historical criticism


  • Historical criticism, also known as the historical-critical method or higher criticism, is a branch of criticism that investigates the origins of ancient texts in order to
    understand “the world behind the text”.

  • [1] While often discussed in terms of Jewish and Christian writings from ancient times, historical criticism has also been applied to other religious and secular writings
    from various parts of the world and periods of history.

  • In classical studies, the 19th century approach to higher criticism set aside “efforts to fill ancient religion with direct meaning and relevance and devoted itself instead
    to the critical collection and chronological ordering of the source material.

  • “[6] Thus, higher criticism, whether biblical, classical, Byzantine or medieval, focuses on the source documents to determine who wrote it and where and when it was written.

  • [8] Tradition history is a specific aspect of form criticism, which aims at tracing the way in which the pericopes entered the larger units of the biblical canon, especially
    the way in which they made the transition from oral to written form.

  • [citation needed] Higher criticism understands the New Testament texts within a historical context: that is, that they are not adamantine but writings that express the traditio
    (what is handed down).

  • In 1860, seven liberal Anglican theologians began the process of incorporating this historical criticism into Christian doctrine in Essays and Reviews, causing a five-year
    storm of controversy, which completely overshadowed the arguments over Charles Darwin’s newly published On the Origin of Species.

  • With each passing century, historical criticism became refined into various methodologies used today: source criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, tradition criticism,
    canonical criticism, and related methodologies.

  • John Barton argues that the term “historical-critical method” conflates two nonidentical distinctions, and prefers the term “Biblical criticism”: Historical study… can be
    either critical or noncritical; and critical study can be historical or nonhistorical.

  • The perspective of the early historical critic was rooted in Protestant Reformation ideology since its approach to biblical studies was free from the influence of traditional

  • In the 21st century, historical criticism is the more commonly used term for higher criticism, and textual criticism is more common than the loose expression “lower criticism”.

  • [2] In 18th century Biblical criticism, the term “higher criticism” was commonly used in mainstream scholarship[3] in contrast to “lower criticism”.

  • An example is that modern biblical scholarship has attempted to understand the Book of Revelation in its 1st-century historical context by identifying its literary genre with
    Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature.

  • An ancient text may also serve as a document, record or source for reconstructing the ancient past, which may also serve as a chief interest to the historical critic.

  • After the groundbreaking work on the New Testament by Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), the next generation, which included scholars such as David Friedrich Strauss (1808–74)
    and Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–72), analyzed in the mid-19th century the historical records of the Middle East from biblical times, in search of independent confirmation of events in the Bible.

  • [2] Methods Historical-critical methods are the specific procedures[1] used to examine the text’s historical origins, such as the time and place in which the text was written,
    its sources, and the events, dates, persons, places, things, and customs that are mentioned or implied in the text.

  • In regard to Semitic biblical interpretation, the historical critic would be able to interpret the literature of Israel as well as the history of Israel.

  • “Higher criticism” originally referred to the work of German biblical scholars of the Tübingen School.

  • It can be traced back to the 17th century French priest Richard Simon, and its most influential product is undoubtedly Julius Wellhausen’s (1878), whose “insight and clarity
    of expression have left their mark indelibly on modern biblical studies.

  • [13] In academic circles, it now is the body of work properly considered “higher criticism”, but the phrase is sometimes applied to earlier or later work using similar methods.

  • In some cases, such as with several Pauline epistles, higher criticism can confirm or challenge the traditional or received understanding of authorship.

  • The primary goal of historical criticism is to discover the text’s primitive or original meaning in its original historical context and its literal sense or sensus literalis

  • [12] In particular, while devotional readers concern themselves with the overall message of the Bible, historians examine the distinct messages of each book in the Bible.


Works Cited

[‘Soulen, Richard N.; Soulen, R. Kendall (2001). Handbook of biblical criticism (3rd ed., rev. and expanded. ed.). Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 78. ISBN 0-664-22314-1.
2. ^ Jump up to:a b c d Soulen, Richard N. (2001). Handbook of
Biblical Criticism. John Knox. p. 79.
3. ^ Hahn, Scott, ed. (2009). Catholic Bible dictionary (1st ed.). New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-51229-9.
4. ^ Soulen, Richard N. (2001). Handbook of Biblical Criticism. John Knox. pp. 108, 190.
5. ^
Ebeling, Gerhard (1963). Word and Faith. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
6. ^ Burkert, Greek Religion (1985), Introduction.
7. ^ Antony F. Campbell, SJ, “Preparatory Issues in Approaching Biblical Texts Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine,”
in The Hebrew Bible in Modern Study, p. 6. Campbell renames source criticism as “origin criticism”.
8. ^ “BibleDudes: Biblical Studies: Form”. bibledudes.com. Archived from the original on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2008-03-02.
9. ^ “Review of Biblical
Literature” (PDF). www.bookreviews.org. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-11-19. Retrieved 2021-11-19.
10. ^ “Religious Studies Department, Santa Clara University”. Archived from the original on February 28, 2006.
11. ^ Compare: Durant,
Will (1961) [1926]. “4: Spinoza”. The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the Great Philosophers of the Western World. A Touchstone book. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 125. ISBN 9780671201593. Retrieved 2017-07-23. …the movement of
higher criticism which Spinoza initiated has made into platitudes the propositions for which Spinoza risked his life.
12. ^ Jump up to:a b c Ehrman, Bart D. Jesus, Interrupted, HarperCollins, 2009. ISBN 0-06-117393-2
13. ^ The Columbia Encyclopedia,
Sixth Edition, 2007
14. ^ John Barton, The Nature of Biblical Criticism, Westminster John Knox Press (2007), p. 39.
15. ^ https://ehrmanblog.org/how-do-we-know-what-most-scholars-think/ Archived 2021-07-30 at the Wayback Machine Quote: “First,
what is taught about the New Testament to undergraduates at the colleges and universities that are NOT evangelical? You can pick any type of school you want, and I (and virtually every other scholar in the field) can tell you the answer, simply because
I (and they) know (either personally or through reputation) virtually every senior (and many junior) scholar at those places. These scholars pretty much all toe the line that I indicate: about John, 1 Timothy, the dating of the Gospels, and most other
critical issues.”
16. ^ Lewis, Clive Staples (1969). “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism”. BYU Studies Quarterly. 9 (1).
17. ^ “D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the Authority of Scripture—We Must Choose Between Two Positions”. Albert Mohler. Archived
from the original on 23 October 2021. Retrieved 23 October 2021.
18. ^ Baptist Church, Duncan Street. “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy”. duncanstreetbaptistchurch.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2023-01-22. Retrieved 2023-01-22.
19. ^
Ehrman, Bart D. (2012-03-20). Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-208994-6. Archived from the original on 2022-08-08. Retrieved 2021-11-17.
2. Gerald P. Fogarty, S.J. American Catholic Biblical
Scholarship: A History from the Early Republic to Vatican II, Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1989, ISBN 0-06-062666-6. Nihil obstat by Raymond E. Brown, S.S., and Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J.
3. Robert Dick Wilson. Is the Higher Criticism Scholarly? Clearly
Attested Facts Showing That the Destructive “Assured Results of Modern Scholarship” Are Indefensible. Philadelphia: The Sunday School Times, 1922. 62 pp.; reprinted in Christian News 29, no. 9 (4 March 1991): 11–14.
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/133858239/’]