Page:Modern Rationalism (1897).djvu/48

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48

MODERN RATIONALISM.

sterner Lutheran and Calvinistic formulae provoked a fiercer reaction, and the liberty of University Professors was in happy contrast to the demoralizing restraint of their British contemporaries. The spread of the Kantist philosophy, which discarded all but the ethical elements of religion, was also most favourable to the growth of criticism.

Under such conditions Johann Salomo Semler (1725-91), who is called the "father of modern Biblical criticism," commenced the work of disintegration. He was an orthodox theologian, and a warm opponent of the adversaries of Christianity, though an advanced Rationalist. In the ethical spirit of his time he called into question the supernatural origin and most of the miracles of Scripture; and, after the middle of the century, he excited many doubts on the authenticity of entire books of Scripture by his "free examination of the Canon." After his example, theologians continued to explain away Scripture as only a moral revelation; to disburden religion of its miracles and creeds, and regard it simply as a moral system. Then came two important Biblical scholars Paulus, with his naturalistic interpretation of the miraculous history; J. G. Eichhorn, a semi-apologetic critic, who, however, has an important relation to modern thought. He is considered by many to be the founder of modern Old Testament criticism, and his "Introduction to the Old Testament" is said to have exercised as much influence on contemporary opinion as Wellhausen's "Prolegomena" in our days. Compared with later critics, he is most cautious and conservative, though he has a clear conception of the Maccabean date of Daniel. His most important work is the development of Astruc's hypothesis of the composite character of Genesis, which has since proved so fruitful. Eichhorn's successor at Jena, Karl D. Ilgen; De Wette, who relaxed from his first position of ardent critic to an orthodox liberalism; and Gesenius, who was coveted by our own Oxford University in 1832, continued the tradition. In 1810 a new centre of activity was created by the foundation of the Berlin University. Schleiermacher, an important orthodox theologian, who was the first professor appointed, marked his appreciation of the rapidly developing system in stating that "the Old Testament was merely the accidental soil in which Christianity was rooted"—it was a premature