The History Of The Religion Of Israel And Its Newer Representation -- By: Eduard Friedrich Konig

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 069:275 (Jul 1912)
Article: The History Of The Religion Of Israel And Its Newer Representation
Author: Eduard Friedrich Konig


The History Of The Religion Of Israel And Its Newer Representation1

Eduard Friedrich Konig, M.D.

1. It is an open secret that the newer interpreters of the history of the religion of Israel who join the Wellhausen side base their views essentially upon the work of Wilhelm Vatke. The chief representative of this school says so himself; for he says at the end of the preface of his “Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels” (2d ed., p. 14): “My conclusions are very nearly like those of Vatke, of whom I confess to have learned the most and best.” With this he refers to Vatke’s first main work, called “Biblische Theologie wissenschaftlich dargestellt.” But this work was written by Vatke on the basis of Hegel’s philosophy. This he admits just as readily as did his friend David Friedrich Strauss, who issued his “Leben Jesu” in the same year. Vatke even emphasizes his Hegelian standpoint in not a few places. For instance, he writes on page 591: “The historical course of the religion of the Old Testament comes to light as the outcome of the whole movement. If the tradition of the Hebrews gave the real course of the history of this people and its religion, we should find ourselves face to face with an enigma to which we can find absolutely no analogy; we should have the culmination at the beginning.”

There is, however, an unscientific exaggeration in these

words; for, even if the historical tradition of the Israelites is taken, as it appears after critical research, it will by no means say that the culmination of the historical course was at the beginning. For this historical tradition also recognizes a development of the religious conceptions of Israel; for instance, in regard to the names of God and his attributes, and in regard to the legislation and the prophecies.

But should the historical tradition of Israel really show the culmination at the beginning, we would have to say, in the second place, that the historian ought to acknowledge this. For, refusing to do so, Vatke proved that he did not know the real method of historical research. He did not try to find the history in its sources, but to evolve it out of philosophical discussions. Like his teacher Hegel, Vatke conceived all history, especially the history of religion, under the point of view of constant evolution; and, according to this, his view had to rise from thesis to antithesis, and by suppression of these contraries to a new stage. So Vatke’s view of the course of history was, by principle, evolutionary. Wellhausen, then, has learned “the most and the best” from a man who knew beforehand, according to his philosophical ideas, the rhythm ...

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