Theology and Revolution -The 1839 Zurich Revolution: A Reader in the History of Theology for the Theology of History (Updated July 2019)

The 1839 political revolution in Zurich, Switzerland, provides a view not only of an early, yet still relevant, clash between the natural sciences and populist religion but also of the value of distinguishing between a so-called, empirically driven history of theology and a subjectively driven theology of history.

Despite all the developments in New Testament criticism since 1835, David Friedrich Strauß’ The Life of Jesus Critically Examined continues to be valuable for insights into the gospel narratives — particularly though by no means exclusively, the issue of miracles. Furthermore, Strauß’ shift from a far-Left-Wing Hegelian Speculative Theology in 1835 to a Kantian Practical Religion in 1864 indicates the value of the “Copernican Turn” in theology even for today.

Part I offers an overview of the key issues at stake in the engagement of Strauß in the 1830s and today. It provides a summary of the political, religious, and scientific context, and a presentation of the shift in David Friedrich Strauß’ theological understanding between the 1835 The Life of Jesus Critically Examined and 1864 The Life of Jesus Prepared for the German People that allows the identification of a Copernican Turn in his theological understanding from a history of theology to a theology of history.

Part II consists of the historical reader. It provides translations of thirteen documents: two historical accounts of the revolution’s events (one official, the other partisan), street pamphlets, newspaper articles, official governmental reports, and public letters pro and con, as well. The originals are available below.

Part III consists of five essays that seek to profile 1) the significance for today of the theology of history for the understanding of humanity, 2) the meaning of “radical” evil in Kant’s philosophical theology, 3) the significance of “Enlightenment” not as the triumph of instrumental but as the challenge that is practical reason, 4) the open-ended interface between religion and science, and 4) the general study of religion that 5) focusses on what is universal in religions, not merely on what is different.

Part IV completes the project with an account of the tragic consequences of the revolution: the “Report on the Activity of the Aid Society for the Good of the Victims of 6 September 1839.”

Project Overview:



Table of Contents

Works Cited


Original German Materials in the Order of Their Appearance (List in Table of Contents):

Schultheß, Aufzeichnungen über die Straußische Bewegung und den 6. September 1839

Beschreibung des 6. Herbstmonats 1839 in Zürich

Paulus, Ueber theologische Lehrfreiheit

de Wette, Dr. Strauß und die Züricher Kirche

Strauß darf und soll nicht kommen!!

Strauß, Sensschreiben an die … Herren Bürgermeister Hirzel, Prof. Orelli und Prof Hitzig in Zürich

Antwort eines Laien auf das Sendschreiben des Hrn. D. Strauss an Hirzel, Orelli und Hitzig

Henne, Sendschreiben an den Großen Rath des Kantons Zürich

Meyer, Der Werth des geschriebenen Wortes an Henne

Kottinger, Doktor Strauß und seine Lehre. Ein freies Wort an die freien Züricher

Wirth, An dem Verfasser der Schrift: “Doctor Strauss und seine Lehre,” und das Zürichische Volk

Scherr, Ein freies und belehrendes Sendschreiben des züricherischen Seminardirektors an die Herren

Bericht über die Wirksamkeit des Hülfvereins zum Besten der am 6. September 3829 Verunglückten