or fiction are evidently present. But in his view the real difficulty is that facts and mythical features are intertwined - history is entirely overlaid with myth. Between the various editions of this work some of Strauss' views shifted: as he came to recognise more value in the gospel of John, his early emphasis on Jesus' apocalyptic fanaticism and messianic delusions gave way to an emphasis on his God-consciousness. So, in the end, Strauss concluded that all this need not affect the heart of Christianity. The antithesis of the human and divine was dissolved in the self-consciousness of Jesus; in this Jesus was unique and, for Strauss, the paradigm of the truly religious person - for he defined religion as the 'awakening in the human spirit of the relationship between God and man'. It would seem that he ended up wanting to be in touch with a credible Jesus, though his critics hardly saw it that way.
The nineteenth-century response to Strauss was the production of many so-called 'liberal lives of Jesus' in which scholars, such as Renan, Holtzmann and Harnack, tried to present a personality capable of inspiring the legendary gospel material. Strauss had concentrated more on narratives than teaching; the liberal lives concentrated on the teaching and saw the message of Jesus as the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of Man. They tried to characterise his ethics and his God-consciousness, believing that this made him universally relevant. Jesus became the supreme religious genius, a great personality who founded a new religion at a turning-point in history. But this was a Jesus abstracted from first-century Jewish society, a Jesus made acceptable to the nineteenth-century European mind, a fact exposed in the classic phrase of Albert Schweitzer suggesting that what these authors saw was a reflection of their own faces at the bottom of a deep well. In his notorious work of 1906, known in English as The quest of the historical Jesus, Schweitzer reviewed the whole story of the quest, concluding that the results were a series of modern projections onto the past. He depicted Jesus as a stranger to the modern world, a prophet of the end-time whose predictions were not fulfilled, who died disillusioned. 'He comes to us as one unknown,' he famously wrote. So, by the early twentieth century, the modern liberal quest for Jesus had apparently collapsed.
Schweitzer's challenge, however, shifted the way in which historians approached early Christianity.55 Enlightenment rationalism, together with historico-critical study of the prophets in the Old Testament, had undermined confidence in the notion that specific prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus -here were not mysterious oracles or precise predictions, but messages for the
55 Allison, Jesus of Nazareth.
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