Negative Criticism Of Destructive Critics -- By: Frederic Perry Noble
BSac 73:291 (July 1916) p. 396
Negative Criticism Of Destructive Critics
After study of the humanities at Amherst College I had theological studies during 1886–89 at Chicago Theological Seminary. There I became acquainted with Wellhausen’s hypothesis as to the origins of Hebrew literature and with the naturalistic theory of the evolution of Israel’s faith. I acquired no technical qualifications, such as those of theological experts or Old Testament specialists, for dealing with these problems. But for thirty years I kept in touch with scholars’ discussions and read the works of the radical and of the conservative school. Perhaps my experience and conclusions may prove helpful to others.
The daring and brilliancy of the radical criticism, the plausibleness of its processes, their seeming science, and the supposed success in removing stumbling blocks appealed to me. The reconstruction of the story of regal Rome by Niebuhr and his successors, the rewriting of oldest Hellenic history by Grote and his followers, the recovery of the lost history and culture of Chaldea, Egypt, and Persia, made it a reasonable presumption that the traditional reading of the origins of Israel and its literature and religion was susceptible of similar restatement. But I was aware of the experience that scholarship had had with Baur’s hypothesis as to the
BSac 73:291 (July 1916) p. 397
primitive church, and with Wolf’s theory as to the Iliad and the Odyssey. I remembered that neither had stood the test of time, and that the same fate might befall Wellhausen. I applied Aristotle’s principle to the radical reconstruction of Israel’s history. I held judgment in suspense. I decided to delay decision until more material for settling the problem of the Old Testament had accumulated, until time had tested the latest hypothesis, until external evidence and objective proof satisfactorily supplemented internal evidence and individual judgments by destructive critics.
About 1895, Hugh M. Scott, professor of history at Chicago Theological Seminary, publicly stated that Klostermann, of the University of Kiel, an advanced critic who ranks as high as Wellhausen, had confessed that the radical critics had been 5n the wrong track and had used an inadequate method. They had attacked their problem exclusively through literary analysis; whereas, in coping with, problems of such subtleness, magnitude, and complexity as those presented by the Old Testament, one method cannot suffice. I never forgot Klostermann’s confession. I clung to it as a clue through Ariadne’s maze of Hebrew literature. In addition, I had already studied comparative religion independently, publishing the results in
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