The relationship between primal religion and biblical religion in the works of William Robertson Smith
This thesis examines the relationship between primal religion and biblical religion in the works of William Robertson Smith on the understanding that it was a central and persisting concern of his career as a Christian scholar and apologist. It is hoped that this work not only contributes to an understanding of Robertson Smith as one who sought to integrate faith with scientific scholarship, but that the issues raised through his perception and discussion of the subject do contribute to the phenomenological reflection on the nature of biblical and Christian faith, and the possible modes of Christian engagement with a religiously pluralist world. The study proceeds on the basis of the view that Smith's perception of primal and of biblical religion, being intimately linked with his European Christian identity and intellectual heritage, cannot be adequately understood without a consideration of two formative influences in European Christian identity and engagement with other peoples and religions-namely, Christendom and the European image of "primitive" peoples and religions. Both of these contributed significantly to a nineteenth century European intellectual and cultural consensus, having an impact upon a wide range of fields of endeavour, including biblical criticism, comparative religion and social anthropology. Their development and impact is the focus of Part I. as a background to their influence on Smith's thought and career. Part II focuses on Smith's early life and work to show the essential continuity between his evangelical and intellectual upbringing and his later concerns. Part III considers Smith's mature works, showing how his apologetic purpose is revealed in the approach and content of each. The Conclusion highlights two key internal difficulties arising from the developmental interpretation of Israelite religion for Smith's understanding of the affinity of biblical religion with primal religion- namely, the location of the Decalogue in Israel's religious development, and the significance of Christ's death as sacrifice. These difficulties suggest that these problems remained unresolved in Smith's writings and indicate an ultimate failure to account for the relationship between primal religion and biblical religion on the basis of a developmental schema. It is a moot point how Smith would have dealt with these problems, had late twentieth century insights into the nature of primal religion and its persisting historical relationship to Christian faith, been available to him.