Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The “Nocturnal Side of Science" in David Friedrich Strauss’s Life of Jesus Critically Examined

The “Nocturnal Side of Science" in David Friedrich Strauss’s Life of Jesus Critically Examined

Thomas Fabisiak
  • Book Info
    The “Nocturnal Side of Science" in David Friedrich Strauss’s Life of Jesus Critically Examined
    Book Description:

    A close look at how Strauss's engagement with popular and scholarly controversies influenced his study of the Gospels

    David Friedrich Strauss'sLife of Jesus Critically Examinedis known as a monumental contribution to the critical, scientific study of religion and Christian origins. It was widely read and influenced literary and historical research on the Bible as well as critical philosophy between Hegel and Nietzsche. Less well-known are Strauss's writings from the same period on "the nocturnal side of nature," paranormal phenomena such as demon possession, animal magnetism, and the ghost-seeing of Frederike Hauffe, the famous "Seeress of Prevorst."


    Illuminates unfamiliar features of early nineteenth-century theology, philosophy, and medicine showing how spirituality and science blended together in these fieldsDemonstrates the importance of Western esotericism and popular religion in the history of modern biblical studiesSheds new light on Strauss's study of the Gospels as myths, his critique of miracles and his account of the historical Jesus

    eISBN: 978-1-62837-110-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  2. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    In his 1869 autobiography, the German Reformed theologian Friedrich Wilhelm Krummacher relates an anecdote that he heard many years earlier from the romantic poet and physician, Justinus Kerner. The story concerns Frederike Hauffe née Wanner, who came under Kerner’s care in 1826. Hauffe suffered from epileptic seizures and died young at the age of twenty-eight; she claimed she was attacked by demons and entered into ecstatic trances in which she diagnosed her ailments and communicated with the dead. In 1829, Kerner published an account of her illness and clairvoyant revelations,The Seeress of Prevorst,¹ in which he claimed that Hauffe’s...

  4. 1 Strauss on the Science of the Nocturnal Side of Nature
    (pp. 23-68)

    Strauss composed a series of essays on clairvoyance, demon possession, and ghost seeing between 1830 and 1839.¹ He developed a demystifying, scientific approach to these matters, which appears in especially clear relief in an 1836 response to Kerner and Eschenmayer’s 1834Accounts of the Modern Possessed. In theAccounts, Kerner and Eschenmayer had presented case studies of modern demoniacs, including two women whom Kerner had observed personally. Kerner described how these women entered into “demonic paroxysms” in which their minds were displaced by alien, malevolent souls who also controlled their bodies. They leered and convulsed and blasphemed against the Bible....

  5. 2 The Nocturnal Side of Strauss’s Historical Critique of Miracle Stories
    (pp. 69-102)

    Strauss’sLife of Jesuswas published in two volumes in 1835–1836. The first volume appeared five years after the first essay on Hauffe; the second appeared in 1836, the year that he wrote his response to Kerner’s case studies of Anna U and Grombach. In the previous chapter, I argued that in the psychological writings Strauss developed a scientific, critical approach to questions about medical and religious pathologies and that he did so by way of the romantic study of paranormal religious phenomena—ghost seeing, possession, clairvoyance, and magnetism. I consequently affirmed with Nast that the roots of Strauss’s...

  6. 3 Strauss on Myth and the Nocturnal Side of Nature
    (pp. 103-140)

    Over the last two chapters, we have seen how Strauss defined and secured limits on spirit in history and nature throughout his writings in the 1830s. His conceptions of embodied subjects and an immanent cosmos led him to critique reports of supernatural events and beings—demons, for example, ghosts, and resurrections—in the ancient and modern world. In the first chapter, we saw that, in his writings on the nocturnal side of nature, this critical view led from the phenomena in question to the psychological and cultural condition of their subjects: from ghosts and demons to the minds and experiences...

  7. 4 The Nocturnal Side of Christian and Modern Origins
    (pp. 141-176)

    In this chapter I turn to Strauss’s account of the historical Jesus and Christian and modern origins. When Strauss turns to the person of Jesus, he breaks decisively with previous mythical interpretations of the Bible. He outlines Jesus’s messianic self-consciousness in light of his age and context. Normally, mythical analysis leads Strauss to argue that elements of the gospels are unhistorical. But here it leads him to the opposite conclusion. He authenticates a number of Jesus’s apocalyptic sayings—passages that modern interpreters had, with the notable exception of Reimarus, tended to ignore. His Jesus is a Jewish apocalyptic thinker with...

  8. Conclusion: Strauss’s Visions of Modernity and Historical Science
    (pp. 177-198)

    Strauss’s account of the resurrection event epitomizes the ambivalent quality of his scientific approach to the gospels and Christian religion. He rejects supernaturalist accounts of an actual resurrection along with rationalist attempts to save Jesus by other, natural means from death on the cross. He reconstructs the event as a mere subjective vision. And yet, he declares with orthodox theologians that this experience was the necessary foundation of Christian faith. Even more, it was the historical mechanism by which spirit and culture evolved. The disciples’ enthusiastic vision of Jesus’s resurrection led to their enthusiastic composition of mythical narratives about him....

  9. Biblical Index
    (pp. 211-212)
  10. Modern Primary Sources Index
    (pp. 213-216)
  11. Modern Authors Index
    (pp. 217-220)