Reviews - What do customers think about Historical Criticism and Theological Interpretation of Scripture?
A concise Introduction to Historical-Criticism Feb 15, 2008
In Stuhlmacher's 91 page introduction to Historical-Criticism, he makes a broad overview of the topic, which can be extremely helpful to aspiring young theological minds like me. His treatment of the subject is both simply-stated and unbiased, ultimately proving to be a book of solid investment for a Friday afternoon.
Stuhlmacher begins by briefly reviewing the hermeneutic approach in the past, starting from Jesus' messianic interpretation and fulfillment of the law, touching on Pauline interpretation and skimming over the relevancy of the cannon. He continues on through Origen, Tertullian, and Augustine, making several key points:
1. The early Christian interpretation primarily distinguished between the spirit of the Word to the letter of the Word, as opposed to the reformed view which distinguishes between the gospel and the law. 2. The Rule of Faith was an underpinning until the reformation - briefly the assumption that faith precedes understanding in scripture. 3. Scripture was primarily understood allegorically
The reformation was more than a turn theologically back to the roots of Christianity, but brought with it a new understanding of scripture; exegetical method, or a returning to the original intended meaning of the text. This ultimately emerged into historical-criticism.
Following the birth of HC, several key theologians played significant roles in defining and distinguish its uses:
1. Spener - Introduced the early stages of HC in what Stuhlmacher labels "pietism", which was basically a revival of the knowledge of biblical languages, and early attempts at scientific explanations of the history of the scriptures. 2. Semler - A chief enlightenment thinker who attempted to reexamine the bible using HC, apart from any clerical or revelation-based dimension. 3. Strauss - Struggled with the scientific dimension of HC and faith in the gospel, ultimately being expelled from his teaching post and setting up a new hermeneutical task for the next generation. 4. Baur - First to connect HC method with theological concerns of exegesis, linking them on a compound treatment of history. 5. Overbeck - Radical HC usage, breaking connection of theological exegesis. 6. Troeltsh - Liberal usage of HC, suggested a requirement of HC for all critical hypotheses regarding scripture. 7. Schlatter - Seemingly first to grasp concepts of HC: vital but problematic. 8. Barth and Bultmann - HC using hermeneutic of Christology, epitomized independence of the reformation as primarily individual salvation.
Stuhlmacher briefly touches on the Catholic understanding of HC, suggesting that only recently has study been advanced. The council of Trent's declaration of extra-ecclesiastical biblical interpretation and the use of HC was not encouraged, although some Catholics did use the method, such as Richard Simon.
The main two flaws of the historical-Critical method, poses Stuhlmacher, are:
1) The Dissociation between the "then" and the "now" of history, isolating both in functionality. 2) Its dependence on a rationalistic view of history.
In conclusion, Stuhlmacher suggests that "a way out of the dilemma" is given by several theologians, but specifically in Jungel, Mildenberger and Pannenberg. Like most scientific approaches to theology, the key to proper use of the HC method is refusing to reduce history, as is often the case. An awareness of the transcendence of reality, methodological verifiability, and an effective historical conscience ensure a proper, useful and correct view of this method of theological interpretation.
I recommend you read this book, it is quite simple, although thoroughly dense. The few problems I found were:
1) Stuhlmacher tends to love German theology to an extreme. 2) All the footnotes are in German! 3) The brief sketch seems only to touch the surface. Interestingly in a study of the historical-critical method were reductions are discouraged, there are a lot of summarizations.