Re: Does Higher Criticism Attempt to “Destroy the Bible”?

This is in response to: Does Higher Criticism Attempt to “Destroy the Bible”? First off, that’s a little presumptuous. Satan has been working on it for 3000 years and the Bible is still the best seller of all time.  Some, like UNC’s own Bart Ehrman, certainly do all they can to undermine it.  We actually do pray for Bart here in NC. Others, like the author of the above, enjoy patronizing sincere believers by presenting ridiculous beliefs that the average Sunday school kid would know better than, as the general consensus of us poor uneducated fundamentalists.  Wow who would have thunk the Bible had authors?

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV)

What is Higher Criticism?

Criticism falls into two categories. First, lower criticism, also called textual criticism, deals with the actual text with a view of determining the original manuscript. The second is higher criticism, dealing with the area of authorship, sources, dates, and historical matters. Both conservative and liberal theologians deal with lower and higher criticism. There is nothing inherently wrong with either. I am very grateful for critical scholars like: Daniel B WallaceDr. John Sailhamer and Dr. Micheal Heiser of Logos bible software. The presuppositions a person brings to the Bible and their conclusions will determine their theological position.

Despite the claims of both Moses and Jesus Christ concerning the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, it is widely accepted among liberal higher critics today that the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the OT) is the product of four or more writers. A German scholar, Julius Wellhausen, concluded that the five books of the Pentateuch could not have been written by Moses because writing did not exist at that time. This foundational assumption has been completely disproven by archeology. Wellhausen also worked  from the assumption that repetition or duplication of similar accounts shows separate sources and that different names for God in the text indicate different authors. Good scholars have refuted these assumptions.

Wellhausen was a product of the 18th century and heavily influenced by Hegelian philosophy. This philosophies edict was “the rational alone is real,” completely denying the possibility of miracles or the supernatural. Hegel’s dialectic approach went hand in hand with Charles Darwin’s evolutionary model set forth in his The Origin of Species. Riding on the coat tails of Darwin, Wellhausen’s view met with almost immediate acceptance. This view is called the Documentary Hypothesis (or Graf-Wellhausen Hypothesis). It theorizes that the Torah is a composite of four documents (JEDP). The order and dates of the documents were established

  • the Yahwist source: written c. 950 BCE in the southern kingdom of Judah.
  • the Elohist source: written c. 850 BCE in the northern kingdom of Israel.
  • the Deuteronomist: written c. 600 BCE in Jerusalem during a period of religious reform.
  • the Priestly source: written c. 500 BCE by Aaronid priests in exile in Babylon.
  • The Redactors: first JE, then JED, and finally JEDP, producing the final form of the Torah c.450 BCE.

(Redact means to put a literary work into appropriate form for publication)

Where Do They Get This Stuff From Anyway?

Basically from thin air. There are no source documents representing these alleged authors, it’s pure speculation. They are basing their argument on their own ability to read a Hebrew document that is 3000 years old, divide it up into vocabulary groups for each source, they slice up the concealed divisions into the different documents literally line by line and then they conjure up the mysterious unknown authors. These guys must be able to astrally project through time, see through walls and read minds! Of course, I’m kidding (just a little).  Seriously, I am not a language scholar but  it looks arbitrary to me.  Dr Heiser doesn’t buy it Many scholars don’t buy it either. But you would never get that impression, the elite critics really aren’t tentative about it. To claim to authoritatively extrapolate four different authors by brute force opinion is high theater. At best this is not an exact science and necessarily has a wide margin of error.

I have no problem with the idea that Ezra and scribes redacted writings made by Moses. Deuteronomy records Moses death so obviously Joshua or someone else recorded that incident. Contrary to the Grand Wazoo of higher critics, nobody is actually arguing for the Jewish legend “that an angel dictates to him the books of Moses from the heavenly tablets that have existed for eternity in heaven” and Sunday school kids understand that the bible has different genres. That post is a disingenuous attempt to patronize people that actually believe and take the text at face value. Moses never makes such a claim and conservative scholars do not either.  Still yet, Moses did not attempt to hide the source of his writing, but readily acknowledged that it came from God. “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29).

Should Christians Believe It?

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8, ESV)

If you accept the authority of Jesus Christ then you really need to look at Mark 10:4-8, where Jesus quoted Gen. 2:24, which would be attributed to J, as “What did Moses command you”. Mark 7:10, Jesus quoted the Ten Commandments, which fall into the E category, as “For Moses said,”. In Mark 10:3, Jesus refers to Deut. 24:1f,  allegedly written by D, as being from Moses. In Matt. 8:4, Jesus quoted Lev. 14, which would be attributed to P, as “Moses commanded.”  In addition, before the higher critic can achieve any credibility in the eyes of a Christian who recognizes the Lordship of Christ, the following verses must be explained.

Matt. 4:4, 7, 10; cf. Luke 4:4, 8, 12. Luke 4:16-27. Matt. 5:17, 18, 21-43. Matt. 6:29. Matt. 8:4; cf. Mark 1:44; Luke 5:14. Matt. 8:11; cf. Luke 13:28. Matt. 9:13. Luke 16:29-31. Matt. 10:15; cf. Mark 6:11. Matt. 11:10; cf. Luke 7:26, 27. Matt. 12:3-8; cf. Mark 2:24-28; Luke 6:3-5. Matt. 12:40-42; cf. Luke 11:29-32. Matt. 13:14, 15. Matt. 15:1-9; cf. Mark 7:8-12. Matt. 16:4. Matt. 17:11; cf. Mark 9:11-13. Matt. 19:3-9; cf. Mark 10:2-12. Matt. 19:18-19; cf. Mark 10:19; Luke 10:26-27; 18:20. Luke 18:31. Matt. 21:13-16; cf. Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46. Matt. 21:42; cf. Mark 12:10, 11; Luke 20:17. Matt. 22:28-33; cf. Mark 12:24-31; Luke 20:37-39, Matt. 22:36-40. Matt. 22:34, 44, 45; cf. Mark 12:35-57; Luke 20:41-44. Matt. 23:1-3, 23, 35; cf. Luke 11:51. Matt. 24:15-16; cf. Mark 13:14. Luke 17:26-31. Matt. 24:24, 31. Mark 14:21, 27. Luke 22:37. Matt. 26:53-56. Mark 14:49. Matt. 27:46; cf. Mark 15:34. Luke 23:46. Luke 24:25-32, 44-47. John 3:14; 5:39, 45-47; 6:32, 45; 7:19-23, 38, 39; 8:39-40, 44, 56-58; 10:33-36; 13:18, 26; 17:12, 17; 19:28.

It’s abundantly clear to me (and I hope it is to you) that Jesus believed and taught that Moses wrote the Torah. Now if you have a problem with believing Jesus Christ, I regrettably submit that you have a much bigger problem than the authorship of the Pentateuch. Please choose wisely.


Slick, Matt. Answering the Documentary Hypothesis. (accessed 04 17, 2010).

Towns D.Min, Elmer. Theology for Today. Mason, OH: Cenage Learning, 2008.