Albert Schweitzer was one of the great men of the twentieth century. The breadth of his abilities, the depth of his thought, and the endurance of his legacies are testaments to the man’s greatness.
His autobiography, Out of My Life and Thought, is a modern classic, but it is his Quest of the Historical Jesus that remains fixed in the minds of students and scholars of the New Testament as a paradigm-shifting work in the study of the historical Jesus (it’s worth noting his major contributions to Pauline studies as well: The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle, and Paul and his Interpreters: A Critical History) .
There’s much to be said about Schweitzer. While I do not go where he went theologically in a number of ways, I return to his last word in his Quest often. Among a number of revealing and quotable sections, it is the profoundest, I think, and worth reflecting on. His final word concerning Jesus:
He comes to us as one unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, he came to those men who knew him not. He speaks the same word, “follow thou me!”, and sets us to those tasks which he must fulfill in our time. He commands. And to those who hearken to him, whether wise or unwise, he will reveal himself in the peace, the labours, the conflicts and the suffering that they may experience in his fellowship, and as an ineffable mystery, they will learn who he isSchweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus
It always reminds me of another profound line, from another text–an ancient text. Apocryphal though it may be, it complements the above, and is worth remembering:
ἔγειρον τὸν λίθον κἀκεῖ εὑρήσεις μεGospel of Thomas, Greek Fragments, 77b
σχίσον τὸν ξύλον κἀγὼ ἐκεῖ εἰμι
Raise a stone and you will find me
Split wood and I am there