Higher Criticism under attack by Karl F. Keil in 1859


The famous anti-higher critical studies scholar of the Victorian Age was the New Testament professor K. F. Keil. The following is a summary of his notes.


HC was not known in the early church or Middle Ages. (Keil 1859: 6).

Augustine (died 430); Junilii (550); M. A. Cassiodorus (died 562); N. Lyrani (died 1340);

The Reformation woke up the spirit of scriptural investigation because too long people were busy studying useless things (Keil 1859: 7).

In the 17th century a fight erupted again between the Catholics and Protestants, this time on the canon question and integrity of the Hebrew scriptures.

On the Catholic side was Pagninus Lucensis (a Dominican who died in 1541); S. Senensis (died in 1599); L. Ellies Du-Pin who died in 1718 and was a professor in Paris; C. Frassenii in 1682.

On the Protestant side was P. Palladius (prof. of Coppenhagen who died in 1560); A. Rivetus (Prof. of Leiden who died in 1643); M. Walther who died in 1662); A. Calov who died in 1686 who wrote critical studies on the Bible (Keil 1859: 7).

J. H. Hottinger (Prof. of Heidelberg who died in 1667). J. Leusden (Prof. of Utrecth who died in 1699). J. Buxdorf (Prof. in Basel who died in 1629). His Rabbinic Bible edition in 1620 is important as well as historical, didactic and critical notes in 1665.

L. Cappellus (died in 1658). He wrote a critical sacred scriptures book in 1650.

Against Cappellus critical work against the Hebrew text was J. Buxtorfi (Prof. in Basel who died in 1664) and who wrote anti-critical notes on the veracity of the Hebrew text against Cappellus in 1653.

J. Morinus who died in 1659 and who studied differences between the Hebrew and Greek text in 1669.

B. Walton died in 1661 and gave out the London Polyglot in 1657.

H. Hodii was prof. in Oxford and died in 1706. He worked on the biblical text in the Greek and Latin of the Vulgate in 1705.

R. Simon died in Paris in 1712. He worked on the historical criticism of the Old Testament in 1678 (Keil 1859: 7).

The role of B. Spinoza (who died in 1677) and other English naturalists (like T. Hobbes who died in 1679) brought doubt on the inspiration of the Word of God and Semler was impressed by this.

A prof. of Leipzig, J. G. Carpzov who died in 1767, wrote a critical work on the origin of the texts of the Old Testament in 1728 with a second edition in 1748.

J. S. Semler, a professor of Halle who died in 1791 pleaded for a freer hand to study the canon of the Bible. He focused on an Apparatus towards a “Liberal Old Testament Interpretation” in 1773 (see Keil 1859: 8).

J. G. Eichhorn who was a professor at Göttingen and who died in 1827, wrote critical notes on the Old Testament between 1780-1783.

Reaction against Eichhorn came from J. D. Michaelis, a professor of Göttingen who died in 1791. He talked about the “divine” scriptures in 1787 which would be foreign to the idea of Eichorn.

Also against Eichhorn was the catholic scholar J. Jahn, professor of Wien who died in 1816. He also talks about the “divine” scriptures.

But Eichhorn had his disciples in a professor at Heidelberg, G. L. Bauer who died in 1806. He wrote a critical introduction to the Old Testament. Also G. C. W. Augusti who died in 1841 who wrote on historical criticism of the Old Testament in 1806.

The historical criticism of this time was strengthened by the rationalism of W. M. L. de Wette who was professor at Basel and died in 1849 (Keil 1859: 9). He wrote about historical criticism of the Canon and Old Testament in 1817. A synthesis of critical views were made by L. Bertholdt who was professor in Erlang and who died in 1822.

Critical of the Skeptics were a list of scholars of these times: E. W. Hengstenberg in his works between 1831-1839. Also H. A. C. Hävernick who died in 1845. C. F. Keil from Erlang also worked against the skeptics between 1836-1849; also 1854-55.

In England T. H. Horne of Cambridge published a critical study of the scriptures in London in 1818; revised 1856. It was in three volumes but the first one focused on evidence for genuiness, authenticity, uncorrupted preservation and inspiration of the holy scriptures. The second volume was reworked by S. Davidson focused on the sacred interpretation of the scriptures and the third volume on geography and the fourth one on the New Testament.  



Karl Friedrich Keil, 1859. Lehrbuch historisch-kritischen: Einleitung in die kanonische und apokryphischen Schriften. Frankfurt am Main:Verlag von Heyder & Zimmer.