Higher Criticism vs. Old Testament (I)

Jimmy Tuten, Jr
Tallmadge, Ohio

The term "Criticism" comes from Krisis, which simply means "a judgment." A "Critic" in the broadest sense is one who makes intelligent judgments regarding questions relating to the Bible. In this writing, and ones to follow, I will be using the term "Critic" or "Higher Critic" to designate the individual who treats the Old Testament as words of men, and not as the Word of God. Thus, the terms are applied to the radical school of criticism.

"Higher Criticism" then, is in reality a study of Modernism regarding the Old Testament. The Critical School of thought denies that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament. It is admitted that Moses wrote some of the text, but there is no agreement as to what lie may have written. Some argue that there is an element of inspiration in the five books, but are not certain where it is.

Higher Critics maintain that the books attributed to Moses gradually developed through an evolutionary process in the life of the Jewish nation. They were not written in Moses lifetime. We are told that most of them came into being, several centuries after his death. Some passages are even attributed to the time of Ezekiel. The history of the books is generally discredited with the beloved patriarchs relegated to the realm of myth and legend 1. The position is nothing more than an insidious attack upon the genuiness and credibility of the Old Testament.

If, as we are told, the books of Moses were in fact written by many authors over a long period of time, then & Old Testament is not the Word of God. It is not the Word of God because it is not what it claims to be. We are therefore robbed of an authoritative account of the origin of such subjects as man, sin, salvation, the earth and all other things that have a beginning with God.

In the New Testament there are many examples where Christ and the Apostles endorsed the books that Moses wrote, making them authentic. If they were mistaken or deliberately deceived us in approving of the Old Testament as a revelation from God, their testimony is false. We are robbed of the foundation of the New Testaments teaching of Christianity. The reasoning applied to the Old Testament would have to be applied to the New. The New Testament itself would have to become a human document2. The authority of the entire Bible is discredited. Oswald Allis expresses the problem as lie sees it:  Scripture is to be interpreted in the light of establishing and exhibiting its harmony and unity. Higher Criticism . . . began with variations of differences, the variations in the use of the divine names in Genesis, and it gradually developed into a quest of differences. Scripture has been pitted against Scripture . . . The result has been that the Bible instead of being regarded as remarkable for its unity and harmony has become, in the hands of the critics, a collection of writings characterized by a wide diversity of viewpoint, by discord and contradiction. Such a result is destructive of its divine authority. In fact, it tends to deprive it of any authority at all. Conflicting evidence has little, if any, value." 3

It cannot be denied therefore that modernists have one Bible and the believing masses have another (C. D. Morrison, The Christian Century, January 3, 1934). Which Bible are we to accept? Are we to accept the one that is uncertain, unreliable as history, and full of falsifications? Or the one that has been accepted by all as authentic and true until recent years? Years of attacks against the Bible have not destroyed it. Its authentication shines forth bright as ever. It still stands as Gods Word.

A Study of Higher Criticism Is Important

(1) One should welcome this examination of Higher Criticism, if for no other reason than the fact that it continues to be stressed as a fact in Bible Class material and expounded by professors of various schools. The theory is now available in cheap, paperback editions (cf. The Ten Commandments, Davies, A Signet Key book, 35c). We have already reached the point where the "Documentary Hypothesis" (see definition below) is, in the mind of some, no longer a hypothesis, but a fact even though we know it is unsubstantiated. Many have accepted the theory because they feel the "authorities" should know what they are talking about. Some have never investigated the matter because they feel incompetent to pass judgment on it. Fellow Christians, we can understand the problem. We should know something about it. "The higher critical study of the Pentateuch (A collective term for the first five books of the Old Testament, jt) had a very simple beginning. Its normative principles are easy to master. It is only their application, which is complicated and confusing; and in this very fact, that the application is so complicated, lies the clearest indication that the theory is at fault." 4

(2) The books of the Bible have nothing to fear front investigation regardless of bow thorough it is. Fearlessly pursued investigations can only result in establishing more firmly the truthfulness of the claims that-the Bible makes for itself. To know something of the nature of the attacks against the Pentateuch and to see it withstanding the test is to appreciate it more. The fact that this strenuously impugned assault has been in the name of Higher Criticism does not give the critics immunity. The failures and weakness of their claims should be made known to all. 5

(3) One cannot overlook the historicalness of the Old Testament. History is so interwoven into the Old Testament that to destroy the accuracy of those events recorded therein would undermine the authority of it. The truthfulness of the Old Testament stands or falls upon the accuracy of a single historical document. If we cannot rely on the book of Genesis or any other of the five written by Moses, this writer would like to know if we could trust the other Old Testament books. The modernist inconsistently wants to hold to tile morals of the Bible, while at the same time rejecting and destroying its history. But the Bibles influence in morals cannot be a vibrant force in society until its adherents firmly accepts the historicalness of it. Be it remembered, and not forgotten, that the Bible constitutes the best case for accuracy any historical document front antiquity. The critics have yet to prove that the Bible is an off-shoot in the literary evolution of the Jews. Let them demonstrate that the Old Testament came from the raw material of myth and legendary. Until they do so, we will continue to accept the evidence and information that proves it authentic. We will not sit idly in tile meantime without some effort to offset the suppositions of critics who are bent on undermining the exclusive and authoritative Word of God. , Bible states that Moses wrote the first five books (Deut. 31:24-261. During His earthly ministry, Jesus gave His endorsement to the Mosaic authorship (Matt. 22:31; Mk. 12: 20; Ex. 3:6). The Apostle Paul likewise viewed it as authentic (Acts 28:23; Rom. 10:19); I Cor. 9:9; 2 Cor. 3:15). From this position we will not retreat.


Our next article will discuss the meaning of "Higher Criticism" and all the importance of tile "Documentary Hypothesis," because they are so intricately associated one with the other. One does not think of "Biblical Criticism" without thinking of the Documentary Hypothesis. It is essential that our readers have a clear understanding of these terms so that their knowledge can be enlarged. Our third article will constitute a refutation of the hypothesis. The goal in these articles and others like them is to build you tip in tile most holy faith by making you aware of the fact that tile Old Testament stands firmly upon tile rock of authentication. Be sure to read these articles and keep them for future reference.


1. R. A. Torres, The Fundamentals (Grand Rapids, Baker, reprint, 1970, Vol. 1, p. 127, 43.

2. Carl F. Henry, Contemporary Evangelical Thought (Grand Rapids, Baker, 1968), p. 13.

3. The Five Books of Moses (Philadelphia, Reformed Publ. Co., 1949) p.

4. Ibid, p. 6.

5. Wm. H. Green, The Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch (New York Scribner, (1896) p.7

November 2, 1972