BIBLICAL CRITICISM. Literary criticism involves the search for and examination of the objective data pertaining to a written document in order to ascertain, insofar as possible, the identity of the writer or writers, the time of composition, the contemporary political and cultural situation confronting the author, and the attitudes and purposes he cherished in composing his work. In line with the basic meaning of the verb krinō, “to judge,” the adjective kritikos means “pertaining to discernment or judgment.” It therefore constitutes a systematic effort to grasp and properly to sift all the objective data leading to an accurate appraisal of the value and intent of the document under study, and a just appreciation of its significance. Especially in the critical study of religious works such as the Bible, criticism aims at an objective analysis of all the pertinent data leading to a just estimate of its importance and worth; as such it is distinct from devotional or deductive theological study, which already presupposes the divine authority and reliability of the purported Scripture. Thus the investigative function of Biblical criticism may serve for the verification and defense of the teachings of Scripture, rather than for any sinister purpose of impairing the credibility of the Bible. It has thus been practiced by all the learned scholars of evangelical conviction who have successfully refuted the attacks of liberal and rationalist savants who have attempted to discredit the Scripture. But it should be observed in this connection that complete objectivity is virtually impossible in the field of Biblical criticism; every man is personally involved in a very profound sense as he finds himself indicted and condemned as a guilty, helpless, depraved sinner. He must make a personal response one way or the other to the call of God as conveyed by the words of Scripture. If his response is an outright rejection of the possibility of divine revelation and of the reality of the supernatural, he is necessarily biased in his purportedly objective investigation of the Biblical evidence. Having already assumed his conclusion as his premise, he is incapable of dealing logically with the abundant proofs of the supernatural origin and authority of Scripture, and all his scholarly treatment of Biblical criticism simply amounts to an expression of his defense mechanism. Since nearly all of the architects of Biblical criticism were of deistic or even pantheistic persuasion, like Spinoza, it was impossible for them to approach the Bible as authentic special revelation from a personal God. They were compelled to seek out purely human and naturalistic causes for the phenomena of Scripture. This subjective bias has to be reckoned with through the entire history of the development of higher criticism.
Textual criticism of the OT
OT textual criticism began at a very early date, with the activity of the guild of scribes (sōpherīm) who endeavored to preserve the exact form of the original text of each book of the Heb. Bible. Judging from the faithful correspondence between the MT and the consonantal text of the Heb. University Scroll of Isaiah (1QIsb), copied down about mid 1st cent. b.c., it is fair to conclude that during the Hasmonean period an officially sponsored committee of scribes drew up an authoritative text of the thirty-nine books of the OT on the basis of the earliest and best MSS available to them. This carefully edited text when published (possibly around 100 b.c.) tended to displace the more inexact, unofficial copies then current; at least there is far less deviation from the MT in the Hababbuk Scroll (c. 75 b.c.) than in the First Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa) of the previous cent., even though the Habakkuk was only a commentary (or pesher) with vv. of text interspersed between interpretive remarks. The Massoretes recorded eighteen “decrees of the scribes” (tiqqūnē sōpherīm) prescribing emendations of the consonantal text they had received. (Many of these were antianthropomorphic in character; others were quite minor and trivial.) The Massoretes themselves indicated emendations in the text by inserting vowel points belonging to the word they thought should be substituted for the one in the received text, and then writing out the consonants of the emendation off in the side margin. These Massoretic emendations are known as qerē readings (from Aram. qerē: “read!”), whereas the reading indicated by the unpointed original consonants is known as kethīb (Aram. for “that which was written”). These qerē (Q) readings were fairly numerous, esp. if all the substitutions of Adonay (Lord) for the sacred name Yahweh (Jehovah) are included. Yet this type of substitution had nothing to do with correction of the text to some earlier and more authentic reading; it simply represented a pious avoidance of pronouncing aloud the holy name of God. But most of the Q emendations did represent actual correction of what was felt to be an erroneous reading in the kethīb; e.g., the negative lō' (“not”) in
The science of textual criticism has been greatly enriched by the archeological discoveries of the last seventy years which have brought to light thousands of documents in ancient Sem. languages akin to Heb. These include Akkadian (the Amarna correspondence with their Canaanite glosses, the Mari and Nuzi tablets), Aramaic (notably the Elephantine Papyri from a Jewish military colony in Egypt), and above all, in Ugaritic (a Canaanite language spoken and written atin the time of Moses). These discoveries have greatly increased the knowledge of ancient Sem. vocabulary, and have in many cases demonstrated the accuracy of rare words in the Heb. Bible which textual critics of an earlier generation used to amend away because of their own ignorance of these data. Yet it still remains true that occasional scribal errors are encountered in the MT, and they must be dealt with by a systematic and objective methodology, which takes into account the various types of error possible for a copyist (haplography, dittography, fission, fusion, homoeoteleuton, homophony, metathesis, etc.) and applies the various canons of textual criticism in a discriminating way (such as the giving of preference to the earlier reading, the more difficult reading, the reading most widely supported, the reading which best explains the divergent variants, the reading most in accord with the known style or viewpoint of the ancient author, and so on). Unfortunately there has been a tendency on the part of many liberal scholars to amend rather capriciously and recklessly, reshuffling the positions of letters, words and even entire verses, according to a personal theory of their own as to what the author ought to have said. An inordinate amount of space is devoted to his kind of subjective and unscientific speculation in many of the OT commentaries produced under liberal auspices. Perhaps the best manual for correct procedure in the judicious use of the LXX and other ancient VSS, and the proper use of the canons of criticism is to be found in Ernst Würthwein’s The Text of the OT (Macmillan), 1957.
Textual criticism of the NT
The same principles of textual criticism used for the OT apply also to the NT. The analysis of the various possible types of scribal error apply to the Gr. Scriptures as well as to the Heb.; likewise the same canons for deciding upon the best of the variants (prefer the earlier reading, the shorter reading, the more difficult reading, the reading which best explains the other variants, etc.). Unlike the OT text, the text of the NT is attested by hundreds of MSS written in uncials (capital letters) which come from the first few centuries after apostolic times and which represent several different MSS families (notably, the Neutral or Alexandrian, the Western, and the Byzantine). The Received Text, which served as the basis for the KJV of 1611, was based largely on the Byzantine family, which was the latest and perhaps least reliable of the three. The ERV of 1881 depended upon the textual-critical work of Westcott and Hort, who relied chiefly upon the a.d. 200 and shows a marked affinity to the Aleph. Outside of this Neutral group there are also two valuable 5th cent. codices: Alexandrinus (or A) which shows tendencies toward the Byzantine or Syrian text, and the Bezae (D), which inclines rather toward the Western text. A fourth MS family has been established, for the gospel of Mark at least, called the Caesarean, which was apparently used in part by Origen in the 3rd cent.; but its earliest representative is Codex Koridethianus (Theta) from the 9th cent. It is chiefly supported by two families of minuscule MSS (i.e., written in small letters) from succeeding centuries: Family 1 and Family 13. In addition to the Gr. texts there are many early VSS of the NT in Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Gothic, Ethiopic and Armenian. The Old Latin lean and Peshitta are esp. valuable in dealing with some of the problem passages in the NT text.(as they called it), and principally the two great 4th cent. uncials, Codex Vaticanus (Aleph) and Codex Alexandrinus (B), along with the 5th cent. Ephraemi Rescriptus (C). Subsequent discovery of the in Egypt has added important 3rd cent. witnesses to support the Neutral Text (p-45 being the largest of these fragments); the even more recent Bodmer Papyrus of the gospel of John (p-66) is dated at about
Higher criticism of the OT
The first serious attack upon the authenticity of an OT book came from a Neo-Platonist philosopher named Porphyry, who argued that Daniel must have been composed in the time of the Maccabees (c. 165 b.c.), since it showed too much foreknowledge of 2nd cent. history for a 6th cent. b.c. author. Jerome devotes much of his commentary on Daniel refuting Porphyry’s arguments. Apart from doubts occasionally expressed by Luther concerning the canonicity of books like Esther, James and Jude on the grounds of theological inadequacy (although on other occasions he referred to them as Holy Scripture) no serious challenge was raised against the genuineness of any portion of Scripture until after the Reformation. (1644) raised questions about the Solomonic date of Ecclesiastes and he regarded Job as possibly Exilic in date. Benedict Spinoza’s posthumous Tractatus (1670) suggested that all of the OT books from Genesis to 2 Kings may have been drawn up by Ezra in the 5th cent., although he admitted he could not actually prove it.
The Documentary Theory.
The first step toward the construction of the Documentary Theory of the composition of the Pentateuch was made by
In 1853 Hermann Hupfeld in his “Quellen der Genesis” argued that E was composed of two different sources, the later of which tended to resemble “J” in vocabulary and style, but the earlier Elohist showed a much different vocabulary and assortment of interests (systematic arrangement, genealogies, laws and rituals). This he called the Grundschrift, but it later became known as the Priestly Code (P). At this point, then, the order of these hypothetical documents was: P, E, J, and D. Karl H. Graf gave this newly identified Grundschrift a searching analysis, and concluded (in 1866) that while the historical portions may have been early, some at least of the legal portions were as late as the Exile (6th cent. b.c.). (1869) insisted that this Grundschrift was truly a unity, and could not be subdivided as Graf had done. All of this Priestly Code, both historical portions and legal, had to be exilic or postexilic, dating from Ezra’s time. This completed the reshuffling of the order of the alleged “Documents,” including the demotion of E to a cent. later than J. The order was now to be: J, E, D, P. In order to confirm this sequence and make it completely convincing to an evolution-minded age, (1876, 1878) employed as a chronological grid the guiding principle of the natural evolution of Israel’s religion. One had only to gauge the religious perspective of each segment of the Pentateuch (which by this time had been enlarged to the “Hexateuch” by the inclusion of Joshua) according to an ascending scale of development from primitive animism and polytheism to monolatry and eventually monotheism (by the mid 8th cent.), beyond which came the elaboration of the cult and the priesthood to the postexilic stage. Thus Wellhausen felt able to date with accuracy even those passages which lacked a telltale name of God, or any of the specialized synonyms which had been assigned to J, E, and P as their own special preserve. So plausible was his argumentation to the learned public at large that the Documentary Hypothesis was thought to have attained its final perfection under him and even received his name, as the “Wellhausen Hypothesis.” For an analysis of the numerous fallacies and self-contradictions which vitiate this hypothesis see the article on Pentateuch.
The linguistic evidence against the Maccabean Date Theory is absolutely conclusive. Although the Aram. chs. in Daniel show a significant number of Pers. loan words, esp. those pertaining to government and civil administration (such as might be expected by 530 b.c.), there are no loan words from Gr. (except for three musical instruments, which doubtless were imported into the Near E as early as the instruments themselves—and Gr. mercenaries and musicians served in the Assyrian court) even though according to the theory, Gr. had been the language of government for 160 years. With the discovery and publication of the Genesis Apocryphon from Qumran Cave One (1956) it became apparent that this incontestable sample of 1st cent. b.c. Aram. represented a stage of linguistic development centuries later than the (allegedly 2nd cent.) Aram. of Daniel. Furthermore the LXX trs. of Daniel (who could have done their work no later than 2nd cent. b.c.) found the Aram. terms for government officials in
Space will not permit a survey of the treatment of other OT books by the rationalist critics. Suffice it to say that
Higher criticism of the NT
As in OT criticism, so also the initial attacks upon the genuineness and reliability of the NT documents were launched during the Deistic movement of the “Age of Enlightenment.”’s dictum that Christ’s miracles must necessarily have been invented by credulous superstition long after His death was followed up by H. S. Reimarus in the “Wolfenbüttel Fragmenten” published by Lessing in 1774-78, in which he insisted that the disciples of Jesus deliberately falsified His true intentions and invented wonder tales to embellish His memory. The influential Fr. Schleiermacher (1768-1834) endeavored to preserve the centrality of Christ even as he subjected the gospels to rationalistic analysis, by which he deduced that they were artificially constructed from a miscellany of separate, detached fragments of oral tradition (a view somewhat revived in 20th cent. ).
Under the influence of Hegelian dialectic D. F. Strauss (Leben Jesu ) presented Jesus as an idealistic Jewish sage whose memory was honored by cumulative embellishments on the part of His followers after His death. Following this guideline F. C. Baur (1792-1860), founder of the a.d. 170 (difficult to hold now that the Rylands Papyrus 457 dating from a.d. 125 has been discovered!) to establish a mediating view. Although Baur’s neat Hegelian structure was almost universally abandoned by later scholarship, the supposed opposition between Petrine and Pauline elements has persisted in the thinking of most modern critics. Later in the 19th cent. an effort was made by W. Bousset (1892) and Adolf von Harnack (in his celebrated “Das Wesen des Christentums” ) to strip away all the accretions of pious superstition in the apostolic age and get back to the true, historical Jesus, who turned out to be a very respectable Ritschlian, proclaiming no other gospel than the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man., posited a primitive Jewish “thesis” headed up by Peter, then followed by a pagan “antithesis” under Paul (who introduced the supernaturalistic elements into Christ’s portrait which gave Him a divine stature). The “synthesis” was provided by the gospel of John, written about
A reaction against this simplistic modernizing of Jesus came with Demythologization) and insisting that a proper historical methodology can still lead to reliable results. Pannenberg even feels that the bodily resurrection of Christ is objectively verified by the data of the NT and of apostolic history.’s Die Predigt Jesu vom Reiche Gottes in 1892, in which he insisted that the documentary data pointed unmistakably to an eschatological, transcendental concept of the kingdom of God as central to the message of the historical Jesus. Similar was the thesis of the epochmaking Quest for the Historical Jesus (1906) by , who exposed the artificiality of the modernist Jesus, and insisted that in point of fact He was a passionate believer in the imminent end of the world and the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. We must in all honesty, urged Schweitzer, recognize that Jesus was completely mistaken in this, and died in a futile attempt to demonstrate His messiahship. The main tendency of liberal scholarship since 1906 has been to retreat with Bultmann (and his demythologizing) into complete skepticism as to the possibility of rediscovering the historical Jesus; even the earliest strata of the gospels express the faith of the apostolic Church in the divine Christ, and there is no getting behind these records. Most recently the pendulum has begun to swing in the other direction, with Pannenberg and Konzelmann vigorously reacting to Bultmannianism (see
Perhaps the foremost problem dealt with by NT higher criticism relates to the “synoptic gospels,” i.e., to Matthew, Mark and Luke, which contain such extensive passages in common, showing verbal identity in the original Gr. Thus, 93 out of 100 passages in Mark find close correspondences in Matthew or Luke or both; Matthew comes next, with 58 out of 100, and Luke shows 41 out of 100. Generally speaking, the presence of these identical, or nearly identical, passages has been explained either by oral tradition or by a documentary hypothesis (Two-Document Hypothesis or Four-Document Hypothesis).
The oral tradition hypothesis
(associated with Westcott, Alford, Godet and Arthur Wright) sees in the identical passages a crystallization of the oral tradition taught to candidates for baptism both in Pal. and among the Diaspora. It early assumed such a standardized form that it was quite naturally incorporated by the evangelists as each compiled his own gospel. The dissimilar portions were selected from the larger body of oral tradition still current, and utilized by each of the three authors according to the special aspect of Christ which he wished to emphasize (Matthew: the Messianic King; Mark: the mighty Servant of God; Luke: the perfect Son of man).
The two-document hypothesis
has gained the widest acceptance in modern times, which assumes that Mark was the earliest, and served as the written source (or else a primitive Mark underlying the gospel) for Matthew and Luke. Those portions which Matthew and Luke possess in common but which are not found in Mark have been borrowed from a lost source called Q (for Quelle or “Source”), which may possibly be related to the Aram. “Logia” of which Papias speaks (according to a quotation in Eusebius). Against this theory A. M. Farrer argued that Luke was familiar with Matthew and simply borrowed from him as one of his sources, rearranging the order of events according to his own special purpose.
The four-document hypothesis
of B. H. Streeter assigns Mark to the Christian center at Rome c. a.d. 60; Q prob. came from Antioch c. 50. In addition there was M (the private source of Matthew) coming from Jerusalem c. 65 and including non-Lucan sayings of Judaistic cast; also L (the private source of Luke), coming from Caesarea c. 60, and including those sections in
took up the study of the gospels from an entirely different perspective, somewhat skeptical of the soundness of the documentary approach. As initiated byand Hugo Gressmann, Formgeschichte undertook on the basis of the science of Comparative Literature to distinguish between the various Gattungen (or genres) appearing in the text of the gospels (or the Pentateuch, in the case of OT criticism), and to trace the probable line of development from the original saying of Christ to the anecdote concocted to serve as a framework for it, and then finally the supernatural embellishments of later superstition, as dictated by some definite social situation (Sitz im Leben) in the life of the Early Church. It was who elaborated this technique for gospel criticism in Die Formgeschichte des Evangeliums in 1919, closely followed by in 1921 (Die Geschichte der synoptischen Tradition). Although this theory has obtained wide acceptance, its influence in recent years seems to be waning even in Germany. It is, after all, quite incredible that the Early Church lacked any interest in the details of the life of its Founder, and simply retained the memory of a few disjointed sayings. A random selection of isolated bits of tradition hardly explains the nearly uniform sequence of events which runs through all three gospels. Nor is it easy to see why the leaders of the Early Church could have fallen into the habit of ascribing to Jesus words which He never uttered or deeds which He never performed.
As far as the gospel of John is concerned, the critics tended to dismiss this as a late production (2nd cent.) containing virtually no authentic information about Jesus, but presenting a cultic glorification of Jesus as a divine figure. Much of its ideology and terminology was allegedly borrowed from late Hel. philosophy (a view seldom expressed any more since the discovery of so many Johannine terms in the lit. of the Qumran sectarians). More recently some authorities, such as Gardner-Smith (in St. John and the) have contended that John actually antedated the other gospels, and his sources must have been oral, rather than dependent upon the synoptics (wherever he includes material in common with them). The most reasonable view, however, seems to be that avoided repeating material already familiar to the Church from the synoptics, and drew upon his extensive personal recollection of Christ’s discourses concerning Himself and His redemptive mission.
Space does not permit a detailed discussion of Acts and the Pauline and Catholic epistles. A few summary statements will have to suffice. The Lucan authorship of Acts has been contested by A. C. Clark (1933) on grounds of dissimilarity in the use of particles and prepositions as compared with Luke; but W. L. Knox (1948) effectively answered this argument by showing the inadequacy of Clark’s methodology. Despite Moffat’s rejection (1901) of the evidence for an a.d. 63 date of composition, it remains decisive that
As for the Pauline epistles, the Tübingen School conceded only Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians and Galatians as genuine, but since the mid-19th cent. the tendency has been to concede all but the Pastorals (1 and 2 Tim, Titus) to Paul, except possibly Ephesians. Objections to the latter are grounded on alleged differences in style (a tendency toward long and ponderous sentences) and vocabulary (144 words not found elsewhere in Paul)—so Moffatt (The Historical NT ). Yet Paul’s own name appears twice (
In regard to the Pastorals, they certainly presuppose Paul’s release from his first Rom. imprisonment, his recent stay in Miletus (
In regard to Hebrews, which does not contain the name of its author, the earlier opinion that it was Pauline is seldom maintained in recent times. The polished literary style is different from Paul’s, and the writer seems to place himself outside the circle of the apostles in
The three epistles of John abound with terminology and modes of expression similar to one another and to the gospel of John (cf. the use of such terms as light, truth, love and righteousness), and the same simplicity and trenchancy characterizes their style. The arguments by C. H. Dodd (1937) in favor of composition by a late imitator of John’s gospel have been successfully refuted by W. G. Wilson (1948) as to the linguistic evidence, and by W. F. Howard (1947) as to the alleged difference in theological viewpoint.
OT Textual Criticism
A. von Gall, Der hebräische Pentateuch der Samaritaner (1914-18); R. R. Ottley, A Handbook to the Septuagint (1920); P. Kahle, Die Masoreten des Westens I (1927); II (1930); The Cairo Genizah (1947); A. Rahlfs (ed.), Septuaginta 2 vol. (3d ed.) (1949); D. W. Thomas, Textual Criticism of the OT in Rowley’s OTMS (1950); G. R. Driver, Semitic Writing (rev. ed.) (1954); E. Würthwein, The Text of the OT (1957).
Dead Sea Scrolls of St. Mark’s Monastery (ASOR) (1950); E. Sukenik: ’WSR HMGYLWT HGNWZWT (1954); D. Barthélemy and J. T. Milik: Discoveries in the Judaean Desert: Qumran Cave I (1955); M. Burrows, The Dead Sea Scrolls (1955); More Light on the Dead Sea Scrolls (1958); F. M. Cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran (rev. ed.) (1961).
NT Textual Criticism
F. J. A. Hort, The NT in the Original Greek (1881); B. B. Warfield, Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the NT (1889); A. T. Robertson, Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the NT (2d ed.) (1928); F. G. Kenyon, The Text of the Greek Bible (1937); Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts (5th ed.) (1958); B. M. Metzger, Recently Published Fragments of the Greek NT in “Expository Times” (1952); M. Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts (2d ed.) (1954); E. E. Flack and B. M. Metzger, The Text, Canon and Principal Versions of the Bible (1956).
(Conservative Authors). J. E. Steinmueller, Companion to Scripture Studies vol. 1-2 (1942); OT Allis, The Five Books of Moses (1943); G. C. Aalders, A Short Introduction to the Pentateuch (1949); E. J. Young, Introduction to the O.T. (1949, 1958); H. F. Hahn, The OT and Modern Research (1954); M. F. Unger, Introductory Guide to the OT (1952); Archaeology and the OT (1954); G. T. Manley, Deuteronomy—the Book of the Law (1957); R. L. Harris, The Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible (1957); W. E. Moeller, Grundriss für alttestamentliche Einleitung (1958); R. D. Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of the OT (1926), repr. (1959); J. C. Whitcomb,(1957); M. G. Kline, The Treaty of the Great King (1963); G. L. Archer, Survey of OT Introduction (1964); K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and the OT (1966); M. C. Tenney (ed.), The Bible, the Living Word of Revelation (1968).
(Moderate or Liberal Authors)
R. H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the OT (1941); A. Bentzen, Introduction to the OT, 2 vol., (1949); J. B. Pritchard (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts (1950) (standard reference work for pagan texts relating to Biblical times); H. H. Rowley (ed.), The OT and Modern Study (1951); Y. Kaufmann, The(1956); W. F. Albright, From Stone Age to Christianity (2nd ed.) (1957); The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra (1963); The Archeology of Palestine (1963); R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel (1961); O. Eissfeldt, The OT an Introduction (Eng. tr.) (1965).
NT Higher Criticism
(Conservative Authors). S. A. Cartledge, A Conservative Introduction to the NT (1938); J. E. Steinmueller, A Companion to Scripture Studies vol. 3, (1943); M. C. Tenney, The NT: a Historic and Analytic Survey (1953); H. C. Thiessen, Introduction to the NT (1955); D. Guthrie, The NT Introduction, 2 vol. (1961, 1962); E. F. Harrison, Introduction to the NT (1964); F. F. Bruce, The NT Documents, Are They Reliable? (5th ed.) (1967).
(Moderate or Liberal Authors)
J. Moffatt, The Historical NT (1901); T. Zahn, Introduction to the NT, 3 vol. (Eng. tr.) (1909); M. Goguel, Introduction au Nouveau Testament (4 vol.) (1922-26); M. Dibelius, A Fresh Approach to the NT (1936); E. J. Goodspeed, An Introduction to the NT (1937); K. and S. Lake, An Introduction to the NT (1937); M. S. Enslin, Christian Beginnings (1938); P. Feine and J. Behm, Einleitung in das N.T. (11th ed.) (1956); A. M. Hunter, Introducing the NT (2d ed.) (1957); W. Michaelis, Einleitung in das NT (3d ed.) (1961); R. M. Grant, Historical Introduction to the NT (rev. ed.) (1963).