Answering the Higher Critic

Jimmy Tuten
Tallmadge, Ohio

The belief of Christians is that the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) constitute one consistent, coherent, authentic and genuine composition of God. This belief is based upon the fact that we have the testimony of the Jews, the statements of the books themselves, the reiterated corroborations of the rest of the Old Testament, and the explicit statement of the Lord Jesus (Lk. 24:44; Jno. 5:46-47). We believe Moses wrote the Pentateuch (with the possible exception of Deut. 34, which may have been written by Joshua or Ezra) about fourteen centuries before the advent of Jesus Christ, or about 800 years before Jeremiah. Furthermore, this portion of the Bible is of paramount importance, for it is the basic substratum of the whole revelation of God. It is of vast importance not because it is merely the literature of an ancient nation, but because it is the introductory section of the Word of God, bearing his authority, and given by inspiration through his servant Moses.1

Higher Criticism on the other hand, attempts to prove that the Pentateuch did not originate during the time of Moses, and that most of the laws attributed to him did not come into existence until several centuries after his death. Many of them not until the time of Ezekiel. The fact that there is an alternation of the use of certain names for God (Jehovah and Elohim) becomes to them a breeding ground for an attack on the Old Testament. Having first assumed from presuppositions of evolution applied to the origins of history, religion, and the Bible, i.e., that the cosmos developed from the lowest types and stages upward through beast and man to higher and better man, higher critics become anti-supernatural and anti-miraculous. This forces them to deny all historicity of Genesis 1-11, the creation account, the fall of Adam, the flood, etc. Using the alternation of Jehovah and Elohim, they have brought into existence an entire hypothesis of separate documents (sometimes, called the "Documentary Hypothesis"). The divine names are made the prime criteria for distinguishing the so-called documents. It is said that Jehovist shows a "J" document, Elohim an "E" document, etc.2

The Documentary Hypothesis Is Self- Destructive

Many qualified scholars of the Bible, such as William Henry Green in his The Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch, state that the hypothesis is self-destructive in that it can only be defended by arguments, which undermine its foundations. The very division among the higher critics themselves serves as a strong refutation in itself. No scholar has ever been able to tell the dates of each or every book in the Old Testament by the style of the Hebrew. "The difficulties which the literary analysis of the Pentateuch encounters at many points and the arbitrary and inconsistent way in which the difficulties are solved by the critics is also a clear indication that the task they have set for themselves is an impossible one." 4

(1) The absurdity of the claims of higher critics on the basis of literary analysis was demonstrated by C. M. Mead, influential American reviser of the translation of the Old Testament. He took the book of Romans and arbitrarily (as the critics, in cutting up the Pentateuch) divided it into three parts, according as the names "Jesus", "Christ Jesus," or "God" were used. He then made an analysis showing that the lists of peculiar words characteristic of these passages were even more remarkable, than those drawn up by higher critics regarding the Pentateuch. In other words, argument from literary analysis would prove the composite character of the book of the Romans as fully as it would the first five Books of the Old Testament.

(2) Recently a computer research on the basis of the authors words (vocabulary) and length of sentences brought forth the conclusion that only five out of the thirteen letters tested were written by Paul. This was widely publicized, but it proves nothing. Later the same computer was used for an analysis of Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond. The result? Fleming did not write them at all! 5 We know that Fleming did write the books, though the computer says otherwise. But see the point? By applying the same approach the critics use to try to disprove the Pentateuch, to any New Testament book or to a contemporary writing, demonstrates that literary analysis is not able to accurately determine authorship.

No Archaeological Support

Is there not a possibility that archaeology will discover something that will overthrow our convictions regarding certain matters in the Bible? "The answer is ... that such is not the case. After all, God has given us the Bible; it is His own God-breathed Word. God also is the creator of heaven and earth. Everything created, therefore, must testify of Him. The more we study archaeology, for example, the better we will understand the setting in which the great events of Biblical history occurred. We need not fear truth ... " 6 As Howard F. Vos so strongly put it, "the story of twentieth century Biblical archaeology is the story of the silencing of the clamorous voice of the modern western Wellhausen (Wellhausen is one of the fathers of the Documentary Hypothesis, jt) by the voiceless witnesses emerging from ancient eastern mounds." 7 In the first place the critics position that "J" document, for example, is a continuous narrative, as well as "E" document, is not proven either by the critics themselves or archaeology. In fact archaeology confirms the Pentateuch as we have it in our present form. No "J" or "E" or any other such fragment has been uncovered. In the second place it is supposed that the condition of the times in which Moses lived and that described in the Pentateuch are in conflict. The civilization depicted in the first five books of the Bible is too advanced for Moses day, we are told. This is assumed and not proven! On the other hand, the complex state of society and religion pictured in the Old Testament is corroborated by archaeology. Archaeology has presented abundant evidence that the civilization presented could very well have existed in the time of Moses among the Israelites.8

Take the art of writing for example. Just a few years ago it was argued that the Hebrews did not possess the art of writing and keeping records. But the discovery of the Tel el-Amarna tablets has demonstrated that writing in cuneiform character and in the Assyrio-Babylonian language was common to the entire biblical world long before exodus. In fact, if Moses could not have written he would have been behind his contemporaries. Space will not allow a look at the Code of Hammurabi, believed by some to be the Amraphel of Genesis 14, and other such evidences.

Let it not be supposed that the bare fact of advanced civilization existing in Canaan at 2000 B.C. is the only thing confirmed. The closest correspondence in detail has been discovered between the setting of the lives of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, etc.) as presented in Genesis and the "particular Near Eastern social and political pattern of the Middle Bronze age, during which the Bible locates the patriarchs." There is astonishing similarity between the background provided by archaeology and that presupposed in Genesis.10


1. R. A. Torry, The Fundamentals (Grand Rapids: Baker repring, 1970), Vol. 1, P. 22.

2. Be sure to refer back to our last issue of Truth Magazine.

3. Floyd Hamilton, The Basis of Christian Faith (New York: Harper & Brothers), p. 220.

4. Oswald Allis, The Five Books of Moses (Philadelphia: Presbyterian & Reformed Publ. Co., 1949), p. 69. Tomorrows World, January 1971, p. 43.

6. Edward J. Young, Contemporary Evangelical Thought (Grand Rapids: Baker), p. 37. Can I Trust The Bible? (Chicago: Moody Press), p. 139.

8. Hamilton, op. cit., p. 221.

9. Vos, op. cit., p. 143.

10. Ibid. Vos citing the great Archaeologist, W. F. Albright.

November 16, 1972