The name Introduction or Isagogics (from the Greek eisagoge) did not always denote what it does today. As it is used by the monk Adrianus (circa 440) and by Cassiodorus (circa 570), it designates a conglomeration of rhetorical archaeological, geographical and historical matter such as might be helpful in the interpretation of Scripture. In course of time the connotation of the word changed. Michaelis (1750) was the first one to employ it in something like its present sense, when he entitled his work, devoted to the literary historical questions of the New Testament, Einleitung in die gottlichen Schriften des neuen Bundes. The study of Introduction was gradually limited to an investigation of the origin, the composition, the history, and the significance of the Bible as a whole (General Introduction), or of its separate books (Special Introduction). But as a designation of this discipline the name Introduction did not meet with general approval. It was pointed out -- and correctly so -- that the name is too comprehensive, since there are other disciplinae that introduce to the study of the Bible; and that it does not express the essential character of the discipline, but only one of its practical uses.
Several attempts have been made to supply a name that is more in harmony with the central contents and the unifying principle of this study. But opinions differed as to the essential character of the discipline. Some scholars, as Reuss, Credner and Hupfeld, emphasizing its historical nature, would designate it by a name something like that already employed by Richard Simon in 1678, when he styled his work, "Critical History of the Old Testament. Thus Hupfeld says: "Der eigentliche und allein richtige Name der Wissenschaft in ihrem heutigen Sinn ist demnach Geschichte der heiligen Schrif ten Alten und Neuen Testaments." Begriff und Methode des sogenannten biblischen Finleitung p.12. Reuss arranged his work entirely on this principle. It was objected however, by several scholars that a history of the Biblical literature is now, and perhaps for all time an impossibility and that such a treatment necessarily leads to a co-ordination of the canonical and the apocryphal books. And this is just what we find in the History of Reuss. Hence the great majority of New Testament scholars, as Bleek, Weiss, Davidson, Holtzmann, Julicher, Zahn e.a. prefer to retain the old name, either with or without the qualification, "historical-critical."
Another and important stricture on the name suggested by Hupfeld, is that it loses sight of the theological character of this discipline. Holtzmann correctly says: "Als Glied des Organismus der theologischen Wissenschaften ist die biblische Einleitung allerdings nur vom Begriffe des Kanons aus zu begreif en, nur in ihm findet sie ihre innere Einheit, "Historisch-critische Finleitung in das Neue Testament p.11. This special consideration also leads Kuyper to prefer the name Special Canonics. Encyclopaedie der Heilige Godgeleerdheid III p.22 ff. Ideally this name is probably the best; it is certainly better than the others, but for practical reasons it seems preferable to abide by the generally recognized name Introduction. There is no serious objection to this, if we but remember its deficiency, and bear in mind that verba valent usu.
What is the proper function of this discipline? According to De Wette it must answer the questions: "Was ist die Bibel, und wie ist sie geworden was sie ist ?" Hupfeld objects to the first question that it has no place in a historical inquiry; hence he would change it a little and state the problem as follows: "Was waren die unter den Namen des Bibel vereinigten Schriften ursprunglich, und wie sind sie geworden was sie jetzt sind ?" Begriff u. Meth. p.13. It is now generally understood and admitted that the study must investigate the questions of the authorship, the composition, the history, the purpose and the canonicity of the different books of the Bible.
A difference of opinion becomes apparent, however, as soon as we ask, whether the investigation should be limited to the canonical books or should include the Apocrypha as well. The answer to that question will necessarily depend on ones standpoint. They who regard Introduction as a purely historical study of Hebrew and Old Christian literature, will hold with Raibiger and Reuss that the apocryphal books must also receive due consideration. On the other hand, they who desire to maintain the theological character of this discipline and believe that it finds its unity in the idea of the canon, will exclude the Apocrypha from the investigation.
A similar difference obtains with reference to the question, whether it is only the human or also the divine side of the canonical books that should be the object of study. It is perfectly obvious that, if the discipline be regarded as a purely historical one, the divine factor that operated in the composition of the books of the Bible and that gives them their permanent canonical significance, cannot come in consideration. The Word of God must then be treated like all purely human compositions. This is the stand taken by nearly all writers on Introduction, and Hupfeld believes that even so it is possible to maintain the theological character of the discipline. Begriff u. Meth. p.17. It appears to us, however, that this is impossible, and with Kuyper we hold that we should not only study the human, but should also have regard to the divine side of the Biblical books, notably to their inspiration and canonical significance.
Lastly the conception of the final aim of this study also varies. Many scholars are of the opinion that it is the final purpose of Introduction to determine in a historico-critical way what part of the Biblical writings are credible and therefore really constitute the Word of God. Human reason is placed as an arbiter over the divine Revelation. This, of course, cannot be the position of those who believe that the Bible is the Word of God. This belief is our starting point and not our goal in the study of Introduction. Thus we begin with a theological postulate, and our aim is to set forth the true character of Scripture, in order to explain, why the Church universal honors it as the Word of God; to strengthen the faith of believers; and to vindicate the claims of the canonical books over against the assaults of Rationalism.
To define: Introduction is that Bibliological discipline that investigates the origin, composition, history and purpose of the Scriptural writings, on their human side; and their inspiration and canonical significance, on the divine side.
3. LEADING PRINCIPLES.
There are certain fundamental principles that guide us in our investigation, which it is desirable to state at the outset, in order that our position may be perfectly clear. For the sake of brevity we do not seek to establish them argumentatively.
1. For us the Bible as a whole and in all its parts is the very Word of God, written by men indeed, but organically inspired by the Holy Spirit; and not the natural product of the religious development of men, not merely the expression of the subjective religious consciousness of believers. Resting, as it ultimately does, on the testimony of the Holy Spirit, no amount of historical investigation can shake this conviction.
2. This being our position, we unflinchingly accept all that the various books of the Bible tell us concerning their authorship, destination, composition, inspiration, etc. Only in cases where the text is evidently corrupt, will we hesitate to accept their dicta as final. This applies equally to all parts of the Word of God.
3. Since we do not believe that the Bible is the result of a purely natural development, but regard it as the product of supernatural revelation, a revelation that often looks beyond the immediate present, we cannot allow the so-called zeitgeschichtliche arguments the force which they are often supposed to have.
4. While it is the prevailing habit of many New Testament scholars to discredit what the early Church fathers say respecting the books of the Bible, because of the uncritical character of their work, we accept those early traditions as trustworthy until they are clearly proven unreliable. The character of those first witnesses warrants this position.
5. We regard the use of working-hypotheses as perfectly legitimate within certain limits. They may render good service, when historical evidence fails, but even then may not go contrary to the data at hand, and the problematic character of the results to which they lead must always be borne in mind.
6. It is not assumed that the problems of New Testament Introduction are insignificant, and that all the difficulties that present themselves can easily be cleared up. Whatever our standpoint, whatever our method of procedure in studying these problems, we shall sometimes have to admit our ignorance, and often find reason to confess that we know but in part.
4. ENCYCLOPAEDIC PLACE
There is little uniformity in Theological Encyclopaedias with respect to the proper place of this discipline. They all correctly place it among the Exegetical (Bibliological) group of Theological disciplinae, but its relation to the other studies of that group is a matter of dispute. The usual arrangement is that of Hagenbach, followed in our country by Schaff, Crooks and Hurst and Weidner, viz.: Biblical Philology, dealing with the words, and Biblical Archaeology, in its broadest sense, with the things of the Bible; Biblical Introduction, treating of the fortunes, and Biblical Criticism, supplying the test of Scripture; Biblical Hermeneutics, relating to the theory, and Biblical Exegesis, pertaining to the practice of interpretation. The order of Rabiger is unusual: Hermeneutics, Linguistics, Criticism, Antiquities, Biblical History, Isagogics, Exegesis, and Biblical theology. The disposition of Kuyper and Cave is preferable to either one of these. They place Introduction (Canonics) first, as pertaining to the formal side of Scripture as a book and then let the studies follow that have reference to the formal and material side of the contents of the Bible.
5. HISTORICAL REVIEW.
Although the beginnings of New Testament Isagogics are already found in Origen, Dionysus and Eusebius; and in the time of the Reformation some attention was devoted to it by Paginus, Sixtus of Siene and Serarius among the Roman Catholics; by Walther of the Lutherans; and by the Reformed scholars, Rivetus and Heidegger; -- Richard Simon is generally regarded as the father of this study. His works were epoch-making in this respect, though they had reference primarily to the language of the New Testament. He minimized the divine element in Scripture. Michaelis, who in his, Einleitung in die gottlichen Schriften des neuen Bundes, 1750, produced the first Introduction in the modern sense, though somewhat dependent on Simon, did not altogether share his rationalistic views. Yet in the succeeding editions of his work he gradually relaxed on the doctrine of inspiration, and attached no value to theTestimonium Spiritus Sancti.
The next significant contribution to the science was made by Semler in his, Abhandlung von freier Untersuchung des Kanons, 1771-75. He broke with the doctrine of inspiration and held that the Bible was not, but contained the Word of God, which could be discovered only by the inner light. All questions of authenticity and credibility had to be investigated voraussetzungslos. Eichhorn also departed decidedly from traditional views and was the first to fix attention on the Synoptic problem, for which he sought the solution in his Urevangelium, 1804-27. At the same time the Johannine problem was placed in the foreground by several scholars, especially by Bretschneider, 1820. An acute defender of the traditional views arose in the Roman Catholic scholar Hug. who fought the rationalistic critics with their own weapons.
Meanwhile the Mediating school made its appearance under the leadership of Schleiermacher. The critics belonging to that school sought a mean between the positions of Rationalism and the traditional views. They were naturally divided into two sections, the naturalistic wing, inclining towards the position of Semler and Eichhorn; and the evangelical wing, leaning decidedly toward traditionalism. Of the first class De Wette was the ablest exponent, though his work was disappointing as to positive results; while Credner, following in general the same line, emphasized the historical idea in the study of Introduction. The other wing was represented by Guericke, Olshausen and Neander.
The Tubingen school of New Testament criticism took its rise with F. C. Baur, 1792-1860 who applied the Hegelian principle of development to the literature of the New Testament. According to him the origin of the New Testament, too, finds its explanation in the three-fold process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. There was action, reaction and compromise. Paul defended his position in the four great epistles (Romans, I and II Corinthians and Galatians), the only genuine productions of the apostle. This position is assailed by the Apocalypse, the sole work of John. And all the other writings of the New Testament were written by others than their reputed authors in the interest of reconciliation, the fourth Gospel and the first Epistle of John issuing in the blending of the different parties. Among the immediate followers of Baur we have especially Zeller, Schwegler and Kostlin. The further adherents of the school, such as Hilgenfeld, Hoisten and Davidson, modified the views of Baur considerably; while later German scholars, as Pfleiderer, Hausrath, Holtsmann, Weizsacker and Julicher, broke with the distinctive Tubingen theory and indulged independently in rationalistic criticism. The wildest offshoot of the Tubingen school was Bruno Bauer, who rejected even the four epistles regarded as genuine by F. C. Baur. He had no followers in Germany, but of late his views found support in the writings of the Dutch school of Pierson, Naber, Loman and Van Manen, and in the criticism of the Swiss scholar Steck.
Opposition to the radicalism of the Tubingen school became apparent in two directions. Some scholars, as Bleek, Ewald Reuss without intending a return to the traditional standpoint discarded the subjective element of the Tubingen theory, the Hegelian principle of thesis, antithesis and synthesis, in connection with the supposed second century struggle between Petrine and Pauline factions. Ritschl also broke away from the Tubingen tendency, but substituted an equally subjective principle of criticism by applying his favorite Werthurtheile to the authentication of the books of the Bible. He had, as he claimed, no interest in saving mere objective statements. What had for him the value of a divine revelation was regarded as authentic. Some of his most prominent followers are Harnack, Schurer and Wendt.
An evangelical reaction against the subjective Tubingen vagaries also made its appearance in Ebrard, Dietlein, Thiersch, Lechier and the school of Hofmann, who himself defended the genuineness of all the New Testament books. His disciples are Luthardt, Grau, Nosgen and Th. Zahn. The works of Beischlag and B. Weiss are also quite conservative. Moreover the writings of such men as Lightfoot, Westcott, Ellicott, Godet, Dods, Pullan e. a. maintain with great ability the traditional position respecting the books of the New Testament.
6. SELECT LITERATURE
Including the Works referred to in the Text. In order that the list may serve as a guide for students, both the edition and the value of the books are indicated.