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The Quest of the Historical Jesus

Author(s)
Published
01/09/2000

Publisher writes

Albert Schweitzer's THe Quest of the Historical Jesus will always be the most important book about the study of Jesus written in modern times. Remarkable enough, however, the full text has never been available in English. A second German edition came out in 1913 with such extensive modifications and additions as to make it a new book, but it was never translated. Now, at last, after the overcoming of many difficulties, the first complete text is available in English. The book is around 300 pages longer than the earlier one. It contains three additional chapters, those on comparative studies of Jesus and on the situation at the end of the nineteenth century, have been substantially enlarged and revised. Schweitzer also made many changes elsewhere, and cut out a number of passages. On close inspection the original translation has proved quite unsatisfactory, and this has been revised throughout and the text has, of course, been reset. Instead of reading and looking like a museum piece, Schweitzer;s classic comes up as fresh as it had been written yesterday.

Judges' and contributors' comments

Martyn Percy: Influential, almost totemic.

John Pridmore: The abiding importance of this, the greatest book about Jesus ever written, lies in Schweitzer’s recognition that – ironically – the identity of Jesus is not to be discovered by historical investigation at all but only in obedience to the demands that Jesus makes on us – to which truth Schweitzer’s life is abiding testimony.

John Saxbee: Believe it or not, this complex and controversial book was instrumental in converting my father to Christianity so that, a few years later, I was born into a devout churchgoing family.  Somehow, Schweitzer’s Jesus scratched my father where he itched, and nothing was ever the same again. My faith remains that there is a Jesus who meets each one according to their needs and circumstances, and that goes to the heart of mission and ministry always and everywhere. 

Alan Billings: Reading Schweitzer was quite disturbing though there were important lessons to absorb: the futility of trying to pin down ‘the historical Jesus’ and the dangers of finding a Jesus in one’s own image – and so the need for vigilance. The last paragraph made a deep impression at the time and has remained to haunt ever since: ‘He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: 'Follow thou me!' and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfil for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship; and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.’

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