Westar scholars inducted into the Order of David Friedrich Strauss have rigorously applied the historical critical method to the study of the Gospels and creeds that Strauss pioneered.
D. F. Strauss recognized that the basic problem facing Christianity is the relationship of the historical Jesus to the belief in a supernatural Christ. He was convinced that these two Jesuses had become mixed as a result of his study of doctrine. As a consequence, he laid out a two-stage project for his own scholarly work: first, he wrote his Life of Jesus (1835) in order to separate what can known historically about Jesus from the beliefs about him that were generated in the early Christian community.
Strauss formulated two criteria for separating historical data from mythical expansion in the Gospels: seams in the narratives and dissimilarity. He called his historical method “mythical interpretation” and applied it to all the Gospels, beginning with the infancy narratives and ending with the post-resurrection reports. His Life of Jesus stands as the first thorough application of the historical critical method to the Gospels.
After completing his study of the historical Jesus, Strauss went on to the second stage of his project: applying the historical critical method to Christian dogma. In a series of essays entitled the Christliche Glaubenslehre (1840-41), Strauss argued that theology is a continuous mixing of ancient belief with contemporary philosophical and scientific understandings. As the study of the Gospels must distinguish the historical Jesus from the Christ of faith, so the historical method must be applied to the history of dogma in order to separate mythical beliefs from established scientific and philosophical views. Such a two-stage project marks David Friedrich Strauss as a precursor of Westar’s Jesus Seminar and one who, with courage and honesty, pursued both the quest for the historical Jesus and his significance for Christian faith in the modern world.
Inductees into the Order of David Friedrich Strauss
Marcus J. Borg
Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture, Oregon State University
John Dominic Crossan
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, DePaul University
Professor Emeritus, Victoria University
Hollis Professor of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School
Professor of New Testament, University of Göttingen, Germany
John Wesley Professor Emeritus, Claremont School of Theology
Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion, Princeton University
Daryl D. Schmidt (d. 2006)
John F. Weatherly Professor of New Testament, Texas Christian University
Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Stanford University
John Shelby Spong
Episcopal Bishop of Newark, retired
Joseph B. Tyson
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University
James A. Veitch
Victoria University of Wellington, retired
Professor Emeritus of Biblical Interpretation, Auburn Theological Seminary
Comments prepared by Lane McGaughy
November 29, 2000