Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae
On-line version ISSN 2412-4265
HALE, Frederick. Victorian biblical scholarship in twentieth-century South Africa: Ramsden Balmforth's advocacy of New Testament higher criticism. Studia Hist. Ecc. [online]. 2013, vol.39, suppl.1, pp. 365-383. ISSN 2412-4265.
Debates in South Africa over Biblical scholarship have often been a subject of historical inquiry. John Colenso's challenges to the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch are well known, and in the Dutch Reformed tradition significant work has been done on such topics as the controversial Stellenbosch theologian Johannes du Plessis. The present article deals with central themes in the New Testament scholarship of a very liberal, Oxford-educated transplant, Ramsden Balmforth, who served as minister of the Unitarian Church in Cape Town from 1897 until 1937 and wrote several books about the Bible. The focus is on his advocacy of higher criticism (or historical criticism) of the New Testament and, within this, his emphasis on agapeist ethics of Jesus as the essential core of Christianity. This is historically contextualised by, inter alia, considerations of his reactions to the "fundamentalism" of the 1920s and the heresy trial of the said Dutch Reformed theologian, Johannes du Plessis.