understand its nature as a body of human texts. Such an approach is offensive tomany believers.
looks to the historical method of dating a specific piece of writing, attempting to understand the background against which a book of theBible was written. Such knowledge is designed to deepen understanding, by, forexample, showing the significance of events described in the text and makinguse of archaeological discoveries.
considers the forms, structures and themes in Scripture,asking whether something should be understood as poetry or narrative etc. itfunctions in much the same way as any other type of literary criticism, looking atdevices such as symbol, tone and patterns of language. This often involvesconsiderable linguistic skill, looking at the original grammar and forms.
deals with the sources of scripture. ft asks what collections of writings a scribe might have used.
uses both historical and literary criticism, looking at the literaryforms used by the writers to determine the intention of the writers. They will payattention to how a particular text recurs throughout the Bible, perhaps recast inslightly different forms. Famous exponents include Hermann Gunkel (1862—1932) and Sigmund Moinkel (1 884—1965).
Criticism considers how different traditions are passed down throughthe centuries during which the Bible was written.
considers how a given part of the Bible reached its finalform — it considers in depth questions of how texts were edited.
— sometimes called
— concentrates onquestions of the meaning of original wording a scripture. Hebrew is an ambiguouslanguage, largely because of a lack of vowels in its written form, and we lackoriginal copies of the books of the Bible. Miscopying happens, and individualcommunities sometimes adapted passages to fit their own needs. The concern of the textual critic is to recover as closely as may be the original text. These different forms of criticism led to attempts to discover what the Christ of history might really have been like: this was the effort of Albert Schweitzer (1875—1965) in
The Quest of the Historical Jesus
(1906), in which, based on the synopticGospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke, called
because they are assumed to bebased on a common collection of sources, mainly recalled sayings of Jesus, usuallyknown as
— which, in German, means ‘source’ or ‘spring’), he arguedthat Jesus came only gradually during a short ministry of less than a year torecognize himself as Messiah. To save his followers from the evils of the last days,he permitted himself to suffer the Passion. This view remains controversial.We saw, in our consideration of myth, how Rudolf Bultmann developed BiblicalCriticism in demythologizing the Bible. His pupil, Fritz Bun, has gone even further.Where Bultmann argued that we need to strip away the layers of myth to reach the
the true message of Jesus, Bun has argued for dekerygmatizing thescriptures. This, critics argued would leave us with no more than that Jesus livedand died. Indeed, for Bun, there was little specifically Christian in religious faith.Such approaches led some to a denial of Biblical scholarship. Most significant wasthe rise of Fundamentalism, a twentieth-century development which can be seen asa denial not only of new scholarly methods but also of the challenge to faith posedby modern science. The new Fundamentalism insisted on the literalness andinerrancy of the Bible in ways not previously encountered in scholarship. The term‘Fundamentalist’ came first from the Niagara Bible Conference (1878—97) whichdefined certain notions as ‘fundamental to faith’. A set of 12 books published in1910 by Milton and Lyman Steward was known as ‘The Fundamentals’, and the1910
General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church,
an American body, declared