Oswald T. Allis And The Question of Isaianic Authorship -- By: John Halsey Wood, Jr.

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 48:2 (Jun 2005)
Article: Oswald T. Allis And The Question of Isaianic Authorship
Author: John Halsey Wood, Jr.


Oswald T. Allis And The Question of Isaianic Authorship

John Halsey Wood, Jr.

John Halsey Wood, Jr. is a graduate student at Saint Louis University, 221 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63103.

The fundamentalist-modernist conflict in American churches has become a fashionable subject in scholarly studies of late.1 Several of these studies are concerned with the more visible social and doctrinal issues. This paper is an attempt to examine one of the less well-investigated issues of biblical interpretation that was debated in scholarly circles during the early twentieth century but that also filtered down to popular audiences through magazines and Bible study materials. The question of the authorship of the book of Isaiah became a virtual shibboleth on both sides of the fundamentalist-modernist conflict. Oswald Thompson Allis, professor of Semitic philology at Princeton Theological Seminary, editor of The Princeton Theological Review, and sometime professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, argued vigorously for single early authorship of the book of Isaiah, in the midst of increasingly overwhelming opposition. Here we will place O. T. Allis in his historical moment during an unsettled era in the life of the Presbyterian Church and consider his arguments for the "unity" of Isaiah as a contribution to the conservative cause in the church. Finally we will assess Allis's argument for the unity of Isaiah in the light of his other OT contributions to highlight some of his methodological inconsistencies and propose some reasons why Allis may have stopped short of significant conclusions that would have placed him closer to his opponents than he may have liked.

I. Oswald T. Allis And The Presbyterian Conflict

H. L. Mencken once described the fundamentalist scourge by saying, "They are everywhere where learning is too heavy a burden for mortal minds to carry, even the vague pathetic learning on tap in the little red school houses."2 Yet the genius of Princeton Theological Seminary's J. Gresham Machen attenuated even Mencken's contempt for the cultural and intellectual backwardness of the fundamentalists. Machen, however, was not the only "Doctor

Fundamentalis."3 Machen's contemporary, O. T. Allis, son of the distinguished Philadelphia physician Oscar Huntington Allis, matched Machen's academic work in depth and breadth. Before beginning his scholastic career, Allis obtained degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton University, and an e...

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