Reasonable Biblical Criticism -- By: W. H. Griffith Thomas

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 069:275 (Jul 1912)
Article: Reasonable Biblical Criticism
Author: W. H. Griffith Thomas


Reasonable Biblical Criticism

W. H. Griffith Thomas

In the preface to his book,1 Dr. Beecher expresses his belief that one of the great needs of to-day is that of “so setting forth the orthodox ideas that they shall appeal to the thinking of the present generation, and shall make the study of the Bible a live study” (p. 5). His book is an attempt to meet this need, and he has aimed at giving a concise treatment at once comprehensive and concrete; “instead of presenting a logically complete outline, it presents a succession of topics that are typical in their character.” The first six chapters, covering Part I., are concerned with the “Point of View and Principles of Reasonable Criticism.” In the remainder of the book, consisting of sixteen chapters, instances are selected from different parts of the Old Testament to illustrate these facts and principles.

The opening chapter is entitled “Agnostic and Cryptoagnostic Criticism.” By agnostic criticism is meant the attitude of those who will not affirm anything as to the existence of God, an attitude which of course prevents the holder from regarding the Scriptures as a Divine revelation. By “crypto-agnosticism” Dr. Beecher intends us to understand the position of those who are in a greater or less degree agnostic, but

who try to hold this position “without parting entirely from the traditional ideas of the sacredness of the Bible” (p. 4). This position, however, is really more dangerous than the former because it comes from “enemies concealed within the camp.” Cryptoagnosticism is a denial of the truthfulness and trustworthiness of Scripture, and Dr. Beecher argues that “any criticism which unduly assumes or affirms the lack of truthfulness in the Scriptures is thereby marked as either agnostic or cryptoagnostic” (p. 6). Cryptoagnostic criticism is one of the great phenomena of present-day thought, and is being “pushed by a propaganda that is wonderfully effective.” As an instance of this attitude a quotation is given from Cornill’s “Prophets of Israel,” in which it is said that the narrative of the Old Testament “gives a thoroughly onesided, and in many respects incorrect, picture of the profane history, and on the other hand an absolutely false representation of the religious history of the people, and has thus made the discovery of the truth well nigh impossible” (p. 7). Wellhausen is also commonly reported to have compared his own teachings with those of certain Scottish scholars in the following terms: “I knew the Old Testament was a fraud, but I never dreamt, as these Scotch fellows do, of making God a party to the fraud” (p. 8). It is pointed out tha...

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