Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary:
New Bible Dictionary: Biblical
New Dictionary of Theology: Biblical
Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics:
Foundations of the Christian Faith:
from Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary
CRITICISM — the application of one or more techniques in the scientific study of
the Bible. These techniques are not peculiar to Bible study; they would be
equally helpful in the study of the writings of Homer or Shakespeare. Their
primary intention is to help the reader of the Bible understand it better; for
that reason biblical criticism examines the Greek and Hebrew texts (textual
criticism), the historical setting of the various parts of the Bible (historical
criticism), and various literary questions regarding how, when, where, and why
the books of the Bible were first written (literary criticism). These methods of
study, when done with reverence for Scripture, should assist a student’s
appreciation for the
Inspiration of the Bible.
This is the attempt to determine, as accurately as possible, the wording of the
text of the Bible as first written down under the inspiration of the Holy
Spirit. Since none of the original documents has survived and the text is
available only in copies, it is necessary to compare the early copies with each
other. This allows the textual critic to classify these early copies into groups
exhibiting certain common features and to decide why their differences occurred
and what the original wording most likely was.
The early copies on which
textual critics work consist mainly of manuscripts in the original languages,
translations into other languages, and biblical quotations made by Jewish and
The examination of the Bible in light of its historical setting. This is
particularly important because the Bible was written over a period of more than
one thousand years. The story the Bible records extends from the beginning of
civilization in the ancient world to the Roman Empire of the first century
Historical criticism is
helpful in determining when the books of the Bible were written. It is also
helpful in determining a book’s “dramatic date”—that is, when the people it
describes lived and its events happened. The dramatic date of Genesis, for
instance, is much earlier than the date when it was written. Historical
criticism asks if the stories of the patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and
Joseph—reflect the conditions of the times in which they lived.
The consensus is that these
stories better reflect their dramatic date than the dates of their writing, just
as the picture presented in the New Testament best reflects what is known about
the early part of the first century
The study of how, when, where, and why the books of the Bible were written.
Literary criticism may be divided into questions concerning sources, tradition,
redaction, and authorship.
Source criticism attempts to
determine whether the writers of the books of the Bible used earlier sources of
information and, if so, whether those sources were oral or written. Some
biblical books clearly indicate their dependence on earlier sources: 1 and 2
Chronicles, Luke, and Acts. Some of the sources for the Chronicles are still
available to us in 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings, which were written earlier.
The author of Luke and Acts says that much of his information was handed on by
“those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” (Luke
However, these sources usually
have not survived independently and their identification and reconstruction
cannot be certain. It is fairly clear, however, that the Gospels of Matthew,
Mark, and Luke draw on common sources; their two most widely agreed sources are
one that related the story of Jesus and one that contained a collection of His
Tradition criticism (including
form criticism) studies how information was passed from one generation to
another before it was put in its present form. Tradition is simply that which is
handed down; it may be divinely authoritative, or it may be merely “the
tradition of men” (Mark 7:8; Col. 2:8). Sometimes a tradition was handed on by
word of mouth for several generations before it was written down, as in the
record of the patriarchs in Genesis. Sometimes a tradition was handed on by word
of mouth for only 20 or 30 years, as in the records of the works and words of
Jesus before the gospels were written.
Tradition criticism attempts
to trace the stages by which these traditions were handed down, the forms they
took at those various stages, and the forms in which they reached the people who
committed them to writing.
Form criticism is the branch
of tradition criticism that examines the various “forms”—e.g. parables,
miracles, discourses—by which the traditions took shape. Form criticism has been
applied to many areas of the biblical literature, such as the composition of the
Psalms, the prophet’s calls to their ministries, and the contents of the
gospels. Some scholars have, for instance, classified various psalms as “Royal”
psalms, “Lament” psalms, “Torah” (Law) psalms, “Praise” psalms, etc.
Classifying sections of the
Bible according to the form they take can provide an additional perspective from
which one can better understand the text of Scripture. However, this method must
be used with great caution and restraint to avoid imposing the interpreter’s own
assumptions on the Bible.
Redaction criticism attempts to
understand the contribution to the finished manuscript made by the person who
finally committed the oral or written traditions to writing. This may be
illustrated from the Gospel of Luke. Luke makes no claim to have been an
eyewitness of the events of Jesus’ ministry; everything he records in the Gospel
was received from others. Tradition criticism studies what Luke received and the
state in which he received it. Redaction criticism studies what he did with what
he received. Luke (and the same can be said of the other evangelists) was a
responsible author who set the stamp of his own personality on what he wrote.
It is important to remember
that an author’s personal contribution to the finished book was no less reliable
(and, hence, no less authoritative) than the tradition which he received.
Unfortunately, some redaction critics make the error of assuming that the
author’s work is inauthentic, ignoring the work of the Holy Spirit in inspiring
the writers of the Bible.
Authorship and destination criticism
involve the attempt to determine the authorship of a work, as well as the
person, group, or wider public for whom it was written. Sometimes there is no
need for inquiry into these matters; Paul’s letter to the Romans, for example,
is clearly the work of the apostle Paul and was sent by him to the Christians in
Rome. But the judicious use of literary criticism will throw further light on
the circumstances that led to the writing of the book and the purpose for which
Romans was sent. When, however, a work is anonymous, critical inquiry may help
us to discover what sort of person the author was. For example, we do not know
for certain who wrote the letter to the Hebrews. However, by looking critically
at Hebrews we can learn much about the character of the author and a little
about the character and situation of the people to whom the letter was written.
from the New Bible Dictionary
today involves various disciplines whose goal is the exact interpretation of the
Bible. Most types of criticism aim to clarify the meaning of the text: they are
not critical in the sense of challenging the text and its meaning.
Traditionally, biblical criticism has been largely concerned with historical
issues: who wrote the text? when was it written? what errors may have crept in
through copying? what sources were used? etc.
These are still the concerns of the majority of academic biblical scholars, but
increasingly other forms of criticism are coming to the fore. These more modern
criticisms tend to focus on the text in itself or on the reader. Text-oriented
criticisms include rhetorical, canon, and the new criticism, while
reader-oriented criticisms include audience, liberationist and feminist
Conventionally the relationship between a text, its author, its reader and the
world is portrayed as follows: [missing]
understand the different types of biblical criticism it is preferable to work
with a simplified diagram: [missing]
simplest form of communication a speaker sends a message, words, which are then
heard by the listener. In this oral situation the worlds of speaker and hearer
are usually the same, and communication is relatively simple. But when
communication takes the form of writing, the possibility of misunderstanding the
author’s meaning is increased, especially in the case of biblical literature
where language, culture, and a gap of thousands of years separate author and
reader. The task of the biblical critic is to appreciate these gaps and to
attempt to bridge them.
biblical criticisms concentrate their attention on the left-hand side of this
diagram, on the author, his world, and his production of the text. Under the
heading ‘Author-centred approaches’ we shall look at source criticism, redaction
criticism, form criticism and textual and historical criticism.
a. Historical criticism
The primary task of historical
criticism is to determine who wrote a book and when. From the book of Nahum we
can determine that it was probably written before the fall of Nineveh (612
after the fall of Thebes (663 BC cf. 3:8–9). It
affects the interpretation of Revelation and the gospels whether they were
written before or after the fall of Jerusalem (AD
70), so historical critics will try to determine their dates too. Historical
criticism may involve evaluating claims for authorship within a book,
e.g. the apostolic authorship
of John or the trust-worthiness of some books.
b. Source criticism
If a book was written long
after the events it records, it could enhance its credibility to know what
sources it was using and whether they were written close to the events they
recount. The book of Kings often refers to the royal annals of Judah and Israel.
Regrettably, these annals are lost, but their use by the author of Kings does
make his narrative of distant events more trustworthy. It is often argued that
the Pentateuch was composed from a variety of earlier sources (J, E, P,
etc) which take us closer to
the events recorded; but this view is not unanimously held. Similarly, gospel
source critics postulate sources such as Q, L and M, which they hope preserve
the words of Jesus more exactly than the present gospels.
c. Form criticism
Behind the written sources, or
the present texts, in the Bible may lie oral traditions. Many of the psalms may
have been used in temple worship before being incorporated into the Psalter.
Form critics examined the psalms to discover groups of them exhibiting similar
patterns in phraseology or content. Groups of psalms with a particular form may
have been used on similar occasions. National laments may have been used when
Israel was facing a famine or defeat in war (e.g.
Ps. 79), while individual thanksgivings (e.g.
Ps. 116) may have been used when someone’s prayer for healing was answered. Form
criticism has also been used to establish the original setting of OT laws, or early Christian hymns
lying behind parts of the epistles (e.g.
Phil. 2:5–11) or sermons used in the writing of the gospels.
d. Redaction criticism
Parallel versions of history,
gospels, or poems raise interesting issues. If the writer of Chronicles used the
book of Kings, and the gospels of Matthew and Luke used Mark, what changes did
Chronicles make to Kings or Luke to Mark and why? These are the questions
redaction critics ask, and in formulating their answers they often shed light on
the circumstances of writing, and the interests and theologies of the later
writer. When redaction criticism is used where the earlier sources are not
extant, as in the Pentateuch, the enterprise becomes much more speculative.
e. Textual criticism
If we possessed the original
autographs of Genesis or Paul’s epistles, textual criticism would be
unnecessary. Unfortunately we do not. The earliest complete manuscript of the NT dates from about 300 years after
its composition, while in the case of the OT the gap is more than 1,000 years.
Whenever a text wore out, it had to be copied, and in the course of copying a
number of mistakes were introduced. It is the aim of textual criticism to
identify and, if possible, eliminate these mistakes. Jewish scribes were
particularly scrupulous in copying the OT, so fewer mistakes have crept in than
might be imagined, as the Dead Sea Scrolls from the turn of the era prove. Even
in the less carefully copied NT, textual criticism can be fairly confident of
restoring the text to its near-original purity.
branches of criticism essentially deal with the development of the text over
time. If one imagines the growth of a biblical book, form criticism would deal
with the earliest phase of its existence, source criticism the next, then
historical criticism, and finally textual criticism. These types of criticism
are diachronic, i.e.
concerned with changes to the text over time. Recent critical study has a
literary focus and tends to be synchronic, i.e.
concerned with the text and its meaning at one point in time.
a. Rhetorical criticism
Text-centred approaches focus
on the text as it exists now, rather than on the processes whereby it has come
into being. These synchronic approaches have a variety of emphases. Some, like
rhetorical criticism, focus on surface features of texts, such as repetition and
keywords, others deal with methods of storytelling, of writing poetry, and yet
others claim to elucidate underlying structures of literature.
rhetorical criticism I understand not just the study of persuasive techniques,
but all approaches which are concerned with surface features of the text. We now
realize that Hebrew writers had a range of tricks or devices that they used,
maybe unconsciously, in composing poems or stories. Parallelism is the best
known poetic device. In prose, repetition of phrases or keywords is very
important. The beginning and end of sections may be marked by inclusion
(repetition of the opening). Writing in parallel panels (ABCDABCD), or
or in longer palistrophes (mirror-image patterns ABCDEDCBA,
etc.) are some of the devices
that have been noted in both OT and NT.v
b. New criticism
New criticism holds that a
literary work should be interpreted as a text on its own, without reference to
its historical background or the author’s intention. To this end, new critics
pay very close attention to the way a book is composed: its plot, themes, its
use of ambiguity and irony, the portrayal of character, the viewpoints of the
actors and the narrator, etc.
This involves close reading of the text, attention to subtle detail, such as
slight variation in wording when material is repeated. Often new critics take
account of the clues rhetorical criticism relies on (e.g.
keywords), but try to integrate them within a total understanding of the work.
This approach has led to some rich and powerful interpretations of biblical
Whereas rhetorical and new
criticism pay attention to textual features that may be presumed to have been
consciously employed by writers, structuralists argue that literature also
expressed deep structures that characterize all communication (e.g.
binary contrasts). The jargon of structuralism makes many of its ideas difficult
to grasp, but it is concerned to elucidate recurrent patterns of thought,
e.g. in grammar, law,
folk-tales and parables.
III. Reader-centred approaches
A message is encoded and sent
by a speaker, then received and decoded by a listener. Similarly, a writer
encodes a message in a text which is then read and decoded by a reader. The
recognition that hearers or readers are involved in the reception of messages,
though not a new insight, has become much more prominent in recent critical
discussion. Previously, most attention had been given to trying to discover what
the text said or what the author intended. Now it is recognized that the
reader’s input may significantly affect his understanding of the message. It is,
of course, obvious that if a reader is a poor Hebraist, he or she could easily
misunderstand an OT text.
Orientalia if a
reader were insensitive to genre, he or she might misunderstand the parable of
the Good Samaritan as history. Readerly incompetence will lead to
misinterpretation. But the reader contributes much more than this. The reader
brings to the text the pre-understanding, the questions, the cultural
assumptions, the religious and ethical convictions, that are bound to affect his
a. Audience criticism
When prophets preached, or
apostles wrote epistles, they were addressing real people with particular
outlooks and problems which the writer tried to address. Sometimes these beliefs
were explicitly referred to, as Paul does in writing to the Corinthians: he
seems to have received a letter to which I Cor. is a reply. In the case of Amos,
there are few allusions to what his hearers were thinking, but if we are to make
sense of the book’s message, we must read it as a kind of dialogue between him
and his listeners. Though the term ‘audience criticism’ is new, scholars have
long been aware of the importance of establishing the original situation a text
envisages if it is to be correctly understood.
b. Indeterminacy and deconstructionism
It is one thing to envisage
the situation of the original readers: they knew the writer, his language, and
the situation he was addressing. But the situation of the 20th-century reader is
very different. There are many ‘gaps’ in the text, that is things left unsaid,
which a modern reader must supply. And different readers will fill these gaps in
different ways. Can we be sure who is right on how these gaps should be filled?
The world of ideas we inhabit is quite different from the biblical, and our
knowledge of the original setting of the texts is so patchy that we may
completely misconstrue them. Furthermore, according to deconstructionists, there
are contradictions within texts, which make establishing a determinate meaning
c. Ideological criticism
Not only is it very difficult
for moderns to understand the biblical world, but it must be recognized that our
preconceptions affect our reading of the text. Rather than pretend that we have
no pre-understanding that we bring to the text, ideological critics believe that
they should be openly acknowledged and that their effect on our readings be
explored. One may approach the text as a materialist or a vegetarian. What would
materialists make of the frequent references to the supernatural in the Bible?
How would a vegetarian react to the concept of animal sacrifice? Criticism of
biblical texts from these perspectives is rare, but liberationist/ Marxist and
feminist criticism is much more popular. Liberationists insist that texts be
read from the standpoint of the poor and oppressed in the Third World, not, as
is often done, from the standpoint of the comfort of the Western middle classes.
What do the texts have to say about poverty and oppression? Feminist critics
urge that texts be read from a woman’s standpoint. Some insist that texts should
be evaluated against the principles of modern feminism and the patriarchy of
many biblical passages exposed. Others merely highlight those passages that
acknowledge the equality of the sexes or laud women’s achievements.
d. Concluding observations
The issues raised by modern
criticism are highly complex and cannot be adequately dealt with here. Though
author-centred approaches have dominated biblical studies for more than two
centuries, and still do, there is much more validity in the other critical
methods than has been recognized. In particular, the text-oriented approaches
offer much of great value. Studies emanating from this school are gold-mines of
exegetical insight (e.g.
Alter, Berlin). Though many proponents of this school have wanted to divorce
text from author and historical context, this is not really possible when we are
reading an ancient text, as Sternberg has shown.
Reader-oriented approaches have drawn proper attention to the subjective input
of the reader to all criticism. All readers come with their own agenda and
preconceptions, which will inevitably colour their reading of a text. But this
does not mean all readings are equally valid, or that texts are of indeterminate
meaning. If that happened in everyday life, we should cease to communicate.
Obviously it is easier to understand friends than those we meet for the first
time, or those who speak a foreign language. But that does not mean we cannot
understand someone or a text better if we work at it.
Reader-oriented critics are right to draw attention to the ideology of the
reader. What we bring to a text in the way of assumptions and questions will
influence what we find in them. In the postmodern world, where all truth is held
to be relative, this does mean that any ideology may be brought to a text. But
from a Christian perspective, there is only one God and therefore truth must be
one, too. So it is essential for Christian critics to approach the text with a
Christian ideology, not a secular one, or we will read against the grain of the
text, imposing our own ideas on the Bible instead of letting it address us with
God’s message for us. Its agenda is to show us how to love God with all our
heart, soul and mind, and our neighbour as ourselves. Unless we readers make
that our priority, we are likely to distort its meaning at many points.
All older introductions to the OT and NT are devoted to author-oriented
criticisms. Evangelical evaluations of these approaches include: F. F. Bruce,
The NT Documents: Are They Reliable!,
1960; C. Brown (ed.). History, Criticism and Faith,
1976; I. H. Marshall (ed.), New Testament
Interpretation, 1977. Text and reader-oriented
approaches are discussed by the following: R. Alter,
The Art of Biblical Narrative,
1981; A. Berlin, Poetics and Interpretation of
Biblical Narrative, 1983; J. Barton,
Reading the OT, 1984; M.
Sternberg, The Poetics of Biblical Narrative,
1985; R. Alter & F. Kermode, A Literary Guide to
the Bible, 1987; T. Longman,
Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation,
1987; L. Ryken, Words of Delight: A Literary
Introduction to the Bible, 1987;
idem. Words of
Life: A Literary Introduction to the New Testament,
1987; A. C. Thiselton, New Horizons in Hermeneutics,
1992; F. Watson, Text, Church and World,
G. J. Wenham
from the New Dictionary of
Biblical Criticism applies to the biblical
writings a variety of techniques employed in the examination of many kinds of
literature in order to ascertain their original wording, the nature of their
composition, their sources date, authorship and the like.
Textual criticism is the
discipline which endeavours to restore the original text of documents which have
been exposed to the hazards of successive copying and recopying. When each
individual copy had to be made separately by hand, before the invention of
printing in Western Europe about 1450, scribal slips and alterations tended to
be multiplied each time the process was repeated. Copies can be corrected by
reference to the autograph, where that survives, but in most ancient literature
(including all the biblical books) it has disappeared. The original text can
then be reconstructed only by careful comparative study of surviving copies.
Usually, but not invariably, earlier copies have suffered less from alterations
than later ones. The scribal habits of individual copyists and schools of
copyists must be studied; the main types of error must be identified and
classified, a distinction being made between those that are due to imperfect
reading of a master-copy and those that arise from imperfect hearing where the
copying is done from dictation.
The biblical textual critic works not only on
manuscripts of the OT and NT
in the original languages but also on early versions in other languages (notably
Syriac, Coptic and Latin) and biblical quotations in
In the OT the basis is the Masoretic text of the
Hebrew Bible, given its final shape between the 7th and 11th centuries
ad, but going back, so far as the
consonantal text is concerned, to c.
ad 100. Since the discovery of the
Qumran manuscripts in 1947 and the years following,
evidence has become available for tracing the history of the Hebrew Bible back
to a period a thousand years earlier than the final establishment of the Masoretic text. The main version which helps in the textual study of the OT is
the Septuagint (lxx),
the Greek translation made in Alexandria in the 3rd and 2nd centuries
In the NT a number of early text-types can be
discerned in the 4th and 5th centuries ad,
but an increasing number of copies, mainly on papyrus, have come to light from
the 3rd and even the 2nd century, antedating those text-types. NT textual
study is being vigorously prosecuted, and even the latest standard critical
editions are best recognized as interim reports.
The establishment of a reasonably reliable text is
a necessary condition for further critical or exegetical study. At one time
textual criticism was known as ‘lower criticism’ because it represented the
lower courses in the edifice of biblical study.
Literary and historical
Literary and historical criticism
was at one time called ‘higher criticism’ because it presupposed the findings
of ‘lower’ or textual criticism. Higher criticism was concerned with three
issues: literary structure, date and authorship—but the term is now virtually
Source criticism—the discernment of the oral or
written sources on which a literary work has drawn—can be pursued with greater
confidence when one or more written sources of a work have survived alongside
it. The author of Chronicles, for example, used Samuel and Kings among his
sources, and a comparison of his work with those sources enables the student to
reach fairly firm conclusions about his literary and historical method, in the
NT Mark is commonly recognized as a major source of Matthew and Luke; since
Mark has survived independently, it is easier to be certain about Matthew and
Luke’s use of it than about their use of other sources, such as the hypothetical
‘Q’ (the compilation of sayings of Jesus believed to underlie the non-Marcan
material common to Matthew and Luke).
Where the sources have disappeared, their
reconstruction must be largely speculative. It would, for example, be
practically impossible to reconstitute our four separate gospels if they had
disappeared, leaving extant only Tatian’s
Diatessaron—a continuous narrative (produced c.
ad 170) weaving together material
from all four, using John’s record as a framework.
It is possible to discern points in Acts where the
author begins to follow a new source, but there is no way of reconstructing the
sources on which he draws, because he integrates them so skilfully into the flow
of his narrative. The one exception is the travel diary, which is easily
recognized because the pronoun ‘we’ is left unaltered, instead of being
replaced by ‘they’. The author leaves ‘we’ unaltered in order to indicate
unobtrusively that he was present at the incidents recorded in this first-person
Again, where a document existed in more than one
recension, it is the province of literary criticism to distinguish earlier from
later recensions. This can be a hazardous proceeding in the absence of explicit
evidence; occasionally, however, such evidence is provided, it is plain, for
example, that the first edition of the oracles of Jeremiah, reproducing his
spoken ministry over twenty-three years and written at his dictation by Baruch,
existed in only one copy which was almost immediately destroyed by Jehoiakim.
But it was quickly followed by a second, enlarged edition (Je. 36:1–32), and
even that was not the final edition, for Jeremiah continued to prophesy for some
seventeen more years. Two editions survive of the posthumous collection of his
oracles (accompanied by some biographical and other historical material)—a
longer one in the Masoretic text and a shorter one in the lxx.
Among the Qumran documents are some fragmentary Hebrew copies of both editions.
Historical criticism includes the relating of
documents to their historical context. This involves the correlation of internal
and external evidence. The dramatic date of a narrative (the date of the events
which it records) should be distinguished from the date of its composition.
Those scholars, for example, who find that the patriarchal narratives of Genesis
are true to their dramatic date (because they reflect the cultural situation in
which the patriarchs are represented as living) usually agree that the date of
composition of Genesis is several centuries later than the patriarchal age.
In the historical criticism of the prophets the
element of genuine prediction must be treated seriously. A genuine prediction is
earlier than the event predicted but not earlier than the events presupposed as
background to the prediction. On this ground, for example, Nahum’s prophecy is
to be dated between the fall of Thebes (663
bc), to which it refers as a past
event (Na. 3:8–10), and the fall of Nineveh (612
bc), to which it looks forward. A
detailed study of the prophecy will help to date it more precisely within that
Two schools of biblical criticism in the 19th
century owed their special influence to their combining of literary and
historical criticism. Julius Wellhausen (1844–1918), building on his
predecessors’ literary criticism of the Pentateuch, found his basic principle in
the history of the Israelite cultus, at first practised in a wide variety of
local sanctuaries but finally centralized in a single sanctuary. Unfortunately
much of his reconstruction of the cultic development had to be carried out in a
historical vacuum, and as fresh discoveries filled it in, the defects in his
reconstruction were exposed.
Two generations earlier, Ferdinand Christian Baur
(1792–1860) and other members of the Tübingen school reconstructed the history
of the apostolic and sub-apostolic age by postulating a primitive antithesis
between the interpretation of the gospel promoted by Peter and the church of
Jerusalem and that represented by Paul and the Gentile mission. This antithesis
gave way in the 2nd century to a synthesis presented in most of the NT
writings, including in particular Acts and Ephesians—the synthesis which was
perpetuated in the Catholic Church. The Tübingen school exaggerated the
antithesis, underestimating Peter’s positive role as a bridge-builder and unduly
extending the time-scale required for the development which it envisaged. The
final stage of this development was pushed back into the 1st century when Joseph
Barber Lightfoot (1828–89) demonstrated the early 2nd-century date of the seven
genuine letters of Ignatius (The Apostolic Fathers, pt. II, vol.
1, London, 1885, 21889).
Tradition and form criticism
Except when an author is
relating, directly from personal knowledge, events that have taken place within
his experience, or imparting teaching that is immediately his own, the earlier
history of the material recorded is a subject for critical study. Since it has,
by one means or another, been ‘delivered’ to him, its previous transmission
must be examined. If it has been received in the form of written documents,
source criticism will go some way in dealing with them. But if it has been
delivered orally, it constitutes more particularly the subject-matter of
tradition criticism. This can be applied in the OT to narratives, laws, poems
and wisdom sayings which passed through a stage of oral transmission before
being written down. In the NT it has been applied to the gospel material,
although here the gap between the events and the extant documents which record
them is very much smaller. Yet the gospel was preached before it was written,
and it is helpful to study the stages of its oral presentation. The process is
even more speculative than documentary source criticism. If appeal is made to
the ‘laws’ of oral tradition, it must be remembered that these ‘laws’ are
observed regularities and tendencies, and should not be applied where they do
One important aspect of tradition criticism is
form criticism—the study of the ‘forms’ which the material took in the course
of being handed down. In the OT this approach has proved fruitful in the study
of the Psalms: they are classified according to their principal types, each type
being related to its life-setting in communal worship or private devotion.
In the NT the form criticism of the gospels—the
classification of their narratives and sayings according to their principal
‘forms’—has been made the basis of an attempt to trace their history in the
pre-literary stage. Despite exaggerated claims, form classification throws but
little light on the historicity of any particular incident or utterance. With
form classification has been linked the attempt to ascertain the life-setting of
the various units of the gospel tradition. Here different life-settings must be
distinguished—the life-setting in the ministry of Jesus, successive
life-settings in the course of the tradition (what were the factors which
dictated the preservation of certain incidents and sayings when others have been
lost?), and the life-setting of the final literary work. When we reach this
stage, tradition criticism makes way for redaction criticism. Thanks to
tradition and form criticism, it becomes clear that, no matter how far back the
investigation may be pressed, one never reaches a stratum where a totally
non-supernatural Jesus is portrayed.
When applied to the NT epistles, form criticism
of another kind may help the student to recognize a complete epistle as
reproducing the form of a forensic argument according to contemporary rhetorical
standards (cf. H. D. Betz,
Galatians, Philadelphia, 1979), or to subject some recurring feature of
epistolary style to minute comparative study (cf. P. Schubert, Form
and Function of the Pauline Thanksgivings, Berlin, 1939).
Redaction criticism is
complementary to tradition criticism: it studies the use which an author makes
of the material at his disposal, whether received by tradition or otherwise. It
has been particularly fruitful in the study of the gospels, because it
recognizes the evangelists as true authors and not mere compilers. Matthew, for
example, is revealed by his handling of the material to be interested in the
church as a fellowship in which the teaching of Jesus is to be transmitted and
observed from the resurrection to the final consummation. Mark writes not only
to encourage Christians suffering for their faith to ‘take up the cross’ and
follow Jesus but also to present Jesus as the Son of God: this is the
‘messianic secret’ which is divulged at the end of the passion narrative in
the rending of the veil and the centurion’s confession. Luke views the ministry
of Jesus as the fulfilment of the mighty works and prophetic words in which God
revealed himself in OT times and as being continued and spread abroad in the
apostolic witness. John brings out the permanent and universal validity of the
essential gospel by introducing Jesus as the incarnation of the eternal Word of
God, manifesting the divine glory to all who are capable of discerning it.
In the OT redaction criticism has heralded a new
day by encouraging students to think of the Pentateuch, for example, as a
literary unit and to study the author’s purpose and message (cf. D. J.
A. Clines, The Theme of the Pentateuch, Sheffield, 1978).
Canon criticism takes up where
redaction criticism leaves off; it has a more theological content. In it the
critical enterprise is directed to the completed canon of Scripture, to the
individual books in the new context and interrelationships which they acquire
through inclusion in the canon, and to their canonical (i.e. their final)
form. This emphasis on the canonical form contrasts with the attempt to
establish the ‘original’ form which is the concern of certain other critical
approaches. Canon criticism does not displace the other critical approaches, but
endeavours to complement them and bring them to their proper goal.
Structuralism studies the
operation and interaction of signs within a structured system, controlled by an
underlying ‘code’. Many structuralists disclaim all interest in the original
historical setting and purpose of a document: what concerns them is the final
form of the text as a linguistic or semantic phenomenon. Its message is held to
be true or relevant in its own terms, not in historical terms. Any process which
enables the reader to view biblical texts in a fresh light has positive value,
but a discipline which excludes any consideration of the author’s intention is
unlikely to be fruitful for biblical study.
C. E. Armerding, The Old Testament and Criticism
(Grand Rapids, MI, 1983); R. S. Barbour, Traditio-Historical Criticism of the
Gospels (London, 1972); J. Barr, Holy Scripture: Canon, Authority, Criticism
(Oxford, 1983); J. Blenkinsopp, Prophecy and Canon (Notre Dame, IN, 1977); R. E.
Brown, The Critical Meaning of the Bible (London, 1982); B. S. Childs,
Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (London, 1979); idem,
The New Testament as Canon: An Introduction (London, 1984); A.M. Johnson (ed.), The New Testament and Structuralism (Pittsburgh, 1979); J. Knox, Criticism
and Faith (London, 1953); K. Koch, The Growth of the Biblical Tradition (ET,
London, 1969); E. Krentz, The Historical-Critical Method (London, 1976); G.
E. Ladd, The New Testament and Criticism (Grand Rapids, MI, 1967); B. M.
Metzger, The Text of the New Testament (Oxford, 21968); N. Perrin,
What is Redaction Criticism? (London, 1970); E. B. Redlich, Form Criticism
(London, 1939); J. A. Sanders, Torah and Canon (Philadelphia, 1972); E.
Würthwein, The Text of the Old Testament (ET, Grand Rapids, MI, 21979).
F. F. Bruce
from the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics
as applied to the Bible simply means the exercise of judgment. Both conservative
and nonconservative scholars engage in two forms of biblical criticism:
lower criticism deals with
the text; higher criticism
treats the source of the text. Lower criticism attempts to determine what the
original text said, and the latter asks who said it and when, where, and why it
controversies surrounding Bible criticism involve higher criticism. Higher
criticism can be divided into negative (destructive) and positive (constructive)
types. Negative criticism denies the authenticity of much of the biblical
record. Usually an antisupernatural presupposition is employed in this critical
approach. Further, negative criticism often approaches the Bible with distrust
equivalent to a “guilty-until-proven-innocent” bias.
Negative New Testament Criticism
Redaction methods (and
combinations thereof) are the approaches with the worst record for bias. Any of
these, used to advance an agenda of skepticism, with little or no regard for
truth, undermine the Christian apologetic.
Historical Criticism. Historical criticism is a
broad term that covers techniques to date documents and traditions, to verify
events reported in those documents, and to use the results in historiography to
reconstruct and interpret. The French Oratorian priest Richard Simon published a
series of books, beginning in 1678, in which he applied a rationalistic,
critical approach to studying the Bible. This was the birth of
historical-critical study of the Bible, although not until Johann Gottfried
Eichhorn (1752–1827) and Johann David Michaelis (1717–1791) was the modern
historical-critical pattern set. They were influenced by the secular historical
research of Barthold Georg Niebuhr (1776–1831;
Romische Geschichte, 1811–12), Leopold von Ranke
(1795–1886; Geshichte der romanischen und germanischen
Volker von 1494–1535), and others, who developed
and refined the techniques. Among those influenced was Johann Christian Konrad
von Hofmann (1810–1877). He combined elements of Friedrich Schelling
(1775–1854), Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), and orthodox Lutheranism with
historical categories and the critical methods to make a biblical-theological
synthesis. This model stressed “superhistorical history,” “holy history,” or
“salvation history” (Heilsgeschichte)—the
sorts of history that need not be literally true. His ideas and terms influenced
Karl Barth (1886–1968), Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976), and others in the twentieth
century. Toward the close of the nineteenth century, capable orthodox scholars
challenged “destructive criticism” and its rationalistic theology.
conservative scholars were George Salmon (1819–1904), Theodor von Zahn
(1838–1933), and R. H. Lightfoot (1883–1953), who used criticism methods as the
bases for a constructive criticism. This constructive criticism manifests itself
most openly when it considers such matters as miracles, virgin birth of Jesus,
and bodily resurrection of Christ (see
Evidence for). Historical criticism is today taken for
granted in biblical studies. Much recent work in historical criticism manifests
rationalistic theology that at the same time claims to uphold traditional
Christian doctrine. As a result, it has given rise to such developments as
Criticism. Source criticism, also known as
literary criticism, attempts to discover and define literary sources used by the
biblical writers. It seeks to uncover underlying literary sources, classify
types of literature, and answer questions relating to authorship, unity, and
date of Old and New Testament materials (Geisler, 436). Some literary critics
tend to decimate the biblical text, pronounce certain books inauthentic, and
reject the very notion of verbal inspiration. Some scholars have carried their
rejection of authority to the point that they have modified the idea of the
canon (e.g., with regard to pseudonymity) to accommodate their own conclusions
(ibid., 436). Nevertheless, this difficult but important undertaking can be a
valuable aid to biblical interpretation, since it has bearing on the historical
value of biblical writings. In addition, careful literary criticism can prevent
historical misinterpretations of the biblical text.
criticism in the New Testament over the past century has focused on the
so-called “Synoptic problem,” since it relates to difficulties surrounding
attempts to devise a scheme of literary dependence that accounts for
similarities and dissimilarities among the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark,
and Luke. Theories tend to work with the idea of a now-absent
Quelle (“Source”) used by the
three evangelists, who wrote in various sequences, with the second depending on
the first and the third on the other two. These theories were typical
forerunners of the Two-Source theory advanced by B. H. Streeter (1874–1937),
which asserted the priority of Mark and eventually gained wide acceptance among
New Testament scholars. Streeter’s arguments have been questioned, and his
thesis has been challenged by others. Eta Linnemann, once a student of Bultmann
and a critic, has written a strong critique of her former position in which she
uses source analysis to conclude that no synoptic problem in fact exists. She
insists that each Gospel writer wrote an independent account based on personal
experience and individual information. She wrote: “As time passes, I become more
and more convinced that to a considerable degree New Testament criticism as
practiced by those committed to historical-critical theology does not deserve to
be called science” (Linnemann, 9). Elsewhere she writes, “The Gospels are not
works of literature that creatively reshape already finished material after the
manner in which Goethe reshaped the popular book about Dr. Faust” (ibid., 104).
Rather, “Every Gospel presents a complete, unique testimony. It owes its
existence to direct or indirect eyewitnesses” (ibid., 194).
Criticism. Form criticism studies literary forms,
such as essays, poems, and myths, since different writings have different forms.
Often the form of a piece of literature can tell a great deal about the nature
of a literary piece, its writer, and its social context. Technically this is
termed its “life setting” (Sitz im Leben).
The classic liberal position is the documentary or J-E-P-D Pentateuchal source
analysis theory established by Julius Wellhausen (1844–1918) and his followers. They actually attempted to mediate
between traditionalism and skepticism, dating Old Testament books in a less supernaturalistic manner by applying the “documentary theory.” These documents
are identified as the “Jahwist” or Jehovistic (J), dated in the ninth century b.c.,
the Elohistic (E), eighth century, the Deuteronomic (D), from about the time of
Josiah (640–609), and the Priestly (P), from perhaps the fifth century
So attractive was the evolutionary concept in literary criticism that the source
theory of Pentateuchal origins began to prevail over all opposition. A mediating
position of some aspects of the theory was expressed by C. F. A. Dillman
(1823–1894), Rudolph Kittle (1853–1929), and others. Opposition to the
documentary theory was expressed by Franz Delitzsch (1813–1890), who rejected
the hypothesis outright in his commentary on Genesis, William Henry Green
(1825–1900), James Orr (1844–1913), A. H. Sayce (1845–1933), Wilhelm Möller,
Eduard Naville, Robert Dick Wilson (1856–1930), and others (see Harrison,
239–41; Archer; Pfeiffer). Sometimes form-critical studies are marred by
doctrinaire assumptions, including that early forms must be short and later
forms longer, but, in general, form criticism has been of benefit to biblical
interpretation. Form criticism has been most profitably used in the study of the
Psalms (Wenham, “History and the Old Testament,” 40).
techniques were introduced into New Testament study of the Gospels as
Formgeschichte (“form history”) or
Following in the tradition of Heinrich Paulus and Wilhelm De Wette (1780–1849),
among others, scholars at Tübingen built on the foundation of source criticism
theory. They advocated the priority of Mark as the earliest Gospel and multiple
written sources. William Wrede (1859–1906) and other form critics sought to
eliminate the chronological-geographical framework of the Synoptic Gospels and
to investigate the twenty-year period of oral traditions between the close of
New Testament events and the earliest written accounts of those events. They
attempted to classify this material into “forms” of oral tradition and to
discover the historical situation (Sitz im Leben)
within the early church that gave rise to these forms. These units of tradition
are usually assumed to reflect more of the life and teaching of the early church
than the life and teaching of the historical Jesus. Forms in which the units are
cast are clues to their relative historical value.
fundamental assumption of form criticism is typified by Martin Dibelius
(1883–1947) and Bultmann. By creating new words and deeds of Jesus as the
situation demanded, the evangelists arranged the units or oral tradition and
created artificial contexts to serve their own purposes. In challenging the
authorship, date, structure, and style of other New Testament books, destructive
critics arrived at similar conclusions. To derive a fragmented New Testament
theology, they rejected Pauline authorship for all Epistles traditionally
ascribed to him except Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, and Galatians
Thoroughgoing form critics hold two basic assumptions: (1) The early Christian
community had little or no genuine biographical interest or integrity, so it
created and transformed oral tradition to meet its own needs. (2) The
evangelists were compiler-editors of individual, isolated units of tradition
that they arranged and rearranged without regard for historical reality (see
Thomas and Gundry, A Harmony of the Gospels
[281–82], who identify Dibelius, Bultmann, Burton S. Easton, R. H. Lightfoot,
Vincent Taylor, and D. E. Nineham as preeminent New Testament form critics).
Tradition Criticism. Tradition criticism is
primarily concerned with the history of traditions before they were recorded in
writing. The stories of the patriarchs, for example, were probably passed down
through generations by word of mouth until they were written as a continuous
narrative. These oral traditions may have been changed over the long process of
transmission. It is of great interest to the biblical scholar to know what
changes were made and how the later tradition, now enshrined in a literary
source, differs from the earliest oral version.
criticism is less certain or secure than literary criticism because it begins
where literary criticism leaves off, with conclusions that are in themselves
uncertain. It is difficult to check the hypotheses about development of an oral
tradition (Wenham, ibid., 40–41). Even more tenuous is the “liturgical
tradition” enunciated by S. Mowinckel and his Scandinavian associates, who argue
that literary origins were related to preexilic sanctuary rituals and
sociological phenomena. An offshoot of the liturgical approach is the “myth and
ritual” school of S. H. Hooke, which argues that a distinctive set of rituals
and myths were common to all Near Eastern peoples, including the Hebrews. Both
of these approaches use Babylonian festival analogies to support their
variations on the classical literary-critical and tradition-critical themes
criticism is closely aligned with tradition criticism in New Testament studies.
A review of many of the basic assumptions in view of the New Testament text have
been made by Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the
New Testament, and I. Howard Marshall,
The Origins of New Testament Christology
and I Believe in the Historical Jesus.
Also see the discussions in Brevard S. Childs,
Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture and
Introduction to the New Testament as Canon,
and Gerhard Hasel, Old Testament Theology: Basic
Issues in the Current Debate and
New Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate.
Criticism. Redaction criticism is more closely associated with the text than is
traditional criticism. As a result, it is less open to the charge of subjective
speculation. Redaction (editorial) critics can achieve absolute certainty only
when all the sources are used that were at the disposal of the redactor
(editor), since the task is to determine how a redactor compiled sources, what
was omitted, what was added, and what particular bias was involved in the
process. At best, the critic has only some of the sources available, such as the
books of Kings used by the writers of Chronicles. Elsewhere, in both the Old and
the New Testaments, the sources must be reconstructed out of the edited work
itself. Then redaction criticism becomes much less certain as a literary device
(Wenham, “Gospel Origins,” 439).
critics tend to favor a view that biblical books were written much later and by
different authors than the text relates. Late theological editors attached names
out of history to their works for the sake of prestige and credibility. In Old
and New Testament studies this view arose from historical criticism, source
criticism, and form criticism. As a result, it adopts many of the same
presuppositions, including the documentary hypothesis in the Old Testament, and
the priority of Mark in the New Testament.
As already noted, higher criticism
can be helpful as long as critics are content with analysis based on what can be
objectively known or reasonably theorized. Real criticism doesn’t begin its work
with the intent to subvert the authority and teaching of Scripture.
Kinds of Criticism Contrasted.
However, much of modern biblical criticism springs from unbiblical philosophical
presuppositions exposed by Gerhard Maier in The End
of the Historical Critical Method. These
presuppositions incompatible with Christian faith include deism, materialism,
skepticism, agnosticism, Hegelian idealism, and existentialism. Most basic is a
prevailing naturalism (antisupernaturalism) that is intuitively hostile to any
document containing miracle stories. This naturalistic bias divides negative
(destructive) from positive (constructive) higher criticism:
“innocent until proven guilty”
“guilty until proven innocent”
discover truth (rationality)
determine truth (rationalism)
Some of the
negative presuppositions call for scrutiny, especially as they relate to the
Gospel record. This analysis is especially relevant to source criticism, form
criticism, and redaction criticism, as these methods challenge the genuineness,
authenticity, and consequently the divine authority of the Bible. This kind of
biblical criticism is unfounded.
Unscholarly bias. It imposes its own
antisupernatural bias on the documents. The originator of modern negative
criticism, Benedict Spinoza, for example, declared that Moses did not write the
Pentateuch, nor Daniel the whole book of Daniel, nor did any miracle recorded
actually occur. Miracles, he claimed, are scientifically and rationally
In the wake
of Spinoza, negative critics concluded that Isaiah did not write the whole book
of Isaiah. That would have involved supernatural predictions (including knowing
the name of King Cyrus) over 100 years in advance. Likewise, negative critics
concluded Daniel could not have been written until 165
That late authorship placed it after the fulfillment of its detailed description
of world governments and rulers down to Antiochus IV Epiphanes (d. 163
Supernatural predictions of coming events was not considered an option. The same
naturalistic bias was applied to the New Testament by David Strauss (1808–1874),
Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965), and Bultmann, with the same devastating results.
foundations of this antisupernaturalism crumbled with evidence that the universe
began with a big bang.
Even agnostics such as Robert Jastrow (Jastrow, 18), speak of “supernatural”
forces at work (Kenny, 66), so it is sufficient to note here that, with
the demise of modern antisupernaturalism, there is no philosophical basis for
Inaccurate view of authorship. Negative criticism
either neglects or minimizes the role of apostles and eyewitnesses who recorded
the events. Of the four Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, and John were definitely
eyewitnesses of the events they report. Luke was a contemporary and careful
historian (Luke 1:1–4; see Acts). Indeed, every book of the New Testament was
written by a contemporary or eyewitness of Christ. Even such critics as the
“Death-of-God” theologian John A. T. Robinson admit that the Gospels were
written between 40 and 65 (Robinson, 352), during the life of eyewitnesses.
But if the
basic New Testament documents were composed by eyewitnesses, then much of
destructive criticism fails. It assumes the passage of much time while “myths”
developed. Studies have revealed that it takes two generations for a myth to
develop (Sherwin-White, 190).
Jesus really said. It wrongly assumes that the New
Testament writers did not distinguish between their own words and those of
Jesus. That a clear distinction was made between Jesus’ words and those of the
Gospel writers is evident from the ease by which a “red letter” edition of the
New Testament can be made. Indeed, the apostle Paul is clear to distinguish his
own words from those of Jesus (see Acts 20:35; 1 Cor. 7:10, 12, 25). So is John
the apostle in the Apocalypse (see Rev. 1:8, 11, 17b–20; 2:1f.; 22:7, 12–16,
20b). In view of this care, the New Testament critic is unjustified in assuming
without substantive evidence that the Gospel record does not actually report
what Jesus said and did.
It incorrectly assumes that the New Testament stories are like folklore and
myth. There is a vast difference between the simple New Testament accounts of
miracles and the embellished myths that did arise during the second and third
as can be seen by comparing the accounts. New Testament writers explicitly
disavow myths. Peter declared: “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales
(mythos) when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). Paul also
warned against belief in myths (1 Tim. 1:4; 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:4; Titus 1:14).
One of the most telling arguments against the myth view was
given by C. S. Lewis:
First then, whatever these men may be as Biblical critics, I
distrust them as critics. They seem to lack literary judgment, to be
imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading . . . If he
tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how
many legends and romances he had read, how well his palate is trained in
detecting them by the flavour; not how many years he has spent on that Gospel .
. . I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all
my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this.
or recorders? Unfounded higher criticism
undermines the integrity of the New Testament writers by claiming that Jesus
never said (or did) what the Gospels claim. Even some who call themselves
evangelical have gone so far as to claim that what “‘Jesus said’ or ‘Jesus did’
need not always mean that in history Jesus said or did what follows, but
sometimes may mean that in the account at least partly constructed by Matthew
himself Jesus said or did what follows” (Gundry, 630). This clearly undermines
confidence in the truthfulness of the Gospels and the accuracy of the events
they report. On this critical view the Gospel writers become creators of the
events, not recorders.
every careful biblical scholar knows that one Gospel writer does not always use
the same words in reporting what Jesus said as does another. However, they
always convey the same meaning. They do select, summarize, and paraphrase, but
they do not distort. A comparison of the parallel reports in the Gospels is
ample evidence of this.
There is no
substantiation for the claim of one New Testament scholar that Matthew created
the Magi story (Matt. 2) out of the turtledove story (of Luke 2). For according
to Robert Gundry, Matthew “changes the sacrificial slaying of ‘a pair of
turtledoves or two young pigeons,’ at the presentation of the baby Jesus in the
Temple (Luke 2:24; cf. Lev. 12:6–8), into Herod’s slaughtering of the babies in
Bethlehem” (ibid., 34–35). Such a view not only degrades the integrity of the
Gospel writers but the authenticity and authority of the Gospel record. It is
Neither is there support for
Paul K. Jewett, who went so far as to assert (Jewett, 134–35) that what the
apostle Paul affirmed in 1 Corinthians 11:3 is wrong. If Paul is in error, then
the time-honored truth that “what the Bible says, God says” is not so. Indeed,
if Jewett is right, then even when one discovers what the author of Scripture is
affirming, he is little closer to knowing the truth of God (cf. Gen. 3:1). If
“what the Bible says, God says”is not so, then the divine authority of all Scripture is worthless.
early church’s stake in truth. That the early
church had no real biographical interest is highly improbable. The New Testament
writers, impressed as they were with the belief that Jesus was the long-promised
Messiah, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16–18), had great motivation to
accurately record what he actually said and did.
otherwise is contrary to their own clear statements. John claimed that “Jesus
did” the things recorded in his Gospel (John 21:25). Elsewhere John said “What .
. . we have heard, we have seen with our eyes, we beheld and our hands handled .
. . we proclaim to you also” (1 John 1:1–2).
clearly manifests an intense biographical interest by the earliest Christian
communities when he wrote: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an
account of the things accomplished among us, just as those who from the
beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word have handed them down to
us, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully
from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent
Theophilus; so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have
been taught” (Luke 1:1–4). To claim, as the critics do, that the New Testament
writers lacked interest in recording real history is implausible.
of the Holy Spirit. Such assumptions also neglect
or deny the role of the Holy Spirit in activating the memories of the
eyewitnesses. Much of the rejection of the Gospel record is based on the
assumption that the writers could not be expected to remember sayings, details,
and events twenty or forty years after the events. For Jesus died in 33, and the
first Gospel records probably came (at latest) between 50 and 60 (Wenham,
“Gospel Origins,” 112–34).
critic is rejecting or neglecting the clear statement of Scripture. Jesus
promised his disciples, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send
in My name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that
I said to you” (John 14:26).
So even on
the unlikely assumption that no one recorded anything Jesus said during his
lifetime or immediately after, the critics would have us believe that
eyewitnesses whose memories were later supernaturally activated by the Holy
Spirit did not accurately record what Jesus did and said. It seems far more
likely that the first-century eyewitnesses were right and the twentieth-century
critics are wrong, than the reverse.
Guidelines for Biblical Criticism.
Of course biblical scholarship need not be destructive. But the biblical message
must be understood in its theistic (supernatural) context and its actual
historical and grammatical setting. Positive guidelines for evangelical
scholarship are set forth in [the] “Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” (see Geisler, Summit II: Hermeneutics,
10–13. Also Radmacher and Preus, Hermeneutics,
Inerrancy, and the Bible, esp. 881–914). It reads
in part as follows:
Article XIII. WE AFFIRM that awareness of the literary
categories, formal and stylistic, of the various parts of Scripture is essential
for proper exegesis, and hence we value genre criticism as one of the many
disciplines of biblical study. WE DENY that generic categories which negate the
historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present
themselves as factual.
Article XIV. WE AFFIRM that the biblical record of events,
discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary
forms, corresponds to historical fact. WE DENY that any such event, discourse or
saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the
traditions they incorporated.
Article XV. WE AFFIRM the necessity of interpreting the Bible
according to its literal, or normal sense. The literal sense is the
grammatical-historical sense, that is, the meaning which the writer expressed.
Interpretation according to the literal sense will account for all figures of
speech and literary forms found in the text. WE DENY the legitimacy of any
approach to Scripture that attributes to it meaning which the literal sense does
Article XVI. WE AFFIRM that legitimate critical techniques
should be used in determining the canonical text and its meaning. WE DENY the
legitimacy of allowing any method of biblical criticism to question the truth or
integrity of the writer’s expressed meaning, or of any other scriptural
Redaction versus Editing. There are important
differences between destructive redaction and constructive editing. No
knowledgeable scholars deny that a certain amount of editing occurred over the
biblical text’s thousands of years of history. This legitimate editing, however,
must be distinguished from illegitimate redaction which the negative critics
allege. The negative critics have failed to present any convincing evidence that
the kind of redaction they believe in has ever happened to the biblical text.
The following chart contrasts the two views.
in the text
in the truth
redaction model of the canon confuses legitimate scribal activity, involving
grammatical form, updating of names, and arrangement of prophetic material, with
illegitimate redactive changes in actual content of a prophet’s message. It
confuses acceptable scribal transmission with unacceptable tampering. It
confuses proper discussion of which text is earlier with improper discussion of
how later writers changed the truth of texts. There is no evidence that any
significant illegitimate redactive changes have occurred since the Bible was
first put in writing. On the contrary, all evidence supports a careful
transmission in all substantial matters and in most details. No diminution of
basic truth has occurred from the original writings to the Bibles in our hands
The Christology of
the New Testament
W. R. Farmer,
Matthew: A Commentary
on His Literary and Theological Art
Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate
R. Jastrow, “A Scientist Caught between Two Faiths” in
6 August 1982
Man as Male and
C. S. Lewis,
Criticism of the Bible
———, Is There a Synoptic Problem?
G. M. Maier,
The End of the
Historical Critical Method
Marshall, I. H.,
The Origins of
New Testament Christology
A. Q. Morton, and J. McLeman,
Christianity in the Computer Age
E. D. Radmacher and R. D. Preus,
Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible
Redating the New
E. P. Sanders,
The Tendencies of
the Synoptic Tradition
A. N. Sherwin-White,
Society and Roman Law in the New Testament
B. H. Streeter,
Gospels: A Study of Origins
R. L. Thomas, “An Investigation of the Agreements between
Matthew and Luke against Mark,”
R. L. Thomas, “The Hermeneutics of Evangelical Redaction
29/4 (December 1986)
J. W. Wenham, “Gospel Origins,”
TJ 7, (1978)
———, “History and The Old Testament,”
Foundations of the Christian Faith
Modern Biblical Criticism, more than anything else, has weakened and almost
destroyed the high view of the Bible previously held throughout Christendom.
Thus it is necessary to look at the main lines of this criticism as it has
developed in the last two centuries and then reflect on it from an evangelical
The Roots of Higher Criticism
Higher criticism of the Old and New Testaments along literary lines is not in
itself peculiar to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Theodore of
Mopsuestia, one of the most noted theologians of the Antiochian school,
relegated a number of the psalms (such as 51, 65 and 127) to the age of the
Exile. During the Middle Ages, Ibn Ezra, a Jewish scholar, claimed to have
discovered a number of anachronisms in the Pentateuch. Even Martin Luther
applied a form of literary criticism in his occasional pronouncements about the
authenticity and relative value of the biblical books. Nevertheless, it was not
until the middle of the eighteenth century, 1753, to be exact, that higher
criticism was introduced on a scale and with a purpose comparable to our use of
the phrase today.
In that year a scientist and physician in the French court, Jean Astruc
published a work on the literary sources of Genesis and set forth a method of
biblical study which was to find widespread acceptance, first in Germany, then
throughout Europe and the United States. Astruc observed that
in the Hebrew text of Genesis, God is designated by two different names. The
first is Elohim, for, while this name has other meanings in Hebrew, it is
especially applied to the Supreme Being. The other is Jehovah ... the great name
of God, expressing his essence. Now one might suppose that the two names were
used indiscriminately as synonymous terms, merely to lend variety to the style.
This, however, would be in error. The names are never intermixed; there are
whole chapters, or large parts of chapters, in which God is always called Elohim,
and others, at least as numerous, in which he is always named Jehovah. If Moses
were the author of Gene sis, we should have to ascribe this strange and harsh
variation to himself. But can we conceive such negligence in the composition of
so short a book as Genesis? Shall we impute to Moses a fault such as no other
writer has committed? Is it not more natural to explain this variation by
supposing that Genesis was composed of two or three memoirs, the authors of
which gave different names to God, one using Elohim, another that of Jehovah or
Jehovah Elohim? (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. 4, ed. James
Hastings [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912], p. 315)
Astruc’s statement is a primitive expression of the critical spirit, exhibiting
characteristics that were soon to become representative of literary criticism at
large. First, it reveals a break with traditional views, according to which
Moses was the author of the Pentateuch. Second, it discloses a shift in the
object of study, from the simple meaning of the words themselves to ques tions
of the authenticity and integrity of the biblical books. Third, it displays a
new method of procedure. By laying aside the testimony of history and tradition,
at least temporarily, this criticism focuses on the style, vocabulary, syntax,
ideas and features of the documents as the sole basis on which questions
concerning authenticity and integrity may be answered.
At first Astruc’s work received little notice. Yet within a few years it was
picked up by some German scholars and others and was expanded to include the
whole Old Testament. Johann Eichhorn applied Astruc’s approach to the entire
Pentateuch. Wilhelm De Wette and Edward Reuss attempted to bring the results
into line with Jewish history. Reuss concluded that in the correct historical
sequence the prophets are earlier than the law and the psalms later than both.
The most popular and, in some sense, the culminating work in this field was the
Prolegomena of Julius Welihausen published in 1878. This work widely
disseminated the four-stage documentary hypothesis known as JEPD (J for
the Jehovah source, E for the Elohim source, P for the priestly
documents and code, and D for the later editorial work of the
Deuteronomist or Deuteronomic school). Wellhausen dated the writing of the law
after the Babylonian exile and placed only the Book of the Covenant and the most
ancient editing of the J and E narrative sections prior to the eighth century
The profound change this involved is clear in the words of E. C. Blackman, who
hails Wellhausen’s achievement as making possible “the understanding of the Old
Testament in terms of progressive revelation ... a real liberation” (E. C.
Blackman, Biblical Interpretation [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1957], p.
141). Emil C. Kraeling notes that it also “marked the beginning of a completely
secular and evolutionistic study of the Old Testament sources” (Emil G. Kraeling,
The Old Testament since the Reformation [New York: Harper and Brothers,
1955], p. 94).
The Jesus of History
New Testament studies the energies of the higher critics have been directed in a
slightly different direction; namely, to recover the “Jesus of history” through
a study of the origins of the Gospel narratives and the development of New
Testament theology as preserved in the Epistles of Paul, the pastorals, the
Johannine literature and Revelation. But the same principles are involved, and
they have been carried forward in New Testament studies in an even more radical
way than in the nineteenth-century investigation of Pentateuch.
The origin of higher critical principles in New Testament study is usually
traced to Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792-1860), who tried to organize the
material along historical lines. Hegel had developed the theory that historical
development proceeds by thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Baur applied Hegelian
principles to biblical history, citing the supposed conflict of Petrine and
Pauline theology as evidence of a doctrinal thesis and antithesis within the
early church. In Baur’s view, this led to the synthesis of early Catholicism.
Today Baur’s general thesis is rejected. Still he succeeded in shaking the
traditional views concerning the authorship and composition of the New Testament
books and called the attention of the scholarly world to a rediscovery of the
historical Christ as the primary New Testament problem.
The so-called quest for the historical Jesus dates from the death in 1768 of
Hermann Samuel Reimarus, the historian with whom Albert Schweitzer begins his
survey of nineteenth-century research. Reimarus was no New Testament scholar,
but at his death he left behind a manuscript that was to have far-reaching
implications. He argued that historians must distinguish between the “aim” of
Jesus and the “aim” of his disciples, that is, between the Jesus of history and
the Christ of early Christian preaching. Faced with a choice between what he
believed to be mutually exclusive aims, Reimarus opted for the former, positing
a nonsupernatural Jesus. According to him, Jesus preached the coming of God’s
kingdom, but he died forsaken by God and disillusioned. Christianity was viewed
as the product of early disciples who stole the corpse, proclaimed a bodily
resurrection and gathered followers.
Reimarus was extreme and his work polemical. But his views of Christian origins
set the pattern for a century of historical-Jesus research. Reacting against the
supernatural element in the Gospels and casting about for a Jesus made in their
own image, idealists found Christ to be the ideal man; rationalists saw him as
the great teacher of morality; socialists viewed him as a friend of the poor and
a revolutionary. The most popular “lives of Jesus,” the two by David Friedrich
Strauss, rejected most of the Gospel material as mythology; and Bruno Bauer
ended his quest by denying that there ever was a historical Jesus. Bauer
explained all the stories about Jesus as the products of the imagination of the
primitive Christian community.
One can hardly fail to be impressed even today at the immense energy and talent
that German scholars poured into the old quest for the “original” Jesus, but the
results were meager and the conclusions wrong, as Schweitzer found in his study.
Scholarship had attempted to modernize Jesus, but the Jesus they produced was
neither the historical Jesus nor the Christ of Scripture.
Bultmann and Mythology
In more recent years, higher criticism of the New Testament has centered around
the work of Rudolf Bultmann, former professor at the University of Marburg,
Germany, the acknowledged father of form criticism. Much of Bultmann’s energy
was expended on stripping away what he felt to be the “mythology” of the New
Testament writers: heaven, hell, miracles. But Bultmann’s views are
misunderstood if one imagines that the historically real Jesus lies beneath the
mythological layer. According to Bultmann, what lies beneath the mythology is
the church’s deepest understanding of life created by its experience with the
risen Lord. Consequently, nothing may be known about Jesus in terms of pure
history except the fact that he existed. In Bultmann’s work Jesus and the
Word, he states, “We can know almost nothing concerning the life and
personality of Jesus” (Rudolf Bultmann, Jesus and the Word [New York:
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1934], p. 8).
Operating under the assumption that a period of oral transmission intervened
between the years of Christ’s earthly ministry and the transcribing of the
traditions about him in the Gospels, Bultmann envisions a creative church, one
that gradually superimposed its own world picture upon what it had received of
the times and teachings of Jesus. The church’s creativity took place in an “oral
stage” in the development of the tradition. During this period much of the
Gospel material circulated in the form of separate oral units which may today be
classified and arranged in a time sequence on the basis of their form. It is
believed, by Bultmann and others of his school, that much may be inferred about
the situation in the church from these Gospel “units.” But virtually nothing may
be learned about the actual, historical Jesus. The expressions of faith of the
early church, preserved for us in the New Testament, must be reinterpreted in
existential terms if they are to have meaning for the modern era.
In rejecting the supposed New Testament mythology, Bultmann rejects a literal
pre-existence of Christ, his virgin birth, his sinlessness and deity, the value
of his atoning death, a literal resurrection and ascension of Christ, and the
future judgment of all people. They speak rather of a new “possibility of
existence,” meaning the possibility of letting go of the past (dying with
Christ) and opening oneself to the future (rising with Christ). To embrace this
possibility brings inner release and overwhelming freedom (salvation).
Ltheran scholar Edgar Krentz writes of Bultmann’s conclusions,
On the one hand the Scriptures are, like any other book, the object of
historical inquiry, which seeks the facts. But no absolute meaning is to be
found in the facts. Meaning is to be found only as man personally confronts
history and finds meaning for his own existence (existential interpretations).
Only as man is not subjected to a strange world view is he set free to believe.
It is this self-understanding that determines the work of interpretation, for
interpretation must give free play for faith, God’s creation (Edgar Krentz,
Biblical Studies Today: A Guide to Current Issues and Trends [St. Louis:
Concordia, 1966], p. 16).
To summarize, according to the Bultmannian school: (1) the earliest Christian
sources show no interest in the actual history or personality of Jesus, (2) the
biblical documents are fragmentary and legendary, (3) there are no other sources
against which the data provided by the biblical writers may be checked, and (4)
preoccupation with the historical Jesus is actually destructive of Christianity,
for it leads, not to faith in Jesus as God, but to a Jesus-cult, the effects of
which can be clearly seen in pietism.
The weaknesses of some of these perspectives are now being seen in some
quarters. Consequently, theological leadership is passing into other
hands.(Portions of the above material on the quest for the historical Jesus and
on Bultmann have already appeared in an article by the author entitled “New
Vistas in Historical Jesus Research,” Christianity Today, 15 March 1965,
Brief as it has been, our review of higher criticism reveals great diversity.
Viewpoints are constantly changing, and even in the same period, those working
in similar areas often contradict each other. However, in spite of the
diversity, there are certain characteristics that tie the various expressions of
the higher criticism together.
First, there is its humanism. In most forms of the modern debate the
Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are handled as if they are man’s
word about God, rather than God’s Word to man. But this, as J. I. Packer
points out, is simply the Romantic philosophy of religion set out by Friedrich
Schleiermacher (1768-1834), “namely that the real subject matter of theology is
not divinely revealed truths, but human religious experience” (J. I. Packer,
“Fundamentalism” and the Word of God [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1960],
p. 145). Within this framework the Bible is only a record of human reflection
and action in the field of religion The interpreter’s task becomes the work of
sifting that experience out and evaluating it for possible use in our age.
It must be recognized of course, as was pointed out in an earlier chapter, that
the Bible does have a genuinely human element. On the other hand, we must object
to any attempt to make it human at the expense of its being divine. Besides, as
If one factor must be stressed at the expense of the other, far less is lost by
treating the Scriptures simply as the written oracles of God than simply as a
collection of Jewish ideas about God. For we have no reason to regard merely
human words as inerrant and authoritative; what will be authoritative for us, if
we take the liberal view, is our own judgment as to how far they may be trusted
and how far not. Thus, we land, willy-nilly, in subjectivism (Ibid.).
A clear example of such subjectivism is the section on “Scripture” from The
Common Catechism, a widely advertised modern statement of faith by an
impressive team of contemporary Catholic and Protestant theologians. It states:
Everything we will have to discuss ... is based on this now unquestioned
assumption that the evidence of the Bible may and must be examined as evidence
of the faith of a number of men and a number of generations. ... For the future
we can no longer say, “The Bible is the word of
God.” Even saying “The word of God is in the Bible” would be wrong, if it were
taken to mean that one set of statements in the Bible were purely human words
and the rest God’s word. We must say something like: “The Bible is not
God’s word, but becomes God’s word for anyone who believes in it as God’s
word.” That sounds dangerous. ... (The Common Catechism: A Book of Christian
Faith, eds. Johannes Feiner and Lukas Vischer [New York: The Seabury Press,
1975], p. 101).
At this point we must answer that indeed it does.
The second common characteristic of higher criticism is its
in the belief that the Bible is
the result of an evolutionary process. Evidence of this belief can be
seen in Old Testament studies in the way the documentary theory of the
Pentateuch developed. The belief is also evident in Bultmann's form criticism,
for everything depends on the early church’s gradually developing its
understanding of reality and preserving it at various stages through the written
traditions. Early and primitive understandings of God and reality are presumed
to have given way to later, more developed conceptions. So-called primitive
ideas may be rejected in favor of more modern ones. Thus, reports of miracles
may be discounted. Also, according to this view, crude notions such as the wrath
of God, sacrifice and a visible Second Coming of the Lord may be excluded from
the religion of the New Testament.
The third major characteristic of the higher criticism is
based on the first two. If people and their ideas change as the evolutionary
hypothesis speculates, then they will continue to change; they have changed
since the last books of the Bible were written; consequently,
we must go beyond the Scriptures
to understand both humanity and true religion. There are many
examples of this attitude, particularly in popular sermons in which the
viewpoints of secular thinkers are often widely aired while the contrary views
of the biblical writers are forgotten.
A Response to Higher Criticism
What is to be said in reply to this widespread and popular approach? There are
two perspectives. On the one hand, there is a neutral area in which anyone may
properly use at least some parts of the critical method. It may be used to
illuminate the human element in the biblical writings. Attention may be given to
words and their varying uses, the historical situation out of which the writings
came and the unique features of the various biblical books. Besides, there are
matters of archaeology and parallel secular history, both of which shed light on
the texts. Use of the method in these areas and in this way is valuable. On the
other hand the best-known exponents of the critical method have proceeded on
assumptions unacceptable to true biblical theologians, and the method may
therefore be judged a failure in their hands.
First, users of the critical method demand the right to be scientific in their
examination of the biblical data. But they are vulnerable, not when they are
scientific but rather when they fail to be scientific enough. The
negative literary critics presuppose the right to examine the Bible in a manner
identical to that which they would use in studying any secular literature. But
is it valid to approach Scripture as nothing more than a collection of secular
writings? Is it scientific or wise to neglect the fact that the books claim to
be the result of the “breathing-out” of God? Can a decision on this matter
really be postponed while an examination of the books goes forward? If the books
really are from God, doesn’t their nature in itself limit the critical options?
It is futile as well as erroneous to deny the critics the right to examine the
biblical texts. They will do it whether they are asked to or not. Besides, if
the Scriptures are truth, they must stand up beneath the barrage of any valid
critical method; we must not make the mistake of the fundamentalists of the
nineteenth century in claiming a special exemption for the Bible. On the other
hand, it must be maintained that any critical method must also take into
consideration the nature of the material at its disposal. In the case of the
Bible, criticism must either accept its claims to be the Word of God or else
offer satisfactory reasons for rejecting them. If the Bible is the Word of God,
as it claims to be, then criticism must include an understanding of revelation
in its methodological procedure.
The failure of criticism to do this is nowhere more apparent than in its efforts
to divorce the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith. If Jesus were no more
than a human being and the Bible no more than a human book, this could be done.
But if Christ is divine and if the Bible is the Word of the Father about him,
then it is the obligation of criticism to recognize the nature of the Gospels as
a divine and binding interpretation of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus
of Nazareth, the Son of God. With a firm appreciation of the Bible as
revelation, literary criticism would be free, on the one hand, from all charges
of irreverence and abuse and, on the other, from an easy and unfounded optimism
that would place the solution to all biblical problems within easy grasp.
The same failure is evident in the critics’ treatment of the Bible as the result
of a human evolutionary process, according to which one part of Scripture may
easily contradict another. If the Bible is really from God, these will not be
contradictions but rather complementary or progressive disclosures of one truth.
Second, having failed to accept the Bible for what it truly is, negative critics
inevitably fall into error as they proceed on other premises. Thus, they
eventually display their own inherent weaknesses. One clear example of
this is the for the historical Jesus which, as was pointed out earlier, simply
molded the historical Christ into the interpreter’s own image. Another example
is Bultmann who, although he once enjoyed almost legendary renown, is today
increasingly deserted by his followers.
They ask: If, as Bultmann says, virtually all we need to know of the historicity
of the Christian faith is the mere “thatness” of Jesus Christ, his existence,
then why even that? Why was the Incarnation necessary? And if it was not
really necessary or if it is impossible to show why it was necessary, what is to
keep the Christian faith from degenerating into the realm of abstract ideas? And
what in that case is to distinguish its view of the Incarnation from Docetism or
from a Gnostic redeemer-myth?
Ernst Kaesemann of Marburg, Bultmann’s old stomping ground, raised these
questions in a now famous address to the reunion of old Marburg students in
1953. He argued, “We cannot do away with the identity between the exalted and
the earthly Lord without falling into Docetism and depriving ourselves of the
possibility of drawing a line between the Easter faith of the community and
myth” (Ernst Kaesemann, Essays on New Testament Themes [London: SCM
Press, 1964], p. 34). A few years later Joachim Jeremias voiced a similar
warning. “We are in danger of surrendering the affirmation ‘the Word became
flesh’ and of abandoning the salvation-history, God’s activity in the Man
Jesus of Nazareth and in His message; we are in danger of approaching Docetism,
where Christ becomes an idea” (Joachim Jeremias, “The Present Position in the
Controversy concerning the Problem of the Historical Jesus,” The Expository
Times, vol. 69, 1957-58, p. 335).
Even Bultmann’s supporters must find it a bit incongruous that his Theology
of the New Testament gives only thirty pages to the teachings of Jesus while
devoting more than one hundred pages to an imaginary account of the theology of
the so-called Hellenistic communities, of which we know nothing.
Bultmann has minimized both the early church’s concern for the facts of Jesus'
life and its dependence on him as teacher. While it is true, as Bultmann argues,
that the biblical documents are concerned primarily with Jesus’ identity as the
Messiah and with the revelation he brings of the Father, it is no less
significant that their understanding of him is embodied, not in theological
tracts or cosmic mythologies (as in Gnosticism), but in Gospels. Their structure
is historical. Moreover, every verse of the Gospels seems to cry out that the
origin of the Christian faith lies, not in the sudden enlightenment of the early
Christians or in an evolving religious experience, but in the facts concerning
Jesus Christ: his life, death and particularly his resurrection. Even the
kerygma proclaims the historical event, for it was Jesus of Nazareth who died
for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried and who rose again on the
third day, according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4). (Parts of this critique
of Bultmann also appeared in “New Vistas in Historical Jesus Research,” pp.
A third objection to this type of higher criticism is the most important one.
Such critics have a very small god. They don’t deny the existence of God
entirely, but they do minimize his ability and his presence. He can speak to the
individual, but he cannot guarantee the content of that revelation or preserve
it in a reliable, written form. He can act in history, but he cannot act
miraculously. Can miracles occur? If they can, then much of what the higher
critics dismiss as mythological has a very good claim to being historical. If
they can, the God of miracles is capable of giving us an authoritative and
For all its alleged objectivity, in the ultimate analysis modern criticism is
unable to escape the great questions: Is there a God? Is the God of the Bible
the true God? Has God revealed himself in the Bible and in Jesus of Nazareth as
the focal point of the written revelation? If, as has been suggested, it is
necessary for criticism to deal with the full nature of the material, in
particular with the claims of the Bible to be the Word of God as well as words
written by particular people, then it must deal with a question that involves
either denial or the response of faith.
When criticism faces the fact that the portrait of Jesus appearing in the
Gospels makes the humble man from Nazareth the Son of God, then it must ask
whether or not this interpretation is the right one, and if so, it must accept
his teachings. When it confronts the Bible’s claims regarding its own nature, it
must ask and answer whether the Bible is indeed God’s express revelation. If the
answer to these questions is Yes, then a new kind of criticism will emerge. This
new criticism will treat the biblical statements as being true rather than
errant, it will look for complementary statements rather than contradictions,
and it will perceive the voice of God (as well as the voices of people)
throughout. Such a criticism will be judged by the Scriptures rather than the
other way around.
Youngblood, R. F., et al., editors. 1995.
Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Electronic edition.
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edition of this book from Christian Book Distributors (CBD). CBD typically
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Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary
Douglas, J. D., et al., editors. 1996. New
Bible Dictionary. Third edition. Electronic edition. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity
Press. As found in The Essential IVP Reference Collection.
2001. Downers Grove, IL: IVP
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edition of this book from Christian Book Distributors (CBD). CBD typically
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New Bible Dictionary Third Edition
Ferguson, S. B., et al., editors. 1988. New
Dictionary of Theology. Electronic edition. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. As
found in The Essential IVP Reference Collection. 2001. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Electronic
Click the below link for more info and/or to order the print
edition of this book from Christian Book Distributors (CBD). CBD typically
offers a discount of 30 - 40% off the retail price.
New Dictionary of Theology
Geisler, N. L. 1999.
Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Electronic edition Grand
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Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics
Boice, J. M. 1986. Foundations of the Christian Faith. Revised
edition. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. S.v. chapter 7: Modern
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Foundations of the Christian Faith