Wolfgang Friedrich Gess
1819-1891. German theologian. He studied at Tübingen where he came under the influence of F.C. Baur* and J.T. Beck.* After serving as assistant minister to his father, he taught at the missionary college, Basle (1850). He became a professor at Göttingen (1864), where he was a colleague of Ritschl,* then moved to Breslau (1871). He became general superintendent of the province of Posen (1880), but retired early for health reasons. Gess came from the Württemberg pietism which stressed biblical theology and Christian experience, but which adopted a looser attitude toward biblical inspiration. He was a leading exponent of kenotic Christology which sought to explain the union of Christ's full humanity with true divinity by positing a self-emptying of the latter (Gr. kenosis) in the Incarnation. The theory was based on an interpretation of Philippians 2:5ff., as a key to explaining the orthodox view of Christ's divinity in the light of His evident humanity in the gospels and modern criticism.
Gess's chief works were Lehre von der Person Christi (1856), Christi Selbstzeugnis (1870), Das apostolische Zeugnis von Christi Person und Werk (1878-79), Das Dogma von Christi Person und Werke (1887), and Die Inspiration der Helden der Bibel und der Schriften der Bibel (1891).