Bible Literary Criticism Higher Criticism Term Paper

  • Length: 5 pages
  • Subject: Mythology - Religion
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #10773043

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Bible Literary Criticism: Higher Criticism great deal of controversy currently exists regarding the idea of higher criticism related to the texts of the Old Testament. "Higher Criticism" related to the Pentateuch can be defined as the "skeptical crusade against the Bible, particularly the first five books of the Old Testament" which tends to reduce the Old Testament to the lower level of a "purely human book" (Anderson, 43). Proponents of this criticism traditionally have attacked the Pentateuch for a variety of reasons; some based their criticisms on the assumption that the Mosaic Era was barbarous in nature (Anderson, 43). This assumption however has since been founded as baseless and false, due largely to the ignorance of such critics (Anderson, 44). Anderson argues that critics know nothing of the true typology of Scripture and are thus generally ignorant of the language in which Christian doctrine is taught (Anderson, 258).

Higher" is generally considered an academic term that is used as a mechanisms to convey a technicality. Higher criticism encompasses a branch of theology often referred to as "Biblical criticism" whose purpose is to evaluate, study and interpret the contents, manuscripts, origins and purposes of various parts of the Bible (Hague, n.d.). Higher Criticism examines not primarily the text of the bible, but rather its historic origins, the dates involves and the authorship of various books of the Bible (Hague, n.d.).

From an objective standpoint, any literary work is worthy of objective skepticism, analysis and criticism. This is especially important for works that are considered realism or non-fiction. The great debate over the Bible is whether or not the book validly represents realisms, idealisms or fallacies.

The Pentateuch is considered an anonymous work, though the first five books do reveal some indication that Moses wrote part of the text. The aim of higher criticism has been stated as the determination of the exact "date, authorship, composition and/or unity of the literary works of the Old Testament" (Ross, 1; from Malick, 1996). There is no direct evidence as yet at this point in time that can prove who exactly authored the Bible and at one time, though many conjectures have been made regarding this information. Critics of Higher Criticism would claim that since the Bible is unique and supernatural in nature, any effort to define such principles is invalid.

Higher criticism seeks to interpret the Old Testament in a manner that avoids dogmatic theology. It attempt to apply scientific and historical principles to the bible, the same principles that might be applied to works more secular in nature. Among the factors considered related to higher criticism include linguistic examination and archaeological records. One primary concern of higher criticism is to ascertain the authenticity of record presented in the Old testament.

The problem with Higher Criticism however, is that it does not take into account the unique nature of the Bible, nor the fact that the book itself is religious and sacred, rather than secular in nature. Applying principles of secularism to the Bible is the exact opposite of what logic would dictate.

Higher criticism is thought to have developed out of the Rationalism of Spinoza (1670) which stated the following: (1) all truth must stand before the bar of reason, because only reason is universal in time and common to all humanity, (2) as such the Bible's claim of special revelation and inspiration is repudiated, (3) therefore, not all of the Bible can measure up to the demands of reason (Source: Malick, 1996). This rationale reflected an attempt to uncover the true main source documents that resulted in the Pentateuch, assuming someone other than Moses might have been the other.

Wellhausen in 1875 identified four sources behind Genesis which he called J, E, D and P, which became known as the Graf-Wellhausen Hypothesis (Malick, 1996). The Graf-Wellhausen Hypothesis supports the following:

The Yahwist's narrative or "J" from the German Jahwey; Driver believed that this section was written in 850 BC in the southern kingdom (Malick, 1996). This section is considered personal and biographical in nature, and included theological reflection (Malick, 1996)

The Elohist's Narrative ("E"). This was assumed to be written in 750 BC in the northern kingdom, and is considered much more objective in nature and less reflective or theological (Malick, 1996).

The Deuteronomist's document ("D"), which was believed…

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