« Biblical Canon Biblical Criticism Biblical History »

Biblical Criticism


I. Conception and Problem.

The History of the Term (§ 1).

Limitations and Sphere of the Critic (§ 2).

Biblical Criticism (§ 3).

II. The Critical Method.

Fundamental Assumptions (§ 1).

Classification (§ 2).

Function (§ 3).

III. The Departments of Criticism.

Criticism of the Canon (§ 1).

Textual Criticism and Apparatus (§ 2).

Linguistic Criticism (§ 3).

Historical Criticism (§ 4).

Criticism of Style (§  5).

Reconstructive Criticism (§ 6).

IV. History of Criticism.

Meaning and Limitations (§ 1).

Hellenistic and Patristic Criticism (§ 2).

Criticism from the Time of the Reformation (§ 3).

Modern Criticism (§ 4).

V. Biblical Criticism in the Roman Catholic Church.

I. Conception and Problem.

Criticism, like interpretation, is an art; the two are related to each other as sisters, and both are nourished by science. Interpretation is the art of bringing to the comprehension what has really been handed down and of grasping it as it really is; criticism is the art of rightly estimating what has been actually apprehended according to its real value. Interpretation without criticism befogs and enervates; criticism without interpretation is vague and mere intellectual play. Since man can not understand without exercising the faculty of judgment, in work that deals with spiritual verities the two are not separated, yet the point of view from which they approach the same object is as different as their method. Interpretation proceeds inductively, collecting everything which bears upon the understanding of the matter; criticism proceeds deductively, furnishing the canons by which to value that understanding. While one asks about the fact, the other asks about the truth of it; one builds, the other classifies and estimates the material and tests the building process. Criticism is the inverse of interpretation, and more. While it pronounces upon the results of interpretation, it opens new questions about the trustworthiness or untrustworthiness, the completeness or fragmentariness, the genealogy and the significance of the object; and thus it affords a starting-point for final valuation and definition. It is skill, partly natural, partly acquired, in distinguishing and appropriating true from false, good from bad, beautiful from ugly, whether derived from contemplative perception and revelation or through chance or tradition. Its purpose is positive, though its result may often be negative. It knows no other authority than that of the case before it, no other method than that demanded by the same.

1. The History of the Term.

The word has been in use since Plato's time; he distinguished between criticism and construction, the two being employed in the science of knowledge. Aristotle introduced a distinction between the critical and the literary arts, which was taken up by the Alexandrian school in connection with literature and particularly with poetry. Clement of Alexandria established in his review of Greek culture the fact that grammatikos as a technical term is later than kritikos. Terminology, however, was unstable in the ancient world. Philologos was differentiated from philosophos, meaning not the independent inquirer but the critic and expounder of classical productions. As the art of valuing, criticism is the product of the eighteenth century. The Encyclopedists called it in particular the restorer of ancient literature, in general the art of open-eyed examination of human productions and of judging them justly.

2. Limitations and Sphere of the Critic.

The critic stands in an opposition between subjective and objective. The obscure, the ugly, the disorderly, the arrogant, the artificial—everything which tends to distort a pure impression—arouse the critical function, which manifests itself in simple aversion or blame, or in a deliberate exposition of the causes of distortion. Limitations to understanding lie also in the person. Complex and difficult to grasp are the conditions and impulses which deceive, divert, and suborn the faculty of judgment. Personal taste, inexperience, dogmatic presupposition, arrogance—such hindrances are as numerous as the emotions of the soul. A valuable inheritance sometimes suffers injury by the encroachments of critical ineptitude. Whoever regards a thing as worthy has a sense of loss, even if the criticism be pertinent; much more is that the case if in the critical process insincerity and arbitrariness be present. It is not surprising, therefore, that esthetic and religious natures are filled with aversion to criticism and distrust of it. Goethe once said that a book which had accomplished great results was simply above the operations of criticism, and that criticism is generally a mere habit of moderns. Such an attitude seems to the critic mere obedience to blind authority. Great events and much of literature have rested on fictitious bases. Apocrypha and pseudepigrapha claim genuineness. Such facts are warrant enough for the activities of critical science.

3. Biblical Criticism.

The general standards of criticism, like those of interpretation, rest on logic, philosophy, and rhetoric. It applies those standards to the particular case, and the general rules are modified to accord with the demands of the occasion. Since the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments have a special importance as a related whole, Biblical criticism is a special and independent branch. It deals with sources, history, and religion; it tests the historical worth of the documents which set forth the religion of the two Testaments. It has as its object the discovery of the religious life operative therein by reason of which this literature has its special meaning. There is a double outlook here; insight into the essence of religion and into the essence of historic fact.

Biblical criticism is on its other side historical criticism. Hence its function is to separate the natural progress of events and the religious limitations of the Biblical exposition of history in order to comprehend their relations upon the basis of 171this separation. Religious occurrences it must seek to explain upon psychological, pathological, and historico-religious grounds. Lessing says that "the dramatic poet is not a historian; historical verity is not his purpose, only the means to it." Is this poet then a falsifier of history? Similarly for the Biblical writers historical truth is only a means for offering religious truth; it is the channel of the revelation from God. Consequently the task is to examine case by case in order to determine how far historical reality carries revelation. Its own standpoint, therefore, is assured to this science. It asks with what right and under what conditions and limitations the Scriptures exist as a religious collection. It gives historical rating to the contents. Its leading word is—discriminate, which it uses in promoting recognition of worth or its opposite, of fact or mere appearance.

II. The Critical Method.

1. Fundamental Assumptions.

To achieve real service in Biblical criticism appreciation of the religious factor is necessary. The critic, however, may not walk in a rut if he is to attain a right position. After he has through interpretation grasped the object of investigation, he gives it rating according to the conditions and warrant of the facts of the case. He proceeds upon the immanent, not the transcendent. And after the right criterion is found, he has to remember that a complete and not a partial or fragmentary investigation is required, and further that fast hold must be laid upon equipoise between critical acuteness and the perception of what is possible and plain. Eccles. vii, 20 has its application here, "God made man upright, but he has sought out many inventions." What is the inherent standard of Biblical criticism? The historical narratives of the Bible are, so far as they deal with religious life, interpretations of history and testimonies to faith. To express a right judgment the critic must determine the relation between the historical and the religious and decide which is the more prominent. De Wette regarded the Pentateuch as poetry; the opposite view makes the Bible historical only. Between these extremes lies the recognition that the Bible employs history for religious purposes. Is this religious significance to be regarded as expert emphasis upon the worth and force of a real occurrence or was it used to support some dogmatic purpose? Is it found in or read into the case? Is it in the main possible to recognize the fact in the religious dress?

These possibilities the critic must take into account as he holds the scales of truth, testing the composite parts of the Bible and proceeding thence to a consideration of the Bible as a whole. Upon this ground only can the decision be rendered how far the historic facts which the Bible reports stand in organic connection with their religious valuation and whether they may be regarded as history or as legend, fable, or myth. The varying ratio of the admixture of the historical and the religious and the degree of its significance must be observed; and especially the interval between the Old Testament and the New in their historical relations, original limitations, and purposes must be kept in mind. It is one thing to appreciate the essential qualities of Hebrew national literature, covering a thousand years in its development, and another to apprehend the worth and character of the New Testament, which is the literature of a religious propaganda covering but two generations. Yet the critic's methods are essentially the same, corresponding to the varied historical limitations of the subject-matter. When the question of the essence of Christianity arises, the bearing of the Old Testament religion upon Christianity is to be decided and grasped.

2. Classification.

The fundamental axiom shows that each literary production, as well as each body of writings which has a common bond, requires its appropriate method both of interpretation and of criticism. Means and end will agree when the character of the whole presents itself in the parts; the last-named will separate and individualize themselves where origins and relations differ. The classifications of Biblical criticism arise not out of logical abstractions but out of the demands made by the individualistic Biblical qualities. Criticism of the canon asks how and with what right the two Testaments were united in one book, how and by what methods the correct text of that which has come down is to be ascertained, what was the origin and what is the historical worth and what the relation of the present form of the books to the original form. It draws conclusions from the data furnished by interpretation. On the basis of the recognition (1) of the suitability of means to ends and (2) of the literary individuality, it pronounces upon the worth of a document as a source and upon its relation to the whole to which it belongs and which it serves. The science divides, therefore, into criticism of the text, of the language, of the history, of the style, and constructive criticism.

3. Function.

Since subjectively criticism finds its occasion in the limits of the understanding, its starting-point is doubt about the trustworthiness and the arrangement of what has come down. This doubt proceeds to ask the reason for this impression. If the reason lies not in the spiritual being of the doubter but in the object, then some defect is understood to exist in expression, contents, or style. The critic has then to discover the kind of defect and to discern its cause. As a means to this, Jerome directs the critic to digest, arrange, deduce, construct. In other words, the critic first diagnoses the case and then applies the remedy. And in this process comparison is constantly employed, holding in view the separate parts and the united whole. The division of the field of the critic into external and internal, higher and lower, does not have any essential truth at its root, and should be rejected for that given at the end of the last paragraph.

III. The Departments of Criticism.

1. Criticism of the Canon.

That the Old Testament existed as a holy authority for the synagogue and that the New in connection with the Old had the same value for the Church is the fact the success and the right of which criticism has to investigate. It notes the process of 172formation of the canon and the internal testimony of the canonical writings as related to the authority attributed to them. It asks whether the canon was made or whether it grew, whether and how far its parts are pseudepigraphic. For the Old Testament there is outside testimony only from late Judaism and the Talmud; for the New there is a wealth of evidence arising from the circumstances under which it came into existence by about 180 A.D. One result of criticisms is to reveal the motive of canon-formation and also the correctness of the separation of the literature made authoritative by comparison of it with the noncanonical (see Cannon of Scripture).

2. Textual Criticism and Apparatus.

A preliminary in this work is the collection of the text-critical apparatus which shall present an orderly and complete picture of the condition of the text. The documents must be described and their characteristics brought to light. The sources of text-criticism are manuscripts in the original languages, lectionaries of selected parts, translations, citations; for the Old Testament the Masorah, for the Septuagint and the New Testament also patristic commentaries and scholia. The variant readings in this mass of materials are to be arranged and classified, a preliminary to which is the valuation of the text-sources on the basis of age, genealogy, and trustworthiness. In the Old Testament the difference of the Masoretic text from that of the Septuagint proves the two to be independent witnesses; but the fact that the text of the latter is not yet settled makes difficult the task of arbitrating between the two. On the other hand, the New Testament writings were not, before the time of Origen, handled with the care bestowed by the Jews on the text of the law. The collection of apparatus for the New Testament text presents not only an agitated sea of differences in orthography and word-forms which create little or no difference in sense, but also a series of variations which affect the meaning and educed the wail of Origen that they were the result not only of carelessness on the part of the scribes but also of wilfulness and design. The task is to bring order into this mass of variations. There have been discerned three principal types of text, the Alexandrian, the Western, and the Constantinopolitan. The text of the Synoptic Gospels shows the most serious variations, in which purpose is manifest to make parallel passages read in the same way and to supply omissions. The text of Revelation and of the Lucan writings also is in a bad condition. Great differences exist between the text of the Alexandrian and the Greco-Latin types. The last word on relative values has not yet been said, and the matter is still further complicated by the fact that the minuscules have not yet been taken fully into consideration, and they contain very many excellent and independent readings. See Bible Text.

The purpose of comparison of variant texts is approximation to the original. The critic estimates the age of a document. For this much help has been received from the papyri and parchments recovered in Egypt, from which it has been learned that the earliest texts were written in capitals and without accents or marks of punctuation, and that the word or syllable was broken at the end of the line as the demands of space required. Study of the processes of reproduction of manuscripts has shown that errors are either mechanical or designed. The former are illustrated by the doubling of a word or a passage or the omission of the same either by an error of the eye or of the ear, or by the substitution of one word or letter for another which resembles it either in form or sound. Of conscious or designed variations from the original, some were brought about by attempts to smooth a rough passage or to illumine an obscure one, to correct real or supposed errors, to make two parallel passages read in the same way, or to change the reading so as to support some dogmatic interest. The Old Testament was originally written without punctuation or helps to reading and pronunciation; the possibility of error is, therefore, greatly increased as compared with the Greek text, the vowels of which were always written.

3. Linguistic Criticism.

After interpretation has set forth the lexicographic and grammatical character of the language, criticism inquires into the relation of expression to thought, unity in the methods of expression, and individual characteristics in writing as related to the general character of the language, and into the various influences which have controlled the form. Dissimilarity in style in parts argues dissimilarity in authorship; disarrangement or disorder suggests interpolation. Especially valuable are the tests which depend upon uniformity in the use of certain fundamental notions such as those of the kingdom of God, life, faith, righteousness, spirit, flesh. Similarly use is made of collection and comparison of idioms which characterize a writing or a group of writings, and in this case critical judgment is of great importance. Individuality is thus discovered, since the idiosyncrasies of writers are in the main unconscious and undesigned. And rhetorical qualities also come into play, the tendency to a type of expression or fondness for certain words or kinds of figures or turns of sentence. Recognition of characteristic ways of using language adds to text-critical apparatus, since it not only presents the facts of different readings and of peculiarities, but also notes their effects, influences, and modifications. So that text-criticism and criticism of the language work together in correcting an unintelligible or corrupt text by employing conjecture. By this is not meant merely subjective sagacity or ineptly used technical skill. Conjecture is the result of study of the causes of error in the text which marks them as mechanical or designed, and then seeks a reading in accordance with the habit and character of the document under examination, a reading which on known principles of error in transmission will produce the particular error.

4. Historical Criticism.

Historical criticism is applied not merely to works on history but to any literary product of the past which claims or really has importance for any historical reason. The result of this process is pronouncement upon the worth of any 173particular document as a source. It deals with the genuineness, unity, integrity, and trustworthiness of a writing, asks whether it is as the author wrote it or whether it has been corrupted or falsified, whether it reflects the habit of the author assumed or of the times in which it is placed. Since it is seldom that explicit external testimony to a document is available, criticism usually proceeds upon internal evidence. But this is not always decisive. Conceivably, the tradition of Israel's sojourn in Egypt might have arisen out of the story of the Babylonian exile. So of the New Testament writings, the decision whether they are really documents of the apostolic age depends finally upon the judgment of their character as a whole and upon appraisement of the distance between them and the postapostolic and apocryphal literature.

The three points upon which the critic is intent are not of equal weight. Thus, though the authenticity of a writing be denied on internal grounds, the worth of the writing as a source is not thereby necessarily denied, for the document may have been produced anonymously, may be a genuine witness for the times in which it was written, and yet have had a name wrongly attached to it later. Examples of this are the Books of Samuel, the Gospel of Matthew, and the Epistle to the Hebrews, which last is a genuine document of the apostolic age, though the authorship is undetermined. So integrity does not of itself determine source-value. Investigation in this direction discovers gaps or additions and relates them to historic credibility. The final test has reference to this duality. Investigation into a writing as a whole leads to the discussion of its composition. Criticism of sources enters here, which on the basis of the linguistic character of the finished work and of its parts decides whether the work is a unit or is composite. In the latter case the questions arise what was the original form and how far it has been changed by the successive hands through which it has passed; whether the parts are in their original form or have been worked over, and in the latter case whether in some dogmatic interest. Such are the problems which arise respecting the Pentateuch and the Gospels. Decision in favor of the trustworthiness of a document in itself a unit and complete is carried a step further toward assurance by comparison with the general whole to which it belongs. This involves consideration of linguistic characteristics, of the circle of ideas in which it moves, the general trend of thought. Account is taken of external testimony. In this case error has to be guarded against, since the trustworthiness and competence of the witness is itself a subject for investigation. The criticism of the Epistle to the Philippians gives an illustration of the difficulties of the process, where irreconcilably different conclusions have been reached by Baur, Holster, and P. W. Schmidt.

The most important problem affecting credibility arises from the specific character of the Biblical narratives. What attitude shall be assumed toward miracles? How far are the reports legendary or mythical? What is the relation of the religious idea to the question of the historicity of the reports and of their worth as sources? The position taken will depend upon the philosophical position of the critic. The theist does not disavow belief in miracles and values the divine self-consciousness of Jesus as testimony to his living participation in deity. But the historic spirit of the times enters a caveat by noting the limitation placed on the reporters by the characteristics of the times in which they lived. Moreover, he who accepts Jesus as a wonder-worker is not called on as a critic to prove the reports of miracles reliable; nor is he who accepts Jesus as God's son required to prove the stories of the infancy, analogies of which are so abundantly available. But with the recognition that there are obscurities in the reports of miracles and that poetry, legend, and myth are used by the Bible, the last word has not been spoken on the historicity of Biblical narratives. When the English minister Mitchell said in relation to the wars of Frederick the Great that the latter was fighting for the freedom of the human race, he gave an interpretation of history but did not alter the historic fact. It is then possible that without altering the facts the Gospels, under the impression made by the person of Jesus, acknowledge him as Son of God and Savior of the world. If the theologian speaks of salvation as a fact which has become known in history, that is not a dogmatic dislocation but a correct valuation of the historical order in which the Christian religion and its Old Testament precursor reveal themselves.

5. Criticism of Style.

"Style is only the order and progress in which thought takes form; it supposes the union and exercise of all the intellectual faculties, and it is the man" (Buffon). This utters the final decision in the reaching of which the critical and hermeneutical faculties unite more closely than in the processes named above. It asks the question, what purposes did the writing have and how did it attain them? It takes into account the total impression made by the document, the progress of thought and the conception of history it embodies; it notes clearness and force or indefiniteness and unwieldiness, originality or accord with accustomed forms. And in the background is ever a reference to the historical setting and relationships. Historical criticism may shove compositeness in a document and answer the question whether the elements are united by a loose idea or are worked into each other. In the latter case criticism of style shows the relation of the parts to the whole. When historical criticism has thoroughly investigated historical conditions and order, the question of credibility in a new sense arises. Was the purpose objective or personal, did the ideal enter into the personal, did personal interests and passion modify the objectivity of the writing? For documents run to Tendenz whenever they are not purely objective narrative.

6. Reconstructive Criticism.

The results from the processes so far reviewed are now positive, now negative. They produce decisions upon the completeness, reliability, and value of what has been transmitted. 174That done, the relation of the product under discussion to the original actuality in particular and in general remains to be investigated. What is historic reconstruction? Niebuhr's History of Rome was the first concrete example of the results of the process. It embodied his endeavor to pierce through the displacements and exaggerations of national pride which influenced the historical form of the statements and to discover actuality as it was and developed. His method is and remains the method of constructive criticism. The first step, then, is criticism of sources, which not only reveals their nature and value, but grasps also their connection with the original fact, their original relations, their mutual dependence or independence. In religious literature it is necessary to have regard to the conceptions embodied to see whether these are the original gift of the religion or whether they have entered during the course of the development. Hence the sources have to be traced to their original form, conceptions are abstracted, the historical course of events displayed, and the method by which events have worked out of the objective and essential conditions discovered.

The dominant method of source-criticism is literary. It deals with documentary indication, traces backward parallel traditions and distinguishes their relationship, genealogy, and dependence; it shows their original or secondary character, seeks the occasions of their deviations; in documents it would discern the seams of joining, the manner and form of the insertions. And then often the question arises whether an oral or a written source lies in the background. And besides this there is in Biblical literature the complicating factor of the editors; so that modern criticism is well represented graphically by the "Rainbow Bible" In the foreground of interest now is the proving of the relationship of Biblical presentations and conceptions to the original form and sense and the attempt to show their interrelationship. Are the leading Biblical conceptions original and in their original form? Do the terms used carry their original meanings, or has the original sense become detached and connected itself with some other term? The answers to such questions will lead back to the early forms of the religion of the Old Testament and of Christianity, will produce a history of religious ideas; but the work is yet in its infancy. Even the prehistoric cult-motive, found in totemism, animism, and belief in demons will not clone the inquiry; there is the background of the self-seeking impulses which led men to placate ghosts and employ magic and sorcery. And the relations of these to the Old Testament and the New are yet under discussion. They indeed point out in which direction criticism must direct its researches.

The highest and most difficult task is the reconstruction of the historic process, the monuments of which are found in the criticized writings. It purposes a presentation of the entire circle of ideas, and seeks to discover from the deficient sources the original connection, and from the reports brought together the original development. The results then are historical, the basis sought is the most ultimate facts attainable, but the degree of assurance necessarily varies. In Biblical science the two objective points are the recovery of the history of Israel and of the history of the origins of the Christian Church. The crux of the first is the relationship of the prophetic literature to the Pentateuch. Is the latter preprophetic or postprophetic and postexilic? Another question still under discussion is the historical value of the body of tradition about the patriarchs and Moses; estimates of the highest importance and bearing upon character hang upon the decision. The reconstruction of New Testament history depends upon the decision as to the existence or non-existence of usable sources of history in the New Testament. The new Dutch school returns a negative answer on the ground that New Testament literature is mostly pseudepigraphic. Everything here depends upon criticism of sources, upon the decision about the bases of the Synoptic Gospels, the Johannine literature, the Christology of the Epistles. Upon decisions rendered here hangs also the estimate of the person and work of the founder of Christianity. For the conception of apostolic times critical valuation of the worth of Acts as a source is required, and a determination of its relation to the Pauline Epistles and of the genuineness of the latter. In this case also conclusions the most opposite are reached with necessarily opposite results in the construction of history. The difficulties of the reconstruction of Biblical history are thus suggested, and in the work only a beginning has been made. Real progress is possible only if the critic is not self-deceived in respect to the continuity and completeness of the sources and the objective basis of his hypotheses, and if he does not forget that the history which he undertakes to reconstruct neither claims to nor can supply the religious force which is operative in history.

IV. History of Criticism:

1. Meaning and Limitations.

This might be made to embrace all work conducted with critical insight as well as of all branches of Biblical science with the hypotheses and conclusions. Decision must be made between a review of the results and of the conditions and valuations which have given the impulse to a new series of questions. With the latter goes a description of the methods necessitated by the newer conditions. It is also to be remarked that criticism and interpretation, so to speak, alternate and relieve each other. Interpretation flourishes when tradition is accepted at its face value; criticism, when doubt has called in question that value, though indeed criticism is never beyond call.

2. Hellenistic and Patristic Criticism.

The Greeks were the fathers of criticism. No other people of the ancient world employed critical methods; the memory, not judgment, held sway. Judaism was no exception, for the Masorah is text-criticism in a limited sense only. But among the Greeks criticism was the handmaid of interpretation. Homer was their canon, furnishing the model of the completest expression of human relationships. Consequently, text- 175criticism found there its task and elaborated its methods, while interpretation was also at work. The questions of integrity, authenticity, and credibility were raised, but of course the answers were such as the age was qualified to give.

It has often been denied that in the patristic age criticism existed. But patristic literature set itself the task of suppressing the old canon and replacing it by the new canon of the Old Testament and the New. And in this task criticism was a necessary agent. Alexandria and Antioch were the two seats of the new learning, the headquarters where the methods of the Greeks were applied in pursuit of the new object (see Alexandria, School of; Antioch, School of). Even the fourfold division of the science employed by the Greeks was adopted, though the whole work proceeded from a different standpoint. For the Greeks the esthetic was the principal thing, for the Church Fathers the religious; in both cases criticism served interpretation. The great undertaking of Origen to bring order into the corrupt text of the Septuagint remained incomplete and only introduced further confusion. What opinion is to be entertained of the recessions of Lucian and Hesychius is not yet certain. Jerome's efforts to obtain a better text of the Vulgate advanced text-criticism but little. In the matter of the canon of the New Testament, the genealogy of texts, the public use of the Scriptures, and their genuineness were discussed. Explanations were offered of the differences found in the writings ascribed to John. And in the councils and synods the matter of canonicity was raised for churchly authority to decide.

3. Criticism from the Time of the Reformation.

With the Reformation criticism took a new start upon a basis prepared by humanism, but within the bounds set by patristic criticism. The inspiration of the Bible was assumed, for the need felt was for nourishment of the spirit. Criticism assumed more definite forms after attempts were made to fix the teaching of the Evangelical Church. The early Protestant doctrine of inspiration attempted to exalt into law what had been till then simple religious statement. A wall was built upon the Protestant doctrine of Scripture against the Roman Catholic conceptions. Apologetics and harmonistics were created. The doctrine of verbal inspiration came into play until text-critical apparatus began to accumulate. Then dogmatic pronouncement upon the contents of Scripture, upon its clearness and sufficiency, stumbled over fact, and the earlier dogma of inspiration came to grief.

Under such conditions Biblical criticism developed and became more opposed to dogmatism. Its apostle was Spinoza, who in his Tractatus theologicopoliticus authoritatively formulated the problem for the future. The skepticism of the seventeenth and the deism and rationalism of the eighteenth centuries changed not the form of the problem, but only the tone of the critic. Spinoza had given a comprehensive description of the exigency produced by a theology benumbed by dogmatics. His desire was to produce an undogmatic Christianity through criticism of the documents. Christianity was to be apprehended as teaching for practical life and not as philosophy. Religion was not to contradict reason. Criticism attacked the problem of the text and proceeded to discussion of the canon and its contents. Meanwhile the view was held that religion was something different from theology.

The first attempts to build up a critical method were in the region of the Roman classics. J. Robertellus (De arte sive ratione corrigendi antiquorum libros disputatio, Padua, 1557) defined the sources of error in the text as additions, eliminations, transpositions, extensions, condensations, separations (of parts belonging together), joinings (of parts which should be kept apart), and variations. Caspar Scioppius (1597) argued against the "rash and audacious attempts to better the text." Johannes Clericus (1697) connected criticism of the classics and of the Bible. Perhaps he was the first to see that the canon had a history. L. Cappellus (1634), A. Pfeiffer (1680), and J. G. Carpzov (1728) argued for the unassailable authority of Scripture, but Carpzov's conjectural emendation of the Masoretic text aroused the acorn of the orthodox, who declared this text inviolable, as Ball and Erasmus had that of the Vulgate. But a new turn was given when the Oratorian J. Morinus (1633) exalted the text of the Septuagint over that of the Masoretes because derived from purer sources, though this valuation was discredited by the insecure readings of the Septuagint. Mill (1707) and Wetstein (1751) collected a rich apparatus for the New Testament, and Bengal proposed to alter the Textus receptus upon the basis of manuscript readings properly discriminated. The great Bentley's proposal to form a new recession of the Greek text (on the basis of MS. A and of the Vulgate) was wrecked on the rocks of the opposition of the theologians.

The criticism of sources was established in Bentley's disproof of the genuineness of the Letters of Phalaris. That method was applied to Biblical literature only in individual instances among the Arminians and Socinians, as example of which is found in H. Grotius's work on Thessalonians. The application of this to the Old Testament was first made in Astruc's discussion of Genesis (1753). The antidogmatic position of criticism became ever more pronounced in the eighteenth century. English deism attacked clumsily the historicity of the Old Testament Scriptures. Skepticism rejoiced over the proof of variety in origin of Biblical writings. Rationalism sought to prove that history is no puzzle and all proceeds in rational order. Leasing's discussion with Goetze over the "Wolfenbüttel Fragments" fathomed deep waters. Against the reckless criticism of English deism appeared Lardner's Ancient Jewish and Heathen Testimonies to the Truth of the Christian Religion (1764–67), while through Michaelis and Semler criticism sought to find equipoise.

The modern age of critical research began with the end of the eighteenth century. Its aim is an undogmatic method founded on fact, and its 176task is reconstruction of history on the basis of a grasp of original conditions and of the actual course of development. It makes use of psychology, linguistics, literary art, and history, and it attempts to guard against the one-sided application of any or all of these, recognizing that subjective criticism world produce results inconsonant with the spirit of the times in which the literature discussed was produced. The historical point of view as applied to the Bible was first expressed by Herder. Schleiermacher and Eichhorn made contributions to it, but not without error. Strauss's intellectual method overlooked criticism of sources. Bruno Bauer's reconstruction of the early history of Christianity on the basis of Philo, Seneca, and Greco-Roman philosophy was bettered by F. C. Baur, who sought a factual basis. Vatke's work on the Old Testament has been confirmed and extended by Reuss, Graf, Wellhausen, and Kuenen. How Biblical criticism has changed its center of gravity is illustrated by the dictionaries. Teller's Wörterbuch des Alten Testaments (6th ed., 1805) was ultrarationalistic. Winer's work (3d ed., 1847) expressed the materialistic doubt of De Wette. Schenkel's Bibellexicon (1869–75) represented the Tübingen school. Riehm-Baethgen (1897) shut the latter out as much as possible, in which line the new Dictionary of the Bible of Hastings follows, while the Encyclopædia Biblica occupies the most advanced position and complains that criticism of the New Testament is less advanced than that of the Old.

(G. Heinrici.)

V. Biblical Criticism in the Roman Catholic Church:

It is a well-known fact that the subject of Biblical criticism has never received so much attention among Roman Catholic as among Protestant scholars. This disparity of interest in a topic so important is doubtless largely due to the fundamentally different attitude of the two Churches toward the Bible itself. While the early Reformers claimed to set aside tradition and church authority, and to make the Bible—and the Bible alone—the foundation-stone of their respective creeds, the Catholic theologians and controversialists, on the other hand, emphasized anew the principle of central organic authority. For Catholics the supreme and ultimate guide in matters of religion, faith, and morals is the infallible authority of the living Church—authority which in their view has been inherited from the Apostles and the Divine Founder of Christianity. This organized society is considered as the divinely appointed custodian of all revelation, whether contained in the Scriptures or in the storehouse of Christian tradition and to this society belongs, under divine guidance, the official and authoritative interpretation of Holy Writ. The great and exclusive importance given to the Bible in the Protestant communions naturally called for a deep and comprehensive study of the Scriptures; and this, in the nature of things, was bound to develop on critical lines; whereas Catholics, resting content with the principle of church authority, continued to look upon the Bible as something incidental and secondary in comparison with the living, teaching organization. Hence less interest on the part of the latter in the various branches of Biblical investigation, and likewise less alarm at the changes wrought by the so-called destructive criticism in the traditional views concerning the Bible.

But, while the general interest in the topic has been less marked among Catholics, it is true that scholars belonging to that faith have made valuable contributions to the rise and growth of scientific Biblical criticism. The first, perhaps, who deserves mention is the French Oratorian Richard Simon (1638–1712) who, setting aside the abstract, a priori methods previously in vogue, began a study at once historical and critical of the principal topics pertaining to the origin and growth of the Bible. The results of his investigations, which were too far in advance of his age to receive intelligent appreciation from his contemporaries, were embodied in a series of volumes, which, however much they may have been superseded by writings of later scholars, are nevertheless extremely interesting as setting forth the true critical method and applying it with a freedom which was bound to provoke opposition and censure on the part of orthodox theologians such as Bossuet (see Simon, Richard). It was the Catholic physician Jean Astruc who gave a valuable key and a starting-point to the modern documentary analysis of the Pentateuch by his essay published in 1753. Another Catholic clergyman who figures prominently among the pioneers in the field of scientific Biblical study is the Scotchman Alexander Geddes (1737–1802; see Geddes, Alexander). Foremost among modern and contemporary Catholic scholars who have distinguished themselves in the field of Biblical criticism must be placed the abbé A. F. Loisy, who to a vast erudition and a remarkably keen critical acumen has unfortunately joined a sarcasm of exposition and a rashness of speculation which have brought him into serious disfavor with the authorities of the Church. The more moderate school of Catholic Biblical scholars includes a relatively large and ever growing number of adherents who, always subject to the limitations imposed by church authority, frankly accept the well-authenticated results of scientific critical investigation. Obviously these scholars are not so free and independent in their researches as their non-Catholic brethren, but Catholic apologists claim that while the restrictions imposed do at times curtail unduly the freedom of investigators whose views though correct may not harmonize with traditionally received opinions, they serve, on the other hand, as a salutary check on critical speculations of the more radical and advanced type.

Moved by the acute controversies which, within the last quarter of a. century have grown up in the field of Bible study and caused so much alarm in most of the orthodox communions, Pope Leo XIII instituted a Biblical Commission which was to be a standing tribunal composed of Scripture specialists and theologians, for the settlement on scientific as well as authoritative grounds of the various knotty questions raised by higher criticism. Under the present pope, however, while the number of 177members and consultors of this tribunal was greatly augmented, a large majority was conceded to the theologians as distinguished from the Biblical scholars; and the decisions rendered thus far have little or no interest for the scientific world, as they constitute simply a reaffirmation, without specified reasons, of the traditional positions. In the Church at present the trend of authoritative direction as regards the Scriptures is unfavorable to Biblical criticism, as is plain from the Syllabus of Modern Errors and the encyclical against Modernism issued by Pius X in 1907 (see Syllabus).

James F. Driscoll.

Bibliography: For works on textual criticism see Bible Text; on the history of criticism consult: H. Cave, The Battle of the Standpoints; the Old Testament and the Higher Criticism, London, 1892 (brief and popular); H. S. Nash, The History of the Higher Criticism of the New Testament, New York, 1900, new ed., 1907 (an argument for scientific Bible study).

For exposition of methods consult C. A. Briggs, General Introduction to the Study of Holy Scripture, New York, 1899 (exhaustive); A. C. Zenos, Elements of the Higher Criticism, ib. 1895 (useful); F. Ast, Wissenschaftliche Darstellung der Grammatik, Hermeneutik und Kritik, Landshut, 1808; F. Hitzig, Begriff der Kritik am Alten Testament, Heidelberg, 1831; F. D. E. Schleiermacher, Ueber Begriff und Einteilung der philosophischen Kritik, in his Sämmtliche Werke, III, iii, 387–404; Berlin, 1835; A. Kuenen, Critices et hermeneuticæ librorum Novi Testamenti lineamenta, Leyden, 1889; F. Blass, Hermeneutik und Kritik, in Handbuch der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, I, i, 127–128, Munich, 1891; F. Godet and others, Higher Criticism, Six Papers, New York, 1893; C. W. Rishell, Higher Criticism, Cincinnati, 1893 (needs revision); E. Bernheim, Lehrbuch der historischen Methode, Leipsic, 1894; H. Hildebrand, Die höhere Bibelkritik, Paderborn, 1902; W. Möller, Biblical Criticism, London, 1903; G. W. Gilmore, Biblical Criticism, in The Monist, xiv (1904), 215 sqq.

For criticism of higher-critical methods and results consult: E. Böhl, Zum Gesetz und zum Zeugniss, eine Abwehr wider die neu-kritische Schriftforschung im Alten Testament, Vienna, 1883; O. Naumann, Wellhausen's Methode, Leipsic, 1886; F. Vigouroux, Les Livres saints et la critique rationalists, 4 vols., Paris, 1886–90; J. J. Blunt, Undesigned Coincidences in the Writings of Both the Old and the New Testaments, republished, New York, 1890; R. F. Horton, Revelation and the Bible, London, 1892; E. Rupprecht, Die Anschauung der kritischen Schule Wellhausens, Erlangen, 1893; A. Zahn, Ernste Blicke in den Wahn der modernen Kritik des Alten Testaments, Gütersloh, 1893; F. R. Beattie, Radical Criticism, an Exposition and Examination of the Radical Critical Theory, Chicago, 1894; L. Munhall, Anti-higher Criticism, New York, 1894 (extreme in its conservatism); S. Leathes, Claims of the Old Testament, ib. 1897; W. H. Green, General Introduction to the Old Testament, New York, 1899 (Dr. Green was the exponent of the most conservative type of Biblical study, and his strictures on higher criticism will be found in his Moses and the Prophets, 1883, The Hebrew Feasts in their Relation to Recent Critical Hypotheses, 1886, Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch, 1895, and Unity of the Book of Genesis, 1895); W. Möller, Are the Critics Right? ib. 1903; F. D. Storey, Higher Criticism Cross-examined, Philadelphia, 1905; J. Orr, The Problem of the O. T., London, 1906 (conservative). For application and statement of critical methods consult: G. d’Eichthal, Mélanges de critique biblique, Paris, 1896; Smith, OTJC, cf. R. Watts, The Newer Criticism and the Analogy of the Faith, Edinburgh, 1883 (Watts is a reply to Smith); J. P. Smyth, The Old Documents and the New Bible, London, 1890; T. K. Cheyne, Aide to the Devout Study of Criticism, ib. 1892; W. Sanday, Inspiration, ib. 1896 (advanced in dealing with the O. T., conservative as respects the N. T.); idem, Criticism of the Fourth Gospel, ib. 1905; W. F. Adeney, How to Read the Bible, ib. 1897 (a helpful handbook); G. A. Smith, Modern Criticism and the Preaching of the Old Testament, ib. 1901; R. Balmforth, The Bible from the Standpoint of Higher Criticism, 2 vols., New York, 1904-05; T. W. Doane, Bible Myths and their Parallels in Other Religions, ib. 1905.

On the interrelations of criticism, the Bible, and archeology consult: H. A. Harper, The Bible and Modern Discoveries, Boston, 1889; H. E. Ryle, Early Narratives of Genesis, London, 1892; T. Laurie, Assyrian Echoes of the Word, ib. 1894; A. H. Sayce, Higher Criticism and the Verdict of the Monuments, ib. 1894 (archeological, reaching the same conclusions as the critics, yet violently assailing them); W. St. C. Boscawen, Bible and the Monuments, ib. 1895; F. Hommel, Ancient Hebrew Tradition as Illustrated by the Monuments, ib. 1897 (the standpoint is similar to Sayce's); D. G. Hogarth, Authority and Archeology, ib. 1899 (in its Biblical parts sober, and a corrective of Sayce and Hommel); I. M. Price, Monuments and the Old Testament, Chicago, 1900; T. G. Pinches, The Old Testament in the Light of Historical Records and Legends of Assyria and Babylonia, London, 1902; Schrader, KAT.

« Biblical Canon Biblical Criticism Biblical History »
VIEWNAME is workSection