The Bible and Its Critics

Dr. John Brogan is the Director of the Master of Divinity and Master of Arts Programs at Western Theological Seminary in Michigan. Brogan has a doctorate in New Testament and Christian Origins from Duke University, a Master of Divinity degree from Bethel Theological Seminary (St. Paul, Minnesota), and a Master of Arts in Modern Middle Eastern and North African Studies from the University of Michigan. He is a published author and has made numerous scholarly presentations in the field of New Testament textual criticism.

Textual Critics have recently been examining the question as to what we mean by recovering ‘the original text’ or whether there is even such a thing as a single autograph and whether it is recoverable…

– John J. Brogan, Evangelicals and Scripture

A “Scholarly” Attack

Not only do we not have the originals, we don’t have the first copies of the originals. We don’t even have copies of the copies of the originals, or copies of the copies of the copies of the originals. What we have are copies made later—much later. In most instances, they are copies made many centuries later. And these copies all differ from one another, in many thousands of places… these copies differ from one another in so many places that we don’t even know how many differences there are. Possibly it is easiest to put it in comparative terms: there are more differences among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.

Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus

Bart Ehrman is an American scholar focusing on textual criticism of the New Testament, the historical Jesus, and the development of early Christianity. He has written and edited 30 books, including 3 college textbooks and 6 New York Times bestsellers. He is currently the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He claims there are something like 400,000 errors in the New Testament alone…amazing…and of course, wrong! This is fairly amazing when you think that there are only 260 chapters, 7,959 verses and roughly 184,600 words in the whole New Testament. Ehrman’s attack is nothing new.

History of Theories – Radical Criticism

Higher criticism, historical criticism, or radical criticism entails with it the idea that “every writing in the OT and NT emerged from a particular social, political, and cultural environment over the course of many centuries”…the books of the Bible were not authored by and large by the attributed writers”…this is the erroneous notion that grabbed hold in Western Europe. Incidentally, there is no doubt that radical criticism began to gain popularity in the Roman Catholic Church because they saw it as a way to attack the Reformation which was seen as a get back to Scripture movement. But it is not the French, but German theologians who give rise to the departure… How did the land of the Reformation become the land of National Socialism?

Richard Simon (1678 – 1712), a French Roman Catholic priest, put forth the idea that there was an uncertainty about Scripture, which undermined Protestant dependence upon it.

Karl Graf (1815 – 1869), a German Old Testament scholar,  believed the Pentateuch (first 5 Books of Bible) was compiled from different sources and reached its final form after the time of the great prophets.

Jules Wellhausen (1844 – 1918), another German Old Testament scholar, gave rise to Documentary Hypothesis (J-E-D-P)

Documentary Hypothesis

“J”ehovahists or “Y”awhists: Espoused that portion of the Torah emphasizing the name “Yahweh” largely were compiled during Solomon’s reign (900’s BC)

E”lohimists: Claims that portion of Torah emphasizing the name “Elohim” was compiled in 8th Century BC in Northern Kingdom of Israel

D”euteronomists: Puts forth that Deuteronomy was compiled by prophets during the reign of Josiah (620’s BC)  with emphasis on ethics and morality

“P”riestly: Post exilic insertions reflecting rigid priestly influence

Documentary Hypothesis Conclusions

Instead of viewing Genesis 2 as providing a little more detail about what took place in chapter 1, liberal scholars jumped to the erroneous conclusion that chapter 2 has man created first, while chapter 1 has the animals created first. Their conclusion instead is to jump to the preposterous notion that Jewish scribes compiled chapter 2 and inserted it within the Torah many centuries after the initial chapter was written by earlier scribes. Mind you, there is not a shred of evidence for this.

J”ehovahists or “Y”awhists Version of Creation (Genesis 1):

“And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image…” – Genesis 1:25-26

E”lohimists Version of Creation (Genesis 2):

“Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them.” – Genesis 2:19

Development of Radical Criticism

Radical Criticism begins with a presupposition that the supernatural is not possible and are predisposed against the miraculous and the prophetic.

Wellhausen also taught that Daniel must be a 2nd Century BC composition due to the accuracy of the prophecies of Daniel 11 particularly as it relates to Antiochus Epiphanes. He claimed that Isaiah had to have been compiled by two separate authors, if not three.

Hermann Gunkel (1862 – 1932) developed “Form Criticism” which espoused the idea that folk-behavior (and oral tradition) largely explained the passing on of the text that eventually came to be written down as the Old Testament. (Think: Game of Telephone)

Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792 – 1860), was a German Protestant theologian and founder and leader of the Tübingen School of Theology. Following Hegel’s theory of dialectic, Baur argued that the New Testament was largely a 2nd Century composition – representing the synthesis of two opposing theses: Jewish Christianity and Gentile Christianity.

David Friedrich Strauss (1808 – 1874) was a student of Baur’s and introduced the idea of myth in Scripture in his Life of Jesus Critically Examined.  In short, he taught that there is no way to really know what happened during Christ’s life (the miracles are exaggerations over time and the sayings of Christ can not truly be known). He denied Christ’s deity entirely.

Albert Schweitzer (1906), wrote The Quest for the Historical Jesus, in which he interpreted the life of Jesus in the light of Jesus’ own eschatological convictions. He argued that, of all the sayings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels, the ones that are most certainly His are the ones that give the impression the end of the world is at hand. Schweitzer concluded that Jesus believed in the imminent end of the world, that he was wrong, and therefore not infallible or divine..

Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976) was the son of a Lutheran pastor, and he became professor of New Testament at the University of Marburg (Germany). Bultmann is best known for the concept of “demythologizing” the New Testament.

Bultmann taught the New Testament was a product of a 1st Century worldview, which readily accepted stories of divine intervention he called “myth.” He taught to get at the true meaning of the text, the New Testament must be “demythologized”—that is, the miraculous elements must be stripped away. For Bultmann, the importance is that, in Christ, God has done some good for humanity. In Christ God did something, but it is not so important to nail down exactly what He did or said.

The Jesus Seminar (1985) voted on which verses in the New Testament were original and concluded that only 18% was.

The Jesus Seminar was a group of about 50 critical Biblical scholars and 100 laymen founded in 1985 by Robert Funk that originated under the auspices of the Westar Institute. Ironically, this group concluded the exact opposite of Schweitzer and believed that the apocalyptic statements of the Lord were the least likely to be authentic. This soon gave rise to the idea that things like the Gospel of Thomas had as much credibility as the Gospel of John…it wasn’t too long afterwards that things like the Da Vinci code were coming out…even though the author never claims any of the notions are based in reality.

There is absolutely NO evidence for any of these assertions!