Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/225

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Higher Criticism

of portions of the Old Testament in poetic form helped greatly in convincing the plain people of the country that the Bible was to be subsumed under the genus literature rather than kept as a sacred oracle in mysterious isolation.

Nor did the fact that the most brilliant attacks upon the infallibility of the Bible and many of its ablest defences originated in Germany militate against the progress of the newer thought in America as much as might have been expected. Our scholars felt themselves dependent upon European thought. Providentially, too, German theological scholarship had been introduced to American minds by the presence and fecundity of Philip Schaff (1819-93), a man of most conservative temper, who, in an amazing number of volumes, chiefly in the domain of Church History, had commended the thoroughness and sanity of German research to the American public from his chair in Wittenberg, Pennsylvania, and later in Union Theo logical Seminary, New York.

It cannot be said that during the period under consideration American scholarship contributed anything of material value to the higher criticism of the Bible. It has to its credit the great New Testament Lexicon (1893) of Professor J. Henry Thayer of Andover Seminary and the equally pre-eminent Hebrew Lexicon (1891) edited by President Francis Brown of Union Seminary, assisted by Professor Briggs of Union and Professor Driver of Oxford. But in the higher discipline its work was of a more mediating and imitative character. Few of our leading scholars took an unyielding attitude to the spirit of the times. Manfully and with unassuming temper, Green of Princeton defended the ancient opinions in a debate with President Harper of the University of Chicago and later in his books, The Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch (1895), The Unity of the Book of Genesis (1895), and General Introduction to the Old Testament (1898). With the exception of more searching work by still living scholars, still fewer of our writers took radical ground. Here we may mention only the lucid books of Orello Cone of St. Lawrence University, Levi L. Paine's suggestive Evolution of Trinitarianism (1900) with its appendix challenging the apostolic authorship of the fourth Gospel, and particularly Edward H. Hall's Papias and his Contemporaries (1899), which connects the Gospel of John with the Gnostic