5, 155–7, 193–6 reason vs faith 26–7, 88–90, 93–4, 102–5, 126, 149–50, 159–63 resurrection of Jesus 18–19, 29, 62n.17, 90, 94–5, 105–6, 112, 127–8, 145, 148–9, 231 revolutions of 1848 180–3, 186, 190 salvation 170–2 Schleiermacher’s theology 139–44, 164, 220, 245–51, 259–60 separation of church and state 11–13, 205–6, 269 socialism 198–9, 206 Steudel 86–91 subjective vs. objective poles of theology 139–46 the trinity 48–9, 149–50, 161–3 Strauß, David Friedrich, works discussed: “Aesthetische Grillen, erster Fang,” 183–4 “Aesthetische Grille, zweiter Fang,” 183–4

Das Leben Jesu (First Edition) 4, 6–13, 16–20, 49–51, 54–66, 68–71, 73–5, 87, 92, 95, 102, 106–9, 112–13, 129, 147–50, 153, 157–8, 161, 173, 175, 217–18, 221, 224, 231, 236–7, 243–5, 255–6, 274–6, 278 Das Leben Jesu (Second Edition) 57–9, 68, 70, 75, 80–3, 278 Das Leben Jesu (Third Edition) 57–9, 68, 111–12, 115n.7, 118–25, 128–31, 135–6, 148, 175, 186, 217, 258 Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk bearbeitet 1, 57–9, 70, 213–37, 279 Der alte und der neue Glaube: Ein Bekenntniß 125–6, 252–73 Der Christus des Glaubens und der Jesus der Geschichte: Eine Kritik des Schleiermacher’schen Lebens Jesu 1, 37, 245–51 Der politische und theologische Liberalismus 193–7, 204 Der Romantiker auf dem Throne der Cäsaren 183–6, 189 “Der Schenkelsche Handel in Baden,” 238–40 Die christliche Glaubenslehre 1, 37, 51, 58–9, 140, 146–79, 213–14, 216–17, 229, 243–4, 255–6, 259–60, 278 Die Halben und die Ganzen 239–44 Gespräche von Ulrich von Hutten 217–18 “Judenverfolgung und Judenemancipation,” 189–93, 205 “Rede des Abgeordneten Dr. Strauß in der Ständeversammlung am 16 November 1848,” 209–10 “Schleiermacher und Daub in ihrer Bedeutung für die Theologie unserer Zeit,” 139–46 Sechs theologisch-politische Volksreden 203–6 Sendschreiben an die Bürgermeister Hirzel, Professor Orelli und Professor Hitzig in Zürich 137–8, 243 Streitschriften zur Vertheidigung meiner Schrift über das Leben Jesu und zur Charakteristik der gegenwärtigen Theologie 9–10, 15, 19–20, 58–63, 69, 84–113, 115–16, 123, 129–31, 134, 184, 209 Schwäbische Kronik 196–212 “‘The king cannot do wrong.’ Eine theologische-politische Parallele,” 186–9, 196 “Ueber Vergangliches und Bleibendes im Christenthum,” 125–31

OUP CORRECTED AUTOPAGE PROOFS – FINAL, 25/7/2020, SPi

 Ulrich von Hutten 217–18 Voltaire: Sechs Vorträge 255–6 “Xenien, Ein Thierkreis,” 185 Zwei friedlichen Blätter 125–31, 148, 175, 186, 217, 258 Strauß, Johann Friedrich 22–3 Strauss, Wilhelm 252 Tendenzkritik 223–5 Treitschke, Heinrich von 150–1, 274–6 Trendelenburg, Adolf 264 Tübingen School 21–4, 54–5, 73, 179, 188, 223 Ullmann, Carl, polemic with Strauß 109–13

293

Vatke, Wilhelm 38–9 Vischer, Friedrich 23, 79–80, 86n.7, 91, 151, 253, 263 Volksgeist 3, 71–2, 221–5 see also Strauß, theories of, myth Voltaire 255–6 Wette, Wilhelm de 118–19 Wislicenus, Gustav Adolf 193–4 Zeller, Eduard 40–1, 54–5 Ziegler, Theobold 3–5, 8n.7, 37n.44, 41–2, 75–6, 140n.28, 152, 252, 258n.14 Zittel, Karl 191 Zwingli, Huldrych 175