Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Joseph Bendersky


In addition to his renowned musical output, Richard Wagner produced a logorrhoeic prose oeuvre, including a dramatic sketch of the last weeks of the life of Jesus Christ entitled Jesus von Nazareth. Though drafted in 1848-1849, it was published only posthumously, and has therefore been somewhat neglected in the otherwise voluminous Wagnerian literature. This thesis first examines the origins of Jesus von Nazareth amidst the climate of revolution wherein it was conceived, ascertaining its place within Wagner’s own internal development and amongst the radical thinkers who influenced it. While Ludwig Feuerbach has traditionally been seen as the most prominent of these, this thesis examines Wagner’s sources more broadly. The thesis then summarizes and analyzes Jesus von Nazareth itself, particularly in terms of Wagner’s use of biblical scripture. The thesis demonstrates how his not infrequent misuse thereof constitutes one way in which Wagner transmogrifies Jesus as mutable lens through which his own ideology of social revolution is reflected. It also attempts to provide a critical assessment of the relative dramatic merits of Jesus von Nazareth and looks into Wagner’s ultimate decision not to complete the work. The thesis then briefly summarizes the changes that occurred in Wagner’s mature Christological outlook subsequent to his drafting of Jesus von Nazareth, attempting to concisely demonstrate some developments beyond Wagner’s well-known encounter with the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. The thesis concludes with an evaluation of how Jesus von Nazareth informed Wagner’s general religious outlook and the extent to which this worldview is a productive one.


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Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2013

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