Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 13:1 (Spring 1992)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous


Book Reviews

Eta Linnemann. Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology?—Reflections of a Bultmannian turned Evangelical. Trans. Robert W. Yarbrough. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990. 169 pp.

In her “former life,” as she now calls it, Eta Linnemann was a student of Bultmann, Ebeling and Fuchs, some of the most renowned historical-critical theologians of her day. Later she taught in Marburg, Germany, and contributed to scholarship on Jesus’ parables and gospel studies from an historical-critical perspective (Jesus of the Parables: Introduction and Exposition, trans J. Sturdy [Scranton, PA: Harper & Row, 1967]). Then, through some of her students and a loving, gospel-preaching church family, Eta Linnemann turned from her “dead works,” as she learned to consider them, to Christ. Linnemann’s conversion led her to reevaluate radically her own work in the tradition of historical criticism. In her “Confessions,” or as her American publisher calls them, “Reflections,” Linnemann not only expresses deep repentance for her own historical-critical past, but also launches a vehement attack against historical criticism itself. She claims that, under the guise of scientific objectivity, historical criticism is an ideology rather than a mere methodology.

Linnemann’s assessment strongly differs from such positive standard evaluations of historical criticism as the one by Edgar Krenz (The Historical-Critical Method [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1975]). Krenz maintains that “It is a mistake to think that there is such a thing as a sacred method. A method does not have faith or unbelief; there are only believing or unbelieving interpreters” (p. 68). Is Eta Linnemann’s case a modern-day incident of a former idolator’s scruples to “eat meat sacrificed to idols?” Is historical criticism’s “demon” in the eye of the beholder, Eta Linnemann? Is hers a reaction against the use of historical-critical methodology as a tool of destruction? Or is her label of historical criticism as an “ideology” at least partially applicable when one considers the circumstances of its development? These were some of the questions in the mind of at least this reader as he sought to grapple with Linnemann’s very provocative book.

What makes this book so difficult to evaluate, is not only its cross-cultural flavor, but its mixture of polemic and educational policy proposals. After an emotional, autobiographical foreword, Linnemann takes up her attack with a chapter on the “anti-Christian roots of the university,” i.e., humanism. She argues that Christ, not man, is the center of creation, quoting Col 1:15–18. Linnemann charges the university with promoting a spirit of competition (p....

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