Albert Schweitzer

50

Albert Schweitzer : biography

14 January 1875 – 4 September 1965

On departure for Lambaréné in 1913 he was presented with a pedal piano, a piano with pedal attachments (to operate like an organ pedal-keyboard).Given by the Paris Bach Society, Seaver (1951) p. 63; but Joy (1953) p. 177, says it was given by the Paris Missionary Society. Built especially for the tropics, it was delivered by river in a huge dug-out canoe to Lambaréné, packed in a zinc-lined case. At first he regarded his new life as a renunciation of his art, and fell out of practise: but after some time he resolved to study and learn by heart the works of Bach, Mendelssohn, Widor, César Franck, and Max Reger systematically.Seaver (1951) pp. 63–64. It became his custom to play during the lunch hour and on Sunday afternoons. Schweitzer’s pedal piano was still in use at Lambaréné in 1946.Joy (1953) plate facing p. 177.

Sir Donald Tovey dedicated his conjectural completion of Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge (Art of the Fugue) to Schweitzer.

Dr Schweitzer’s recordings of organ-music, and his innovative recording technique, are described separately below.

One of his notable pupils was conductor and composer Hans Münch.

Theology

Saint-Nicolas, Strasbourg In 1899 Schweitzer became a deacon at the church Saint-Nicolas of Strasbourg. In 1900, with the completion of his licentiate in theology, he was ordained as curate, and that year he witnessed the Oberammergau Passion Play. In the following year he became provisional Principal of the Theological College of Saint Thomas (from which he had just graduated), and in 1903 his appointment was made permanent.He officiated at the wedding of Theodor Heuss (later the first President of West Germany) on 11 April 1908.

Since the mid-1890s Schweitzer had formed the inner resolve that it was needful for him as a Christian to repay to the world something for the happiness which it had given to him, and he determined that he would pursue his younger interests until the age of thirty and then give himself to serving humanity, with Jesus serving as his example.

In 1906 he published Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung ("History of Life-of-Jesus research"). This book, which established his reputation, was first translated into English by William Montgomery and published in 1910 as The Quest of the Historical Jesus. Under this title the book became famous in the English-speaking world. A second German edition was published in 1913, containing theologically significant revisions and expansions: but this revised edition did not appear in English until 2001.This account of the editions of this work is disputed: see talk page.

In The Quest, Schweitzer reviewed all former work on the "historical Jesus" back to the late 18th century. He showed that the image of Jesus had changed with the times and outlooks of the various authors, and gave his own synopsis and interpretation of the previous century’s findings. He maintained that the life of Jesus must be interpreted in the light of Jesus’ own convictions, which reflected late Jewish eschatology. Schweitzer, however, writes: "The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the kingdom of God, who founded the kingdom of heaven upon earth and died to give his work its final consecration never existed."Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus: First Complete Edition, trans. W. Montgomery, et al., ed. John Bowden (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), 478.

Sources

Schweitzer found many New Testament references to apparently show that 1st-century Christians believed literally in the imminent fulfillment of the promise of the World’s ending, within the lifetime of Jesus’s original followers,. He noted that in the gospel of Mark, Jesus speaks of a "tribulation", with his coming in the clouds with great power and glory" (St Mark), and states when it will happen: "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled" (St Matthew, 24:34) (or, "have taken place" (Luke 21:32)): "All these things shall come upon this generation" (Matthew 23:36). "There be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom" (Matthew 16:28) (or, "until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power" (Mark 9:1); or, "till they see the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:27).)