10 thoughts on “A Manifesto

  1. Among other details, he gives an odd definition of historical criticism. His stance against trying to decide which parts of scripture are inspired is one all Adventists can amen, but that’s simply an extreme application of historical criticism, not its definition. The SDA Bible Commentary, published way back in the fifties, uses the historical critical method. For the believer, historical criticism is an aid to exegesis, striving to understand a text the way its original readers would have.

    • Historical criticism is not about understanding the text as its original readers would have–it is about trying to figure out what is behind the text, including other sources (especially behind the synoptic Gospels and the Pentateuch), and pre-literary “forms.” It includes form criticism, redaction criticism, source criticism, etc.

    • No, you’re not getting it. The historical-critical method is to critique the text and find out what came before the text. It is about deconstruction and hypothesis. Its key advocates have been people like Bultmann, Noth, von Rad, etc. It rejects inspiration. It sees the Pentateuch as written hundreds of years after the time of Moses. It cares little for Scripture as it presently exists. I’ve had plenty of training in its methods and its presuppositions. It is completely incompatible with Adventism.

  2. There is a difference between the method, employed by such venerable works as the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, and the presuppositions you’re citing. They are not mutually inclusive. A method does not “see” or “reject” anything–that is what the scholar himself brings to the table. The scholars who put together the SDABC did not “reject inspiration” or suggest a post-exilic date for the Pentateuch, yet they still employed historical criticism to illuminate the text. The class on Synoptic Gospels I took at Andrews used insights from historical criticism, but it still 100% supported the divine inspiration of scripture.

    As Ecclesiastes 12:9, 10 tells us of its own composition, “He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.”

    We see this tension often in the writings of Ellen White, where she employed ideas from secular or other Christian authors, yet rejected many of their presuppositions, shaping them for her own distinct intent. (And of course, Ellen White’s use of outside sources gives Adventists unique insight into the mechanics of inspiration.)

    In a similar fashion, Adventists do not reject the insights of science despite most scientists subscribing to an evolutionary theory for origins, because science and evolution are not mutually inclusive either. We would certainly have no medical work beyond natural healing if that were the case.

  3. Most conservative Adventist scholars, including those who worked on the SDABC, utilize the historical-grammatical method, not the historical critical method. As Bill says, to be faithful to Adventism, a person cannot approach scripture with a historical critical method.

  4. I think much of this argument hinges on what one understands by the phrase “historical-critical method.” There is certainly a sense in which Adventists could understand that phrase positively. On the other hand, as Gane points out, for most people familiar with the subject, including scholars, historical-criticism = higher-criticism. And it is not historical-criticism per se that is incompatible with Adventism, but rather higher criticism, which removes the ultimate authority of scripture.

    Therefore, to adopt the term, “historical-critical”, for Adventist biblical scholarship would not only be confusing, but would also provide cover for those within Adventism who wish to engage in higher-criticism of scripture.

    • The historical-critical method/historical criticism/higher criticism are all names for the same thing. If you are using “historical criticism” in another sense, you are using it incorrectly. Higher criticism is distinct from “lower criticism,” i.e., textual criticism, that simply seeks to find the best text by comparing manuscripts. A very different activity, and one that, indeed, is foundational.

  5. Bill, I´m in Mexico for the next three weeks, so have no access to the SDABC to follow up on this discussion at present. I´ll be glad to get back to you.

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