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In referring to the new covenant, Jesus was announcing that through His death and resurrection forgiveness of sins would be made available to all and that humanity could once again live in communion with God see also 2 Corinthians Through the establishment of this new covenant, the old Mosaic covenant was made obsolete Hebrews Belief in the new covenant was one of the key distinctions between early Christians and Jews. For example, the Christian apologist Justin Martyr argued that the new covenant was the perfection of the old, while Trypho, as a Jew, held that the Mosaic Law was perfect by itself.

In fact, the new covenant was so important to Christian identity that the writings of the apostles came to be called the New Testament, another term for new covenant, while the Hebrew Scriptures were known as the Old Testament. And He commanded His followers to commemorate His death by similarly eating bread and drinking wine together until His second coming.

By portraying His own body as broken and His blood as poured out, Jesus identified Himself as the ultimate Passover lamb. The Jewish disciples understood that as the blood of the original Passover lambs caused the angel of death to pass over the Israelites, anyone identified with the blood of Jesus would be passed over on judgment day. John indicates that Pilate delivered Jesus to be crucified at the same time the priests sacrificed the Passover lamb in the temple. The timing was more than coincidence. I too may count myself one of those friends and owe him a lifelong debt of gratitude not only for the way he assisted in the advancement of my scholarly education but also for his caring involvement in my life.

I dedicated William Whitney Jr. I could have mentioned him on every page, even though it was hard to distinguish in each case exactly what his contribution had been—from start to finish he discussed every problem with me. I presented him with the material that lay outside his expertise, together with my opinion, in order to hear what he thought. He had the extraordinary ability, one that I have never experienced with anyone else, of grasping even the most long-winded hypotheses as soon as you uttered them, of picking out their weak point, and of mercilessly and inexorably dismantling every house of cards you set up, until it was impossible to rebuild.

More often than not he then quickly erected his own version over against the demolished one. I admit his new position could rarely be pressed into service in the form that he had so deftly given it. By their very nature his flashes of insight had to be confirmed by dint of hard slog with factual evidence. This of course meant that changes were likely. But this is how you learn to practice self-discipline and let no claim stand without a thorough basis.

True, he was an incorruptible judge who fairly weighed up the evidence for and against, but on the other hand he was ever willing to admit there could be different views. In fact, he went so far as to encourage you to continue to disagree. Nevertheless, he always insisted on drawing a clear distinction between the assured results of scholarship and a hypothesis. In the foreword I hint at the contribution he made to the book: I have greatly valued my personal contact with Professor Eichhorn, whose clear eye and sober judgment have so often served as a stimulus to me.

His sincere interest and genuine pleasure in their successes prompts others to do their own independent research and strengthens their feeling of independence. Rather, the Catholic Church continues it through all of history up to the present, all the time accompanied by miracles, revelations, and the saints. Catholicism finds its freedom of movement only minimally restricted by the Bible: to the Church, the classical period is the medieval, not the apostolic, age.

Protestantism, on the other hand, has made a fundamental break with the supernatural nature of church history, thus freeing religion from the burden of the past. From now on, the same principles apply to church history that apply to history in general. Conversely, the Bible was viewed in the same way; in fact, there was an increase in its absolute importance, since the sacred history of the Bible was now fundamentally distinct from all other human development. From now on it is impossible to distinguish outwardly between sacred history and everything else that happens in the world.

In addition to his writings, three books were dedicated to him, and they will sound his Friedrich Michael Schiele and Leopold Zscharnack; 5 vols. Rade46 once jokingly posed this awkward question: What might future scholars conclude if after some two thousand years the libraries of the Germany of today are dug up out of the rubble of the centuries and they discover that so many books are dedicated to one man—and virtually nothing is found that was written by that man? The myth of this figure will only be given more credibility and talk of this great scholar whose mighty works—now lost for all time—once reigned supreme over historical theology in Germany.

In fact, they would not be completely wrong: no one else could have written them or will ever write them. His health has been so frail that he has published nothing but a sixteen-page pamphlet, but by personal conversations he inspired a number of able young minds, setting them new problems and fertilizing their thinking by his unselfish cooperation. In the meantime, the love of truth that he personifies demands a small but not insignificant correction. Eichhorn was not the founder but one of the founders of the history of religion school and shares that responsibility with others.

His book Christianizing the Social Order was published by Macmillan in New York in ; the quotation is from pages — Like a sower who is not allowed to participate in the harvest, he was prodigal in casting his seed where it would bring him no advantage on the wide field of knowledge.

He had the delight of seeing the seed grow and bring forth abundant fruit. They value him not only for his intellectual abilities but also because of his unimpeachable character as a man of such remarkable kindness that no mean thought has ever crossed his mind.

He is generous to those who disagree with him, gentle to all those who suffer and are misunderstood, considerate to children and courteous to women. He carries their best wishes at all times and they ask that he will remain mindful of his faithful friends and students. All such terminology arises from the desire to put a convenient label on a particular scholar and thus categorize him as one entry in a group of similar scholars. Such classification is often most unfair, doing violence as it does to the individuality of each person.

Nevertheless, it has the advantage of simplifying the wide range of expres- For a summary of this argument and its history, see Eric J. But there is a second, more important objection to the term.

The Last Supper, New Covenant

No doubt it is possible to claim with justification that the history of religion was pursued as an activity before the history of religion school and that such study is not neglected by scholars who do not belong to this school. So, according to this view, the term is subject to criticism for giving the impression that the history of religion school has the monopoly on the history of religion. Now the school in question has no intention of making any such claim.

Like any academic development, it stands on the shoulders of the generations that have preceded it and has a thousand threads that link it to the past. The history of religion school is happy to honor two men above all others as its spiritual forebears: Julius Wellhausen and Adolf Harnack. Nor should the fathers lament the fact that their sons show a different spirit from their own, for that is the way of the world, even in scholarship. It would be untrue to pretend that the history of religion school is something brand new.

However, if we wish to emphasize what is original about their contribution, we should not concentrate so much on the common links but on what separates them. What is distinctive is not the fact that they practice the history of religion but how they practice it. He wrote copiously. Among his most important works are a series of popular lectures entitled Das Wesen des Christentum, published in What Is Christianity?

The question can only be addressed a posteriori from the facts of history. Nevertheless, we must not forget that even now the history of religion school has still not entirely won the day. Its greatest victories have been in the area of New Testament studies, where it has found no worthy opponents and where consequently scholarly endeavor is undergoing a decisive influence because of this school. In the meantime Wellhausen has retreated from contention and Harnack has shown himself rather better disposed Keane; London: Hutchinson, ]. Sutherland Black and Allan Menzies; preface by W. Robertson Smith; Edinburgh: Black, After all, it is no doubt thanks largely to him that a chair of religion has been established in Berlin.

Nevertheless, he still raises a note of warning, for which we are grateful. Of more consequence is the continuing reality that scholars in the history of religion are prevented from occupying chairs of theology in Prussia. The instigators of this policy seem not to ask themselves whether they are perhaps doing irreparable damage to the progress of theological knowledge. It is not possible for them to stem a natural and ineluctable development. Innumerable friends and students have joined their number, and, if one hoped to count them, one would have to provide an overview of the latest Protestant scholarship.

One encouraging sign of how far the ideas of these scholars have spread in the last decade is the fact that even those from the right wing of the church can no longer completely avoid the history of religion viewpoint; we need mention only Sellin in this regard. Study of religion may be described as the most popular study of our day, having grown not only from a biblical base but also from orientalist, classical, and Germanic foundations. From Marburg, he founded a corresponding movement to that of Rauschenbusch see above, note 45 : the Christian social conferences. It is partly brought about by the new discoveries that have recently been made during numerous excavations and expeditions, especially in the Near East.

In part it has come about as the result of advances in the realm of philology, bringing together ancient and modern documents in the history of religion from near and far and subjecting them to historical study. Finally, it is in part due to the recent dramatic increase in appreciation of religious issues and of religion itself. The investigation of the development of these questions had been unreasonably neglected for a long time.

However, the decisive element is the growing refinement of the historical sense that is also beneficial for the history of religion. So the appearance of the history of religion school in the field of theology is only a token of a broader overall movement making its mark in all areas of knowledge. But it is to the credit of just a few that they have recognized this spirit of the times and quite consciously laid claim to the history of religion approach for the study of theology as well.

Foremost among these is Paul de Lagarde,58 who insisted in that theology in principle be turned into the study of religion. It was to be Bousset and Gunkel who were the first, in , to apply the principle in practice to individual materials and thus assist it to gain a powerful momentum. Eichhorn and Zimmern backed Gunkel up in this. He strove for the separation of church and state, but also a national church.

He repeated this demand in Deutsche Schriften repr. It is to be distinguished most clearly in particular from two schools that are related to each other: panbabylonianism60 and comparative mythology. It is true, to be sure, that this is the greatest, the ultimate task of all historical research in the field of religion. But there has never been any argument on that point, and even if the task is far from being complete and needs continual revitalization, the adherents of the history of religion school can join hands with their opponents in the knowledge that they are at one in this endeavor.

Where the disagreements begin is with the question of how best to realize this common theological ideal. At present, there is popular support for the view that the history of religion school is trying above all to bring other religions to a closer understanding of Judaism and Christianity. But even this view does not get to the heart of the movement, although at a superficial level it might seem reasonable. Well before the advent of the history of religion school, astute theologians, in particular the Rationalists, were alert to analogies An article that gives a good impression of the issue in the period when Gressmann was writing is Crawford H.

Eduard Norden — was likewise a Protestant scholar of classical and biblical languages and a historian of religion. Indeed, they often came to the conclusion that these were influences on Christianity. But this was done mostly on the basis of dogmatic points of view that are rejected by modern historians of religion, who concentrate only on the historical development.

It is no doubt true to say that all scholars today find themselves in agreement with the history of religion school that it is generally necessary to take into account the influence of other religions on Judaism and Christianity. It is in the realm of the individual views that the battle flares up. Now it would look very bad for the importance of the history of religion school to theological study if it concentrated on nothing more than the effects of other religions on Christianity.

But it has never done that, nor will it ever do so. Any other stance is excluded from the outset. On the other hand, there is great variation in the methods adopted. We have seen the emergence of new questions and ways of viewing the issues, and they promise to do a better job of helping us reach our goal. So the research methods of the current generation are markedly different from those of their predecessors. In addition, theology can only very slowly extricate itself from the supernatural bonds that have ensnared it for over a thousand years.

It has not been until our own times, free as they are in every respect from dogma and concerned to hold neither a dogmatic nor an antidogmatic position, that we have been able to do justice to the concept of history, now that psychological methods of historical study are being more and more refined.

Was Jesus' Last Supper a Seder? - Biblical Archaeology Society

A few examples may shed light on the individual details of this progress without any necessity first to take into account the effect of other religions. Developing the Historical Method in the Domain of Judeo-Christian Religion The history of religion school emerged from the struggle against a onesided literary criticism that holds sway because of laziness, despite its In itself, literary criticism is perfectly justified, whatever its special emphasis may be, in order to anticipate any recurrent misunderstandings. Without it, it is not possible to pursue any historical research in the particularities of Old and New Testament traditions.

Most literary critics fail to take into account the existence of an unwritten history and the necessity to go beyond the literary texts, if you wish to grasp the driving forces behind history. How often is it the case that what is not written turns out to be more important than what is set down. Rather, it is in the people, in their experiences and ups and downs, and in history that the roots are found.

A scholar must be both. Even Old Testament literary criticism has been content until now to separate and order the sources chronologically, thinking that the task is then finished. So often the more recently written account turns out to preserve an earlier stage in the tradition! A further goal is to trace the history of the oral tradition and thus to reveal the first signs of the later development.

This process of continually asking questions puts the finishing touches to and in many ways modifies the results of source criticism. Although we are not able to expand on the matter here, literary history finds itself through this process giving just as rich and varied a yield as does the study of the history of religion. After it had been ascertained just when and in whose writings a particular viewpoint first turned up, the normal thing was to draw the illogical conclusion that the idea in question originated at that time with that writer.

Only rarely did it occur to scholars that a concept or material could have a prehistory. This was how they reached conclusions that seem The history of religion school took these areas as its point of departure and endeavored to recognize and describe the prehistory of the traditional materials and concepts. Gunkel traced the creation and dragon myths in the Old and New Testaments and painstakingly demonstrated their historical development from Gen 1 to Rev Now while it may be true that some studies from the history of religion school relate to peripheral formulae and inconsequential material of no real significance for the development of religion, there are many others that treat questions of fundamental import.

He became well-known for his use of form criticism for research into the Synoptic Gospels and for his involvement in the ecumenical movement. And, in the domain of the Old Testament, studying the eschatological materials in the prophets, the prehistory of the messianic oracles, of the Servant of the Lord, and of the Son of Man—none of these can be called marginal issues.

There is also an inner logic of ideas of which it must be said that literary criticism is ignorant. Another question is of immeasurably greater importance: Did the oracles of the prophets have any links with earlier concepts or not? If we think that Amos or Isaiah originated their eschatological ideas, we need to record willy-nilly the contents of their pronouncements; it is impossible to really know the innermost religious feelings of the prophets. Unless we have some point of contact in the tradition, we are compelled to regard prophecy as being simply a supernatural quantity that has fallen from heaven.

To hold such a view, it is necessary to give up any pretense of historical understanding, of scholarly research. Even here we see the effects of a stage of philology that has been superseded by the present: anything that cannot be found in the ancients has no existence. How long we believed, under the influence of the doctrine of inspiration, in the linguistic creativity of the New Testament writers!

It led to the New Testament writers being hailed as geniuses of linguistic creativity! Yet we only need to transfer a recognized truth about language across to the realm of ideas to see straightaway how untenable this stance is. For like the words, the thoughts and material have clearly had their own prehistory. To ignore this prehistory or consider it inconsequential will of necessity lead to absurd conclusions.

For historians have an open mind to everything, not only to grand, earth-shattering ideas but also to insignificant thoughts and even to worn-out turns of phrase and petrified formulae. Historians know that these too have had a history, and it is the duty of those who study history to scrutinize it. There is much to be learned from the careful study of fossils, and that includes learning how living beings developed, without having to fall into the blatant error of those dilettantes who confuse fossils with living beings.

Of course, not all the topics mentioned get right to the heart of religion. It is no longer possible to ignore the success that has been achieved: historians are erecting a sound edifice from a range of often unlikely stones. It is also easy to see why the history of religion school has in fact started with those issues that are of secondary importance. Scholars had until now virtually neglected them and contented themselves with a few inadequate remarks.

They had no idea that there was a historical problem here because their interests were confined to philology. There is no doubt that the question of the history of religion school means a huge step forward. First, it has opened up to individual historical research new materials that had never yet been viewed from this perspective. Second, it has provided greater certainty for tentative interpretations.

Linguistic formulae and opinions may be in a state of flux, or they may have already become set firmly in place, merely being carried over as traditional material that is not understood. Whichever the case, it is not possible to reach any certainty about them until we know their history and their significance in their own times.

Things that we could only more or less guess at have now been removed from the realm of hypothesis and brought into the bright light of secure knowledge. Particularly learned scholars would perhaps add a note on the linguistic history of individual words or even venture a new etymology that had absolutely nothing to do with the context. A living language never consists of separate words, but only of words linked together in units of meaning. This was totally ignored, as was the fact that these very units could have very different meanings in different ages.

Nor was any attention paid to the change that occurs in connotation over time, even when the words stay the same. So exegesis that deals with philology and linguistic history needs to be taken further and become exegesis that is concerned with the history of facts and ideas. A concept or a linguistic formula has really been explained only when it has been placed in its context in the overall historical development.

Exegetes should pay heed to everything that is necessary to interpretation. The history of religion school has made it the duty of every scholar to inquire into the prehistory of formulae and materials that were previously totally or for the most part neglected by literary criticism. This is a service none can decry. Now, how far back into history to go is dependent on the individual circumstances. In theory it is the first task of the historian to trace everything back to its origins if at all possible. It is true that there are often impediments to discovery and that true scholarship always remains aware of its limitations.

But, as long as any tattered remnants of a veil conceal the final secret, the true spirit of inquiry allows no a priori considerations to block its gaze from piercing even what is apparently impenetrable. Experience has led us to the conclusion that nothing is so alluring as burrowing down to the utmost depths and breaking new ground in places where no foot has ever trod.

However, on the other hand, we must never forget the later developments that overlie the origins. Historians must remove layer after layer with the same care; the first layer must be seen as just as precious as the last. None can close themselves off to the beauty of a flower in all its glory. Nor should we imagine that this work is already finished or even halfway through. On the contrary, it is only just beginning. The motto of the history of religion school is: there is no material in the world that does not have its own prehistory, no concept that does not have links to others.

Thus we must ask of all material and all concepts: Where does it come from, and what development has it undergone? Our experience as scholars teaches us how incredibly poor humanity is in concepts and materials, despite all our imagination. What is new is the ever-changing way that light is shed on these things, and this can be of earth-shattering importance. But historians of religion must not shrink from this task either, if they are really seeking historical understanding.

But even conjectural criticism—of which those of a philological bent are usually very proud—can turn into dangerous subjectivism if there is no pioneering spirit of research into language or facts and if the imagination is not held in check by the discipline of a proven method. Now, if these prerequisites are met, no scholar, no matter how careful, will take offense at the spirit being ranked ahead of the letter. Furthermore, the history of language enjoys universal recognition, although it is widely known that it constructs and postulates many forms that have no witness in the literature.

The next thing brought to bear on the methods of the history of religion school is literary criticism, which, although also a product of tradition, is based entirely on faith in the compelling power of logic. Now, if this is not to be written off as mere boundless subjectivity, neither should the history of religion view be taxed with such an objection, since it too builds on the basis of tradition and works by means of logic and psychology.

Exactly the same laws apply to it as to every type of historical research. It is not too much to stress that every type of historical writing 46 GRESSMANN worthy of the name is a scholarly and artistic construction and is thus distinguished from the writing of annals, which records mere facts and is considered a trade. The motives that are innate to the unfolding of history and its driving forces are nowhere handed down; they always need to be worked out. So no doubt a subjective element comes into historical research, but without such subjectivity historical scholarship has no existence, nor does conjectural or literary criticism.

Lexiconc Search

The history of religion school regards it as one of its chief tasks to view the various traditions that occur in conjunction rather differently: in perspective as following each other. As a result of this, it is impossible to gain any historical understanding, which can only be achieved when the traditions are arranged chronologically and an attempt is made to explain how they have changed. This criticism applies even to the great names in historical research, names that we revere.

However, the criticism loses its sting when we realize that the method has gradually been refined, which had to happen. Where there is no information, we are perforce reduced to the task of construction, that is, to the internal reasons of logic and psychology. Nor can these at all be chosen at random but can only be determined by the laws that govern everything. However, all historical research is based on the axiom of development.

To deny evolution is to give up any hope of scientific knowledge. Now, experience teaches us that human development never proceeds in a straight line or even in waves. No, it pitches along in juddering jumps. When for example the death of Christ is interpreted as a propitiatory sac Reischle, Theologie und Religionsgeschichte, So we need to reject the basic premise, which even Ritschl held to, that the New Testament is to be understood essentially from the Old Testament. This is a view that is almost impossible to comprehend these days; it can only be explained as being dependent on the concept of canon.

For historians, the first principle is to deduce every phenomenon from the one that immediately preceded it. In this area the history of religion school again did pioneering work by tearing down the barriers of the canon and opening up a completely new world to research: the literature of the pseudepigrapha and apocrypha. This had previously been the despised Cinderella of biblical study because it lacked any creative personalities.

It was only by means of this middle term that it was possible to bridge the gap between the Old and New Testaments and allow for a portrayal of history that actually took into account the continuity of development. Only now can we fill the void that has existed in our knowledge of Jewish spiritual life in the last two centuries before Christ. Again, it was Bousset and Gunkel who were mainly responsible for pioneering new paths in research, and again their books appeared in the same year.

It also looks around at the contemporary history. It is not always possible to distinguish clearly between these two perspectives. There was a time when scholars worried about nothing other than the great personalities of history and were in the habit—no doubt out of ignorance—of overly promoting them for their uniqueness. They took insufficient account of the historical links these figures had with their own past or of the way they were inextricably bound up with their own setting and surroundings.

Without paying heed to the overall context, it is not possible to paint an adequate picture of a Moses, Isaiah, or Jesus, a picture that satisfies the demands of religious history: this is the only way to measure the progress they have brought their people. Of course, these timeless heroes are of such colossal stature that no attempt at description can do them justice.

The Last Supper

In order to understand them, we must heed the innermost secrets of their personalities. Scholars too must pay humanity its due from the moment they clothe their thoughts in words that they must borrow, for good or ill, from the world around them. But if historians wish to go beyond ingenious conjectures and attain real academic knowledge, they need a clear picture of the milieu above which the historical personages tower in all their imposing greatness. Interest in such questions has been aroused only since the awakening of the social sense of modern people.

In this respect too the history of religion school is an essential product of our time that would not exist without men such as Taine, Riehl, Naumann, Lamprecht and Wundt. Nietzsche also admired his work. Alois Riehl — was an important Neo-Kantian philosopher. Friedrich Naumann — was a German politician of nationalist and monarchist persuasion and Protestant pastor, as well as founder of the weekly magazine Die Hilfe, which addressed the social question from a non-Marxist middle-class point of view.

Karl Gotthard Lamprecht — was a cultural and general historian of Lutheran persuasion. Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt — , physiologist and psychologist, was a founder of experimental, cognitive, and social psychology. Developing the Historical Method by the Introduction of Other Religions Engaging in research into the overall context led inexorably, of course, to scholars transcending the delimitation of Israelite and Christian religion into the realm of the neighboring religions.

This is especially clear when it comes to the origin of Christianity. The first barrier to fall was that of the Old Testament canon; it was no longer possible to ignore the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha. After this the walls of the New Testament canon also came down. Unless one wanted to disrupt the sense of historical development, one could not stop at the last book in the New Testament; the apostolic fathers too had to be taken into consideration. Even Gnosticism itself could hardly be excluded. But the surge of historical knowledge burst all these banks and spread far and wide so that today we are sure of one thing: the apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, together with the New Testament, represent only the tiniest part of a greater overall movement that arose outside the Judeo-Christian sphere in the realm of Near Eastern religions and was only completed by Gnosticism and its relations.

A closer study of Gnosticism has revealed that its origins reach past John and Paul to the Synoptics and even beyond. Gnosticism can be said to be virtually the heir of apocalyptic. The New Testament has one foot still planted in apocalyptic, but the other in Gnosticism. Then we shall see how right Gunkel was in claiming that many religious themes from other regions were included and transformed in Christianity.

Strachan; New York: Harper, Wellhausen and his followers have performed a sterling service by understanding the Old Testament on its own terms and by endeavoring to develop a psychological appreciation of the history of Israelite religion on the basis of the biblical reports. But since they deduced the opinions of the biblical writers almost exclusively on the basis of internal presuppositions, it is no surprise that they often went astray. Where they did make a comparison with other religions, they restricted themselves mostly to Arabic religion, whose concepts it must be said could only be used by way of general observation, because there is no question of Israelite religion showing any dependency in this regard.

There were also occasions when some attention was given to Phoenician religion, of which we know next to nothing. On the other hand, the history of religion school avoided such an error from the outset by spreading its net more broadly and investigating far and wide the related concepts and influences in the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and, in fact, in all Near Eastern religions. If it be granted that in many respects it does coincide with Panbabylonianism,73 in other ways the two are so fundamentally different that they can only be mentioned in the same breath by the ignorant or the malicious.

The first reason why it is vital to study other religions is in order to establish analogies. It was Harnack who called the Judeo-Christian religion a compendium of the history of religion: If you have been through the way it develops—researching, deciphering, reflecting and experiencing it all over again—you do not need to go and study a whole lot of religions to know what goes on in human religion and its history. In the [Judeo-Christian] material you have a cross-section that pretty well takes the place of knowing the whole range of religious history.

On the other hand, in both the Old and New Testaments, we encounter numerous views that may not only seem strange in isolation but must remain completely without explanation unless some light is shed on them from other religions and they are assigned a place in the history of like or related groups of ideas. We need only recall the concepts of totem and taboo or belief in the power of names and magic, of matriarchies and the worship of the dead, and all the other odd things we have found or claimed we have found in the Old Testament.

But even where Judeo-Christian ideas are clear in themselves we need parallels from other areas in order to make a comparison. For it is only these comparisons that enable scholars to grasp the distinctive elements and bring the original into sharp relief. That is why there is no concept or material, no manifestation of JudeoChristian religion that is excluded from consideration by the history of religion method. But even at this point we have not reached the end; we are standing at the beginning of a new age of theological knowledge.

The greatest merit of the new lexicon Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, edited by Schiele and Zscharnack, in association with Gunkel and Scheel,76 is to have first clearly recognized and taken up the challenge of this massive task. Although no doubt there are details that must be developed further, nevertheless a solid foundation has been laid. Accordingly, the history of religion school does not limit itself to peripheral matters. It quite simply takes all religious concepts into its purview, so that from now on any general, systematic, or historical research into Christian concepts such as faith, redemption, salvation, worship, edification, resurrection, and so forth that disregards non-Christian perspectives must be considered unscholarly.

That is why the study of Near Eastern religions is especially important. What has been happening hitherto does not fulfill all justifiable claims made on it. Of course, at present everyone who pursues the development of Israelite religion must also have a knowledge of the neighboring religions in order to determine what analogies and dependencies there may be. This is likewise true of New Testament scholars and Assyriologists. But such comparative study of different religions can proceed only in a haphazard fashion, and there are vast areas of the Near East that are almost totally left out.

Among these we may number the Hittite religions of Asia Minor and the later syncretistic religions. Only a few amateurs and dilettantes, such as the panbabylonians, romp in these fields. We need individuals who combine a thorough training in philology with a firm mastery of comparative methodology in the field of the history of religion. Christian theology has a real stake in this claim, for it is an absolutely intolerable state of affairs when theology is pushed from this field, where at issue are the origins and the originality of Israelite and Christian religion, into a area of secondary importance that must then exist on handouts from the Assyriologists, Hittitologists, and other philologists or even from dilettantes.

Granted, the chief task of theologians must be Old and New Testament research, but theology as an academic discipline neglects at its peril the issues that have recently emerged in the history of religion. To answer this question needs not only particular tact but above all a sure method. The basic principle must be first to understand the psychology of a religion against its own developmental background. It will be psychology that always has the last word in the study of the development of the human mind and spirit78 and, as a consequence, in the realm of the history of religion.

But there are false psychological constructions and there are true ones. We may shed light on this by an example. In order to explain the idea of the resurrection, which is mostly linked with the concept of judgment, it is customary to point to the human hope of experiencing after death some balance between our piety and our fate, a balance that is denied us in this life. First, resurrection and judgment are two completely independent concepts that must thus also be considered separately when one asks about the origin of things.

Further, it is possible to get a clear idea of the resurrection only when you hold it over against the idea of immortality. The latter word means the immediate continuation of the soul after death; resurrection, on the other hand, means the miraculous regeneration of the body after death, whether the time lapse be brief or longer. In order to be seen as correct, a psychological construction would above all have to take this distinction into consideration and attempt to clarify it.

We can take comfort in the claim that there is no psychology that can manage this straight off. Even before making a start on the task, it must carefully set out the individual peculiarities of the historical facts, otherwise the psychological reconstruction will hang in thin air. The history of religion school requires complete dedication to and correct use of the psychological method. The task of the latter is not only to show how any change in religious views must necessarily come to fruition out of inner motives; it also has to ascertain where an old thread breaks Just as important as continuity of development are the ruptures and sutures that must not escape the notice of the alert observer.

To stay with the example given above, the task of the historian would consist in proving that the Jewish belief in the resurrection, when viewed objectively, turns out to be the continuation of the belief in Sheol held by the early Israelites. Furthermore, psychology would need to analyze the two worldviews and ask whether the later one is an organic continuation of the earlier.

Since this turns out to be impossible, we have to accept a break in the chain of developments at this point. Now, such a rupture points necessarily to external influence. In addition, it has to consider whether the idea agrees with the economic circumstances or fits in with the geographical position, and in general, what conditions would make it plausible. For just as every plant needs a type of soil in which it alone can flourish, and just as each plant takes on a different form according to the climate, so each idea requires definite conditions without which it cannot grow or develop.

In order to reconstruct the contexts in which religion develops, it is usual to begin with analogies drawn from various peoples. The issue revolves around using this information properly. Here they miss the influences, which are basically undeniable, that one religion had on another among peoples who were geographically close or had historical connections.

Those who defend the theory of population shift fall into exactly the opposite error. They incorrectly dispute the spontaneous generation of individual, that is, primitive, beliefs in various places. They consider that there was only a transfer of ideas, and they try to find a single location Bastian wrote prolifically but did not produce a clear final version of his thought. The basic idea was that there must be some elementary structure that underlies the whole diverse range of cultural creativity.

The concept of the individual thinking human being was not the key; instead, this formed part of a much bigger picture. This location is subject to the whims of fashion: yesterday it was India, today it is Babylon, and tomorrow it may move to Egypt. The history of religion school has distanced itself from both extremes, despite frequent accusations to the contrary by its opponents. The school has always taken the basic view that both comparable developments and historical dependency must be recognized and that a clear distinction must be made between them.

Just as in the case of psychological deductions it is customary to assume continuity with the closest material and to have to specifically justify any break, it will be equally necessary to first attempt an explanation from the natural sequence of development of any material before pleading foreign influences or idea transfer. External witnesses, factual echoes, and even direct terminological resemblance are not in themselves enough to demonstrate a foreign origin, since all of these may be instances of accidental similarities.

This is especially true in the case of agreements between primitive concepts and simple ideas, which can emerge anywhere in the world, given similar conditions. Further, if one places pronouncements of specific religions beside each other in their historical context, then it must be a further requirement that at least the possibility of such an influence be demonstrable. We need the presence of geographic and historic links that lead from one religion to the other. For example, anyone positing a Babylonian origin for Mexican or Chinese ideas need not be surprised to have such theories treated as dilettantish; no more should someone who has derived medieval views attested in Germany directly from Babylon.

On the other hand, in the case of neighboring peoples linked by a common history, one is predisposed to turn features that show similarities into ones that show dependency. This is especially true of the peoples of the Near East, who have been shown to have engaged in mutual exchange of culture and ideas since the third century before Christ. Where there are unusual details that rise above the primitive level, or even agreement between striking combinations of different sequences of ideas, we are most probably justified in suspecting historical influence.

We may presume as a rule that such influence has been exercised by the older and more dominant people upon the later, less dominant one. However, such considerations cannot take us beyond the realm of the merely probable; only internal reasons are of decisive force. It emerges at a time when Judaism was or had been subject to Persian hegemony. Now, the concept of the resurrection is in itself such an unusual idea that the possibility of two peoples independently happening upon it seems excluded from the outset.

Since precisely the same view has been confirmed in Persian religion, and since the Persians ruled the Jews, the idea of a Persian origin naturally comes to mind. This probability becomes stronger when we note that the concept of resurrection in both Judaism and Zoroastrianism80 is intimately connected with the whole eschatological worldview.

Therefore, it is not only a detail that agrees, but a striking combination of details. Despite having reached such a high level of probability, we can talk of certainty only when the results of psychological research show that the idea of the resurrection in Israel makes no sense as a result of internal development but makes perfect sense in Persia. The similarities in terminology between the flood in Babylon and in Israel do not compel us to assume dependency as much as does, to take an example, the way both peoples attribute a combination of wisdom and piety to the main protagonists in the flood story, or the way such wisdom is shown in the identical motif of sending birds out on a mission of reconnaissance on three occasions.

However, even such similarities are not decisive, since they could be based on coincidence. The decisive factor is the psychological consideration that no flood myth could have developed in Israel, a people based exclusively on dry land and quite different from the Babylonians. Those who claim that the prophecies in Israel are dependent on the wisdom sayings of the Egyptians must not limit themselves to demonstrating the admittedly remarkable and comprehensive similarities between the forms of those sayings.

They must also show that good psychological reasons cannot be given for the Israelite prophecies and that there are at least some of them that remain inexplicable, a fact that would point to a foreign origin. However, research into the history of religion must not cease at that moment when a definite or even a probable borrowing has been established. It pursues the equally important question of how what was But we may say it is a rule that the major historical figures are masters of and not subject to tradition, either local or imported.

As important as—in fact more important than—the agreements are the variations, because there we see the clearest reflection of the original way of life. At the same time, we must be on our guard against wrongly evening out differences. There are identical forms of words that have a completely different meaning from one religion to another, according to context. On the other hand, there are contradictory formulae that seem to have nothing in common but that go together, for borrowing is most commonly done in the shape of antithesis.

Here again we must prize the spirit rather than the letter in order not to do violence to the individual expression. The school is equally persuaded that religions, even the great religions of the world, have historical connections with one another, without any thought of disputing the individuality of these religions. It is the task of historical scholarship to give equal weight to the study of both these aspects. Without doubt the problem of originality is more important than that of dependency, yet the issue of originality can be resolved only after we have answered the question of dependency.

The History of Religion and the Psychology of Religion The history of religion school, hotly contesting the facts, is at pains to shed light on the historical development of Judeo-Christian religion. Investigation of other religions also serves to advance this program. Such investigation is not generally an end in itself in theology; it only occurs for the purpose of comparing or proving the historical context.

It is unnecessary to delve further into the scholarly presuppositions involved. The only thing that needs emphasizing is that for theological historians the valid basic principles are no different from those that apply for secular historians of course, mutatis mutandis. Just as secular historians must have 58 GRESSMANN a close relationship to any time, nation, or historical personage they are studying, likewise historians of religion need to have a profound understanding of religion. In particular, the theologian must have a reverent love for the Judeo-Christian religion. Without such personal involvement, whether it finds expression in the work produced or not, there is absolutely no hope of any sympathetic historical research taking place.

As it happens, however, all scholarship, just like art, is awash with presuppositions. Nor is it possible to make any progress without value judgments, since we must constantly compare the various levels of development with each other in order to distinguish the earlier from the later levels. However, historical and systematic theology cannot exist independently of each other, even if they mostly cohabit like siblings at loggerheads, each inhabiting its own domain. But at the points where they cannot avoid coming into contact, it is easy for sources of friction to develop and for these to lead to feuding.

In general, historians must avoid invading the domain of the systematic theologian; they will feel themselves to be not entirely at home, as though on foreign soil. It will be above all from the older disciples of Ritschl that we can expect objections; the history of religion school arose partly in opposition to Ritschl, quite simply because its adherents believe his reconstructions of history to be in error.

Nor is there any dispute about the liberating power of his theology. So gratefully celebrated by Reischle, Theologie und Religionsgeschichte, Nevertheless, his view of history was untenable, both in its details and in its general outline. He made the concept of the kingdom of God, seen from an ethical standpoint, into the centerpiece of his dogmatics, while, although it must be granted this did not occur until after his time, men such as Johannes Weiss, Bousset, and Wrede demonstrated the historical validity of the contrary opinion: the purely eschatological nature of the kingdom.

Ritschl did violence to the historical facts. He was misled into doing this by his systematic effort to derive from the New Testament a yardstick that would be free from any limitations imposed by historical time periods and that would also serve as an authority for today. As a dogmatic theologian, he brought to this task a disproportionate perspective that prevented him from making an unbiased evaluation and taking an overall historical view of the New Testament tradition.

But the history of religion school must also raise a note of protest against another, equally important aspect of the position adopted by Ritschl and those theologians he influenced. The periods in between were for him low times, when religious knowledge declined into atrophy.

Lagarde, Eichhorn, and Pfleiderer are right to agree on this point. It had become customary, despite all their differences of individual viewpoint, to lump together Jesus, Paul, Augustine, and Luther as being, on balance, of one mind—at the expense of historical truth.

Then the Wrede placed Paul beside Jesus as the second founder of Christianity and showed the deep division between the perspectives held by the two. So, as a logical extension of historical studies, the solution for our present age was announced: We are free from the theology of early Christianity and the Reformation! Every epoch has its own view of the essence of Christianity, and what is good for the past must also be good for the present. People of today, schooled in history, are fully aware when they demand to do what earlier generations did in ignorance, subject to internal and external pressures as times changed.

Of course, systematic theology cannot do without a historical undergirding.


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When systematics, like all theology, takes its bearing from the study of religion, it will get in closer touch with history of religion research and be superbly fitted to round it out. It must be admitted that the history of religion school does not treat the problems of the psychology of religion in themselves, only considering them case by case as they are linked to the various empirical facts of religion.


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  • In fact, we can go a step further and say that, even with this reservation, the question of the psychology of religion has been unreasonably neglected by the history of religion school. The development of the psychology of religion method, which must be required in the area of historical work, would form a Since both fields of scholarship have the same aim, they should support, motivate, and complement each other. Research in the history of religion remains at the level of the individual, chance phenomenon, historically contingent. First it examines the historical development of a phenomenon and then it analyzes it right down to the last psychological detail.

    In the case of complex quantities or of intricate groups of concepts of a whole level of religion, it is the duty of historians to separate the ideas found together without distinction at the same level and to rank them in such a way that what is vital is in the foreground and the incidental phenomena sink into the background. At every juncture, historians must break through the shell to the kernel beneath, trace the creative force behind the conceptions that conceal it, and bring out what is essential from the multitude of ideas.

    So it is to be hoped that systematic theology, which until now has mainly been inimical toward the history of religion school, will gradually show itself better disposed and that both of them will work together on the great task set before Protestant theology, using modern scientific methods.

    The final goal of all our efforts is to shed light on the essence and the truth of the Christian religion. We know we are one in this endeavor with scholars of preceding generations, on whose shoulders we stand, and with those of the present, wherever they happen to be placed in the conflict of opinions. Leipzig: Mohr Siebeck, Prefatory Remark [3] This publication reproduces the substance of a lecture that I gave here in Halle at the Theological Academic Society. My explanations will disturb and displease many of you; there are things that may even offend some of you.

    I can perfectly well understand such feelings, but it is not possible to completely avoid offense. There is another comment I would like to add. I do not labor under the delusion that I will convince you, since my method of proceeding will not be the customary one. Nor do I have any cause to engage with the opinions of recent years on our topic.