« Biblical History, Instruction in Biblical Introduction Biblical Theology »

Biblical Introduction


I. Old Testament.

Nature and Scope of the Discipline (§ 1).

Method of Treatment (§ 2).

History (§ 3).

To the Renaissance (§ 4).

The Reformation Period (§ 5).

The Seventeenth Century (§ 6).

The Eighteenth Century (§ 7).

The Nineteenth Century (§ 8).

II. New Testament.

1. History of the Discipline.

To the Reformation (§ 1).

The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (§ 2).

Michaelis (§ 3).

Semler, Schmidt, and Others (§ 4).

Baur (§ 5).

Later Work (§ 6).

2. The Conception and the Task.

History of New Testament Scriptures (§ 1).

History of the Canon (§ 2).

Textual Criticism and Versions (§ 3).

I. Old Testament.

1. Nature and Scope of the Discipline.

The science of Old Testament Introduction, like that of Biblical Introduction in general, has developed from indefinite beginnings, and has not yet won the assured and universally recognized form which most other theological disciplines have assumed. The name eisagōgē was used in the fifth century by the Syro-Greek monk Adrian, the terms introductorii libri and introductores in the sixth by Cassiodorus. But these terms carried the meaning of a general and instructive direction how to read the Bible, a guide to its correct understanding, an exposition of the correct principles of exegesis. A complete understanding of the Bible involves, however, a number of auxiliary sciences—linguistics, exegesis, history of literature, general history, archeology, geography, Biblical theology, etc., all useful in obtaining a right apprehension of Scripture. But so large a conception of the science was not reached all at once. It was J. G. Carpzov who first appreciated the comprehensive nature of the discipline and defined it as the precise setting forth of those matters a knowledge of which prepares the approach to the reading of the sacred books. Similarly DeWette understood by Introduction 179 all knowledge which contributed to the intelligent reading of the Bible, and which set it forth as a whole and in its parts in relation to history. Keil regarded it as an exposition of those matters the understanding of which prepares for a fruitful reading of Scripture, by which he understands only a history of the text, of the origin of the individual writings, the story of the rise of the canon, and of the general conception of Scripture. A new start was made by H. Hupfeld, who held that Introduction sought to discover what were the writings embraced in the Bible and how they had come to be what they are. In other words, what is sought are the extent and original character of the writings, and a knowledge of the vicissitudes through which they have passed in attaining their present form, unity, worth, and effectiveness. But care is needed in following such a formulation lest one make of Old Testament Introduction simply a history of Hebrew literature, a mistake made by Reuss, who included in his work the letter of Aristeas and the writings of Philo. The first consideration of this science must be its service to theology; its principal concern is with the books of the canon held by the Jews of Palestine, and only secondarily with the circle of writings derived from Hellenistic sources. Care must also be taken not to limit the task of Introduction so as to take away its freedom and to bind it in effect to the pronouncements of tradition as to authorship. On the other hand, Introduction is not what Riehm would make it, the literary-historical characterization of the Bible as the authentification of a divine revelation. It has its own functions to perform in the service of theological science, and its usefulness must not be diminished by setting it at tasks which it may not undertake. Its work is a preparation for that of exegesis and for that of Biblical theology. As Reuss has well expressed the fact, the science of Introduction is not the house itself, but is the set of calculations and estimates necessary for the actual processes of building.

2. Method of Treatment.

From the preceding it follows that the articulation of this discipline in the general science of theology is fixed. In the arrangement and handling of its subject-matter it demands and requires great freedom; on the other hand, certain lines are laid down along which it must operate. Thus, while the origin of the separate writings and the story of their transmission (history of the text) are its concern, it is a matter of choice whether consideration of the individual writings precede or follow consideration of their collection into a canon. Not unimportant is the question of method of investigating the individual writings. Thus, the chronological order certainly lies near to hand, as in the treatment by Wildeboer and Kautzsch; yet, illuminating as this method is, weighty considerations may be urged for another way of proceeding. If one is disposed to emphasize the theological character of the discipline, concentrating his attention upon the writings received into the canon, the chronological, historical-literary order assumes a complexion of incompleteness, since only a small part of Hebrew literature found place in the canon and that part was not composed with the object of being gathered into a collection. By a simpler grouping the advantage is gained of awakening no expectations which are doomed to disappointment. Then, too, there are practical difficulties attending such a method. Over the origin of most Old Testament writings rests a darkness not yet dispelled and probably never wholly to be banished. Moreover, many of the writings, such as the historical books, are complex in origin, and refer to preceding compositions of which too little is known to admit of their being taken into a history of the literature. These same books also bear traces of being transmitted and worked over by hands the methods of operation of which are altogether uncertain. This historical method consequently leads frequently into a cul-de-sac. It is, therefore, not without reason that many have adopted the literary-historical method, following the grouping of the canon so far as to consider the historical books by themselves, the Prophets in another section, and so on, while the three departments of Introduction are history of the canon, of the separate books, and of the text. Whether a history of exegesis is to be included in this branch of study is debatable. For the history of the Bible in a narrower sense it is not important; yet in itself and its relationship it has such value that there is some justification for including in Introduction what properly belongs in hermeneutics.

3. History.

The history of this science shows in all its phases the same marked trait; viz., that the Church, which would fair remain in restful and thankful enjoyment of the Scriptures as handed down, has been compelled by outside pressure to take up the problems of the origins of those Scriptures and either to modify or discard the traditions regarding them. In the earliest times this pressure came partly from Jewish sources, later from linguistic science and philosophy, and later still from the Roman Catholic Church, which sought to undermine the Protestant principle. Only the salient points of the development of Introduction can be here given.

4. To the Renaissance.

The beginnings are found in the treatment of the canon in the prologue to Ecclesiasticus, in Josephus and the Talmud, and in the controversy between the Jews and some of the Church Fathers respecting the Palestinian and the Alexandrian canon. This led up to the text-critical labors of Origen. The next name is that of Jerome, about whose time began work on Introduction, but with the limits is treatment already referred to above, by Adrian and Casaiodorus, the latter of whom dealt briefly with the history of the text and of the canon. A slight advance was made in the work of Junilius Africanus (about 550) called Instituta regularia divinæ legis. This classified the books according to their contents as history, prophecy, proverbs, and simple teaching, and according to their degree of authority as perfect, medium, or of no authority; it distinguished also between poetical and prose writings. In this 180connection must be mentioned Augustine's De doctrina Christiana, which treated of the extent of the canon and of the use of translations. The Church of the Middle Ages was content with the work done by Cassiodorus, Augustine, and Junilius. But among the Jews there were the stirrings of a more vigorous life, exemplified in the investigations of Ibn Ezra in the region of special introduction.

5. The Reformation Period.

By the revival of learning the Christians were made familiar with the results of Jewish investigations which were soon to lead to the enrichment of isagogical science. The interest in the Hebrew language grew into a wider concern for Oriental philology, which had a fertile field in the translations of the Old Testament, soon to become of use in the department of text-criticism. The earliest fruits ripened among the Roman Catholics in the work of a convert from Judaism, Sixtus of Sienna (d. 1599), the Bibliotheca sancta, which distinguished between protocanonical and deuterocanonical writings, and which dealt also with matters of special introduction. The Reformers did not enter this field, though the exegetical works of Calvin contain materials for special introduction, and Luther necessarily had to do with the extent of the canon. Important was the work of Carlstadt, De canonicis scripturis (1520), in which he showed the superiority of the Jewish canon and made the canonicity of a Biblical writing depend not upon the authorship but upon its relation to that canon. The period immediately following the Reformation produced nothing notable. A. Rivetus (d. 1662) represents the standpoint of the age in his definition of Scripture as that which proceeds from God as the special author, who not only impelled (the scribe) to write and gave the thoughts, but even suggested the order and the words.

6. The Seventeenth Century.

Out of this dogmatic quiet the theologians were shaken by the newer criticism, which began in the realm of the text. The Reformer Cappellus undertook investigations which showed that the traditional text was not altogether trustworthy, and he was followed by the Catholics Morinus and Richard Simon (d, 1712). The latter's Histoire critique was epoch-making in that it employed the literary-historical method, and showed that the Pentateuch could not be wholly the work of Moses and that other historical books had been worked over. Simon had been preceded by Hobbes, whose Leviathan had used the method of internal testimony, and Spinoza, whose Tractatus theologico-politicus had advanced a number of positions which were to be established later. Simon's book awakened much opposition and was suppressed, only to be reproduced in a Protestant land (Rotterdam, 1685). The ideas of Simon were further established in Protestant regions by the work of Johannes Clericus, though the tendencies of Protestantism were conservative, and its supporters came later to hope that the learning of Carpzov would establish firmly the truth of the traditional views.

7. The Eighteenth Century.

In the second half of the eighteenth century new doors were opened to Biblical criticism, especially by the researches of Semler. At that time the attitude of criticism toward the Old Testament was unfriendly; it treated the collection from the historical standpoint only, but insisted upon understanding the times in which the writings originated. Of religion little was discovered in the Old Testament. Herder came to the help of the defenders of the Bible with his discovery of the poetry it contained, and this newer light was intensified in the work of Eichhorn, which outshone all the works of his predecessors and contemporaries. Special interest attaches to the researches of Eichhorn in general introduction, while the work of special introduction gained from his treatment of the books as constituting a Hebrew national literature. Yet permanent results were lacking from that period, excepting only the discovery by Astruc which forecast the documentary analysis of the Pentateuch.

8. The Nineteenth Century.

A new era was opened by De Wette, who combined the literary with the historical method. Ewald carried the process on, not indeed in a work on Introduction, but in exegetical researches in which he employed it, using along with it a sympathetic appreciation rather than a rigid logic. Meanwhile the Pentateuchal problem was pushing to the front in the works of Vatke and Reuss, to receive its most advanced consideration from Wellhausen and Kuenen. The side of the defense had meanwhile not been inactive, as the works of Hengstenberg, Hävernick, and Keil abundantly prove, all of which contributed something toward the solution of the problems discussed. Between the two extremes represented by the men named come others who approach one or the other tendency, but the general characteristic of their labor is to bring into accord the assured results of criticism and the faith of the Church in revelation. The most notable example of this kind of work is Driver's Introduction. But the final solution of the problems raised by the science of Introduction will come not from that discipline but from the other branches of theology which build upon it.

(F. Buhl.)

II. New Testament.

1. History of the Discipline.

1. To the Reformation.

The employment of the term "Introduction" with its present connotation in connection with the New Testament dates in modern times from Michaelis. But as in the case of the Old Testament, beginnings had been made long before. Besides the men mentioned above (I, § 4) as working in this department, Tyconius and Eucherius of Lyons attempted to supply the needed information about the origin, occasion, purpose, and history of the New Testament writings. The antagonism to the apocryphal books and heretical parties such as the Marcionites with their variant canon and the Montanists with their new prophecy enhanced in the second and third centuries the Church's valuation of the Christian books which had come to it from the apostolic age. The Muratorian Canon employed a legendary report of 181the origin of the Gospels, not to explain individual peculiarities, but to establish the dogmatic unimportance of variations in the Gospel narratives. Similarly, the church practice of using in service the private letters of Paul as well as the public letters and of excluding the spurious ones from use was established. The vacillation of the Church in reference to such writings as the Apocalypse of Peter and the Sheperd of Herman, the Marcionitic criticism of the canon of the Gospels and of the Pauline epistles, the opposition of the Alogi to the Johannine writings as being the production of a heretic of the apostolic age, the writings of Melitus and Hippolytus about the Fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse—all these suggest the way in which the need for a kind of Introduction made itself felt in even those early times. So a beginning was made in the writing of Dionysius on the Apocalypse, while the sentiments and traditions of the different Churches began to take systematic form in the writings of Origen. Eusebius used considerable space in his works in setting forth the varied views and early testimonies concerning the New Testament books. Jerome followed in the steps of Eusebius, but without contributing much that was new in this particular line of investigation. The doctrinal contests of the fourth and succeeding centuries turned the channel of investigation away from the history of the canon, and for a considerable time there appeared only reproductions of the early opinions about the New Testament books in the prefaces to the commentaries or summaries and synopses which came into being and which gave a general view of the arrangement, contents, and origin of the New Testament writings.

2. The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.

The silence of the Middle Ages gave place during the Reformation to the utterances of the Catholic scholars Sanctes Pagninus of Lucca (d. 1541), Sixtus of Sienna (d. 1599), and A. Rivetus, who wrote an Isagoge sive introductio to both the Old and New Testaments (Leyden, 1627). These works contained much information in this department, along with dogmatic discussions concerning inspiration and the relations of Scripture and tradition. Richard Simon published (at Rotterdam) his three works upon the critical history of the New Testament (Histoire critique du texte, 1689, des versions, 1690, and des principaux commentateurs, 1693, du Nouveau Testament), and thus won his place as the father of New Testament Introduction. By "critique" he understood the investigations for the establishment of the original text; and, by his history from the sources, he impugned not only the Protestant claim of "a witness of the Spirit," but also the scholastic treatment, which, resting upon imperfect acquaintance with antiquity, could not prove that Christianity was a religion based on facts and that the Bible was the record of those facts. In the effort to establish the New Testament text, he traversed a large part of the province of Introduction.

3. Michaelis.

The next name is Johann David Michaelis, who wrote the Einleitung in die göttlichen Schriften des Neuen Bundes (Göttingen, 1750). He disclaimed dependency upon Simon, and yet his work was really, in its first shape, based upon Simon. With each succeeding edition it was greatly improved; but, even in the fourth and last edition (1788), its standpoint was a strongly rational supernaturalism. The differences to be noted between the editions are mainly that his attacks on the "doubters" became milder, and that he gave up the inspiration of the historical books, denied also the inspiration of the non-apostolic books (among which he reckoned apparently the Epistle to the Hebrews), and declared that the "inner witness of the Spirit" was of as little worth as the witness of the Church in proof of the inspiration of any book.

4. Semler, Schmidt, and Others.

Johann Salomo Semler made the next contribution of importance (in his Abhandlung von freier Untersuchung des Kanons, 4 parts, Halle, 1771–75), when he distinguished between the word of God, which contained the doctrines of directly spiritual value, and the Holy Scriptures, which contained them only sporadically. There is, however, no historical proof that any particular passage was the word of God; the inner witness for the truth was the only source of proof. The Church had the right, exercised by the ancient Church and by the Reformers, to say what books should constitute the canon. It can not be said that Introduction was influenced permanently by Semler; the greater impulse was given by Michaelis, who was followed by J. E. C. Schmidt (1804), Eichhorn (1804–14), Hug (1808), Berthold (1812), and De Wette (1826), while in England Horne (1818) had included in his work the domains of Biblical geography and antiquities, which were excluded by the Germans. Schmidt applied the phrase "historico-critical"—since so widely used—to his Introduction; Eichhorn started his fruitful "original Gospel" theory; Hug, in an unexcelled manner, investigated the relations of the synoptists. Schleiermacher (1811) called attention to the need of a reconstruction of this branch of study, declaring that its object was a history of the New Testament, so that its present readers might be, in their knowledge of the origin of the books and their text, on a level with the first. Credner (1832 sqq.) projected a fairly complete scheme for a treatment of the subject, embracing the history of the science of Introduction, history of the origin of the New Testament Scriptures, history of the canon, of translations, of the text, and of interpretation. This scheme he was not permitted to carry out, though his posthumous publications completed the history of the canon. Reuss followed Credner's lead in the Geschichte der heiligen Schriften des Neuen Testaments (Brunswick, 1842), while Hupfeld made a contribution in his Begriff und Methode der . . . biblischen Einleitung (Marburg, 1844).

5. Baur.

Ferdinand Christian Baur (d. 1860) has had by far the most influence upon New Testament studies of any man of modern times. He attempted nothing less than a reconstruction of all apostolic 182and postapostolic history and literature, from the four Pauline epistles (Galatians, I and II Corinthians, and Romans) which alone he considered genuine. Starting with the idea that the difference between Paul and the rest of the apostles was fundamental, he declared that those New Testament writings which either put the relations of the apostles in a more favorable light or seemed to ignore their differences altogether were either forgeries or the products of a later time. But his historical considerations were derived from Hegel's philosophy, and his criticism rested upon dogmatic convictions. New discoveries of vital importance in the field of church history and patristics and the recovery of the Codex Sinaiticus and of parts of Tatian's Diatessaron from Ephraem's commentary have given a new basis for a historical discussion of the New Testament and its origin and contents. It is the irony of history upon Baur's methods that the modern Dutch school have used Baur's methods to discredit the four "genuine" epistles. These four points may be made against Baur: (1) He reasoned in a circle; for he examined critically, first the sources of the history, and then the history of the sources. The reasoning which reduced the genuine Pauline epistles to four reduces the four to none; so that Paul is robbed of his title to have produced any writing which lasted. (2) Baur certainly was extraordinarily familiar with the old Christian literature; but he read it with prejudice, and not with a desire to learn anything different from his preconceptions. (3) He was lacking in the sense of the concrete and the value of the individual, and therefore could not grasp complicated relations and their results. (4) If it is self-evident that one must understand what he criticizes, and that his criticism must rest upon thorough exegesis, then Baur surely was unfitted for his labor; for he was weak as an exegete and his school has done little in exegesis.

6. Later Work.

It may, however, be added that the deficiencies in Baur's method of work were supplied by others. B. F. Westcott's General Survey of the History of the Canon (London, 1855 and often), E. Reuss's Histoire du canon (Strasburg, 1863), A. Hilgenfeld's Kanon und die Kritik des Neuen Testaments (Halle, 1863), T. Zahn's Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons (2 vols., Leipsic, 1888–92), and A. Loisy's Histoire du canon du Nouveau Testament (Paris, 1891) are productions of this character. Such works as W. M. Ramsay's Church in the Roman Empire (London, 1893) have served also as correctives of much of the work which has been accomplished in Germany. The studies of F. Bleek (6th ed., 1893; Eng. transl. of 2d Germ. ed., 1869), Hilgenfeld (1875), Holtzmann (1892), Salmon (1894), S. Davidson (1894), Godet (1893–99; Eng, transl. 1894–99), Zahn (1900), and Jülicher (1901; Eng. transl, 1904), and of the Roman Catholics Trenkle (1897) and Schäfer (1898) in Introduction are important contributions to the science.

2. The Conception and the Task.

1. History of the New Testament Scriptures.

In order to obtain an adequate comprehension of the books which together make up the New Testament as witnesses for a historical movement and to secure for them safe utilization as historic sources, there is required a scientific investigation of their origin. That is, there must be inquiry into the time in which, the circumstances under which, the purpose for which, and the personal relations of the persons by whom they were produced. In other words, the method of research is literary-historical. Whether this can be called a science is debatable, since criticism is the art of distinguishing the genuine from the spurious. But if it be granted that an examination from a historical standpoint of the writings of the New Testament and an adequate exposition of the history of their origin is really scientific, it is none the less a fact that the process has a theological character. For the fact that this literature is Greek and sprang up in the Roman world does not do away with the other fact that it originated in certain communities which had in certain vital respects their existence apart from the world about them. The religious element marks it off from the other productions of the time, and the history of this literature is one aide of the history of the Church. If Christianity depends upon the historic reality of a revelation mediated by Christ and authoritatively expounded by the apostles, it is no unimportant result that it can reach historical foundations for the early productions. And those foundations are found in the writings brought together in the New Testament. The supereminent value in this respect of these writings is sufficient justification for considering them apart. But the investigation must not start from a dogmatic conception of what the canon is. The ground fact is that even from the second century this collection has existed in the Church and has been accepted as the one legitimate source for the history of the revelation made through Christ. But if it should appear that there are in the New Testament writings which in general character and in origin separate themselves widely from the rest of the New Testament Scriptures, or if there were outside that collection writings which affiliate themselves with the New Testament Scriptures, Introduction can not content itself with disregarding those facts. It is hardly likely, however, that such discoveries will be made as will compel a radical departure from the accepted procedure, that there will come to light such writings as are referred to in Luke i, 1 sqq., or the correspondence of Paul with the Corinthians implied in I Cor. v, 9; vii, 1. Even such discoveries as those last mentioned would not be likely materially to change accepted results, and the business of the discipline would still be with the New Testament Scriptures.

2. History of the Canon.

Along with the history of the separate writings which make up the New Testament goes as a second part the history of the combination of these into the canon in which they have been transmitted to the present time. It is of importance to examine and exhibit the historical antecedents and developments which compassed the formation of this collection, the 183irregularity and vacillation which existed during several centuries, and the adjustment which produced a final and universally accepted result.

The examination of the origins of the individual writings and that of the origin of the collection supplement each other. The one brings to light the common spirit which animated the individual writers, the other reveals the influence which those writers exercised over the churches. And it is noteworthy that the collection was begun almost, if not quite, before the latest writers had finished their work, so that no appreciable interval of time separated the two operations of writing and of collection. And so, notwithstanding the different areas in which these two processes work, they belong together as sections of the one discipline of the literary history of the New Testament.

3. Textual Criticism and Versions.

As to the inclusion of other departments in this branch of study, usage differs. Some have included therein not only the history of the text and of translations, but also the history of the theological handling of the same. But, strictly speaking, neither the story of the vicissitudes of transmission nor the history of translations belongs here. If with Credner and Reuss the history of translations is put as a part of the history of the propagation of the New Testament, its proper place is in the history of missions. So far as the versions assist in the recovery of the original text, the treatment of them belongs in a guide to the exercise of text-criticism or in the prolegomena to editions of the New Testament. To be sure, the history of the earlier text and that of the old versions have importance for the history of the canon because of the fact that not so much individual books as the entire collection or at least great parts of the collection were copied and translated. Were greater certainty than is yet the case attainable concerning the Syriac and the Latin versions, great gains would be made in the history of the canon of the New Testament. But it must be remembered that not all branches which contribute to results in any given line of research are to be included in the department of science in which they are used.

(T. Zahn.)

Bibliography: On the general introduction to the whole Bible consult: C. A. Briggs, Study of Holy Scripture, New York, 1899 (the best book for a comprehensive survey); G. T. Ladd, Doctrine of Sacred Scripture, ib. 1883 (full but dry); E. Rapin, Les Livres de l’Ancien et du Nouveau Testament, Moudon, 1890; A. Schlatter, Einleitung in die Bibel, Stuttgart, 1894 (conservative).

On the Canon of the O. T. it is sufficient to mention: A. Kuenen, Historisch-kritisch onderzoek naar het onstaan en de verzameling van de boeken des Ouden Verbonds, 3 vols., Leyden, 1885–93 (the fullest discussion); F. Buhl, Kanon und Text des Alten Testaments, Leipsic, 1891, Eng. transl., Edinburgh, 1892 (a model); H. E. Ryle, Canon and Text of the O. T., London, 1892 (reliable, indispensable); G. Wildeboer, Het Onstaan van den kanon des Ouden Verbonds, Groningen, 1889; Eng. transl., London, 1885 (all students should have it); E. Kautzsch, Abriss der Geschichte des alttestamentlichen Schrifttums, in his Heilige Schrift des A. T., Freiburg, 1896, Eng. transl., Outline of the Hist. of the Literature of the O. T., New York, 1899 (fresh and interesting).

On O. T. Introduction the one indispensable book is Driver, Introduction, latest impression, London, 1897. Consult also J. P. P. Martin, Introduction à la critique générale de l’A. T., 3 vols., Paris, 1888–89; A. F. Kirkpatrick, The Divine Library of the O. T., London, 1892 (conservative); S. Davidson, Introduction to the O. T., 3 vols., ib. 1894 (the antithesis of Kirkpatrick); H. L. Strack, Einleitung in das A. T., Munich, 1898; W. H. Green, General Introduction to the O. T., 2 vols., New York, 1898–99 (the extreme in conservatism); W. R. Smith, O. T. in Jewish Church, Edinburgh, 1902; C. H. Cornill, Einleitung in das A. T., Freiburg, 1905, Eng. transl., 1907; J. E. McFadyen, Introduction to the O. T., New York, 1905; K. Budde, Geschichte der althebräischen Litteratur, Leipsic, 1906; C. L. Gautier, Introduction à l’A. T., 2 vols., Lausanne, 1906.

On the N. T. the works have been sufficiently indicated in the text, though worthy of mention are A. Loisy, Histoire du Canon du N. T., Paris, 1891; Biblical Introduction; N. T., by W. Adeney, London, 1899; B. W. Bacon, Introduction to N. T., New York, 1900; H. von Soden, Urchristliche Literatur-Geschichte, i, Die Schriften des N. T., Berlin, 1905, Eng. transl., 1905.

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