The New International Encyclopædia/Strauss, David Friedrich

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STRAUSS, David Friedrich (1808-74). A distinguished German theological and philosophical writer, born at Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart. He was educated in the evangelical seminary of Blaubouren (where F. C. Baur was then teaching), whence he passed to the University of Tübingen. Here his religious convictions became disturbed. The theories of Schelling, of Jakob Böhme, and, finally, of Schleiermacher and Hegel successively claimed his allegiance. He left the university in 1830 to become assistant pastor of a small church and then taught in the seminary at Maulbronn. Here he remained but six months, and then went to Berlin in order to hear Schleiermacher and Hegel. The death of Hegel and Schleiermacher's apparent lack of sympathy determined him to quit Berlin after a very brief stay to take up the work of a ‘repetent’ at Tübingen (1832). Here his lectures on Hegelianism attracted attention. His skepticism was now quite pronounced, since his view of Hegelianism, which he accepted as the final philosophy, made a miraculous Christianity impossible. His theory of the origins of Christianity was formulated in the work that made him famous, Das Leben Jesu, kritisch bearbeitet (1835-36; Eng. trans. by George Eliot, 1846), in which he sought to explain the Gospel history on the mythical theory. The work aroused a storm of opposition, but nevertheless had a widespread influence. In consequence of his views, he was removed from his position and given a subordinate place in the Lyceum of Ludwigsburg. From 1836 until his death Strauss lived a somewhat wandering life, holding no position, though he had accepted, in 1839, an appointment in the University of Zurich, which position, on account of popular opposition, he had not been permitted to fill.

Because of his interest in the political agitations of the times he was elected a member of the Württemberg Diet in 1848. But he was not sufficiently radical for his constituents and so resigned. His second chief work, Die christliche Glaubenslehre in ihrer geschichtlichen Entwickelung und im Kampf mit der modernen Wissenschaft dargestellt, was even more skeptical than his Leben Jesu. After the publication in 1848 of Sechs theologisch-politische Volksreden Strauss turned from theological to literary criticism and biography. He wrote critical biographies of Schubart (1849), Märklin (1851), Frischlin (1855), Ulrich von Hutten (1857, 4th ed. 1878), Reimarus (1862), and Voltaire (1870, 5th ed. 1877), the last a work of remarkable merit. Not until 1864 did he again turn to theology, when he published Das Leben Jesu für das deutsche Volk, following it in the next year by Die Halben und die Ganzen and Der Christus des Glaubens und der Jesus der Geschichte. His last work was Der alte und der neue Glaube, ein Bekenntnis (1872, 11th ed. 1881). In these last works Strauss gave up entirely the faith he once may have had in Christianity. Strauss's popularity was doubtless due as much to his clear and captivating style as to any logical force in his arguments.

His Gesammelte Schriften were edited with an Introduction by his friend Eduard Zeller (Bonn, 1876-78. 12 vols.). For his life, consult: Zeller, D. F. Strauss in seinem Leben und seinen Schriften (Bonn, 1874); Hausrath, D. F. Strauss und die Theologie seiner Zeit (Heidelberg, 1876-78).