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David Friedrich Strauss: Conclusion, The Life of Jesus (c. 1835)

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Yet all these additions fit perfectly with what was given by Jesus, as long as one has recognized the latter as a human accomplishment, and therefore both capable of and in need of further development. But if one conceives of Jesus as God-man, as the universally and exclusively valid exemplar placed by God among mankind, one must of course reject any addition to this exemplar, turn its one-sidedness and incompleteness into the rule, and either reject or simply regulate externally all those aspects of human activity that are not represented in it. Indeed, because Jesus himself remains standing as God-man alongside and above the moral exemplar embodied by him, belief in whom is – apart from and before the recognition of that exemplary image – every man’s duty and the condition of his salvation, that on which everything depends is pushed back into the second line; the full force of the moral greatness of Jesus withers away, and the moral duties, which can derive their validity only from the fact that they are rooted in the nature of the human being, are placed into the false light of being positive commandments from God. The critic therefore lives in the conviction that he does not commit a sacrilege against the holy, but is instead doing good and necessary work, when he sweeps away all those things that make Jesus into a superhuman being, as being a well-meant and at first perhaps beneficial, but in the long run harmful and now truly destructive delusion; when he restores the image of the historical Jesus in his simple human traits, as well as can still be done; when he refers mankind for the salvation of its soul to the ideal Christ, to that moral exemplar of which the historical Jesus first brought to light several principal traits, but which, as an endowment, belongs as much to the general gift of our kind as its further development and perfection can only be the task and work of all of mankind.

Source: David Friedrich Strauss, Das Leben Jesu. Leipzig: Alfred Kröner Verlag, n.d., vol. 2, pp. 158-62.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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