Historical Criticism Considers a Text’s Relationship to the

Historical Criticism Considers a Text’s Relationship to the

Branch of literary criticism that investigates the origins of ancient text

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

The principal goal of historical criticism is to discover the text’s primitive or original pregnant in its original historical context and its literal sense or
sensus literalis historicus. The secondary goal seeks to establish a reconstruction of the historical situation of the author and recipients of the text. That may exist accomplished by reconstructing the true nature of the events that the text describes. An ancient text may besides serve as a certificate, record or source for reconstructing the ancient past, which may as well serve as a chief interest to the historical critic. In regard to Semitic biblical interpretation, the historical critic would be able to interpret the literature of State of israel every bit well as the history of Israel.[two]
In 18th century Biblical criticism, the term “higher criticism” was commonly used in mainstream scholarship[3]
in contrast to “lower criticism”. In the 21st century, historical criticism is the more normally used term for higher criticism, and textual criticism is more common than the loose expression “lower criticism”.[four]

Historical criticism began in the 17th century and gained pop recognition in the 19th and 20th centuries. The perspective of the early historical critic was rooted in Protestant Reformation credo since its approach to biblical studies was free from the influence of traditional interpretation.[5]
Where historical investigation was unavailable, historical criticism rested on philosophical and theological interpretation. With each passing century, historical criticism became refined into various methodologies used today: source criticism, course criticism, redaction criticism, tradition criticism, canonical criticism, and related methodologies.[2]



Historical-disquisitional 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.[two]



Application of the historical-disquisitional method, in biblical studies, investigates the books of the Hebrew Bible also every bit the New Testament. Historical critics compare texts to any extant contemporaneous textual artifacts, i.e., other texts written around the same time. An example is that mod 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.

In regard to the Gospels, higher criticism deals with the synoptic trouble, the relations among Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In some cases, such as with several Pauline epistles, higher criticism tin can ostend or challenge the traditional or received agreement of authorship.[
citation needed

College criticism understands the New Attestation texts within a historical context: that is, that they are not adamantine but writings that express the
(what is handed downwards). The truth lies in the historical context.

In classical studies, the 19th century approach to higher criticism gear up aside “efforts to fill aboriginal faith with direct pregnant and relevance and devoted itself instead to the disquisitional drove and chronological ordering of the source cloth.”[half dozen]
Thus, higher criticism, whether biblical, classical, Byzantine or medieval, focuses on the source documents to make up one’s mind who wrote information technology and where and when it was written.

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Historical criticism has also been applied to other religious writings from Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Islam.



Diagram of the Documentary Hypothesis.

* includes well-nigh of Leviticus
includes most of Deuteronomy
Deuteronomic history“: Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, ane & two Kings

Historical criticism comprises several disciplines, including[ii]
source criticism, course criticism, redaction criticism, tradition criticism, and radical criticism.

Source criticism


Source criticism is the search for the original sources which lie behind a given biblical text. It tin be traced dorsum to the 17th century French priest Richard Simon, and its most influential product is undoubtedly Julius Wellhausen’s
Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels
(1878), whose “insight and clarity of expression have left their marker indelibly on mod biblical studies.”[seven]

Form criticism


Form criticism breaks the Bible downward into sections (pericopes, stories), which are analyzed and categorized by genres (prose or verse, letters, laws, court athenaeum, war hymns, poems of lament etc.). The grade critic so theorizes on the pericope’s
Sitz im Leben
(“setting in life”), the setting in which it was composed and, especially, used.[eight]
Tradition history is a specific attribute of class criticism, which aims at tracing the fashion in which the pericopes entered the larger units of the biblical catechism, especially the fashion in which they made the transition from oral to written grade. The conventionalities in the priority, stability and fifty-fifty detectability, of oral traditions is now recognised to be so securely questionable as to render tradition history largely useless, but grade criticism itself continues to develop as a viable methodology in biblical studies.[9]

Redaction criticism


Redaction criticism studies “the collection, arrangement, editing and modification of sources” and is frequently used to reconstruct the community and purposes of the authors of the text.[10]



Historical criticism as applied to the Bible began with Benedict Spinoza (1632–1677).[11]
When it is applied to the Bible, the historical-critical method is distinct from the traditional, devotional approach.[12]
In detail, while devotional readers concern themselves with the overall message of the Bible, historians examine the distinct letters of each book in the Bible.[12]
Guided past the devotional approach, for example, Christians often combine accounts from different gospels into single accounts, but historians attempt to discern what is unique almost each gospel, including how they differ.[12]

The phrase “higher criticism” became popular in Europe from the mid-18th century to the early on 20th century to describe the work of such scholars as Jean Astruc (1684-1766), Johann Salomo Semler (1725–91), Johann Gottfried Eichhorn (1752–1827), Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792–1860), and Wellhausen (1844–1918).[13]
In bookish circles, it now is the body of work properly considered “college criticism”, only the phrase is sometimes applied to earlier or after piece of work using similar methods.

“Higher criticism” originally referred to the work of German biblical scholars of the Tübingen School. Later the groundbreaking work on the New Testament by Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), the next generation, which included scholars such every bit David Friedrich Strauss (1808–74) and Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–72), analyzed in the mid-19th century the historical records of the Middle E from biblical times, in search of contained confirmation of events in the Bible. The latter scholars built on the tradition of Enlightenment and Rationalist thinkers such equally John Locke (1632–1704), David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Gotthold Lessing, Gottlieb Fichte, Grand. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831) and the French rationalists.

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Such ideas influenced idea in England through the piece of work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and, in detail, through George Eliot’southward translations of Strauss’s
The Life of Jesus
(1846) and Feuerbach’s
The Essence of Christianity
(1854). 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. Two of the authors were indicted for heresy and lost their jobs by 1862, just in 1864, they had the judgement overturned on entreatment.
La Vie de Jésus
(1863), the seminal piece of work past a Frenchman, Ernest Renan (1823–1892), continued in the same tradition as Strauss and Feuerbach. In Catholicism,
L’Evangile et fifty’Eglise
(1902), the magnum opus by Alfred Loisy against the
Essence of Christianity
of Adolf von Harnack[
citation needed

(1851–1930) and
La Vie de Jesus
of Renan, gave nativity to the modernist crisis (1902–61). Some scholars, such as Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976) take used higher criticism of the Bible to “demythologize” it.

John Barton argues that the term “historical-critical method” conflates two nonidentical distinctions, and prefers the term “Biblical criticism”:

Historical written report… tin can exist either disquisitional or noncritical; and critical study can be historical or nonhistorical. This suggests that the term “historical-critical method” is an bad-mannered hybrid and might improve exist avoided.[14]

Evangelical objections


Commencement in the nineteenth century, effort on the part of evangelical scholars and writers was expended in opposing theories of historical critical scholars. Evangelicals at the time accused the ‘higher critics’ of representing their dogmas as indisputable facts.[
citation needed

Scholars such every bit James Orr, William Henry Green, William Thou. Ramsay, and Robert D. Wilson pushed dorsum against the judgements of historical critics. Some of these counter-views nevertheless have back up in the more conservative evangelical circles today. In that location has never been a centralised stance on the higher criticism, and Protestant denominations divided over the issue (east.yard. Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy, Downgrade controversy etc.). The historical-grammatical method of biblical interpretation has been preferred by evangelicals, just is not held by the preponderance of gimmicky scholars affiliated to major universities.[fifteen]

Evangelical Christians take oft partly attributed the reject of the Christian religion (i.e. lower church attendance, fewer conversions to organized religion in Jesus Christ, despiritualisation of the Bible, syncretism of philosophy and Scripture etc.) in the western earth to the consequences of higher criticism: acceptance of higher critical dogmas engenders conflicting representations of Protestant Christianity.[16]

On the other hand, attempts to revive the extreme higher criticism of the Dutch Radical School by Robert G. Price, Darrell J. Doughty and Hermann Detering accept also been met with strong criticism and indifference by mainstream scholars. Such positions are nowadays bars to the small
Periodical of College Criticism
and other fringe publications.[17]

Meet also


  • Biblical criticism
  • Biblical genres
  • Close reading
  • Diplomatics
  • Documentary hypothesis
  • Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy
  • Historical-grammatical method
  • Journal of College Criticism
  • Textual criticism (lower criticism)
  • Synoptic trouble





  1. ^



    Soulen, Richard Northward.; Soulen, R. Kendall (2001).
    Handbook of biblical criticism
    (3rd ed., rev. and expanded. ed.). Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 78. ISBN0-664-22314-ane.

  2. ^





    Soulen, Richard North. (2001).
    Handbook of Biblical Criticism. John Knox. p. 79.

  3. ^

    Hahn, Scott, ed. (2009).
    Cosmic Bible dictionary
    (1st ed.). New York: Doubleday. ISBN978-0-385-51229-9.

  4. ^

    Soulen, Richard Due north. (2001).
    Handbook of Biblical Criticism. John Knox. pp. 108, 190.

  5. ^

    Gerhard Ebeling. Discussion and Faith. Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1963

  6. ^

    Greek Religion
    (1985), Introduction.

  7. ^

    Antony F. Campbell, SJ, “Preparatory Bug in Approaching Biblical Texts Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine,” in
    The Hebrew Bible in Modern Report, p. six. Campbell renames source criticism as “origin criticism”.

  8. ^

    “BibleDudes: Biblical Studies: Form”.
    bibledudes.com. Archived from the original on 2011-09-28. Retrieved

  9. ^

    “Review of Biblical Literature”
    www.bookreviews.org. Archived
    from the original on 2021-11-19. Retrieved

  10. ^

    “Religious Studies Department, Santa Clara Academy”. Archived from the original on February 28, 2006.

  11. ^

    Durant, Will (1961) [1926]. “4: Spinoza”.

    The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the Peachy Philosophers of the Western Earth
    . A Touchstone book. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 125. ISBN9780671201593
    . Retrieved
    …the motility of college criticism which Spinoza initiated has made into platitudes the propositions for which Spinoza risked his life.

  12. ^




    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: “Beginning, what is taught well-nigh the New Testament to undergraduates at the colleges and universities that are NOT evangelical? You tin pick any type of schoolhouse yous want, and I (and well-nigh every other scholar in the field) can tell you the answer, merely considering 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 nearly other disquisitional bug.”

  16. ^

    “D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the Authorisation of Scripture—We Must Choose Between Two Positions”.
    Albert Mohler. Archived from the original on 23 October 2021. Retrieved
    23 October

  17. ^

    Ehrman, Bart D. (2012-03-20).
    Did Jesus Be?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. Harper Collins. ISBN978-0-06-208994-six. Archived from the original on 2022-08-08. Retrieved



  • Gerald P. Fogarty, Southward.J.
    American Catholic Biblical Scholarship: A History from the Early Republic to Vatican II, Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1989, ISBN 0-06-062666-half-dozen.
    Nihil obstat
    by Raymond E. Dark-brown, Southward.S., and Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J.
  • Robert Dick Wilson.
    Is the College Criticism Scholarly? Clearly Attested Facts Showing That the Destructive “Assured Results of Mod Scholarship” Are Indefensible. Philadelphia: The Dominicus School Times, 1922. 62 pp.; reprinted in
    Christian News
    29, no. 9 (four March 1991): 11–14.
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External links


  • Rutgers University: Synoptic Gospels Primer: introduction to the history of literary assay of the Greek gospels, and aids in confronting the range of factors that demand to exist taken into consideration in accounting for the literary relationship of the first 3 gospels.
  • Journal of Higher Criticism
  • From the Divine Oracle to Higher Criticism
  • Cosmic Encyclopedia article “Biblical Criticism (Higher)”
  • Dictionary of the history of Ideas
    – Modernism and the Church
  • Lexicon of the history of Ideas: Modernism in the Christian Church
  • Educational activity Bible based on Higher Criticism
  • “Historical Criticism and the Evangelical” by Grant Osborne
  • “From the Divine Oracle to Higher Criticism” from The Warfare of Science With Theology by Andrew White, 1896
  • Catholic Encyclopedia article (1908) “Biblical Criticism (Higher)”
  • Radical criticism, link to manufactures in English
  • Library of latest modernistic books of biblical studies and biblical criticism

Historical Criticism Considers a Text’s Relationship to the

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_criticism