No Happy Ending

The Old Testament Since the Reformation by Emil Kraeling, Harper, New York, 1955. $5.00.

“Should the Old Testament have any authority in the Christian Church, and if so how is that authority to be defined?” So Kraeling formulates what he calls “the master problem of theology” (pp. 7, 8)—not too difficult a problem if one bows the knee before Christ the Lord. He regarded the Law and the Prophets as His Father’s infallible word—for man to hear gladly and by it to live.

Our author, a Lutheran clergyman, endorses the majority opinion of his fellow specialists in Old Testament and Oriental studies, that the Old Testament teems with heathen myth and legend, falsified history and fraudulent claims of authorship, and sub-Christian theology and ethics. He thinks there are “terrible and shocking things contained in that book” and “the most monstrous contradictions” (p. 162). To modern theology informed by this negative criticism the Old Testament is understandably an annoying relic in the Church’s heritage. Inextricably entwined in Christian beginnings and deeply ingrown in Christian traditions, it cannot be dispatched forthwith and outright. And though it be crucified and buried quietly—for fear of the people who in their simplicity take it for the Word of God—it rises again to confront its executioners anew whenever they open their New Testaments. Hence the Modernists’ quandary, “What to do with this Old Testament?” Actually, the implication that this is a distinctively Old Testament problem for Modernism is misleading, for Modernism regards the entire Canon of the two Testaments as error-ridden.

Kraeling claims this ...

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