The Tübingen Historical School -- By: R. P. Dunn

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 019:73 (Jan 1862)
Article: The Tübingen Historical School
Author: R. P. Dunn


The Tübingen Historical School1

Rev. R. P. Dunn

The Tübingen School” is, strictly speaking, a historical rather than a theological school. Its representatives, Baur, Strauss, Keller, Schwegler, Köstlin, and Hilgenfeld, are indeed theologians, and have pursued such investigations as are usually left to theologians. Their peculiarity, however, consists in their dealing with their materials, not from a theological, but from a purely historical point of view. While not refusing the title of theologians, and claiming for themselves a place within the broad realm of Protestant theology, they boast that they alone exhibit the genuine Protestant spirit by their independent search for historical truth. They propose to carry on their inquiries, unbiassed by any peculiar doctrinal views; they found their dogmatic system on their scientific convictions, and refuse to interpret history according to any settled system of doctrine. They claim to have sought historical truth like any other kind of

truth, and to have applied the modern principles of historical science to the investigation of the history of the Christian church; especially to the study of its earliest history, its origin, its primitive character, and development, and to the examination of its oldest documents, our New Testament scriptures.

The origin of the Tübingen school belongs to the history of theology in Germany. It is the successsor of that school of rationalism which followed the dead and formal orthodoxy of the century after the Reformation. It was the aim of rationalism to harmonize the biblical history, and especially that contained in the gospels, with the decisions of human reason and the dictates of universal experience; in fact, by explaining away the supernatural element in it, to reduce it to the level of ordinary history. But it is an article of the faith of the church that the biblical narrative is not only genuine history, but a supernatural or miraculous history, recording events, many of which occurred out of the ordinary course of nature. Without seeking to invalidate the genuineness of the biblical narrative, rationalism, therefore, attempted to show that a true conception of it would find in the miracles only natural and perfectly intelligible events. To do this required no small skill, for the scriptures unquestionably ascribe them to supernatural agencies. The rationalistic interpreter, however, found ample resources for his purpose in the store-house of verbal interpretation. Neglect of the peculiar diction of the Old and the New Testament, unfamiliarity with oriental figures, it was asserted, alone leads men to accept the scripture narratives as...

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