Walker-HigherCrit-CTR - Criswell Theological Review...

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Criswell Theological Review 1.2 (1987) 281-294 [Copyright © 1987 by Criswell College, cited with permission; digitally prepared for use at Gordon and Criswell Colleges and elsewhere] SOME RESULTS AND REVERSALS OF THE HIGHER CRITICISM OF THE OLD TESTAMENT LARRY L. WALKER Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Memphis, TN 38104 Peaking towards the end of the last century, the so-called higher criticism of the OT claimed "assured results" because it was allegedly based on a scientific-critical analysis of the literature. Although modi- fied much through subsequent years, many assumptions of modern OT critics are based on the conclusions reached during the classical period (the 19th century). Despite disclaimers to the contrary, the founders of this approach to the OT were reflecting a mindset of the age more than operating on some new "scientific" basis. Their research was done essentially in an archaeological vacuum; new information from exploration and excavation was not part of the background of their study. When J. G. Eichhorn in 1780 and W. M. L. De Wette in 1806 (when he was 25 years old) wrote the first critical "Introductions" to the OT, the possibilities of archaeological research were unknown. At the end of the 18th century not a single script or language of the pre-Christian orient had been deciphered, and not a single scientific excavation had been undertaken. Even later, after new insights were becoming available on the geography, history, language, and culture of the OT, such information was largely ignored. The outstanding example of this is J. Wellhausen' s Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel , which appeared in 1878. By that date several excavations had been started and several ancient languages had been deciphered (Egyptian, Akkadian, Phoe- nician, and Old South Arabic), but Wellhausen's reconstruction of Israel's history is virtually devoid of any reference to such extra- biblical resources.
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282 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW The primary influence on the formulators of higher criticism and its bearing on the origin and development of the religion of Israel was the philosophy of the age, which was dominated by evolutionary thought--unilinear progress from the simple to the complex. Such evolutionary thinking was applied by C. Darwin to biology and by K. Marx to economics. Wellhausen, following the approach of J. K. W. Vatke, l applied this scheme to Israel and ended up with three basic periods of history of development: pre-prophetic-- prophetic--ethical-monotheism. The end result of this was that we have in the Bible not God's thoughts about man but man's thoughts about God, not a revealed religion but an invented religion. K. Cauthen stated that situation precisely: The Bible came to be thought of as a record of the progressive discovery of God in human experience, not as a static body of theological dogmas all equally inspired and all of equal religious value. This application of evolutionary ideas to the study of the Hebrew religion by the Wellhausen
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This note was uploaded on 04/16/2008 for the course BI 104 taught by Professor Parret during the Fall '08 term at Gordon MA.

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Walker-HigherCrit-CTR - Criswell Theological Review...

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