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Richard Wagner’s Prose Sketches for Jesus of Nazareth

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Historical and Theological Reflections on an Uncompleted Opera

image of Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

In May 1849 Wagner fled Dresden after the failure of the uprising of which he was a leader. His last creative work in Dresden was prose sketches for an opera Jesus of Nazareth, the result of his study of the Graeco-Roman world and the New Testament together with some knowledge of biblical criticism. Although he portrays Jesus as a social revolutionary in that he attacks the Pharisees, oppression and injustice, he is by no means a political messiah; indeed Wagner emphases his sacrificial death which results in the giving of the Holy Spirit. Key theological themes of the work which I explore include Jesus’ messiahship, law and freedom, and the significance of his death.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK,


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