Oswald T. Allis and the Question of Isaianic Authorship

By Wood, John Halsey, Jr. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, June 2005 | Go to article overview

Oswald T. Allis and the Question of Isaianic Authorship


Wood, John Halsey, Jr., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


The fundamentalist-modernist conflict in American churches has become a fashionable subject in scholarly studies of late.1 Several of these studies are concerned with the more visible social and doctrinal issues. This paper is an attempt to examine one of the less well-investigated issues of biblical interpretation that was debated in scholarly circles during the early twentieth century but that also filtered down to popular audiences through magazines and Bible study materials. The question of the authorship of the book of Isaiah became a virtual shibboleth on both sides of the fundamentalist-modernist conflict. Oswald Thompson Allis, professor of Semitic philology at Princeton Theological Seminary, editor of The Princeton Theological Review, and sometime professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, argued vigorously for single early authorship of the book of Isaiah, in the midst of increasingly overwhelming opposition. Here we will place O. T. Allis in his historical moment during an unsettled era in the life of the Presbyterian Church and consider his arguments for the "unity" of Isaiah as a contribution to the conservative cause in the church. Finally we will assess Allis's argument for the unity of Isaiah in the light of his other OT contributions to highlight some of his methodological inconsistencies and propose some reasons why Allis may have stopped short of significant conclusions that would have placed him closer to his opponents than he may have liked.

I. OSWALD T. ALLIS AND THE PRESBYTERIAN CONFLICT

H. L. Mencken once described the fundamentalist scourge by saying, "They are everywhere where learning is too heavy a burden for mortal minds to carry, even the vague pathetic learning on tap in the little red school houses."2 Yet the genius of Princeton Theological Seminary's J. Gresham Machen attenuated even Mencken's contempt for the cultural and intellectual backwardness of the fundamentalists. Machen, however, was not the only "Doctor Fundamentalist'3 Machen's contemporary, O. T. Allis, son of the distinguished Philadelphia physician Oscar Huntington Allis, matched Machen's academic work in depth and breadth. Before beginning his scholastic career, Allis obtained degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton University, and an earned doctorate in Assyriology from the University of Berlin.4 Allis had a pedigree that few American religious scholars, fundamentalist or not, could match.

In the United States, a chasm divided the fundamentalists from the modernists or liberals. Machen explained the difference from his point of view, when he set out the purpose of his popular work Christianity and Liberalism: "We shall be interested in showing that despite the liberal use of traditional phraseology modern liberalism not only is a different religion from Christianity but belongs in a totally different class of religions."5 This perceived cleavage caused Machen, Allis, and their colleagues to view themselves as the praetorian defenders of orthodoxy. By the early twentieth century the fundamentalist-modernist debate had reached explosive conditions in the Presbyterian Church, and Princeton Seminary became the main battleground. As long as the conservative professors such as Machen, Allis, Robert D. Wilson, and Benjamin B. Warfield held Princeton, they held the high ground. The battle over seminary control became strategic; nonetheless, important tactical skirmishes were fought at the level of doctrine and hermeneutics.

The doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ, for example, was a veritable litmus test for orthodoxy, and similar disputes arose in OT interpretation. As professor of Semitic philology at Princeton, Allis concerned himself especially with the conflicts that had raged for some time in Europe over the authorship of the Pentateuch and Isaiah. Higher criticism emanating from Germany treated the Bible as ordinary human literature, and in so doing many of the traditional beliefs and interpretations of the Bible were abandoned. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Oswald T. Allis and the Question of Isaianic Authorship
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.