« AnteriorContinuar »
SOME LEADERS OF THOUGHT.
Joharinés Müller. The patience with which the German world of scholars hears whatever anyone has to say finds a good illustration in the attention given to the theories of Müller concerning the origin of the personal Christianity of the Pauline congregations. Müller endeavors to strike out a new path of research, avoiding such externalities as religious doctrines, institutions, and ceremonies, and confining himself to the essence of primitive Christianity, that to the processes by which the soul becomes Christian. He claims that until this task is accomplished the real origin of Christianity cannot be understood. In the attempt to describe this inner process he makes the Gospel the exciting cause. The missionary proclamation of the Gospel preceded, as he thinks, the later instruction in doctrine. Yet the Gospel, as Paul conceived and proclaimed it for missionary purposes, was not, he holds, the content of the divine message, but the proclamation of facts, and especially the divine purpose to save man and the divine demand of obedience on the part of man. Just here he becomes so murky in his thought that it is impossible to see what he is aiming at. For he includes in the list of facts what everyone else calls the doctrines of God as the living God, in contradistinction from the idols; the universal sinfulness of men, as well as individual guilt; Jesus as the Christ and as the Son; the central event of his death and resurrection in our behalf; the divine rulership of Jesus; the requirement of the obedience of faith, and of repentance; the offer of reconciliation, pardon, and salvation; and the return of Jesus to judgment. It is true, Müller thinks that Paul's manner of preaching was to avoid the intellectual aspect of these “ facts,” but still they are in several instances incapable of being distinguished from doctrines, and even those “facts” which can be so distinguished could not have produced their designed effect had they not been presented first of all to the intellect. He thinks the result of the preaching was that the hearers were filled with an instinctive certainty full of joy, enthusiasm, and even of passionateness. The individual hearer submitted himself to the divine authority and grace, and yielded all his claims to earthly honors. The teaching came later. Paul does, indeed, profess to preach wisdom only to those that are perfect; but his sermons as reported show a far more intellectual character than Müller gives them.
O. F. Nösgen. It is a general relief from the monotony of Old Testament criticism among the Germans to find here and there one who, like Nösgen, believes in the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch. Still, even he admits the documentary hypothesis; only it was Moses, not a later writer, who united the documents into one. His great argument in favor of the Mosaic authorship is the alleged testimony of Jesus on the subject. To his mind theology and history are bound to heed this testimony. He affirms that whoever believes that the Spirit dwelt in Jesus without measure must admit the inner harmony of the books of Moses with those of the prophets, and must grant the truly prophetical character of the Pentateuchal law. Nösgen declares that the New Testament treats-the general and particular facts of the Pentateuch as adapted to the furtherance of the knowledge of the way of salvation and to the strengthening of faith. He further asserts that the judgment which Jesus expressed as to the law, the history, and origin of the Pentateuch was in the highest sense the product of the immeasurable fullness of the Spirit possessed by Jesus, and hence assures us of the fundamental authority of the Pentateuch for the knowledge of the whole process of divine revelation. We think Nösgen right in saying that both theology and history must take note of the testimony of Jesus relative to the authorship of the Pentateuch, though, as far as history is concerned, no notice can be taken of the presence of the Spirit in Christ. History does not ask why a man knows, but whether he knows. The intelligence of Jesus was great on all matters pertaining to the divine life in man. The uprightness of his character would forbid his speaking on a theme with which he did not believe himself acquainted. As a consequence, if the language of Jesus relative to the Mosaic authorship and historical significance of the Pentateuch may be justly construed as an expression of his belief in the same, then all who believe in the absolute integrity of Jesus must attach great weight to what he says, and to all such it will probably be decisive. The mere historian ought not to complain of this, for professedly he seeks all sources of information. His only way out is to deny that Jesus meant to express himself on the point at issue, or else to deny that he had the knowledge requisite to an authoritative opinion. Passing by the latter alternative, which has an ugly look, it must be said that those who deny that Jesus meant to express bimself thereby destroy the force of the appeal to Jesus. For, as soon as it is questioned with any show of reason whether Jesus meant to express his opinion, his alleged testimony is shaken, not by belittling him, but by the more courteous process of interpretation.
RECENT THEOLOGICAL LITERATURE.
Skizzen und Vorarbeiten (Sketches and Studies). By J. Wellhausen. Berlin, G. Reimer, 1899. Wellhausen manages to keep the theological world busy. In his Israelitish and Jewish History, published a few years ago, he raised a question concerning the term “Son of man which has since been much discussed. All thoughtful students have
felt the difficulties connected with the term, and it has been thought that by going back to the Aramaic equivalent a solution might be found. The final outcome, however, has been that the investigators have cut the Gordian knot by declaring the tradition false which makes Jesus call himself “the Son of man.” For a time Wellhausen could not bring himself to this conclusion, but in bis Sketches and Studies here noticed he announces himself as a convert. The argument which drove him to this position is as follows: “Barnascha,” the Aramaic equivalent for the Greek phrase translated “Son of man," means “the man." This expression is, however, so general that it could hardly have been bestowed as a designation of the Messiah. It is scarcely as significant as an unemphatic “I.” Hence, if Jesus really employed this term to designate himself, he must have made it emphatic; that is, he must have meant to place the emphasis on the article “the," thus giving the term a peculiar significance. But as Jesus was neither a Greek philosopher nor a modern humanist it is scarcely possible that he employed so abstract and philosophical a term in speaking of himself. Hence the tradition which places this term in his mouth is unreliable. This argument Wellhausen undertakes to fortify by a special examination of the passages containing the term. It must be said that he has had a hard task to establish his view, if, indeed, we can speak of its being established, though we do not admit that it is. The matter is of importance only so far as certain prin. ciples of criticism are involved. How does Wellhausen proceed ? Surely it is a great stretch of critical acumen to be able to say how an original thinker like Jesus would designate himself. We do not agree that the Aramaic equivalent determines the question. The Greek is not “the man,” but “the Son of man.” It may be impossible to decide just why Jesus saw fit to call himself thus; but our ignorance of his reasons cannot possibly warrant us in rejecting the tradition which is so well established. We recommend, though we fear in vain, a greater modesty among our critics.
Le Sacerdoce Lévitique dans la loi et dans l'histoire des Hébreux (The Levitical Priesthood in the Law and History of the Hebrews). By A. van Hoonacker. Louvain, J. B. Istas, 1899. Here we have the somewhat unusual combination of a Dutch thinker writing a really valuable conservative work in the French language. His book is divided into five sections, and gives us a relatively full treatment of the subject indicated by the title. The first section deals with the priesthood in the priestly code; the second, with priests and Levites; the third, with the hereditary character of the priesthood among the Hebrews; the fourth, with the high priests; and the fifth, with the support provided for the tribe of Levi. Van Hoonacker holds that the statements in the Chronicles relative to the preexilian priesthood are not a reflection of the situation in postexilian times, and that the descriptions in Chronicles correspond well with the accounts we have in preexilian writings; and he also claims that the preexilian writings were incomplete and needed the additions given us in the Chronicles. He comes to the conclusion that Chronicles has for its source early documents, which the author used directly or indirectly; that Chronicles gives us a true account of the preexilian priesthood, more correct, indeed, than we could derive from preexilian writings known to us; that Deuteronomy brings out only partially, and not without modifying them, the regulations concerning the priests; and that it was expected by the Deuteronomist that his work should be supplemented by the priestly code. Van Hoonacker really overlooks nothing which could contribute to his positions, and he certainly must be credited with a great deal of ingenuity. By a method of comparison which is peculiar to himself he proceeds from step to step until he leaves the impression that he is in fact master of the situation. It is impossible to fairly estimate his work in so short a space. But this much must be said, that he has prepared a thorny road for those critics who take the position so generally held nowadays, according to which the later writings, such as Chronicles, have very little historical worth, particularly when dealing with the early priesthood. The book is one of the strongest of its class.
Reich Gottes und Menschensohn im Buche Daniel (The Kingdom of God and the Son of Man in the Book of Daniel). By Julius Boehmer. Leipzig, A. Deichert, 1898. The purpose of this work is to discover, if possible, the fundamental idea of the book of Daniel, which, Boehmer thinks, was written by a scribe who had a revelation from God to man, about the time of Antiochus IV. In order to get at this fundamental idea he investigates the concepts “kingdom of God” and “Son of man ” as they are found in the prophecy. In the first part of his work Boehmer shows that, however it might have appeared, the universal kingdom could not possibly be given to the heathen because of their en. mity to the true God. In the latter part of his book he maintains that only through the Son of man, who had up to that time been kept in the heavenly background, was Israel predestined to become the worldruler and to realize an eternal kingdom of God on earth. Thus he denies the contrast between the world empire and the kingdom of God on earth. God gives the rulership of the world to Nebuchadnezzar and to many others in succession, but permanently to no one until he establishes an indestructible, eternal kingdom through the Son of man. But, in order to bring in this eternal kingdom, it was necessary that Israel should come into possession of the rulership of the world. How this could be brought about is the subject of the discussion in the latter part of the book. Boehmer holds that the first part of Daniel, though plainly intimating the privileges of Israel, gives the special prominence to the beathen monarchies. In the first six chapters the fact of the kingdom of God is, however, made prominent. In the second part of Daniel the future of Israel and the complete salvation take the foremost place. It gives the time, place, and manner of the kingdom of God. The seventh chapter of Daniel is regarded by Boehmer as the center of the entire book. The thought of the chapter, according to him, is that the royal supremacy of God, which up to that time had been manifested, though imperfectly, in the form of a heathen world empire, would now be given to Israel. After a day of judgment, which was soon to follow, the glory of Israel would be revealed in a world supremacy of eternal duration. Chapters viii-xii he takes as describing the preparation for this supremacy within Israel, through a fearful struggle, which, however, Israel would survive. According to Boehmer, the Son of man is an individual. On the whole, this is one of the freshest treatises on Daniel written from the standpoint of modern criticism. It may be truly designated as a constructive and reverent study of Daniel.
RELIGIOUS AND EDUCATIONAL
Progress of Protestantism in Italy. The work of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Italy is well known. It would be a mistake to suppose, however, that from America alone proceed the influences which tend to weaken Romanism in its native land. Since 1826 there has been an evangelical Church in Florence, composed mostly of French and German Swiss, though with a mixture of Germans from Germany proper. The regular services have been conducted in the French language, but services have also been held in German. The French, being in the majority, have been able to check the growth of the Germanizing sentiment; but recently, by going a little too far, they have prompted the Germans to organize a congregation of their own and to call a pastor. The result will be two centers of Protestant influence in Florence where formerly there was one. The great difficulty under which the Germans labor in their evangelical work in Italy is lack of funds. Nevertheless, at a conference of German Italian pastors held in May last, favorable reports were given with reference to the work of their churches, schools, and other similar institutions. So successful is the work of Protestantism, as carried on by different nationalities, especially in Rome, Naples, and Florence, that his holiness, Leo XIII, has vented his wrath upon it. He asserts that the result of the work in Rome has been to lower the whole tone of public morals, especially with reference to charity. It is incredible that this is earnestly meant. Rather is it an appeal to the prejudice of the masses. He also asserts that Protestant places of Worship, boys' and girls' schools, and other educational institutions are constantly becoming more offensive to the faith of the Italians and to the consciences of the majority. One is reminded by such language of the words, “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?"