The Philosophy And Theology Of Leading Old Testament Critics -- By: Albert C. Knudson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 069:273 (Jan 1912)
Article: The Philosophy And Theology Of Leading Old Testament Critics
Author: Albert C. Knudson


The Philosophy And Theology Of Leading Old Testament Critics

Albert C. Knudson

It is frequently asserted that many of the conclusions to which modern biblical critics have come, are due to an unchristian philosophy rather than to the logic of facts; but this assertion is seldom accompanied by any attempt at proof. It will, therefore, be a matter of interest to inquire into the history of biblical criticism, with the view of determining how far, if at all, this charge is justified. The present study will confine itself to the Old Testament.

In the history of Old Testament criticism, there are eight names of preeminent significance: Benedict Spinoza (1632— 77), Richard Simon (1638–1712), Johann Gottfried Eichhorn (1752–1827), Martin Leberecht De Wette (1780–1849), Hein-rich Ewald (1803–75), Wilhelm Vatke (1806–82), Abraham Kuenen (1828–91), and Julius Wellhausen (1844- ). There are, to be sure, other Old Testament scholars of note who, in some regards, would be worthy to rank with any of these. But these eight, in my opinion, mark more clearly than any others the chief stages in the development of Old Testament criticism.

To Spinoza belongs the distinction of having -first outlined the program of modern biblical study. He clearly formulated the principles of a strictly grammatical and historical treatment of the Old Testament, and in several matters of detail anticipated, in a remarkable way, the conclusions of later scholarship.

Simon was the first to write a critical history of the Old Testament as literature. He devoted his attention, however, chiefly to the history of the Text and the Versions. It is, therefore, a question whether he is entitled to be called, as he sometimes is, the father of Old Testament introduction. There is, also, not much that is new in the matter that he presents. But the genuine historical spirit which pervades the work, and the method which he introduced into the treatment of the subject, were new, and mark an epoch in biblical study.

Eichhorn, who was the first to apply the name “higher criticism “to the analysis of the biblical books into their earlier and later elements, was also the first to write a comprehensive introduction to the Old Testament from this point of view. For this reason, he is often spoken of as the founder of Old Testament criticism. While not the author of the documentary hypothesis with reference to the structure of the Pentateuch, it was he who first gave it general currency.

De Wette was the first clearly to see and point out the serious difficulties involved in the traditional view of the course of Israel’s history. That history, he contended, could not be reconciled wit...

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