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The Evolution of New Testament Criticism and the Consequent Outlook for to-Day

The Evolution of New Testament Criticism and the Consequent Outlook for to-Day

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Excerpt from The Evolution of New Testament Criticism and the Consequent Outlook for to-Day: Inaugural Address October 5, 1892

One of Germany's noted theologians, for more than a generation professor at one of her noted universities, has said concerning the present biblical criticism: "We have had too many experiences in this respect, have seen too many hypotheses come and go to be worried at the criticism that is abroad to-day. Who knows what grave-diggers already stand at the door? We older ones had experience in Baur's criticism of the New Testament, and some of us took an active part in opposing it. Where is that criticism now? How startling was Strauss in his day. But who is there now that has not abandoned the theory that the life of Jesus consists in myths.- How many in Germany, even in scientific circles, compromised themselves by their attitude toward Renan's life of Christ.- But who now speaks seriously of the French romance?" I have referred to Dr. Luthardt's words as an apology for what must seem, as I make it, a very commonplace remark, and that is, that there is progress in history in spite of the revolutions which seem to mark its way. There is constant movement and advance, although action and reaction seem to be so largely at work. All history is so. For all history is one. One God is behind it. One man is within it. It is the one life that embraces all living. So, whether we take up the history of races or religions, of churches or creeds, of systems of doctrine or organizations of work, we find in each a development, although by alternations. We may expect to find it, then, in the history of New Testament criticism. Advance, progress, development, in spite of action and reaction underneath it all. And if we so find it, our finding will have a very valuable lesson for us to-day. I am perfectly aware, however, commonplace as this statement is, that it goes for nothing unless there be at hand the historic proof that it is true, - which brings us to what I propose as our theme for this evening, - The evolution of New Testament criticism and the consequent outlook for to-day.

New Testament criticism is mostly made to begin with the Reformation age. I venture to say that so to begin it is wrong. It is to be admitted, of course, that the great work of criticism has been done since the Reformation time.

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