Contributions From The History Of Religions To The New Testament. -- By: J. M. S. Baljon

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 065:257 (Jan 1908)
Article: Contributions From The History Of Religions To The New Testament.
Author: J. M. S. Baljon


Contributions From The History Of Religions To The New Testament.1

Dr. J. M. S. Baljon

The inquiry after the origin of things has always claimed in large measures the attention of serious and thoughtful minds. This proves the philosophical disposition of man. It will not do that we can describe and determine a phenomenon: we also want to know how it became what it is. We desire not only to know the river in its course and to picture the beautiful pasture-lands and valleys through which it flows, but we desire also to know its origin, the very place from which it comes. No atomistic view of history will pacify us, nor the simple description of persons and conditions alongside of and after one another, which is the history merely of most patent facts. We demand an organic, historic view. We want to understand the life of the nations,—the private, hidden, and social life. We want to interpret that life, among other things, from the life, the thought, and the labors of preceding generations. Our civilization must be interpreted from the factors which now make their influence felt, and also from

those of bygone ages. And, applied to religion, this means that, more than ever, the theologian directs his attention to the private, spiritual life of the people, which we call piety.

Does not theology root in the life of the people, and is it not the reflection of what there takes place? The historic view of the theologian has involuntarily come under the influence of the general historic view, and is daily under its power.

The two departments in which it is my honor to serve this University—New Testament Exegesis and Patristic Literature —might be classed as a separate rubric in the encyclopedia of Christian Theology, viz., under the so-called Literary Theology, but they sustain a sympathetic relation to Historic Theology. An exegete who understands his task does not rest content with questions of grammar and textual criticism, but strives to have an historical understanding of what he has read, and to grasp its historical background and temper. Thus life and animation are imparted to the material he handles. We who are exegetes and critics have also come under the influence of the general trend of our times and are bound to reckon with it. He who discerns the signs of the times knows that the spirit of the times is not favorably disposed to pure exegesis and critical studies. Since New Testament exegetes and critics have frequently seemed blind against the fact that, however interesting, as studies, textual criticism, exegesis, and introduction are, they never can be an end in themselves, but merely serve as preparatory steps to the higher...

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