Some Thoughts on the Present-Day Situation in Biblical Theology -- By: Pieter A. Verhoef

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 33:1 (Nov 1970)
Article: Some Thoughts on the Present-Day Situation in Biblical Theology
Author: Pieter A. Verhoef


Some Thoughts on the Present-Day Situation in Biblical Theology

Pieter A. Verhoef

[This paper was delivered at the alumni-homecoming exercises at Westminster Theological Seminary on February 3, 1970.]

In this paper I have to confine myself to “Some Thoughts” on the present-day situation in Biblical Theology. A thorough discussion of all aspects of this vast subject would be both impossible and inappropriate; impossible because of the lack of time at my disposal and inappropriate because such an approach would necessarily be of a technical nature and not suitable for this occasion.

I rather want to share with you both a positive and a negative appraisal of the present-day situation concerning Biblical Theology. We have reason, to begin with, to be thankful for the reversals in the trends of Higher Criticism,1 especially for the revived interest in the revelatory character of the content of the Bible. On the other hand, there still remains much in the present-day situation that inevitably would cause us concern. The picture of the contemporary situation in Biblical Theology has for us both a bright and a dark side. It is our “present-day” concern to do justice to both sides!

The impetus for the revived interest in Old Testament theology is generally sought in two mutually unrelated factors. The one is the reaction by many scholars against the anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany and its vulgar discrediting of the Old Testament as a book of the Jews; and the second one is the emphasis laid by Karl Barth on the supernatural character of divine revelation over against the subjectivism of the nineteenth century.2

Scholars disagree on the issue as to who really started the rebirth of our discipline. According to Porteous3 and Payne,4 the first definite sign of reviving interest was given by the publication in 1922 of Edward König’s Theology of the Old Testament. According to Edmund Jacob,5 the new approach had its starting point in 1925, when, in an article entitled “Old Testament Theology and Old Testament History of Religion,” Steuernagel declares for the maintenance and respective autonomy of the two studies which had become almost totally confused. Other scholars insist that the new era commences with the famous article written in 1926 by Otto Eissfeldt entitled “Israelitic-Judaic History of Religion and Theology of the Old Testament.”6 In this article Eissfeld...

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