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(Under the Direction of Wayne M. Coppins)


F.C. Baur was a professor of theology at the University of Tübingen in the nineteenth century. He has been identified by some as the father of modern Pauline studies, and by others as an arch-heretic and an atheist. Most agree that he was a scholar of great importance for the fields of theology and biblical studies, but there has been much disagreement as to what his significance is. A well-represented tradition says his value lies only in what his own mistakes can teach scholars today what not to do. It is my intention to provide a counter-argument to this tradition, and to elucidate what was the positive value of Baur’s pioneering work in historical theology, as well as the uniqueness of his own contribution to the storied conflict of faith and reason following the Enlightenment.

INDEX WORDS: Ferdinand Christian Baur, Tübingen, New Testament, Church history, Historical theology, New Perspective on Paul





B.A., Brewton-Parker College, 2005 A Thesis Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of The University of Georgia in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree



© 2008 Matthew Thomas Hopper All Rights Reserved





Major Professor: Wayne M. Coppins Committee: Sandy Dwayne Martin William L. Power

Electronic Version Approved:

Maureen Grasso Dean of the Graduate School The University of Georgia December 2008 iv


I am in over my head with F.C. Baur; I admit it. It is only thanks to the support and help of my teachers and family members that I have completed this thesis. My advisor, Dr. Wayne Coppins, has provided more assistance than I could describe here. It is only thanks to him that my thoughts on F.C.

Baur were organized into a coherent thesis. Dr. Sandy Dwayne Martin and Dr. William L. Power have likewise listened to or read many of my earliest studies on Baur and have sharpened my thinking in more ways than one. Zinetta McDonald and Kim Scott in the Religion Department work tirelessly for all teachers and students and I owe them as much as anyone. Dr. Russell Kirkland, Dr. Richard Elliot Friedman, and Dr. Beth LaRocca-Pitts have all given me tremendous encouragement that has helped me persevere in this project. All five of my German teachers have contributed to my abilities to work with much of this material, and more than a couple have also humored me long enough to discuss various matters of nineteenth century Europe. The staffs in the UGA Main Library, the library at Columbia Theological Seminary, and the Pitts Theology Library at Emory University in Atlanta (especially Natalie Williams) have helped me several times. Dr. Jake Short and especially Dr. Karl Friday in the History Department have both advised me in helpful ways, as have Dr. Brent W. Sockness of Stanford and Dr.

Gerd Lüdemann of Göttingen University. Dr. Thomas Slater at Mercer’s McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta has been kind enough to correspond with me over email numerous times. The financial support that Cacey and I have received from ‘Mr. Steve’ and Teresa Corey, from Cacey’s parents, Marion and Dana Conley, from my parents, Thomas and Jan Hopper, and every single month from Papa and Great Grandma in Ohio, has put groceries in the house many times and we could never thank them enough. Far and away, the love and support I have been given every day from my wife Cacey and my little Elijah have meant more to me than a thesis worth of words could say. I could illustrate Cacey’s willingness to help by saying I honestly believe at this point she knows at least as much about F.C. Baur as most anyone else in

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Sitz im Leben

Life before the Tübingen Appointment

Professor in Tübingen

3 THE RECEPTION OF BAUR IN BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL STUDIES.................. 53 From the Tübinger Schule to the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule and Beyond

Hodgson, Harris, and the Problem of Two Baurs

Baur and the Not-So-New Perspective on Paul

4 THE QUESTION OF HEGEL AND THE MEANING OF HISTORICAL THEOLOGY....... 98 The Appearance of History and the Disappearance of God

Hegel and Historiography

Historical Theology as the Crossroads of Faith and Reason



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One of the most important figures in the storied clash of Christian faith and Enlightenment rationalism in nineteenth century Europe is Ferdinand Christian Baur of Tübingen (1792 – 1860) although his name is little known outside theological and biblical studies (and to some extent even inside them). Baur served as the director of the Tübingen University seminary (das Stift) as well as the first morning preacher (erste Frühprediger) in the seminary church (die Stiftskirche) from 1842 until his death, and yet was called the Anti-Christ and the Beast of Revelation 13 by Christians and Bible scholars in Berlin and elsewhere during his lifetime. Specifically, as a Lutheran Christian and professor of church history and New Testament Baur considered it his mission to elucidate the true essence of the Christian religion in differentiation from what he deemed the many confused, history-deprived versions of it that he knew so well. For his efforts he suffered harsh criticism not only from less ‘enlightened’ Christians who thought him a heretic and an atheist, but also from many of his academic colleagues who thought his work a disaster of honest history (if not also a shipwreck of Christian faith). This apparent contradiction and its polarizing effects have led to a great diversity of opinion about Baur up to the present time, though he is most often viewed by Christian theologians (even those who try equally as hard to emulate such an ambitious combination of scholarship with faith) as an apostate, with the corollary that he is only important to us today in what errors he can teach us not to make, lest we ourselves repeat his downfall from the Faith. My intention in all that follows will be to address this fundamental matter through a general survey of Baur’s life and work in order to achieve an informed evaluation of his unique contribution to biblical and theological studies, hoping also to attain a better judgment as to how this man, despite his many detractors, felt he could hold together the rigors of historical integrity and the obligations of sincere Christian faith.

The question of Baur is important to Christians and scholars alike, but especially so for Christians who would be scholars. On the one hand, Baur’s bold approach to historical acumen addresses the challenge that so many Christian theologians (then and since) have also deemed legitimate. But while Baur obviously was not the only important Christian thinker to respond to the challenges of the Enlightenment, his role in the story is unique. Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher has gotten exponentially more press, but he was not a historian, and in fact considered critical history a secondary even if necessary component of the whole enterprise (much like Albrecht Ritschl, who also overshadows Baur in the secondary literature). But Baur was a professional historian. It may very well be that Baur’s marginalization in discussions of the clash of faith and reason in modernity is a result of the relatively under-appreciated role of history itself in the conflict. It is customary today to think of the Enlightenment in terms of the challenges posed to Christianity by the natural sciences and by extension, philosophy.

Perhaps it is not recognized enough that critical history was the fundamental, underlying issue at stake all along. It never was a point of Christian dogma that the sun revolves around the earth, but heliocentric conceptions of the galaxy undermined the historical accuracy of the biblical narrative, the foundation of the Church and its theology, 1 which held mankind at the center of God’s affections.

On the other hand, Baur’s perseverance in Christian practice raises a possible challenge not only to those who would quickly label him an apostate, but also to those who fear (consciously or not) that critical scholarship will always prove detrimental to faith. Certainly Baur was not the first to conduct a critical historical reading of the Bible, nor even of the New Testament. Hermann Samuel Reimarus published his study of Jesus and the Gospels some decades before Baur’s student David Friedrich Strauss shocked the world with his historical endeavor Das Leben Jesu in 1835, 2 also prior to most of Baur’s Certainly, Christian theologians viewed Christ himself as the foundation and cornerstone of the Church, but the Christ of Christian faith was nothing if not a historical person whom Christians must know via the biblical narrative(s). Hence the notable exception to my point here is the classic rhetoric in theological and biblical studies discussions that distinguishes a ‘Jesus of history’ from a ‘Christ of faith.’ But aside from that discussion, in general, the modern challenge of reason to faith is usually conceived in reference to a challenge from without, not within Christian circles.

important works. But Baur, unlike Reimarus and Strauss, represents one of the first truly critical historians of the New Testament and the Christian religion who not only borrowed insights from the leading secular historians and philosophers of his day, and so conducted some of the most scathingly critical studies of the New Testament, Christian origins, and the history of Christian dogma, but who nonetheless never believed he had betrayed or abandoned his faith and who continued in his Christian devotion until his death.

In Chapter 2 I will start with an introductory look at Baur’s life and work as a scholar and a Christian. This will set the stage for further evaluation in Chapter 3 of both the value of his overall contribution to theological and biblical studies and as his relative success in the marriage of faith and reason, based on a survey of Baur’s reception in subsequent scholarship. In particular I will focus on the treatments of Peter C. Hodgson and Horton Harris, whose works display respectively the two opposing positions taken by scholars with regard to these questions. I will also take up a new argument that he has earned a great deal more credit than recognized hitherto thanks to the arrival of what New Testament scholars call ‘the New Perspective on Paul,’ and that this should be given greater emphasis in the relevant discussions and allowed to positively impact the overall impression held by scholars concerning Baur. I will turn in Chapter 4 to the nuts and bolts of Baur’s conceived project of ‘historical theology,’ focusing primarily on his express methodology with the intention of explaining its relation to the non-Christian historiography of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and its uniquely Christian agenda in the hands of Baur.

Ultimately, it will be my contention throughout that general opinion of Baur in the last 150 years has misunderstood the man due to a lack of familiarity with him and his work. I take exception to the suggestion of Horton Harris that Baur was a closet atheist who was both insincere in the words he preached from the pulpit and dreadfully mistaken in his historical method. I will argue instead that Baur

Reimarus’s essay was published posthumously in 1778 by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Its full original title was:

Von dem Zwecke Jesu und seiner Junger, Noch ein Fragment des Wolfenbuttelschen Ungenannten (Braunschweig:

Gotthold Ephraism Lessing, 1778; ET: Fragments, ed. Charles H. Talbert [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1970]). The full details of David Friedrich Strauss’s study are: Das Leben Jesu, kritisch bearbeitet, 2 vols. (Tübingen: C.F. Osiander, 1835; ET of the 4th ed.: The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, 3 vols., trans. George Eliot [London: Chapman Brothers, 1846]; reprinted in 1 vol., ed., Peter C. Hodgson [Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1972; London: SCM Press, 1973]).

was deeply committed to Jesus Christ and the Christian religion as the pinnacle of God’s self-disclosure in time, even though he came to suspect some Christian traditions, and that he went about his work of critical biblical and theological studies inspired by a radical conviction that he was fulfilling a divine calling upon his life to challenge errant views of God’s self-disclosure and carve out new and better ways

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But the devil did not slumber, and doubts were already arising among men of the truth of these miracles. And just then there appeared in the north of Germany a terrible new heresy… These heretics began blasphemously denying miracles. But those who remained faithful were all the more ardent in their faith. The tears of humanity rose up to him as before, awaited his coming, loved him, hoped for him, yearned to suffer and die for him as before. 1 So goes the ‘preface’ to Ivan Karamazov’s short-story The Grand Inquisitor in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s classic novel The Brothers Karamazov (1880). The extent to which the stigma of heresy and doubt attached to Germany’s theological heritage can be traced is astounding. On the other hand, Albert Schweitzer, one of the most celebrated theologians and humanitarians of the modern era, began his most

important work (The Quest of the Historical Jesus, 1906) with a very different analysis of that heritage:

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