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Ferdinand Christian Baur

1762-1860. Leader of the “Tübingen School”* of German radical biblical criticism. Almost his entire career was spent at the University of Tübingen. His vast writings centered on NT criticism, church history, and historical theology. Among them was his Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ (2 vols., 1845; ET 1875), in which he argued that of the epistles attributed to Paul, only Romans, Galatians, and 1 and 2 Corinthians were genuine. He reached this conclusion on the basis of a hypothesis which posited a fundamental conflict in the early church between the Jewish party led by Peter and the Hellenist party led by Paul. The four “authentic” letters are regarded as genuine because of their anti-Judaizing tendencies (their rejection of the law, circumcision, etc.) and their wider conception of God. The remaining letters are regarded as late and inauthentic because they do not reflect these tendencies, but exhibit others which Baur placed in a later period. The gospels were all late, John being placed in the second half of the second century.

It has often been claimed that Baur's biblical criticism was the result of the application of the Hegelian dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis in history (the thesis being primitive Jewish Christianity, the antithesis Hellenistic Christianity, and the synthesis the catholicism of the early church). Examination of his writings does not bear this out. This dialectic was not even characteristic of Baur's philosophy. The decisive factor in Baur's approach was not a preconceived philosophy, but his tendency criticism which anticipated a good deal of contemporary redaction criticism. It may be faulted, however, for seeing tendencies where there were none, and mistaking others. Baur pioneered an anti-theistic, nonsupernatural approach to history and Christian origins. In common with Hegel he insisted that history could not be understood without philosophical speculation and that the proper way to understand it was to see it as the forward movement of the Spirit in temporal and particular forms. But his interpretation of NT theology had much in common with Schleiermacher* also. It saw Christianity as an expression of human self-consciousness and Jesus as the mediator of a higher religious and moral awareness.

W. Geiger, Spekulation und Kritik: Die Geschichtstheologie Ferdinand Christian Baur (1964); P.C. Hodgson, The Formation of Historical Theology: A Study of Ferdinand Christian Baur (1966): full bibliography; H. Liebing, “Historical Critical Theology. In Commemoration of the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Death of Ferdinand Christian Baur,” Journal for Theology and Church (1967), pp. 55-69; P.C. Hodgson (ed.), Ferdinand Christian Baur on the Writing of Church History (1968). A five- volume selection of Baur's writings in German is being edited by K. Scholder, Ausgewahlte Werke in Einzelausgaben (1963- ); H. Harris, The Tübingen School (1975).