For the last 80 years the study of the Old Testament has been characterized by certain well-recognized methods which have become known collectively as the “critical approach.” An analysis of this methodology shows that there are three major forms of criticism, namely, textual or “lower” criticism, literary or “higher” criticism, and historical criticism.
The first of these has as its chief task the responsibility of establishing a correct text. It goes without saying that this form of criticism is of fundamental importance to the student of Scripture, regardless of the particular “school” to which he may claim allegiance. Despite scrupulous care on the part of the Jewish scribes, occasional obscurities have crept into the Hebrew text. Biblical scrolls from the Dead Sea region have demonstrated the high degree of fidelity with which the Old Testament text was transmitted, and incidentally have given some indication of possible emendations which reflect the original more accurately.
Among biblical students of a more conservative bent, the second form of criticism has acquired the greatest notoriety over the years. The Graf-Wellhausen Pentateuchal analysis furnished a mechanical system of criticism that gave impetus to a wide range of literary analyses of Old Testament books. The highly subjective nature of this pursuit became evident in the writings of scholars, and there were numerous occasions where subjectivism was pushed to extreme lengths.
The third form of criticism was actually the means of changing the attitude of many scholars with regard to the Old Testament. It introduced a new emphasis, namely that of the historicity of events mentioned in the Old Testament. For example, as successive archaeological discoveries demonstrated ...1
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