How Heterodoxy Becomes Orthodoxy Through Psychological Operations
(i.e., How Heresy Infiltrates God’s People)
By F. David Farnell, PhD
Senior Professor of New Testament
The Master’s Seminary
Note: This is Part I of a new series titled “The ‘Magic’ of Historical Criticism in Biblical Criticism.”
In its essential nature, historical criticism is a psychological operation that is conducted on the mind to control thinking and/or behavior. Psychological operation may be defined as planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences in order to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of groups, and individuals. Its aim is to control people’s thinking in a desired way for a desired outcome. Integral to perception management, psychological operations are designed to induce or reinforce attitudes and behavior favorable to the originator’s objectives.
The British were one of the first major military powers to use psychological warfare in both World Wars in a very scientific manner through , although many of the principles used go back to ancient times. The British Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) may be considered the most prominent of such endeavors.1 Indeed, this institute may be considered the leading center for manipulating belief and behavior. They have perfected the science of manipulating minds.
Psychological Operations Confuse Meaning
A central concept of any psychological operation is to use accepted terms but to change their meaning to one that is desired by someone conducting the operation. The essence of a psychological operation is to confuse meaning of words and infiltrate the mind with conflicting concepts to change one’s thinking toward a desired goal of those who are conducting the operation. It uses misleading language to manipulate any person to produce in them a desired outcome. Each word claims to be something that in reality it is not or at least not to be understood in its original, tradition sense. It creates confusion in the person regarding the original intent of the term so as to establish a desired, changed definition or understanding.
A prominent example of this change in definitions is found in the book 1984, written in 1949 by famed British writer George Orwell (whose real name was Eric Arthur Blair). The writer warned of the manipulation of words and their meanings as an important key to controlling what people think about someone or something. He called “newspeak” defined by Merriam-Webster as a noun, often capitalized, for propagandistic language marked by euphemism, circumlocution, and the inversion of customary meanings. Newspeak was a language “designed to diminish the range of thought,” in the novel 1984. Words were imbued with meaning in “Newspeak” that were totally emptied of their original meaning to serve the purposes of those in control. Also employed is “doublethink,” another term that Orwell popularized through his work, although he did not use the terms. “Doublethink” used terms that could be used in conflicting ways so language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words from its normative, original sense. Its goal is to confuse the meaning of words for a desired outcome.2
Neither “historical” nor “critical”
Why bring up such a subject? Because one can only truly understand the nature of historical criticism by viewing it in this manner. At its heart, historical criticism is neither “historical” nor “critical” in the traditional sense of the term. It may be viewed like the popular commercial cereal “Grape Nuts.” The product is neither grapes nor nuts. It is plant based instead. In a way, the term is Doublespeak and Newspeak. So also is the term “historical criticism.” It does not genuinely believe Biblical revelation contains history in the sense of what actually happened in a time-space continuum. Instead, historical criticism is post-modernistic that asserts all history is by nature a subjective interpretation of surviving traces of events. Hence, Scripture does not convey what actually happened. Even when the Bible presents itself in its plain, normal sense as conveying historical information, historical criticism a priori rejects its history outright. It is already biased against history in any tradition sense of the term. So it is not “historical” in the normal understanding of the term “history” or “what happened in the past.”
Moreover, it is not criticism, for “criticism,” in its traditional, normative sense, refers to applying criteria to any of various methods of studying texts or documents for the purpose of dating or reconstructing them, evaluating their authenticity, analyzing their content or style. In other words, criticism to be truly “criticism” seeks an objective outcome of true understanding of any literature. Historical criticism does not seek an objective, authentic (i.e., true to the text) outcome of the biblical writings. The goal of its criticism is to change the plain, normal sense of the text to an already predetermined outcome that is acceptable to the critic’s whims and/or desires. What is “acceptable” to him or her, rather than evaluating any text for what it truly is. The historical-critic’s goal to interpret the biblical text according to the current fads of the time. Traditional meaning or understanding is not its goal. The goal is conformity of the text to the subjective “sensibility” of the critic.
Historical criticism can remove anything
Herein lies the “magic” of historical criticism. When the text of Scripture offends current sensibilities or perceptions–“fads” and “popular ideas” of the critic’s day–the biblical critic can apply historical criticism in any way desired to the text to guarantee the interpretive outcome. For instance, Genesis 1-3 presents itself as historic events in a time-space continuum as recording the creation of the universe as well as the earth. Yet, modern historical-critics, having been conditioned by current scientism override the plain, normal sense of Scripture and dismiss the account as either non-historical, figurative, or false. Such an action is hardly objective or seeking to understand the literature as the original author expressed in the text. Another instance would be found in Matthew 23 wherein Jesus excoriated the Pharisees of his day in what is now considered “politically incorrect” and shocking terms. In light of holocaustic hermeneutics (e.g., the post-World War II prevalent thinking of the day) even evangelical critics are dismissive of this chapter as being historically inaccurate. Jesus’ words are dismissed as not being spoken by him since one might be accused of being “anti-semitic” if the chapter is considered to be genuine. Instead, the cause of these tensions between Jesus and the Pharisees is attributed to an alleged conflict between Matthew’s assumed community and the Jews of Matthew’s day in the synagogue. Indeed, Westerholm attributes these sayings in the following terms: “The Gospels’ depiction of Pharisees reflect both memories from the career of Jesus and subsequent development in the Christian communities.”3 Donald Hagner similarly writes,
“It is a tragedy that from this ch. in Matthew [ch. 23] that the word ‘Pharisee’ has come to mean popularly a self-righteous, hypocritical prig. Unfortunately, not even Christian scholarship was able over the centuries to rid itself of an unfair bias against the Pharisees.”4
R. J. Wyatt suggests that the only accurate way to understand the Pharisees is to bring in rabbinic literature’s and Josephus’s information about them as an equal contribution to the Gospels. Here, second temple Judaistic literature is brought into equal authority with the Gospels in determining what the Pharisees were actually like in history.5 Apparently, the Gospels only give part of the perception in Wyatt’s mind.
Interestingly, Hagner admits in another one of his works, The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus, that historical criticism invented by German and British scholars was used by modern Jewish interpreters to remove this bias against the Pharisees that the Gospels portrayed in Jesus’ actions and of Jesus’ negative attitude toward Judaism in general as indicated in the Gospels:
“[t]o the extent that the conclusions of nineteenth-century critical scholarship supported Jewish claims concerning Jesus, they were gladly accepted. Jesus became the reformer of Judaism; Paul, the creator of Christianity. In short, for Jewish modern scholarship the modern period is best characterized as the phrase, ‘the Jewish reclamation of Jesus.’”6
How could Jesus be now seen by both modern Christian scholars as well as Jewish scholars in a more acceptable, less hostile attitude toward Judaism that is portrayed in the Gospels? Liberal application of historical critical ideologies to erase the plain, normal sense of the Gospels. Historical criticism is what enables the Gospel portrayal of Jesus and his attitudes’ toward Judaism to be radically modified by the motivations of second temple Judaism as well as the New Perspective on Paul accomplished by E. P. Sanders, James D. G. Dunn, N. T. Wright, all of whom seek to make Jesus more acceptable to Jewish sensibilities, to mention only a few.7
Historical criticism magically makes the politically incorrect problem disappear by being dismissive of the historical accuracy of the Gospels in recording the words and deeds of Jesus. Hence, it is neither historical nor critical in the traditional sense of the terms. Historical critics, liberal and evangelical, constantly use this magic of historical criticism to remove anything in the Biblical record that affronts their biases and subjective sensibilities. Should a critic dislike the creation account of Genesis 1-3, especially in light of current evolutionary fads that are predominant in academic university, historical criticism can be judiciously applied to negate the plain, normal sense of the biblical creation account. The same thing goes for Job, Jonah, prophetic announcements in Isaiah, etc. Importantly, historical criticism is ideologically based in philosophies of the enlightenment, deism, romanticism, evolution, existentialism. It is far from neutral.8
Historical criticism is the preferred psychological operation that is employed on the biblical text to remove any plain, normal sense that would offend the sensibilities of the interpreter. This basis provides the predominant reason that liberal critics apply it so generously to the biblical text because their personal biases and sensibilities reject the obvious or plain, normative assertions or implications of the text. This also most likely explains why evangelical critical scholars so whole-heartedly embrace it since they operate in a world of academia that would reject them if these evangelical critical scholars embraced the natural sense of the text, for academia would have little patience with them, thereby risking professional reputations as scholars.9 Historical criticism can be applied to remove anything that the interpreter finds objectionable due to subjective bias against the text, all the while the interpreter can maintain the façade of his interpretation being critically proper and having the outward appearance of “neutral” or “scientific,” when, it in fact, both he/she and historical criticism is hopelessly biased before any genuine criticism of the biblical text has begun.
ICBI statements meant to prevent assault
Historically, the overarching goal of The ICBI Statements of on Inerrancy (1978) and Hermeneutics (1982) was to prevent this psychological operation and assault of historical criticism on the biblical text. These documents arose as hard-won victories, as well as warnings to future generations of evangelicals, from previous decades of attacks on the trustworthiness of the Bible. Significantly, these documents affirm “grammatico-historical” rather than “historical critical” hermeneutics as employed by these critically trained evangelicals. Why? Because the authors and those who signed their affirmation to these documents knew the ruinous impact that historical-critical ideologies had upon God’s Word in church history. However, these British and European critically trained evangelicals who now advocate the adoption of some form of historical-criticism have effectively annulled the ideas framed in these two hard-won documents because they have forgotten history, especially the reasons why these articles were formulated.
First, the ICBI developers knew that historical criticism dehistoricizes the plain, normal reading of the text. Article XVIII reads:
We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture. We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship.
The essence of historical criticism
What is the true essence of this term “historical criticism” which arose from the days of Spinoza? It is the ingredient that is used to make the Bible say whatever the researcher wants it to say. It is the acid dissolvent that destroys the plain, normal sense of Scripture and, in turn, can make the Bible reflect any prejudice of the interpreter that is imposed on the text. When Bible “scholars” want to make the Bible say something that it does not naturally say, they apply judicious and generous portions of historical criticism to accomplish that magic! When Bible “scholars” are a priori in conflict, either presuppositionally or subjectively, by something in the OT or NT that they find unacceptable to them for a variety of their own prejudices, it allows the scholar to remake anything in Scripture to their own liking–either by negating it entirely or manufacturing an entirely different sense or meaning for a particular portion of Scripture. It allows the Bible to be REMOLDED into something acceptable to the “critical” scholar’s whims.
The philosophical pedigree of historical criticism guarantees that magic of transforming the Bible into something more acceptable to the modern, critical mind. This has been most prominent in “historical Jesus” research in which historical-critical criteria are the tools that German- and British-trained critical scholars use (borrowed from Spinoza) to find a Jesus that their critical presuppositions have already decided on in order to determine how they think He must really, truly be—a Jesus they find acceptable to them. These authenticity criteria tools are the “solvent” that allows critical scholars to dissolve the canonical Gospels and the information therein in order to find a Jesus that they prefer through the genius of an a priori application of historical criticism. However, no two critical scholars agree on the same list of criteria or their exact definition and nature—proof positive that great evangelical confusion exists over terminology and the practice of interpretation.
Goal of the grammatico-historical method
In contrast, the goal of the grammatico-historical method is to find the meaning which the authors of Scripture intended to convey and the meaning comprehended by the recipients. Special allowance/provision is made for (1) inspiration, (2) the Holy Spirit, and (3) inerrancy. It may be understood as the study of inspired Scripture designed to discover under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the meaning of a text dictated by the principles of grammar and the facts of history.
“Grammatico-historical” criticism, advocated by the both the Reformers as well as the signers of the ICBI statements of 1978 and 1982, allows the Bible to say what it naturally says plainly and normally without an a priori agenda as with historical-critical ideologies. As more recent evangelicals receive their education from schools that advocate some form of historical criticism, an unstable blending of these two approaches is occurring. Much confusion exists in current evangelical circles regarding grammatico-historical and historical-critical approaches to exegesis.10 These two hermeneutical disciplines are distinct and must not be confused by evangelicals. In contrast to the Reformation roots of the grammatico-historical method, the historical-critical hermeneutic has its roots in deism, rationalism, and the Enlightenment. Edgar Krentz, favorable to the practice, readily admits in his The Historical-Critical Method that “Historical method is the child of the Enlightenment.”11 Maier, opposed to historical criticism, argued, “historical criticism over against a possible divine revelation presents an inconclusive and false counterpart which basically maintains human arbitrariness and its standards in opposition to the demands of revelation.”12
Another way that historical criticism, used especially by critical evangelical scholars, is assaulting the Scripture through genre criticism. The word “genre” is French term for “style of literature types.” Very basically, two literary types exist: either that which is prose (plain, normal understanding)/to be understood in some literal sense) or that which is poetry (to be understood in some non-literal, or symbolic figurative sense). Thus, literal or figurative. Other terms can be used, but these two basics are the dividing line in genre. Critical evangelical scholars, borrowing heavily from their critical counterparts for academic recognition and influence, often use technical terminology in genre criticism that signals their desire to dehistoricize the Gospels, such as “midrash” or “apocalyptic Judaism” genre.
In 1982, Robert Gundry in his Matthew, A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art, is famous for using “midrash” genre to dismiss much of the historical content of Matthew 1-3. Much of the contents of these infancy narratives struck Gundry as historically objectionable or untrue; he believed that these events surrounding Jesus’ life did not happen in the time-space continuum of history since they had no extra-biblical confirmation in outside historical sources other than Matthew. Gundry used the “magic” of genre to remove his bias against the infancy narratives. Here are some examples of Gundry’s use of the “magic” of genre or style to dehistoricize the text of Matthew 1-3 that he found objectionable:
(1). “Clearly, Matthew treats us to history mixed with elements that cannot be called historical in a modern sense. All history writing entails more or less editing of materials. But Matthew’s editing often goes beyond acceptable bounds . . . Matthew’s subtractions, additions, and revisions of order and phraseology often show changes in substance; i.e., they represent developments of the dominical tradition that result in different meanings and departures from the actuality of events” (p. 623). 13
(2). “Comparison with the other gospels, especially with Mark and Luke, and examination of Matthew’s style and theology show that he materially altered and embellished historical traditions and that he did so deliberately and often” (p. 639).
(3). “We have also seen that at numerous points these features exhibit such a high degree of editorial liberty that the adjectives ‘midrashic’ and ‘haggadic’ become appropriate” (p. 628). Midrash means it did not happen in history as it was presented in the Gospels.
(4). “We are not dealing with a few scattered difficulties. We are dealing with a vast network of tendentious changes” (p. 625). This means it did not happen in history as it was presented in the Gospels.
(5). “Hence, ‘Jesus said’ or ‘Jesus did’ need not always mean that in history Jesus said or did what follows, but sometimes may mean that in the account at least partly constructed by Matthew himself Jesus said or did what follows” (p. 630). This means it did not happen in history as it was presented in the Gospels.
(6). “Semantics aside, it is enough to note that the liberty Matthew takes with his sources is often comparable with the liberty taken with the OT in Jubilees, the Genesis Apocryphon, the Targums, and the Midrashim and Haggadoth in rabbinic literature” (p. 628). This means it did not happen in history as it was presented in the Gospels.
(7). “These patterns attain greatest visibility in, but are by no means limited to, a number of outright discrepancies with the other synoptics. At least they are discrepancies so long as we presume biblical writers were always intending to write history when they used the narrative mode” (p. 624).
(8). “Matthew selects them [the Magi] as his substitute for the shepherds in order to lead up to the star, which replaces the angel and heavenly host in the tradition” (p. 27). The Magi, the star and the heavenly hosts did not happen as is presented in the Gospels.
(9). “That Herod’s statement consists almost entirely of Mattheanisms supports our understanding Matthew himself to be forming this episode out of the shepherd’s visit, with use of collateral materials. The description of the star derives from v. 2. The shepherds’ coming at night lies behind the starry journey of the magi” (p. 31).
(10). “He [Matthew] changes the sacrificial slaying of ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,’ which took place at the presentation of the baby Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:24; cf. Lev 12:6–8), into Herod’s slaughtering the babies in Bethlehem (cf. As. Mos. 6:2–6” (pp. 34, 35). This means these did not happen in history as it was presented in the Gospels.
What proof did Gundry have for these assertions? None. He found these areas personally objectionable to his own subjective sense of “history” so he used the magic of genre to dismiss the biblical text. When one examines the text of Matthew, the context clearly presents these as events that happened historically in the time space continuum. The reader of this article is highly encouraged to examine the surrounding context of Matthew 1-3. Contextual clues and markers abound in these chapters to give every impression in the plain, normal reading of the text that historical events were being related by the writer Matthew (genealogical records of births in the time-space continuum in Matthew 1:1–17; historical events of the Jewish Babylonian deportation are mentioned in Matthew 1:17; the account of Jesus’ birth into human existence is recounted in Matthew 1:18-25, including engagement of Jewish couples as well as the scandal of birth out of wedlock that occurred in the culture in Matthew; historical figures are mentioned who interacted with the birth of the child, such as Herod and the Magi from the East are detailed, including the child’s early childhood and flight down into the country of Egypt in Matthew 2:1-23, with many temporal markers noted such as “when Jesus was born,” “days of Herod,” “magi arrived from the East,” “the exact time the star appeared,” “after coming into the house,” “they left for Egypt,” “when Herod died,” etc. etc. etc. No clear signals exist to the reader of the text that anything in the overall text should not be understood as non-historical. Unfortunately, this did not deter Gundry from being quite dismissive of the text historically. Why? Perhaps the text just didn’t existentially “feel” somehow right to him subjectively. However, genre and historical criticism allowed him to dismiss history and appear to readers of the commentary that he had objectivity on his side. He did not.
Similarly, Craig Blomberg, used genre criticism when he found something in the text of Matthew as personally somehow objectionable; i.e., Jesus’ command to Peter of the coin in the fish’s mouth is not historical; it did not happen (Matt. 17:24–27). Craig Blomberg asserts in reference to the story of the coin in the fish’s mouth in Matthew 17:24–27, “It is often not noticed that the so-called miracle of the fish with the coin in its mouth (Matt 17:27) is not even a narrative; it is merely a command from Jesus to go to the lake and catch such a fish. We don’t even know if Peter obeyed the command. Here is a good reminder to pay careful attention to the literary form.”14 To him, this story is not literal, it is figurative. In other words, even if from the early church to the 21st century, the orthodox church understood this as an actual event that happened with Jesus and Peter, Blomberg knows the read nature of the text since he is an evangelical critical scholar who is well respected in academia. The very weight of his reputation must mean that he is correct, at least one assumes. How the reader of Matthew would discern this lack of historicity here is not made clear by Blomberg. However, his “magic” use of historical criticism obfuscates his arbitrary, selective judgment, the reader of his assertions. No substantive evidence is provided, just psychological impact Blomberg’s reputation has is all that suffices for such arbitrary decisions.
The reader of this article is highly encouraged to examine the context surrounding Matthew 17:24-27. The narrative in Matthew 17 is presented with historical markers, “When they came to Capernaum,” “those who collected the two-drachma tax said to Peter,” Jesus issues a command to go depart and fish, Jesus predicts a coin is predicted to be found. The only thing lacking is a resolution statement that says “and Peter fished and found the coin and paid the tax.” All the other events in Matthew 17, both before and after, are presented as historical developments in the life of Jesus, why should this one be different? Because they somehow subjectively impacted Blomberg negatively. He warns the reader of his assertions to pay attention to the literary form. This is good advice for Blomberg that Blomberg himself does not follow. Both before and after, the genre is relating historical events. No signal is given to the reader that this event in the midst of Matthew 17 should not be taken otherwise. It flows naturally in Matthew’s relating of the events before as well as in Matthew 18. The reasonable conclusion is that Blomberg is arbitrary, capricious in his exegetical assertions, and wthout any true warrant or substance in his assertions in any close examination of the context of the narrative in Matthew 17. Moreover, Blomberg defended Robert Gundry’s midrashic approach to the Gospels in the following terms, so part of the magic of historical criticism is the “group-think” of the psychological operation that critical evangelical scholars employ. They are a very united voice for each other, defending each other’s decisions. They move as a group, and only rarely disagree with each other for academic respectability among them is a strong motivating factor against criticism:
Is it possible, even inherently probable, that the NT writers at least in part never intended to have their miracle stories taken as historical or factual and that their original audiences probably recognized this? If this sounds like the identical reasoning that enabled Robert Gundry to adopt his midrashic interpretation of Matthew while still affirming inerrancy, that is because it is the same. The problem will not disappear simply because one author [Gundry] is dealt with ad hominem . . . how should evangelicals react? Dismissing the sociological view on the grounds that the NT miracles present themselves as historical gets us nowhere. So do almost all the other miracle stories of antiquity. Are we to believe them all?15
Michael Licona, in his work The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach,16 used a genre based criticism known as bios as a means of de-historicizing parts of the Gospel; i.e., the resurrection of the saints after Jesus crucifixion in Matthew 27:51–53 is non-literal genre or apocalyptic rather than an actual historical event). Although Michael Licona’s work defends Jesus’ bodily resurrection, the assumption of genre hermeneutic known as apocalyptic or eschatological Jewish texts whereby Licona dismisses the historicity of Matthew 27:51-53 (and its recording of the resurrection of saints) results effectively in the complete evisceration and total negation of His strong defense of Jesus’ resurrection. His logic is self-defeating for his main assertion of Jesus’ resurrection.
Licona argued “Bioi offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches . . . and they often included legend. Because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins.” Licona labels it a “strange little text”18 and terms it “special effects” that have no historical basis.19 Apparently, his subjective bias reacted negatively to this text as a historical event. His apparent concern also rests with only Matthew as mentioning the event. He concludes that “It seems best to regard this difficult text in Matthew a poetic device added to communicate that the Son of God had died and that impending judgment awaited Israel.”20
Hence, once again the “magic” of historical criticism and genre removes the problem for Licona. If the events in Matthew 27:51-53 are held that way, nothing—absolutely nothing— stops critics from applying a similar kind of logic to Jesus’ resurrection and reject its historicity. Licona’s logic here is self-defeating and undermines his entire work on defending the resurrection. Would the average reader have detected this in reading Matthew 27 as the narrative unfolds? One would hope that Licona would take the events both before and after the resurrection of the saints as historically happening in Matthew, such as Jesus’ cry from the cross, the ripping of the temple veil that happened prior to the event he rejects, as well as the soldier’s exclamation regarding Jesus afterward as historical. Somehow, however, the story in the middle strikes him subjectively strange, and he uses the magic of historical criticism and genre to make it more reasonable to him by dismissing the resurrection of the saints as historical. Problem solved? No. For all these events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion both before and after are connected by a series of “and,” this happened, “and” this happened, “and” this happened. It is highly, highly dubious to suggest any reader of Matthew 27 would have taken this resurrection of the saints event as any different in “genre” than the surrounding historical events delineated to the reader.
Darrell Bock and Robert Webb
Another example is Darrell Bock and Robert Webb. They use the “magic” of historical criticism to appear as critical scholars who defend the Gospel by assuming a distinction between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith, a distinction made popular by radical liberalism. IF such a distinction were true, and it is NOT, then nothing in the Gospels could be trusted. Under the guise of defending the Gospel accounts, they actually accomplish the opposite: they cast grave suspicion on its historical veracity. Here are some of their assertions:
(1). Jesus’ resurrection “probably” happened is the best we can say about this event and others historically because evangelicals must operate under post-modernistic historiography as a premise.
My Reply: (a) If they “probably” happened, then they might not have happened! Please tell us which ones, in your “evangelical critical opinion, might not have happened or did not happen or what aspects of them did not occur; (b) probability is in the mind of the beholder!; (c) What enemies or even skeptics would be convinced by such logic—please name those you have won over by your “logic.”
(2). The Gospels only give us the “footprints” of Jesus or the “surviving traces” of his life:
My Reply: (a) If all we have are “footprints” then what can you tell about Jesus? Not much! (b) Is the word that these “critical evangelicals” use (“surviving traces”) in reference to the Gospel text a term that honors the Word of God, and in this instance, canonical Gospels? (c) Who judges what is a surviving trace and what is not? Are these more “inspired” than other elements in the Gospels?
(3). The Jesus of the Bible and the Jesus of history are not necessarily the same. This category is fully legitimate for evangelicals to assert.
My Reply: Then tell us how Jesus was different in history and in faith? Only God’s Holy Spirit is capable of truly presenting a matter as to how it actually was in a time-space continuum; (b) Since when are faith and history in conflict, unless one capitulates to alien, philosophical and unbiblical assumptions?
(4). We must search for the historical Jesus to find out how Jesus was actually in history and what he really said and did.
My reply: (a) NO WE DON’T. The Gospels tell us that; (b) This tacitly, if not very explicity, blasphemes God’s Spirit in the process of inspiration of the Gospel text.
(5). All history is interpretation. The Gospels are historical interpretations. The Gospels contain surviving traces of Jesus’ life but they have been placed into historical narratives that have been interpreted according to the writers’ perspectives. In order to discover the “surviving traces” of Jesus’ life, we must apply criteria of authenticity based in critical methods to determine if the events actually happened as they are portrayed.
My Reply: The God of Scripture does not “interpret.” He is the ground of all reality. So the Gospels are the objective account of Jesus’ life without “spin” or bias but God’s account of what really happened as well as what he reveals through special revelation.
(6). A scale of probability, possibility or not historically verifiable must be used for the 100s of Gospel events.
My reply: (a) Please produce the “critical evangelical” study Bible with various color shades to show where each one of the 100s of Gospel stories fall into their scale. The pages would mostly be white with nothing verifiable in their logic.
Admittedly, Part I of this article has been brief. Historical Criticism is a psychological operation designed by men to cast doubt the Word of God. That is its very intent historically and presuppositionally. It can never lose that detrimental impact no matter how hard critical evangelical scholars try to reform or deform it.21 Whose critical evangelical scholars form of it should we accept since they ALL disagree on its characteristics when they modify it?
A few more point needs to be said. First, conservative evangelicals like myself who hold to inerrancy believe in criticism of the Bible, but it is the kind, quality and presuppositions of criticism that is employed that must be the central question. Please do not use the aged canard or straw man that evangelical critical scholars use that conservative evangelicals like myself don’t believe in criticism of the Bible. This charge is specious.
Second, who would be convinced of the surety of the Gospels or God’s Word? While giving the assertion of affirming God’s Word, these evangelical critical scholars instead assault it and undermine it. I can think of no better way of undermining God’s Word in the eyes of God’s people than what is being perpetrated through critical evangelical scholars use of historical criticism.
Finally, perhaps most strategically, the son of Thunder, John the Apostle and an eyewitness to Jesus’ life, ministry, resurrection and ascension, gives believers a clear indication of what to think of historical criticism and its magic or any other type of criticism. John is clear that the Holy Spirit is the Witness to the truth of God’s Word. The genuine impact of the Holy Spirit on a truly born again person is affirmation, not doubt, of God’s Word as composed by the Apostles who were eyewitnesses of His majesty (2 Peter 1):
John 14:26: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”
John 16:13: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.
1 John 2:19-22: They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.
Historical Criticism and its “magic” casts doubt on God’s Word. For a genuine, born again believer, the Holy Spirit affirms God’s Word. His precious Spirit does not cast doubt. Would God’s Spirit be involved in such a process as critical, evangelical scholars involve themselves in historical criticism as detailed here that raises up speculation and doubt? The net result of Historical criticism is that it subtlety and not so subtly blasphemes God’s Spirit and His written testimony in His Word that He inspired. I call on evangelical, critical scholars for personal, spiritual introspection of what they are sowing in the seeds of their use of historical criticism. If critical, evangelical scholars deem this statement to be “unscholarly,” then this present writer writer affirms the Lordship of Jesus Christ over any form of pseudo-scholarship and encourages critical, evangelical scholars to seek another line of work than ministry for the Word of God, for too much damage is done within the church through advocacy of historical criticism from those professing to know the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
PART II of this series will deal with how evangelicals today are using the term “inerrancy,” but substantively changed its orthodox meaning of the through melding it with historical-critical ideologies.
1 http://www.tavinstitute.org/ (accessed on 4/22/2014).
2 http://orwell.ru/library/novels/1984/english/en_app (accessed on 4/22/2014).
3 For example, see S. Westerholm, “Pharisees,” Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Eds. Joel N. Green and Scot McKnight (Downers Grove, ILL: InterVarsity, 1992), 613.
4 D. A. Hagner, “Pharisees,” Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. Gen. Ed. Merill C. Tenney (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975): 4:750.
5 R. J. Wyatt, “Pharisees,” NISBE. Ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986): 3:823.
6 Donald A. Hanger, The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus (Eugene,OR: Wipf and Stock, 1997), 71; see also 92-94.
7 See F. David Farnell, “The Problem of Philosophy in New Testament Studies,” and Searching for the Historical Jesus: The Rise of the Searches,” The Rise of the Three Searches,” in The Jesus Quest. Eds. Norman L. Geisler and F. David Farnell (Maitland, FL: Xulon, 2014), 86-142; 361-420.
8 See Norman L. Geisler, “The Philosophical Roots of Modern Biblical Criticism, The Jesus Quest The Danger From Within. Eds. Norman L. Geisler and F. David Farnell (Maitland, FL: Xulon, 2014) 65-85.
9 See F. David Farnell, “Historical Criticism vs. Grammatico-Historical Criticism: Quo Vadis Evangelicals?,” The Jesus Quest, 503-520.
10 See Robert L. Thomas, “Current Hermeneutical Trends: Toward Explanation or Obfuscation?, JETS 39 (June 1996): 241-256.
11 Edgar Krentz, The Historical-Critical Method (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975), 55.
12 Gerhard Maier, The End of the Historical-Critical Method (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1974), 25.
13 The list of 9–13 as well as page numbers cited are from Robert Gundry, Matthew A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982) as well as A Commentary on His Handbook for A Mixed Church under Persecution (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994). The latter note: an updated version of the 1982 commentary.
14 Blomberg, “A Constructive Traditional Response to New Testament Criticism,” 354 fn. 32
15 Craig L. Blomberg, “New Testament miracles and Higher Criticism: Climbing Up the Slippery Slope,” JETS 27/4 (December 1984) 436.
16 Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2010).
17 Ibid., 34.
18 Ibid., 548.
19 Ibid., 552.
20 Ibid., 553.
21 See F. David Farnell, “Philosophical and Theological Bent of Historical Criticism,” The Jesus Crisis, 85-131.