Later, fictitious lives by writers such as Gfrörer (written between 1831 and 1838), Hennell (1838) and Salvator (1838) all postulated that the Essenes were involved in many aspects of Jesus’ ministry. All three authors likewise asserted that Jesus was nursed back to health by the Essenes after his crucifixion so that he could visit his followers.^5

Each of these writers conjectured that Jesus did not die by crucifixion, but was nursed back to health by the members of a secret group, and recovered sufficiently enough to visit with his disciples. Such attempts to construct a speculative life of Jesus attracted very little scholarly attention. They were plainly based on supposition and thus could add little to more serious historical studies, as noted by Schweitzer.

1 See Schweitzer’s classic treatment, The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede, transl. by J.W. Montgomery from the first German edition of 1906 (New York: Macmillan, 1968), pp. 38–39.

2 Ibid., p. 38.

3 Ibid., pp. 39–44.

4 Ibid., pp. 44–47.

5 Ibid., pp. 161–166.

The Classical Period

The nineteenth century was the classical period of Protestant Liberalism. Often dated from the publication of Schleiermacher’s On Religion^7 in 1799 until World War I, these decades probably produced the largest number of “lives of Jesus.” In fact, this period of thought is sometimes characterized by these volumes.

However, Jesus was not depicted as he was portrayed in the Gospels. The emphasis in the majority of these studies was on Jesus as a great example for living, with the implication that we should pattern our lives after his. But at least two key elements in the Gospels were usually either denied or ignored. Supernatural aspects such as Jesus’ miracles were treated as nonhistorical. Further, dogmatic theology was eschewed, especially the doctrine of Jesus’ deity. It was assumed that, while Jesus was an outstanding moral pattern, he was only a man.