Bruno Bauer

Bruno Bauer (September 6, 1809April 13, 1882), was a German theologian, philosopher and historian.Bauer investigated the sources of the New Testament and controversially concluded that early Christianity owed more to Greek philosophy (Stoicism) than to Judaism. [see Bauer's work "Christus und die Caesaen">] . Starting in 1840, he began a series of controversial works arguing that Jesus was a myth, a second-century fusion of Jewish, Greek, and Roman theology.Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1972]


Bauer was the son of a painter in a porcelain factory at Eisenberg in Saxe-Altenburg.

Bauer studied at the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin from Spring 1828 to Spring 1832, where he attached himself to the so-called Right Hegelians under Philip Marheineke, for whom he was allowed to edit the second edition of Hegel's lectures on the philosophy of religion. In 1834 he began to teach in Berlin as a licentiate of theology, and in 1839 was transferred to the University of Bonn. In 1838 he published his "Kritische Darstellung der Religion des Alten Testaments" (2 vols.), which shows that at that date he was still faithful to the Hegelian Right. Soon afterwards his opinions underwent a change to the Hegelian left, and in three works, one on the Fourth Gospel, "Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte des Johannes" (1840), and the other on the Synoptics, "Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte der Synoptiker" (1841), as well as in his "Herr Dr. Hengstenberg. Kritische Briefe über den Gegensatz des Gesetzes und des Evangeliums" (1839), he announced his complete rejection of his earlier orthodoxy.

That explains why Bauer was first called a "Right Hegelian" (cf. David Strauss, "In Defense of My 'Life of Jesus' Against the Hegelians", 1838) but later is associated with the radical Young Hegelians or "Left Hegelians". 1839-1841, Bauer was a teacher, mentor and close friend of Karl Marx, but 1841 it came to a break and Marx began to reject Bruno Bauer from a position even more leftist, as expressed in two books he wrote along with Friedrich Engels in the 1840s ("German Ideology" and "Holy Familiy").

Bruno Bauer was sent by the Prussian Minister of Education, Altenstein, to the university of Bonn, in order to protect his leftism from the critique of the Berlin orthodox as well as to win the Bonn university to Hegelianism. However, Bauer instead created many enemies in the pietist dominated Bonn university, by openly teaching atheism in his new position as professor of theology. As he mentioned in his letters, he tried to provoke a scandal, so that the government would either give complete freedom of science and teaching to its university professors, or to openly express its anti-enlightment position by removing him from his post. Indeed, the government (the pro Hegelian minister Altenstein had meanwhile died and been replaced by the anti-Hegelian Eichhorn) asked the theology departments of its universities for an advice. When most of them (with the notable exception of the Hegelian Marheineke) indeed maintained that a professor of protestant theology should not be allowed to teach blunt atheism to his priest students and Bruno Bauer was not willing to compromise, the Prussian government in 1842 revoked Bauer's teaching license. Bauer's career was ruined and he retired for the rest of his life to Rixdorf, near Berlin.

Bauer continued to write, despite this enormous setback. He wrote more than nine theological tomes, in twelve huge volumes (in addition to books on the topics of modern history and politics). He did this at his own expense while working at his family's tobacco shop.

Bauer published "Geschichte der Politik, Kultur und Aufklärung des 18ten Jahrhunderts" (4 vols. 1843-1845), "Geschichte der französischen Revolution" (3 vols. 1847), and "Disraelis romantischer und Bismarcks socialistischer Imperialismus" (1882).

Bauer's books on Biblical Criticism, especially the historical and literary criticism of the New Testament, include: 'A Critique of the Gospels and a History of their Origin,' "Kritik der Evangelien und Geschichte ihres Ursprungs" (1850-1852), and, 'A Critique of the Pauline Epistles,' "Kritik der paulinischen Briefe" (1850-1852). His final book, 'Christ and the Caesars', "Christus und die Caesaren" (1877) was Bauer's final effort to justify Hegel's position that Christian theology owes at least as much to Greco-Roman literature as it owes to Jewish literature.

Bruno Bauer died at Rixdorf in 1882. His younger brother, Edgar, was a German left-wing journalist who had supported his brothers fights and was sent to prison for his political positions. He later became a police spy in London for the danish government, reporting, among others, about Karl Marx.

Conflict with David Strauss

Shortly after the death of Hegel, another writer, David Strauss, who had been a student of Hegelianism in Berlin and the first one to teach students Hegel's philosophy in Tuebingen, wrote a controversial book which is now famous, entitled, "The Life of Jesus Critically Examined", usualy referred to as "The Life of Jesus" (1835).

In the year of its publication, Strauss' book raised a storm of controversy. In that year, also, the Prussian king, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, maintained a tighter control of the Prussian University system, and he personally favored an ultra-conservative approach to the Bible. So, he objected to David Strauss, and he also decided that the Hegel school must consist of trouble-makers.

Bruno Bauer was one of the authors to refute and rebuff David Strauss in the Hegelian "Journal für wissenschaftliche Kritik". He showed that Strauss misrepresented Hegel, that Strauss own position differed from Hegel's and demonstrated that David Strauss' so-called dialectic was taken from Schleiermacher (who had been antagonistic to Hegel).

In 1838 David Strauss, whose book had become a best-seller, and was sold widely throughout Europe, published a rebuttal to Bruno Bauer in a pamphlet entitled, "In Defense of my Life of Jesus against the Hegelians". In that book Strauss admitted that his position could not be found word by word in Hegel's lectures, but were within the range of conclusions one could draw from applying Hegelian principles to the subject (something that could also be said about all other members of the Hegelian school, including Bruno Bauer himself).

In that book, David Strauss was the first one to divide the Hegelian school into three parties, not politicaly but according to their relation to orthodox christian theology: Right Hegelian would defend all positions of orthodox christian theology, claiming that both could be in perfect harmony, Left Hegelian would place science and philosophy above theology, taking that side when in doubt, and Centrist Hegelian would try to honour both: that what was rational in theological thinking as well as the freedom of scientific critical thought. Strauss claimed that Bruno Bauer was - at that time - a right-wing Hegelian (as Bauer had just attacked him from that position, see above), and that he himself was a left-wing Hegelian. He ended his book with an added insult to Bruno Bauer's criticism, calling it a "foolish bit of pen-pushing."

For the rest of his life, Bauer continued to be highly critical towards David Strauss.

For example, when Bauer was middle-aged, a youthful Friedrich Nietzsche came to visit him, seeking advice from a well-known author (because Bruno Bauer did remain well-read during his lifetime). Bauer encouraged Nietzsche to criticize David Strauss, and in that early period, that is exactly what young Nietzsche did. Nietzsche in turn mentions even later Bruno Bauer to be one of his few readers.


The great bulk of Bauer's writings have still not been translated into English. Only two books by Bauer have been formally translated; a comedic parody, "The Trumpet of the Last Judgment Against Hegel the Atheist and Antichrist" (with Karl Marx, 1841, trans. Lawrence Stepelevich, 1989), [ [ quote] from Sanguinetti '75: In 1841, under the pretext of denouncing Hegel for his atheism, Marx and Bauer wrote and published an anonymous pamphlet ["The Trumpet"..] in fact directed against the right-wing Hegelians, but which, in its style and tone, seemed to have been written by a right-wing metaphysician. This pamphlet in reality showed all of the menacing revolutionary traits that the Hegelian dialectic had in that epoch, and was thus the first document to establish the death of metaphysics and, consequently, the "destruction of all of the laws of the State."] and "Christianity Exposed: A Recollection of the 18th Century and a Contribution to the Crisis of the 19th" (1843, ed. Paul Trejo, 2002).

Literary controversy

Bauer's criticism of the New Testament was highly deconstructive. David Strauss, in his "Life of Jesus", had accounted for the Gospel narratives as half-conscious products of the mythic instinct in the early Christian communities. Bauer ridiculed Strauss's notion that a community could produce a connected narrative. His own contention, embodying a theory of Christian Gottlob Wilke ("Der Urevangelist", 1838), was that the original narrative was the Gospel of Mark.

For Bruno Bauer, the Gospel of Mark was completed in the reign of Hadrian (where its prototype, the 'Ur-Marcus,' identifiable within the Gospel of Mark by a critical analysis, was begun around the time of Josephus and the Roman-Jewish Wars). Bauer, like other advocates of this 'Marcan Hypothesis', affirmed that all the other Gospel narratives used the Gospel of Mark as their model within their writing communities.

In 1906 Albert Schweitzer wrote that Bauer "originally sought to defend the honor of Jesus by rescuing his reputation from the inane parody of a biography that the Christian apologists had forged." However, he eventually came to the conclusion that it was a complete fiction and "regarded the Gospel of Mark not only as the first narrator, but even as the creator of the gospel history, thus making the latter a fiction and Christianity the invention of a single original evangelist" (Otto Pfleiderer).

Although Bauer did investigate the 'Ur-Marcus,' it was his remarks on the current version of the Gospel of Mark that captured popular attention. In particular, some key themes in the Gospel of Mark appeared to be literary. TheMessianic Secret theme, in which Jesus continually performed wonders and then continually told the viewers not to tell anybody that he did this, seemed to Bauer to be an example of fiction. If the Messianic Secret is a fiction, Bauer wrote, then the redactor who added that theme was probably the final redactor of our current version of the Gospel of Mark. In 1901, Wilhelm Wrede would make his lasting fame by repeating many of Bauer's ideas in his book, "The Messianic Secret".

Also, for some influential theologians in the Tubingen School, several Pauline epistles were regarded as forgeries of the 2nd century. Bauer radicalised that position by suggesting that all Pauline epistles were forgeries, written in the West in antagonism to the Paul of "The Acts". Bauer observed a preponderance of the Greco-Roman element, over and above the Jewish element, in Christian writings, and he added a wealth of historical background to support his theory; though modern scholars such as E. P. Sanders and John P. Meier have disputed this theory and attempted to demonstrate a mainly Jewish historical background. Other authors, such as Rudolf Bultmann, tended to agree that a Greco-Roman element was dominant.

According to Bruno Bauer, the writer of Mark's gospel was "an Italian, at home both in Rome and Alexandria"; that of Matthew's gospel "a Roman, nourished by the spirit of Seneca"; Christianity is essentially "Stoicism triumphant in a Jewish garb."

It is obvious that Mark is a Roman name, not a Jewish name. What Bruno Bauer added was a deep review of European literature in the first century. In his estimation, many key themes of the New Testament, especially those that are opposed to themes in the Old Testament, can be found with relative ease in Greco-Roman literature that flourished during the first century. Such a position was also maintained by some Jewish scholars.

Bauer's final book, "Christ and the Caesars" (1877) offers a penetrating analysis that shows common key-words in the words of first-century writers like Seneca the Stoic and New Testament texts. While this had been perceived even in ancient times, the ancient explanation was that Seneca 'must have been' a secret Christian. Bruno Bauer was perhaps the first to attempt to carefully demonstrate that some New Testament writers freely borrowed from Seneca the Stoic. One modern explanation is that common cultures share common thought-forms and common patterns of speech; that similarities do not necessarily indicate borrowing.

In "Christ and the Caesars", Bauer argued that Judaism entered Rome during the era of the Maccabees, and increased in population and influence in Rome since that time. He cited literature from the first century to strengthen his case that Jewish influence in Rome was far greater than historians had yet reported. The Imperial throne was influenced by the Jewish religious genius, he said, citing Herod's relation with the Caesar family, as well as the famous relationship between Josephus and the Flavians, Vespasian and Titus, and also one of the poems of Horace.

According to Bruno Bauer, Julius Caesar sought to interpret his own life as an Oriental miracle story, and Augustus Caesar completed that job by commissioning Virgil to write his "Aeneid", making Caesar into the Son of Venus and a relative of the Trojans, thereby justifying the Roman conquest of Greece and insinuating Rome into a much older history. By contrast, said Bauer, Vespasian was far more fortunate, since he had Josephus himself to link his reign with an Oriental miracle. Josephus had prophesied that Vespasian would become Emperor of Rome and thus ruler of the world. This actually happened, and in this way the Roman conquest of Judea was justified and insinuated Rome into an even older history.

According to Albert Schweitzer, Bruno Bauer's criticisms of the New Testament provided the most interesting questions about the historical Jesus that he had seenFact|date=July 2008. Schweitzer's own theology was partly based on Bauer's writingsFact|date=July 2008. This line of criticism has value in emphasizing the importance of studying the influence of environment in the formation of the Christian Scriptures. Bauer was a man of restless creativity, interdisciplinary activity and independent judgment. Many reviewers have charged that Bauer's judgment was ill-balanced, but history has barely begun to review his life. It is not surprising, given the institutional response to his ideas. Due to the controversial nature of his work as a social theorist, theologian and historian, Bauer was banned from public teaching by a Prussian monarch. After many years of similar censorship, Bauer came to resign himself to his place as a free-lance critic, rather than as an official teacher. Douglas Moggach published "The Philosophy and Politics of Bruno Bauer" in 2003. This is the most comprehensive overview of Bauer's life and works, in English to date. Bauer's biography has obtained more kindly reviews these days, even by opponents. In his own day, his opponents often respected him, since he was not afraid of taking a line on principle.

One point that is often raised in this regard is his line that was displeasing to his liberal friends on the Jewish question ("Die Judenfrage", 1843). Bauers later article "Jewism abroud" (Das Judentum in der Fremde) in "Staats- und Gesellschaftslexicon" was even more radical and extensive, mixing arguments of racism, religion and "voelkisch" ideology. The topic of atheism is a continuing debate in contemporary scholarship about Bruno Bauer. Scientific 20th-century common sense is that Bauer was an atheist. One modern writer, Paul Trejo (2002), is the exception form that rule, making a case that Bauer remained a radical theologian who criticized specific types of Christianity, and that Bauer maintained a Hegelian interpretation of Christianity throughout his life. According to him, Bauer's book, "Christianity Exposed" (1843), was a mild affair, exposing only one sect of Christian against another.

"The Trumpet", written by Bauer and published anonymously, was of inspiration to Gianfranco Sanguinetti, for his 1975 pamphlet "Veritable Report on the Last Chances to Save Capitalism in Italy", a situationist prank which caused him to leave Italy under the force of political pressure. [ [ Bauer citation] , [ report of scandal] .]


On the issue of the Jews, Bauer's attitude toward the Jewish writers of the first century, Philo and Josephus, was one of open admiration. That considered Jewishness in a pure condition, as a nation next to other nations. But his attitude was the reverse according to assimilation and emancipation of Jews in present day European nations. The question, 'how can Jews obtain Civil Rights until Germans themselves obtain Civil Rights?' was answered by him in a principal denial of the possibility of a complete emancipation of Jews in a national and christian based community, even after conversion to christianity, because of their racial and that means their unalterable characteristics. In this way Bauer has to be considered as a forerunner of German anti-Jewish sentiment (his contributions to the "Staats- und Gesellschaftslexikon", published by Hermann Wagener, also publisher of the extreme right wing and outspoken antisemitic "Neue Preussische Zeitung" (popularly called "Kreuzzeitung"). However, Bauer distinguished between religion and race, and did not charge Jews with racial inferiority as the Nazi party did, giving the term, antisemitism, its modern meaning. On the contrary, Bauer was convinced that racial mixing generally produced superior cultural results than so-called racial purity.

The first English-language rendering of Bruno Bauer's career was published in March, 2003 by Douglas Moggach, a professor at the University of Ottawa. His book is entitled, "The Philosophy and Politics of Bruno Bauer". Professor Moggach develops a republican interpretation of Bruno Bauer, in which Bauer is portrayed as reaching atheist conclusions because of his political commitments to free self-consciousness and autonomy, and his criticisms of the Restoration union of church and state. Other scholars continue to dispute that portrait.

Bauer's personality was complex. During his career and even after he died he was difficult to classify. The left-wing tried to define him as one of their own. The right-wing tried to define him as one of their own. He was praised by the right-Hegelians, and he was praised by the left-Hegelians.

Bauer had studied directly under the great innovator in philosophy, Hegel. Hegel had awarded an academic prize to Bauer when Bauer was about 20 years old. Hegel died when Bruno Bauer was 22 years old. Perhaps this affected Bauer's personality strongly; he may have seen himself as sitting very close to the highest academic post in Prussia and possibly he imagined that he would one day have that post.

When Hegel unexpectedly died in 1831, possibly of cholera, Bruno Bauer's official connections were drastically reduced. Bauer had very few powerful friends during the academic fallout after Hegel's death.

After the publication of his 'The Trumpet' (1841) he was considered as an important representative of the radicals.

The struggle with David Strauss and especially with the Prussian monarchy had set Bruno Bauer back quite a bit.This also affected Bauer's personality.

Bauer went underground and began to write Hegelian newspapers here and there. In this journey he met some socialists, including Karl Marx, his former student, and Marx' new friends, Friedrich Engels and Arnold Ruge. They were all left-wing radicals. Bauer was not a left-wing radical, but he was happy to be their leader if it could lead them back to a Hegelian understanding of the dialectic. Another member of those Young Hegelians, Max Stirner, became Bauer's lifelong friend. Stirner was no socialist, on the contrary, he was a radical egoist. Although Bauer was not a radical egoist, he preferred the writings of Stirner to the writings of Marx, Engels and Ruge.

Shortly after, Marx and Engels broke sharply with Bruno Bauer and attacked him specifically in a critique of one of his works, "On the Jewish Question" and in other books that were critical of various Young Hegelians including Bauer, "The Holy Family", and "The Germany Ideology".

Bruno Bauer met with Marx again in London in the mid-1850s, while visiting his exiled brother Edgar there. According to Marx's correspondence with Engels, Bauer presented him with a copy of Hegel's Science of Logic. Marx referred to this volume while completing his drafts of 'Capital'.

Suppressed by the right-wing, and now suppressed by the left-wing, the influential Bruno Bauer settled into his family's tobacco shop to work, writing books at night. He never married, and he wrote books for the rest of his life.

Major works

*"Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte des Johannes" (1840)
*"Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte der Synoptiker", 2 vols. (1841)
*"Die Posaune des jüngsten Gerichts über Hegel, den Atheisten und Antichristen" (1841)
*"Die gute Sache der Freiheit und meine eigene Angelegenheit" (1842)
*"Hegels Lehre von der Religion und Kunst von dem Standpunkte des Glaubens aus beurteilt" (1842)
*"Das Entdeckte Christentum" (1843, banned and destroyed, into oblivion until 1927: ed. Barnikol)
*"Die Judenfrage" (1843) ("The Jewish Question")
*"Geschichte der Politik, Kultur und Aufklärung des 18. Jahrhunderts (1843-45)
*"Geschichte Deutschlands und der französischen Revolution unter der Herrschaft Napoleons", 2 vols. (1846)
*"Kritik der Evangelien und Geschichte ihres Ursprungs", 4 vols., 4 suppl. (1850-52)
*"Russland und das Germanentum" (1853)
*"Philo, Renan und das Urchristentum" (1864)
*"Christus und die Cäsaren" (1877)
*"Zur Orientierung über die Bismarck'sche Ära" (1880)
*"Disraelis romantischer und Bismarcks sozialistischer Imperialismus" (1882)


: "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." — Bruno Bauer, SYNOPTIKER, 1840

: "Therefore, criticism has to direct itself against itself, and against the mysterious Substance in which it has up to now hid itself. In this way criticism must resolve things such that the development of this Substance drives itself forward to the Universality and Certainty of the Idea of its actual existence, the Eternal Self-consciousness." — Bruno Bauer, SYNOPTIKER, 1840

: "The pure Christian State is a State in which theological law prevails. This law attains to real power or, to be more exact, absolute power, when through its results which are identical with those of "opium", it puts all parts of humanity to sleep. If some occasionally awake they carry out crimes that horrify humanity which has not yet become Christian in the full sense of the word or has already abandoned the Christian framework." — Bruno Bauer, 1841, THE CHRISTIAN STATE AND OUR TIMES

: "After fulfilling its destructive urge towards everything that is noble and good on earth, it [naive Religion] sketches, in its "opium" intoxication, a picture of the future situation, which differs drastically from the order of this world, since everything changes and is renewed." — Bruno Bauer, 1842, THE GOOD CAUSE OF FREEDOM AND MY OWN CASE

: "Reason is the true creative power, for it produces itself as Infinite Self-consciousness, and its ongoing creation history. As the only power that exists, Spirit can therefore be determined by nothing other than itself, that is, its essence is Freedom...Freedom is the infinite power of Spirit...Freedom, the only End of Spirit, is also the only End of History, and history is nothing other than Spirit's becoming *conscious* of its Freedom, or the becoming of Real, Free, Infinite Self-consciousness." — Bruno Bauer, 1842, HEGEL'S LEHRE VON DER RELIGION UND KUNST VON DEM STANDPUNKTE DES GLAUBENS AUS BEURTEILT, trans. Moggach, 2001


External links

* [ Freedom from Religion Foundation entry]
* [ The Quest of the Historical Jesus: Chapter 11 Bruno Bauer]


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