Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JOTGES 13:1 (Spring 00) p. 83
“Historical Criticism and the Evangelical,” Grant R. Osborne, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (June 1999), 193–210.
Historical Criticism (hereafter HC) is a term referring to a number of methods which have been developed to determine what is historical in the Gospels (and the rest of the NT) and what is not. Using these methods, members of the Jesus Seminar, for example, have concluded that 82% of what the Gospel writers recorded as having been said by Jesus was not actually spoken by Him. They determined that these sayings were creations of the Gospel writers (including their alleged redactors).
Osborne, whose book The Hermeneutical Spiral. I use in a course I am teaching on current issues in hermeneutics, doesn’t deny that liberals use HC in this way. He suggests, however, that Evangelicals such as himself, Craig Blomberg, Darrell Bock, and others do not. He states they use it to aid them in understanding what God has said.
This is an extremely well written article. Osborne is an excellent apologist for his view. One needs to read this article very carefully in order to see areas in which the evangelical use of HC may indeed be a problem.
For example, I could not find one example by Osborne where HC enabled anyone to interpret any passage. He does point out that Evangelicals who use this method have come up with some very plausible harmonizations of Gospel texts. However, he seems to imply, without any evidence, that HC helped produce these harmonizations.
Osborne repeatedly criticizes a book by Thomas and Farnell called The Jesus Crisis, accusing the authors of overstatement. Yet he himself is guilty of the same thing in his critique.
He claims, for instance, that Thomas and Farnell “charge that HC makes it impossible for evangelicals to harmonize conflicting passages” (p. 200, italics added). His very next words are, “For instance, Thomas and Farnell say, ‘Historical criticism with its assumption of literary interdependence has little room for harmonizing apparent discrepancies
JOTGES 13:1 (Spring 00) p. 84
in parallel accounts of the Synoptic Gospels’” (italics added). The charge is that they say HC makes harmonization impossible. The proof cited is that they say it leaves little room for harmonization. The proof is no proof at all. Clearly the authors are not saying that it makes harmonization impossible.
One of the most instructive sections is Osborne’s analysis of five contrasts between the evangelical use of HC and that of the Jesus Seminar. Unwittingly, in his statements, he admits some of the very ...
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