A German scholar by education, George Albert Wells’s interests spread across academe to the origins of language, biblical criticism, and the early history of Christianity. He frequently contributed works of religious criticism and historical insight to the pages of Free Inquiry.
Born in 1926 in London, Wells earned numerous degrees from the University of London, ultimately receiving an award for his doctoral thesis in 1954. For forty years, he taught at the university level, mainly on German literature and eighteenth and nineteenth-century thought. He retired from teaching in 1988, but not before being elected a Laureate of the Council for Secular Humanism’s International Academy of Humanism in 1983.
Wells’s many publications covered three main subject areas: German literature and thought of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the origin of language, and biblical criticism/early Christian history. He was the author and (co)editor of numerous books, the first in 1959 and the most recent in 2009. He contributed articles on biblical criticism and the early history of Christianity to Free InquIry over the years. His most recent article, “Albert Schweitzer and The Quest of the Historical Jesus—One Hundred Years On,” was published in the February/March 2015 issue of FI.
Wells is best known as an advocate of the thesis that Jesus is a mythical— not historical—figure, a theory pioneered by German biblical scholars. Wells defended this thesis in multiple books beginning with Did Jesus Exist? (Prometheus Books, 1975). In his last years, he retreated slightly from his former hard-mythicist position.
We here at Free Inquiry and the Council express our appreciation for the many articles Wells contributed to our pages throughout the years and offer our sincerest condolences to his wife of forty-seven years, Elisabeth.