Higher Criticism — How High Do You Have to Be?
Vol: 124 Issue: 31 Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Historical criticism, also known by the more grandiose-sounding “higher criticism” is a branch of Biblical criticism that purports to investigate the origins of the ancient text in an effort to understand the world and worldview behind the text.
As it is applied to the Bible, however, “higher criticism” begins with the presumption that the Bible is wrong, and then focuses its effort on proving that presumption. They approach the Bible as being guilty of error until proven innocent.
Higher criticism works like this. When the Bible makes an assertion, such as the creation story, its critics seek some other contemporaneous documents or other evidence that tend to dispute the Bible’s position.
If none is found, then the Bible account is generally considered to be “undisputed” rather than true. If another contemporary account differs from the Bible, then the Biblical account is, by definition, disputed.
“Disputed” doesn’t mean “disproved.” It means “not agreed upon; argued.” An undisputed passage simply means nobody has found a way to question it yet.
While “higher criticism” can be applied to any ancient text, its default meaning is always related to the Bible. When it comes to the Bible, any dispute — historical, philosophical or interpretative — is sufficient to call a passage into question.
Given the importance of the Scriptures, this makes perfect sense. The Bible claims to be 100% accurate on all things, past, present and future, 100% of the time. If any one thing contained in the body of Scripture could be conclusively proved untrue, then the entire testimony of the Bible is called into question.
If Eve didn’t eat of the tree, if Noah didn’t build an ark, if Jonah wasn’t swallowed by a “big fish”, if Moses didn’t receive the tablets, then how can we know that the part that says, “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never die” is any more reliable?
Bible critics love to point to the story of Creation as absolute evidence the Bible is untrue. First, they say, if God created the universe in six days, then how is it that the light now reaching us from Alpha Centauri originated millions of years ago?
It’s a trick question. Their alternative explanation is the Big Bang. How far apart were those stars five nanoseconds after the Big Bang, when science says the universe was compacted into an area the size of an orange?
Science says the universe expanded over millions of years, but time functions within the universe, not outside of it. Space and time are inseparable; if space was compacted, time would be also. God wasn’t inside the universe when He created it.
Science knows that the universe is expanding, but we can only reckon time from the inside — if one were standing outside of the universe, how many days did it take for the universe to expand, as viewed from that perspective?
God says six. Science has no way of proving or disproving, since it is impossible to calculate. If it is impossible to calculate, how can anyone know? Answer? They don’t. They are guessing. There is but one authoritative explanation, because there is only one source that claims absolute knowledge.
That source is the Bible. Critics slam it as unreliable, until they are challenged to disprove (not dispute) a single substantive fact.
The Book of Job is believed to be the oldest book, chronologically speaking, written before Moses wrote the first five Books dealing with Creation and the Law.
Job lived sometime before Moses, somewhere in the Middle East. Yet Job records;
“He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing (Job 26:7)
Who told Job that? Especially since it wasn’t until 1981 that astronomers discovered a huge, unexplained ‘hole’ in space in the direction of the northern hemisphere?
Before the time of Moses, Job explained the earth’s hydrological cycle, writing;
“For He draws up drops of water, which distill as rain from the mist, which the clouds drop down and pour abundantly on man.”(Job 36:27-28)
How did Job know?
The complex nature of how water is supported in clouds despite being heavier than air is clearly implied when God demanded of Job,
“Do you know how the clouds are balanced, those wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge.” (Job 37:16).
“Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades, Or loose the belt of Orion?” (Job 38:31).
In the last century astrophysicists have discovered that the stars of Pleiades move in unison with each other, and are thus gravitationally bound, exactly as Job describes.
What else did Job know?
“For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:25-27)
Note the italicized sections. Job was not a Jew. Neither was he a Christian. Job was born before Abraham and was probably still alive during Abraham’s lifetime. Before the birth of Joseph. Before the captivity in Egypt. Before the Exodus. Before the Ten Commandments.
But Job knew his Redeemer was alive at that moment. Job knew He would stand upon the earth in “latter days.” Job knew of the resurrection and knew his own eyes would behold the Messiah – almost a thousand years before Moses penned the first five Books of the Bible.
Here’s a trick question for the skeptics. Who told Job?
The Bible is the #1 best-seller in history. It has been translated into 2,123 languages and dialects. Nine out of every ten Americans own a Bible.
There are plenty of folks who claim they’ve found mistakes in the Bible, but the simple fact is this. If somebody actually found a verifiable, provable error contained in Scripture, they have yet to demonstrate it.
Christians are used to seeing the world twist and pervert the Bible, deny its Authorship, question its teachings and condemn it as ‘hate literature.’ There are entire collegiate-level curriculums exclusively devoted to Biblical criticism.
Ever notice that other religious books, like the Hindu Upanishads, the writings of Buddha or Zoroaster, and, most particularly, the Koran, are never subjected to a scholarly analysis of their historical or textual accuracy?
Of course, I can’t say “never” since I’ve not read every book ever written. How many organizations devoted to disproving Zoroastrianism or Islam are you aware of? Why not?
The Angel Gabriel is said to have told Muhammad: “This book is not to be questioned.” That is an article of faith among Muslims — subjecting the Koran to the same kind of textual criticism given the Bible would be suicide for a Muslim.
Questioning the Koran isn’t a popular enterprise among non-Muslims, either. It’s a great way to wake up one morning to discover you are dead.
The Arab scholar, Suliman Bashear, argued that Islam developed over time as a religion rather than emerging suddenly. (His students in the University of Nablus threw him out the window).
Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” resulted in a fatwa because it was thought to mock Muhammad. Islamic scholar Naguib Mahfouz was stabbed because his works were said to be ‘irreligious.’
One scholar of Semitic languages, writing under the pseudonym Christopher Luxenberg, published a criticism of the Koran in which he claims the text is both mistranslated and misread.
His work involving the analysis of the earliest copies of the Koran led him to the conclusion that parts of the Koran came from pre-existing Aramaic texts. These, he says, were misinterpreted by later Islamic scholars who composed the Koran as it is circulated today.
The classic example of this relates to the virgins supposedly awaiting loyal Muslim martyrs. Rather than ‘virgins,’ Luxenberg observes that in the original text, the Koran actually promises “white raisins” of crystal clarity.
This, one would think, would be a verse carefully scrutinized by Islamists. Especially those planning to blow themselves up in jihad. Who would want to commit suicide in exchange for a box of transparent raisins?
Those Semitic scholars who dare to voice an opinion are unanimous in their contention that there is no historical evidence of the existence of the Koran prior to 691 AD, about sixty years after Mohammed’s death.
Much of what is known of Muhammad is based on texts that were written 300 years after his death. But nobody in the West is particularly interested in disputing the Koran. Granted, there is the whole “call us intolerant and we’ll kill you” dynamic, but then why just pick on the Bible?
The four largest religions in the world in order are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Although Christianity is the largest, (2 billion) Islam is a close second, (1.65 billion) and Hinduism is a close third (1 billion).
One could fill a library with all the books written aimed at disputing the Bible. The books disputing the three other major world religions would barely fill a single shelf. Have you ever asked yourself why?
Christianity welcomes, even invites textual criticism of the Scriptures. Each effort merely serves to confirm the Bible’s Divine Authorship. And, logically speaking, who would want to trust their eternity to a God Who might not be real?
(If the Bible wasn’t true, I know that I’d want to know about it).
But examining the Koran for accuracy and textual consistency is not just unpopular, it is dangerous to the point of being deadly. Islamists don’t merely discourage any scholarly investigation of the Koran. They fear it.
There is no real reason to criticize Hinduism — with three hundred and thirty million different gods, where would one begin?
The Buddha allegedly lived at a time when writing was largely unknown, and so everything about the Buddha was written hundreds of years after the fact. Where are all the critics of Buddha?
So why does the Bible attract so much more criticism? There is only one logical reason. If the Bible wasn’t a true record, then the battle would not be so fierce. The debate would not be so divisive.
There are no headline-making polls about the existence of Buddha. And nobody would dare question the existence of Allah or the veracity of the Buddha. Why not?
Because they are no threat to the prince and the power of the air. Jesus Christ Himself explained the principle:
“But He, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand?” (Luke 11:17-18)
It is often said that you can tell more about a person by taking the measure of his enemies than you can by looking at his friends.
If the Bible isn’t true, then there is no Satan. If the Bible is true, then it stands to reason that the only sacred writings Satan would inspire attacks against would be the ones that point to the real God of salvation.
He certainly wouldn’t attack the religions and scriptures that serve him. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? He isn’t. Because it couldn’t. But it does.