OUTLINE OF NEW TESTAMENT STUDIES – UNIT 6
The following is my outline of the critical study of the New Testament based upon the following works: Werner Georg Kümmel, The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of Its Problems, William Baird, History of New Testament Research 3 volumes, Stephen Neill and Tom Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861-1986, and Scott McKnight and Grant Osborne, The Face of New Testament Studies: A Survey of Recent Research.
In spite of Pietism’s focus on faith and feelings, deism captured the European mind. Through the philosophy of Leibnitz (1646 – 1716) as popularized by Christian Wolff (1679 – 1754) and utilized by S.J. Baumgarten (1706 – 1757), a new wind was blowing towards Germany. Unlike the deists, who were not biblical scholars, there were emerging players in the field who applied the rationalism of deism to biblical studies.
The shift can be noted in the works of Jean-Alphonse Turretin (1671 – 1737). He tried to retain many of the elements of the traditional faith and, yet, embraced reason and natural theology. Hence, the Bible was authoritative but not necessarily accurate in its details. He rejected doctrinal exegesis, church imposed interpretations, and religious experience interpretations and advocated historical exegesis.
Johann Jakob Wettstein (1693 – 1754) was another Swiss scholar who focused on textual criticism. In his view, textual variants do not destroy the integrity and authority of the Bible but do erode verbal inspiration and infallibility. He focused heavily on patristic sources. He insisted that the Received Text should not be given any special status. He also argued that the older manuscripts and the majority of the manuscripts deserve to have the preferred readings. Through his work as a text critic many more variants were added to the critical apparatus.
Another scholar who was responsible for the shift was Johann August Ernesti (1707 – 1781). He took the middle ground by opposing pietistic subjectivism and extreme rationalism. He believed that divine providence had protected the transmission of Scripture but, even then, some minor errors had crept him. Using his expertise in the philological method, as the “German Cicero,” he attempted a study of the Bible as any of the classic. He reflected the tension between faith and method.
All three of the above-mentioned scholars represent the pre-critical world of biblical studies, where biblical scholars were trying to bridge the gap between the old ways in the new ways of studying the Bible.