It is characteristic that Ritschl, notwithstanding his emphasis upon the historical Jesus, asserted the impossibility of a biography of Jesus. The understanding of Jesus is through faith. For Wrede, on the other hand, such a biography is impossible because of the nature of our sources. Not alone are they scant, but they are not biographical. They are apologetic, propagandist, interested in everything except those problems which a biographer must raise. The last few years have even conjured up the question whether Jesus ever lived. One may say with all simplicity, that the question has, of course, as much rightfulness as has any other question any man could raise. The somewhat extended discussion has, however, done nothing to make evident how it could arise, save in minds unfamiliar with the materials and unskilled in historical research. The conditions which beset us when we ask for a biography of Jesus that shall answer scientific requirement are not essentially different from those which meet us in the case of any other personage equally remote in point of time, and equally woven about—if any such have been—by the love and devotion of men. Bousset’s little book, Was Wissen wir von Jesus? 1904, convinces a quiet mind that we know a good deal. Qualities in the personality of Jesus obviously worked in transcendent measure to call out devotion. No understanding of history is adequate which has no place for the unfathomed in personality. Exactly because we ourselves share this devotion, we could earnestly wish that the situation as to the biography of Jesus were other than it is.
THE OLD TESTAMENT
We have spoken thus far as if the whole biblical-critical problem had been that of the New Testament. In reality the same impulses which had opened up that question to the minds of men had set them working upon the problem of the Old Testament as well. We have seen how the Christians made for themselves a canon of the New Testament. By the force of that conception of the canon, and through the belief that, almost