Monday, July 6, 2009

Evangelicalism and Higher Criticism of the Bible

What are your thoughts on "higher criticism of the Bible" (source criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, literary criticism)? Is it anathema, or does it have its place in evangelicalism? Have you ever even heard any of these terms?

I am curious to read what your response is to the following "problem" in New Testament studies, dealing with historical agreement between the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and John.

In the Synoptic Gospels, the cleansing of the Temple occurs at the end of Jesus' ministry, after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem for the last time (Matt 21:12–13, Mark 11:15–19, Luke 19:45–46). In John, the cleansing of the Temple occurs at the beginning of his ministry, right after the turning of water into wine at Cana (John 2:13–22). Which of the following "solutions" to this "problem" are you most comfortable with? Which do you absolutely reject?
  1. Since the Bible is inerrant, and since there are clearly contradictions in the timing of these two events, there must have been two cleansings of the Temple--one at the beginning of Jesus' ministry and one at the end.

  2. The Bible may be inerrant, but these two passages look like they are describing the same event. Perhaps John is not arranging his material chronologically, but theologically. The cleansing of the Temple occurs early in John, not because it happened early in Jesus' ministry, but because John the theologian wanted to make it clear from the start that Jesus was replacing the Temple.

  3. The Bible is not inerrant. These two stories are clearly two accounts of the same event, and the internal contradictions prove that there are errors in the Bible.
I am interested in your take on the proposed solutions to the problem, not because I want to advocate a position, but because I want to get a sample of how evangelicals approach the issue of higher criticism and "problems" in the Bible.


James said...

Without much further study, I'd pick option 2, that John did not arrange his material chronologically.

Matt said...

Thanks James!