To appreciate the present situation in the field of Old Testament study in England one must go back to the beginning of the century, when the Graf-Wellhausen school was making so profound an impact upon Western thought. At that time, while British New Testament scholars, notably Lightfoot, were refuting the theories of the Tübingen scholars, their Old Testament counterparts looked with distinct favor upon German higher criticism.
They did not, however, espouse the precise forms in which the latest evolutionary doctrines were presented to the academic world. The British have a way of modifying anything of foreign origin which is to be incorporated into their pattern of living. Since they already had considerable experience of their own with evolutionary theory in the biological field, it was not too difficult for such leading scholars of the day as W. Robertson Smith in Scotland and S. R. Driver in England to modify German criticism to a point tolerably acceptable to British tastes.
This objective was accomplished most effectively by Driver’s Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament. A prolific writer, Driver’s Introduction was by far his most significant literary production. No other book of its kind has exercised anything like the influence which it has wielded in England up to the present time. Driver’s work established the “standard of orthodoxy” in Old Testament liberal circles. While minor variations were permitted, an individual’s academic respectability depended to a large extent upon the closeness with which he adhered to the pattern set forth by Driver. Thus there sprang up a curious liberal-conservatism which is still in evidence today in British scholarship, and which has been recognized by both Continental ...1
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