The Scientific Study Of The Old Testament -- By: Harold M. Wiener

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 068:270 (Apr 1911)
Article: The Scientific Study Of The Old Testament
Author: Harold M. Wiener

The Scientific Study Of The Old Testament

Harold M. Wiener, M.A.

In September, 1909, Professor Kittel delivered six lectures to elementary school teachers at the request of the Saxon Ministry of Public Worship and Education.

“The reasons which induced the Government to make such a proposal need hardly be explained. The question of religious instruction in the schools, particularly in the elementary schools, had become a burning one all over Germany. We, in the Kingdom of Saxony, are reorganizing our elementary school system. The almost unanimous demand of the teaching profession for some time past has been, that religious instruction should ‘harmonise with the authentic results of scientific research.’ The Government, to meet this demand, could not do better than to invite the recognised advocates of the scientific research in question to declare the existence and extent of such results. On account of its importance to religious instruction in the elementary schools, Biblical research naturally claimed the first consideration.”

So writes Professor Kittel in the preface (dated November, 1909) to the published lectures. These have now been translated into English and appear as a volume of the Crown Theological Library.1

The official character which the book thus possesses makes it desirable to deal with it at somewhat greater length than would otherwise be necessary.

What is an authentic result of Old Testament research? That is the first question that suggests itself, and it is also the first question that the professor seeks to answer. And here attention must be drawn to the fact that he really puts forward two entirely contradictory answers — the theoretical and the practical. When it comes to suggesting an answer to the question Dr. Kittel is at no loss; but when it comes to translating his theories into practice we find that an authentic result becomes one which Dr. Kittel with his limitations happens to believe, and it does not matter to him if other professors of equal authority believe something entirely different. It thus happens that the contents of the book are very mixed. Many portions of it are deserving of high praise, but others are extremely weak, and it cannot be said that it would be safe to put it without grave warning into the hands of those who have no other means of knowledge. To illustrate: —

On pages 32 f. we read: “Further, we can show it to be highly probable that, before and during Moses’ time, justice was administered in Canaan upon the basis of the Codex Hammurabi, for how otherwise does the narrator of Abraham’s history assum...

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