Today is the 138th anniversary of the birth of Albert Schweitzer, a renaissance man (pictured here), who was not just a theologian and preacher but also a famous medical missionary.
Schweitzer, author of the 1906 book, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, and winner of the 1952 Nobel Peace Price, often is given credit for starting the now-popular movement to find the person often referred to as the Jesus of history. But, in fact, several others had sought to do the same quest to find that Jesus earlier.
Still, the quest is a fascinating development that has occupied much of theology for the last century. What especially intrigues me about it is that so often when historians go looking for the historical Jesus they wind up finding the historian's Jesus.
So early 20th Century German theologians, for instance, wind up finding a Jesus who looks remarkably like an early 20th Century German theologian.
There must be a hundredyskillion books about Jesus, including one-third that many from folks connected with the Jesus Seminar. And what you will find in reading even a sampling of this work is that, in the end, the Jesus of history is hard to nail down.
For one thing, the Gospels form the primary source of information about Jesus, and although they contain some biographical information, they are not meant to be biographies. Rather, they are theological statements written to tell (and convince) the world about the good news of the incarnation and resurrection.
Still, Schweitzer's work was not useless. It has led to many interesting insights into Jesus and it has provided employment for untold numbers of theologians, authors, scholars and knaves -- all of whom need the work.
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EXPLORING THE 'NONES'
When it comes to people who have no affiliation with any religion -- the so-called "nones" -- what do we know about who they are? National Public Radio this week is offering a series that tries to answer that question. It's helpful to keep in mind that even though lots of people describe themselves as among the nones, a good percentage of them continue to hold a belief in God or at least some kind of higher power.