F. C. Baur on Historical Criticism


If historical-criticism has at all the task to search out everything as precisely as possible with regard to writings whose origin and character it investigates, it cannot be satisfied with merely their outward appearance, but must attempt also to penetrate their inner nature. It must inquire not merely about the circumstances of the time in general, but in particular about the writer's position with regard to these things, the interests and motives, the leading ideas of his literary activity. The greater the conceptual significance of a literary product, the more it should be assumed that it is based on an idea that determines the whole, and that the deeper consciousness of the time to which it belongs is reflected in it. Even with regard to the New Testament writings, therefore, historical criticism would not completely fulfill its task if it did not endeavor to investigate more precisely the conceptual character which they themselves bear, the concerns of the time under whose influence they originated, the direction they pursue, the basic perspective to which the particular subordinates itself if it did not make any attempt at all to penetrate as far as possible their inner nature, and likewise to peer into the creative conception of the thoughts in the mind of the writer from which these writings went forth.

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Copyright © Institute for Higher Critical Studies, 1996
Darrell J. Doughty
Institute for Higher Critical Studies
Drew University, Madison, NJ, 07940