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Biblical Criticism

A series of articles from various Bible reference works.

Compiled by Greg Williamson (2004)

Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary: Biblical Criticism

New Bible Dictionary: Biblical Criticism

New Dictionary of Theology: Biblical Criticism

Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics: Bible Criticism

Foundations of the Christian Faith: Modern Biblical Criticism

 

 

BIBLICAL CRITICISM

from Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary *

BIBLICAL 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.

Textual Criticism. 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 Christian writers.

Historical Criticism. 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 a.d.

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 a.d.

Literary Criticism. 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.

1. 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 1:2).

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 teachings.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

BIBLICAL CRITICISM

from the New Bible Dictionary *

BIBLICAL CRITICISM 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 approaches.

Conventionally the relationship between a text, its author, its reader and the world is portrayed as follows: [missing]

To understand the different types of biblical criticism it is preferable to work with a simplified diagram: [missing]

In the 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.

Traditional 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.

I. Author-centred approaches

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 BC) and 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.

All these 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.

II. Text-centred approaches

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.

By 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 chiastically (ABBA), 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 texts.

c. Structuralism

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 conclusions.

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 impossible.

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.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. 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, 1994.    

G. J. Wenham

BIBLICAL CRITICISM

from the New Dictionary of Theology *

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

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 early authors.

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 bc.

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 criticism

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 obsolete.

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 style.

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 half-century.

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 not fit.

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

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

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

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.

Bibliography

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

BIBLE CRITICISM

from the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics *

Bible Criticism. Criticism 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 was written.

Most 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

Historical, Source, Form, Tradition, and 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.

Among more 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 Resurrection, 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 source criticism.

Source 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.

Source 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 Q or 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).

Form 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 b.c. 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).

These techniques were introduced into New Testament study of the Gospels as Formgeschichte (“form history”) or form criticism. 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.

The 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 (Hodges, 339–48).

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.

Tradition 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 (Harrison, 241).

Form 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.

Redaction 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).

Redaction 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.

Evaluation

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:

 

Positive Criticism (Constructive)

Negative Criticism

(Destructive)

Basis

Supernaturalistic

Naturalistic

Rule

Text is “innocent until proven guilty”

Text is “guilty until proven innocent”

Result

Bible is wholly true

Bible is partly true

Final Authority

Word of God

Mind of man

Role of Reason

To discover truth (rationality)

To 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 impossible.

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 b.c. That late authorship placed it after the fulfillment of its detailed description of world governments and rulers down to Antiochus IV Epiphanes (d. 163 b.c.). 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.

The 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 destructive criticism.

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).

What 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.

Myths? 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 centuries a.d., 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. [Lewis, 154–55]

Creators 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.

Of course, 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 also silly.

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.

The 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.

To say 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).

Luke 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.

The work 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).

Again the 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 not support.

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 teaching.

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.

Legitimate Editing

Illegitimate Redacting

Changes in form

Changes in content

Scribal changes

Substantive changes

Changes in the text

Changes in the truth

The 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 today.

Sources

O. Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament

W. R. Farmer, The Synoptic Problem

R. Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art

G. Hasel, New Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate

R. Jastrow, “A Scientist Caught between Two Faiths” in CT, 6 August 1982

P. Jewett, Man as Male and Female

E. Krentz, The Historical-Critical Method

C. S. Lewis, Christian Reflections

E. Linnemann, Historical 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

J. Robinson, Redating the New Testament

E. P. Sanders, The Tendencies of the Synoptic Tradition

A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament

B. H. Streeter, The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins

R. L. Thomas, “An Investigation of the Agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark,” JETS 19, (1976)

R. L. Thomas, “The Hermeneutics of Evangelical Redaction Criticism,” JETS 29/4 (December 1986)

J. W. Wenham, “Gospel Origins,” TJ 7, (1978)

———, “History and The Old Testament,” Bib. Sac., 124, 1967

 

Modern Biblical Criticism

from 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 perspective.

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 B.C.

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, pp. 3-6.)

Major Characteristics

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 Packer adds,

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 naturalism, expressed 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. 3-6.)

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 infallible revelation.

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.


Notes

Youngblood, R. F., et al., editors. 1995. Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Electronic edition. Nashville: Nelson.

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.

Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary

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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 Electronic Publishing.

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New Bible Dictionary Third Edition

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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 Publishing.

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

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Geisler, N. L. 1999. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Electronic edition Grand Rapids: Baker.

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Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics

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Boice, J. M. 1986. Foundations of the Christian Faith. Revised edition. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. S.v. chapter 7: Modern Biblical Criticism.

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Foundations of the Christian Faith

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