Strauss, David Friedrich (1808-74)

German philosopher and historian of religion, author of The Life of Jesus Critically Examined (1835). Strauss was one of the founders of the mythological school of the history of Christianity. According to Strauss the Gospels are an aesthetic and philosophical work, but not historical, not a conscious fraud but an unconscious invention.

According to Rod Decker, "The first quest for the historical Jesus is usually associated with the mid-nineteenth century publication of David Strauss' Das Leben Jesu. His basic thesis was that the Gospels could not be read as straightforward, reliable historical records of what Jesus did and said. The mythic element must be recognized. Truth regarding Jesus comes only by the application of historical critical methods. Although Strauss accepted the basic historical outline of Jesus' life as recorded in the Gospels, he argued that this framework was embellished by the early church's imagination as they came to interpret OT prophecies in light of Jesus. It was the church which created the myths and legends about Jesus that resulted in the gospel portrait of him as a divine Messiah."

According to Donald A. Wells, "In 1835 [Strauss] published a two volume life of Jesus, revised in 1839, and again in 1864. He concluded that:

a. None of the gospel writers was a witness of the events they discussed so that their words rested on mere hearsay.
b. Every story prior to Jesus' baptism is a fabrication.
c. The story of Jesus calling twelve disciples is not historical.
d. None of the miracles happened.
e. The gospel of John is a complete fabrication.