Talk:Historical criticism

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Move proposal[edit]

Does anyone mind if I move this page back to Higher criticism? It was moved here last summer with no discussion I don't think, and an independent higher criticism article was started. However, now the two have been re-merged again, and this article is clearly discussing higher criticism. So I propose we move it back, at the very least to merge the page histories for GFDL purposes, but also because I believe the other title is more common. -Andrew c [talk] 14:14, 22 February 2008 (UTC)

Suits me, there are many links to higher criticism, and it's a common term in histories. The present title is more long winded and less common. . . . dave souza, talk 15:29, 23 February 2008 (UTC)
I have big problems with this page. It talks about an Old testament, but that's a Christian term - those books are actually Jewish in origin, and the order of the books in the Hebrew bible is not the same as in the Christian OT. As a result, the table has the Book of Ruth in the middle of what the Hebrew bible would call the Former Prophets. This in turn creates problems for the "modern scholarship" column - the former prophets make up, collectively, the Deuteronomic History, which modern scholars treat as a unit, but you can't do that with Ruth in the middle. And then (and worse), much of what the table says is simply wrong: the Deuteronomic History isn't thought to have been written by a Deuteronomic author, it's thought to have been composed (meaning edited together from older sources, plus some additions) by a school of like-minded Deuteronomists extending over centuries. I tried to correct some similar oversimplifications and ommissions in the Torah section, but on balance it the whole subject is too complex to be approached in this way (i.e., by a table). It would be better to delete the article. PiCo (talk) 13:43, 23 February 2008 (UTC)
The article is about a significant historical school of bible study, and covers the points that the Christian theologians covered, in the relevant terms. If you've sources for a different approach to historical criticism that might be best suited to a separate article, or could be set out in suitable detail in a specific section of this article. .. dave souza, talk 15:29, 23 February 2008 (UTC)
I have a problem with that. The article as it is is not about "higher criticism" but only about higher criticism is applied to bible studies. Higher criticism can be applied in any number of distinct fields.·Maunus· ·ƛ· 19:46, 23 February 2008 (UTC)
Historical criticism denotes contextual criticism, the endeavor to establish the authorship, date and place of composition of a text, as opposed to text criticism; Historical criticism is applicable to any text and needs to be treated in its own separate article, not a redirect to any particular little corner. "Higher criticism" is an excellent choice for this special material; it sounds just the right nineteenth-century tone. --Wetman (talk) 20:12, 23 February 2008 (UTC)

I still have problems with the article. The first few words are: "Historical criticism or Higher criticism..." In other words, it equates higher criticism with historical criticism. Given that "higher criticism"is the better-known term, why not use that for the title? Then it says"that higher/historical criticism "investigates the origins of a text, ... focus[ing] on the sources of a document to determine who wrote it, when it was written, and where." In my book that's a description of source criticism. The term "higher criticism" really belongs to the late 19th century, when it was the only academic game in town, but during the 20th century a whole new corpus of critical methods and objectives came into existence. Form criticism and tradition history brought new methodologies that the "higher criticism" had never heard of, while today you find feminist scholarship, liberation scholarship, and a whole host of other scholarships which have no interest at all in who, when and where, but focus instead on the meaning of the text. So in short, I find this article a duplication of the article about source criticism on level, and at another, quite misleading in that it treats "higher criticism" as if it were a term still relevant in the 21st century. It should be deleted, and any useful material moved to other articles. PiCo (talk) 04:48, 2 March 2008 (UTC)

I have moved the article, merged page histories, archived and moved talk pages and so on. Hopefully everything worked fine and other users are happy with these changes.-Andrew c [talk] 15:16, 14 March 2008 (UTC)

Deletion of canonical and other formns of criticism[edit]

I've deleted material dealing with a variety of critical forms and strategies which have no connection with historical criticism - canonical criticism, feminist criticism etc study the meaning of texts, not their origins.

There are so many other things wrong with this article I don't want to get into correcting them, but this is so egregious it just has to be done. PiCo (talk) 18:17, 13 March 2008 (UTC)

And for the record. This content hasn't been completely deleted from wikipedia. It exists at Biblical Criticism. -Andrew c [talk] 21:45, 13 March 2008 (UTC)
Thanks Andrew - I really should have mentioned that. PiCo (talk) 12:33, 14 March 2008 (UTC)

Some POV abt Protestantism[edit]

Section Protestant Christian view says:

Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation, believed strongly in the literal truth of scripture.[citation needed] He wrote, "All the articles of our Christian faith, which God has revealed to us in His Word, are in presence of reason sheerly impossible, absurd and false."

If that formulation is the "proof", then it is not valid. That Luther said

"All the articles of our Christian faith, which God has revealed to us in His Word, are in presence of reason sheerly impossible, absurd and false."

doesn't imply he "believed strongly in the literal truth of scripture". I think that statement is deeply unjustified (very low-church bias, with tendencies to non-Lutheranism) unless citations from Luther himself can be provided. Simply put, Luther's statement cannot be interpreted that way - the section misleads the reader. Said: Rursus 10:18, 21 July 2008 (UTC)

That seems to me to be a fair point - the statement doesn't really support the claim. Can you offer an alternative view, with citation? --Rbreen (talk) 12:54, 21 July 2008 (UTC)

It seems to me that the second sentence is intended to expand on rather than support the first, the point being that the methods of Higher Criticism would be unacceptable to many followers of Martin Luther. But the first sentence certainly needs a footnote. I'll try to find one. Rick Norwood (talk) 13:15, 21 July 2008 (UTC)

Provided a source and a direct quote from Luther regarding his stance on literal meaning. All the Reformers, including Melanchthon, Zwingli, and Calvin held to the same view. Lamorak (talk) 17:14, 4 January 2009 (UTC)

It is anachronistic to say that Luther had a view on higher criticism. It just wasn't a question in the 16th century. I suppose you could quote Luther here, but you can't draw inferences from that quotation (though I suppose you could attribute such a source to a secondary source). (talk) 04:10, 13 April 2009 (UTC)

As this issue is played out, I removed the POV tag. I also removed the first paragraph, which never deals directly with higher criticism. If someone can quote a scholar saying that higher criticism contradicts the teachings of the Reformers, that would be worth including. Here's the excised material.

[[Martin Luther]], [[Zwingli]], [[John Calvin]] and other leaders of the [[Protestant Reformation]] believed strongly in a literal interpretation of scripture.<ref> {{Cite book | edition = Rev. and expanded ed | publisher = Zondervan | isbn = 0310279518 | last = Kaiser | first = Walter C | coauthors = Moisés Silva | title = Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning | location = Grand Rapids, Mich. | year = 2007 }} pages 269-270</ref> Luther wrote, "The Holy Ghost is the all-simplest writer that is in heaven or earth; therefore his words can have no more than one simplest sense, which we call the scriptural or literal meaning."<ref> {{Cite book | publisher = Baker Book House | last = Farrar | first = F. W. Frederic William | title = History of Interpretation: Bampton Lectures 1885 | location = Grand Rapids, Mich. | year = 1961 }} page 329</ref> The Reformers rejected the church tradition of the Roman Catholic Church as well as the allegorical interpretations associated with it. They held to the principle of ''[[sola scriptura]]'', that Scripture alone is the divinely inspired authority for Christians.

Hope that's OK. Leadwind (talk) 01:21, 15 April 2010 (UTC)

The example in the lead[edit]

The example in the lead is long-winded (not a good trait in a lead!) and it's not clear what it's an example of. If it is intended to be an example of higher criticism performed by Wikipedia editors on an Encyclopedia Britannica article, then it doesn't do a very good job of it - all it does is quote passages from various editions of the encyclopedia, with short summaries. If that were an example of higher criticism, we might as well point to the history of the corresponding Wikipedia article as an even more detailed example of higher criticism. If it's intended to exemplify higher criticism done by or alluded to by Encyclopedia Britannica, then it doesn't do a good job either, as higher criticism appears only in the last sentence, and even that uses it only to be able to speak of the time before higher criticism. Wouldn't simply deleting this example produce a better article? -- Coffee2theorems (talk) 11:31, 1 November 2008 (UTC)

The example is not intended to be an example of higher criticism, but rather an example of the influence of higher criticism on contemporary thought. I agree that the lede is too long, and that that example should be moved further down in the article. I'll move it. Rick Norwood (talk) 14:20, 15 March 2009 (UTC)

Higher Criticism is also part of Statistics (!)[edit]

This article needs a disambiguiation page. "Higher criticism is also a mathematical method for statistical model selection, simply google for: "higher criticism" + Donoho + Jin —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:11, 15 March 2009 (UTC)

If there is an article on this we can link off at the top. Any suggestions? jbolden1517Talk 04:55, 4 May 2009 (UTC)

Andrew c's revert of Osprey9713[edit]

Osprey9713's changes made the "Author according to scholarship" section more in line with the "Author according to tradition". It is my understanding, through reading John Meiers, Raymond Brown, Bart Ehrman, Stephen Harris, etc. (scholars ranging from conservative, to moderate, to liberal) that the longstanding version is more inline with the mainstream, consensus view of critical, academic scholarship (and these views are cited in more detail in each individual book's article). I'm not sure of many sources, besides Donald Guthrie, N.T. Wright, and Ben Witherington, who defend the traditional view, and these scholars are extremely on the conservative side (and the former two are of an older generation). I believe Osprey's changes skewed the weight away from a more moderate, mainstream, consensus view to that of the more extreme conservative scholars. Furthermore, all of the content was unsourced, and some of it was news to me. I'd like to see Osprey's sources, and I'd like to hear specific issues with the current content. I'd be glad to dig up sources as well (especially because the sources are already provided in other articles). -Andrew c [talk] 22:08, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

Andrew first off I agree with the revert. But I want to comment that I think there is a bias in the other direction. Ehrman is a lower critic. Meirs and Brown by higher critical standards are conservative. I think the version you reverted to actually has a conservative bias, given this is an article on higher criticism (i.e the right 70% of the spectrum rejects the entire field). I think you need to move more in the direction of Journal of Higher Criticism, scholars like Hermann Detering [1]. This yields much later dates for canonical forms of these gospels well into the 2nd century. Obviously we need to show a range but the table in its current form is still (IMHO) too conservative. jbolden1517Talk 04:53, 4 May 2009 (UTC)

Journal of Higher Criticism[edit]

Well I'll be darned! I still don't think it's a term in wide use, but those guys sure are using it. PiCo (talk) 07:21, 7 May 2009 (UTC)

Later: I see now what's going on. The JHC is deliberately retro, resurrecting an archaic term for it's own purposes. They say so on their website: "The Journal of Higher Criticism was initiated in 1994 as a forthright attempt - in a time of scholarly neo-conservatism - to hark back to the bold historical hypotheses and critical interpretations associated with the great names of F. C. Baur and Tübingen." Baur and Tubingen are no longer with us, and haven't been for many a long year - the JHC is dressing itself in Victorian clothing for modern purposes. So my understanding of the term still stands. PiCo (talk) 09:04, 7 May 2009 (UTC)
Hi PiCo. I moved the conversation here so that others can join in if they have an opinion. I agree they are being retro. I also agree the term is politically loaded. That being said what the article is calling redaction criticism is still heavily in use, Ehrmann, Brown, Meier.... Form criticism even conservatives today use. Etc.... So I'm not comfortable with "obsolete". I am going to add a link indicating why it is so politically loaded and maybe some content in that direction might help. jbolden1517Talk 13:58, 7 May 2009 (UTC)
Thanks jbolden. It will be interesting to see what everyone has to say. I personally don't regard the term as politically loaded, except in so far as ultra-conservative evangelicals seem to use it as a term of abuse. I guess my central point is that today there are many tools and strategies available to scholars, including source criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, and many more - source and textual criticism are just two among many. But this only developed in the 20th century. In the 19th, there were just two, textual (the oldest of them all), and what we now call source criticism. Two terms, "higher" and "lower", were enough. Now things have changed out of recognition, and both these terms have become obsolete - they have been for at least half a century, probably more. This article is itself rather retro :) PiCo (talk) 00:29, 8 May 2009 (UTC)
jbolden, having re-read this, I see that we're not using the term "higher criticism" in the same way. To you it's a catch-all that includes redaction criticism, form criticism, and others. To me it's associated exclusively with source criticism, for which it's an obsolete (19th century) term. I totally agree that source criticism, form criticism and redaction criticism are still used - but they're not (to my knowledge) called "higher criticism". PiCo (talk) 09:51, 8 May 2009 (UTC)

(outdenting) OK you see the distinction. At least in evangelical circles as they moved from the TR to the NA27 lower criticism has been accepted. So for example in the s:Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy "Since God has nowhere promised an inerrant transmission of Scripture, it is necessary to affirm that only the autographic text of the original documents was inspired and to maintain the need of textual criticism as a means of detecting any slips that may have crept into the text in the course of its transmission. " Also things like form criticism are accepted, "So history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth." So what higher criticism seems to mean today however is coming to the text with something other than a philosophy in accordance with Chicago. "Inasmuch as all Scripture is the product of a single divine mind, interpretation must stay within the bounds of the analogy of Scripture and eschew hypotheses that would correct one Biblical passage by another, whether in the name of progressive revelation or of the imperfect enlightenment of the inspired writer's mind." So I do think that usage is current. jbolden1517Talk 12:09, 8 May 2009 (UTC)

I don't see any use there of the term "higher criticism" - "lower criticism" either. I have seen evangelical works that do talk about "higher criticism", usually in order to accuse those who use it of all sorts of evil-doing, but the objects of their ire themselves don't use it - they call what they do by various names, but never "higher criticism". Bear in mind that I'm not claiming that source and form and etc criticism are obsolete, just that "higher criticism" as a word to describe them is no longer in use among professionals. PiCo (talk) 04:43, 9 May 2009 (UTC)
Then I agree. We can say that while the subject matter / techniques are still practiced the word itself has gone out of fashion. You have a ref? jbolden1517Talk 06:20, 9 May 2009 (UTC)
No, no ref - it's just something I've observed while reading. The real problem for me is that we have two articles, this one and Biblical criticism, both covering much the same material. In fact I copy/pasted some from here to the other one because I thought it was so good. But they need to be harmonised, or whatever the right word is. PiCo (talk) 08:27, 9 May 2009 (UTC)

(outdenting) I see your point. Here are the 3 options:

  1. Merge
  2. Make the two articles more different in terms of topic
  3. Make the two articles more different in terms of methodology.

Do you see others? If not I'd lean towards #3 but I'd open this up to anyone who is watching this forum right now. jbolden1517Talk 16:19, 9 May 2009 (UTC)

There hasn't been any response. I might try, during the coming days, to expand the other article (Biblical criticism) with material from this one so that they can be combined. Exactly what that final combination might look like I don't know. This is not, of course, your own favoured option, which is to separate them more fully - my problem there is that I don't see how it can be done, as to my mind they seem to be setting out to cover the same academic field. Do you have any suggestions before I begin? PiCo (talk) 06:36, 17 May 2009 (UTC)
Yeah I do. Cover higher criticism from a historical perspective dealing with the development of the field. This article is purely historic and is organized like a timeline of people, schools, controversies.... Organize the other one as a list of techniques. jbolden1517Talk 00:19, 18 May 2009 (UTC)
Sounds reasonable - so take the "history" section off the other one. You might like to look at it and see if there's anything you'd like to move here. PiCo (talk) 23:32, 18 May 2009 (UTC)

A confused stmt[edit]

I consider the following statement confused:

Higher criticism treats the Bible as a text created by human beings at a particular historical time and for various human motives, in contrast with the treatment of the Bible as the inerrant word of God.

Now, consider the vision of a God giving instructions to a believer speaking what that believer must know/do at that specific historical time in the symbology specific for that time, in order to make the believer achieve a certain effect in the plan of God, then the "human motive" for "higher criticism" precludes a historicist interpretation from being "higher criticism". I think it should suffice to say that "higher criticism" reinterprets bible contents according to a specific historical/cultural context, so that

Higher criticism treats the Bible as a text as a product by human beings at a particular historical time and for various human motives, which is usually contrasted[by whom?] with the treatment of the Bible as the inerrant word of God.

OK, "inerrant" actually seem to contradict "human interpretation", unless of course God, in some way, intended the human interpretation as a planned effects to be repeated by other adherents... ... said: Rursus (mbork³) 12:58, 18 December 2009 (UTC)

I'll effect this change now. To be reverted if and only if the coiner of the word "higher criticism" can be cited to say "human motives". I think the current clause is a fundamentalist-POVvy interpretation of higher criticism. ... said: Rursus (mbork³) 13:01, 18 December 2009 (UTC)

Proposal to redirect Ritual decalogue to Covenant code[edit]

Please see my proposal here and comment/vote. Thanks, Slrubenstein | Talk 15:45, 11 July 2010 (UTC)

Conclusions of Higher Criticism-New Testament[edit]

The exclusive reference to Bart Ehrman's work and scholastics on the New Testament section under "Conclusions of Higher Criticism" puts the neutrality of this portion of the article in great dispute, and paints a less than accurate picture. Mr. Ehrman's ideology is not in line with many New Testament scholar's, and the singular inclusion of his Table on each of the books of the New Testament, to the detriment of all other view points, represents a fundamental flaw in this section of the article. While one sentence does mention that he is "controversial", the Table presented hints toward an affirmative conclusion that his scholarly research is correct, or more accepted, among New Testament scholars, which is not the case. A footnote in the Table addressing the issue may be sufficient to qualify it. But a better way to handle this would be the inclusion of 2 or 3 other viewpoints that represent the mainstream view, as well as the conservative view, rather than just the liberal view. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jburg6 (talkcontribs) 18:10, 28 April 2011 (UTC)

We definitely need other voices in this section. Bart Ehrman is one of countless critical biblical scholars - he just happens to be a "pop" scholar who has found a market by taking on fundamentalists. The title of the section also gives the unfortunate impression that *all* higher criticism has concluded after 150+ years is when texts were written and who wrote them. I propose that if we need this section in this article it should be encompassed in a wider 'Conclusions of Higher Criticism' section with a subtitle 'Dating and Authorship'. (talk) 20:49, 25 May 2011 (UTC)

Page move proposal...again[edit]

Higher criticism is 18th-19th century termonology.1 It is now predominantly referred to as "historical criticism".2 I propose this page be redirected back to the Historical criticism page.

Higher criticism also has a bad name in the Jewish community and has been referred to as "Higher Anti-Semitism". 3


  1. Scott Hahn. Catholic Bible Dictionary. Random House Digital, 2009, Methods of Biblical criticism; ISBN 0385512295
  2. Soulen & Soulen. Handbook of biblical criticism, Edition 3, illustrated, revised, Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, p. 108, ISBN 0664223141
  3. Jǒn Douglas Levenson.The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and historical criticism: Jews and Christians in biblical studies, Westminster John Knox Press, 1993, ISBN 0664254071

Thanks, Jasonasosa (talk) 03:12, 27 September 2011 (UTC)

Section delete[edit]

I nominate to delete this section: Higher criticism#The influence of higher criticism. It is not properly referenced and makes a poor point of this critical method. Jasonasosa (talk) 03:29, 27 September 2011 (UTC)

New layout[edit]

I've added new content and modified some of the layout to be cleaner and more coherent. Thanks, Jasonasosa (talk) 06:00, 27 September 2011 (UTC)

Cleanup of Theological reception[edit]

I have marked the section titled "Theological reception" for cleanup. Prior to the first subsection, this section contains four paragraphs of mostly unsourced claims, most of which don't sound NPOV, and some of which I can't see how they are even relevant to historical criticism. Aardvark92 (talk) 17:04, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

I concur. This section needs a new layout. (revs up chainsaw) - Jasonasosa (talk) 02:27, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
Agreed. Does that mean ur gonna get after it Jasonasosasasa?P0PP4B34R732 (talk) 02:44, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
Yes... I'm working on it now! Just you wait! Jasonasosa (talk) 03:02, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
Whew. (Comes back and sets chainsaw down, wiping brow.) Jasonasosa (talk) 03:12, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
Wow! It looks a lot better. Thanks for your work! Aardvark92 (talk) 21:39, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
Thanks, it's good enough for now until I can dedicate some time to adding richer content... because I also would like to include the Jewish view on the controversy. I just have to gauge how I want to approach it, because it's real easy to slide from NPOV if you're not careful with the controversial nature of these subjects.Jasonasosa (talk) 03:03, 28 October 2011 (UTC)

Clarifications requested for a Dumb Bunny who knows nothing about this topic or its jargon.[edit]

I need to have several things clarified:

  • So, "historical criticism" = "higher criticism"? The article states so, but there's some light disagreement here in the Talk page discussions.
  • Historical criticism = evaluation of the original language origin, original meaning of the words used, original sources, how original sources have been treated over time, and how the text sections are formatted? Did I get it all? Does it have anything to do with evaluating the historical references within the text for their accuracy - times, people, places?
  • This article overwhelmingly mentions Christianity's Bible for historical criticism scrutiny. Which Bible, which edition? Does this evaluation include the many versions of the Bible as well as non-Biblical, no-longer-Biblical, and post-Biblical writings?
  • The following sentence states that other religious works are examined in this way: "Historical criticism has also been applied to other religious writings from Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, as well as the Qur'an." The reference in this sentence to the Qur'an can be removed since it has a section later on. But since the sentence mentions Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, too, why don't they have their own sections in the article, too?
  • Speaking of the section on the Qur'an, that reference-needed tag is dated from April 2010. How long do you need to take before uncited material is expunged? Expecting others to re-invent one's wheel by proofing one's statements, instead of doing it oneself, is a big burden. Only the authors of the words know what they had in their mind.
  • Is there no middle ground, no nuance, between the "usual" historical criticism and Radical criticism?

Thank you for your time, Wordreader (talk) 07:03, 10 March 2015 (UTC)

1) The so-called "higher criticism" was a movement which, unlike previous intellectual attempts to understand the Bible, did not take as its basic assumption the idea that the Bible was the divinely inspired word of God. (Such writing would most likely have gotten you killed at an earlier time.) Thus the phrase "higher criticism" is usually applied to writing from an earlier time rather than to current historical criticism.

2) Good question. I'll leave it to someone more expert than I.

3) By and large, the "canonical" books have attracted the most attention, with some discussion of the difference between the Roman canon and the Protestant canon, but the same methods have been used on many ancient texts purporting to be either divinely inspired or, in a few cases, written by Jesus Himself.

4) Sections on the writings of other religions would be of great interest. What little we have in Wikipedia is highly unsatisfactory. Such sections could only be written by experts in those areas. They probably aren't there because no experts have chosen to write them.

5) Anyone may delete unreferenced material. The "reference-needed" tag is a polite way of asking first, but certainly you may delete a sentence with a "reference-needed" tag going back to 2010.

6) There is always middle ground. Writers on any subject must walk the fine line between being exhaustive and being only exhausting.

Thank you for drawing attention to the fact that this entire article, and most of the articles on religion in Wikipedia, especially those about Islam, are badly in need of rewriting by somebody who knows what they are talking about.

Rick Norwood (talk) 12:40, 10 March 2015 (UTC)

Thank you for your reply, Rick Norwood. I appreciate your input as this is a fascinating subject that I wish I'd known about earlier on. I look forward to reading the comments of other posters.
I occasionally read religious texts (Christian, Buddhist, Hindu) on my own without any guidance or even any belief, but for the poetry and stories. I shall have to look for historical criticism on those that I've read and will read. Are there journals or text books where evaluations are published? Note that I am a "Wordreader", not necessarily a "Word-understander". =^)
"Writers on any subject must walk the fine line between being exhaustive and being only exhausting." HA! What a great quotable statement. May I, if the situation arises? How do you want me to cite it? Thank you again, Wordreader (talk) 01:13, 12 March 2015 (UTC)

Sure, you can quote me. And if you want to preface it by "Rick Norwood says," I won't object to that. I am sure there are journals of religious criticism (criticism in the sense of critique rather than the sense of criticize) but I don't know any. You could probably find some using Google Scholar. I tend to read books on the subject. Rick Norwood (talk) 11:23, 12 March 2015 (UTC)