- A History of Biblical Interpretation Volume 3: The Enlightenment through the Nineteenth Century ed. by Alan J. Hauser and Duane F. Watson
A picture of Benedict Spinoza graces the jacket cover of this well-constructed history of the development of modern biblical studies. Hauser and Watson have compiled a wealth of articles by leading scholars that chronicle the march of the modern progressive investigation of scripture "freed in varying degrees from constraints imposed by rigid political and religious powers" (viii).
Chapter one is an introduction and overview containing summaries of all the subsequent articles. Chapters two and three cover the early Enlightenment, and an overview of historical criticism. Chapter four begins the general pattern of discussing individual scholars, in this case Spinoza. Subsequent chapters present Schleiermacher, F. C. Baur and the Tübingen School, Strauss and Feuerbach, De Wette, Graf, and Wellhausen. Chapters on subjects such as textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible, the text and lexicography of the New Testament, and the quest for the historical Jesus are included as well as the final two chapters on biblical interpretation in America. The coverage of the material is comprehensive, including mention of scholars (well-known and not) whose work either contributed to the advancement of higher criticism or who opposed or ignored it. Each chapter ends with a generous bibliography that enables the reader to delve more deeply into each subject. A list of contributors [End Page 211] (including Bill Arnold, William Baird, J.D.G. Dunn, Darrell Jodock, Carter Lindberg, and James Sanders), followed by an index of all authors cited (ancient, medieval, and modern), and an index of subjects and primary sources, complete the volume.
As an introduction to the history of biblical research in the modern age, this volume provides a wealth of information, presenting scholars and topics in an even-handed manner and supplying the reader with historical backgrounds and biographies. The outline of philosophical, political, and spiritual influences that affected these scholars, in addition to the impact previous scholars had on those who followed, is extremely helpful in assessing the value of their work. The volume is aimed at seminary students and those who wish to begin their exploration of the history of modern biblical interpretation.
One might wonder at the introductory overview since it summarizes each subsequent article meticulously. The result is that one can easily read the overview without bothering to read the articles. For instance, the section on the Enlightenment is seven pages in the overview, while the article itself is only fifteen pages. While the article is more readable, the summary is quite sufficient to supply the reader with pertinent information.
There is little criticism of the biblical critics. Schleiermacher receives some criticism for his view of the Old Testament, and the work of certain scholars, like F. C. Baur, was eclipsed by later research, but on the whole the volume describes the progression of modern biblical research. Those scholars whose work endures to this day are mentioned and how their efforts contribute to current research is discussed, but the volume contains no individual assessment of the scholars or an overall evaluation of their work.
In addition, except perhaps for Wellhausen's resignation from his position at Greifswald, little mention is made of how the modern study of scripture affected the Church and Synagogue at large. Though this is a history by the guild for the guild, one hoped that the final chapter would at least pull the book's articles together and render an analysis of how far and in what way biblical criticism had been a benefit or hindrance to those who value the Bible spiritually. Rather than a lengthy summary at the beginning, some analytical evaluation at the end would have been preferred. Nevertheless, this [End Page 212] is a valuable contribution to the history of modern biblical interpretation, especially for those wondering where to start.