RPM, Volume 18, Number 5, January 23 to January 30, 2016

Introduction to the New Testament

Part 5

By Louis Berkhof

Table of Contents:

The Gospels in General
The Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel of Mark
The Gospel of Luke
The Gospel of John
The Acts of the Apostles
The Epistles in General
The Epistles of Paul
The Epistle to the Romans
The First Epistle to the Corinthians
The Second Epistle to the Corinthians
The Epistle to the Galatians
The Epistle to the Ephesians
The Epistle to the Philippians
The Epistle to the Colossians
The First Epistle to the Thessalonians
The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians
The Pastoral Epistles
The First Epistle to Timothy
The Second Epistle to Timothy
The Epistle to Titus
The Epistle to Philemon
The Epistle to the Hebrews
The General Epistle of James
The First General Epistle of Peter
The Second General Epistle of Peter
The First General Epistle of John
The Second and Third General Epistles of John
The General Epistle of Jude
The Revelation of John

4. Encyclopaedic Place

There is little uniformity in Theological Encyclopaedias with respect to the proper place of this discipline. They all correctly place it among the Exegetical (Bibliological) group of Theological disciplinae, but its relation to the other studies of that group is a matter of dispute. The usual arrangement is that of Hagenbach, followed in our country by Schaff, Crooks and Hurst and Weidner, viz.: Biblical Philology, dealing with the words, and Biblical Archaeology, in its broadest sense, with the things of the Bible; Biblical Introduction, treating of the fortunes, and Biblical Criticism, supplying the test of Scripture; Biblical Hermeneutics, relating to the theory, and Biblical Exegesis, pertaining to the practice of interpretation. The order of Rabiger is unusual: Hermeneutics, Linguistics, Criticism, Antiquities, Biblical History, Isagogics, Exegesis, and Biblical theology. The disposition of Kuyper and Cave is preferable to either one of these. They place Introduction (Canonics) first, as pertaining to the formal side of Scripture as a book and then let the studies follow that have reference to the formal and material side of the contents of the Bible.

5. Historical Review.

Although the beginnings of New Testament Isagogics are already found in Origen, Dionysus and Eusebius; and in the time of the Reformation some attention was devoted to it by Paginus, Sixtus of Siene and Serarius among the Roman Catholics; by Walther of the Lutherans; and by the Reformed scholars, Rivetus and Heidegger;--Richard Simon is generally regarded as the father of this study. His works were epoch-making in this respect, though they had reference primarily to the language of the New Testament. He minimized the divine element in Scripture. Michaelis, who in his, Einleitung in die gottlichen Schriften des neuen Bundes, 1750, produced the first Introduction in the modern sense, though somewhat dependent on Simon, did not altogether share his rationalistic views. Yet in the succeeding editions of his work he gradually relaxed on the doctrine of inspiration, and attached no value to the Testimonium Spiritus Sancti.

The next significant contribution to the science was made by Semler in his, Abhandlung von freier Untersuchung des Kanons, 1771-75. He broke with the doctrine of inspiration and held that the Bible was not, but contained the Word of God, which could be discovered only by the inner light. All questions of authenticity and credibility had to be investigated voraussetzungslos. Eichhorn also departed decidedly from traditional views and was the first to fix attention on the Synoptic problem, for which he sought the solution in his Urevangelium, 1804-27. At the same time the Johannine problem was placed in the foreground by several scholars, especially by Bretschneider, 1820. An acute defender of the traditional views arose in the Roman Catholic scholar Hug. who fought the rationalistic critics with their own weapons.

Meanwhile the Mediating school made its appearance under the leadership of Schleiermacher. The critics belonging to that school sought a mean between the positions of Rationalism and the traditional views. They were naturally divided into two sections, the naturalistic wing, inclining towards the position of Semler and Eichhorn; and the evangelical wing, leaning decidedly toward traditionalism. Of the first class De Wette was the ablest exponent, though his work was disappointing as to positive results; while Credner, following in general the same line, emphasized the historical idea in the study of Introduction. The other wing was represented by Guericke, Olshausen and Neander.

The Tubingen school of New Testament criticism took its rise with F. C. Baur, 1792-1860 who applied the Hegelian principle o eve opment to the literature of the New Testament. According to him the origin of the New Testament, too, finds its explanation in the three-fold process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. There was action, reaction and compromise. Paul defended his position in the four great epistles (Romans, I and II Corinthians and Galatians), the only genuine productions of the apostle. This position is assailed by the Apocalypse, the sole work of John. And all the other writings of the New Testament were written by others than their reputed authors in the interest of reconciliation, the fourth Gospel and the first Epistle of John issuing in the blending of the different parties. Among the immediate followers of Baur we have especially Zeller, Schwegler and Kostlin. The further adherents of the school, such as Hilgenfeld, Hoisten and Davidson, modified the views of Baur considerably; while later German scholars, as Pfleiderer, Hausrath, Holtsmann, Weizsacker and Julicher, broke with the distinctive Tubingen theory and indulged independently in rationalistic criticism. The wildest offshoot of the Tubingen school was Bruno Bauer, who rejected even the four epistles regarded as genuine by F. C. Baur. He had no followers in Germany, but of late his views found support in the writings of the Dutch school of Pierson, Naber, Loman and Van Manen, and in the criticism of the Swiss scholar Steck.

Opposition to the radicalism of the Tubingen school became apparent in two directions. Some scholars, as Bleek, Ewald Reuss without intending a return to the traditional standpoint discarded the subjective element of the Tubingen theory, the Hegelian principle of thesis, antithesis and synthesis, in connection with the supposed second century struggle between Petrine and Pauline factions. Ritschl also broke away from the Tubingen tendency, but substituted an equally subjective principle of criticism by applying his favorite Werthurtheile to the authentication of the books of the Bible. He had, as he claimed, no interest in saving mere objective statements. What had for him the value of a divine revelation was regarded as authentic. Some of his most prominent followers are Harnack, Schurer and Wendt.

An evangelical reaction against the subjective Tubingen vagaries also made its appearance in Ebrard, Dietlein, Thiersch, Lechier and the school of Hofmann, who himself defended the genuineness of all the New Testament books. His disciples are Luthardt, Grau, Nosgen and Th. Zahn. The works of Beischlag and B. Weiss are also quite conservative. Moreover the writings of such men as Lightfoot, Westcott, Ellicott, Godet, Dods, Pullan e. a. maintain with great ability the traditional position respecting the books of the New Testament.

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