Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Historical Roots and Untenable assumptions of Biblical "Historical Criticism"

Here's a book I wish I had written! Twice (once at Lenoir-Rhyne University in NC and once at Sacred Heart Major Seminary) I have taught courses on the philosophical background of historical-critical biblical hermeneutics.

So I am delighted that now, finally, someone has tackled head-on the overwhelming bias of modern "historical criticism," long treated as though it were something scientific, neutral and objective. The authors have painstakingly analyzed and exposed the uncritically-assumed philosophical biases underlying modern "higher criticism," showing in many cases how these assumptions were embraced for political reasons. From the late-medieval nominalist sources and concomitant univocal conceptions of God up through 17th century critics, the authors leave nearly no stone unturned. Interestingly, their books ends where others usually begin, thus giving the sorely missing background to later developments.

The book, of course, is Scott W. Hahn and Benjamin Wiker's Politicizing the Bible: The Roots of Historical Criticism and the Secularization of Scripture 1300-1700(Crossroads, Herder & Herder, 2013).

Chapters are devoted to Marsilius of Padua, William of Ockham, John Wycliffe, Machiavelli, Luther & the 'Reformation', England and Henry VIII, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinioza, the Enlightenment, Richard Simon, John Locke, and John Toland. I was surprised there was no mention of the indirect influence of Islamic traditions of Qur'anic interpretation on western Biblical interpretation, and I might have devoted far more attention to the influence of Kantian philosophical assumptions on the "Jesus of History" vs. "Christ of Faith" dichotomy, and of the neo-Kantians (and, later, of Heidegger) on thinkers like Barth and Bultmann.

Yet this is an invaluable and truly ground-breaking study, and one I recommend to ANYONE (and certainly students of Scripture) interested in making their way safely through the minefields of contemporary Biblical studies and the widely and uncritically accepted historical-critical assumptions such as the Documentary Hypothesis, 'JEDP' source criticism in the OT (which I have seen even in footnotes of NAB Catholic Study Bibles!), redaction criticism, form criticism, Q as the source of Mark, etc.


bill bannon said...

But you'll find the damage in Verbum Dominiin section 42 where Benedict implied that the massacres of the OT were not from God; stated that the prophets always challenged every form of violence ( bizarrely untrue...Elijah killed 552 men, Samuel killed Agag, Eliseus killed any who escaped Jehu...all willed by God); and...Benedict states..." we should be aware that the correct interpretation of these passages requires a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the texts in their historical-literary context.."
Read section 42 once then twice. Popes can err
outside the context of infallibility which Verbum Domini is. The weakness of Catholic paid writing is that no one will show these dangers in papal texts...but simply as a general dark loud everywhere but there. Read section 40 of Evangelium Vitae. John Paul II similarly saw God mandated death penalties as really coming from Jewish culture and not from God.

JFM said...

Bill, Why "but"? Historical criticism and naturalistic explanations go hand in hand. As far as expecting anything remotely resembling inerrancy from Rome under the last several Popes, you know better than that, I would think. Hahn is very good on inerrancy, even if he very much glosses over Benedict XVIs non-support of it.

bill bannon said...

The absolute failure of paid Catholic writers to note any problems in papal writing is horrendous. The notes on the death penalty in Evangelium Vitae would receive a failing grade in a good school but no one says a thing ( EV cites the non death penalty parts of Gen.9:5-6... 4 times and hides from view the death penalty section which is central to the couplet). Likewise the cases I gave from Benedict.
Careers are protected by praising the emperor's new clothes. One result in the real world is that both men through their pacifistic resultant approach to the death penalty will get inmates killed worldwide by lifers for whom a murder in prison is a free kill wherever the death penalty can't be used against them after they kill in prison. Dept.t. of Justice figures give 70+ as the number of inmates murdered in prison per year....almost twice the number executed by states per year...c43. That is the pacifistic manipulation of violence in the Bible as being always sinful and not from God even when the Bible says it is from God via the last two
Popes with the misuse of historico critical tools....that manipulation of verses will get more inmates murdered as a free kill within prisons by lifers...Dahmer and Fr. Geoghan were both murdered by lifers in non death penalty states. Silent Catholic writers contribute to that in the future as they keep the last paragraph's promise of the Profession of Faith ( an oath resembling Lumen Gentium 25 but with lower thresholds).
So dance minimum we are getting more men killed in prison while Catholic writers warn of the very thing two Popes did to the Bible....unchecked.

Anonymous said...

The Documentary Hypothesis is still hard to avoid in analyzing the literary texture of Genesis. Both the Jerome and the New Jerome Biblical Commentary use it and even the doyen of allegedly more sophistical literary approaches, Robert Alter, has to fall back on it.

Anonymous said...

Q as the source of Mark? No, as one of the two sources, along with Mark, used by Luke and Matthew.

Anonymous Bosch said...

The Jerome Biblical Commentary and Catholic Study Bible are freighted with problems. They are essentially Protestantized (meaning infected by liberal Protestantism) products of uncritical scholarship, belatedly jumping on the bandwagon of historical criticism, as PP suggests. Pathetic, really.