Saturday, September 12, 2009

The rise and fall of historical criticism

I am really enjoying and learning a lot from reading Walter Brueggemann's Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, and Advocacy, which I have mentioned in a couple of previous posts. In the first chapter he discusses how Old Testament scholarship in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was largely shaped by ideas from Bacon (science), DesCartes (rationalism), Locke (empiricism), and Hegel (history). On the latter he says (page 12):
history had acquired a very different dimension and significance from all previous understandings. First, history had taken on a positivistic character, so that events came to be regarded as completely decipherable, to the exclusion of any inscrutable density. This change entailed that events have a simple, discernible, unambigious meaning from which all mystery can be squeezed out. Second, in the nineteenth century the idea of history as development came to be crucial, so that events came to be seen as progressively arranged in sequence. Events without inscrutable density but with progressive sequencing leave nothing for theology to do. And so history could and did become an autonomous enteriprise, without reference to any larger or coded significance.
He credits Barth's publication of Der Romerbrief in 1919 with the recovery of Theological Interpretation of not just the New Testament, but also the Old.

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