Full Text for An Evaluation of HEILSGESCHICHTE Theologies with Special Reference to Their Implications for Biblical Hermeneutics (Text)
THE SYRISGFIELDER is published quarterly bp the faculty of Con-
cordia Theological Seminary. Springfield, Illinois. of the Lutheran
Church- hlissouri S)nod.
EDITOR I AI, COYVbJITTEE
ERICH H. HEINTZEN, Editor
R . L ~ ~ h ~ o s ~ ) F. S C R . G ~ H G , COO~Z Re~:ielo Editor
D,AVJI) P . S c a m , Associat,e Editor
~ ' I A R K J . STEEGE, Asso~:iatc Editot-
AN t:\.'Al,L'ii'TTO% OF HEILSGESCFJICHTErEj
TFlEOT-OCIES l l ' lPIH SPFCIAL REFERESCE
TO THEIR IhlI'l,lC.~TlONS . . 4
R ~ ~ n ~ o x r , E. Sc-~irjcnc;, Professor, Old 'Testament,
S p r i n q f i ~ l d ~ Illinois
JOHN ROGERSI klELrIhC.1-ITHONS ENGLISH FRIEND . 24
Ci\ R L 5. h.7 EYELZ, Professor, Historical Theology,
Concorciia Seminary , St. Louis, Xlissouri
Indcx td in INDEX TO RELIGIOUS PERIODICAL ~ R A T L T R E , published by the
American Theological Library Association, il.l~Corznick Serninnvy Library,
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logical Seminary, Springfield, Illinois 62702.
An Evaluation of HEILSGESCHICHTE
Theologies with Special Reference
to Their Implications for Biblical
R A Y ~ T O ~ I ) F. Scnn C H G
H ~.>( ; l ; s ( '~ I IC:HTF:> A CE:l'lhliiN \YORD, that 1x1s becrl tr; l l lsl ; l tccl s ~ l r , l \ . histor!:" or "salvation history" has gained a
i l b r t i i i n proIllincncc i~r t\\enticth theological literature. In lllan\,
ttlc~llrlsjr;ll i i rc lcr t]lc turn1 Heilsgeschirhtc is used with ;in air if
, l l ] , l r l l n c l icl f-confidence hccause it is considerecl to 1,e self-
c\l~l:i~liltor\ :111cl tlic term is adjudgcd tha t every user of it cn-lp10)~d
t 1 1 ~ \\ ortl 1 ; ) tllc a n l c \\.a!.. Ho\vcvcr, a n exaininiltion of theological A
] l t c r , l t l l \ \ . i l l rc'\.c:~I that the ivord Heilsgesc-hiclite has different
I ~ I ~ ~ ; I I ~ I I ~ ~ for dif 'fcrcrl~ inturpreters, all of \vhom fill the word \ \ i t h
, I \ ; i r i c - t \ oi' c.ontcllts and ~llcanings. Alan Richardson said about the
tcSrm / ! ~ ~ i l ~ t q ' ~ ~ ~ ~ / i i ~ ~ / i t o
'5;11\ ,~rinn-histor\,' is clumsy and does not convey an!. \:cr\.
i t I . In ~ c . ; r ~ ~ a n the \\;ol-d bears the double sense of
1,0t11 ' , ; I \ ill^ histor!' ancl 'Iiistor! of sal\,atioi-l,' a n d it is no\\-ad,~!s
\i i c l c * l \ ir%c.tl 10 rcsfcr to those saving acts of God in human histor,
\ r . l l l c l I ilrc; rc'corcl(~tl in the Scripture of t he Old and Keiv 'restj-
I ~ ~ c I ~ t i . '
'l'llc.rc- ;I rcq ; ~ l \ o coda!. scholars \vho arc calling for the discoi-ltinuancc
ot 11, c - l ~ l j ~ l n ~ 111c'li t '11 t ~ g c t h ~ r . T'hc tcrl-ll Heilsgesclz.ichte is a \-c:r\- .
l)ro,\cl ollc. a11cl 11~1s l>c.cn iltilized lo cover theologians as di\rersc as
Ilt.~ltl(-I. \t~t)c.l.lc~ri. I',utingc~r, Bcck, i i u l cn , E\\.ald, von Hofmann.
h..lll,~rrc.r. ( u l l ~ l l ~ i l l r l ni1c.l Otto Pipcl..'
I~ot~c.lll)c're i l l Hcdc~rlllriorl and Ilistor-icnl Reality claims that it
I \ 1101 e l i f l i c . ~ l l t ti! i~~~clcrs tand \ v h y the idea of Hrilsgesckichte is por-
t r ;l\ c.cl 115 c3s>i.l l t~ir 1 to a 111-oper understanding of the Hihle :
' l ' l lc ' r-ct;rson in csse~lcc was this : the concept espressecl a
\ ic\r. of ~.l.\.cl;ltion th:~t is r l j nanlic. T h e God of thc Bible i s
i ~ ) r t l : ~ \ c i l ;IS thi. "Gad rvho acts." The messag of the Biblc
is t l l i i l . i l ( ~cri/(:d 'IS \\.itlli>ss, as proclanlation of t]le maprelie r)ci
- t I l c s I I I I ' : ~ ~ ~ ! . ,111(1 S;I \ .~IIS clecds of the Lord.:;
]'[nl.l\ 1 1 1 I I I that histor! is the primary rnedi~lru
( 1 1 % 1 I ( ~ ~ r r c n t tlieolopi~al tllillhilla is llas conc~l-ltratcd .
~ l l c . c ( 1 1 t l l , ~ t God re'ieals i l imse l f i n action, reielatlal
c ~ l l l c 1 1 ) 1111 11 I I I I O L I ~ I ) ccrtrlin c\.cnts. T h i s view of hns
l l~ l i . i l l l i . l l ( I ( ~ ~ l \ I I I I IUCIICC ill recent t]leologicica] itenturc.' Both ,
( ) ] ( I .11l(I \ru 1l3~t.imcnt scholars are using the concept of Her/<
An Evuluation o f HEILSGESCIZICHTE heologies 5
r,eii*hirhtc. Ramin in his herineneutical guide, Frotestant Biblical
j,,te,.lvetfitiotz has listed Heibgeschichte as one of the most recent
5cj,ools of interpretation to appear in the history of Biblical her-
Ineneu t i~~ . "
Protestant and lloman Catholic writers are using the tern1 to
cover the Biblical history of both Testaments. Thus Rust has written
llis Sfil~:ntio~t History and Salnis has edited a volume dealing with
~ i b l i ~ a l topics and called it: Studies in Salvation History and Polver
jlas given his survey of the Old Testament the title: History of
It \t1ill be the purpose of this presentation to set forth the
historical origins of the concept of Heilsgeschichte prior to the twen-
rlctll century, furthermore to see how it has been and is being
cmPl~ \cd in this century and also to note the reasons advanced by
tilosc ;\.ho are opposed to its usefulness as a theological term. Finally,
thc im131ications for Biblical interpretation will be evaluated in the
Ilght of the Scriptures and of the hcrn~eneutics of the Lutheran
(,onfessiolls (all clergy of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are
pIcdgcd to the position that the Lutheran Confessions are correct
cloctrinal intcrpretations of God's \Vord).
Students of Heilsgeschichte claim that the word Heilsgeschichte
\ \ ds collled in the middle of the eighteenth century in Pietistic circles
ln (;crmany. Toward thc middle of the nineteenth century there
.11~pc'u"cd in opposition to the historical positi\~ism of the religions-
~e~~~hlclr t l iche S ule, the socallcd heilsgeschichtliche Schule, which
floul-i\hc.d especially in southern Germany. Its main representatives
\ \ crc. Tohins Bcck ( 1804-1 878) and Johann Christian Konrad von
Hofmann (1810-1877). '
Somc of the basic concepts and ideas promoted by the school of
ffczlsgesc-hichte are discovered by the proponents of Heilsgeschichte
c~lrcad> in Ireneus and A u g ~ s t i n e . ~ Ircncus is supposed to have
e rnpl ln~i~~d the integral relationship between the Old Testament and
thc 1Yc.u. Testament as well as the concept of recapitulation. Ireneus'
\\ ritinss arc also characterized by an emphasis on God's saving pres-
( m e and his redemptive activity in history. This second-century
ihul-cl~ fathcr also postulated a preestablished divine plan which
en~hracnl history fro111 Creation to the Second Conling. A number
of thesc emphases were adopted by the school of Heilsgeschichte of
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Augustine in his De Vera Religione, xxv, 46 wrote: "Divine
I"oiidence not only looks after the individuals as it were privately but
also after thc whole human race publicly . . , How he deals with the
human race God has handed down through history and prophecy."
In his n ork De Civitate Dei, Books 1 5- 1 7 (written about A.D. 4 2 5 )
hugustine analyzed the Old Testament revelation on the basis of
file Ilistorical periods. He thus embodied the views of historical
revelation, a n d , ill a sense pronloted a collcelJt of Heilsgeschichte, i
In the ccnturv loacl1im of Fiore taught that Father , Son, and I
~ ~ 1 , . e h o s t aerc l l l n ~ i t e s t e d in different dispensations that follolved
eat]; othc.r in succcssi\-e historical eras.'' i I
~ t . , ~ ! rout5 of the ~ ~ i l ~ ~ e s ~ - h i c h t ~ i c ~ 1 e Sch1,rle of southern Ger- 1
man\- t,..IcCd tliiek to 10llalln Alhrecht H e n g l , a Gemlan lJutheran.
f ron , 16 87 to 1 7 j?. He u-as known for his piety and
for his sLlt, l l ,~ssil cncss to Go(lVs \\'arc]. Bengel is falllous eslJecial11
for t \ \ . ~ \,.orl;s: (;,,o,,loll xol.i 1-estnnzewti (Tiibingen, 17.12), a brid j
;Inti i ,xce l lcn t c o l l l m c r l t ~ r - \ on tile New Testament, and Ordo Tew- i
Ixu,)n,,w / S l l l l ~ ; l r t . I 7 4 j >. In tllr latter work Rengel claiilled that i
nluit llrl[ rc.X;III~ H ~ I \ Scripture as a text-book, but as an inconl- ;
psrPhlc I ln r r ; l t i \.c (,f tllc $i \.ine economy wit11 reference to the human
race froll, tl,r is:gin~iinp to the end of all thing-through all the
ages of t l l C \\.oI.l(I as :I bcautif~ll. glorious connected ~ ~ ~ t e n i . " ' " k l c n ~ ~ ]
flcl(f ol.g,lllic ;Ini] 1listoricaI understanding of Ribical revelation,
insi5ting t ~ ~ . ~ t its IifI 'crc~~t st2igcs bc d is t i~~guished . T h u s hc wrote
in (Jr t f r r .! crrljlororlr,,l (OT), XI., 1 3 : "The 1-loly Scriptures for111
ollc h a r ~ ~ l n r l i o ~ ~ s \\.ark. A l l its baolis form one corpus. F;ach i$ t
~cIf-c~or,t;lirlcyI, ; r ~ l t I fuItiIIs for- itsclf its particular object. It is one
S S O L I I I ~ I ~ I I O L I ~ I I t , \ \ t l i ~ I 1 in ti~ijtcI\., cli\;inel? c o ~ l ~ p r e h e n d s all in itself--
fro111 \ \ ' t l ic.11 ; I I I t irl1c.s I)r.oc.cc(l, \\-hie11 has mcasured past, present, and
1 * , , the f r ~ t ~ l l - c . . ,
!lc.rlg~~I r;\~lqllt th;lt \\.hat C;od teaches we must by all means
Icirrr~ ; ~ r l t l ;~c.c.c'[)t. one th ing aftcr another. Step b! step God advanccs '
rc\.c;11111~ t l ~ v sc:.rcts of tlis kingdom to each age which each age in
tirrn iilu5t ;~ l~ l~ ro l j~ . i ;~ t c for i sclf. Nothing i-nore must the saints of
C h t l rc.cx:i\c5. hut ; I I>o nothing Icss. T h e measure of the re\,elation
in c\.or\ iige is tllc n~ca$ure of the saints (0. 'T. VIII, I ) . ' "
I t \ \ - ;I> Iii7~1~c.l's contclltio~l that in orcler to grasp the 111eaning
of t I 1 ~ histor.ic;~l I)ooks of tllc Old 'Testaillelit, it \vas that
thc cli\.i~ic: I ) I I S ~ ) ~ I S ~ of ~.e(l~nlption as set forth ill the Old Testament i
111. rt.;llj/rrl :111(.I t l l ; ~ t tlli5 r c d ~ n ~ l ~ t i o i i canic to gradual realizatioll ill
t J l c . OiO ' j ' i ' s t i ) ~ ~ ~ c ~ ~ t . 1-01. Hengel the historical events recor(]cd ill tile
flii)li, ftillo\\c.tl 110t o r~ l ! n chr-onol~gic~l principle, b u t also a telcc-
l()gic';ll one. ' I I I C cscllatoloKic,al e\,cnts of Daniel and He\relatioll \c-c.re
( s I to c l l r~no lo~ ica l sprculations, setting the begin-
n i l l ~ 01' t I l tx llilli'11ni~1rll ns the !.ear 1836. As a as FritscIl
( 1 ( 1 l i ene l \\';Is 110t 0111) thc progellitor of tile Heihgeschickt-
1 1 , ' I its < t r ~ \ \ on revelation as histon., b u t to hilrl must
;lJsr) 1 ) ~ i I t t ~ i O L ~ l c ' ~ I t I l ~ rc\,i\::1] of chi]iaslll in the eiohteenth centurv.'"
0 1 1 ~ ' of tllc l ) l i l l ~ i ~ i i l nsights of the Heilsgeschk:hte theoloiI of
tj1c n i ~ l c ' l ~ ~ n l i l 1'1'11~111.) \ \as that tllcre \,as a p)aIl in the history of
the t\'Ol']cl /'roll1 t l l i ' IIcginniny, to the end, It was the function of
the Uiblic:ll slllcli'nt lo search for the underlying principles that ~011- ?
tr0lli.d thir ( l i \ in r histor\ i1.r contained in Holv scripture.
not l l c \ \ i(lc9.1 i l l the histor). of C:hristian Bengel, as alread,
I)ccll s f l ~ \ \ . l l . consiilcrcd Scripture as an organism lollannes Cocceius
,,,I the socalled federal theology, di\,ided history on thc basis of
co\-enant relationships between God and man. He spoke of
the 6.co\.enant of n.orks" and the "covenant of grace." In sonlc respects
his position was a reaction against the scholasticis~ll of the post-
Re for,,l;ltioll pfliocl. It was intended as a corrective against theo-
logical According to Rottenberg "Cocceius n-as illter-
rs,rd in developing a Biblical-theological dogmatics that would be
nlore related to the life of faith, over against the spco la t i~~e -
p~lilosop~lica] tendencies of his day."l4
lolln Gerstncr claims that Johannes Edwards ( 1 70 3- 1 75 8 ) ill
Sea ingland also conceived of prescntinp a "Rational Divinityv along
thr lines of Bengcl in his posthumously published History of Rel~en~p-
tjoll and that this may thus be considered the first work of the
r\merican school of Heil~geschichte.'~ According to Gcrstner this
outflo\\-ering of Heilsgeschichte was not from the dry ground because
ar l t ic ipat i~~~s of it were to be found in church men likc Ircnclls,
Ioachim of Flora and Luther. It is doubtful that Ed\vards hat1 any
inai\.1edgc of the work of Bengel.
I n order to counteract a static view of Scripture, thc Heils-
cescIlicllte theology had eniphasized the idea of development in
'eiblical history. In the Scriptures the reader finds a series of divine
acts ~vliich arc. organically connected and which grew in clearness
until they are fulfilled in Christ. Jesus is the end of the Old Testa-
mcnt histor!,. Fle is the climax of the developing proccss of divine
rc\.elation in history.
iiccording to this interpretation prophecy and fulfilln~ent assume
I a . The Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi is
prophetic and is supposed to be freed from the rigidity of the ]>roof-
tcst method. The New Testament is also in harmony with the
prophetic ~ . i c . \ ~ ' , and looks beyond the Second Co~ning to the final
union of heaven and earth, referred to in Revelation 2 1 : 1-3.
One of the important ideas of the school of Heilsgeschichte was
tllc portrayal of history as revelation. Members of this school stress
the fact tllat God had made Hinlself known in and through thc
historical process in historical acts. In describing this position
Fritsch wrote: "These acts are the result of the divine activity in
history, alld the divine truth in the historical acts therefore makes
tilem the object of saving faith. The function of history is therefore
both revelatory and reden~ptive."'~ This meant that divine revelation
is not to be identified with Scripture's contents as had bccn held by
Scripture is merely the witness to the datum not the
I'he idea of the Bible as redemptive history (Heilsgeschichte)
"'" to have implications for the authority of Scriptures. Over
seventeenth century orthodoxy, the authority of the Bible
"'as considered dependent on a verbally inspired book, but rather
upn the fact that God speaks and acts on its every page. The Bible
not to be used as a repository of proof texts which can be quoted
to establish soem doctrine or dogma. 1 7
According to \Veth, the nineteenth century was the '.cclltur\
of history," but it was also the century of the theologians of Heili-
g e s c h i c h t e . ' V h e latter development took two different directions.
\Vith Darby, whose views were popularized by Scofield's Reference
Bible, Heilsgeschichte became Dispensationalism. According to this
school of theology, the history of the world is divided into scven dis-
pensations, each of which serves a specific end. The last phase i5
the one in which believers are to be especially interested because the\
will be spared the dispensation of the Great Tribulation bv hein;
taken from the world by the "Rapture" (I Thess. 4 : 1 7). Klanr 2
the prophecies of the Old Testament regarding Jesus will then be
iVith Johann Tobias Beck ( 1 804-1 3 7 8) Heilsgeschic.l~te tool,
on a different development. Beck combined Hegel's philosopl~y with
certain trends in German theology. This theology is not found in
any one book, but must be gathcred from numerous publications. The
key to understanding the history of revelation is the Iropllecy folio\\-ins the same
(ic\ clopmcnt. iiccording to Ramm, \on Hofmann was indebted to
Schelling (as 'Tillich in America) for this I~asic, insight that history
the ma~lifestation of the ctcrnal and absolute and not so much
a matter of chronicled events.'" Von Hofnlann regarded Jesus Christ
not nlcrely as the fulfill~nent of Old Testaillent prophecy, b u t as a
prophet) yet to be fulfilled. The history of Christ was for the
Lrlangcn l~rot'essor the starting point for a further history which has
\ ct another prophecy concerning the completion of communion be-
t~vccn God and man. The course of pro1,hetic history may be
tlcscribed as follows: prophecy, fulfillnicnt, greatcr or final fulfill-
ment. I lie present age portends another age, the mjllenniun~. T h u s
Ion Hofmann took his placc with other Lutheran millcnnarians of
thc nineteenth century.
The nenr birth jron I-Iofninnn consiclered as the starting point
of theology. By regeneration the individual becomes conscious of
being a member of the Church. No person can truly understand the
Il~ble, theology, or history, apart from a personal faith in Christ . I t
1s in this light of his Christian experience and faith that a Christian
understands the redemptive character of Old Tcstamcnt history. I t
is thc ever-present task of theology to reinterpret the church's sub-
stance \\ ithin the historical circumstances.
170n Ilofmann also held that the Holy Spirit not only inspired
Bible, but I le still guides the church. The Christian exegete
]nust not formalize, dogmatize, or canonize his interpretations of the
Bible but must always bc depcndent upon the IIoly Spirit for more
llgllt and insight. Interpretation is thus conceived to be dynamic, as
o~l~osed to the static approach of orthodoxy and is constantly moving
forward under the Holy Spirit's guidance.
*.hc ~. : r longel l ( t i \:i ne reiected the form of Scriptural proof r n -
plol,cd b). [hc old iloel>lnticial;s and writers of orthoc1ox L.uthera~lism
. , L,Il,ll J of i n passages, ignoring t h i r place in
h is tor \ rnjcn,ptjol~, Hcick said of von Hofmaon : "Fle demands
t h a t I,rcx,is be ( lcr i \ce l from thc \\-hole of Scriptures and that each
lx)r l~on of the Bible hit intrrprrtcd in the light of the j\!l~ole.
[ l lc rcrurdnl facts . the llistoric evcnts arc to furnish the
~"o('f5. ' '
1 jof . l l i ' jn l l cll(]ca\.orctl to combine orthoclos Lutheran the-
oll,p, \, jth jn5iah,i of S~hlcicrmacher collrerning rcligious caperi-
,,,, :,, l l l r (if c l c l ~ x t L ~ c : of thc Scriptnrcs. This concept 1
~.c; l l l l i . l l ; l r l icLI l:lrl \ I,mrnincl~t in thc nil1etccntli ccn tury . According
t o ( . i l r j 5 1 i , l n I ' ~ ~ . ~ ~ ~ \ ( i l l I~ioflrl;~lln cndca\;orcd to find thc Ixlsis of
r(.~141011r ~ i l , l l , O r j ~ ~ i l l 1 ~ I I C C A I I ~ ~ ~ C I I C L , of ~-cg~nerat iol l : ( 2 ) t l ~ ~
Ili,tor\ t.,lcl ( , f tJlc ' c.ht1rc.11: ; ~ n d ( 3 ) the Scriptures.'"
'I-],(. 1 e I ( I I ~ ~ c ~ ~ ~ o f 011l osi t on to fIeils~esc'liic~hte in the \ine-
tc*cn111 i , r ~ ~ u r \ , .
..\frl.r \ , , 1 1 I I ~ I . I I I : ~ I I I ~ t l ~~rcsrlltation of niblical clata in te~-~lls
of II(~ii\x(,\r~I~ic.I,i~ \ \ c 1 r l t ~ n r o c.c.lipsc. rlmong reputable scholars only
I:r,rrl/ I ) t ~ ! i 1 / 5 r I 1 I';~\orc.O tilt thcolog!: of thc Erlangen sc.liool and corl-
t i r l t lcs t l 10 , ~ r l \ c,c ;([it "~~~pc ln : l t t~ r ;~ l i sn i in Ijihlical theology.""'; Iluring
o10t1s- t11c 1;tttt.r 11.1It' o f tI1(: 11inc~tcc.nth oc:ntur\ thc scllool of Reli,'
gc\(.lt~( I I , ( * rook o\cr i \hic,l~ I ~ I ; ~ i . ~ ~ I tIx JucIa~o-~hr i s t i :~n rcligion on n
l ~ o 'I ' llc. rc.11g10~15 thot~ght of tile Bible was port]-a\:ed as the
11'" uith otllt~r rcli~iollh ;11l(1 C I C ' I I I C ~ tllc ulliqueness of Riblicnl rc\:e- I
prtnluc.~ of dc . i r l~ l~~t ic i l t ;111cl flumi~n evolution. T h e ~ l d ~ ~ r s t a m c ~ l t 1 I
\+ 25 rcxi1ril~.ti ; I [ l ) c ' > t thc. cxl~rcs~ion of rcligious ic1c.a~. Conscq~lcntl \ , i
lhts Oltl ' I ' t + \ t ; ~ ~ r ~ c , r l t \ \ , I S not cvnsiOcl-c(l to J1ai.e 3 relc\.ant Iliessagc for
- i r l ~ ~ r ~ ~ . l l I h c.c.11 t 11 tJ~c'ologi:li~s of Hcil.qge.schichte attempted to :
1 1 l . l l r l t . l i l l , I ~ r u I \ . Ijildic;lI t l ~ e o l o ~ \ - ~- , in thC face Of tllC Of :
) \ \ J l i l J ~ II 'ICI 11lild~ I S tllc sllj)lellle judSC ill nlattcrs
- 111 tr\iny 1 0 111crt tlie r l ~ a l l r n ~ r of theil- lives. tIlcy also
~n~'(~rlxJr,l[cc/ 1 1 1 ~ ' I i ~ , \ v c ~ r kno\\.lc(lSe into their thcologici31 systeln; for
1 ' 1 ~ ' I I I I I I O ~ I I ~ C I I ~ O F the ronccpt of organic derclol,lncllt \\as i
1 ' 1 1 I 0 ltlr ld , i lorop] l i~~l spirit Of idCaljsIJl. They also :
I 1 1 5 o f :I I I 11 irtoric;ll s\stelil. n.hicll cventua]]l \i;as going
'" chcl!ll'~W-' [ I ] ( ' l ) d \ i c ;lsrunlj)tioll of the ~ ~ i l ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ h j ~ h ~ ] j & Schole.
(j[lc5ti(lll of Ilistori \ \ l~icl l been agitating scllolars for \" '"'" ccnIi~ril ' \ . i l l t i l I l i i t ~ ' I \ ~ '~jccamc tile of Hei~syesrhir .h t~ .
"'" ' 5 [ l l l i l l l l ~ 10 11101 idC a n ans\vrr that \\-auld satisf\; (he
' l l ~ r ' c l l I 5
'1-he) ,urcL,l,lbcd to the sc]laol of histo;icism j
'+ ' l i l ' J1 """ no N)()Ill ; ] I ) \ clcnicnt of Heilsgeschichte, I ](ottcn-
' : ' 1 . h ~ \\'IloIc concel~t of ]>istnricn] revr]atioll in the
l r ' l ' l l ' i ' ) l l < ' l 1 O f ])r&i1ncc and sarino actjyitl of God became
t l ~ [ r ~ l ~ ~ ~ ( s j ~ ~ ~ r ~ ~ ~ ] ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ : ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ , ~ ~ ~ : ~ !
An Evaluation o f HEILSGESCHICHTE heologies
During the nineteenth century the views adopted and developed
by schleierrnacher, Ritschl and Troeltsch were opposed to the dis-
tinctive positions taken by the proponents of Heilsgeschichtc. The
stance regarding history that developed since the Enlightenment
\\.as that history was in essence dealing with the relative. Historians
are dependent upon sources and the interpretation of sources. It was
inferred from this situation that history could not yield definite infor-
Ination but at best furnish probability. Miracles, it was pointed out,
had to be seen or experienced by the historian, otherwise the attesta-
tions of men from the past were not acceptable.
This view of history led those who wished to deal with the
Scriptures on a scientific basis eventually to adopt a "theology of
imlnediacy and inwardness." Schleiermacher took his stand with
the "Christian pious-self-c~nsciousness" and witness to the Christian
araglralia dei was interpreted in terms of man's relidous feelings and
experiences. Schleiermacher was a pantheist in his conception of
deitv and he described man in his feelings in relationship with the
1nfiAite. Every human bcing could be in direct contact with thc
Infinite and thus be subject to revelations from the Infinite." This
totally made unnecessary the emphasis of orthodox Christianity upon
the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, and the concept that in Scrip-
ture there is a record of the great deeds of God was completely redun-
dant. Schleiermacher thus severed the Christian faith from the real
Ritschl attempted to employ the positivistic-historical method
on behalf of the Christian faith. Out of his endeavors there came
the movenlent known as "the quest for the historical Jesus." He was
of the opinion that historical research, while having certain limita-
tions, was able to furnish some historical basis for the Christian
1 eligion. Hc expressed his opposition to speculative rationalism and
\.ague mysticisn~. Influenced by neo-Kantian idealism he tried to
erect a theology upon the basis of "the purely factual" historical basis
of the New Testament. Ritschl portrayed Jesus, who was opposed
by his enemies, as completely trusting in God's love and power; by
doing this Jesus revealed man's true response to God. Thus the
man Jesus became the Archetypal Man and the unique revelation of
God. Jesus Christ was misinterpreted by Paul, who depictcd Him as
the Savior by his vicarious death on the cross for men's sins. This
ljitschl rejected and made Jesus of Nazareth a great moral teacher.
upon this conception of Jesus, Ritschl erected his concept of "value-
judgn~ents."~~ According to Ritschlianism con temporary man who
co~lsidered himself threatened "by blind, mechanistic, impersonal
llatures can be delivered from this situation only by the work mediated
to him by the Christian Church. Man can attain to religious knolvl-
tcke only through the awareness of the 'value' or 'worth' imparted to
his life by God through Jesus Christ."30
It is not difficult to realize what the implications of such teach-
ing would be for those positions that characterized Heilsgeschichte's
of tile Scripttires, its view of revelation and its belief
in the ulliqucnrss of the Christian faith.
Troc]tsc]l ( 1865- 1923) applied the methotls and insights of
tht> p ~ 1 , 1 0 5 0 p ~ l y of history to an analysis of the Christian faith.:" 11
nfas his that Christianity had to be examined in the con-
test of its o\,erall and religious development and that the
past rrcntr of hibliral history could be understood as they were relived
by thc Ilistori;in. Rottenberg avers that Troeltsch was a b orcat his-
toria11 \\ ho \\as much concernetl with the problems that hlstoricisnl
Ilatl raisctl. ~ ~ o ~ ~ t s c h wa singularly interested in the social, political ,
and cu tturaI nlo\;emonts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
so that "historical stuclies had presented him with a panorama of
iniini tc interrcliltionsllips, a Fluss-an endless, moving flux of events,
a n OZPOI, i l e ~ (:e~~.hehei~s--thc ever-rollin! waves of becoming ill
~vhicli a11 is rclatctl to all . 111 this view of historical continuum there
\\:as littlc rooln for thc unique ~ \ ~ c n t - a different and special kind of
histor\.." , i t
Tllc 1 . ~ ~ ~ 1 l t s of Trocltscli's stance were to make the basic teach-
ings of t h ~ Hcilsge.sc~hic*l~ie Scllnle impossible and unrelated to man's
conclit ions. ?'I-ocltsch's main contributions to posterity have been
sumni, i l - id b! Richmond to have been the following: 1. the denial
of thc ;\bsolutencss of the Christian religion; 2. the denial of the
reliahilit\; of the Bible's account of the miraculous and anything that
claimcd to hc rcliltecl to the transcendant.""
In both Old ,111d S e n Testament fields the views of I~istoricism
came to pl-c\a~I. Tllc Olcl Testament was regarded as the story of
thc rcllgious and cultural dc\'clopment of the people of Israel. \\'ithin
the Oltl Tc\tclmcnt scholars assumed a development from polytheism
to \I 11'1~ wnlc c,illcd "ethical monotheism." This was usually inter-
p1-c~tCd .llong c\ olutionar~ lines. '-l
In the he\ \ . 'Tcstan~ent field the quest was how to find the I
"historical Icsus" by means of scientific-historical studies. Troeltsch
\\,as con\.inccd t l i i i t c\.c.n though manv faulty notions held by the
Church i1h0~1t !cstls irould fall by the wayside, yet Jesus would he
rctainctl iis the ccntral figure. tho source and power of the Christian
religion. :\I least in u,estern culture, Jesus and Christianity would
bc kept its the norm to be followed.
Ho\\,cier. a.ith the reaction of the dialectical theology against
libcralisn~ tllcrc emcrgcd a new e n ~ p h a s i ~ on certain aspects of the
nioctcenth ccnti~ry tlnclerstanding of Heilsgeschichte and the \yonl
Heilsge~c.hitl?tr hecame 3 popular one with a number of Old and
Tectamcnt st.holars. !\Ian Richardson has correctly noted that the
trim t ict h crn tur) new Heilsgeschichte has espoused two different
thcologic~al \.ic\\.points, which in turn have resulted in a confusion in i
the meanins of thc t e r m . ' ' q a r t h and his followers used the terlll
to descrihc the events of sacred history, such as the incarnation.
rcdenil~tion. rcsul-rcction, ascension as taking place in a suprahistorical ,
sphrrc. :I nlalnl that ~ rou ld not be accessible to historical methods of
llistory writing and can only be kllown by faith. Those who place
the historical and miraculous happenings of the life of Christ into
the area of "nietahistory" are therefore not concerned &out the kind
of objections the critical historian propounds against the significant
and vital events of the life of Christ. This school of thought thus
believed that the Christian faith which is mainly concerned with the
Christ of faith does not need to concern itself lvith what critics do
with the Jesus of histor~r. This enables thein to escape the cluestions
and objections raised by positivistic historicism.
illembers of the school of dialectical theology have incorporated
certain aspects of the older S C ~ O O ~ of Heilsgeschichte without adhering
to the theology of Heilsgeschichte. As the first decades of the twen-
tieth century progressed, a conviction on the part of certain scholars
developed that the scientific approach to the Biblical material was
not altogether satisfactory. The purcly scientific interpretation of the
Old Testament, reconstructed along evolutionary lines was found to
hide the religious value of the Old Testament and the latter was seen
not to have relevance to modern life.
\Vith the puhlicatiofi of Eichrodt's Theologie des Altezz Testa-
rrreztts the historicistic had on the Old Testanlent was broken. In
his preface to this Old Testament theology Eichrodt asserted: "It is
high time that the tyranny of historicism in thc Old Testamcnt was
broken and the proper kpproach to our task redisco\,ered.""" The
employment of the covenant as the organi~ing concept of Old Testa-
ment theology was sometking radically new. Thus Eichrodt claimed
that the covenant as the constitutive concept of Olcl Testament the-
ology is a basic conlponent of all Old Testamcnt theology and that
the establishment of a covenant with Israel charactcrizcd Israel's
experience as a Tatcharalder- the deed nature--of Yahweh's revela-
tion. -' In the opinion cf Rottenberg the covenant concept "opened
uicle the perspectives for a historical view of revelation and a theology
of history. In those cirdes the covenant idea has indeed become what
r l . \Veiser has called a 'Formel fiir die Ideologie der GeschichteV--a
formula that leads to abelicving view of hi~tory." ;~
Accorcling to Eithrodt, Israel came to confess her God as the
One who had elected srael and because her Lord is an electing God,
He is the God of historical initiative. This means that Yahweh has
tlcalt with Israel mairly through historical acts. I t is by means of
dccds that Yahweh has rcwaled Himself. The belief that Yahweh
is creator was not a n~.ttter of direct revelation but a deduction that
the Israelites made f r m th3 covenant relationship. \Vith Eichrodt
there began a reaction agamst the positivistic historicism that had
held sway in the Old Test~ment circles. A number of subsequent
theologies of the Old Testanent became oriented toward a Theologie
ller fitsachen, explaiaed b~ Rottenberg as ['a theology in which the
characteristic nature ~f diiine revelation is founded especially in
~ \ ~ c n t s that faith confgses to be manifestations of the saving presence
of God, events that rrveal ,is p-ovidential guidance in the destinies
of men as in nations and cultures.'"" The word "Heilsgeschichte"
began to appear in theological literature as it has now for at least
three decades. T\\-enticth-centurv exponents of Heilsgeschiclzte are,
horve\er, not reproducing the nilitteenth century theology of Heils-
G. Ernst \\;right of 1-larvard in a liulllber of his writings has
proposed the idea that revelation has taken place through God's acts.
I t is especiallv in the monograph, The God IVho Acts that he has set
forth the mah1 thesis that God has revealed Himself by might acts.'"
In dealing n.ith the interpretation of the Old and New Testaments
lie clainls that tllc' Biblical reilder nceds to isolate the actions of Got1
in history, \\.hose number \voulcl be less than the number of fingers
or1 both *h;tnds. .AcCortling to \\-right it is necessarv when dealing
\vith Biblical data to distinguish thc acts of God from the response bv
the pcoplc of 1sr;)cl to these acts. l l lc responses are human interpre'-
tations iilld suhlcct to c\.:iluation h!, the critical Biblical reader.
\C'right is opl~osucl to the Ilistoric Protestant and Lutheran teaching
that God has I-c.\ calctl I1 i~nsclf prinlarily through propositional reyela-
tion. 13iblical tllcc)log!~, he rn.c.~-s. must be 3 "thcolog!: of recital." In
rejecting 3 I-rrc,positiioial and systematic dogmatics \\'right wrote: "It
is a tl~c,olog!- of rccital or procla~llation of -he acts of God, together
I\-ith infc.1-vnccs draivn therefrom. .These acts are themsc.l\~cs inter-
pretations of I~istol-ical e\.ents, or projections from known events to
past and fut111-c. all dcscribccl \ \ . i t l>i~~ tile zonceptual frame of one
pcoplc in a ct5rtain historical continuum."" \\;riglit and Reginald
Fullcr ha\-c \\ rittcn a \.olumc dealing \z.itl~ the history and theology
of the Old Testament that has as its organizing principle the idea
of Cot1 acting i r i historv ant1 God's people responding to them.'"
pesusd of tlic \.oIu11ie'bv \\"right and Fuller, ho~vever, \\.ill rc.\,eal
that man\: facts one considered by Chrisrians as factual iind historical
ha\.c. bcc1.1 rcnlo\-eel from the arena of the hi;torical by this approach
of "act ~ I L I S hulnall I-csponse."
\.l;in\ Oltl Testament scholars, Ileaded bv Gerhardt von Rad.
clo not reianl ~~~~~~~~~~~kichte so much as ch:onological history but
3s "S;ICI.C'CI Ilisto~-\." or "salvation history." According to \Ion Rad
Heilsgesc~liic~lite is actually interpreted history which expresses Israel's
faith in 1 ah \~ .ch and his mighty acts on their behalf.'' T h e Old
'I'cstamcnt is a \\,itncss to Israel's faith, and though it has an historical
I~ackground, its sj~ecinl and indi\.idual cvcnts are not historical in the
c.o~nrnor~l\. ncccptcd scbnse. The Exodus in Biblical history is under-
stood to l1cfCr to somc act of deliverance by Yali\\leh, which ho~rtever
must not l ~ t l ~tnclcrstoocl as the account i~ Exodus depicts it, nanlclp,
its n ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ r n i l t l ~ ~ a l intcri,cntion of God in history. T h e miraculous
hnl~pcning as :i\cn in the Scripture niusi be regarded as the interpre-
lati011 of an c.\cnt which \\.as purely an odinary one, \\lhich however,
\\.as intcrprc~ctl bv Isracl's prophets as amighry act of God. AS the
c e ~ ~ t o r i c s passed horc and more spir i tu~l accretions were added to
tllc original account, resulting in its depidion as a nliraculous cvent.
An Evuluation of HFILSGESCHICHTE Theologies
-p-p-p--- - --- -. -
Eugene hlerrill asks what the reason was for such an interpreta-
tion of Old Testament history. He answered:
\Vhen critics realized that they could no longer scout the
essential historical reliability of the Scriptures, they were faced
jvith the difficult task of explaining the miracles and other super-
natural content. The only feasible thing to do was to admit
that the framework of OId 'Testament history was valid, but
that the miraculous events were merely prophetic intcrpretations
of what God did in history. Even prophets who recorded the
events did not believe that they happened exactly as they
recorded them, but thcy "read into" the events their own theo-
logical judgments as to the meaning of the events."
Bv this procedure critical scholars have succeeded in stripping the
Old Testament of its miraculous content without rejecting its his-
In opposition to Karl Barth, who placed the distinctive mir-
aculous events of Christ's life such as the incarnation, resurrection
and ascension into the realm of meta-history,-'Oscar Cullmann on
the other hand has insisted that the total history of salvation is to be
connected with real evcnts. Cullmann has stated his view of Heils-
gescllichte in Christ and Time, Christology of the New Testament
and Salvation H i s t o r y . ' V n Christ alld Time he announced very
carlv in his academic career: "Regardless of the title of my book,
In! 'prinlary concern is not with the question of time but with the
presentation of Biblical redemptive history."" Cullmann sees history
as a straight line running between the creation and the Parousia, inter-
sected at midpoint by the conling of Christ. Braaten has described
Cullmann's Heilsgeschichte as follo\vs:
He uses the vivid metaphor of the distinction between
"D-day" "V-day" to illustrate that in Jesus' cross and resurrection,
the decisive battle of the war has already occurred, but the im-
portant mopping-up exercises must still go until "Victory-Day."
The tension between the "already" and the "not yet" is preserved.
In Cullmann's scheme, eschatology deals literally with the "last
things" in the sense of linear, calendar time. Each day, every
minute, brings the end of history a little closer. Eschatology
is the closing chapter of time, the last act in thc drama of sacred
history. I s
Christian theology, Cullil~ann contends, in its essence is Biblical
llistory. Christian theology sets forth God's dealing with man. In-
olurled in Culln~ann's dealings are not only the believers but those
of all men and thus in the final analysis all men are embraced.
f\ccording to the Swiss theologian "all socalled 'sccular' occurrences
stand in relation to the redemptive history ." Like in the older Heils-
~eichichte theologies there is also to be found in Cullmann's interpre-
lation of history a universalism.
I the opinioll of Ramp, the outstanding American representa- I
ti\.r of ~e i l s i i e s~ -h ich te is Otto Piper of Princeton Theological Sem-
inary i ! ~ I n his he admitted having beell influenced by van
Hofmilnn and his 6.Sa]\.ation History" principle. In the introduction
to (io(i Hic ton , Pipcr announced that he was adopting the vieirr
of tllc of fieilrgeschichte as represented by Bellgel, J. T. Beck,
CI1. \or) Hoflnann. Carl Aug. Auberlen "so far as the modern devel- I 1
opnlerlt of cxeqrsis and theolog!. will allow."" Piper accepted the ;
~'osition of vol; Hohiiann that inspiration and revelation were not 1
to he scl,ar;~tcd. I'iprr is not appreciated by liberals because they i
(lo not bclic\c in rral inspiration nor by conservati\~es who believh
t l ~ t the. llsc of the critical rncthod must prove fatal to the Christian 1
I-or 0 t t o 1'jpc.r the> authority of Scriptures was not to be found in
,he fact tIl3t [ I l c Hiblr \\.;is gi\.en by inspiration of God the Holy
s l l i r i t , ~ 1 , ~ rc;lron t l ln t the llible carries authority is not due to the
f a c t t l lat i t is \~crball~- inspired but because "the Bible confronts us
\ \ - i t / , (Ilc. facts t l i ; ~ t arc morc comprehensi\:e and more important than i
an!-thinX clsr \\.c lirlo\\,."'";' Thc Bible is true not because of verbal
insllil.;ltion but bccauscb thc I~cli~ver xperiences it to be true. \\/hen
thc hc.lic.\cr. i~ccellts the trilchings of the Bible bv faith, then it
bccolnrs C;ocl's \\'on1 to thc rccipicnt. Piper has espobsed in principle
tllc L ~ l . i t i c i 1 1 aljlll-oath to tlic Bible. In his article "How I Study h'ly
Ui1)lc" Iic. \\.rote: ":\I1 the attempts to exempt the Bible from the kind 2
of c ritIc.ism t l l ; ~ t \i.c appl!. to other historical documents are just as
fittilc '15 \ \ c'sc tI1c tJicoIogica1 protests against the discoveries of palcon-
tolog\.. ' , ;.\t the silmc time lit. endeavored to \yard off the attempts
of criticisln to gct rid ol' the supcr~latural clement of the Bible. How-
c.\,cr. bc'fore the r~cgc tc an dcal with the Scriptures, he must practice
critici3m as i t ~.clatcs to the test, canon and Biblical introduction. In
I r iq ;ll-ticlc "l'rill~ipl~s of Sew Testanlent Interpretation" Piper has i
5c.t I;)rtll \\.hat hc. tcrms his tllrec major hermeneutical principles: 1.
IJlc ~ ' ~ l r c . 1 ) for tllc lifcnlow~mcnt of a Biblical book; 2 , understanding
tllc hook's oirssayc; and 3 . the adoption of thC message as one's own.
[IIC ~~r.alcr of I'iprr's article "l'rinriples of New Testament Interpreta-
tion" \ \ i t 1 3c.c that the I'rinccton theologian has enunciated man!
\ r , ~ r l l c l j~riricij)lcs of Biblical hc*rmeneuties." Piper faults those
cscgctrs \ \ 110 clo riot tlisco~ cr the n.orld view of the Bible but interpret
t l l ~ l e \ \ -I'cstal~~c,l~t from thcz socalled nlodern scientific \\orld view.
;I I".OC ~Clurc that ci111 on]\ eventuate in misinterpretation. Those
intrrjwi~tc~rs \\]lo i~ l l c~o r i~c . the Script~lre are also guiltv of failing to
)jiscO\ cr tIlc \\nrltl v i v a and s!stcm of vallleS in the Biblical \lrritings.
I 'h05~ c,lrgctcs nho 1,ractice a narrojv literalism arc also faulted b~
I'il'cr f'or (lcil1illy i n too simplc il manner with books that are co,llplez.
1'1p~'r Jld1s bccw critical of ratio~lalists and liberals for their refusal '
t o t ~ h c \ i~ iou \ l \ the sul,ernatural clraracter of the Bible. He, hen-
e\ cr. doc\ not .llir~l J~inlscllf ~ v i tll post-Reformation orthodoxy nor with
( 1 1) I o nor with f~indanlentalisll~ because he claims that J
A, Evalziation of HEILSGESCHICHTE Theologies 17
tl,ece also have failed to appreciate the Bible. Piper holds to what
hc calls the "Protestant Circle." Ramm described this as follows:
tLColoing out of faith believe them to bc the \Vord of God, and
b\ prollerly reading then1 we in turn discover them to be the \Vord
,i ~ ~ d . ~ l l l y by response and in response to Scripture do we appre-
,j,l, it truly known it as the Word of God.";"
\\'bile soille scholars of our time wish to incorporate the
L3nlphasis that God has revealed Himself through acts in history, they
do not nant to adopt the schematic theologies of men like Cullmann
1 . On the other hand, there arc savants who are completely
critical of Heilsgeschichte and state that the word ought not be used.
For thc opponents of Heilsgeschichte the problem revolves around
the \\ords "FIeil" and "Geschichte." What do these two words
"Sal\ a tion" and "History" mean when combined together?
Karl G. Steck in Die Idee der Heilsgeschichte said that the use
of the term Gesc-hicvhte, "history" is ill-advised, because history only
deals \\ it11 that n~llich is accessible to historical research.j4 The unique
e\cnts of the Christian religion are not available to historians and
therefore the tcrin "history" should not be used to describe the great
rcde~npti\c events of which the New Testament speaks. When
ipcahing of history as redemptive what docs the term Heil mean under
thcic circumstances? According to the Scripture Christ is salvation
or Heil. B~l t what is meant then by Heilsgeschichte when this term
en~plo~cc-l by theologians to describe God's redemptive activity in
t o IIow does the rcdemption of Christ become part of the
I l ~ c s of pcople without conscious acceptance of Christ as Savior and
l:c.dccmcr? Ho\v does the redenlption of Christ affect people in the
broatlest scnse? These are the problems that have not been ade-
( 1 uatcl\ '~ns\vercd by present-day Heilsgeschichte theologians and pro-
I t ~ l t - ~ are clescribcd by Paul as "the oracles of God''
( I:om;rn 3 : 2 ). 1-Ilc: distinction between God's acts and the hutllan
rc.spon>c rc~~ul t s i11 t l ~ c introduction of a false dichotomy into the
I - S . For cath act of God stated by Wright and Fuller il l r
'/‘lie I j~ol: of ~ l l c ;\c'ts of Cod their opponents can show that the\
\\.crc lxcclictccl hcfore thcir occurrence and that God also ga\,e ail
intcrprcl;~tioll of thc r\c.nts so that there could be no mistake 35
ti, ~ h c i r ti-ric. siyificance, \vhich would rule out the possibility that
~ l l c I ~ u ~ n a n r~~sl,onsc n.o~ild he in error in its interpretation bf thc
c , \ cnl. I his nlcaans th3t the for~l l~ i la of dealing with Scriptural d a t a
i l l trrl~l.; ~liigllt\. acts plus human response is inadequate and I
Ic;lc[c to ;I scriocrs hmitation of the Bible as the source for rr.ligiou,
~ ~ l l t l l ~ ~ l ~ i t \
-1-llc Ili\tor!. of the Old and Xew Testaments cannot he equatcd
\ \ i t11 \ \ o i . I c I hi\tor!.. I t is not true that all history is revelation. I h i
I~istoric;~l \ . ~ 1 1 t s that arc rccortled in the Old Testament occurred i n
l a i~ r l . ; of I llc Fcrtilc Cresccnt ant1 frcquentl\~ Israel's history bccatni. ;
irl\-ol\.c.~l in the histories of thc Ass!.rianS, Habvlonians, Egyptians.
I '~ : I .~I , I I~? ; . l'I~oc11c~.i;ti~s, A]-amacans and other smaller Near Eastcr11
~ I ; I t i on \ . tn the first c'elltrrr\. 11.D. the was brought to :isid
11 i r l l ) I - ' ~ i l c l I - i~ ro l~c . In t he post-Apostolic period Christianitl. sprraii
i l l t o :\l 'ri~'l. \sia;rncl Europe. E\cn though Christianity entered tllc
I lwr o f \rorltl histar\. ! ct at no time can the Kingdom of God b<
iclclit lt~c.cl \ \ , i t h an! 11ation or kingdom. In this world n~embers
~ l l c . kiniylo~~l of Got1 rvill 11e in the minority a l ~ d will be pcrsecutr(!
C'hri.;ti,rns I)clic\.c. thtit the nest inlportant event in jvorld histor:
\ [ I I ] bc. tllc \isiblc Sccontl C:oming of Christ, the King of kin??.
, l l c l < ~ 1f1c ni~t ions of the lyorld.
(.)I~c. of the 111;1]or criticis111s coll~crvative theologians must make
ii ~ l l t t l l bcr of Hcilsg~schicht.~? theologies is tha t the! l la \c
~"" tu l i l l c~c l I o t o hc t~recn types of histories and there* ha \ ( r
rc~bhrd the tcrnl his tor\^" of its accepted definition. Van Rad ~ 1 1 1 ,
I 5 tllc ~ ~ o r c l "Gesc l lkht~" ~f H C i l s R e S ~ h j C h t C in a nlilnner t h 8
~lit't'crcrl t i.1 trs it ft-om "Historic." hluch in the Old Testnmellt prior ?
1 0 t J 1 ~ ivriting o t tllc soca]]cd Court Chronicle of David's titllC
An Evaluatiolz o f HEILSCESCHICHTE Theologies 2 1
according to von Rad, is not history.'" Ever since the days of ration-
alism it has been a presupposition of the historical-critical method
to question the miraculous and supcr~~atural nd assign any n~iracle
to the realm of myth antl classify any supernatural event as im-
possible and therefore non-historical. Many nod ern Hcilsgeschichte
theologians agrec with Martin Kahler's rejection of supernaturalistic
historicism. Merrill has properly asked :
How can i t be said, indeed, that there is more than one
kind of history, that which describes the sum total of the
past? Anything less than this is less than history and must
be relegated to the realm of pure myth.'jS
The eighty some miracles that are found ill the thirty-nine
books of the Old Testament are repudiated as historical and assigned
to the realm of saga antl myth. The writers of the New Testament
believed in the occurrence of miracles and regarded the docunlents
of thc Old Testament as an insl~irecl collection of reliable writings
and would have categoricall\/ rejccted the idea of the mythological
character of stories and episodes in the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges
and I Samuel as unrealiable. T h e New Testament writers consid-
ered the miracles of the Old Testament as historical happenings.
Those who adopt the rationalistic approach over against the miracles
of the Bible are doing this in opposition to the clear evidence of the
New Testament. T h e position of the authors of the Lutheran Sym-
bols on the subject of the miraculous was that of the New Testa-
ment understai~ding of the miraculous. The hcrn~eneutics of the
various schools of Heilsgeschichte as outlined in this essay are not
in harmony with the hermeneutics employed by the Lutheran fathers
as reflected in the Lutheran Confessions.
1 . Alan Richardson, T h e Bible in thc Age o f Science (London: SCM Press,
1961), p. 122.
2. Otto Piper, Ncw Testament lnterpretation of History (Princeton: Prince-
ton Theological Book Agency, 1963) , p. 23 1 .
3 . Isaac Rottenberg, Redemption and Historical RealiCy (Philadelphia: The
Westminster Press, 1954), p. 26.
5 . Bernard-Ramm, Protestant Biblical lnterpretation (Boston: W. A. Wilde
Company, 1956), pp. 79-83.
6. Eric C. Rust, Salvation History. A Biblical lnterprctation (Richmond:
John Knox Prcss, 1962). 325 pages; C. Luke Salm, Studies in Salva-
tion tlistory (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1964), 236 pages; John
Power, History of Salvation (Statcn Island, N.Y.: Alba House, 1967),
7. For an excellent summary of the teaching of this school cf. G . Weth,
Dic Heilsgcschichte: Ihr univcrseller und ihr individueller Sinn in der
offenbahrungsgeschichtZichen Theologie dcs 19. Jahrhundcrts (Chr.
Kaiser Verlag, 192 1 ), p. 14.
8. Van A. Harvey, A Handbook of Theological Terms (New York: The
Macmillan Company, 1964), p. 113; Rottenberg, op. cit., p. 2 7 .
9. H. Ott, "Heilsgeschichte," in Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwnrt,
10. Ordo T c n z p ~ ~ o r Z l ~ " ~ Xi, 13 as quoted by Charles T. Fritsch, "Biblical 1
.. ~ j b l i ~ t h ~ c a Sacra, 103 :418-4 19 , October-December, 1946. , T) polog!.,
11. Ihid., p. 419.
1 2 . Ihid.
1 3 . Ihicl.
14. Itottcnberg, OP tit., P t . 27-28.
15, lohn H. Gcrrtner, ~e~lsgeschicte," Baker's Dictionary of Theology
~ , . ~ ~ ~ t t F. Harrison, editor-in-in.chief (Grand Rapids: Baker Book ~ ~ ~ l ,
196Oj. p. 265.
16. Fritsch. op. ci t . , p. 426.
1 7 . Van Harve!;. 0)). cit., P- 114.
1 8 . Wcth, op. cit.. p. 114.
19. ]lrymond E. Surburg, "The New Scofield Reference Bible," The sp,jng-
tic[(lcr, 3 I : 14, Winter, 1968. i
20. Fritsch. 017. ci t . , p. 426.
21, CC. J , tfnas. "Hofmann, von Job. Christian Konrad," H. E. Jacobs and
..I. \v. Haas, The Lutheran Cyclopedia (New York: Charles
scrihncr's Sons, I899), PP. 224-225-
2 2 . Christi;jn Preus, "The Contemporary ~ e l e v a n c e of von Hofmannps Her-
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ t i ~ ~ l l'riitciples," Interpretation, 4 : 3 1 3, July, 19 50.
23. Ilamnl. o]) ci t . , 79.
24. 1. I,, W. Hcick, History of Christian Thought (Philadelphia: 1
.\luhlcnherg Prcss, 19?6), 11, P. 134.
2 5. Prc~ls, op. c l t . , 1'11. 3 1 1-32 1 ; Neve Heick, op. cit., 11, pp. 132ff.
26 . ~ f . the article on "T)clitzsch, Dr. Franz," Jacobs and Haas, The Lutheroll
( '~ch,~wLlia, op. cit., p. 153.
2 7 . ~