Does Higher Criticism Attempt to Destroy the Bible?

Posted By on April 15, 2010

This link will lead you to what is actually Part IV of a series of posts over on Scotteriology. I think the discussions are worthwhile, though I may not agree in all respects with the way things are articualted. Granted, I think certain critical approaches lack coherence and are at times circular in reasoning (and the standard JEDP approach is one example, though I am not a “Moses write all the Torah” guy either). However, I’ve also complained on this blog and elsewhere that the problem really isn’t the critical approach–rather, it’s that many scholars, students, and pastors lack the will to think creatively about how God could still be very much in the process of the composition and editing of the Scriptures. We too often think of inspiration as a series of divine encounters (“zapping” the writer, as I like to put it) as opposed to Providential oversight of known (and expected) means of producing documents in the ancient world.

Hope you’ll give his posts a read!

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21 Responses to “Does Higher Criticism Attempt to Destroy the Bible?”

  1. Cris Putnam says:

    I think the problem the average Christian has with higher criticism is that they are obviously hostile to the supernatural and miracles. I have no problem with the idea that Ezra and scribes redacted writings made by Moses. But I also accept Jesus word when he repeatedly referred to the Torah as the “law of Moses”. Wellhausen was a deist at best and the majority of higher criticism follows this line.

    I believe it is the word of God and I believe Jesus is God incarnate. I believe he dies for the sins of the world and resurrected from the dead on the 3rd day. The fundamentals.So call me a fundamentalist that’s fine. :)

    • MSH says:

      no doubt about the supernatural thing; “law of Moses” is a very common Hebrew construct noun phrase (“X of Y” noun chain – see any Hebrew reference grammar on the noun construct). The construct chain has *many* meanings. “Law [X] of Moses [Y]” may mean “the Law that originated from Moses” (Y is the origin of X). It may also mean “the law that is associated with Moses” (X is associated with Y) among other possibilities. The integrity of Jesus is *not* at risk with respect to the common OT phrase.

  2. blop2008 says:

    Nor does modern translations attempt to perform the same, except for maybe a few exceptions. The problem isn’t really higher criticism, but rather it’s that some higher critics attempt to go too high and consequently provide a bad testimony of higher criticism. Parallelomania for instance, if it’s even a correct example.

    • MSH says:

      Yes – as I have said many times in classes: Scholars have a habit of embracing the obvious (redaction) and then extrapolating to the unnecessary (XYZ “universally accepted” critical theory that actually has significant weaknesses – as though there were no other options).

  3. Cris Putnam says:

    Well here’s the problem, in Mark 10:4-8, Jesus quoted Gen. 2:24, which would be J, as coming from Moses. Mark 7:10, Jesus quoted the Ten Commandments, which fall into the E category, as coming from Moses. In Mark 10:3, Jesus refers to Deut. 24:1f, which would be D, as being from Moses. In Matt. 8:4, Jesus quoted Lev. 14, which would be equivalent to P, as coming from Moses.

    • MSH says:

      and it could all be (and would be) “the law associated with Moses” (i.e., the law handed down to us by ORAL tradition [presumed for this reply] through Moses or at the time of Moses, but which was only written down after Moses’ lifetime). The phrase “law of Moses” simply doesn’t have to mean WRITTEN by his own hand.

  4. Michael J. says:

    I read the four posts referenced here, and kept thinking how much the professor/punisher (see his signature logo) may benefit, as might many others, by reading “Patristic Theology,” by John S. Romanides. In this book, Fr. John explains that during the ecumenical councils of the early Church, besides dealing with blatant heresies such as Arianism, the Apostolic Church fathers came together and while guided by the Holy Spirit, chose which writings should be included in the Bible, in the form that was to be approved consensually by the accepted leadership of the Church, based on Church Tradition (yes…I did use the T-word!) Furthermore, it was understood by the Holy Fathers that what qualified a person to correctly interpret scripture was not scholastic intellectualistic abilities, rote memorization, or philosophical pedagogy, but whether or not one had reached a state of Theosis (or at the very least, Illumination…in the way that the Orthodox Church has understood the term since the days of the early church).

  5. Michael J. says:

    My point is that although I agree with professor punisher that the Bible that exists in the form(s) we know today, was written in historical time by humans, and that many of the authors used the literary genre or style that resulted from their own background, or aim of instructing certain peoples, etc., it is important to note WHO is capable of transmitting proper interpretation and passing on viable instruction to people whom God calls to a relationship with Himself. The Traditions of the liturgical worship, instruction, and life of the ancient Church, which is the basis for which writings were to be included in Holy Scripture at the Councils, deemed that it was illumination and Theosis that made one qualified to understand, and especially, instruct others about the meaning of Holy Scripture.

  6. Jonnathan Molina says:

    Theosis is just a framework like any other drawn up by fallible men almost 100 years after the fact of the Gospels to understand the texts through the lens of their cultural needs. Jesus or Paul never bothered to mention “theosis” as the basis for accurately discerning who is or isn’t able to interpret the word of God; I understand all Christians are free to apply the teachings of Christ as the Spirit leads them though their current lives…but it becomes apparent to me that anybody who trains their understanding to accurately perceive the nature of the texts that God providentially transmitted through time, who spends time analyzing its contents and uses even-handedness and rigorous, mental discipline to translate for us the meaning of original words (while keeping them in their appropriate historical context, no less) are worthy by their noble endeavors of interpreting the scripture. Ultimately, although I may listen to the advice of someone’s personal interpretation as it applied to their life experience, I will not put that person in charge of handing down doctrine to the church at large. There’s living by faith and walking by the Spirit…then there’s the strict judgment that Teachers will be subject to ( James 3:1 )…which to me implies God judges them differently because of one is expected the daily responsibility of following Christ to the other that AND the ability to preserve, coherently and accesibly the deeper truths of God’s mind as he’s revealed it to every generation.

  7. Jonnathan Molina says:

    Dr. H…in the blog (part II) they mention the book “How to Read the Bible” by James L. Kugel…have you read this book and what was your opinion of it and the author? I am thinking of adding it to my (ever growing) queue of books to read.

    • MSH says:

      I’ve not read Kugel, in part because one of my professors in grad school thought his work on poetry was awful. THere are plenty of things to read on critical methods.

  8. [...] fully admit I am not a language scholar by any means but  it looks arbitrary to me. Dr Heiser doesn’t buy it either. To claim to authoritatively extrapolate four different authors by brute force opinion is high [...]

    • MSH says:

      Redaction (and even “composition”) does not require four different authors and disparate texts brought together. Editing has plenty of evidence on its side, but JEDP is but one approach / explanation to that. If anyone has ever read Friedman’s book “Who Wrote the Bible” you’ll be amazed at how circular the logic is. It’s actually a bit disconcerting.

  9. Michael J. says:

    Jonnathan, the fact that you consider Theosis to be merely “a framework” is merely a demonstration that your understanding of Theology is rooted in scholasticism, and is purely an intellectual, subjective observation. The term Theosis is a Greek word meaning “becoming gods by Grace,” and is related to the ancient understanding of Deification (which St. Paul, and many of the Apostolic fathers discussed), and Theoria (the vision of God). The holy fathers taught that when one experiences Theosis, he is directly experiencing God: when that person beholds God, then faith and hope pass away, and only love remains. These are St. Paul’s words,and they are unequivocal (see I Corinthians 13:13). When you behold God Who is Love, then faith in God and all the concepts related to faith, together with hope in God and all the concepts related to hope, are set aside. The concepts are taken away, because they are replaced by the vision (Theoria) of the Beloved Himself. During an experience of Theosis, or Glorification, this Love is the vision of God. Then a person is glorified. He sees Christ in glory and partakes of the glory of Christ. He experiences participation in God. This is what the early church fathers understood and taught, after having themselves experienced God directly through Theosis. It therefore greatly behooves those who have not yet shared in this direct partaking of God through His Energies, to seek the instruction of those who the Church has recognized as having had the experience…the only ones that the Orthodox Church has considered “theologions,” since long before the schism between the East and West, many centuries before the Protestant offspring of the Roman Catholic West, whose so-called theology had its basis in philosophy and midieval scholastic intellectual exercises.

    • MSH says:

      sounds like something of an apologetic for Eastern Orthodoxy. But I would concur that theosis is a biblical idea (linked as it is to the divine council) — but I would argue it is ultimately realized in the eschaton or on our own eschatological glorification (I think Scripture is pretty clear in both regards). Humanity was designed and is destined to be in/part of the heavenly council — to be divine (but not deity – i.e., not multiple Yahwehs — all divine beings are lesser than Yahweh; everything is contingent and lesser with respect to him). I don’t buy the notion of present earthly theosis for a number of reasons. One more note: not all fathers saw things this way (like everything else).

  10. Michael J. says:

    Guilty as charged! You’re right Dr. Heiser, it is apologetic and I am an Orthodox Christian. I guess I tend to wear my Orthodoxy on my sleeve at times. I agree with you that Theosis will only be FULLY realized at the eschaton, however I also believe that some men and women who were recognized by many around them to have been vessels of the Holy Spirit have, according to historical accounts in the Orthodox Church, partaken of the divine energies and experienced the vision of God. These created beings were not, nor will they ever be, little Yahwehs, as only HE IS, being the only one Who is uncreated. However, as with the apostles at Pentecost, and St. Paul and others who followed, some chosen people of God who were purified of their passions, and then illuminated by the Holy Spirit, were then able to partake of the divine energies and have an experience of Theosis while still in the flesh. It doesn’t mean that they are better or more special than the rest of us sinners, but that they were more receptive to a type of relationship with God that most of us never reach while still alive in our fallen state, and it is this unique experience of God that makes them uniquely qualified to grasp the writings of others who also had this experience of the uncreated energies of God (i.e. authors of Holy Scriptures that are believed to be divinely inspired). Jesus said “if thine eye be single, thy whole body will be filled with light.” Theologians in the Orthodox Church over the centuries have held that the “eye” that He was referring to was the “nous” or eye of the soul…what St. Paul referred to as intellect. It is not the kind of logic-based, rationalistic intellect used in scholarly pursuits, but that highest part of the soul that is capable of “seeing with the eyes of faith.” Anyway, I’ll get off my soap box now. By the way, Dr. Heiser, I am very fond of your work, especially your studies on the Divine Council. Thank you for making it so freely available.

  11. Cris Putnam says:

    The law of non contradiction is merciless, you just can’t believe the documentary hypothesis and Jesus simultaneously.

  12. Jonnathan Molina says:

    Michael J. said: “and it is this unique experience of God (theosis) that makes them uniquely qualified to grasp the writings of others who also had this experience of the uncreated energies of God (i.e. authors of Holy Scriptures that are believed to be divinely inspired).” Sorry but I don’t buy it. First, no one can prove the fathers indeed experienced theosis…they’re all dead and came after the fact of the inspired writings anyway. Secondly, Based on your explanation, it seems it should be the goal of all Christians to experience theosis if possible but it has only been achieved by a select few…how convenient. I thought God showed no partiality? If a child asks for bread will his father give him a stone? What of Joel? The Spirit will be available to us all on the the last days (depending on your view of eschaton) not just the “theosed” (if you will). Lastly, I stand by my “rationalistic” thinking. Faith without reason is just wishful thinking. The Bible was written in words…words require logic, genre and context to make their purpose and meaning understood and it was God’s idea to communicate His laws and truths this way, not man’s. It’s counter-intuitive that the gospel and God’s words are meant to reach the whole earth but only the “specially enlightened” among us will actually be able to understand it…that reeks of elitism and arrogance, sorry!

  13. Robert says:

    I’m w/ Jonnathan Molina; to Michael J. I would have to ask if you’ve ever read the entire Bible, I’m talking KJV (that’ll probably irritate you). As far as your “Theosis” goes, I think I would have to say it’s already been tried by the likes of the founders of Mormonism and JW. There really is nothing new under the sun, is there? It may be that you know the Lord, however, one would then have to ask, “Does the Lord know you?”. There are lots of people in the world today that know the Lord. That isn’t going to stop them from hearing Him say “depart from me”, sad isn’t it.

  14. Michael J says:

    Correction Robert, there are alot of people who THINK they know the Lord! What’s sad is that you assume things about someone you obviously DON’T know.

    Robert, the arrogance of some Western minds never ceases to amaze me. i would have to say that what you said about lot’s of people in the world today knowing the Lord, and then asking, but “does the Lord know you?” shows that you truly have things backwards: the Lord is the ONLY one who really knows any of us. The only reason I know Him is because ‘He’ called me and I said “yes” to Him, and I would never DARE to insinuate that someone else does not know Him, realizing how dangerously close to passing judgement such an assumption would be. And yes, you can find scriptures to support that comment in the good old King James Version.

    And why you would assume that I would be irritated about your childish KJV comment is laughable…I can only assume that the source of such a sophomoric remark is one that is intellectually impoverished, to say the least.

    Not only do scriptures say that some will hear Christ say “depart from me,” but it also says that many of the ones who hear it will be very surprised, never dreaming that they themselves would be the ones to actually hear it!

    And by the way, not only have I read the entire Bible, but I have read not only the King James Version, but versions which include the deuterocanonical (or what the West call apocryphal) texts as well. To lump Orthodox Christians, which have been around for over a thousand years before protestants, into a category that includes non-Christian cults like Mormonism and Jehova’s Witnesses is merely the reflection of an extreme ignorance: I suggest you do a little studying about the history of the Eastern Orthodox Church before you make accusations about people and things you obviously know nothing about.

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