Some Strictures On Current Conceptions Of Biblical Criticism -- By: William Marcellus McPheeters

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 077:306 (Apr 1920)
Article: Some Strictures On Current Conceptions Of Biblical Criticism
Author: William Marcellus McPheeters


Some Strictures On Current Conceptions Of Biblical Criticism

William Marcellus Mcpheeters

The salient features of current conceptions of Biblical Criticism are few and soon stated. They are four in number, and all center around the adjective “Biblical.” To begin with, the inherent ambiguity of the adjective itself is universally ignored. Again, the adjective is invested with the absolutely restricted denotation that originally attached to the noun “Bible” as used of the Christian Scriptures. Finally, the very precise and definite connotation of the term “Bible,” as originally used, has in current usage likewise been transferred to the adjective “Biblical.” The inevitable consequence has been that current usage applies the designation “Biblical Criticism “to disciplines that are not entitled to it, and excludes from recognition the only discipline properly entitled to be so designated.

The purpose of the present discussion is to show that the foregoing are the characteristic features of current usage; and that they constitute defects the consequences of which are sufficiently grave to demand attention and a serious effort to inaugurate a sounder usage. But before attempting either of these aims, it will be advisable to indicate more fully what I mean by the only discipline properly entitled to be called Biblical Criticism. Here a brief consideration of certain other familiar terms the exact connotation of which is firmly established, and universally recognized, will furnish valuable and needed light.

Homeric Criticism is such a term. It designates not a

branch or species, but a field of Criticism, namely, the writings of Homer. In contrast with this, Historical Criticism designates, not a field, but a branch or species of Criticism, namely, that branch or species of Criticism which in contrast with all others, and to the exclusion of all others, concerns itself with historical problems and with historical phenomena. Chaucerian, Goethean, Dantean Criticism, and the like, are terms parallel to Homeric Criticism. In each of these cases the adjective employed designates, not the nature of the problems or the phenomena with which some specific branch of Criticism is engaged, but merely the sphere or field within which any one or all of several perfectly distinct species of Criticism may find its appropriate phenomena, with their respective problems. On the contrary, in the case of such terms as Historical, Literary, Linguistic, and Textual Criticism, and the like, the adjective prefixed to the term Criticism designates the distinctive problems and phenomena to which, to the exclusion of all others, the attention of Criticism is directed and confined. In the case of the ...

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