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Thursday, October 04, 2007 

William Wrede

Like many young aspiring scholars I have too often neglected the reading of classic scholarly works. To remedy this I have put on my reading list the works of several scholars such as Strauss, Weiss, Wrede, Bultmann, Dibelius, et al. Of course, most of them are German scholars and because my German is very limited I am having to depend on English translations which means that I cannot at this juncture in my academic pursuit fully engage these works, something that is a particularly frustrating thought.

Nevertheless, I have opted to begin with William (or Wilhelm) Wrede's The Messianic Secret which was one of the most influential works on the gospels (particularly Mark) at the beginning of the 20th century. Prior to the publishing of this book most scholars viewed the first three gospels, especially Mark, as giving a basically historical representation of Jesus' ministry. But Wrede's work on Mark's messianic secret motif promulgated skepticism among scholars concerning what could be historically asserted about the life of Jesus. In the coming weeks I will blog on this work, reviewing each chapter and then giving a (limited) evaluation of the book. But first, a quote from the book to give you an idea of Wrede's perspective concerning the gospels:

"I should never for an instant lose sight of my awareness that I have before me descriptions, the authors of which are later Christians, be they never so early-Christians who could only look at the life of Jesus with the eyes of their own time and who described it on the basis of the belief of the community, with all the viewpoints of the community, and with the needs of the community in mind." (The Messianc Secret, trans. by J.C.G. Greig, p. 5)

G.A. Wells introduced me through his writings to Wrede.

Wrede's analysis of Mark is extremely good.

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