Prof. Arie Noordtzij and Higher Criticism

In the year 1912 there were significant changes in theological professorships in The Netherlands. In that eventful year Dr. Arie Noordtzij became professor at Utrecht and Dr. J. Ridderbos succeeded Maarten Noordtzij as professor of Old Testament studies at the Kampen Theological School. (Dr. Arie was the son of Professor Maatten Noordtzij.)

How wise of the Kampen Board of Trustees (Curatorium ) that they did not recommend for t’!lis position Dr. Arie Noordtzij and that they did put on the nomination to Synod the name of Dr. J. Ridderbos. Anyone who is at all familiar with the books of these two men can applaud that wisdom.

Curators usually have sources of infOnllation not available to Tom, Dick and Harry, and the Kampen Curators did very wisely not to recommend Dr. Arie Noonllzij for a professorship at that Seminary. And very wisely the Free University of Amsterdam also did not appoint Dr. Arie Noordtzij to a professorship there, even though Dr. Harry R. Boer speaks of “A. Noordtzij (of the Free University of Amsterdam).”

The staff of TORCH AND TRUMPET requested me to answer a recent article, in so far as it concerns Dr. A. Noordtzij. The occasion for this request is, at least in large part, the following in an article by Dr. Harry R. Boer:

“…With this in mind, let us look at what A. Noordtzij (of the Free University of Amsterdam) has to say about the composition of Leviticus, in his commentary on that book—one of the Korte Verklaring series.

“In the Introduction to this commentary, he reflects On the discontinuous character of substantial sections of the book: Chapter 16 should be connected with chapter 10; verses 10–23 of chapter 24 stand apparently without connection; chapter 27 sustains no connection to chapter 28, and so on. How is this all to be explained?

The traditional explanation of these phenomena is that Moses wrote Leviticus in stages separated by intervals of time, and as a result we get a more or less disconnected whole. This view, says Noordtzij, is erroneous. Although most of Leviticus assumes the background of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness, other parts can be explained only from the fact of Israel’s settlement in Canaan. These sections have been inserted later and account for the discontinuity. Thus the author cites numerous examples of ordinances which are introduced with the words, ‘the Lord said to Moses: which the Lord in fact never spoke to Moses, nor did they ever occur to Moses to give them to Israel.” (See pages 9 and 10 of February 1961 issue of The Reformed Journal, a paper that has published much better articles than this one of Dr. Harry R. Boer.)

What does the Christian Encyclopedia (Christelijke Encyclopedie, Tweede Oruk) say of the standpoint of Dr. Arie Noordtzjj? “Zoowel binnen als buiten de kring van zijn geestverwanten heeft men wei de mening uitgesproken dat bij N. beinvloeding van kritische opvattingen, m. o. van de godsdiensthistorische school, aanwijsbaar zou zijn.” What docs this long sentence mean? This is it substantially: The opinion has been expressed, both by those that were within the circle of his spiritual kin, and by those that were outside of this circle, that with A. Noordtzij the influence of Higher Critical views, particularly of the History of Religion School, can be shown.

-Dr. Harry R. lloer also refers to S. R. Driver. The story goes that Wellhausen said concerning Driver, that Driver merely thought that he was more conservative than Wellhausen, but that, according to Wellhausen, Driver was even more radical than Wellhausen. Why so? Well, according to the story, Wcllhausen answered, Driver thinks that there are pious frauds in the Bible, and so do I. But when Driver then also holds to some kind of revelation and inspiration of tile Bible, he really holds that God, by his revelation and inspiration, inspired these piOUS frauds. But, said Wellhausen, I reject all supernatural revelation and inspiration, and so I do not hold that God revealed and inspired these pious frauds. Thus I am really more conservative than Driver.

That shows the plight of a scholar like Driver, or even a scholar like Dr. Arie Noordtzij. For he is in the greatest danger of making God a liar and a fraud. The Higher Critics like Wellhausen mean by a “pious fraud” such words as these: “The Lord said to Moses”—when the Lord had not really spoken to Moses. Now look again at the above quotation from the article of Dr. Harry Boer, referring to the stand of Dr. Arie Noordtzij on this matter. (Such a stand concerning an alleged pious fraud in Scripture cannot be found in the works of Dr. C. Ch. Aalders. If anyone wants to know my view on other Pentateuchal views of Aalders he can consult my Introduction to the Pentateuch, in the possession of my students and recent graduates.)

The title of Dr. Harry R. Boer’s article is: “Reformed Scholarship and Infallibility.” It seems to be another attack on the historic Reformed view of infallibility, as that view is indicated in various works on the Belgic Confession. It reminds one of the article “Infallibility Questioned,” which contains the following sentence: “But we must go on to ask a further question: To what extent has this misapplied word determined our attitude toward what is called ‘higher criticism’?” (Marvin Hoogland, in Stromata, Sept. 1958, page 10, second paragraph from the last.) It would be wise for the Christian Reformed Church not to open the door to such Higher Critical, modernistic views.