Idea of Biblical Psychology

Sec. II.

Some well-known scriptural students of late have denied to biblical psychology the capability of verifying itself. Harless, in the preface to the fourth edition of his Ethics, avows, that while he has no fear at all of exact study of the so-called materialism in the field of psycho-physiology, yet, on the other hand, he greatly dreads the idealism and spiritualism, upon whose misty foundation such frequent and continued attempts have been made to rear a sound psychology; and in this behalf he refers to Carus' Psyche, and Ennemoser's Geist des Menschen in der Natur, as works in which he could place no real confidence. "I believe," he continues, u that our theologians would do well to concern themselves very little about this department of material investigation, which has only by a process of unauthorized abstraction come to be considered as if it were important of itself, and entirely distinct from the spirit. It is this circumstance which has prevented me from receiving the same pleasure that others have done from the late attempts to construct systems of biblical psychology.1 For Scripture seems to me to occupy the same position in questions of psychology as in those of cosmogony. In each it is a finger-post directing attention to the position of the world, as to the position of the soul in questions of redemption; we must neither expect in connection with one nor the other natural description and natural knowledge, not because it could not have been given us in the Scripture, but because it was not intended to be given us. The meaning of its symbols is reserved for that scrutiny to explain, which, not in words and names, but in the facts of nature, toils after the understanding of the sacred hints in the sweat of its brow."

In accordance with this, Hofmann says in the second as well as in the first edition of his Schriftbeweis :2 "A biblical

1 The preface is of the year 1849. Probably he means Beck's Umriss der bibUschen Seelenlehre. I am not aware of any System der biblischen Psychologie that had then appeared. Mine did not come out till 1855.

• I. p. 248, edit. 1 (1852); i. p. 284, edit. 2 (1857).

anthropology and psychology have been got together, but without finding any justification for it in Scripture, of which Harless rightly says that we must not expect from it natural description and natural knowledge, because it was not intended to be given there. That presumed science is based merely upon such Scripture texts as do not teach what the nature of man is, but on the hypothesis that it is understood what kind of creature is meant when man is spoken of, declare his relation or deportment towards God. "It has been replied," he adds in the second edition, with direct reference to me,1 "that the Scripture does nevertheless give almost in its first sections disclosures which are deliberately anthropologic and psychologic, when it narrates the process of man's creation; and it cannot but be worth the trouble to bring together even its anthropological and psychological assumptions, since they could not be so trivial as to be understood of themselves, nor so inconsequent and unconnected as to be capable of no scientific organization. But in respect of these disclosures, they only serve the purpose of rightly defining in a general way the relation to God and to the world, without the knowledge of which there can undoubtedly be no anthropology and psychology corresponding to the reality; and as to the presumptions, no one doubts that they can be harmonized together, but without being justified in the expectation that they will form a scientific whole, since they only come to light in proportion as they are used for the expression of facts, which, while they touch on the anthropologic and psychologic region, themselves belong to another. A biblical psychology is just as little of a psychologic system as a biblical cosmology is a cosmologic system; and if it be found practicable also to call it theological instead of biblical, it will moreover be permitted to say that there is a theological

1 Referring to p. 181 of the first edition of this book of mine. I have struck out in that place the words that I have here quoted from Hofmann, so as not to repeat myself. R. Wagner, in the Evang. K. Z. (1857), col. 189, and in his treatise Der Kampf urn die Seele vom Standpunkt der Wissenschaft (1857), p. 119, approves of them. But when he says (p. 114), "Biblical anthropology and psychology is the section of theology which chiefly comes into consideration in the references to physiology," so, on the other side also, he agrees with me in acknowledging the scientific claim of biblical psychology, and rightly, as Fabri, in the Evang. K. Z. 1857, Nos. 96, 97, lias proved in my defence.

psychology only in the same sense as a theological cosmology may be spoken of."

And thus the task which I propose to myself would be at the outset a failure, because it would be impracticable. This, however, is by no means the case. The problem, as I understand it, is not at all touched by those objections. For that all that Scripture tells us on the spiritual and psychical constitution of man is in harmony with the work and the revelation of redemption, which are the special burthen of Scripture, we deny so little, that we gather from it rather the idea of biblical psychology as distinguished from the empirical and the philosophical psychology of natural science. But what Scripture says in pursuance of this, its great design for the salvation of man, is far more than is admitted by those two writers. For, from the announcement upon the substance of man's nature as it was created which we read in Gen. ii. 7, and which Harless places at the head of his Ethics, extends throughout Scripture a many-linked chain of assertions upon the pneumato-psychical nature and life of man—of declarations which touch the most important fundamental questions of psychology, and throughout depend upon similar fundamental views, and are of such rich import that even Hofmann devotes to these announcements considerable portions of his Schriftbeweis. For all the great questions—How is man's soul related to his spirit? How is man's spirit related to God's Spirit? Is the substance of man's nature trichotomic or dichotomic? How is man distinguished as Nature and as Ego ?—all these and many other psychologic questions are there attempted to be answered from Scripture; while, nevertheless, it is maintained that Scripture teaches nothing upon the whole subject. Now, therefore, whether it is called teaching or not, Scripture certainly gives us, on all these questions, the announcements which are necessary to a more fundamental knowledge of salvation; and these announcements are to be exegetically received—are, because they are of a psychological nature, to be psychologically weighed—are to be rightly adjusted, so that they may cohere among themselves, and with the organism of the personal and historical facts of redemption. And here at once is a system; to wit, a system of biblical psychology as it lies at the foundation of the system of the facts and the revelation of salvation; and such a system of biblical psychology is so necessary a basis for every biblical summary of doctrine, that it may be rightly said of the doctrinal summary which Hofmann's Schriftbeweis seeks to verify by Scripture; that from the beginning to the end, from the doctrine of the creation to the doctrine of the Last things, a special psychologic system, or (if this expression be objected to), a special complex of psychological representations, absolutely supports it. What Scripture says to us of cosmology, might certainly appear insufficient to originate a system of biblical cosmology; but assuredly it says to us infinitely more about man's soul and spirit than about Orion and the Pleiades. And I would not assert that Scripture offers to us no natural knowledge of the soul. I believe it rather to the honour of God's word, to be compelled to maintain the contrary. For, for example, that the substance of man's nature is dualistic, i.e. that spirit and body are principally of separate origin and nature—that is surely a natural knowledge,—a dogma in the faith of which, in spite of all remonstrances of rigid natural investigation, we live and die. And although what Scripture gives us to ponder in such statements as Gen. ii. 7 and 1 Cor. xv. 45, may be called only pointings of the finger, still a biblico-psychological investigation must be justified which takes the course indicated by these finger-signs. Or ought we to leave these hieroglyphs to the so-called accurate investigation? I hold this, no less than Harless does, in fitting honour; but the meaning of these hieroglyphs lies beyond the limit placed to experiment and calculation. It is possible to labour in the sweat of the brow even without the scalpel or the microscope. And even historical problems are not to be solved otherwise than in the sweat of the brow; and our problem is an historical one, only with the distinction that we stand in a different inward relation to the holy Scripture from that in which we do probably to the Vedas or to the A vesta. We desire to bring out exegetically the views of Scripture, of the nature, the life, and the life-destinies of the soul, as they are defined, with a view to the history of salvation; and, in accordance with that inevitable requirement which we must impose upon our thinking when it is engaged on the subject of Scripture, to reduce it into systematic harmony. This harmony would only be the scientifically intercepted reflection of the real harmony in which these representations subsist of themselves. The risk which we run is not that of seeking to make real something which is impossible, but of substituting for that objective certainty of inward consistency, a feigned consistency, to which wo have persuaded ourselves. For a systematizing of the material of biblical psychology is certainly not practicable, without an endeavour to unfold many a merely indirect scriptural saying, and to draw connecting lines here and there between individual points, according to the scriptural meaning. But as the Scripture is no scholastic book of science, this is more or less essential in every science that is based upon it as a foundation. Should we not always be successful in this business of construction in hitting the sense of Scripture, it will be just as little argument against the claims of the material of biblical psychology to scientific treatment, as it would be against the claims of Homeric psychology, that the inquirers in that region1 contradict one another on some important points.

The task which I propose to myself is practicable; for under the name of biblical psychology I understand a scientific representation of the doctrine of Scripture on the psychical constitution of man as it was created, and the ways in which this constitution has been affected by sin and redemption. There is such a doctrine in Scripture. It is true that on psychological subjects, just as little as on dogmatical or ethical, does Scripture comprehend any system propounded in the language of the schools. If it taught in such a way, we should need to construct psychology directly from it as little as we do dogmatics and ethics. But still it does teach. If it proceeds upon fundamental views whose accuracy it absolutely takes for granted; if it narrates or predicts facts about which we should know nothing, or nothing certain, were they not testified to us by it; if the most manifold natural and supernatural conditions of the inner life of man find therein an evidence of their own, which admits no suspicion of self-deception or distortion; if it represents to us, in the way of consolation

1 The Homeric psychology has found representatives in Wagner, in his Psychologia Homerica (Paris 1883); v. Nagelsbach, in his lately edited Homeric neology (1840) by Autenrieth (1861); Grotemeyer, in his Programm. Homers Grundansicht von der Seele (Warendorf 1854); and others. The extent of this literature, which began with Halbkart's obsolete Psychologia Homerica (1796), is discreditable to biblical theologians.

and warning, the influence of superhuman powers, both good and evil, on the human life of the soul,—all this is so, and its purpose is, for our instruction, assuredly not to afford us an unfruitful learning, and to satisfy unspiritual curiosity (this is not the fruit of theologically scientific doctrine), but to promote our salvation. Science, moreover, has the duty of bringing to light the materials of doctrine latent in the Scriptures,—of collecting that which is scattered there,—of explaining that which is hard to be understood,—of establishing that which is doubtful,—and of combining the knowledge thus acquired into a doctrinal whole, consistent and compact.

The formal possibility of the accomplishment of such a task is guaranteed by the undeniable unity of character prevailing in the doctrinal materials of psychology placed before us in Scripture. Or are the psychological assumptions and inferences of the biblical writers not in harmony with themselves? We maintain thorough fundamental agreement, without thereby excluding manifold individualities of representation and mode of speech; for in essential spiritual unity the special writers have each their characteristic stamp. The passion for system exaggerates this. Its game is an easy one. How little is required to imitate it! Learned treatises would prove that the Elohist and Jehovist of the Pentateuch,—that the author of the book of Job and of the words of Elihu,—that David and Solomon,—psychologically differ from one another; even although the science for that purpose should be that of conceiving straw and bringing forth stubble. But let the first page of the Holy Scripture be once more read, and the last compared with it; and after the reader has felt himself transported with wonder at the majestic harmony of the word of God from Alpha to Omega, then let him tell of the peculiarities of individual writers in the midst of this divine-human concert. That which is peculiar does not concern the fundamental views. There is a clearly defined psychology essentially proper to the Holy Scripture, which in like manner underlies all the biblical writers, and intrinsically differs from that many-formed psychology which lies outside the circle of revelation.1 There

1 Thus we judge with Schbberlein, in his notice of v. Rudloff, Studien a. Kritiken (1860), p. 145, which in appropriate words comes to the defenco of biblical psychology; and therefore we have, on scientific ground, the

fore the problem of biblical psychology may be solved as one problem. We do not need, first of all, to force the biblical teaching into unity; it is one in itself.

The biblical psychology thus built up is an independent science, which coincides with no other, and is made superfluous by no other in the organism of entire theology. It is most closely allied with so-called biblical theology, or (since what is accustomed to be most unaptly so called is rightly occupied, partly in the history of salvation, and partly in the history of revelation), with dogmatics. Biblical, or, as may also be said, theological psychology (to distinguish it from the physicalempirical and philosophic-rational science), pervades the entire material of dogmatics, in that it determines all the phases of man's psychical constitution, conditioned upon those facts and relations momentous to the history of salvation which form the substance of dogmatics. But it asserts in all these associations its own peculiarity, in that it considers all that is common to it with dogmatics only so far as it throws light or shadow into the human soul, draws it into co-operation or sympathy, and affords explanations upon its obscurities. Much which is only incidentally dealt with in dogmatics, is in psychology, which herein is subsidiary to it, a main feature: for example, the relation of the soul to the blood, as material to the doctrine of the atonement; and the question, as important to the doctrine of original sin, whether the soul is propagated per traducem or not: as, on the other hand, the scriptural doctrines of the tri-unity of God,—of the good and evil angels,—of the divinehuman personality of Christ, which in dogmatics are principal matters, are only so far treated of in psychology as they are connected with the formation of the divine image in man, with the good and evil influences of the spiritual world upon him, and with the restoration of the true humau nature. The new relation of God to humanity in Christ, which is the centre of entire theology, is also the centre of psychology as well as of dogmatics. Dogmatics have to do with analyzing and systematizing the believing consciousness of this new relation which rests on and in the Scripture. Psychology, on the contrary, has to do with the human soul, and forth from the soul,

right, which the critic in the Literar. Centralblatt, 1855, No. 45, refuses to us, to speak of the Scriptures almost entirely as of one subject.

with the constitution of human nature, which is the object and subject of this new relation.

From this conception of our science—which we are still, as ever, convinced the fiery trial of criticism awaits—we turn now to the method of realizing it.