Tubingen School


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Ferdinand Christian Baur, b. June 21, 1792, d. Dec. 2, 1860, was a German theologian who founded the Tubingen school of New Testament interpretation. He received his education at Tubingen University, where, from 1826 to his death, he was professor of ecclesiastical and doctrinal history.

Baur applied the philosophy of Hegel to New Testament interpretation. He was thus an early advocate of the historical or scientific study of the Bible. In 1845 he published a book on St. Paul, in which he applied the Hegelian principle to the history of early Christianity: Primitive Jewish (Petrine) Christianity, represented by the Gospel of St. Matthew, was the original force or thesis; Pauline Christianity was the antithesis or reaction against Peter - Matthew; and early Catholic Christianity, which brought these two forces together, was the synthesis. In the process, Baur rejected the traditional attribution of a number of Epistles to Paul. He held that Paul was the author only of Galatians, the two Epistles to the Corinthians, and most of Romans. Later Baur wrote extensively on historical theology. He developed a school of followers, mostly at Tubingen; but the movement declined with his death.

BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet Our List of 2,300 Religious Subjects
Frederick A Norwood

J Fitzer, Moehler and Baur in Controversy (1974); R M Grant, The Bible in the Church (1954).

Tubingen School

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In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries a conservative school of theology existed at Tubingen fostered by G C Storr (1746 - 1805) that stressed the supernatural character of revelation and biblical authority. Also, a Catholic "Tubingen school" attempted in the late nineteenth century to reconcile the church's teaching with modern philosophy and biblical studies. By far the best known, however, is the one headed by Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792 - 1860), which opened up new avenues in NT study and was the most controversial movement in biblical criticism in the midnineteenth century. Its major contribution was calling attention to the distinct strands and theologies within the NT itself and establishing the principle of a purely historical understanding of the Bible.

The contrasts between the Synoptic Gospels and John, the various letters attributed to Paul, and Paul and the other early church leaders were carefully examined. Baur, much influenced by idealist philosophy, rejected supernaturalism and applied Hegelian dialectic to the NT. He found that it reflected, not a homogeneous development, but a fundamental tension between the Jewish church of Peter and the hellenistic Gentile church of Paul. The NT documents attempted to reconcile the conflict between an earlier Petrine and a later Pauline theology by formulating a new synthesis. Baur believed that the authenticity of the various books could be determined by the degree to which they revealed "tendencies" of this conflict. He also traced out a similar kind of dialectical movement in the history of the church.

Although Baur began teaching at Tubingen in 1826, the school's founding is properly dated from the appearance of his pupil D F Strauss's Life of Jesus in 1835. This marked the formal break between the old conservative school and the new radical antisupernaturalism. Bauer himself viewed Jesus in Hegelian terms as the exemplary embodiment of an idea that had greater universal significance that the concrete person of Jesus himself. Soon a circle of young lecturers formed under the leadership of Eduard Zeller and in 1842 founded the principal mouthpiece of the school, the Tubinger theologische Jahrbucher. (It went under in 1857 but was revived as the Zeitschrift fur wissenschaftliche Theologie (1858 - 1914) under the auspices of Adolf Hilgenfeld, one of Baur's most extreme followers.)

By the late 1840s the Tubingen School came under severe attack and the various members gradually drifted away. Baur himself became isolated within the Tubingen faculty as well as the German academic community, and spent his last years defending his views and producing a multivolume history of the church from a naturalistic standpoint, which explained all events by a combination of political, social, cultural, and intellectual causes but without any consideration of divine influence. Although relatively short - lived, the school with its emphasis on dialectical conflict within the early church, rejection of Pauline authorship of most of his epistles, and completely antisupernaturalistic outlook contributed significantly to the development of a historical - critical approach to the Bible that completely ignored the divine element in it.

R V Pierard
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

N Harris, The Tubingen School; P C Hodgson, The Formation of Historical Theology: A Study of F C Baur; K Barth, Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century; A Heron, A Century of Protestant Theology; C Brown, N I D C C , 987.

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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