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On his father's death it became necessary for him to leave school and take a humble place in the business. By the generosity of friends he was educated at the gymnasium at Haarlem and afterwards at the university of Leiden. He studied theology, and won his doctor's degree by an edition of thirty-four chapters of Genesis from the Arabic version of the Samaritan Pentateuch. In 1853 he became professor extraordinarius of theology at Leiden, and in 1855 full professor. He married a daughter of W Muurling, one of the founders of the Groningen school, which made the first pronounced breach with Calvinistic theology in the Reformed Church of Holland.
Kuenen himself soon became one of the main supports of the modern theology, of which JH Scholten and Karel Willem Opzoomer (b. 1821) were the chief founders, and of which Leiden became the headquarters. His first great work, an historico-critical introduction to the Old Testament, Historisch-Kritisch Onderzoek naar het onstaand en de verzameling van de Boeken des Ouden Verbonds (3 vols., 1861-1865; 2nd ed., 1885-1893; German by T Weber and CT Müller, 1885-1894), followed the lines of ths dominant school of Heinrich Ewald.
But before long he came under the influence of JW Colenso, and learned to regard the prophetic narrative of Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers as older than what was by the Germans denominated Grundschrift (Book of Origins). In 1869-1870 he published his book on the religion of Israel, De Godsdienst tot den ondergang van den Joodsehen staat (Eng. trans., 1874-1875).
This was followed in 1875 by a study of Hebrew prophecy, De profeten en de profetie onder Israel (Eng. trans., 1877), largely polemical in its scope, and specially directed against those who rest theological dogmas on the fulfilment of prophecy. In 1882 Kuenen went to England to deliver a course of Hibbert lectures, National Religions and Universal Religion; in the following year he presided at the congress of Orientalists held at Leiden. In 1886 his volume on the Hexateuch was published in England. He died at Leiden on the 10th of December 1891.
Kuenen was also the author of many articles, papers and reviews; a series on the Hexateuch, which appeared in the Theologisch Tijdschrift, of which in 1866 he became joint editor, is one of the finest products of modern criticism. His collected works were translated into German and published by K Budde in 1854. Several of his works have been translated into English by Philip Wicksteed. See the article in Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie.
- This entry incorporates public domain text originally from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.
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