The Pastor’s Use of the Old Testament Part 1: The Critical Use of the Old Testament -- By: R. K. Harrison

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 146:581 (Jan 1989)
Article: The Pastor’s Use of the Old Testament Part 1: The Critical Use of the Old Testament
Author: R. K. Harrison


The Pastor’s Use of the Old Testament
Part 1:
The Critical Use of the Old Testament

R. K. Harrison

Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

[Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of four articles delivered by the author as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, November 1–4, 1988.]

Liberal Criticism and the Pastor

Not everyone is as comfortable in the Old Testament as in the New, partly because the latter is closer to the present chronologically, as well as to the Greco-Roman basis of North American culture. Many pastors have come to avoid the Old Testament because of unfortunate experiences in student days, and these may have included the depressing task of having to learn copious facts about such entities as J, E, D, and P, knowing instinctively that not merely was it a flawed hypothesis, but also that it was fundamentally untrue to fact. All too many pastors have “lost their faith” by having the teachings of liberal humanism imposed on them by teachers who stated dogmatically that persons holding any different views, especially where divine inspiration and revelation were concerned, were the equivalent of New Testament thieves and robbers (John 10:8). After all, the liberal scholars were messiahs, proclaiming the birth of a new kingdom of intellectual enlightenment, freed from those hidebound traditions of the church that had now been dismissed confidently by what was touted as “the most assured results of literary criticism.”

Because of these boastful assertions, it is necessary for pastors to re-examine the character of Old Testament scholarship carefully in the light of more recent events. On the conservative side the overall situation has changed gradually during the last century from one where those who proclaimed scriptural inspiration and authority

were either derided as obscurantists, or assailed by the opprobrious epithet “fundamentalist,” to the point where erudite conservative scholars are producing standard theological works that rank in scholarship with the best that liberalism can produce. This is a very gratifying situation and one that must be fully exploited.

As far as the last century of liberal scholarship is concerned, the present author has traced elsewhere the rise and progress of “enlightenment” thinking that has had such a staggering influence on Old Testament studies.1 It is now clear that the European scholars were not concerned primarily with and certainly not informed about the cultural ...

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