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OTHER RATIONALISTIC METHODS.
ly a fiction, in which the author, a disciple of Paul, represents Peter as the first to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, and exhibits Paul as conforming to divers Jewish customs, thus securing a rec'onciliation between the Pauline and Petrine Christians." Renan, on the other hand, maintains a legendary theory of the origin of the gospels, and attributes the miracles of Jesus, like the marvels of mediæval saints, partly to the blind adoration and enthusiasm of his followers, and partly to pious fraud. Schenkel essays to make the life and character of Christ intelligible by stripping it of the divine and the miraculous, and presenting him as a mere man.
Against all these rationalistic theories it is obvious to remark that they exclude and destroy each other. Strauss exploded the naturalistic method of Paulus, and Baur shows that the mythical theory of Strauss is untenable. Renan pronounces against the theories of Baur, and exposes the glaring fallacy of making the Petrine and Pauline factions account for the origin of the New Testament books, and the books account for the factions. Renan's own methods of criticism appear to be utterly lawless, and his light and captious remarks have led many of his readers to feel that he is destitute of any serious or sacred convictions, and that he would readily make use of furtive means to gain his end. He is continually foisting into the Scriptures meanings of his own, and making the writers say what was probably never in their thoughts. He assumes, for instance, as a teaching of Jesus, that the rich man was sent to Hades because he was rich, and Lazarus was glorified because he was a pauper. Many of his interpretations are based upon the most unwarrantable assumptions, and are unworthy of any serious attempt at refutation. The logical issue lies far back of his exegesis, in the fundamental questions of a personal God and an overruling providence.
The development of speculative philosophy through Kant, Jacobi, Herbart, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel has exerted a pro- Exegesis confound influence upon the critical minds of Germany, and trolled by spechas affected the exegetical style and methods of many ophy. of the great biblical scholars of the nineteenth century. This philosophy has tended to make the German mind intensely subjective, and has led not a few theologians to view both history and doctrines in relation to some preconceived theory rather than in their practical bearings on human life. Thus, the critical methods of Reuss, Kuenen, and Wellhausen, in their treatment of Old Testament litera
1 Several notions of the Tübingen critical school, represented by Baur, may be found in substance among the teachings of Semler, the author of this destructive species of criticism.
ture, seem based, not so much on a candid examination of all the contents of the sacred books of Israel, as upon the application of a philosophy of human history to the books. A dispassionate study of the works of these critics begets a conviction that the detailed arguments, by which they aim to support their positions, are not the real steps of the process by which their conclusions were first reached. The various assaults upon the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch have been noticeably a succession of adjustments. One critical theory has given place to another, as in the assaults on the credibility of the gospels, and the methods employed are largely of the nature of special pleading to maintain a preconceived theory. Reuss tells us in the Preface of his great work on the History of the Jewish Scriptures that his point of view is not that of biblical history, but one inferred from a comparison of the legal codes, and, beginning with an “intuition,” he aimed “to find the Ariadne thread which would lead out of the labyrinth of current hypotheses of the origin of the Mosaic and other Old Testament books into the light of a psychologically intelligible course of development for the Israelitish people. His procedure is, accordingly, an ingenious attempt to make his philosophy of history in general account for the records of Israel's history, and, so far from interpreting the written records according to legitimate principles, he rearranges them according to his own fancy, and virtually constructs a new history conspicuously inconsistent with the obvious import of the ancient records.
Sceptical and rationalistic assualts upon the Scriptures have called Apologetic
out a method of interpretation which may be called and Dogmatic Apologetic. It assumes to defend at all hazards the aumethods.
thenticity, genuineness, and credibility of every document incorporated in the sacred canon, and its standpoint and methods are so akin to that of the Dogmatic exposition of the Bible that we present the two together. The objectionable feature of these methods is that they virtually set out with the ostensible purpose of maintaining a preconceived hypothesis. The hypothesis may be right, but the procedure is always liable to mislead. It presents the constant temptation to find desired meanings in words, and ignore the scope and general purpose of the writer. There are cases where it is well to assume an hypothesis, and to use it as a means of investigation; but in all such cases the hypothesis is only assumed tentatively, not affirmed dogmatically. In the exposition of the Bible, apology and dogma have a legitimate place. The true apology defends the sacred books against an unreasonable and cap
1 Die Geschichte der heiligen Schriften des Alten Testament, p. viii. Braunschweig, 1881.
tious criticism, and presents their claims to be regarded as the reve. lation of God. But this can be done only by pursuing rational methods, and by the use of a convincing logic. So also the Scriptures are profitable for dogma, but the dogma must be shown to be a legitimate teaching of the Scripture, not a traditional idea attached to the Scripture. The extermination of the Canaanites, the immolation of Jephthah's daughter, the polygamy of the Old Testament saints, and their complicity with slavery, are capable of rational explanation, and, in that sense, of a valid apology. The true apologist will not attempt to justify the cruelties of the ancient wars, or hold that Israel had a legal right to Canaan; he will not seek to evade the obvious import of language, and maintain that Jephthah's daughter was not offered at all, but became a Jew. ish nun; nor will he find it necessary to defend the Old Testament practice of polygamy, or of slavery. He will let facts and statements stand in their own light, but guard against false infererces, and rash conclusions. So also the doctrines of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the personality of the Holy Spirit, the vicarious atonement, justification, regeneration, sanctification, and the resurrection, have a firm foundation in the Scriptures; but how unscientific and objectionable many of the methods by which these and other doctrines have been maintained! When a theologian assumes the standpoint of an ecclesiastical creed, and thence proceeds, with a polemic air, to search for single texts of Scripture favourable to himself or unfavourable to his opponent, he is more than likely to overdo the matter. His creed may be as true as the Bible itself, but his method is reprehensible. Witness the disputes of Luther and Zwingle over the matter of consubstantiation. Read the polemic literature of the Antinomian, the Calvinistic, and the Sacramentarian controversies. The whole Bible is ransacked and treated as if it were an atomical collection of dogmatic proof-texts. How hard is it, even at this day, for the polemic divine to concede the spuriousness of 1 John V, 7. It should be remembered that no apology is sound, and no doctrine sure, which rests upon uncritical methods, or proceeds upon dogmatical assumptions. Such procedures are not exposition, but imposition. Moreover, the habit of treating the views of others with contempt, or of declaring what this passage must mean, and what that cannot possibly signify, is not adapted to command the confidence of students who think for themselves. Hengstenberg and Ewald represented two opposite extremes of opinion, but the imperious and offensive dogmatism of their writings has detracted largely from the influence of their otherwise invaluable contributions to biblical literature.
In distinction from all the above-mentioned methods of interpre.
tation, we may name the Grammatico-Historical as the GrammaticoHistorical In- method which most fully commends itself to the judg. terpretation.
ment and conscience of Christian scholars. Its fundamental principle is to gather from the Scriptures themselves the precise meaning which the writers intended to convey. It applies to the sacred books the same principles, the same grammatical process and exercise of common sense and reason, which we apply to other books. The grammatico-historical exegete, furnished with suitable qualifications, intellectual, educational, and moral,' will accept the claims of the Bible without prejudice or adverse prepossession, and, with no ambition to prove them true or false, will investigate the language and import of each book with fearless independence. He will master the language of the writer, the particular dialect which he used, and his peculiar style and manner of expression. He will inquire into the circumstances under which he wrote, the manners and customs of his age, and the purpose or ob. ject which he had in view. He has a right to assume that no sensible author will be knowingly inconsistent with himself, or seek to bewilder and mislead his readers.
*Compare pp. 23-30 on the Qualifications of an Interpreter.
THERE are certain general principles of thought and language which underlie all intelligible writings. When one rational
General princimind desires to communicate thought to another it em- ples defined. ploys such conventional means of intercourse as are supposed to be understood by both. Words of defined meaning and usage serve this purpose in all the languages of men, and accordingly, if one understand the written thoughts of another, he must know the meaning and usage of his words. It is the province of interpretation to observe the methods and laws of human thought as exhibited in the ordinary processes of speech. “The perfect understanding of a discourse," says Schleiermacher, “is a work of art, and involves the need of an art-doctrine, which we designate by the term Hermeneutics. Such an art-doctrine has existence only in so far as the precepts admitted form a system resting upon principles which are immediately evident from the nature of thought and language."
In general, therefore, we hold that the Bible, as a body of literature, is to be interpreted like all other books. The writers of the several parts and those who assume to terpreted like explain what is written are alike supposed to be in accord with the logical operations of the human mind. The first work of the interpreter is accordingly philological. He should know the primary signification of each word, the manner of its usage, and the peculiar shades of meaning it may have acquired. With the study of words he must also unite a knowledge of the genius and grammatical structure of the language employed, for thus only can one come into possession of the precise thoughts of an author, and judge of their adaptation to impress the first readers. The main object of an author in writing is also to be diligently sought, for in the light of his chief purpose the details of his composition are often more
1 Outline of the Study of Theology, p. 142. Edinb., 1850.
Bible to be in