Wrestling with Isaiah: The Exegetical Methodology of Campegius Vitringa (1659–1722)
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Campegius Vitringa (1659–1722) of Franeker University was a biblical scholar of considerable influence for the first half of the 18th century. Similar to that of Calvin, his exegetical methodology attempts to walk a via media between the historicism of Grotius (1583-1645) and the Christocentrism of Cocceius (1603–1669). His magnum opus was a widely-acclaimed commentary on Isaiah (1720). Vitringa scholars have charted his influence along a historical-critical trajectory (including Schultens, Venema, Alberti, Manger, Delitzsch, and Gesenius) and along a Pietistic trajectory (including Franke, Lange, and Bengel, leading toward Lessing, Herder and German Idealism). The book includes the first biography in English and compares his hermeneneutical theoria with his praxis. It analyzes Vitringa’s exegetical presuppositions, his remarkably high view of the Bible, and his canones hermeneuticos (highly valued by J.J. Rambach [1693–1735]). It shows Vitringa’s contextual sensitivity at every level of exegesis, commitment to New Testament normativity in the reading of Isaiah (in which redemptive history is the ultimate hermeneutical horizon), nuanced views on the historical fulfillment of prophecy, and concern for pastoral application. A scholar’s scholar, widely admired for his mastery of the languages and his intense historical focus in exegesis, Vitringa was also appreciated for his orthodox views, warm-hearted piety, and love for the church.