BIBLIOGRAPHY: DNB, lxiii. 68-69.
German New-Testament scholar; b. at Bücken (25 m. s.s.e. of Bremen) May 10, 1859; d. at Breslau Nov. 23, 1906. He received his education at the gymnasium at Celle, the universities of Leipsic and Göttingen, and the theological seminary at Loccum; became inspector of the theological foundation at Göttingen, 1884; took a pastorate at Langenholzen, 1887; returned to Göttingen to teach, 1889; became extraordinary professor for the New Testament at Breslau, 1893, and professor, 1895. His principal works are Untersuchungen zum ersten Clemensbriefe (Göttingen, 1891); Ueber Aufgabe und Methode der . . . neutestamentlichen Theologie (1897); Das Messiasgeheimnis in den Evangelien (1901); Charakter und Tendenz des Johannesevangeliums (1903); Paulus (Tübingen, 1905; Eng. transl., Paul, London, 1907); and the posthumous Vorträge und Reden (1907); and Die Entstehung der Schriften des Neuen Testaments (1907; Eng. tranel., The Origin of the New Testament, New York, 1910).
The two works for which Wrede is best known, the Messiasgeheimnis and the Paulus, illustrate well both the excellences and the defects of their author as well as his services to theological science. Even in his first work on the First Epistle of Clement, he revealed himself as not only a learned, careful, and keen-sighted scholar, but also as an independent and thoughtful critic. Anew he proved the value of that letter as a source of knowledge not only for the Roman community but for the general tendencies and needs of the postapostolic generation. His interest was not in the details, but in the general relations both to the preceding and the following literature and events. So in his treatment of New-Testament theology he bound together religion and theology. His Paulus deals with a side of what he regarded as within the province of New-Testament theology. In all this work he consciously limited himself to certain lines of investigation, not because he had no interest in what lay beyond, but because in this chosen field he found problems that required answers which he felt he must find before he advanced to the wider field, in answering, which, too, he felt that he was preparing himself for advance. In his researches he did not permit himself to be fettered by tradition, no matter what its source. While he honored profoundly his teachers, he subjected himself to none of them; he neither belonged to a "school" nor did he build one. As a teacher he evinced these same qualities, took his work earnestly, and stimulated his pupils to thoroughgoing patience and industry in their labors.
His Paulus is rather a work of art than a popular book, though it belongs to a popular series. It does not concern itself with detail, but is a polished treatment of the essential life and work of the apostle, comparing that life with the life of Jesus. In that it does not furnish a purely historical decision it reflects Wrede's subjective standpoint. The author regards Paul as the second founder of Christianity, the builder of ecclesiastical orthodoxy, who changed, by his doctrine of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ, the religion of Jesus. Not that he charges Paul with a fault here, but rather regrets that it was Paul who did what had to be done. As a check upon the unwholesome and panegyrical exposition of the life of Paul, Wrede's work was valuable; but Wrede does not present the entire Paul to his readers, it is a profile picture which he paints. Similarly in his treatment of the Gospel of John, only one side is presented, not a consideration of the entire problem. A one-sidedness of another kind comes to light in the Messiasgeheimnis. To bring up earnestly the question whether, according to the consensus of the New Testament, Jesus conceived of himself as Messiah was a great service and as a stimulus has borne good fruit. Since his work investigation concerning the self-consciousness of Jesus has taken a new start. The error of Wrede lies in the fact that he overestimated the conclusiveness and deliberateness with which the evangelists individually assumed one or another of the view-points possible in their time. He worked too much in logical categories, asked too often why and how; he handled Mark and Paul as though they were men of our times.
In spite of these defects his short period of work, shortened even beyond the actual time by calamity and illness, was uncommonly fruitful.. His plow went deep, and he scattered his seed beyond his own furrow.
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