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I think the problem is that the evidence within most higher criticism arguments is fairly weak. Now when metaphysicians among philosophers make an argument they admit it is weak and recognize that even dominant consensus among philosophers doesn't mean they are right.

Unfortunately often among Biblical critiques the arguments are also correspondingly weak but there is, I think, a tad more hubris regarding the conclusions.

Not always of course and certainly some arguments are stronger than others. But, as someone once said, it is amazing that one can get so much from so little.

To bring things more up to date, you could also mention Kevin Barney's Dialogue essay, "Reflections on the Documentary Hypothesis."

Kevin Christensen
Pittsburgh, PA

Clark said that "the evidence within most higher criticism arguments is fairly weak." There's a lot to this area of study, and while I agree that there are assertions that are controversial, there are also arguments that are accepted by most biblical scholars.

For example, the evidence in favor of Matthew and Luke using Mark as a source (and quoting extensively from it verbatim) is accepted by the vast majority of scholars--including conservative evangelicals and LDS scholars. I realize that "majority" doesn't equal "truth", but what I'm trying to say is that the evidence for Markan priority is strong enough that even the most Biblically literal/inerrant scholars find it hard to challenge it.

Yes, I don't mean to imply there aren't strong arguments. (I think there are strong arguments in metaphysics as well for that matter.) But I think you must concede that a lot of the arguments of who wrote what in the OT with it being divined within a verse tend to strain credulity a bit. But certainly there are some strong arguments. (I think the Deutero-Isaiah argument is fairly strong for example.)

Clark, your view of right and wrong in biblical scholarship is not how those in the science view it in the least bit. Nobody stands up and claims absolute certainty for their theories in biblical studies (save maybe Wellhausen). The lessons of the 20th century taught biblical scholars that to support a theory as absolute truth is a risky business. I've read of many exegetes who bet the whole farm (i.e., they published and stated their unwavering allegiance to such and such a theory) on a specific model or theory only to be wrong once further evidence arises and lose their jobs, credibility, and in some cases, their sanity. Now days, a scholar may state a certain theory in an article or what not, but calmly "back away" from the idea when closing the article, leaving it open ended for further information to add insight to what was written. We all know it's theory, man. It's a given; it goes without saying. And as John says above, some of what these guys have found, even though it's theory, is so jaw-droppingly incisive that no amount of angels, still small voices, peep stones, or anything supernatural could make a stronger persuasion than what some of the "experts" have deduced.

If you want a good laugh, go look up "higher criticism" in Mormon Doctrine. It's one of my favorite BRM moments ... classic (theological) fundamentalism on display.

I'm not saying "absolute truth" but I think you'd agree David that there are views with fair consensus that still have a shaky epistemic basis.

David J. wrote:

If you want a good laugh, go look up "higher criticism" in Mormon Doctrine. It's one of my favorite BRM moments ... classic (theological) fundamentalism on display.

The Iron Rod responds:
I'm sure it will come as a complete surprise, but I agree with everything Elder McConkie said in the article you reference. If there is one thing that is clear from my study of scripture, it is that the scriptures simply cannot be understood correctly unless a person believes them, and reads them with the same Spirit that was present when they were written. Without the revelations of the Holy Ghost, secular man cannot begin to understand the scriptures. Most of what the scriptures "say" is between the lines, not actually included in the text. In this they are very similar to the Endowment.

This being the case, how could anyone hope to arrive at the truth by dissecting and endlessly researching the words themselves? This is also the problem with those who endlessly agonize over the alleged Book of Abraham difficulties. How can a person refute an interpretation or translation when what is being refuted isn't even written down, and probably can't even be expressed in human language? Some of the most profound revelations are not even verbal or in the form of words. They come in the form of a profound understanding flooding into the mind without language. And for that reason, it is possible for the heart to "know" truth that cannot even be explained logically in the language of science or scholarship. Logic, reason and "empirical evidence" have their place and uses, but those who worship them as the highest value in their list of priorities are just as guilty of idolatry as anyone else who places something above God and his religion.

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