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Biblical criticism

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Biblical criticism
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{{about|the academic treatment of the Bible as a historical document|criticisms made against the Bible as a source of reliable information or ethical guidance|Criticism of the Bible}}{{short description|scholarly study of biblical writings that seeks to make discerning judgments about these writings}}{{good article}}{{Bible sidebar|expanded=studies}}Biblical criticism is an umbrella term for those methods of studying the Bible that embrace two distinctive perspectives: the concern to avoid dogma and bias by applying a non-sectarian, reason-based judgment, and the reconstruction of history according to contemporary understanding from what is discovered in and about the Bible texts. Biblical criticism uses the grammar, structure, development, and relationship of language to identify such characteristics as the Bible's literary structure, its genre, its context, meaning, authorship, and origins. The goals of biblical criticism are to identify and solve any internal biblical inconsistencies and to increase knowledge and understanding of the biblical texts and their background. Biblical criticism includes a wide range of approaches and questions within four major contemporary methodologies: textual, source, form, and literary criticism. Textual criticism examines the text and its manuscripts to identify what the original text would have said. Source criticism searches the texts for evidence of original sources. Form criticism identifies short units of text and seeks to identify their original setting. Each of these is primarily historical and pre-compositional in its concerns. Literary criticism, on the other hand, focuses on the literary structure, authorial purpose, and reader's response to the text through methods such as rhetorical criticism, canonical criticism, and narrative criticism.Biblical criticism began as an aspect of the rise of modern culture in the West. Some scholars claim that its roots reach back to the Reformation, but most agree that it grew out of the German Enlightenment. German pietism played a role in its development, as did British deism, with its greatest influences being rationalism and Protestant scholarship. The Enlightenment age and its skepticism of biblical and ecclesiastical authority ignited questions concerning the historical basis for the man Jesus separately from traditional theological views concerning him. This "quest" for the Jesus of history began in biblical criticism's earliest stages, reappeared in the nineteenth century, and again in the twentieth.
In the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, biblical criticism was influenced by a wide range of additional academic disciplines and theoretical perspectives, changing it from a primarily historical approach to a multidisciplinary field. In a field long dominated by white male Protestants, non-white scholars, women, and those from the Jewish and Catholic traditions became prominent voices. Globalization and other disciplines as diverse as Near Eastern studies, psychology, anthropology and sociology formed new methods of biblical criticism such as socio-scientific criticism and psychological biblical criticism. Meanwhile, post-modernism and post-critical interpretation began questioning biblical criticism's role and function. As a result of these many changes, the historical approach to biblical criticism is distinguishable from the criticism practiced before and after it; therefore, it can also be seen as a period in biblical interpretation that lasted from the mid 1700s to the late 1900s.

History

Beginnings

File:Title page of the" Histoire critique du vieux testament" by Richard Simon.jpg|thumb|alt=page with text beginning "Histoire Critique du vieux testament par Le R.P. Richard Simon"|Title page of Richard Simon's Critical History (1685), an early work of biblical criticism]]According to tradition, Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible, including the book of Genesis. Philosophers and theologians such as Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), Benedict Spinoza (1632–1677), and Richard Simon (1638–1712) studied Genesis and found contradictions, parallelisms, and inconsistencies indicating to them that a single author was improbable. They began asking questions about the origins of the texts.BOOK, Muller, Richard, McKim, Donald K., Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters, 1998, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 978-0-8308-1452-7,weblink Biblical interpretation in the 16th and 17th centuries, {{rp|140,404}}BOOK, Soulen, Richard N., Soulen, R. Kendall, Priestly code, Handbook of Biblical Criticism, 2001, Westminster John Knox Press, Lexington, Kentucky, 978-0-664-22314-4, Third,weblink {{rp|127}} Jean Astruc (1684–1766), a French physician, believed these critics were wrong about Mosaic authorship. According to Old Testament scholar Edward Young, Astruc believed Moses used hereditary accounts of the Hebrew people to assemble the book of Genesis.BOOK, Young, Edward Joseph, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 1989, Eerdmans Pub. Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 978-0-8028-0339-9, {{rp|119}}{{rp|212-214}} So, Astruc borrowed methods of textual criticism, used to investigate Greek and Roman texts, and applied them to the Bible, in search of those original accounts. Astruc believed he identified them as separate sources that were edited together into the book of Genesis, thus explaining Genesis' problems while still allowing for Mosaic authorship.BOOK, Nahkola, Aulikki, Jarick, John, The memoires of Moses and the genesis of method in Biblical criticism: Astruc's contribution, Sacred Conjectures: The Context and Legacy of Robert Lowth and Jean Astruc, 2007, T&T Clark, New York, 978-0-567-02932-4,weblink {{rp|213}} Astruc's method was adopted and developed at the twenty or so Protestant universities in Germany. There was a willingness among the doctoral candidates to re-express Christian doctrine in terms of the scientific method and the historical understanding common during the German Enlightenment (circa 1750–1850).BOOK, Reill, Peter Hanns, The German Enlightenment and the Rise of Historicism, 1975, University of California Press, Berkeley, 978-0-520-02594-3,weblink {{rp|1–6}}BOOK, Law, David R., The Historical-Critical Method: A Guide for the Perplexed, 2012, T&T Clark, New York, 978-0-56740-012-3, A Brief history of Historical criticism: the nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century,weblink {{rp|53–55}} German pietism also played a role in the rise of biblical criticism by supporting the desire to break the hold of religious authority.BOOK, Soulen, Richard N., Soulen, R. Kendall, Biblical criticism, Handbook of Biblical Criticism, 2001, Westminster John Knox Press, Lexington, Kentucky, 978-0-664-22314-4, Third,weblink {{rp|19}}Rationalism was another significant influence in the development of biblical criticism. For example, the Swiss theologian Jean Alphonse Turretin (1671–1737) attacked conventional exegesis (interpretation) and argued for critical analysis led solely by reason. Turretin believed the Bible could be considered authoritative even if it was not considered inerrant, which has become a common modern Judeo-Christian view.{{rp|39–42}} Johann Salomo Semler (1725–1791) argued for an end to all doctrinal assumptions, giving historical criticism its non-sectarian nature. As a result, Semler is often called the father of historical-critical research.{{rp|43}} Semler distinguished between "inward" and "outward" religion, the idea that, for some people, their religion is their highest inner purpose, while for others, religion is a more exterior practice: a tool to accomplish other purposes more important to the individual such as political or economic goals. This is a concept recognized by modern psychology.JOURNAL, Behere, Prakash B., Das, Anweshak, Yadav, Richa, Behere, Aniruddh P., Religion and mental health, Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 55, Suppl 2, S187–S194, 3705681, 2013, 10.4103/0019-5545.105526, 23858253,weblink Communications scholar James A. Herrick says even though most scholars agree that biblical criticism evolved out of the German Enlightenment, there are also histories of biblical scholarship that have found "strong direct links" with British deism. Herrick references the theologian Henning Graf Reventlow as as saying deism included the humanist world view, which has also been significant in biblical criticism.BOOK, Herrick, James A., The Radical Rhetoric of the English Deists: The Discourse of Skepticism 1680–1750, 1997, University of South Carolina Press, Colombia, South Carolina, 978-1-57003-166-3,weblink {{rp|39–40}} Some scholars, such as Gerhard Ebeling (1912–2001), Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976), and Ernst Käsemann (1906–1998) trace biblical criticism's origins to the Reformation. Three early scholars of the Reformation era who helped lay the foundations of modern biblical criticism were Joachim Camerarius (1500–1574), Hugo Grotius (1583–1645), and Matthew Tindal (1653–1733). Camerarius advocated for using context to interpret Bible texts. Grotius paved the way for comparative religion studies by analyzing New Testament texts in light of Classical, Jewish and early Christian writings. Tindal, as part of English deism, asserted that Jesus taught natural religion, an undogmatic faith that was later changed by the Church. This view drove a wedge between scripture and the Church's claims of religious truth.{{rp|41}}BOOK, Barton, John, The Nature of Biblical Criticism, 2007, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 978-0-664-22587-2,weblink {{rp|117–136}}

The historical Jesus

File:Hermann Samuel Reimarus.jpg|thumb|right|upright=0.8 |alt=Oil painting of Reimarus |Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694–1768) studied the historical Jesushistorical JesusThe first scholar to separate the historical Jesus from the theological Jesus was philosopher, writer, classicist, Hebraist and Enlightenment free thinker Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694–1768). Copies of Reimarus' writings were discovered by G. E. Lessing (1729–1781) in the library at Wolfenbüttel where he was librarian. Reimarus had left permission for his work to be published after his death, and Lessing did so between 1774 and 1778, publishing them as Die Fragmente eines unbekannten Autors (The Fragments of an Unknown Author). Over time, they came to be known as the Wolfenbüttel Fragments after the library where Lessing worked. Reimarus distinguished between what Jesus taught and how he is portrayed in the New Testament. According to Reimarus, Jesus was a political Messiah who failed at creating political change and was executed. His disciples then stole the body and invented the story of the resurrection for personal gain.BOOK, Groetsch, Ulrich, Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694–1768): Classicist, Hebraist, Enlightenment Radical in Disguise, 2015, Brill, Leiden, 978-90-04-27299-6,weblink {{rp|46–48}} Reimarus' controversial work prompted a response from Semler in 1779, Beantwortung der Fragmente eines Ungenannten (Answering the Fragments of an Unknown).BOOK, Rollman, H., Johann Salomo Semler, McKim (ed.), Donald K., Handbook of Major Bible Interpreters, 1998, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, 978-0-83081-452-7,weblink {{rp|355–359; 43–45}} Semler engaged critically to effectively refute Reimarus' arguments, but it was of no consequence. Reimarus' writings had already made a lasting change in the practice of biblical criticism by making it clear such criticism could exist independently of theology and faith. Reimarus had shown historical biblical criticism could serve its own ends, be governed solely by rational criteria, and reject deference to religious tradition.BOOK, Brown, Colin, Reimarus, Hermann Samuel, McKim, Donald K., Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters, 1998, InterVarsity Press, Downer's Grove, Illinois, 978-0-8308-1452-7,weblink {{rp|346–350}}{{rp|48}}Lessing contributed to the field of biblical criticism by seeing Reimarus' writings published, but he also made contributions of his own work, arguing that the proper study of biblical texts requires knowing the context in which they were written. This has since become an accepted concept.BOOK, Soulen, Richard N., Soulen, R. Kendall, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Handbook of Biblical Criticism, 2001, Westminster John Knox Press, Lexington, Kentucky, 978-0-664-22314-4, Third,weblink {{rp|102}} During this period, the biblical scholar Johann David Michaelis (1717–1791) wrote the first historical-critical introduction to the New Testament, in which the historical study of each book of the Bible is discussed.BOOK, Sheppard, Gerald, Johann David Michaelis, McKim, Donald K., Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters, 1998, InterVarsity Press, Downer's Grove, Illinois, 978-0-8308-1452-7,weblink {{rp|343–346,394–398 |}}{{rp|43}} Instead of interpreting the Bible historically, Johann Gottfried Eichhorn (1752–1827), Johann Philipp Gabler (1753–1826), and Georg Lorenz Bauer (1755–1806) took a different approach. They used the concept of myth as a tool for interpreting the Bible.BOOK, Baird, William, History of New Testament Research: From deism to Tübingen, Vol.one, 1992, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 978-0-8006-2626-6, {{rp|117}} They are seen as the founders of the mythical school of biblical interpretation.BOOK, Thiselton, Anthony C., Texts, Truth and Signification: Biblical interpretation, Ford, David, The Modern Theologians: An Introduction to Christian Theology since 1918, 2005, Blackwell Publishing, Malden, Mass., 978-1-4051-0276-6,weblink {{rp|288}} Theologians Richard and Kendall Soulen say biblical criticism reached full flower in the nineteenth century, becoming the "major transforming fact of biblical studies in the modern period".BOOK, Soulen, Richard N., Soulen, R. Kendall, Historical criticism, Handbook of Biblical Criticism, 2001, Westminster John Knox Press, Lexington, Kentucky, 978-0-664-22314-4, 3rd,weblink {{rp|79}} Landmarks in understanding the Bible and its background were achieved during this century, with many modern concepts having their roots here. For example, theologian Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792–1860) postulated a sharp contrast between the apostles Peter and Paul in 1835 and again in 1845. Since then, this concept has had widespread impact on topics such as Pauline and New Testament studies, early church studies, Jewish Law, the theology of grace, and the doctrine of justification.BOOK, Hengel, Martin, Saint Peter: The Underestimated Apostle, 2010, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 978-0-8028-2718-0,weblink {{rp|60–77}}BOOK, Hafemann, S. J., Baur, F. C., McKim, Donald K., Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters, 1998, InterVarsity Press, Downer's Grove, Illinois, 978-0-8308-1452-7,weblink {{rp|285–289 }} Biblical criticism was divided into higher criticism and lower criticism during this century. Higher criticism focuses on the Bible's composition and history, while lower criticism is concerned with interpreting its meaning for its readers.BOOK, Rogerson, J.W., Higher criticism, Hastings, Adrian, Mason, Alistair, Pyper, Hugh, The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, 2000, Oxford University Press, New York, 978-0-19-860024-4,weblink {{rp|297,298}} In the later 19th century, the discovery of ancient manuscripts revolutionized textual criticism and translation.{{rp|20}} During this same period, Bible scholar H. J. Holtzmann developed a listing of the chronological order of the New Testament.BOOK, Soulen, Richard N., Soulen, R. Kendall, Holtzmann, Heinrich Julius, Handbook of Biblical Criticism, 2001, Westminster John Knox Press, Lexington, Kentucky, 978-0-664-22314-4, 3rd,weblink {{rp|82}} The height of biblical criticism is also represented by the history of religions school (known in German as the Kultgeschichtliche SchuleBOOK, Soulen, Richard N., Soulen, R. Kendall, Kultgeschichtliche Schule, Handbook of Biblical Criticism, 2001, Westminster John Knox Press, Lexington, Kentucky, 978-0-664-22314-4, 3rd,weblink {{rp|19,96}} or alternatively the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule). This school was a group of German Protestant theologians associated with the University of Göttingen in the late 19th century who sought to understand Judaism and Christianity within their relationship to other religions of the Near East.BOOK, Soulen, Richard N., Soulen, R. Kendall, Religionsgeschichtliche Schule, Handbook of Biblical Criticism, 2001, Westminster John Knox Press, Lexington, Kentucky, 978-0-664-22314-4, 3rd,weblink {{rp|161}}BOOK, Baird, William, History of New Testament Research: From Jonathan Edwards to Rudolf Bultmann, History of religion and related methods, 2003, Ausgburg Fortress, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 978-0-8006-2627-3, {{rp|222}} The late nineteenth century saw the second "quest for the historical Jesus". Important scholars of this quest included David Strauss (1808–1874), whose cultural significance is in his contribution to weakening the established authorities, and whose theological significance is in his confrontation of the doctrine of Christ's divinity with the modern critical study of history.BOOK, Morgan, R., Strauss, David Friedrich, McKim, Donald K., Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters, 1998, InterVarsity Press, Downer's Grove, Illinois, 978-0-8308-1452-7,weblink {{rp|364–368}} Adolf Von Harnack (1851–1930) contributed to the study of Jesus in history and was opposed by German Protestantism his entire life, though his purpose was to provide a scholarly, scientific basis for Christianity.BOOK, Rumsheidt, H. M., Harnack, Adolf von, McKim, Donald K., Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters, 1998, InterVarsity Press, Downer's Grove, Illinois, 978-0-8308-1452-7,weblink {{rp|491–495}} William Wrede (1859–1906) was a forerunner of redaction criticism.BOOK, Rollmann, H., Wrede, William, McKim, Donald K., Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters, 1998, InterVarsity Press, Downer's Grove, Illinois, 978-0-8308-1452-7,weblink {{rp|394–398}} Ernst Renan (1823-1892) promoted the critical method and was opposed to orthodoxy.ENCYCLOPEDIA, Wardman, Harold W., Ernest Renan - French scholar,weblink Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11 July 2018, Johannes Weiss (1863–1914) is associated with the history of religions school's concern for Near Eastern religion.BOOK, Brown, C., Weiss, Johannes, McKim, Donald K., Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters, 1998, InterVarsity Press, Downer's Grove, Illinois, 978-0-8308-1452-7,weblink {{rp|531–535}} These men all made contributions to the study of Jesus in history, but none more than Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965).BOOK, Mercer, C. R., Schweitzer, Albert, McKim, Donald K., Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters, 1998, InterVarsity Press, Downer's Grove, Illinois, 978-0-8308-1452-7,weblink {{rp|523–526}} Schweitzer revolutionized New Testament scholarship with his emphasis on the eschatological orientation of Jesus.

The twentieth century

File:Rudolf Bultmann Portrait.jpg|thumb |alt=Photograph of Blutmann in old age, smoking a pipe |Rudolf BultmannRudolf BultmannIn the early part of the twentieth century, Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, and others moved away from concern over the historical Jesus and concentrated instead on the kerygma: the message of the New Testament.BOOK, Barett C. K. James, McKim (ed.), Donald K., Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters, 1998, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, 978-0-83081-452-7, Karl Barth,weblink {{rp|433–439}} While there is consensus that Barth was the greatest theologian of this century, scholars also agree that Bultmann was the most influential figure in biblical criticism.{{rp|22}} Theologian Konrad Hammann calls Bultmann the "giant of twentieth-century New Testament scholarship", and adds: "His pioneering studies in biblical criticism shaped research on the composition of the gospels, and his call for demythologizing biblical language sparked debate among Christian theologians worldwide."BOOK, Hammann, Konrad, Rudolf Bultmann: a Biography, 2012, Polebridge Press, Salem, Oregon, 978-1-59815-118-3,weblink Bultmann's demythologizing said faith became possible at a point in history: the historical event of Jesus' death. However, he also said this history is presented in the New Testament in the mythical terms of Jesus' resurrection. Therefore, he concluded, the mythology of the New Testament needs to be reinterpreted{{em dash}}demythologized{{em dash}}using historical study and the existential philosophy of Martin Heidegger.BOOK, Postmodern and Postcritical Interpretation, Soulen, Richard N, Soulen, R. Kendall, Handbook of Biblical Criticism, 2011, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 978-0-664-22314-4,weblink {{rp|22}}

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