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Tübingen School

In the early nineteenth century there was a Tübingen School of conservative theology led by J.C.F. Steudel at the University of Tübingen. But the Tübingen School commonly referred to is that headed by F.C. Baur,* who taught there from 1826 until his death in 1860. Baur’s teaching was characterized by his anti-supernaturalistic attitude to history, tendency criticism in the interpretation of biblical writings, and the use of idealist philosophy in the interpretation of history. He saw a fundamental conflict between the Jewish church led by Peter and the Hellenistic Gentile church led by Paul. The degree in which NT books exhibited tendencies of this conflict determined their authenticity. Baur assigned most of them to the second century.

The organ of Baur’s circle was the Tübinger Theologische Jahrbücher (1842-57), continued by A. Hilgenfeld* as the Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Theologie (1858-1914). Baur wrote in defense of the school in An Herrn Dr. Karl Hase. Beantwortung des Sendschreibens “Die Tübinger Schule” (1855) and Die Tübinger Schule und ihre Stellung zur Gegenwart (1859, rev. 1860). It is questionable, however, whether the school ever amounted to more than Baur and his immediate circle. Despite the attention Baur attracted, nineteenth-century German liberal theology tended to follow other paths. Of his disciples, A. Schwegler adopted Baur’s approach in his Geschichte des nachapostolischen Zeitalters (2 vols., 1846), as did O. Pfleiderer.* But Baur’s most famous pupils—D.F. Strauss,* E. Zeller,* and A. Ritschl*—developed their own approaches. After the death of his colleague F. Kern in 1842, Baur felt himself increasingly isolated within the Tübingen faculty and German academic theology.

Bibliography: R.W. Mackay, The Tübingen School (1863); E. Zeller, “Die Tübinger Historische Schule” in Vorträge und Abhandlungen geschichtlichen (1865), pp. 267-353; P.C. Hodgson, The Formation of Historical Theology: A Study of Ferdinand Christian Baur (1966); H. Harris, The Tübingen School (1973).

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