Some Observations and Problems Scientific Biblical Criticism and Exegesis -- By: Merrill Frederick Unger

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 121:481 (Jan 1964)
Article: Some Observations and Problems Scientific Biblical Criticism and Exegesis
Author: Merrill Frederick Unger

Some Observations and Problems
Scientific Biblical Criticism and Exegesis

Merrill F. Unger

[Merrill F. Unger, Professor of Semitics and Old Testament, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

The remarkable era of scientific advance in which we find ourselves today has accentuated tensions generated by conflicts between the alleged findings and claimed assured results of modern so-called scientific criticism and the Bible. The outcome of this “scientific” approach to Scripture has been as follows: (1) general abandonment of the evangelical position of the full authority of the Bible as God-breathed and inspired plenarily and verbally and inerrant and completely reliable in the autographs; (2) consequent reversion among Protestant scholars to a subjectivist position of authority in which the Bible is evaluated in terms of extra-biblical principles by individual men. This is to say that Scripture as interpreted by itself has been largely given up in favor of Scripture interpreted (and to some extent amplified) by official ecclesiastical sources (the position of Roman Catholicism), or Scripture interpreted on the basis of a purely “scientific” approach and presupposition (the Protestant view).

Following upon these results of the modern scientific method of dealing with the Bible is a third corollary: (3) insistence upon faith as the absolute sine qua non of dealing with God and His Word is also generally abandoned, since the basis of faith now has become not an infallible and fully authoritative written revelation, but a fallible errant tradition, which man’s pure reason is to evaluate and judge before it can be interpreted to speak to men. Actually this amounts

in large degree to Protestantism’s setting aside the Word of God by human reason, as Roman Catholicism sets it aside by ecclesiastical tradition, with authority residing in the so-called “church.”

Some Observations on the Validity of the
Modern Scientific Critical Approach to Scripture

1. What is the scientific approach to knowledge in general? In the physical realm which God created and put under rigid and unerring operation of natural law, pure science, i.e., mathematical science built on self-evident truths, and physical science, resting on experiment and observation, have accomplished marvels. The comforts, conveniences, and general progress of man’s condition in the outward aspects of his physical environment are due to his exploits in this realm.

Here the process has been to lay down certain presuppositions, advance certain hypotheses, and rigidly test the accuracy of these by objective and perfectly disinterested investigation. When exper...

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