Wednesday, February 12, 2014

QOTD: Bernhard Weiss

In my history of interpretation seminar, we just reviewed some material on historical Jesus research, and I saw this quote from Bernhard Weiss (1827-1918). This comes from chapter 12 ("The Historical Representation of the Life of Jesus") of his 2-volume (or 3, in English) The Life of Christ, first published in 1882. Notice his confidence and rhetoric, probably very typical of 19th century German scholarship:

"The difficulty is not that entire freedom from presupposition is necessary for a scientific portraiture of the history of Jesus, and that it is impossible without presuppositions to proceed with the history of Jesus. Even by Strauss that requirement has long been recognized as equally warranted and unattainable. The nature of the case yields presumptions from which historical criticism neither can nor dare free itself ... To demand that this history be treated only according to the rules observed in the examination of the history of other religions, is unjustifiable because unpracticable. According as the Christian religion is regarded as one religion among many, or as the true, the perfect one; according as one has found in it full satisfaction for his religious needs, or takes up towards it a skeptical or antagonistic attitude, must another standard necessarily be applied to the history of its origin. It is impossible for the Christian to recede from the assumption that the history through which the completion of true religion in humanity is introduced, is in its nature plainly unique ... The Gentile and Jew, or he who has broken with the Christian religion, could as little write a history of Jesus, which in its deepest essence shall be a just one, as a blind man could write a history of painting, or a deaf man a history of music. A scientific standpoint which should occupy a place above both these contradictions is an empty illusion."

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