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A great theologian

by
25 September 2020

September 24th, 1920

OXFORD, the world of scholarship, the Church of England, and the Christian Church at large are the poorer by the death of Dr Sanday. With him passes the last of the great Victorian theologians. The nineteenth century was marked, in the field of theological scholarship as in the fields of science, poetry, philosophy, and politics, by a galaxy of names to which the attribute of “greatness” has been conceded by the present generation: and although their lives were prolonged well into the twentieth century, it is to this group that history will pronounce Dr Swete and Dr Sanday to have belonged. The foundations of Dr Sanday’s scholarly reputation were laid, during the epoch which now seems so remote from us, of the controversy which arose from the publication of “Supernatural Religion”; the main structure was built by his work on the Gospels, and the text of the New Testament; the coping-stone was added by his share in the monumental commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, written in collaboration with the present Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, Dr Headlam, and by the great Bampton Lectures on Inspiration. These, together with many subsidiary studies, were universally admitted to display the qualities of wide erudition and laborious accuracy characteristic of the German theologians whom he had taken as his masters, together with flashes of intuition and gleams of spiritual power which were all his own. In an age of unrest, when mental landmarks were being uprooted on every side, Sanday’s writings bore no small part in minimizing the jars and dislocations inseparable from intellectual readjustment, in marshalling the new historical learning for the defence of the Old Religion, and in showing that modern methods could and should be employed in the service of ancient truth. . .

 

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