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Charles Augustus Briggs

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Name  Charles Briggs

Charles Augustus Briggs httpsblogsculcolumbiaeduburkefiles201503
Died  June 8, 1913, New York City, New York, United States
Education  Humboldt University of Berlin, Union Theological Seminary, University of Virginia
Books  Brown–Driver–Briggs, The Authority Of Holy Scri, Theological symbolics, Whither? A Theological Question, History of the study of theology

Charles Augustus Briggs

Charles Augustus Briggs (January 15, 1841 – June 8, 1913), American Presbyterian (and later Episcopalian) scholar and theologian, was born in New York City, the son of Alanson Briggs and Sarah Mead Berrian. He was excommunicated from the Presbyterian Church because of his liberal theology regarding the Bible.


Life and thought

Briggs was educated at the University of Virginia (1857–60), graduated at the Union Theological Seminary in 1863, and after the Civil War, studied further at the University of Berlin from 1866 to 1869. In 1870, he was appointed pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Roselle, New Jersey which post he held until 1874, when he accepted the professorship of Hebrew and cognate languages at Union Theological Seminary, in which department he taught until 1891, and of Biblical theology there from 1891 to 1904, following which he became their professor of theological encyclopaedia and symbolics. From 1880 to 1890 he was an editor of the Presbyterian Review.

In 1892 Briggs was tried for heresy by the presbytery of New York, including James McCook, and acquitted. The charges were based upon his inaugural address of the preceding year. In brief they were as follows:

  • that he had taught that reason and the Church are each a fountain of divine authority which apart from Holy Scripture may and does savingly enlighten men
  • that errors may have existed in the original text of the Holy Scripture
  • that many of the Old Testament predictions have been reversed by history and that the great body of Messianic prediction has not and cannot be fulfilled
  • that Moses is not the author of the Pentateuch, and that Isaiah is not the author of the second half of the book which bears his name
  • that the processes of redemption extend to the world to come (he had considered it a fault of Protestant theology that it limits redemption to this world and that sanctification is not complete at death).
  • After much posturing, maneuvering and publicity-seeking by Briggs, The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, to which the case was appealed, defrocked and excommunicated (expelled) Briggs from the Presbyterian church in 1893 in Washington, D.C. Some have argued that General Assembly's finding of heresy was influenced, in part, by Briggs' belligerent manner and militant tone of expressions; by what his own colleagues in the Union Theological Seminary called the dogmatic and irritating nature of his inaugural address.

    Following his condemnation by the Presbyterians, he turned towards Episcopalianism and was ordained as a priest of the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1899. His scholarship procured for him the honorary degree of D.D. from the University of Edinburgh (1884) and from the University of Glasgow (1901), and that of D.Litt., from the University of Oxford (1901). With Francis Brown and S. R. Driver he prepared a revised Hebrew and English Lexicon (1891–1905, commonly known as Brown Driver Briggs or BDB) based on the lexicon of Wilhelm Gesenius, and with Driver edited The International Critical Commentary series. His publications include:

  • Biblical Study: Its Principles, Methods and History (1883)
  • Hebrew Poems of the Creation (1884)
  • American Presbyterianism: Its Origin and Early History (1885)
  • Messianic Prophecy (1886)
  • Biblical history (PDF),, 1889 
  • vWhither? A Theological Question for the Times (1889)
  • vThe Authority of the Holy Scripture (1891)
  • The Bible, the Church and the Reason (1892)
  • vThe Higher Criticism of the Hexateuch (1893)
  • The Messiah of the Gospels (1894)
  • The Messiah of the Apostles (1894)
  • General introduction to the study of Holy Scripture (1899)
  • New Light on the Life of Jesus (1904)
  • The Ethical Teaching of Jesus (1904)
  • A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Psalms (2 vols., 1906–7), in which he was assisted by his daughter
  • The Virgin Birth of Our Lord (1909)
  • Theological Symbolics (1914, posthumous)
  • Literature

  • The Presbyterian Review, 1880–89, made available by Princeton Theological Seminary
  • Briggs, Charles Augustus (1889). "Redemption after Death". The Magazine of Christian Literature. 1 (3).  This is one of the major sources of clashes between Briggs and embedded doctrine.
  • Christensen, Richard L. (1995). The ecumenical orthodoxy of Charles Augustus Briggs (1841–1913). Lewiston, New York: Mellen University Press. ISBN 978-0-7734-2273-5. 
  • Kugel, James (2007). How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now. New York: Free Press (Simon & Schuster). ISBN 978-0-7432-3586-0. , which includes a relation of Briggs' process as well as additional details of his life.
  • Massa, Mark Stephen (1988). ""Mediating Modernism": Charles Briggs, Catholic Modernism, and an Ecumenical "Plot"". The Harvard Theological Review. 81 (4): 413–430. doi:10.1017/S001781600001018X. 
  • Massa, Mark Stephen (1990). Charles Augustus Briggs and the crisis of historical criticism. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. ISBN 978-0-8006-7079-5. 
  • Sawyer, M. James (1994). Charles Augustus Briggs and tensions in late nineteenth-century American theology. Lewiston, New York: Mellen University Press. ISBN 978-0-7734-9961-4. 
  • Smith, H. P. (1913). "Chas. Augustus Briggs". American Journal of Theology. 17 (October): 497–508. 
  • References

    Charles Augustus Briggs Wikipedia