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Albert Schweitzer
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The Quest of the Historical Jesus

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  424 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Groundbreaking study that established the reputation of the famed theologian traces the search for the historical person of Jesus. Schweitzer examines works of more than 50 18th- and 19th-century authors and scholars and concludes that many of the earlier historical reconstructions of Christ were largely fantasies. The criterion for all subsequent studies.
Published December 1954 by Adam & Charles Black Publishers Ltd. (London) (first published 1905)
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Tony Sunderland
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the 18th and 19th centuries, European academics not only tried to flesh out the historical Jesus, they also attempted to make sense of the Gospels as documents that at some level described natural events. Given that Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels are composed from much of Mark’s text and John’s Gospel portrays a purely divine incarnation of Christ, the rationalist theologians concentrated their efforts with events as they occurred in the Gospel of Mark. This pioneering research was inspired by ...more
Onyango Makagutu
I am more convinced than I was before I started reading this book that the Jesus of the gospels did not exist. Albert Schweitzer does a good job outlining the critical lifes of Jesus that have been written and arrives at the conclusion that the Jesus of history is a fiction but he has a message of hope for the believer. He tells them not to lose their belief, but to find in the words of Jesus a reason to continue believing.

This is a great read
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It has been said that Dr. Albert Schweitzer was a deeply religious non-believer. In reading The Quest of the Historical Jesus, we are confronted with Schweitzer's exhaustive study of scholarly research that occurred in 19th century Europe, with the aim of understanding who Jesus was in the historical context of his life. The book does not attempt to explain Dr. Schweitzer's own religious belief but in appraising the work of other scholars, the conclusion is ultimately that the author's views wer ...more
Erik Graff
Oct 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: religion
This volume had been sitting around on the shelves for years, but only read years after the completion of seminary.

Albert Schweitzer was a hero to my family. During his years as a medical missionary in Gabon, Schweitzer would do annual tours as an organist, raising money for his work. Mother and her family would attend his concerts in Oslo. By the time I was born Schweitzer was an old man and, as I recall, occasional guest on The Tonight Show, hosted then by Jack Paar. I remember him because Mom
Pete daPixie
Albert the Alsatian looked very similar to that other Albert, the Einstein. Did anyone ever see them in the same room? Schweitzer's 'Quest' is an authoritative journey through European eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth century studies on the historical Jesus. Schweitzer cuts a swathe through more than fifty authors and their ideas. The further I read into this book the more I enjoyed Schweitzer's writing style. Unfortunately, I've travelled backwards in time through this genre, which do ...more
Aug 04, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you want to read a thorough overview and critique of the literature of the "historical Jesus" during the 1800's this is your book. Schweitzer's knowledge of those who came before him in this field is impressive. He introduces each author and their attempt at writing about a historical Jesus. He then tears apart each argument in turn, while cherry-picking those ideas that agree with his own ideas.

I found this very interesting, though occasionally tedious, reading. As a stickler for logic, I h
Chris Little
May 11, 2020 rated it did not like it
A book famous for being 'important' - make of that what you will - but not a straightforward read. It's a self-assured survey of mostly self-assured enlightenment thinkers whose self-assured positions extremely clever-dumb.

The people Schweitzer surveys are no intellectual midgets, but all hold to starting positions and interpretive shibboleths that are frequently flimsy in the extreme.

For example of an assumed starting position is the facile division between 'the Christ of faith' and 'the Jesus
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lu Tsun
REVIEW AND CRITIQUE Schweitzer, Albert. The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede. Translated by W. Montgomery. New York, MacMillan, 1968.

The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1968) is the English translation of Schweitzer’s original work in German, Von Reimarus zu Wrede (1906).

While the ecclesiastical doctrines had veiled the authentic history of Jesus the Nazareth, in Schweitzer’s view, the historical investigation of Jesus’s life throughout the n
Feb 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really just about as good as had been told. Some of the endless accounting for previous scholarship was a little boring, but his conclusions and interactions with them are often witty and intriguing. I'd give it 5 stars, but I think his general reaction against this scholarship is a little myopic. Thoroughgoing eschatology is the answer to all...? Eh. ...more
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great review of the "historical Jesus studies movement" from the Enlightenment till Schweitzer's time. A must read for anyone interested in how the major figures of this movement interpreted the text - their presuppositions and conclusions. Goes into great detail on the main interpreters. ...more
Sep 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty heavy sledding.
WT Sharpe
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extremely informative, well-researched, and dry as a desert after a ten-year drought.
Gerald Jerome
Man I'm glad I'm done with this one. You can thank the author's infatuation with his own writing for the endlessly long-winded and sentimental sentences. Yet another work of watching theologians creatively interpret things by cherry-picking elements to deconstruct and forcing their own meaning into it ("exegesis" is a convenient blanket term to conceal "eisegesis"). Then, by the next paragraph we're already treating these new postulates as axiomatic for our continued embellishments of theory.

Jul 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion, history
I was astounded! Schweitzer concludes, “The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth, and died to give His work its final consecration, never had any existence.” Published in 1911, this book is critically out-of-date with modern scholarship regarding the bible and Christianity. And yet, it is fascinating because it documents [beginning in the mid 1700’s] the history of critical German s ...more
Diana Hall
A long journey through 19th and early 20th centuries German thought processes to come to the conclusion that though they saw no historical grounds for a flesh and blood Jesus, they still found His work and words powerful for the rest individual.

Rated it this way because it bogg's down in its minutiae. Follows too much of the German intellect and early theology.
Adam Henry
The reality about this book is that there aren’t enough facts to balance out the theories and hypotheses (many of which exceed the preposterousness of the resurrected Christ theory), and it’s quite a dull read. This actually brought the skeptic in me closer to confidence, which I know was the opposite intention of the writer.
Nathan Parker
A survey of German criticism's quest for the historical Jesus. Overall it is useful in my research on trying to determine modern theologians' definitions of the Kingdom of God, although there is much from this work to digest. ...more
Andrew Cress
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very difficult to follow, but a necessary read for those entering into the historical study of Jesus
TJ Ross
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: church-history
A dry and boring work critically analyzing concepts of Jesus from German theology.
Waltenegus Dargie
A comprehensive and colorful review of two century of German liberal theology. The New Testament account of the life of Jesus is placed on the operating table. The theologians, most of whom from East Germany, graduates of University of Tübingen, have stepped forward to test the tempered parts, bringing with them various tools for the task (“philosophy”, “psychology”, "literature", and “science”, though, in truth, mere speculation). The four Gospels, mainly the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Ma ...more
Christian Wright
Aug 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Schweitzer was definitely writing to his peers with this book: it is a heavy scholarly tome that requires a solid background in biblical criticism. Even if you have that it can be a challenging read. It's ultimately more about "the quest", that is, what scholars through the ages up to the author's time made of Jesus. Schweitzer's own assessment of him takes up two and a half chapters, while the rest of the work is him summarizing and criticizing his predecessors' conclusions. Because of that the ...more
The famed humanitarian, theologian, and philosopher presents a chronicle of unbelief as he reviews the history of apostate German theology and philosophy that denied the resurrection of Christ or even that He existed at all. He presents all of the villains in this drama as, of course, heroes because he believed what they believed. Moving from Paulus who first denies all miracles and the supernatural as Schweitzer claims he goes through all of the major theologians and philosophers who denied the ...more
Arthur George
Jan 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the issues of the historical Jesus arising from the gospels, which issues are many and substantial. Schweitzer discusses the research and writings on this question up to his own time, which may obviate reading such prior works for most readers. His own theories, though written just over a century ago, are remarkably current, with the exceptions that the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi materials had not yet been discovered when ...more
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had to abandon this challenging work after reading about a third of it. Schweitzer discusses numerous retellings of the life of Jesus, written by German theologians, over the course of about 200 years. What I got out of my reading is that some choose to add to (or embellish) the story of Jesus, while others choose to take away (or diminish) aspects of the gospel accounts. In either case, we are left with a Jesus, and a Christ, other than what was handed down to us in the New Testament. These G ...more
Although weighed down by over-faithful English translations, Schweitzer's book is literally the beginning of all contemporary attempts to understand Jesus in a non-theological light, to the point that the historiography of historical Jesus research in split into 'quests', the first of which begins with Reimarus and ends with Wrede (and Schweitzer). This book is essentially a historiography of the Jesus question, and introduced one of the most enduring questions in Jesus research: was Jesus escha ...more
Gordon Howard
A difficult book to read in some ways, perhaps because of the translation from German, but an interesting survey of over 100 years of various Germans trying to figure out who Jesus Christ really was. However, after all that, Schweitzer's conclusion is as follows: "It is not Jesus as historically known, but Jesus as spiritually arisen within men, who is significant for our time and can help it." ...more
Justin Powell
Interesting book, but I may have had too high of hopes for it. After hearing about it for so long, I expected something mind-blowing. I didn't really have that from reading it. The synopsis of Jesus studies throughout the majority of the book was interesting at parts, but a bit boring at others. The last part of the book was easily the best. ...more
Tom Griffin
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is something Hegelian about the historical critique of previous scholars that Schweitzer uses to approach the life of Jesus. The sidelights on Hegel, Strauss, Feuerbach and Nietzsche make this almost as interesting about the 19th Century as about the 1st. Schweitzer's ultimate conclusion is perhaps a little too neat, but in the process of getting there he identifies many key problems. ...more
Tommi Karjalainen
Even if I do not share the conclusions I have to give 4 stars for the wit and the overview of history of interpretation.

Biggest frustration was that it is really hard to tell sometimes if a view is author's or someone else's.

I think I need to reread this book with different eyes in few years time.
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Albert Schweitzer, M.D., OM, was an Alsatian theologian, musician, philosopher, and physician. He was born in Kaisersberg in Alsace-Lorraine, a Germanophone region which the German Empire returned to France after World War I. Schweitzer challenged both the secular view of historical Jesus current at his time and the traditional Christian view, depicting a Jesus who expected the imminent end of the ...more

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