Charles Augustus Briggs
(January 15, 1841 – June 8, 1913), American
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
Presbyterian scholar and theologian
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...
, was born in New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...
, the son of Alanson Briggs and Sarah Mead Berrian. He was excommunicated from the Presbyterian church over his purported liberal theology
Liberal Christianity, sometimes called liberal theology, is an umbrella term covering diverse, philosophically and biblically informed religious movements and ideas within Christianity from the late 18th century and onward...
regarding the Bible.
Life & Thought
He was educated at the University of Virginia
The University of Virginia is a public research university located in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, founded by Thomas Jefferson...
(1857-1860), graduated at the Union Theological Seminary
Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York is a preeminent independent graduate school of theology, located in Manhattan between Claremont Avenue and Broadway, 120th to 122nd Streets. The seminary was founded in 1836 under the Presbyterian Church, and is affiliated with nearby Columbia...
in 1863, and studied further at the University of Berlin
The Humboldt University of Berlin is Berlin's oldest university, founded in 1810 as the University of Berlin by the liberal Prussian educational reformer and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt, whose university model has strongly influenced other European and Western universities...
. He was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church
of Roselle, New Jersey
Roselle is a Borough located in Union County in the state of New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough population was 21,085....
from 1869 to 1874, and professor of Hebrew and cognate languages in Union Theological Seminary from 1874 to 1891, and of Biblical theology there from 1891 to 1904, when he became professor of theological encyclopaedia and symbolics. From 1880 to 1890 he was an editor of the Presbyterian Review
In 1892 he was tried for heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...
by the presbytery of New York, including James McCook
John James McCook, Jr. was a chaplain in the Union Army during the American Civil War, and postbellum lawyer, professor, and theologian. He was a member of the Fighting McCooks, a family of Ohioans who contributed 15 members to the Union army.-Biography:McCook was born in New Lisbon, Ohio. He...
, 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
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...
predictions have been reversed by history and that the great body of Messianic prediction has not and cannot be fulfilled
- that Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...
is not the author of the Pentateuch, and that Isaiah
The Book of Isaiah is the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, preceding the books of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and the Book of the Twelve...
is not the author of 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).
The general assembly, to which the case was appealed, suspended Briggs in 1893, being influenced, it would seem, in part, by the manner and tone of his expressions; by what his own colleagues in the Union Theological Seminary called the dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...
tic and irritating nature of his inaugural address..
He was ordained a priest of the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1899. His scholarship procured for him the honorary degree of D.D. from Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, is a public research university located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university...
(1884) and from Glasgow
The University of Glasgow is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland's four ancient universities. Located in Glasgow, the university was founded in 1451 and is presently one of seventeen British higher education institutions ranked amongst the top 100 of the...
(1901), and that of Litt.D., from Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...
(1901). With Francis Brown
The Rev. Francis Brown , American Semitic scholar, was born in Hanover, New Hampshire.He was the son of Samuel Gilman Brown , president of Hamilton College from 1867 to 1881, and the grandson of Francis Brown, whose removal from the presidency of Dartmouth College and later restoration were...
and S. R. Driver
Samuel Rolles Driver was an English divine and Hebrew scholar. He devoted his life to the study, both textual and critical, of the Old Testament. He was the father of Sir Godfrey Rolles Driver, also a distinguished Bible scholar.-Biography:Samuel Rolles Driver was born at Southampton...
he prepared a revised Hebrew and English Lexicon
(1891-1905, commonly known as Brown Driver Briggs
The Brown–Driver–Briggs Hebrew Lexicon is a standard reference for Biblical Hebrew. It is organized by alphabetical order of three letter roots. It is based on the Hebrew-German lexicon of Wilhelm Gesenius, translated by Edward Robinson...
or BDB) based on the lexicon of Wilhelm Gesenius
Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius was a German orientalist and Biblical critic.-Biography:He was born at Nordhausen...
, and with Driver edited the International 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)
- Whither? A Theological Question for the Times (1889)
- The Authority of the Holy Scripture (1891)
- The Bible, the Church and the Reason (1892)
- The 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., 1906-1907), in which he was assisted by his daughter
- The Virgin Birth of Our Lord (1909)