Tuesday, October 27, 2015

General History Of New Testament Criticism by CW Rishell 1896

General History Of New Testament Criticism by CW Rishell 1896

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It was under the influence of rationalism that the critical treatment of the New Testament began. Semler, in a series of treatises concerning the free investigation of the canon, (1771-1775), gave up the doctrine of inspiration, and made the canonicity of the books of the New Testament independent of their authorship. The Bible contained elements which were not only erroneous, but positively injurious; others which were only local and temporary; and still others which tended to moral improvement, or to real spiritual benefit. The last only was the Word of God. As the early Church had decided upon the books which should be regarded canonical, and as Luther had exercised his own judgment in the valuation of the individual books, so the Church of his (Semler's) day must judge which portions of the Bible it would admit into the canon.

The next important step was that of Eichhorn. Tradition being no longer the guiding principle of the critics, it became necessary to substitute such hypotheses as would account for the facts. Eichhorn supposed that the peculiarities of the three synoptical Gospels were capable of explanation on the hypothesis that they had for their groundwork an original Greek Gospel (Urevangelium). Gieseler (1818), on the other hand, proposed to explain all the facts on the supposition that the Gospel as preached by the different apostles became more or less stereotyped in their own and their hearers' memories, and, when reduced to writing by the different evangelists for different purposes, must come forth with just such similarities and divergences as these Gospels exhibit.

Schleiermacher sought, as early as 1811, to guide criticism into a new channel. He proposed to place the reader of to-day in the position of the original reader of the Gospels. In order to this, he discussed first the history of the canon and the text, and then the origin of the individual books. For this purpose a knowledge of the literature of the period, and of the class of readers for which it was intended, was necessary. His was the boldest judgment yet uttered concerning the genuineness of the various books of the Bible. He rejected as decidedly spurious the synoptical Gospels—which he held were composed subsequent to the Apostolic Age — 1 Timothy, 2 Peter, and Revelation; while of doubtful genuineness were Ephesians, 2 Timothy, James, and 2 and 3 John.

By this time the historical-critical method of Biblical investigation was fairly established; and distinguished services were rendered by De Wette, Credner, Volkmar, and Neudecker. In the defense of traditional views, Guericke, Olshauscn, and Neander wrote—the latter, however, making more concessions than the former two.

With the Tubingen school, whose founder was Ferdinand Christian Baur, New Testament criticism passed from its literary to its historical stage. Baur taught that the place of each New Testament document in the development of the history of primitive Christianity must be ascertained in order that criticism may fulfill its mission. Such an investigation would involve the question as to the circumstances which called forth the book, its purpose, and its doctrines. As he studied early Christianity, he thought he saw a profound conflict between the Christianity of Peter and that of Paul. This he thought was traceable through all the Christian literature of the first century, and far into the second. By it he proposed to explain the form which the old Catholic Church took in the second half of the second century. It was also the touchstone by which he tested the genuineness of all the New Testament books. The four letters—1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, and Galatians—were Pauline, and represented Paul's own views. The other books were all written with a tendency to bring out the unity which lay beneath the supposed Petrine and Pauline antagonisms. The single exception to this was the Apocalypse, which represented the anti-Pauline view. Strauss is perhaps better known in this country than Baur, and is generally regarded as belonging to the Tubingen school; but, as a matter of fact, he was far less profound than his preceptor, Baur, and scarcely held or promulgated any of the opinions peculiar to him. Strauss dealt rather with the life of Jesus than with the questions of Biblical criticisms, the trustworthiness of the record rather than the authorship of the documents. Strauss regarded the incidents related in the Gospels as "myths;" Baur supposed the Gospels to have been written for the purpose of aiding the harmonization of Pauline and Petrine Christianity. Strauss hurried into print, while Baur, his preceptor, was painstakingly studying the whole question. But the Tubingen school had many able champions, among whom were Zeller, Schwegler, and, for a time, Ritschl. Bruno Bauer will be mentioned under the latest criticism of the four principal Pauline epistles

We can not here mention the able arguments which the orthodox party brought to bear against the Tubingen school; but such men as Dietlein, Thiersch, Ebrard, and Lechler must at least find mention. So, from less orthodox sources, Bleek, Ewald, Meyer, Reuss, and Hase powerfully assisted in overcoming the new view. And even from within the school itself divisions arose. Hilgenfeld soon took an independent position. But especially was it Ritschl who broke the strength of the Tubingen school by proving that Baur had missed the real facts in the historical development of the old Catholic Church; that, except for a short time, there was no such conflict as Baur saw so prominent in the first two centuries; that Baur's assertion that to admit the reality of miracles is unhistorical, is incorrect; and that the only true method of judging Christianity is not to place it under a secular measuring-rod, but to estimate it from the religious standpoint. The principal living representatives of the Tubingen school are O. Pfleiderer and C. Holsten, although neither of them adheres strictly to Baur's views.

Weiss divides the theologians of to-day, so far as they have to do with New Testament questions, into the newer critical school and those whose tendencies are apologetic or defensive. Under the former he ranks Harnack, Weizsacker, Pfleiderer, Mangold, H. J. Holtzmann, Immer, Wittichen, Lipsius, Overbeck, Paul Schmidt, W. Bruckner, Seuffert, von Soden. Among the latter he mentions Beyschlag, Grimm, Klopper, Weiss (Bernhard), L,. Schulze, Hofmann, Th. Schott, Luthardt, Klostermann, Zahn, Grau. In fact, there is no classification better than this; although, especially in the latter, there are vast differences.

The newer critical school rejects Baur's theory of an opposition between a Petrine and a Pauline Christianity, and hence finds the true explanation of old Catholicism elsewhere; but it maintains many of the presumptive results of the Tubingen school, and is governed by its methods and presuppositions in a large measure. In addition to Paul's four principal epistles, they generally accept also Philemon, Philippians, and 1 Thessalonians; but, in contradiction to the Tubingen school, they reject the Apocalypse. They do not accept as belonging to the apostolic age the so-called catholic (general) epistles, nor Hebrews; reject the fourth Gospel most decidedly; and even deny that the apostle John ever lived in Asia Minor.

Among the apologists, the school of Hofmann, to which Luthardt, Zahn, and Grau belong, is distinguished by great conservatism in the criticism of the New Testament. This school is, in a large measure, influenced in its criticism by dogmatic considerations. It regards every book in the canon as absolutely necessary—the Scriptures as an organic whole; and holds to the doctrine of inspiration, not; so much of each book as of the canon as a whole. Beyschlag and Weiss, on the other hand, are much freer in their treatment of the canon and the individual books, and have no respect for dogmatic considerations in the conclusions they reach. Yet, compared with the critical school, they may be called conservative.

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