who upheld the Law, did not preach to the Gentiles, and did not institute baptism or eucharist, but rather simply called the Jews to repentance and promised the arrival of the expected Messiah who would restore the kingdom of God in Jerusalem. Reimarus rejected miracles and the fulfilment ofprophecy as proofs of Christianity, regarding the Christian religion as based on a fraud. The natural explanation for the resurrection claims was that the disciples stole the body, and, out of disappointment at the failure of Jesus' mission, altered the entire doctrine. Attempts to reply, and in the process renew Christianity in the post-Enlightenment world, produced historical reconstructions which explained away the miraculous elements in the gospels. True, many of those involved sought to be in touch with a Jesus that was credible in these circumstances, but this was hardly the physical or sacramental contact sought by Helena and believers like her.
The legacy of these Enlightenment roots is a persistent sense that there is a tension between history and faith.52 Nineteenth-century scholarship only reinforced this. One of the many controversial acts of the woman novelist who wrote under the name of George Eliot was to translate into English the work of David Friedrich Strauss, The life of Jesus critically examined. The work was published in England in 1846. It is clear that Strauss himself did not view his work as destructive of the heart of Christianity, but his claim that the whole story of Jesus is intertwined with myth was perceived to be profoundly disturbing to faith.
In his book, Strauss works through the whole story, from the birth narratives, through the public life, claims, teaching and miracles of Jesus, to his suffering and death, resurrection and ascension, demonstrating the all-pervasive mythologising of the Jesus tradition as it appears in the gospels. He develops this against previous approaches, noting the attempt by Heinrich Paulus53 to distinguish fact and interpretation: naturalistic accounts of the miracles had been used to explain away all supernatural intervention, so that the historical truth of the Gospel narratives' could be maintained as they were woven 'into one consecutive chronologically-arranged detail of facts'.54 Strauss accepts criteria for distinguishing the unhistorical in the gospel narrative: the first is when the narration is irreconcilable with the known and universal laws which govern the course of events; the second rests on inconsistency within and contradiction between narratives; the third is when the characteristics of legend
52 A useful survey of the quest, which brings out this tension, is to be found in Dunn, Jesus remembered.
53 His two-volume work, Das LebenJesu, had been published in 1828.
54 Strauss, Life of Jesus, 49.
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