Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism
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Evangelical faith and the challenge of historical criticism | MARANATHA UNIVERSITY COLLEGE
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This book is neither a full embrace of critical scholarship in fact, often, the authors do a fair job of masking their own views nor an apologetical attack of critical scholarship in defense of how evangelicals have traditionally understood various doctrines the major exception in this volume is the resurrection of Jesus. This is not a book about inerrancy. Rather, the writers of this book assume that historical criticism has something to offer readers of the Bible, period: even confessional, Christian readers, no matter what word is used to explain their views.
Hays discusses how evangelicals have reacted to historical criticism over the years, including splitting from mainline seminaries or secular universities to form their own more conservative institutions.
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Now, ironically, many who are graduating from these schools sense the need to engage historical criticism, sometimes embracing the findings of scholarship. There are theological implications to this shift. Does engagement with historical critical scholarship lead to heresy, or at least heterodoxy? Maybe, but it may be as equally possible that the evangelical doctrine of Scripture has defended a bibliology that is unnecessary, so that some evangelicals who should be able to comfortably address historical critical scholarship flinch from doing so not because it would be a disservice to the Bible itself, but because it would be viewed with scorn by fellow evangelicals.
Even as scholarship recognizes other hermeneutical approaches e. Rather, it introduces a new set of problems. Evangelicals are asked in this chapter to avoid fight and flight. Instead, evangelicals ought to participate, honestly, asking ourselves what historical critical studies has to offer us. Hays provides some history regarding the relationship between evangelicalism and historical critical scholarship. Then he seeks to define evangelicalism following Timothy Larsen so that his presuppositions regarding the identity of the movement are easily understood.
This is followed by the outlining of the procedure used by the contributors as well as a summary of the forthcoming content. The chapter begins with a summary of scholarship on the Pentateuch e.
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The authors briefly compare and contrast Genesis with other Ancient Near Eastern ANE stories of origins, asking how shared mythology and the compositional nature of the Pentateuch may impact our understanding of important doctrines. Hamartiology functions as the case study as the authors asks whether our new understanding of Genesis—if critical scholarship is embraced—significantly alters our understanding of sin and therefore, soteriology.
Finally, the authors engage in the exercise of historical theology. Chapter 3 The exodus: fact, fiction, or both? Ansberry is dedicated to the exploration of the role of the exodus in Christian doctrine and whether it can withstand historical criticism. It is in engagement with these two paradigms that he examines the evidence or lack thereof for the exodus. Nonetheless, we must recognize that direct historical evidence for the exodus does not exist and that the precise historical minutiae of the event will likely not materialize in our lifetime. Chapter 4 No covenant before the exile?
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The authors summarize the scholarship that has been done on Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic authors. This includes the arguments for a pre-exilic creation during the reforms of Hezekiah or Josiah and that for an exilic or post-exilic creation. Then the authors explore the compositional history of the document. The important question is how these insights impact our theological understanding of Deuteronomy.
The second half of this chapter may be the most helpful in the book. The authors discuss authorship and the nature of authorship in the ancient world juxtaposing it with how we moderns understand authors. There is a difference between Moses as author and a Mosaic tradition. Much of what is said in this chapter is quite relevant for discussions regarding the voice of the historical Jesus and the voice of Jesus as relayed by the Evangelists in the Gospels.
This chapter ends with a provocative and exciting series of proposals regarding the role of Moses, later authors, and the Holy Spirit in creating an authoritative document. They propose that the goal of prophecy is not merely prediction and exact fulfillment. Jonah knows this, which is why he tries to flee from God. This is not the end of the discussion though. The best example is Daniel , which is presented as predictive, but which most scholars understand to be retrospective.
This model is then used in comparison with 2 Peter to ask if the canonical message shows us that prophecy is contingent upon human response, i.
Chapter 6 Pseudepigraphy and canon by Ansberry, Casey A. Strine, Edward W. Klink III, and David Lincicum, addresses whether or not pseudepigraphy is acceptable for a canonized, authoritative document. There is more discussion of the Pentateuch and the Moses tradition, but in addition the authors explore the Book of Isaiah Isaiah, Second Isaiah, Third Isaiah and whether one can honor and stand within the prophetic tradition by expanding and continuing the writing of their document Moses and Isaiah.
This study has implications for how New Testament authors quote and reshape Old Testamant texts. Similarly, the authors examine how the anonymous Gospel of John should be understood when we consider the history of authorial identity related to this document apostle John?
John the elder? Of course, it is one thing to expand the authorial tradition of someone like Moses or Isaiah and something else to write in the name of Paul or Peter, when the author s is not Paul or Peter, not expanding something written by Paul or Peter which may or may not be true of the epistles of Paul and Peter with questionable authenticity.
The Pastoral Epistles are evaluated through these prisms allowing the reader to think through the implications. The reader is introduced to the robust conversations that have taken place during the First, Second, and Third Quest for the Historical Jesus. Did Jesus think of himself as Messiah? Did Jesus understand himself to be divine?
The authors present us with the various positions that have been taken on this matter over the years. One area where the authors of this chapter find little wiggle-room for an alternative understanding of tradition is the resurrection, which is presented as the central doctrine of Christianity. Kuecker and Kelly D. Kuecker and Liebengood choose three scholars who have different views on this matter: Phillip Vielhauer, Peter Borgen, and Brevard Childs.
Borgen presents the two as far more complimentary. Childs addresses this topic from a completely different angle: the canonical critical approach, i. In the final chapter, Chapter 9 Faithful criticism and a critical faith Ansberry and Hays make a final pitch for a robust evangelical engagement with historical critical study of the Bible. The authors remind us that historical criticism is not going to disappear, so it must be engaged. Likewise, it is not evil, but a tool that can be used to the benefit of the church. Far too many have been taught to understand the Bible in modern terms removed by millennia from the ancient cultures that composed the sacred texts.
In this way, Christian doctrine has been pitted against science, archaeology and ancient history. Sure, atheistic critical scholarship is dangerous, but so is benighted pietism. Each chapter includes a list of several books recommending further reading on the topic addressed. The end of the book includes an extensive bibliography.
Finally, there is an index of ancient texts.