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CAARLES CHRISTIAN TITTMANN, the author of the following article, was formerly Professor of Theology, at Witemberg, and afterwards Superintendent of the Diocese of Dresden. His principal Theological works, are, his Opuscula Theologica, published in 1803; his Edition of Thalemann's Latin Version of the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John, with the Acts of the Apostles ; his Tract de vestigiis Gnosticorum in N. T., frustra quæsitis, Lip. 1773; and his Meletemata Sacra, or exegetical, critical, and doctrinal Commentary upon the Gospel of St. John. To this latter work are prefixed a Preface, which contains an exhibition of the principles of interpretation, on which he had formed his commentary, and Prolegomena, containing the usual subjects of preliminary discussion.
It is the former of these pieces which is here translated. We have denominated it from its subject, in preference to calling it a “Preface to St. John's Gospel,” because it is of a more general character, than this title would lead the reader to suppose.
It will be perceived that the historical method of interpretation here reprobated, is the application of the doctrine of accommodation which has been mentioned on the 20th page of the preceding article, to the interpretation of the N. T. Perhaps few causes have operated more extensively and effectually, in promoting erroneous opinions than the prevalence of this doctrine. Its most active and successful promoter, was J. S. Semler, professor of Theology, at Halle. His Apparatus for the liberal interpretation of the N. T., and his Apparatus for the liberal interpretation of the Old Test., recommend the loosest principles in the exposition of the Sacred Volume. The writers upon this
doctrine are enumerated above, (p. 21.) An able refutation of Semler's Theory, may be found in Storr's Tract
historical sense, contained in the first volume of his Opuscula. This Tract has been translated and published in this country by Mr. Gibbs.
The importance of this subject is very evident. It must be perceived that if the principle contended for be admitted, every one will be at liberty to assert, that any doctrine he may see fit to object to, is a mere accommodation to Jewish opinion. It is in this way that the existence and agency of Satan, the reality of demoniacal possessions, the expiatory character of Christ's sufferings, and many other important doctrines are explained away. Every individual's opinions, or what he calls his reason, is made the supreme judge on matters of religion. That this is really the case, will appear from the slightest inspection of the criteria which Van Hemert, one of the most systematic advocates of the doctrine, lays down to determine when, and how far this accommodation is to be admitted. any thing be taught which is contrary to reason, it is an accommodation, as for example, that Satan entered into
If there be a contradiction between two passages, as when it is said in one passage, if a sinner repent of his sins, they shall no more be remembered ; in another, that we are saved by Christ's death as an offering, that without shedding of blood there is no remission ; we are to ask which most accordant with reason, and consider the passage which is least so, an accommodation, and in this instance, it is the offering and the blood which are an accommodation to the notions of the Jews.” The same supremacy of the previous and independent opinions of the author, above the SS. is evident through the work, and is indeed essential to the doctrine.
It may be presumed, that those who are interested in the history of the church, and especially in that department of its history which relates to christian doctrines,
must be desirous 'of knowing something of a controversy which has had so much influence. But it is not merely as a matter of history, that this subject calls for the attention of the American student. It is evident that this doctrine is only a modification of the theory, which determines the sense of SS., by deciding what is, or is not reasonable ; and which has as effectually excluded the doctrines of the Deity of Christ, and his atonement from the SS., because, they were deemed inconsistent with reason, as could have been done by the most skilful advocate for historical interpretation. It is in this view a matter of practical importance, that we understand the different forms under which the same general principle is presented ; and be prepared to show how inconsistent this whole system under all its modifications, is, with that strict and only legitimate method of interpretation, for which our author is so strenuous an advocate.