There is no doubt that Strauss, who was at that time an earnest Christian, felt the relief from certain difficulties in the biography of Jesus which this theory affords. He put it forth in all sincerity as affording to others like relief. He said that while rationalists and supernaturalists alike, by their methods, sacrificed the divine content of the story and clung only to its form, his hypothesis sacrificed the historicity of the narrative form, but kept the eternal and spiritual truth. In his opinion, the lapse of a single generation was enough to give room for this process of the growth of the legendary elements which have found place in the written Gospels which we have. Ideas entertained by primitive Christians relative to their lost Master, have been, all unwittingly, transformed into facts and woven into the tale of his career. The legends of a people are in their basal elements never the work of a single individual. They are never intentionally produced. The imperceptible growth of a joint creative work of this kind was possible, however, only on the supposition that oral tradition was, for a time, the means of transmission of the reminiscences of Jesus. Strauss’ explanation of his theory has been given above, to some extent in his own words. We may see how he understood himself. We may appreciate also the genuineness of the religious spirit of his work. At the same time the thorough-going way in which he applied his principle, the relentless march of his argument, the character of his results, must sometimes have been startling even to himself. They certainly startled others. The effect of his work was instantaneous and immense. It was not at all the effect which he anticipated. The issue of the furious controversy which broke out was disastrous both to Strauss’ professional career and to his whole temperament and character.
David Friedrich Strauss was born in 1808 in Ludwigsburg in Wuerttemberg. He studied in Tuebingen and in Berlin. He became an instructor in the theological faculty in Tuebingen in 1832. He published his Leben Jesu in 1835. He was almost at once removed from his portion. In 1836 he withdrew altogether from the professorial career. His answer to his critics, written in 1837, was in bitter tone. More conciliatory was his book, Ueber Vergaengliches und Bleibendes im Christenthum, published in 1839. Indeed there were some concessions in the third edition of his Leben Jesu in 1838, but these were all repudiated in 1840. His Leben Jesu fuer das deutsche Volk, published in 1866 was the effort to popularise that which he had done. It is, however, in point of method, superior to his earlier work, Comments were met with even greater bitterness. Finally, not long before his death in 1874, he published Der Alte und der Neue Glaube, in which he definitely broke with Christianity altogether and went over to materialism and pessimism.