On “historical-critical” readings of Scripture

Currently enjoying the course “Jews and Christians Reading the Bible” at ACU. However, a simple thought after today’s experience:

1) Always apply an attitude of critical questioning to any “historical-critical” reading of Scripture;

2) Always remember that every “historical-critical” reading of Scripture has an historical context all of its own.

IOW, the name says it all: when “historical criticism” questions the text, apply “historical criticism” to the reading.

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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11 Responses to On “historical-critical” readings of Scripture

  1. Peregrinus says:

    Ah. But should we not also apply historical criticism to your injunction to apply historical criticism to historical-critical readings of the scriptures?

  2. PM says:

    We could usefully apply to historical criticism a witticism by the historian AJP Taylor. Asked about the place of Marxism in historical method, he said it was like alcohol: an essential ingredient of any good drink but poison if taken neat.

    That much greater British historian, RW Southern, gave a wonderful presidential address to the British Academy in which he contrasted Marx, Newman and the C19 French historian Ernest Renan. Marx and Newman were vitally concerned with questions of history – who else but Newman has become a Catholic because he thought he would otherwise be a monophysite in the mirror of history? – but in different ways they transcended them in the pursuit of something bigger. Renan, on the other hand, made historical method an end in itself and published a rationalist ‘Vie de Jesus’ after he lost his faith, but no one other than a specialist historian will even have heard of him these days.

  3. Confessional Lutherans, you’ll be glad to know, David, have been in the forefront of opposing the historical-critical method and proposing alternatives to it. A starting point for this project can be found in Gerhard Maier’s “Das Ende der historisch-kritischen Methode” (c. 1977) and his later “Biblische Hermeneutik” (c. 1992). Both have been translated into English. Maier’s fundamental thesis is that the historical-critical method is not adequate to its subject, in that it a priori excludes the supernatural. Its foundations are thus sceptical and atheistic. Maier concluded his career as the Landesbischof of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Wuerttemberg, Germany.

    • Schütz says:

      Oh, I am not opposed to the Historical Critical methods by any means – as, I hope, should be obvious from previous posts. One should, however, always remember what kind of beast they are. What occasioned this comment was a tutorial in which Gundry’s thesis about Matthew being “midrash” was taken for granted despite the fact that our Jewish lecturer had expressed some doubt about identifying the Gospel with this lierary genre.

    • Antonia Romanesca says:

      Moltmann became an Evangelical Lutheran, didn’t he? Can you say anything about how the Evangelical Lutherans came to be formed, in Germany?

  4. Ah. What a pity in regard to your attitude to H-C, David.
    Anyway, “they” really should have been more circumspect…Gundry’s thesis is highly tendentious.

    • Schütz says:

      Today in class a “clarification” was issued to the effect that the tutor did not intend to suggest that “Matthew was a midrash of Mark” but that Matthew was using “Midrash-like” methods. More on that when I have a keyboard rather than my iphone!

      • Antonia Romanesca says:

        I would have thought that was ok as a view…that ‘Midrosh’ is a dwelling upon, a discussion, which hopefully leads to explications…

  5. Alex Caughey says:

    I believe that Holy Scripture speaks for itself when we make the effort to demote our ego, and permit The Spirit of Truth to speak to us directly enabling us to grasp the lessons we need to learn to better know the truth, thereby liberating us from our self bestowed belief that our academic methodology is the key to deciphering wisdom flowing through Holy Scripture.

    To believe otherwise, is to question why there are tens of thousands of different, and differing Christian communities claiming absolute ownership of the keys, to The Kingdom when categorically stating that their interpretation of scripture is the truth, therefore unassailable.

    Wisdom is radiant and unfading,
    and she is easily discerned by those who love her,
    and is found by those who seek her.
    She hastens to make herself known
    to those who desire her.
    One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty,
    for she will be found sitting at the gate.
    To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding,
    and one who is vigilant on her account
    will soon be free from care,
    because she goes about seeking those worthy of her,
    and she graciously appears to them in their paths,
    and meets them in every thought.
    ~Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16

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