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Sep 06

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September 6: Bruno Bauer (1809)

Bruno Bauer

Bruno Bauer

It was on this date, September 6, 1809, that German philosopher, historian and Biblical critic Bruno Bauer was born at Eisenberg in Saxe-Altenburg. Bauer studied in Berlin and came under the influence of Georg W. F. Hegel (1770-1831). He began teaching in Berlin, but was transferred in 1839 to the University of Bonn after publishing his Kritische Darstellung der Religion des Alten Testaments (Critical Exhibition of the Religion of the Old Testament) in two volumes. This work interpreted all biblical miracles in Naturalistic terms and showed Bauer’s faithfulness to the Hegelian Rationalist theology. Bauer was removed from his chair of theology at Bonn in 1842 for Rationalism and after publishing Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte des Johannes (Critique of the Evangelical History of John) in 1840 and Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte der Synoptiker (Critique of the Evangelical History of the Synoptics) in 1841.

In his works, especially in his investigation into the sources of the New Testament, Bauer concluded that early Christianity owed more to ancient Greek philosophy and Stoicism than to Judaism. By 1840, Bauer had begun arguing that Jesus was a 2nd-century fusion of Jewish, Greek, and Roman theology, saying (Synoptiker), “We save the honor of Jesus when we restore His Person to life from the state of inanity to which the apologists have reduced it, and give it once more a living relation to history, which it certainly possessed.” Bauer himself was never an orthodox Christian. Between 1850 and 1852 Bauer published more historical and literary criticism on the Bible: Kritik der Evangelien und Geschichte ihres Ursprungs (A Critique of the Gospels and a History of their Origin), as well as Kritik der paulinischen Briefe (Critique of the Pauline Epistles). These were followed in 1877 by Bauer’s last book on theology, Christus und die Caesaren (Christ and the Caesars).

Considered one of the leading German Biblical critics of the 19th century, and claimed by both the left wing and the right wing of the Hegelian school, by the end of his life Bauer was spurned by both parties. The former teacher and friend of Karl Marx, he broke with Marx and Frederick Engels over their socialism and communism, later associating with Max Stirner (1806-1856) and Friedrich Nietzsche. Bauer never married, but he continued to write books to the end of his life, self-publishing and supporting himself through work in his family’s tobacco shop. Bruno Bauer died in Berlin on 13 April 1882 at age 72. Justifying his Rationalist approach to biblical scholarship and criticism, it was Bruno Bauer who said (1842), “Reason is the true creative power, for it produces itself as Infinite Self-consciousness, and its ongoing creation is … world history.”

About the author

Ronald Bruce Meyer

Freethought Almanac was created by Ronald Bruce Meyer, in collaboration with freethoughtradio.com, in March 2003. What started with a brief notice on the birthday of Albert Einstein, grew into almost 250,000 words on not only biography but history, philosophy, theology and politics — one day at a time. Freethought Almanac looks at these daily subjects from a godless point of view, that is, a point of view that is based not on fantasies, delusions or wishful thinking, but a view that is evidence-based.

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