Higher Criticism At High-Water Mark -- By: Samuel Colcord Bartlett

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 055:220 (Oct 1898)
Article: Higher Criticism At High-Water Mark
Author: Samuel Colcord Bartlett

Higher Criticism At High-Water Mark1

Samuel Colcord Bartlett

IT is a fortunate thing to have a scheme or speculation that is claimed by its friends to be revolutionary presented in its most favorable aspect by a cautious and reputable advocate. This good fortune in regard to the so-called Higher Criticism is secured in a series of seven articles by Professor S. I. Curtiss of Chicago, an active Christian worker, a Hebrew scholar and teacher in a hitherto conservative institution established by an intelligent body of evangelical churches, and himself a pupil, admirer, and to some extent a follower of Delitzsch. The series was prepared for, and pre-announced and commended by, a denominational paper of wide circulation, expressly to “furnish information,” although it is curiously added by the journal, “he has not appeared as an advocate,” when he has done little else. His long explanatory introduction is conciliatory; he avoids the offensive tone of Wellhausen; does not definitely commit himself to the “refinements” of Cheyne, nor distinctly allude to the extreme views of Cornill, or even the more moderate ones of Briggs. He substitutes the words “purely subjective” for the terms “unhistorical,” “fiction,” “altogether false,” applied by other writers of this school to the Scripture accounts; speaks of “putting a discount on the narratives,” rather

than of openly denying them; and the process which Kuenen (as he mentions) calls “a pious fraud,” he terms “the literary resurrection of Moses to speak words which he would have spoken if living”—which, however, according to the theory, he never did speak. He also remarks, concerning the attempt of “many critics to deny historicity [that is, historic truth] to the stories of the patriarchs,” “We can simply say, ‘Not proven.’” So this is all that can be done for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: their lives are saved to history and the world, at least for the present, by the Scotch verdict that their non-existence is “not proven.” This notwithstanding the Saviour’s emphatic saying concerning the three, that God “is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

Indeed, the cautious reserve in the formal statements of his positions constitutes the chief difficulty in examining them. The characteristic and distinctive views of the modern school of higher critics, and of the author himself, are to be found more in the illustrations, subordinate remarks, and ultimate disclosures, than in the main propositions advanced. These last are to a considerable degree so general as to include the principles of all intelligent modern expositors, or so generalized as not to pres...

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