Kuenen, Abraham

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KUENEN, ABRAHAM (1828–1891), Netherlands theologian and biblical critic. Although Julius *Wellhausen is generally acclaimed as the chief exponent of the so-called literary-critical school, earliest scientific espousal of its essential theses must be ascribed to Kuenen, along with Karl H. *Graf. Graf 's contribution is little known because of his early death. Kuenen's work went unrecognized because most of it remained untranslated from Dutch. The central proposition of the Kuenen-Graf-Wellhausen school is that the religion of the early Hebrews developed along slow evolutionary lines, from patriarchal totemism to prophetic and priestly monotheism. This depends on the documentary hypothesis concerning the composition of the Hexateuch which assigns its material, in respective chronological order, to the Jahwistic (j), Elohistic (e), Deuteronomistic (d), and Priestly (p) documents. Earlier in the nineteenth century, the last of these documents (combined with e) had been held to be the first chronologically; the revolutionary insight of Graf and Kuenen was that p was post-Exilic. Kuenen's work, De Godsdienst van Israël (2 vols., 1869–70; The Religion of Israel to the Fall of the Jewish State, 1873), was the earliest full-length, scientific exposition of this thesis. Although later biblical critics made improvements and modifications in this scheme, its essential outlines are still widely accepted. Born in Haarlem, Kuenen became professor of New Testament, Ethics, and Old Testament Interpretation at Leiden. Strongly opposed to Calvinist orthodoxy and supernatural revelation, he was one of the influential leaders of the rising modernist movement, whose vigorous anti-traditionalism was strongly motivated by the dominant rationalism and empiricism of the nineteenth century. Kuenen produced an impressive list of scientific articles, monographs, and reviews. In addition to The Religion of Israel, his major works were De Profeten en de Profetie onder Israël (1875; Prophets and Prophecy in Israel 1877), Volksgodsdienst en wereldgodsdienst (1882), and Historisch-kritisch onderzoek naar het ontstaan en de verzameling van de Boeken des Ouden Verbonds (3 vols., 1861–65; An Historico-Critical Inquiry into the Origin and Composition of the Hexateuch…, 1886).


K. Budde, Gesammelte Abhandlungen zur biblischen Wissenschaft von Dr. Abraham Kuenen (1894); S.J. de Vries, Bible and Theology in the Netherlands (1968); idem, in: jbl, 82 (1963), 31–57; Toy, in: jqr, 4 (1892), 571–605; H.J. Kraus, Geschichte der historisch-kritischen Enforschung des Alten Testaments (1956), 229–35. add. bibliography: S. DeVries, in: dbi, 2:38–39.

[Simon J. De Vries]