Historical Criticism, HELP!

As a theology student I am constantly being subjected to the ideas of Historical Criticism! Everything is being taught from that perspective. Does anyone have good articles against the usage of this? I realize that some historical criticism is ok, but when do they cross the line? What are the limits of this? How can talk with a professor who absolutely loves historical criticism and thinks that there are no limits to it?

The line becomes very blurred when every class you have focuses on this?!?!?!

Help me I am drowning in this.

Try this:
ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ418.HTM#HIGHER%20CRITICISM%20OF%20HOLY%20SCRIPTURE

You might also find these interesting:
catholic.com/thisrock/1996/9609fea1.asp
catholic.com/thisrock/1996/9609fea1sb.asp
catholic.com/thisrock/1990/9003fea1.asp

Good luck. :thumbsup:

See Robert Sungenis, Fr. Raymond E. Brown and the Demise of Catholic Biblical Scholarship at

catholicintl.com/epologetics/FrRayBrown.asp

(I think).

Otherwise, see the thread on Biblical Criticism.

Why is that? Why can people like you and me see that Brown is a weasel, and so many people cannot?

Keep in mind that h.c. is like a lifeless planet. The journey there may seem interesting, but there’s nothing when you get there. H.C. just sucks the air out of the room. Nobody can say anything else once h.c. has been spoken.

Also, check whatever point you’re on against the Catechism of the Catholic Church. That should help you to maintain your sanity. Apparently the first edition of the modern catechism had something wrong in it about deacons acting “in persona Christi.” That was fixed, and there are no known errors in the Catechism.

On the EWTN website, download the 1993 document from the Pontifical Biblical Institute on the Interpretation of the bible. I think that IT goes too far, but it does list the problems with historical criticism.

At the Catholic Apologetics International website, maybe you can contact Sungenis and get some pointers.

You may be in a bind as far as your class goes.

[quote=flamingsword]As a theology student I am constantly being subjected to the ideas of Historical Criticism! Everything is being taught from that perspective. Does anyone have good articles against the usage of this? I realize that some historical criticism is ok, but when do they cross the line? What are the limits of this? How can talk with a professor who absolutely loves historical criticism and thinks that there are no limits to it?

The line becomes very blurred when every class you have focuses on this?!?!?!

Help me I am drowning in this.
[/quote]

I’m afraid this is a bit like complaining that there are far too many numbers in mathematics :slight_smile: - the historical method is the method which is adopted for the study of the Bible, and which has been, in the CC (leaving other Churches out, for the time being) for at least the last 60 years.

There’s nothing unusual in this - for other subjects are also studied historically.

I’m sorry this is troubling you - what exactly is the problem ?

What are the limits ? Ask your professor - or ask him to recommend a book which will answer your question.

If you can find a copy of Otto Eissfeldt’s Introduction to the Old Testament; read that. It’s a bit old - the English translation by Peter Ackroyd was published in 1965, IIRC - but very informative.

John Bright’s History of Israel is another book you might look at.

There is a very informative brief history of the critical study of the Old Testament at the end of this book

And go to your classes - that’s best way to learn :slight_smile:

Hope that helps ##

[quote=BayCityRickL]See Robert Sungenis, Fr. Raymond E. Brown and the Demise of Catholic Biblical Scholarship at

catholicintl.com/epologetics/FrRayBrown.asp

(I think).

Otherwise, see the thread on Biblical Criticism.

Why is that? Why can people like you and me see that Brown is a weasel, and so many people cannot?
[/quote]

Why do all these threads always focus on Father Brown ? Talking about him alone is as sensible as treating Thomas Jefferson as the only USA President who had ever done or said anything - as though neither of the Roosevelts, or Hoover, or Washington, or Jackson, or Polk, had ever done or said anything.

He is not the only scholar who ever drew breath: even if he was from the US. Presumably his good standing with two Popes is irrelevant. ##

Keep in mind that h.c. is like a lifeless planet. The journey there may seem interesting, but there’s nothing when you get there. H.C. just sucks the air out of the room. Nobody can say anything else once h.c. has been spoken.

That is certainly one opinion - it is however not the only one. I don’t understand why there is this distaste for historical criticism; and I certainly don’t understand the almost universal rejection of it on this forum. I can only say that my own experience of it has been vastly different.

Do those who find it so repellent know the names of any other scholars that Father Brown ? I think one is allowed to ask, because no one else ever seems to be mentioned. It’s as though this method - which is fully endorsed by the Popes, as it so happens: that’s just in case any one is under the impression that appeal to it is incompatible with being Catholic - had taken the place of Communism as the current Great Evil Which Is Hated By All Even Though (or because) They Have Only a Very Hazy Understanding Of It. IOW, it performs the social function of being the great bogey which is there purely to be loathed, even though, were they asked, few of its loathers could say why it was to be loathed. The scholars are fulfilling the social function formerly played by Negroes, anarchists, Catholics, foreigners, Freemasons, & Communists (among others). Whether many of those who got worked up about Communism actually knew much about it, is another question: it was there to be hated, not to be known about. So today with this group. ##

Also, check whatever point you’re on against the Catechism of the Catholic Church. That should help you to maintain your sanity. Apparently the first edition of the modern catechism had something wrong in it about deacons acting “in persona Christi.” That was fixed, and there are no known errors in the Catechism.

On the EWTN website, download the 1993 document from the Pontifical Biblical Institute on the Interpretation of the bible. I think that IT goes too far, but it does list the problems with historical criticism.

It also says that method is “indispensable” - it’s a wide-ranging document, which deserves to be read. It has little to say in praise of Fundamentalism, BTW - and a lot of the criticism of this method is made by Catholic Fundamentalists. The only weakness of the document is that it is a little cerebral.

The CCC won’t answer the questions asked, because it is not an introduction to the study of the Bible - it’s OK for doctrine, and so it should be; it is a doctrinal text. The questions being asked, are not doctrinal - and neither is the historical method. The HM is concerned not with the relation of the Biblical books to the beliefs about them of this or that Church: but with the contents of the texts themselves. So the HM implies nothing for the canonicity or inspiration of the books - those matters, are outside its scope; they belong to other kinds of theology. ##

At the Catholic Apologetics International website, maybe you can contact Sungenis and get some pointers.

You may be in a bind as far as your class goes.

[right]JMJ + OBT[/right]
Dear flamingsword,

One important thing to do is to develop within your mind the “big picture” of where Historical Criticism fits (both historically and logically) in the larger spectrum of methods and modes of Biblical interpretation within the Catholic Church. To that end, I highly recommend the following website:

A Catholic Guide to Biblical Interpretation
by Dr. John Gresham

Also, read any or all of the late Fr. William Most’s works, which are freely available on the Internet:

The MOST Theological Collection

Note well the columns on the browse-page which are labeled type and publication information. Fr. Most basically donated to the pre-cursor of CatholicCulture.org (which was called PetersNet) all of the theology and Scripture related notes, articles, essays, etc. he’d authored (and the rights to those documents), which were stored on his personal computer. He made the donation a few years prior to his death.

Those documents which are categorized as Article and Printed and such are rather polished works. But quite a few, e.g. those labeled Notes, are really pretty brisk and in a kind of “literary shorthand,” and that has to be kept in mind when reading them.

As they are relevant to your inquiry about the Historical Critical Method, I specifically reommend the following works by Fr. Most:

Free From All Error: Authorship, Inerrancy, Historicity of Scripture, Church Teaching, and Modern Scripture Scholars

Historicity of Gospels

Critique of the Documentary Theory

Crisis in Scripture Studies

Catholic Apologetics Today: Answers to Modern Critics

Outline of Christology

Scripture Full of Errors?

%between%

Commentary on the Gospels: The Thought of St. Matthew

The Thought of St. Paul

Commentary on Genesis

The Consciousness of Christ

I can also highly recommend the following on-line treatise:

The Gospels are Historical

Check out the Study Program for the Neo-Patristic Approach to Sacred Scripture, which has been put together by The Roman Theological Forum.

You now have enough reading material, in addition to your class assignments, to keep you busy for some time! May Our Lord bless you in your studies.

In the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

IC XC NIKA

[right]JMJ + OBT[/right]

By the way, as you are a seminarian, I am curious as to whether you have yet heard of or looked seriously into the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross.

Joining the Society (if you are called to do so) would be one great way to receive and provide invaluable spiritual (not to mention intellectual) support and encouragement in your future priestly ministry during this era of uncertainty and unfaithfulness.

In the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

IC XC NIKA

[quote=Gottle of Geer] I don’t understand why there is this distaste for historical criticism; and I certainly don’t understand the almost universal rejection of it on this forum. I can only say that my own experience of it has been vastly different.
[/quote]

I would never argue against the personal experience of anyone; you know best what works for you. In my experience, and that of most other Catholics I’ve spoken to personally about it, there is a distaste for historical criticism because, more often than not,* it seems to suck the life out of the Scriptures*. Because of it’s apparent anti-supernatural presumption or it’s oft employed “hermenuetic of suspicion,” many people walk away from it wondering why they should bother to read the Scriptures at all. Let me give you an example from the NAB:

Genesis 1:1-4
*When men began to multiply on earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of heaven saw how beautiful the daughters of man were, and so they took for their wives as many of them as they chose. Then the LORD said: “My spirit shall not remain in man forever, since he is but flesh. His days shall comprise one hundred and twenty years.” At that time the Nephilim appeared on earth (as well as later), after the sons of heaven had intercourse with the daughters of man, who bore them sons. They were the heroes of old, the men of renown. *

NAB Footnotes
[1-4] This is apparently a fragment of an old legend that had borrowed much from ancient mythology. The sacred author incorporates it here, not only in order to account for the prehistoric giants of Palestine, whom the Israelites called the Nephilim, but also to introduce the story of the flood with a moral orientation–the constantly increasing wickedness of mankind.

So the clear inference is that rather than sacred history that possibly really reflects reality, the events described are relegated to the status of ancient mythology–and borrowed mythology at that.

So what? If this is just regarded as ivory tower scholarly speculation or a drawing of parallels between other ancient texts, so be it. Scholars tend to write for each other, not the rest of us.

But what value does it have for the average Catholic reading the Bible for devotional reasons or as a way to draw practical applications to his or her life? In my experience, as I said, it leaves most people COLD. So what’s a poor Catholic who wants to delve into the Scriptures to do? Why, out of desperation, he’ll pick up a Protestant study Bible, or go to a Protestant Bible study group. Next thing you know he or she is out of the Church. Unfortunately, I’ve seen it more times than I care to relate.

Meanwhile, the h.c.scholars sit in their ivory towers writing 8-inch thick Bible commentaries for each other. Sad. :frowning:

Why? Because some people have not learned to read critically. They read a technical work as if it were written for a layman, fail to distinguish what is and isn’t said, and within what parameters.

It is the same reason that laymen read court decisions and totally miss what was actually said or not said. They have not learned to read critically.

[quote=Fidelis]I would never argue against the personal experience of anyone; you know best what works for you. In my experience, and that of most other Catholics I’ve spoken to personally about it, there is a distaste for historical criticism because, more often than not,* it seems to suck the life out of the Scriptures*. Because of it’s apparent anti-supernatural presumption or it’s oft employed “hermenuetic of suspicion,” many people walk away from it wondering why they should bother to read the Scriptures at all. Let me give you an example from the NAB:

So the clear inference is that rather than sacred history that possibly really reflects reality, the events described are relegated to the status of ancient mythology–and borrowed mythology at that.

So what? If this is just regarded as ivory tower scholarly speculation or a drawing of parallels between other ancient texts, so be it.
[/quote]

Except that it is not. Why, BTW, does this study have to be in the dock, and not - let us say - history or astronomy or biology or physics ? It’s as though people were prepared to use their grey matter on every subject except the Bible: they can handle redshifts, perihelions & parsecs - but they can’t, or won’t, try to understand the Primeval History, apocalyptic literature, or the Priestly source in Genesis. They can cope with aggiornamento - but not with Heilsgeschichte. Computers & nanotechnology are to be encouraged - but thinking about the Christology of St. Paul or the authenticity of the letter to the Ephesians, is not. Why is this ?

Does learning NT Greek “suck the life out of” the NT ? It illuminates it - so too with the HCM.

At a guess - and it is only a guess: people are so used to being spoon-fed their religion, & being told what to think about what subjects in religion, that they have lost the ability to use the brains God gave them - so far as religion at least is concerned. If this is at all true, it is desperately sad, and very unhealthy for the mission of the Church. ##

Scholars tend to write for each other, not the rest of us.

But what value does it have for the average Catholic reading the Bible for devotional reasons or as a way to draw practical applications to his or her life? In my experience, as I said, it leaves most people COLD. So what’s a poor Catholic who wants to delve into the Scriptures to do? Why, out of desperation, he’ll pick up a Protestant study Bible, or go to a Protestant Bible study group. Next thing you know he or she is out of the Church. Unfortunately, I’ve seen it more times than I care to relate.

Meanwhile, the h.c.scholars sit in their ivory towers writing 8-inch thick Bible commentaries for each other. Sad. :frowning:

It’s precisely because of all these misunderstandings of it and myths about it that it needs to be explained - but that will be impossible, if people cover their ears and cry “Away with it !” It didn’t arise for no good reason, as though people with nothing better to do invented it just for the hell of it.

As long as people make no attempt to understand it, Catholic students are going to agonise over it, other Catholics are going to think the Papacy has gone rotten because it allows it, others will be scandalised by notes in episcopally-approved Bibles (and by the episcopates concerned), & the Church will be progessively weakened or poisoned or divided, & needless suspicions will arise and fester.

Yet none of that is necessary. That is what is so exasperating - all this fuss and palaver could be avoided. But I doubt very much that it will be. What is so odd, is that a Church which emphasises tradition so much might be expected to have coped with the “Biblical question” with far less difficulty.

The very quality the HCM is said to lack - its ability to give a better understanding of the Biblical text - is the very thing that commends it. ##

[quote=otm]Why? Because some people have not learned to read critically. They read a technical work as if it were written for a layman, fail to distinguish what is and isn’t said, and within what parameters.

It is the same reason that laymen read court decisions and totally miss what was actually said or not said. They have not learned to read critically.
[/quote]

You take four sentences to say what takes me several paragraphs - nicely done :slight_smile:

Dear flamingsword, most professors do not want you to challenge their views, they have done years of research and often will dismiss “fundamentalist” sources as bias. The best advice one can give you is simply feed back to him on tests what he wants to hear.

I have found the footnotes in the net bible useful
netbible.org/netbible/index.htm

Norm Geisler has a series of books out worth using

When Cultists Ask: A Popular Handbook on Cultic Misinterpretations
When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties
When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook of Christian Evidence

Many of the popular problems that “liberals” come up with are addressed in this series.

Norm is not a catholic scholar.

The best research can be found on World Cat through your local public library, simply search for doctrinal thesis for the specific problem you want to address. :thumbsup:

oclc.org/resourcesharing/about/default.htm

[quote=otm]Why? Because some people have not learned to read critically.
[/quote]

Some of those people can be taught to do so and will benefit from that education. Others, although they can be taught, will find their faith shipwrecked because it was guided by the (understood) absoluteness of Scripture. Yet others cannot be taught such things, for they lack the motivation or even the intellectual capability.

I have a friend who is rather expert in Biblical study. He dreams of a church in which all of the congregants are textual critics. I suspect that this church is no more possible than one in which all of the congregants live without ever sinning.

The Historical Critical Method is considered the method to be used by male, western european theologians. And yes, it’s the “granddaddy” of all other methods of hermeneutical exegesis and it serves a great value. The Historical Critical Method allows for a re-examination of the text in context and Ray Brown is the authority. (I feel sorry for those who have made negative comments against such a wonderful man.)

I must draw your attention to the use of Social-Scientific Criticism, Narrative Critism, Rhetorical Criticism, and one of many Liberationist Interpretations. All methods listed rely heavily on the scholarship of HCM but in turn release their own theories and procedures. Take for instance social-scientific which draws heavily from the natural sciences. It’s conclusions will significanly differ from that of a mujerista interpretation (Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz) or GLBT interpretation even though those deal with anthropological and sociological issues.

Doug Knight came out with a fantastic, integrated approach to biblical interpretation in his Methods of Biblical Interpretation (Abingdon Press, January 1, 2005). Knight uses both Catholic and Protestant methods and the scholars are from Vandy, Garrett, Yale other established schools that specialize in scripture study. You can purchase the book on Amazon and I suggest you do if you plan on continuing with graduate course work in theology.

Beware!!! :bigyikes: Look for its agenda. One weakness of separating tradition out is that we try to peer backwards and figure out what was happening through the lens of today. Historical criticism can be good or bad. Watch out for the skeptical approach.

SCOTT HAHN ON THE POLITICIZED BIBLE

CONFESSION OF A HISTORICAL CRITIC

**From the US Bishops Site:
**

The New Catechism: An Overview


But the problem is not so much with the catechism’s approach to the Scriptures, but with a proper understanding of the Catholic way of interpreting Scripture itself. Far from the suggestion of “proof texting” made by some, I see the catechism’s use of Scripture entirely consistent with the use made of it by the church fathers and by its liturgy. The church uses Scripture as its own book, with a familiarity that lets her read it as God’s word from start to finish. The whole dogmatic and spiritual tradition of the church, while paying careful attention to the data of biblical exegesis and enlightened by the insights of modern historical-critical methods, probes the Scriptures under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to discern the true meaning of the whole of God’s revelation.

** The problem is illustrated in simple terms in the dichotomy proposed in recent biblical research between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. The false separation between historical and doctrinal interpretation of the Scriptures, which are written testimonies of faith, is fundamentally alien to the Catholic tradition. The catechism takes a firm stand for the church’s tradition in its approach to using the “fuller sense” of the Scriptures as God’s word, recognized as such by the gift of the Spirit in and to the church.
**

**more…
**

[/font]Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: On the Question of the Foundations and Approaches of Exegesis Today **[font=Arial]Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

**

[quote=Gottle of Geer]## Why do all these threads always focus on Father Brown ? . . .

It’s as though this method historical criticism ]- which is fully endorsed by the Popes, as it so happens

[/quote]

To one and all, historical criticism is not the be-all and end-all of biblical exegesis.

Go to the EWTN website and download Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1988 essay on “Biblical Interpretation in Crisis.” First, for the edification of some, there is no mention of Fr. Raymond Brown.

Second, read the link to Dave Armstrong’s website and the article on “Fr. Raymond E. Brown and the Demise of Catholic Biblical Interpretation.” Brown was a quite influential fellow, and he was on the Pontifical Biblical Commission for the last years of his life.

Ratzinger spells out the problems with historical criticism, and he focuses on the fact that as far as it has developed so far, it has approached the study of scripture with biases and a pre-existing philosophy. This has led to notable errors.

Ratzinger is an intellectual far above me and he goes on, best understood in his own words, to say that historical criticism needs a new philosophy, which will undoubtedly take an entire generation to rebuild it. And, in his view, historical criticism will take its place along side and not replacing the patristic understanding and traditional interpretations of the Bible.

A sampling of what you will see Ratzinger say is this:

"Modern exegesis, as we have seen, completely relegated God to the incomprehensible, the otherworldly and the inexpressible in order to be able to treat the biblical text itself as an entirely worldly reality according to natural-scientific methods. "

and

"Thus the exegete should not approach the text with a ready-made philosophy, nor in accordance with the dictates of a so-called modern or “scientific” worldview, which determines in advance what may or may not be.

and of Dibelius and Bultmann he says of their results

“Judgments which derive from such a point of view are certainly persuasive for people of today, since they fit nicely into their own patterns of expectations. There is, however, no evidence in reality to support them.”

Constructively Ratzinger says

"Certainly texts must first of all be traced back to their historical origins and interpreted in their proper historical context. But then, in a second exegetical operation, one must look at them also in light of the total movement of history and in light of history’s central event, Jesus Christ. Only the combination of both these methods will yield understanding of the Bible. "

And, in concluding, he says

“[exegesis ] It must come to acknowledge this faith as a hermeneutic, the space for understanding, which does not do dogmatic violence to the Bible, but precisely allows the solitary possibility for the Bible to be itself.”

In a more recent essay (in the EWTN library) on the ten-year anniversary of the CCC, Ratzinger makes extended remarks about historical criticism and related matters, in the context of the catechism. (Wading through this document, I lost the sense that he was talking about the CCC anymore. But, that was a quick read-through.)

I would be surprised if Pope Benedict did not get around to a major encyclical on this subject, God willing.

[quote=Mystophilus]Some of those people can be taught to do so and will benefit from that education. Others, although they can be taught, will find their faith shipwrecked because it was guided by the (understood) absoluteness of Scripture. Yet others cannot be taught such things, for they lack the motivation or even the intellectual capability.

I have a friend who is rather expert in Biblical study. He dreams of a church in which all of the congregants are textual critics. I suspect that this church is no more possible than one in which all of the congregants live without ever sinning.
[/quote]

Part of what I didn’t say, but I think you hit on, is the fact that much of what is written as HC is written in scholarly text; that is, it is either in a text book or published in a scholarly journal. That in itself should alert the unwary (and/or untrained) reader to approach with some element of caution.

I have read several of Raymond Brown’s works, and although my background is not in Theology (it is in law), I found them very interesting and enlightening. They did not shake my faith, but my faith, and my education related to my faith, had moved not only well beyond a grade school level (Baltimore Catechism, memorized line by line), but well beyond a high school level and certainly well into a college level. I also found that I had to read them several times, and with a lot of attention. They are not for a quick skim, or simple survey.

[quote=Gottle of Geer]## You take four sentences to say what takes me several paragraphs - nicely done :slight_smile: ##
[/quote]

thanks for the compliment, but you are doing quite fine.

I have waded in on this issue in other threads, and have had the time to condense my thought.

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