Biblical interpretation and theological speculation are inseparable: each has constantly influenced the other for good or for ill. But which of the two is the final criterion? Though universally the church has given lip-service to the Scriptures as the source and norm of its theology, it has nonetheless allowed its theological commitment to shape and at times distort its principles of biblical interpretation. It has used the Bible more as a support for its dogmas than as a basis for testing and correcting them. This has proven to have been truce in liberal as well as in orthodox circles, and nowhere so clearly as in the Dutch modernist controversy of the late nineteenth century.
The present study attempts: (1) to outline the major theological movements in The Netherlands previous to and following the crucial year 1850, bringing this forward to the early years of the present century; (2) to enter into a description and analysis of Dutch biblical criticism during this same period, paying special attention to the interpretation of the Old Testament, where the problems have been the greatest and the influence of Dutch scholars has been the most lasting; (3) to draw from this analysis conclusions regarding the relationship between theology and biblical exegesis that are valid not only for theological scholarship in one land and in one particular period but for the entire ongoing theological endeavor throughout the world.
The greatest lesson that emerges from this study is that respect for the integrity of the biblical text is an indispensable prerequisite to genuine and lasting theological progress.