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Hermann Samuel Reimarus

1694-1768. German scholar. Born in Hamburg, he was educated at Jena, taught philosophy at Wittenberg, and in England came under the influence of the English Deists. He was rector of the Hochschule at Wismar (1723-27) before becoming professor of Hebrew and oriental languages in the Gymnasium Johanneum in Hamburg. He published works on Dio Cassius, logic, and the instincts of animals, and worked from 1744 on a comprehensive study which remains as a whole only in manuscript (perhaps because of its controversial content), though segments of its 4,000 pages were published piecemeal and anonymously after his death under the title Wolfenbüttel Fragments.* One published fragment, “The Object of Jesus and His Disciples,” provided a perspective on Jesus which was to revolutionize the image of Him in modern theology, and to become the point of departure for A. Schweitzer's* Quest of the Historical Jesus. Though Reimarus's historical reconstruction was too influenced by Deistic rationalism concerned to eliminate the miraculous, he was one of the few in the history of Christian thought to identify correctly that Jesus had proclaimed the nearness of the messianic age to the Jews. Reimarus's efforts, were premature, since his generation was not prepared to break its traditional conception of the preaching of Jesus for a consideration of an imminent eschatological expectation.

See C.H. Talbert (ed.), Reimarus: Fragments (1970).