Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 07:1 (Spring 1986)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous


Book Reviews

Old Testament Criticism in the Nineteenth Century: England and Germany, by John Rogerson. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985. xiii+320 pages. $29.95.

John Rogerson, head of the Department of Biblical Studies at Sheffield University, is a productive Old Testament scholar whose interests center on methodology and the history of its development. Thus in his 1974 work, Myth in Old Testament Interpretation (New York: de Gruyter), he produced a study of the use of the concept of “myth” in OT interpretation since the end of the 18th century. In Anthropology in the Old Testament (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1979) he explored some of the intriguing ideas raised by the recent application of anthropological models to difficult OT questions such as the nature of”tribe”. Now he has composed in this most recent [x)ok a valuable historical examination of developments in the study of the OT in England and Germany in the last century.

The aims of the present work are fourfold (here I paraphrase the author, pp. 1041):

(1) to present, as accurately as possible, a history of critical OT study in the 19th
century;

(2) to judge the works of individual scholars, whether supporting or resisting the “critical cause,” as fairly as possible based upon the circumstances in which each wrote (Rogerson admits that here he was hindered by a lack of biographical material);

(3) to explain how and why the critical method as developed in Germany was only
slowly and reluctantly accepted in England;

(4) to create a new self-awareness for present-day OT scholarship.

Although Rogerson is quite broad in his phrasing of the first aim, the reader quickly realizes that this work by no means attempts to deal with every development and nuance in critical methodology in the two countries during the stated period. Rather, by defining “critical method” as an approach which, guided by reason, refuses simply to take the witness of the OT prima facie, he focuses his narrative on the question of the history of Israelite religion and differing reconstructions of its development. This seems a justifiable way of cutting to the crux of matters, since so often the view a scholar takes of OT history leads to one or another theory of composition. Rogerson concentrates on those scholars who developed the “critical method” in significant directions, rather than concerning himself with multitudinous details involved with matters such as “fragmentary” or “supplementary” views of Pentateuchal authorship. His exposition is prosecuted according to a simple scheme: he selects those scholars who fit this criterion and summarizes their achievements, examining their most influentia...

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