- Baur, Ferdinand Christian
- (1792-1860)founder of the historical critical method of biblical studyFerdinand Christian Baur, who helped introduce historical critical methods into the study of Scripture, church history, and theology, was born at Schmiden, Germany, on June 21, 1792. He was educated at Blaubeuren and Tübingen. He taught for nine years at Blaubeuren, during which time he wrote the three-volume Symbolik and Mythologie (1824-25), which earned him an appointment with the theological faculty at the University of Tübingen, where he spent the rest of his life.A student of Hegel's historical dialectic, he strove to understand past events in the context of their time and place. Church documents, he believed, had to be understood as a part of a stream of development. His work on such topics as the atonement, Trinity, and incarnation helped create the modern discipline of historical theology.In the 1830s, especially after the publication of the landmark Life of Jesus by David Friedrich STRAUSS, Baur began to concentrate on biblical history. His use of Hegel's historical dialectic helped define what became known as the Tübingen School.Baur initially used the Pastoral Epistles (Timothy and Titus) and the works ascribed to the Apostle Paul to construct a history of the early church and the factions that vied for control. Further study convinced him that Paul was to be credited with writing only Galatians, I and II Corinthians, and Romans, and he was one of the first to question the authorship of the Pastoral Epistles.Baur's view that the Roman Catholic Church was simply the product of the quarrels and controversies of early Christianity was cutting-edge for its time. Historical inquiry, now so integral to Christian studies, was at the time considered a destructive enterprise that questioned traditional assumptions about biblical texts and church teachings at every step.Turning to the Gospels in the 1840s, Baur questioned the authenticity (ascribed authorship) of the Gospel of John. By this time, Baur had trained a number of students, most notably Albert Schwegler, Karl Christian Planck, and Albrecht Ritschl (1822-89). In the late 1840s some of Baur's students took more secular teaching positions, convinced that their work was incompatible with church membership and employment. Baur himself remained convinced that his work would eventually lead to a positive view of the development of Christianity. To that end, he capped his intellectual life with a multivolume survey of the church's history, the first two volumes appearing before his death, the last one issued posthumously by his faithful associate Edward Zeller.In the end, Baur located what he considered the essence of Christianity and its superiority in Jesus' ethical teachings, expressed in his doctrine of the Kingdom of God and the conditions of membership in it. Baur's students held to this perspective on Jesus' teachings and became leading voices of the liberal Christianity that dominated continental European Protestantism until World War I. His own historical work was quickly superseded, but Baur is still honored as a pioneer of the historical critical method. He died at Tübingen on December 2, 1860.See also biblical criticism.Further reading:■ Ferdinand Christian Baur, The Church History of the First Centuries, 2 vols. (London/Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate, 1878-79);■ -------, Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ: His Life and Work, His Epistles and His Doctrine, a Contribution to a Critical History of Primitive Christianity (London/Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate, 1875-76)■ George Park Fisher, Essays on the Supernatural Origin of Christianity, With Spec. Ref. to the Theories of Renan, Strauss, and the Tübingen School (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1877)■ Horton Harris, The Tübingen School: A Historical and Theological Investigation of F. C. Baur and Colleagues (Ada, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1990).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.