Biblical Criticism Proper. Criticism: The Critical Process -- By: William Marcellus McPheeters

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 079:315 (Jul 1922)
Article: Biblical Criticism Proper. Criticism: The Critical Process
Author: William Marcellus McPheeters

Biblical Criticism Proper.
Criticism: The Critical Process

W. M. Mcpheeters

Each term in the phrase Biblical Criticism contributes its quota of information touching the discipline so designated. The term “Criticism” indicates the larger, and the term “biblical” the more limited, group of disciplines to which it belongs. The student of Biblical Criticism cannot do better than to begin by carefully clarifying his conceptions in regard to the connotation of both terms. In this paper it is proposed to limit attention to the latter,1 and to offer some observations on its meaning, and more particularly upon the critical process.

First of all, then, it is important to note that the word “criticism” is legitimately employed in not less than four, perhaps I should say five, perfectly distinct senses. Thus the mind goes through an inspecting and comparing process, or a sifting, weighing, testing process which issues in a judgment, and to this process or these processes we give the name of “criticism;” and to the act of judgment in which the process issues we likewise give the name of “criticism.” Here it will be observed that both the process and the judgment in which its outcome is registered are purely subjective, being confined within the mind itself. Should this judgment subsequently be formulated and expressed in words, this objective formulation of the spoken, or written, judgment we speak of as “a criticism,” or if there be a series of such judgments relating to a

common subject, to this series viewed as an organized whole we apply the name “criticism.” Long experience, however, has taught men that if the critical process is to issue in judgments that are valid, and so of real value, that process must itself be controlled and guided by well considered and sound principles, and a sound method. To the science that results when these principles and this method have been reduced to an orderly organized whole we continue to apply the name “Criticism,” frequently signalizing this special application of the term by beginning the word with a capital. Finally, to the art2 that emerges when these principles and this method are skillfully applied to a given subject we still give the name of “criticism.”

Hence it comes to pass that by Biblical Criticism may be meant (1) a mental process of a specific kind employed upon Biblical problems; or (2) a more or less well-defined body of conclusions or judgments reached by this or that school of scholars in their application of this process to these problems; or...

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