John Owen And The Traditional Protestant View Of The Hebrew Old Testament -- By: Russell T. Fuller

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 20:4 (Winter 2016)
Article: John Owen And The Traditional Protestant View Of The Hebrew Old Testament
Author: Russell T. Fuller


John Owen And The Traditional Protestant View Of The Hebrew Old Testament

Russell T. Fuller

Russell T. Fuller is Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He earned his PhD in the Old Testament from Hebrew Union University. Dr. Fuller is the author of numerous articles and An Invitation to Biblical Hebrew (Kregel, 2006) and the forthcoming An Invitation to Biblical Hebrew Syntax: An Intermediate Grammar (Kregel, 2017). Before his appointment in 1998 at Southern Seminary, he was assistant professor of Bible and Bible languages at Mid-Continent College and interim pastor in Ohio and Kentucky.

In 1948, John Bowman wrote an article for the Evangelical Quarterly entitled, “A Forgotten Controversy.”1 The controversy concerned the doctrine of Scripture, at first between Protestants and Catholics, then between Protestants, Cappellus and the Buxdorfs, father and son, and later, between John Owen and Brian Walton. It is forgotten today because the traditional Protestant view of Scripture has been discarded, completely by critical scholars and partially by evangelical scholars. Charles Briggs, writing in the late 1800’s, triumphantly stated that the traditional Protestant view is now universally abandoned.2

It is not difficult to see why. John Owen and his Protestant allies erred in particulars, such as: the Hebrew vowel points and accent marks as written predate the Masoretes, at least to the time of Ezra if not Moses; that the Rabbis and Jerome also thought the vowel points and accent marks as written went back to Ezra or Moses; Hebrew always used the Aramaic script, never the

older script; Hebrew is the oldest language, the language that God spoke to Adam. Moreover, Owen and others often used a strident tone, further alienating his opponents, then and now. History has not been kind to John Owen and his fellow Protestants.

But even forgotten controversies deserve another hearing from time to time. Owen and his colleagues were brilliant linguists as well as master theologians. That alone suggests the need for another look. Although they stumbled in details, Owen and his colleagues were correct on the core issues: the preservation of the Scriptures, the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, and the dangers of a textual criticism that creates its own text.

A Brief Overview Of The Controversy And The Traditional Protestant Consensus

One of the distinctive doctrines of the Reformation was its teaching on Scripture. Protestants taught th...

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