2 Peter 1:16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
The historical-critical methods of form and tradition criticism are the natural end-products of the radical historical skepticism produced from the period of the Enlightenment and beyond. Their derivation and development radiated historically from an underlying foundation that was innately hostile to the biblical text, especially in terms of its origin, historicity, and validity.
More strategically, however, is the fact that the hostility of these methodologies to the biblical text strategically centers in the essential philosophical nature of these disciplines. Form and tradition criticism are inherently philosophically driven disciplines. Philosophical traditions that were inherently hostile to the biblical text were the motivating force behind the developments of these disciplines and are responsible for the history, characteristics, and methodological expressions and practices of both form and tradition criticism. This hostility to the biblical text that is displayed in form and tradition criticism is the natural consequence of their philosophical underpinnings. These philosophical movements that comprise the Presuppositional foundations and underpinnings of form and tradition criticism are also responsible for the ascendance of these methodologies to widespread predominance in biblical interpretation.
Moreover, philosophy forms the basis for all historical-critical methodologies (source, form, redaction, tradition, literary criticism) practiced in recent times. As inherently philosophical methodologies, form and tradition criticism have already prescribed agendas that reach foregone conclusions. These disciplines cannot ever hope to perform an objective analysis because their design and superstructure are predicated upon a host of assumptions that are, by their very nature, philosophical in origin and expression. One should overlook this philosophical basis of form and tradition criticism. It is, therefore, more accurate to describe such historical-critical methodologies as “ideologies” rather than methodologies. As a result, form and tradition criticism as historical-critical methodologies are not capable of being “neutral” tools and have no real hopes of being so, no matter how far evangelicals try to “modify” this hermeneutical methodology. Their philosophical underpinnings preclude the possibility of neutrality or any form of objectivity or honesty in handling the biblical text.
Not only is an understanding of their philosophical bases important, but critical also to a proper understanding of form and tradition criticism is their nature as hermeneutical methodologies. These disciplines seek to make interpretive conclusions that are driven ultimately by philosophical underpinnings. Any such interpretive practices and decisions, therefore, are highly suspect due to the philosophically-driven basis of these disciplines. Indeed, much of what is considered exegesis in historical-critical methodologies is actually better described as eisegesis, i.e. the reading into the text of interpretive elements and conclusions that are extraneous and/or foreign to the text (not actually expressed through the text). Other possibilities are a priori proscribed or prohibited. Just like a child’s Lego® set is capable of building only certain structures in a certain way, so is the situation with the interpretive methodologies of form and tradition criticism. As eisegetical methods, they also are acutely subjective in nature, mirroring the capricious manipulation and bias of the interpreter. In contrast to the goal of the grammatico-historical method that correctly has been to eschew subjectivity in interpretation as much as possible, form and tradition criticism, by their very nature, actively promote the imposition of subjectivity upon the text.
At first, the liberal camp of theology developed and practiced form and tradition criticism since they were most profoundly influenced by prevailing philosophical developments that arose from the Enlightenment and beyond. Liberals lauded the utilization of these disciplines since they promoted the a priori agenda of the left-wing in their interpretation of the biblical text. The post-Bultmannian Norman Perrin is typical, calling form criticism “the single most important development” in the history of gospel criticism “for it provides what must be regarded as the only satisfactory understanding of the nature of the synoptic gospel material.” Others have been more modest in praise. Redlich, realizing the vastly assumptive nature of form criticism, reflects a more moderate tone, “exponents of the Form-Critical school quite understandably overrate the value of their method.”
Sadly, the practice of form and tradition criticism has now gained a stronghold in the evangelical camp. While evangelicals, especially conservative evangelicals, at first generally adopted an apologetic stance against such hermeneutical methodologies, many are now evidencing much greater willingness to accept such methodologies in their approach to interpreting the text. Robert Guelich, in his The Sermon on the Mount (1982) following George Ladd’s lead (see editor’s “Introduction” that details Ladd’s views), his mentor, promotes an exegesis “that . . . makes use of the literary critical tools including text, source, form, tradition, redaction, and structural criticism” and goes on to assert “for many to whom the Scriptures are vital the use of these critical tools has historically been more ‘destructive’ than ‘constructive.’ But one need not discard the tool because of its abuse.” Darrell Bock also follows this logic, arguing, “In the hands of a skilled exegete who uses the tools of interpretation in a way that fits what they are capable of, Form Criticism can be a fruitful aid to understanding and to exposition.”
Alister McGrath, in a recent article, declared that evangelicalism is the “Future of Protestantism,” representing “a modern standard bearer of historic, orthodox Christianity,” the “mainstream of American Protestant Christianity,” and “The Christian vision of the future.” However, this future for orthodox Christianity will be bleak indeed if conservative evangelicals continue to increase their association with historical-critical methodologies like form criticism. This latter thought receives reinforcement in the fact that through the employment of historical-critical methods now increasingly promoted by conservative evangelicals; liberals had long ago come to intellectual bankruptcy in their analysis of the Gospel material (e.g. deconstructionism).
In light of this growing acceptance of form and tradition criticism among conservative evangelicals, this chapter will analyze these hermeneutical disciplines, trace their Presuppositional and historical developments, and highlight their practice among liberals and conservative evangelicals alike in order to demonstrate the hermeneutical dangers posed by the adoption of these historical-critical methods.
The Definition and Description of Form Criticism
The renown German theologian Rudolf Bultmann (1893-1976), in essential agreement with Martin Dibelius, defines form criticism as follows:
I am entirely in agreement with M. Dibelius when he maintains that form-criticism is not simply an exercise in aesthetics nor yet simply a process of description or classification; that is to say, it does not consist of identifying the individual units of the tradition according to their aesthetics or other characteristics and placing them in their various categories. It is much rather “to discover the origin and the history of the particular units and thereby to throw some light on the history of the tradition before it took literary form.” The proper understanding of form-criticism rests upon the judgment that the literature in which the life of a given community, even the primitive Christian community, has taken shape, springs out of the quite definite conditions and wants of life from which grows up a quite definite style and quite specific forms and categories. Thus every literary category has its “life situation” (Sitz im Leben: Gunkel), whether it be worship in its different forms, or work, or hunting, or war. The Sitz im Leben is not, however, an individual historical event, but a typical situation or occupation in the life of the community.
The British theologian F. F. Bruce prefers a more simple, watered-down definition: “Form criticism (Ger. Formgeschichte, ‘form history’) represents an endeavor to determine the oral prehistory of written documents or sources, and to classify the material according to the various “forms” or categories of narrative, discourse, and so forth.”
Pre-eminently an Ideology Rather Than Methodology
Yet, one must not treat these definitions in isolation, for taken out of context, they mistakenly might be interpreted to portray form criticism as a somewhat benign process. However, as will be demonstrated, form criticism involves far more than determining so-called form categories or an alleged “life situation” from which the gospel tradition arose. Both presuppositionally and historically, form criticism inherently makes strategic, a priori judgments on the historicity and factuality of the gospel records. It is an ideology as well as a methodology. Eta Linnemann, herself a former Bultmannian who turned evangelical, remarks that historical criticism, in general, is more an ideology than a methodology,
A more intensive investigation would show that underlying the historical-critical approach is a series of prejudgments which are not themselves the result of scientific investigation. They are rather dogmatic premises, statements of faith, whose foundation is the absolutizing of human reason as a controlling apparatus.”
Presuppositionally, certain ideologies are inherent in the methodology that contributed to the development of form criticism. Indeed, as will be seen, form criticism (and tradition criticism) would not have been conceptually possible without certain presuppositional and historical developments. The method is replete with a priori assumptions that are buttressed by little or no proof. As a result, one must investigate the presuppositional and historical development of the methodology to determine the legitimacy of the method as a hermeneutical discipline, especially in relationship to its utilization by conservative evangelicals.
The term “form criticism” comes from the German formgeschichte (English, “form history”). In German, its full title is formgeschichtliche Methode. As with such terms as redactionsgischichte (English, “redaction history or criticism” and traditionsgeschichte (English, “form history or criticism”), the original German name of the discipline subtly reveals its negative philosophical underpinnings by the usage of term geschichte instead of the term historie. While the word historie refers to objective historical facts of history (external and verifiable), the usage of geschichte dichotomizes the concept of history further into interpretations of history, i.e., history as significance, internal and non-verifiable. According to this distinction, that Jesus was a man who lived in the first century is an objective statement of historical fact, or historie, that may be verified by canons of “historical reason,” while the assertion that he was the Son of God is an interpretive statement and belongs to the realm of geschichte in that it is affirmed only by an assumption of faith. In addition, such a distinction permits assertions that something may be interpretively “true” (history as significance) that may not be “true” in the sense of objectively verifiable (history as fact). For such form critics as Bultmann, no continuity exists between the Jesus of history (historie) and the Christ of Faith, i.e., geschichtethe–Christ of the kerygma.
According to form critics like Bultmann, the Jesus of history was a Jewish apocalyptist who died a tragic death and remains dead, while the “Risen Christ” is a mythological concept of the early church that reinterpreted the dead Jesus as the risen “Son of Man” under the influence of Jewish apocalyptic and Gnostic redemption mythology. Bultmann sought to demythologize stories of Jesus’s resurrection, and, in doing so, the resurrection signifies His rising into the kerygma to become the kerygmatic Christ. The basis of such assertions centers in a virulent anti-supernaturalism.
The Prime Impetuses: Evolutionary Conceptions and Unbelief
From its conception, form criticism, as well as its background presupposition of the priority of Mark, was heavily influenced by an underlying assumption of evolution conceptions of simple to complex (for further information, see also discussion of history and presuppositions below). Kelber insightfully describes Bultmann’s form-critical analysis in the following terms, “it [Bultmann’s concept of the development of the synoptic tradition] was a process as natural as that of biological evolution: simplicity grew into complexity” and his [Bultmann’s] form-critical model as “an effortlessly evolutionary transition from the pre-gospel stream of tradition to the written gospel.”
The fundamental assumption (presupposition) “which makes form criticism both necessary and possible” reveals an evolutionary-driven philosophy encrusted in the following terms: “the tradition consists basically of individual sayings and narratives joined together in the Gospels by the work of the authors.” These individual sayings and narratives circulated as isolated, independent units before being fixed in written form. This assumed oral period usually is identified as existing somewhere between 30/33 and 60/70 C.E. or between the death of Christ and the composition of the earliest written Christian documents, hence a period of about thirty years.
Guthrie, however, notes the peril of any such dogmatic speculation regarding an oral period: “The very fact that our historical data for the first thirty years of Christian history are so limited means that form critics inevitably had to draw a good deal on imagination, although none of them were conscious of doing so.” Thus, at its very heart, form criticism is acutely subjective. Since form critics contend that the passion narrative circulated as a continuous narrative, why could not other narratives also (e.g. Mark 1:21-39:2:1-3:6)? The highly credible works of Birger Gerhardsson and Harald Riesenfeld reveals that the Jews were capable of tremendous feats of memorization that would indicate the stability of the tradition rather than instability as posited by form criticism. Furthermore, a very credible case can be made that short narratives written by the eyewitness apostles may have existed. These latter two points have been too readily dismissed by New Testament scholars as a whole, most likely because they would inherently refute the acutely dogmatic positions that currently predominate in both the source and form criticism.
Furthermore, the hypothesis of evolution has continued to dominate the second generation of form critics. For example, although Caird rejected the more “radical” conclusions of earlier or radical form critics like Bultmann, especially in terms of the historicity of the tradition, he supported the validity of much of form-critical principles. He boldly asserts, “Nobody is likely to dispute that some process of natural selection [italics mine] has been at work in the formulation of the gospel tradition.”
Due to philosophically-motivated prejudices, rather than accepting the gospels coming from disciples whose names the Gospels bore (e.g. Matthew, John) and who were eyewitnesses of the deeds and sayings of Jesus during his earthly life or contemporaries of eyewitnesses (Mark, Luke), form critics allege that the gospels reflect the Post-Easter faith of the early church that functioned as the repository for these stories. The gospel tradition reflects the teaching of the early church not Jesus and resulted long after any eyewitness period. Similar to biological evolution that must postulate long periods of time for the origin of species, form critics sees a gradual development of the gospel tradition, long after any eyewitness period. For example, Bultmann argues that although the “date of the gospels cannot be accurately determined,” Mark “was not the work of a disciple of Jesus or a member of the primitive community; and the same is true of Matthew and Luke.” He asserts that Mark was the oldest gospel being composed around C.E. 70 and goes on to argue that “The composition of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke may be placed in the period from 70-100 A.D., probably nearer 100 than 70.” Thus, direct attestation to Jesus’ words are not available, and indeed, the Gospels do not reflect Jesus’ words but the thinking of the Christian community. Lightfoot, whose work served as the bridge between form and redaction criticism, asserted, “It seems, then, that the form of the earthly no less than of the heavenly Christ is for the most part hidden from us. For all the inestimable value of the gospels, they yield us little more than a whisper of his voice; we trace in them but the outskirts of his ways.”
Fundamental Contradictions to Form Criticism: Eyewitnesses to and Biographical Interest in the Tradition
Form critics must postulate that the gospels were written well beyond the apostolic period because the acceptance of the concept of eyewitnesses to and a biographical interest in the Gospel tradition stands in direct contradiction to form criticism as well as affirms the stability of the tradition. Significantly, in Bultmann’s History of the Synoptic Tradition, the term “eyewitness” does not even occur. The lack of eyewitness involvement is a basic presupposition of early form critics. Nineham comments, “According to form-critics, eyewitnesses played little direct part in the development of the Gospel tradition, however much they may have had to do with its original formulation . . . this opinion is no accidental or peripheral feature of the form-critical position” especially since “characteristics” and “key features” [of form-critical analysis] “are incompatible with any theory of much direct eye-witness influence after the initial stage.” However, the form critic, Dibelius, was forced to admit the strategic significance of the presence of eyewitnesses for the tradition: “At the period when eyewitnesses of Jesus were still alive, it was not possible to mar the picture of Jesus in the tradition.”
Form critics postulate that through time and the changing conditions of the various Christian communities, these stories of Jesus gradually acquired accretions (i.e. fabrications and embellishments) that were not original, especially miraculous elements. Varied individual circumstances of the Christian communities determined what accretions were added and how such accretions took shape. The early church was interested not in the tradition for historical and literary purposes but for proclamation concerns of the church (e.g. preaching). Dibelius notes,
The first understanding afforded by the standpoint of Formgeschichte is that there never was a “purely” historical witness to Jesus. Whatever was told of Jesus’ words and deeds was always a testimony of faith as formulated for preaching and exhortation in order to convert unbelievers and confirm the faithful. What founded Christianity was not knowledge about a historical process, but the confidence that the content of the story was salvation: the decisive beginning of the End . . . .
[Form Criticism] . . . undertakes to portray that the understanding of the story of Jesus, by which the various formulations of the material are dominated.”
However, Dibelius was not quite as radical as Bultmann regarding historical judgments, for he asserts at times, “That the words of Jesus were preserved, that they were put together to form ‘speeches’ with a single theme, and . . . that the sayings and parables were edited in the interest of exhortation, shows the Church’s concern for shaping the life according to the commands of the Master.” The form critic, Ernst Käsemann, remarks, “[T]he work of the Form Critics was designed to show that the message of Jesus as given to us by the synoptists is, for the most part, not authentic but was minted by the faith of the primitive Christian community in its various stages.”
Guthrie strikes at the heart of the matter:
[T]his type of form criticism is based on a definite presupposition regarding the earliest Christian period. It first is assumed that all the synoptic gospel records are community products and it then follows automatically that they become witnesses to the actual life and teaching of the church rather than to the life and teaching of Jesus.
Thus, according to the developers of form criticism, the words of Jesus effectively have been lost due conversion motivations of the early church. No biographical interest existed in the Christian community to preserve the words of Jesus. Thus, basic to form criticism is the assumption that through time a change (evolution) in the transmission of material occurred.
A strong case, however, for the dating of the gospels and the New Testament as whole during the eyewitnesses period can be made. Interestingly, the liberal John A. T. Robinson, who formerly dated the New Testament as late reconstructions similar to the position of form critics, i.e. from C.E. 70 to early in the second century, now concludes after a rigorous re-analysis that all 27 New Testament were produced in approximately the two decades before C.E. 70 and that they are the work of the Apostles themselves or their contemporaries. He insightfully concludes, “[I]f the chronology of the documents and the pattern of development should turn out to be anything like what I have suggested, then there will be scope for numerous new trajectories to be drawn and for the rewriting of many introductions to–and ultimately theologies of–the New Testament. For dates remain disturbingly fundamental data.”
Not only may the early dating of the New Testament and the subsequent role of eyewitness be affirmed, but the New Testament indicates a fundamental biographical interests of the Christian community in the words and deeds of Jesus Christ, e.g., 1 Corinthians 7:10 where Paul distinguishes his words from those of Jesus; Luke 1:1-4 where Luke indicates that many had drawn up accounts based on reports handed down (“handed down”–parevdosan) to them from those who were “eyewitnesses and servants” (aujtovptai kai; uJphrevtai) from the very beginning (ap j ajrch‘”) of Jesus ministry and that his research was based on careful investigation (ajkribw‘”) of those eyewitness accounts; Acts and other New Testament books contain constant appeal by first century Christians that they were eyewitnesses of the events about which they spoke (e.g. Acts 2:32; 3:15; 10:41; 1 Cor. 15:1-8).
If the fact of eyewitnesses be accepted, then the concept of an unstable oral tradition is untenable for those eyewitnesses provide a guard against any substantial variation. If the apostles and their eyewitness contemporaries wrote the 27 books of the New Testament, then the New Testament offers no actual support to the form-critical evolutionary hypothesis of the tradition as brief, rounded units circulating for long periods of time that eventually were placed into a gospel record by the “Christian community.” Instead, the Gospels reflect the personal reminiscences of eyewitnesses. As a result, the primary circulation of the tradition evidenced in the 27 documents of the New Testament is that which occurred in the minds of the apostles and their eyewitness contemporaries as they composed their works based on either their own personal reminiscences or those of other eyewitnesses (cf. Luke 1:1-4)! They are the true repository of the tradition reflected in New Testament rather than some later, hypothetical and nebulous entity known as the “Christian community.”
The Goals of Form Criticism
Because form criticism assumes a basic change in the gospel material, form critics apply certain form criteria or laws of tradition (e.g., length of episode, addition of details, presence of Semitisms) that are considered valid for determining the relative age (antiquity), original form, and historical veracity of the tradition reflected in the written sources (i.e., the gospels). Although more will be said regarding these criteria and others (“criteria of authenticity”), such criteria are also heavily based on evolutionary assumptions of gradually increasing complexity, a presuppositional antisupernatural bias against miraculous elements and the assumption that proposed “laws” of folk tradition can be applied to the gospel tradition in order to determine what aspects are late accretions and modifications (i.e., inauthentic). Bultmann contended,
The laws governing the formulation of popular narrative and tradition may be studied in detail in the material which the Synoptists handed down. The first thing we observe is that the narrators do not give us long unified accounts but rather small single pictures, individual scenes narrated with the utmost simplicity. These always occupy but a brief space of time; apart from the Passion narrative no event or proceeding is narrated which covers more than two days. As a rule, only two speaking characters appear in these scenes, or at most three, involved proceedings are beyond the powers of the simple story teller. Where groups or crowds are present, they are treated as a unity. As such narratives pass from mouth to mouth, or when one writer takes them over from another, their fundamental character remains the same, but the details are subject to the control of fancy and are usually made more explicit or definite.
This last task, viz., the study of the laws which govern literary transmission, can be approached by observing the manner in which the Marcan material was altered by Matthew and Luke; and also how Matthew and Luke worked over what they took from the Logia. Here we observe a certain regular procedure which becomes still more evident when we carry the investigation to a later tradition, particularly to the apocryphal gospels, and see how in these the gospel material received further literary development. . . . The ability to make the necessary distinctions can be developed by studying the general laws which govern popular transmission of stories and traditions in other instances, for example, in the case of folk-tales, anecdotes, and folk- songs.
During this oral period, form critics postulate that these individual units of tradition were shaped by the early church as they were continually recounted by preachers, teachers and story-tellers as the occasion warranted. Davies summarizes the form-critical posture well,
It is the first assumption of Form Critics that the Gospels are from the Church, by the Church, for the Church. The tradition about the works and words of Jesus was transmitted by the churches scattered around the Mediterranean; their evangelists, preachers, teachers, and exorcists used it and molded it, and even created parts of it. It was the needs of the churches in worship, in catechism, in apologetic, in exhortation, and in other ways that determined what tradition was transmitted and how it was used.
Over time and as these fabricated accretions were gradually added, Gospel literature, assumed by form critics to be parallel to other forms of folk literature, took on definite or fixed forms through constant repetition. These forms varied according to the function that they served in the Christian community, e.g., preaching, teaching, worship, instruction, or apologetics. The technical term in form criticism that refers to that sociological setting within the life of the early Church that gave rise to the particular rhetorical forms (e.g. legends, sayings, miracle stories) is called Sitz im Leben (lit. “setting in life” or “life situation”). Hermann Gunkel first employed this term in his form-critical analysis of the Old Testament. Dibelius and Bultmann, influenced by Gunkel, applied the concept to the New Testament, especially the Gospel materials under the assumption that they had existed in oral form prior to being written down in the Gospels.
Yet, both Dibelius and Bultmann conceptualized different Sitz im Lebens that gave rise to the tradition. While Dibelius asserted that the Sitz im Leben of the material centered in the preaching of the early church, Bultmann hypothesized that the Sitz im Leben centered in apologetic concerns. Furthermore, Bultmann asserted that while most of the formative process took place in the Palestinian communities, miracle stories and legends took place in the Hellenistic community which, according to Bultmann were more gullibly prone to add miraculous embellishments.
Eventually, according to form criticism, the anonymous gospel writers collected and arranged these numerous individual stories into a written narrative (i.e., gospel) that reflected the needs and interests of their particular community. Presuppositionally (see below under history and presuppositions), form critics also assume the evolutionary-driven two- (German—Holtzmann) or four-source (British—Streeter) hypothesis (a.k.a. The Two-Document Hypothesis) that contends that an evangelist identified as Mark wrote his gospel first. Utilizing both Mark and a hypothetical (i.e., postulated, non-extant) document known as “Q” (German, Quelle or “source”), the unknown evangelists identified as “Matthew” and “Luke” (generally assumed by form critics not to be written by the individuals whose names the Gospels bear) composed their respective gospels. However, to form critics, the gospel writers were mere collectors of tradition rather than unique contributors. Dibelius argues, “The authors of the Gospels, at least of the synoptics are not ‘authors’ in the literary sense but collectors. We are not, therefore, concerned first of all with their knowledge of the subject matters, but with the knowledge of those who gave the tradition its form, and this taking form was not mediated by authors but by preachers.” Bultmann remarks, “Mark is not sufficiently master of his material to be able to venture on a systematic construction himself.”
In light of these foundational constructions of form criticism, Dibelius delineated the purpose of form criticism in the following terms:
The method of Formgeschichte has a twofold objective. In the first place, by reconstruction and analysis, it seeks to explain the origin of the tradition about Jesus, and thus to penetrate into a period previous to that in which our Gospels and their written sources were recorded. But it has a further purpose. It seeks to make clear the intention and real interest of the earliest tradition. We must show with what objective the first churches recounted stories about Jesus, passed them from mouth to mouth as independent narratives, or copied them from papyrus to papyrus. In the same manner we must examine the sayings of Jesus and ask with what intention these churches collected them, learnt them by heart and wrote them down. The present-day reader should learn to read the individual passages of the early tradition in the way they were meant, before the time when, more or less edited, they were included in the Gospels.
However, Dibelius immediately admits a further purpose and design of form criticism:
The method of Formgeschichte seeks to help in answering the historical questions as to the nature and trustworthiness of our knowledge of Jesus, and also in solving a theological problem properly so-called. It shows in what way the earliest testimony about Jesus was interwoven with the earliest testimony about salvation which appeared in Jesus Christ. Thereby it attempts to emphasize and illuminate the chief elements of the message upon which Christianity was founded.
Similarly, Bultmann writes that the purpose of form criticism is: “discovering what the original units of the Synoptics were, both sayings and stories, to try to establish what their historical setting was, whether they belong to a primary or secondary tradition or whether they were the product of editorial activity.” To Bultmann, “the aim of form-criticism is to determine the original form of a piece of narrative, a dominical saying or a parable. In the process, we learn to distinguish secondary additions and forms, and these, in turn, lead to important results for the history of the tradition.”
In light of these postulates, the methodological practice (i.e., objectives) of form criticism centers generally in three overall activities: 1) classification of the individual pericopes (self-contained units of teaching or narrative) of the gospel materials according to form; 2) assigning each form to a Sitz im Leben or life-situation in the early church from which the material arose and was preserved; and 3) recovery of the original form of the material during the oral period through laws of tradition (see the section on “tradition criticism”).
The Historical and Presuppositional Background of Form Criticism
A presuppositional and historical review of the development of form criticism is absolutely vital in determining the legitimacy or illegitimacy of form criticism as a hermeneutical discipline. Importantly, a hermeneutical methodology can only be as legitimate as the presuppositional and historical foundation upon which it is based especially since that foundation provides the raison d’ être for its existence. If the foundations are hermeneutically tenuous or illegitimate, then the methodology must also be.
Conservative evangelicals who practice form-critical methodologies in isolation from its presuppositional and historical developments place themselves in a precarious position. Any attempts by conservative evangelicals at modifying form-critical principles or practicing the discipline in isolation from its antecedents are tenuous since such a practice largely ignore the justification for the discipline’s existence and merely serve to underscore the dubious validity of form criticism as a legitimate hermeneutical methodology. The following is a brief sketch of the major historical developments in Gospel criticism that gave rise to form criticism.
Although form criticism is a development of twentieth-century scholarship, its roots center in the period of the Enlightenment in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A “prologue” to the development of form criticism was the deist and rationalist Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694-1768), a professor of Oriental Languages in Hamburg. During his life, he published a number of works advocating deism, but he is perhaps best remembered for writing a four-thousand-page manuscript entitled Apologie oder Schutzschrift für die vernünftigen Verehrer Gottes (English, “An Apologetic for the Rational Worshipers of God”). This work remained unpublished during his lifetime.
After Reimarus’s death, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781), motivated by a profound belief in rationalism and historical skepticism from the Enlightenment, published parts of the work between 1774 and 1778 under the title of Fragmente eines Ungenannten. Two fragments (the sixth and seventh published) received special attention since their purpose was to discredit Christianity. The sixth fragment, Ueber die Auferstehungsgeschichte (English, “Concerning the Resurrection Story”—1777) attempted to trump up inconsistencies in the Gospel accounts of the resurrection and asserted that the evangelists were mistaken as to the fact of the resurrection. The seventh fragment, Von dem Zwecke Jesu und seiner Jünger (English, “On the Purpose of Jesus and His Disciples”–1778), contended that Jesus was an unsuccessful political messianic pretender and that the disciples were disappointed charlatans who stole the body of Jesus and invented the Christian faith rather than go back to work for a living after the crucifixion.
The significance of Reimarus’s work centers in the fact that in the age of deism, rationalism, and skepticism of the Enlightenment, the Gospels were increasingly dismissed as historical documents and instead were interpreted as dogmatic and theological documents designed to promote belief rather than convey factual accounts. Schweitzer summarizes the significance of Reimarus’s work for developing gospel criticism: Reimarus shows the necessity of assuming “a creative element in the tradition” to which are ascribed “the miracles, the stories which turn on the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy, the universalistic traits and the predictions of the passion and the resurrection.” Perrin states of Reimarus’s significance that he is the father of “Life of Jesus research altogether.”
The next significant development toward form criticism was the work of David Friedrich Strauss (1808-1874) who popularized the “mythical” view of Scripture. Strauss characterized Reimarus as one of Christianity’s “most courageous and worthy representatives” of biblical criticism in the eighteenth century. While Strauss praised Reimarus, he also admired the skeptic and anti-supernaturalist, David Hume. Strauss remarked that “Hume’s Essay on Miracles in particular carries with it such general conviction, that the question [of the impossibility of miracles] may be regarded as having been virtually settled.”
Yet, the views of Strauss were close to that of Reimarus. In 1862, Strauss published a tribute to Reimarus who maintained a rationalistic interpretation of Jesus’s life. In 1835-36, Strauss wrote Das Leben Jesu, kritisch bearbeitet (“The Life of Jesus Critically Examined”) that set forth the concept of “myth” in the Gospel accounts. Strauss removed any element of the supernatural from history, especially biblical history. He saw a closed continuum of cause and effect that admitted no divine intervention. To Strauss, whenever the biblical data presents the supernatural or abnormal, the mythopoeic faculty has been at work. Although Strauss allowed a minimal historical framework for the life of Jesus, he considered the vast majority of material in the Gospels to be myth. Neill remarks regarding this work that “if Strauss’s interpretation of the Gospels came to be accepted, Christianity, as it has been understood through the centuries, would come to an end in a generation.” The renowned form critic Rudolf Bultmann would also follow Strauss’s tactic of myth in the pursuit of his form-critical analysis of the Gospels.
While the virulent antisupernaturalism of the Enlightenment caused the Gospels to be viewed as dogmatic and theological documents rather than historical, another significant presuppositional development occurred that would stimulate the development of both source and form criticism: the hypothesis of evolution. Although popularized by Charles Darwin (1809-82) in his Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871), evolutionary concepts are ancient, and Darwin was by no means original with the hypothesis. Hutchison relates, “Few factors have influenced Western thinking during the past two centuries more than the writings of Charles Darwin.” Evolutionary ideas had a strong, quick, and saturating impact in Britain (Darwin’s homeland) and in Germany where many of the new theories regarding the origin and development of the New Testament were being germinated during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, currently, a trend exists toward more sober assessment of the true nature of evolution, not as a science but as a faith postulate based on philosophical naturalism. This assessment is not coming exclusively from those who may be pejoratively labeled as “fighting fundies” but also from secular sources.
In terms of Old Testament, the Documentary Hypothesis or the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis originated during the height of the popularity of evolution in philosophical circles. Rejecting Mosaic authorship, it posits a gradual development (long after Moses) of the Old Testament from simple documents (JEDP) into the complexity of the Pentateuch. The hypothesis developed in the backdrop of philosophical speculations of the rationalist and pantheist Spinoza (who suggested Ezra composed the Torah), the deists, Hegelianism, and the increasing popularity of evolutionary philosophy. Twentieth century scholarship has tended to discount the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis.
Evolutionary thought thoroughly permeates the Two- (popularized and synthesized by Heinrich J. Holtzmann [1832-1910] in Die Synoptischen Evangelien  in Germany) and Four-Document Hypotheses (popularized by Burnett Hillman Streeter [1874-1937] in The Four Gospels- in Britain) that assume the priority of Mark as the earliest. These Two- and Four-Document hypotheses also stand as important presuppositions since form criticism assumes these hypotheses as working bases for form-critical analysis. Here again, the idea of simple to complex is seen in that Mark (, the alleged “Q” source (Quelle), material peculiar to Matthew (M), and material peculiar to Luke (L) were combined into the complex documents of Matthew and Luke. The Two- and Four-Document hypotheses developed at a time in which evolutionary philosophy was rocketing to prominence in Britain and on the continent of Europe (e.g., Germany) in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Farmer, in his work, The Synoptic Problem (1964), insightfully identifies the evolutionary “intellectual climate” of the time as fostering the dominance of the Documentary Hypothesis in source criticism at the end of the nineteenth century. Thomas Huxley (1825-1895), one of the greatest of evolutionary propagandists, championed the Marcan hypothesis. He wrote: “our canonical second Gospel, the so-called ‘Mark’s’ Gospel) is that which most closely represents the primitive groundwork of the three. That I take to be one of the most valuable results of New Testament criticism, of immeasurably greater importance than the discussion about dates and authorship.”
In Oxford Studies, Streeter wrote an essay entitled “The Literary Evolution of the Gospels.” William Sanday (1843-1920), the editor of Oxford Studies was an outstanding propagandists for the British Four Source Theory. He praised Streeter’s essay with the following:
I do not remember to have seen, within anything like the same compass, a picture at once so complete, so sound, and (to my mind) so thoroughly scientific, of the whole course of development in the Apostolic and sub-Apostolic age in its bearing upon literary composition in general and the composition of the Gospels in particular. It is a real evolution, and an evolution conceived as growth, in which each stage springs naturally, spontaneously, and inevitably out of the last.
Farmer remarks, ‘Darwin’s epoch-making Origin of Species had been published during Sanday’s student days at Oxford, and there is no doubt that in the years following, like many of the best minds of his generation, he [Sanday] drank deeply from the cup of salvation offered by the cult of ‘scientism,’ that is, faith in science.”
In addition, Edwin Abbott (1838-1926) provides another important clue in the acceptance of Mark as the first and most “primitive” gospel: antisupernaturalism. In a major article on the gospels in a 1879 Encyclopedia article, Abbott based his acceptance of the “antiquity” of Mark on the “striking proof” that it does not mention “supernatural events” like Matthew and Luke, i.e. reference to the details of Jesus’ birth (e.g., virgin birth, visit of angels, star in Bethlehem) and “only the barest prediction of His resurrection.” Because Mark was perceived as relatively “simple,” without any reference to the miraculous birth narratives and post-Resurrection appearances, the antisupernatural climate of the time naturally gravitated to the Marcan hypothesis. Farmer notes, “This article exercised a profound influence upon the Synoptic Problem in England. Reliable chroniclers of biblical criticism give it a prominent place.”
Yet, the perceived weakness of source criticism was that it could not push behind these alleged sources into a hypothesized oral period before the gospels took written form. Source criticism left an alleged gap of some twenty to thirty years between the time of Jesus and the first written documents. The desire to explore this period would help give rise to form-critical speculation and conjecture. Furthermore, the multiplying of hypothetical sources in source criticism due to the Two- and Four-Document Hypotheses inability to explain the synoptic evidence “increasingly weakened the whole structure of the hypothesis.”
The scholar who was directly responsible for the development of form criticism was Johannes Heinrich Hermann Gunkel (1862-1932), an Old Testament scholar. Gunkel applied form-critical analysis to Genesis in his work Sagen der Genesis (English, “The Stories of Genesis”). In this work, Gunkel acknowledged the work of Old Testament source criticism that negated Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Instead, under evolutionary influences, he viewed Genesis, as well as the rest of the Pentateuch, as developing gradually over a long period of time (well after the time of Moses), growing out of documents known as JEDP reflected in the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis. Before the documents were written, individual stories existed in oral form and modified (increased in complexity) over a long period of time.
Gunkel also classified the stories of Genesis in light of the purpose (e.g., historical, ethnographical, etiological, ethnological, etymological, and cultic). Although Gunkel allowed for a bare minimal kernel of historical truth in some stories of Genesis, he held that the stories of Genesis were largely mythological in character, especially the accounts of creation and the flood. Kümmel notes,
- L. Schmidt and his like-minded colleagues, M. Dibelius and R. Bultmann, owe the most potent stimuli to the writings of the man who, after having cooperated in founding the history-of-religions school, transferred his interests to Old Testament Research–Herman Gunkel. Gunkel’s method of recovering the original traditions and of discovering the spiritual presuppositions of the formation of these traditions (Sitz im Leben or “life situation”)–a method applied especially to the Old Testament legends of the patriarchs and to the Old Testament songs–prepared the way in decisive fashion for the investigation of the gospel traditions by K. L. Schmidt and the other form critics.”
The Old Testament scholar and form critic, Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) also helped take took form-critical methodologies into New Testament studies. He helped form a bridge between Old and New Testament studies. Wellhausen, in his Einleitung in die drei ersten Evangelien, makes three points about Mark that developed eventually into major form-critical axioms: 1) the original source for material in the Gospel is oral tradition that circulated independently in small units; 2) the material was brought together and redacted in various ways and at various stages, only one of which was the evangelist; and 3) the material gives us information about the beliefs and circumstances of the early church as well as Jesus’s ministry. In his Das Evangelium Marci (1903), Wellhausen contended that the primitive tradition reflected in Mark was overlaid with editorial additions (i.e. accretions) influenced by early church theology rather than reflecting the historical situation of Jesus. Wellhausen’s hypothesis helped give impetus to the form-critical speculation that the origin shaping of the material was not due to apostolic eyewitnesses but to the Christian community.
For a time, source criticism had postulated that Mark was the earliest gospel, and although it reflected mythological elements like the other Gospels (Matthew, Luke, John), Mark reflected somewhat more primitive historicity than the other gospels, i.e., Mark was closest to the point of time of the original eyewitnesses so that it could be used with relative confidence as a historical source. However, Wilhelm Wrede (1859-1906), in Das Messiasgeheimnis in den Evangelien (“The Messianic Secret”–1901) would undertake a similar tactic to Reimarus in rejecting the historicity of Mark and asserting that Mark’s gospel represents creative, dogmatic ideas which the evangelist imposed on the tradition, i.e., Jesus never claimed to be Messiah during his lifetime; the church superimposed this post-Resurrection idea upon the lips of Jesus. Perrin remarks that “Wilhelm Wrede (1859-1906) . . . sounded the death knell” regarding the historicity of Mark “by demonstrating that a major aspect of the Marcan narratives was precisely the ‘mythic.'”
Although Wrede’s view was at first strongly criticized, it exerted a powerful influence on early form critics who assumed as a presupposition that the framework of the gospel narratives was suspect and the contextual framework of the stories of little importance. Bultmann, for example, concurred with Wrede’s conclusions, arguing that Mark is not history because it “is really dominated by the theology of the Church and by a dogmatic conception of Christ.” Benoit relates, “This [Wrede’s view] is exactly the same attitude adopted by the Form Critics. All they add to Wrede’s position is a more methdological research into the way in which Christian dogma was created and elaborated by the primitive Community.”
With a very large portion of New Testament scholars viewing Mark as “mythical” and dogmatic (theological) rather than historical, the road now opened for the work of Karl Ludwig Schmidt (1891-1956). In his work, Der Rahmen der Geschichte Jesu (1919) Schmidt concentrated on the chronological and geographical framework imposed on Mark by the evangelist. Schmidt asserted that the episodes of the Gospel accounts were isolated units of tradition linked together by the author (like pearls on a string). References to time, place, and geography did not form part of the episodes and had little value. The evangelist strung the episodes together unhistorically and artificially. Schmidt concluded his work with the following, “On the whole there is [in the Gospels] no life of Jesus in the sense of a developing story, as a chronological outline of the history of Jesus, but only isolated stories, pericopes, which have been provided with a framework.”
With the elimination of the belief in the integrity of the chronological and geographical framework on the Synoptics, the units of material tied together by that framework were left in isolation. These episodes came from the Christian community among whom they circulated in independent form. Schmidt speculated that these independent pericopes arose due to the development of Christian tradition of worship. However, Schmidt did not utilize the tools of form criticism to pry into an alleged oral period of the Gospels.
Martin Dibelius (1883-1947) and Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) fully developed and refined form criticism in the New Testament. Dibelius was the first to apply form criticism to the synoptic tradition in his Die Formgeschichte des Evangeliums (1919; English title, From Tradition to Gospel—1934). The term formgeschichte (English, “form criticism” or “history”) originated from Dibelius’s use of it in his title. Dibelius worked out a system for identifying the isolated gospel episodes and worked out a method for classifying their form.
Rudolf Bultmann is associated more closely with form than Dibelius or Schmidt and is most responsible for the thoroughness and maturation of the method. Bultmann’s epoch-making work was Die Geschichte der synoptischen Tradition (1921) [English title, The History of the Synoptic Tradition, 1963]. Evolutionary dogma heavily influenced Bultmann in the formulation of his system. Because many of his professors came from the history-of-religions school, he was an advocate of that evolutionary system of thought and made significant contributions to the work of this group. Bultmann’s professor for his dissertation (Der Stil der paulinischen Predigt und kynisch-stoische Diatribe, [“The Style of Pauline Sermon and Cynic-Stoic Diatribe”]—1910) was the history-of-religions proponent Heitmüller. He also dedicated his primary work, History of the Synoptic Tradition, to Heitmüller. Hermann Gunkel, the renown Old Testament form critic and history-of-religions advocate, was also one of Bultmann’s professors during his years as a student at Berlin University. In 1921, Bultmann became Bousset’s successor at Giessen, and in 1921 succeeded Heitmüller at Marburg.
Philosophically, Bultmann was also heavily influenced by Kant. Morgan writes, “His theology was shaped above all by the pious neo-Kantianism of his teacher Herrmann (1846-1922), a devout follower of Ritschl (1822-89).” The existentialist thinking of Kierkegaard and especially Heidegger also deeply influenced Bultmann. Becoming disillusioned with the historical Jesus of the liberal school, Bultmann sought to emancipate the need for historical demonstration of the Christian faith. For Bultmann, the most important element in Christian faith was an existential encounter (“a leap of faith”) that demanded decision apart from historical proof.
An important motivation of Bultmann in the development of his form-critical speculations also was the desire to “modernize” the gospels. His approach was one of demythologization of gospel record. Strauss’s concept of “myth” heavily influenced Bultmann. To Bultmann, the canonical gospels contain pre-scientific conceptions of the world of nature and men that were quite outdated by modern scientific knowledge. In his work, Kerygma and Myth I, Bultmann defines myth in the following terms, “Myth is used here in the sense popularized by the ‘History of Religions’ school. Mythology is the use of imagery to express the other worldly in terms of this world and the divine in terms of human life, the other side in terms of this side.” To Bultmann, miraculous conceptions of a Divine Being or Son of God, demon possession, angels, resurrection, voices from heaven, etc. are first century man’s primitive understanding of the world that needs to be reinterpreted (demythologized) in twentieth century terms. He sought to “demythologize” the gospels and recast the material in modern form according to twentieth century understanding of world: “Man’s knowledge and mastery of the world have advanced to such an extent through science and technology that it is no longer possible for anyone seriously to hold the New Testament view of the world—in fact, there is no one who does.” This naturally focused the attention on literary forms in the gospel and the desire to discover the “essence of the gospel apart from these ‘forms’ (e.g. miracle stories).”
To Bultmann, the form critic must discover the historical- or life-situation (Sitz im Leben) that gave rise to the literary materials in the gospels. Bultmann asserted that the gospel material, rather than reflecting the historical situation of Jesus, owed its present shape to the practical needs of the community, i.e. the gospels reflect the post-Easter beliefs of the Christian community rather than the pre-Easter period. At the heart of Bultmann’s method was the removal of any supernatural elements in the Gospels because of his presuppositional conclusion of a closed-continuum of cause-effect as advocated by Troeltsch’s historical-critical approach. The effect of all these presuppositions shows acutely on the Bultmann when he asserts, “I do indeed think that we now can know almost nothing concerning the life and personality of Jesus, since the early Christian sources show no interest in either, are moreover fragmentary and often legendary; and other sources about Jesus do not exist.”
Two strategic differences existed between Dibelius and Bultmann. First, Dibelius started with the activity of the early church (“In the sermon the elements of the future Christian literature lay side by side as in a mother cell”) and traced the history of forms from this early church tradition to their final incorporation in the gospels. Butlmann, however, worked back from the Gospel material toward alleged earlier forms, trying also to determine the “original” form and what later accretions were made to the tradition that eventually resulted in the Gospels.
Secondly, Bultmann ascribed a greater element of creativity (fabricative embellishment) to the tradition of the early church than did Dibelius. Dibelius saw the evangelists as collectors of material and hence a greater possibility of determining the original form and function in the community’s life while Bultmann saw a much more radical working of the material so that the tradition did not reflect a historical core, i.e. the voice of Jesus was lost. Taylor’s words are pertinent: “Dibelius is liberal rather than radical; Bultmann is radical to the point of skepticism, and it is not strange that he has been looked upon as Strauss Redivivus. If Bultmann is right, we have not only lost the Synoptic framework but also much the greater part of the material.” Yet, common to both was a rejection of the miraculous and therefore, they both rejected the historicity of the gospel in such areas. Their rejection, as was the case with the historical rise and development of form criticism, centered in philosophical and theological presuppositions.
Yet, “this difference is one of emphasis rather than essence.” However, because “Bultmann submitted the entire synoptic tradition to a searching analysis” Bultmann’s “name and method of analysis have been more closely associated with form criticism than has the name of Dibelius.” Furthermore, Butlmann’s approach was more radical and far more influential and widespread than Dibelius.
Thus, the historical and presuppositional background for the development of form criticism was virulent antisupernaturalistic presuppositions: deism, rationalism, historical skepticism, and evolution are only the most salient examples. Taylor, although favoring form critical analysis, candidly remarks, “Before the nineteenth century the investigation of the formation of the Gospel tradition was almost impossible.” The history just traced is termed by McKnight as “The Necessity for the Discipline.” Without the impact of such hostile presuppositions, form criticism may not have developed as a discipline. They provided the fertile background for its emergence. After a thorough analysis of form criticism, Benoit insightfully comments, “all the principles of Form-criticism . . . seem to have little real foundation and to be instead instruments in service of a cause. The idea is to withdraw all historical value from the gospel tradition in so far as it enshrines the supernatural.” He goes on to note,
When we become aware of the spirit which inspires all these proceedings [i.e. form criticism and its historical antecedents] we pass from the less to the better known. Behind all these relatively new methods . . . we discover one fundamental thesis which is not itself new at all. This is the denial of the supernatural which we are so accustomed to meeting in works of modern rationalist criticism. It is a thesis which, once it is stripped of its various masks, literary, historical or sociological analysis, reveals its true identify—it is a philosophical one [italics added].
For it is the philosophy of the 17th and 18th century which has left his denial of the supernatural embedded in the minds of today, particularly the philosophy of Hegel which has had a dominant influence on German thought, and still holds sway today.
This it is which as a matter of cold fact lies at the root of rationalist biblical criticism, beginning with David Strauss, a disciple of Hegel, and his theory of myth, whose faithful heirs Dibelius and Bultmann are.
Conservative evangelicals must ever keep the historical and presuppositional developments that lead to form criticism in mind whenever discussions of its legitimacy as a hermeneutical methodology arise no matter how far evangelicals choose to “modify” the discipline (i.e. “those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them”). Form criticism is a product of virulent antisupernaturalism encrusted with evolutionary dogma. Moreover, negative philosophical presuppositions led to a dismantling of the pericopes of the gospels. Since a credible case can be built for the historical, chronological and geographical integrity of the Gospel pericopes apart from the influence of these negative presuppositions, then any dismantling of them into isolated pericopes via form criticism is tenuous.
Classification of Forms
Space limitations prevent a detailed discussion of various systems of form classification. Instead, this section will summarize various critiques of form analysis.
In dealing with form criticism as historically developed and expressed, systems of form classification reveal the acute subjectivity and antisupernatural basis of the discipline. Moreover, form critics spend most of their time in this area. For example, Bultmann, in his History of the Synoptic Tradition, spends 306 pages of the work (parts I-II) in attempting to categorize and classify forms. Yet, although similar categories may appear frequently, no universally agreed-upon list of forms exists.
Furthermore, often classification of form does not center on form but on content, especially when miraculous or supernatural elements are present. A few examples of this must suffice due to space limitations. Bultmann’s category of “Historical Stories and Legends” demonstrates a pronounced antihistorical and antisupernatural bias. These are stories about extraordinary events in the lives of well-known people, e.g., Jesus’s baptism, temptation, transfiguration, and resurrection narratives, the ministry of John the Baptist, etc. that serve as examples to avoid or follow. Bultmann argues that “instead of being historical in character are religious and edifying.” They are not properly miracle stories (which Bultmann separates) but often contain miraculous element. Even though he uses the alternate name “Historical Stories,” this does not indicate that he believes the stories to be historically true. Bultmann remarks, “If at the same time I naturally do not deny that historical happenings may underlie legends, I mean that ‘unhistorical’ applies to the idea of legend negatively in the sense that legends not only ‘have no special interest in history’ (Dibelius) but that they are not, in the modern scientific sense, historical accounts at all.”
Dibelius category of “myth” designates “stories which in some fashion tell of many-sided doings of the gods.” These are narratives where the supernatural invades the human scene to authentic Jesus. Dibelius’s category overlaps with Bultmann’s category of legend here since Bultmann did not have a corresponding “myth” category thus subtly revealing the acute subjectivity and identification difficulty of form-critical systems of classification.
Although Dibelius allows for more a more historical basis for the story of Jesus, he asserts: “The only narratives in the Gospels which really describe a mythological event, i.e. a many-sided interaction between mythological but not human persons, are the records of the Baptismal miracle [Mark 1:9-11 and //], the Temptation of Jesus [Mark 1:12-13 and //], and the Transfiguration[Mark 9:2-8 and //].” However, in spite of this qualification, Dibelius also rejected the resurrection and ascension of Jesus relegating such stories to myth, i.e., unhistorical.
However, Dibelius goes on to assert that a Christ mythology arose late in the process of the traditions formation evidenced in the letters of Paul:
The letters of Paul are an unambiguous proof that there once was a Christ mythology. At the same time they are proof that this mythology could not be supported directly from the tradition of the life of Jesus. For Paul knew this tradition to some extent (I Cor. xi, 15), and if he had needed it he could have made its acquaintance much more closely but the Christ-myth through which for his churches he explains the great act of Divine redemption, had no need of the data handed down. This myth told the story of the Son of God who abandoned his cosmically intermediate place; in obedience to the Will of God he suffered a human fate, even to death on the Cross; he was finally raised by the power of God form the deepest humiliation to the status of “Lord” to whom all the world owed honour till He should come to conquer His enemies and to rule His Kingdom.
For Dibelius, over time, miraculous elements were added to the historical Jesus (e.g. Jesus’s descent from his heavenly realm to the earth, His resurrection, and ascension back to heaven) that did not constitute an original part of the gospel tradition but were later accretions from Hellenistic influences.
Moreover, the category of “legend” or “myth” is quite artificial. Travis notes, “to describe ‘legends’ or ‘myths’ as forms when no common shape is discernible . . . is not form criticism.” Such categories indicate a presuppositional agenda and bias rather than form categorization.
The category of “miracle stories” (Bultmann) or “tales” (Dibelius) is another example where antisupernatural presuppositional biases affect form analysis. Importantly, the basis of the category is the nature of the miracle, not the form. Bultmann, affected by the religionsgeschichtliche schule (“history-of-religions school”) and also by a pronounced negativity toward the miraculous, asserted,
Yet it would not be right to consider the gospel miracle stories in the bounds of the NT only. The less the miracle stories as such are truly historical reports the more we need to ask how they have found their way into the Gospel tradition. And even if some historical events underlie some miracles of healing, it is still true that their narrative form has been the work of Tradition. And even if the motifs have grown up spontaneously in the early Church, there would be both central and peripheral motifs taken over from popular and even perhaps literary miracle stories . . . . The process of transferring some available miracle story to a hero (or healer or even a god) is frequently to found in the history of literature and religion.
Bultmann, evidencing his evolutionary bias, argues that over time “an increase of the miraculous element is also to be found in particular features.” Reflecting this concept, in Mark 10:46-52 Bultmann asserts, “This story shows its secondary character in giving the name of the blind man . . . and it is the only name in any miracle story in the synoptics, apart from Mark 5:22.” However, as Guthrie remarks, “Both Dibelius and Bultmann reject the miraculous and therefore the historicity of the Gospel accounts of miracles. This is not so much on the basis of ‘form’ as on philosophical and theological grounds.”
Furthermore, pagan folklore tales of the miraculous are hypothesized to be parallel to the gospel material and also explain the rise of miraculous stories in the tradition. Working from the evolutionary presuppositional stance that dominated the history-of-religions School, Bultmann cites many pagan miracle stories in an attempt to justify this conclusion that gospel miracle stories of are the same type, and there must be regarded as unhistorical. Yet, the alleged parallels cited are qualitatively different in content. Even Bultmann must admit, “In general, however, the New Testament miracle stories are extremely reserved in this respect [in describing cures], since they hesitate to attribute to the person of Jesus the magical traits which were often characteristic of the Hellenistic miracle worker.” Gospel miracle stories have no magical incantations and fanciful activities that markedly distinguish them from Hellenistic stories.
Furthermore, the folklore analogy, in reality, is fallacious since folklore took hundreds of years to develop. Only a maximum period of about 20-30 years hypothetically existed between Jesus and the Gospels, and reasonable evidence exists that the period may have been even shorter. Kenyon notes, “There is simply not time for elaborate processes of literary workmanship and development.
In addition, Dibelius hypothesized that a special class of story-tellers and teachers were involved in the development of “tales.” However, as Guthrie argues, “the distinction seems to have been created by Dibelius’ analysis rather than being vouched for by independent historical testimony.” Apart from the stories themselves, no evidence exists in the New Testament for those who told stories about Jesus without preaching.
Strategically, Redlich notes that much of the synoptic material defies classification according to form-critical categories:
We conclude therefore that the assumption that the material can be classified according to their form is only true in part and in a very restricted manner. The only classification that can be made is that (a) as regards the sayings, there is a group with form, if we omit poetical form, namely the Parables, and (b) the narrative portions contains two groups which possess form, namely Apothegm-Stories and Miracle-Stories. The greater part of the material is “form”-less.”
Even after Bultmann’s exhaustive analysis, Lightfoot echoed a similar statement in reference to Mark 1-13:
It is likely that the material will prove too complex and difficult for such rigorous treatment; and for the present at any rate it will suffice to draw attention to the two main kinds of stories about Jesus which are found in our earliest gospels … a saying of his is the climax or at least the leading feature of the story; in the second, the emphasis is on an act of power done by him … It seems at least possible that the new study has here achieved a valuable and lasting result, and that it has succeeded in distinguishing and classifying two types of stories, both of which are prominent in Mark.
One may only wonder about the value of a method that has, according to Redlich, the capacity to identify clearly only two forms.
Furthermore, the types of form categories are not as distinct as suggested. Form critics often categorize with acute subjectivity resulting in curiously mixed forms that reflect their preconceived agendas rather than objective analysis. For example, in Mark 3:1-6, Dibelius identifies this story (the man with a withered hand) as a pure while he contends that Mark 10:46-52 (blind Bartimaeus) is a “less pure” paradigm and Mark 5:25-34 (the woman with the hemorrhage) a tale. Yet, any such distinctions are quite artificial. Dibelius claims that didactic motives are central, and the healing is incidental in Mark 3:1-6 so that it can be classed as a paradigm, yet the pericope concludes with the miracle and its effect on the Pharisees rather than with a saying about the Sabbath. To overcome this inconsistency, Dibelius can only assert that in this paradigm “the original ending in Mark iii, 6, is concealed.” Mark 10:52 ends with a saying yet Dibelius says it is not a pure paradigm (most likely due to the miraculous healing), and Mark 5:34 ends in a saying but because of its miraculous nature Dibelius deprecates it as a “tale.” Dibelius’s conclusions reveal his subjective bias and antisupernaturalism.
Adding to the subjectivity of form-critical categories is the fact that a narrative may often be assignable to more than one form or are mixed in type. Bruce’s comments are telling:
A narrative may be assignable to more than one “form”; thus the incident of the paralyzed man (Mk. 2:1-12) is a pronouncement story because the criticism that breaks out when Jesus forgives the man’s sins is silenced by Jesus’ pronouncement that “the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mk. 2:10); but it can also be classified as a miracle story, more specifically a healing story.
Is Mark 2:1-12 a miracle story or a pronouncement story? The very idea of labeling it a “miracle” story draws special attention to the miraculous nature of the story and reflects the form critic’s bias regarding miracles. Also, such a label is not based on form but content.
Contributing to this situation is that often judgment of classification is not based on form but entirely on the subjective prejudices of the form critic. For instance, in Bultmann’s classification of the sayings of Jesus (“Dominical Sayings”), he divides them into several groups (Wisdom Sayings [i.e., Logia], Prophetic and Apocalyptic Sayings, Legal sayings and church rules, and “I” Sayings). In the instance of the first class or Wisdom words, he divides them into three sub-classes based on the issue of his conception of genuineness: Jesus’s use of existing sayings, Jesus’s own creation of sayings, and the church’s attribution of sayings to Jesus that he did not speak. He assigns much to the third sub-class: “Actually many logia have been derived from the traditional wisdom and first taken into the Christian tradition by the Church, and treated as a saying of Jesus.” Bultmann continues, “It will only be in very few cases that one of the logia can be ascribed to Jesus with any measure of confidence.” He bases this decision on arbitrarily selected criteria for genuineness: a strong sense of eschatology (e.g., Mark 3:24-27), a summons to repentance (e.g., Mark 8:35; Luke 9:62), and those involving a new disposition of mind (e.g., Mark 7:15; Luke 14:11).
Bultmann treats the “I” sayings of Jesus similarly. The “I” sayings of Jesus are sayings where he makes specific demands or special claims. They are interpreted not as Jesus’s words but that which the community has produced, placing the sayings on the lips of Jesus, in order to meet the community’s needs in the particular situation that the community finds itself. Regarding Matthew 10:34-36 and Luke 12:51-53, Bultmann contends, “The Church, putting Jesus in God’s place as ruler of history, has made him proclaim that he will bring the time of terror, and had obviously experienced the fulfillment of the prophecy in its own life.” The Christian community’s attribution of the saying to Jesus gives authoritative weight to the saying.
In the same manner, Bultmann interprets Prophetic and Apocalyptic sayings of Jesus as coming from the Christian community or as prophecies ex eventu. Regarding Matthew 5:11-12, he contends, “Matthew 5:11f. is a new element of the tradition … arising ex eventu and for that reason created by the church” (compare also, for example, Bultmann at Matt. 10; 24; Mark 13). He goes on to argue, “The church drew no distinction between such utterances of Christian prophets [e.g., Rev. 16:15] and the sayings of Jesus in the tradition, for the reason that even the dominical sayings in the tradition were not the pronouncements of a past authority, but sayings of the risen Lord, who is always a contemporary for the Church.”
As a result, Bultmann accepts only around forty sayings as genuinely attributable to Jesus. He also considers only the bare facts of life and death (not the resurrection) of Jesus to be authentic. The rest of the material is attributable to the fabrication or adaptation of the Christian community that had no biographical interest in the life of Jesus or desire for historical accuracy. In later life, Bultmann moderated his thinking but only very slightly.
Not only may be classification be ambiguous but sometimes the same saying or discourse has been preserved in two different “forms.” Bultmann contended, “it is no objection to form-critical approach, but rather a demonstration of its fruitfulness, to find that one piece of the tradition is seldom to be classified unambiguously in a single category.” Yet, this statement subtlety reveals the acute bias and subjectivity in form analysis, for Bultmann just prior to this asserted, “The proper understanding of form criticism rests upon the judgment that the literature in which the life of given community . . . has taken shape, springs out of quite definite conditions and wants of life from which grows up a quite definite style and quite specific forms and categories.”  Surely one cannot have it both ways, for the more the text resists such excessive systematization, the more form criticism is undermined.
This discussion of form categorization stands as a warning to conservative evangelicals. Since Luther and the Reformation (1517), the grammatico-historical method consistently has demonstrated its ability and sufficiency to distinguish “forms” in the gospel material (parables, allegories, proverbs, types, poetry, etc.) rendering the need for any “form-critical” analysis highly suspect and unnecessary. Current attempts at reforming form critical postures and labeled as “new” form criticism such as Klaus Berger’s, Formgeschichte des Neuen Testaments only serve to underscore the inability of form criticism as a viable option for exegesis and partakes of many of the same weaknesses. It also supplies a completely aberrant understanding (presuppositionally, historically and practically) of form criticism, for the words of the Father and Systematizer of Form Criticism, Bultmann, must again be echoed:
I am entirely in agreement with M. Dibelius when he maintains that form-criticism is not simply an exercise in aesthetics nor yet simply a process of description or classification; that is to say, it does not consist of identifying the individual units of the tradition according to their aesthetics or other characteristics and placing them in their various categories. It is much rather “to discover the origin and the history of the particular units and thereby to throw some light on the history of the tradition before it took literary form.”
Bultmann continues, “form criticism . . . not only presupposes judgements of facts alongside judgments of literary criticism, but must also lead to judgements about facts (the genuineness of a saying, the historicity of a report and the like).” Bultmann’s candor is refreshing about the true nature of form criticism. If Berger is attempting merely to describe the biblical phenomena in context, then much of what Berger attempts can be accomplished more effectively and accurately through the grammatico-historical hermeneutic that has consistently demonstrated its validity since the Reformation.
- Tradition Criticism/History
An Overview of Tradition Criticism
Tradition criticism (traditionsgeschichte) is related closely to form criticism in that its principles were developed in conjunction with form criticism yet is now considered a separate discipline. For many modern critics, especially those who advocate some hermeneutical role for form and redaction criticism, the most important task is to assess the authenticity of the units of Gospel tradition. Much of the effort centers in discovering the earliest form of the tradition unit through peeling away the layers of the narrative that allegedly accrued over time caused by the alleged Sitz im Leben of the church (or, Christian community) during the oral period. The application of these tradition criteria to the text are also considered a valid means for determining the relative antiquity and historical veracity of the Gospel units. The goal is to recover the “original” core of teaching in each Gospel pericope, i.e., the authentic teaching of Jesus versus what is non-authentic. In light of this, tradition criticism becomes the study of the origin, history, and development of a given saying especially in the Gospels but also throughout the New Testament.
Therefore, analysis and criticism of the traditions contained in the Gospels for the form critic takes essentially two tactics: The first is the recovery of the earliest and most authentic forms of the tradition by the application of certain laws of tradition. The second is to make critical judgments on the historicity of the saying by establishing certain “criteria of authenticity” whereby the origin of these traditions may be attributed directly to Jesus (“authentic”) or be the creation or fabrication of the Christian communities (Palestinian, Hellenistic or Gentile). In this latter area, tradition criticism finds its most prominent expression.
The Presuppositional Basis of Tradition Criticism
Importantly, these tradition criteria arose from the same virulent antisupernatural presuppositional foundation that gave rise to form criticism. At the heart of the method are negative historical presuppositions that are rooted in the radical skepticism of Enlightenment. In discussing the form-critical analysis of tradition material, Doty remarks, “The basic presuppositions for the modern historical-critical approach to the NT writings were set in the last part of the eighteenth century under the influence of deism and rationalism.” Moreover, for any conservative evangelical to treat tradition-critical principles in isolation from their negative presuppositional foundations carelessly overlooks their true nature, and, as a result, fails to consider properly their highly doubtful hermeneutical validity. If the history of modern interpretive methods demonstrates anything (see Chapter 2 on Presuppositions), it is that interpretive methods cannot be studied in isolation from historical, presuppositional, and intellectual developments without inviting disaster in hermeneutical methodologies. A hermeneutical method cannot be more valid than the validity of the foundation upon which it lies.
Taking a radically negative view of the historicity of the gospels sayings, Bultmann and his theological descendants (e.g., Käsemann, Conzelmann, Perrin) are responsible for the propagation of much of the criteria of authenticity, e.g., the principle of discontinuity (dissimilarity), multiple attestations and consistency of content (coherence). They predicate the entire undertaking on the assumption that the Gospel traditions are inherently suspect unless good reasons can be advanced for accepting them. Tradition criticism places the onus probandi (“burden of proof”) on the Gospels’ claims to be authentic.
As expected, the inventors of these “criteria of authenticity” reflect this presupposition. In the History of The Synoptic Tradition, Bultmann himself accepted only about forty sayings as genuine and merely the event of Jesus life and death on the cross. The post-Bultmannian, Norman Perrin argues, “the nature of the synoptic tradition is such that the burden of proof will be upon the claim to authenticity.” The instigator of the “New Quest” for the historical Jesus, Ernst Käsemann echoes a similar thought,
Historical criticism has shattered this good faith [in the historical reliability of the gospels] as far as we ourselves are concerned. We can no longer assume the general reliability of the Synoptic tradition about Jesus . . . . our questioning has sharpened and widened until the obligation now laid upon us is to investigate and make credible not the possible unauthenticity of the individual unit of material but, on the contrary, its genuineness.”
As discussed, a primary task of tradition criticism is to apply laws of tradition to the material in order to discover an alleged “original” or earlier form of the tradition. Bultmann argued:
[W]e may accurately observe how the Marcan material is altered and revised by Matthew an Luke, and how Matthew and Luke have presumably edited the text of Q (the Sayings-document). If we are able to deduce a certain regularity in this procedure, then we may certainly assume that the same laws held good even earlier, and we may draw conclusions as to the state of the tradition prior to Mark and Q.
Bultmann, Dibelius, and other form critics also argued that the gospel traditions fell into the category of “folk tradition” (“characteristics of folk-tales,” “folk-song,” folk-anecdote,” and “simple fairy-tales”) and observations about how folk-lore traditions functioned would reveal the same rules or laws that the gospel traditions followed in their development. Assumed parallels of development with German folklore, Greek literature, rabbinic literature, and the apocryphal gospels served as guides in the development of these laws as applied to the gospel material.
However, as already demonstrated, the gospel material is qualitatively different than any assumed folklore parallels. In addition, not enough time would exist in any hypothesized “oral period.” Folklore preservation takes many hundreds of years.
Another presuppositional basis that heavily influenced the development of the laws of tradition was the acceptance and predominance of the idea that Matthew and Luke used Mark and the hypothesized Q (“Quelle”) source. By observing how Matthew and Luke allegedly used Mark and Q, form critics also extrapolated that Mark used the oral traditions available to him in a similar fashion. However, such an assumption is based on another highly speculative hypothesis of the Two- and Four-Source approach (which itself was profoundly affected by the evolutionary Zeitgeist of the times). Since this highly questionable synoptic approach is coming under increasing suspicion and outright rejection, this emphasizes the tenuous nature and fallacious basis of such extrapolations.
In dealing with tradition criticism, the form critic also inherently accepts an evolutionary viewpoint to the development of the tradition. This article already has discussed the profound influence that evolutionary concepts had upon the thinking of theologians such as Bultmann, Dibelius and others in the formulation, development and expression of form-critical principles during the latter half of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century. Both Bultmann’s methodological analysis of the alleged “accretions” to the tradition and the resultant rules utilized to remove these accretions in order to uncover the “earliest” and most “authentic” core are replete with highly questionable evolutionary philosophical precepts. Only a mind thoroughly preconditioned by the virulent negative presuppositions of the age or Zeitgeist in which form criticism developed (“Spirit of the times”) would give validity to such assumptions.
In accordance with these presuppositional axioms, form critics argued that the gospel narratives (i.e. in Mark) originally were single pictures in simple language, “the original tradition was made up almost entirely of brief single units (sayings and short narratives), and that almost all references to time and place which serve to connect up the single sections into a larger context are the editorial work of the evangelists.” In a chapter entitled, “The Laws Governing Popular Narrative and Tradition,” Bultmann maintains,
Narrators do not give us long unified accounts but rather small single pictures, individual scenes narrated with the utmost simplicity. These always occupy but a brief space of time; apart from the Passion Narrative no event or proceeding is narrated which covered more than two days. As a rule only two speaking characters appear in these scenes, or at the most three; involved proceedings are beyond the powers of the simple story teller. Where groups or crowds are present, they are treated as a unity. As such narratives pass from mouth to mouth, or when one writer takes them over from another, their fundamental character remains the same, but the detail are subject to the control of fancy and are usually made more explicit and definite.
Thus, as time went on, for example, details were added. For example, while Mark used unnamed persons in his pericopes, the other Synoptics tended to identify these (“the tendency to characterize more definitely the dim figures in the tradition”). Thus, in Mark 14:13 unnamed disciples are sent to prepare for the last supper, while in Luke 22:8, their names are given as Peter and John; in Mark 7:17, “the disciples” are seen as posing the question to Jesus in general, while in Matthew 15:15, Peter asks the question of Jesus. Not only were figures identified by “later” tradition, but in Mark or Q while Jesus’s opponents are unidentified, in Matthew and Luke the opposition “are almost invariably the scribes and Pharisees.”
Bultmann also concludes that while some polemical words of Jesus addressed to scribes and Pharisees may be historical (e.g. Mark 12:38-40; and most of Matt. 23:1-31), “the schematic representation according to which the Pharisees and scribe are from the outset the sworn enemies of Jesus is certainly unhistorical.”
According to form critics like Dibelius, the length and ensuing “worldiness” of the narrative is a guide to the date, for “the fortune of primitive Christianity is reflected in the history of the Gospel-Form.” Dibelius argues, “at the beginning of the history of primitive Christian literature; there stood a tradition of an unliterary nature, consisting of short narratives and striking sayings, which were repeated for practical purposes.” Then after time, “the mythological element take charge of the entire material of evangelical history.” To him, paradigms, being the simplest and shortest are “the earliest formal constructions.” The distinct lack of miraculous elements, for Dibelius, also indicates their primitive historicity and, as a consequence, “trustworthiness.” Also, Dibelius asserts that the paradigms narration in a “true, human, simple, and artless manner” indicates its primitive historicity. 
After that, “pleasure in the narrative for its own sake arose and seized upon literary devices.” As a consequence, worldly elements that gave “a fully secular character” to the form were added as the Christian community began to imitate the surrounding techniques of the world’s manner of story-telling. Thus, a lengthier form arose known as the “Tale” or “Wonder story” arose. Reflecting Greek and Oriental conceptions, these represented Jesus as a miracle worker. Thus, these foreign or miraculous elements in Tales indicate that “Tales are only to be used with great caution as historical sources” especially since “they were open to the invasion of foreign motives” and “by the pleasure of narrating the Tale.”
Next, legends or stories about Jesus and His associates developed as even more time passed. As a result, legends would be less trustworthy and, consequently, of a later date than paradigms or tales, i.e. legends were on the “periphery of the tradition.” In Legends, “One told of these persons in the same way as similar narratives from the surrounding world spoke of other holy men.” Through such legends, a complete “accommodation to the world and harmony with its relationships” predominated.
According to form critics, observing distinctions between direct and indirect discourse is indicative of the original form. Thus, as time went on, indirect discourse became direct discourse, i.e. words were placed directly on the lips of gospel characters. For example, in Mark 8:32, when Jesus announced his impending crucifixion, the text states in general terms that Peter rebuked him, while in Matthew 16:22, the words that Peter used are reported (cf. Mark 14:23 vs. Matt. 26:27); the inarticulate cry from the cross in Mark 15:37 becomes specified in Luke 23:46.
According to form critics like Bultmann, Dibelus, and Taylor, the presence of Semitisms, in distinction to Hellenistic elements, is often an indication of a tradition that is very early or even authentic. Two contemporary advocates for Semitisms as a test for antiquity are Joachim Jeremias and Matthew Black. Bultmann typically argued, “since our gospels arose out of Greek Christianity, the distinction provides us with a criterion which frequently enables us to determine whether this or that feature belongs to the older tradition or was composed later.”
Yet, the argument that formal Semitisms may establish the antiquity of the Gospels is tenuous for significant reasons. First, by the time period of the New Testament, Judaism and Hellenism had already experienced considerable interpenetration. This interpenetration is evidenced even in the terminology of the New Testament. For instance, the characteristic Palestinian institution of the Sanhedrin derived its name from the Greek word sunevdrion indicates the deep influence that Greek had even in the very heart of Palestinian Judaism. The Talmud also indicates this penetration: Tosephta Sota XV 322.6 relates: “Permission was given to the House of Rabban Gamaliel to teach their children Greek owing to their relation with the (Roman) government.” The Babylonian Talmud Sota 49b states that Rabbi Simeon related: “There were a thousand young men in my father’s house, five hundred of whom studied the Law while the other five hundred studied Greek wisdom.” Lieberman has demonstrated that Rabbis quoted not only from Jewish sources for their teachings but also from Greek sources (e.g. Greek proverbs).
Second, studies indicate that Jesus’s language environment was not exclusively Aramaic but also may have included considerable knowledge and use of Greek from the very start. Gundry argued, “we can be sure that the tradition about Jesus was expressed from the very first in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek . . . . We cannot naively work on the assumption that everything was originally in Aramaic, that we should seek Aramaic equivalents wherever possible, and that wherever Aramaic equivalents cannot be traced we must reject authenticity.” Jesus, living in the city of Nazareth in the region of Galilee that was dominated by Gentiles, who spoke Greek (e.g. “Galilee of the Gentiles”—Matt. 4:15), would most likely have been familiar with Greek his whole life. Peter, Andrew, James and John would also probably have known Greek if they were to sell their fish in Gentile markets of Galilee. This factor, coupled with the missionary emphasis of the Gospel (cf. Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8; 6:1) would ensure that the message occurred both orally and in writing from the very beginning in the lingua franca (i.e. Greek) of the civilized world as well as Aramaic. As Argyle notes, “If Jesus and his disciples were as familiar with Greek as with Aramaic, the transition from the oral Aramaic stage to the Greek literary stage would have been natural and easy.”
Third, using the form critic’s same logic, indications exist that Mark may be later rather than “earlier.” For example, Mark’s Latinisms (e.g. kenturivwn, xevsth”, spekoulavtwr, iJkano;n poiei’n) and his translation of Aramaic expressions (e.g. Mark 5:41; 15:22, 34) for the sake of those who did not know Aramaic may indicate that Mark was later rather than earlier as suggested by form critics.
To form critics, the writing style of the evangelist also is another indication of the earliness and trustworthiness of the tradition. Bultmann related, “While with Mark the art of the evangelist appears to be quite undeveloped, Luke displays a fine editorial artistry. Even the casual reader may note the difference if he observes the quite distinct manners in which Matthew and Luke introduce material from the Sayings-document into Mark” [in the composition of their own gospels]. Yet, as Redlich apply notes, “The stylistic methods of writers are no evidence of laws of tradition; they are indications of the standard of scholarship of the writers.”
Since the gospels were written by the apostles whose names they bear and who witnessed the events that they wrote concerning, then no substantial credibility exists to such laws. The most credible case, supported by consistent and unconvoluted testimony of church history, is that the gospels reflect either direct apostolic testimony (Matthew, John) or are based on eyewitness accounts (Mark (Peter), Luke [1:1-4]). The key to this is that only Bultmann’s and Dibelius’s (and any form critic’s) presuppositions prevent the acceptance of this latter assertion. Instead of indicating any “development” of tradition or secondary elements, any comparison of individual gospel pericopes in Matthew, Mark, and Luke merely reveal selectivity in what the eyewitnesses chose to convey and also reflect the individual style of the writers.
Furthermore, forms critics, in their development of these “laws of tradition,” are guilty of being selective in argumentation rather than thorough. They chose examples that only appeared to support their position while ignoring other tendencies and factors that convolute their hypotheses. Sanders, after examining these form-critical laws of tradition, concludes that the tradition does not follow assertions of simple to complex,
There are no hard and fast laws of the development of the Synoptic tradition. On all accounts the tradition developed in opposite directions. It became both longer and shorter, both more and less detailed, and both more and less Semitic. Even the tendency to use direct discourse for indirect . . . was not uniform in the Synoptics themselves. For this reason, dogmatic statements that a certain characteristic proves a certain passage to be earlier than another are never justified.
Caird concurs with this assessment. He cites, for example, in the triple tradition of the feeding of the five thousand that the “green grass” in Mark 6:39 disappears in Luke 9:14 which is the exact opposite of what one should expect if these laws of tradition were true. Caird concludes, “a law which tells us that tradition may either amplify or abbreviate, may either add details or omit them, is very little help in determining which of two accounts is the more original.”
Strategically, if central presuppositions of form criticism are rejected, such as antisupernaturalism, evolution, the Two-Document (or, Four-Document) Hypothesis, then these laws of tradition have no substantial basis for they operate on the tacit assumption of these presuppositions. If the gospels are accepted as eyewitness accounts (Matthew, John) or based on eyewitness accounts (Mark, Luke) as the unbroken testimony of early church history affirms, form critical assertions melt completely away. The specificity or lack of specificity merely reflects the personal choices of the eyewitness as to what they chose to include in the recounting of their stories. As a result, the tradition contained in the gospels is inherently stable.
Criteria of Authenticity for the Words of Jesus
The area of “authenticating” the sayings of Jesus consumes most of the effort in tradition criticism. Because form critics postulate that the gospels reflect the creative Christian community rather than preserving the actual words of Jesus, they inevitably became involved in attempting to identify “genuine” sayings of Jesus from those that were products of the Christian community. As a result, form critics developed “criteria of authenticity” to make such determinations. Such criteria inherently impugn the gospel record, placing the onus of proof on the gospels to demonstrate authenticity. Often, as will be seen, these principles are mutually contradictory and eliminate the vast majority of the sayings of Jesus as authentic.
The recent work by Funk, Hoover, and others of the so-called “Jesus Seminar” entitled, The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus, represent the most recent pronouncement that uses the historical-critical method of tradition criticism to negate the authenticity of the Gospels. Like Bultmann at the turn of the century,  who barely accepted approximately forty sayings as attributable to Jesus, the Jesus Seminar rejects 82% sayings of Jesus (analyzing more than 1500 sayings in their total inventory) with the remaining 18% as doubtfully authentic. Yet, the Seminar demonstrates its highly radical and prejudiced nature when it labels Bultmann as “neo-orthodox.”
The “Jesus Seminar” credits their analysis of the sayings of Jesus on the so-called “Seven Pillars of Scholarly Wisdom that serve as their basic presuppositional foundation: 1) a distinction between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith, 2) a distinction in historical value between the Synoptic Gospels (containing some reflection of the historical Jesus) and the Gospel of John (containing only a “spiritual” Jesus and little historical value), 3) the priority of Mark, 4) recognition of a hypothetical “Q” (German, Quelle or “source”) as the explanation for material common to Matthew and Luke but not found in Mark, 5) a distinction between Schweitzer’s eschatological Jesus (the kingdom is entirely future and cataclysmic) and the Seminar’s assertion of a non-eschatological view of Jesus’s teaching (the kingdom is already here, i.e. “God’s imperial rule”), 6) a fundamental contrast between Jesus’s predominately oral culture and today’s written culture, 7) the investigator’s operating axiom for which no further demonstration is necessary is that the burden of proof for historical validity rests upon the Gospel’s historical record. As a result, the investigator has “no final guarantees” as to what Jesus claimed and taught. The Seminar labels these axioms as “safeguards offered by the historical methodologies practiced by all responsible scholars.” As Carson relates, “The criteria by which so much gospel material ascribed to Jesus is dismissed as inauthentic are not much more than restatements of old fashioned form and redaction criticism.” Their final presupposition or “test” is “beware of finding a Jesus entirely congenial to you.” Such an assertion, however, applies especially to the Jesus Seminar, who a priori determine the outcome of the “historical Jesus” by adopting such presuppositions that are far from neutral. Their Jesus of history is already decided before any examination of evidence.
Claiming to be more “scientific” because the Seminar views the life of Jesus from “the new lens of historical reason and research rather than through the perspective of theology and traditional creedal formulations” the Jesus Seminar group is far from objectivity in its analysis.  Indeed, it cannot have the slightest hope of “scientific” objectivity since the Seminar admittedly anchors its research upon the same negative presuppositional foundation upon which historical criticism rests. The Seminar admits that, as a result, their underlying assumption is “the gospels are now assumed to be narratives in which the memory of Jesus is embellished by mythic elements that express the church’s faith in him, and by plausible fictions that enhance the telling of the gospel story for first-century listeners who knew about divine men and miracle workers firsthand.”
Barbour, in his work Traditio-Historical Criticism of the Gospels, divides tradition-critical axioms into two broad categories: formal and material criteria. Formal criteria deal with the form in which the material was allegedly handed down or from the place which it occupies in the gospel tradition (e.g. multiple attestations, Aramaisms, poetic form, and parallelism). Material criteria deal with the actual content of the material itself (dissimilarity, coherence). Barbour terms this two-fold distinction a “rough-and-ready one” but says that “it has its usefulness.” Space for this article limits the discussion to only the most key criteria of these broad categories.
In analyzing these criteria, their methodological bankruptcy clearly is evident, i.e. they are neither valid nor capable of producing what they allege nor do they have any hope of being “objective” or “scientific” in approach. The Criterion of Multiple Attestation is one of the earliest formulated, being advocated by F. C. Burkitt. Anchored upon the priority of Mark and the Two-Document Hypothesis as the solution to the synoptic “problem,” this criterion suggests that when a saying or activity of Jesus appears in more than one of these sources the more likely that the saying would be authentic. British-trained tradition critics have tended to rely even more heavily on this principle than do Bultmannian-influenced tradition critics since it eventually centered upon the solution to the Synoptic Problem that the British, due to Streeter’s influence (The Four Gospels–1924), heavily prefer (i.e. the Four-Source hypothesis–Mark, Q, M, L).  McArthur terms this criterion “the most objective of the proposed criteria.” This latter statement reveals the hopelessly subjective and biased nature of tradition criticism, for if this is the most “objective” criterion, then acute problems exist with the whole system.
Strategic flaws render this criterion as highly dubious: 1) The entire basis of the criterion centers in a highly questionable synoptic hypothesis. As a result, such a criterion automatically has a built-in bias. If, and it is very likely, that the Two- or Four-Source hypothesis is invalid, then this criterion proves nothing. Therefore, merely because several alleged “layers of tradition” contain, the saying or activity confirm nothing regarding authenticity. 2) No valid reason exists to deny the authenticity of a saying simply because it is found in only one alleged “source.” This criterion is inherently negative since it implies that one witness is not sufficient. The Bible only has to record a saying or activity once for it to have been actually spoken or performed by Jesus.
Related to the Criterion of Multiple Attestation is the Criterion of Multiple Forms. C. H. Dodd was the first to suggest this principle as a tool for authenticity. Heavily influenced by form criticism, this principle suggests that a gospel motif may be authentic if it appears in multiple forms, i.e. in different form-critical categories (e.g. pronouncement and miracle stories).
In reply, similar counter-arguments apply to this category as to the Criterion of Multiple Attestation. One witness is entirely sufficient to confirm what Jesus said or did. The acute subjectivity of form-critical categories (as noted in this chapter) also reveals the highly speculative nature of this criterion.
The Criterion of Aramaic Linguistic Phenomena asserts that the presence of Aramaisms in the gospel material suggests the “primitiveness” of a particular tradition and, hence indicates the increased likelihood that the tradition actually comes from Jesus. While Dalman, Burney, and Torrey were the earliest advocates of this hypothesis, Black and Jeremias have done the most extensive work. Fuller goes so far as to say that “any saying of Jesus, if it is authentic, should exhibit Aramaic features, and if it has the structure of Aramaic poetry this increases the presumption that the saying is authentic.” Jeremias argues that the presence of Aramaisms “is of great significance for the question of the reliability of the gospel tradition,” while Turner asserts, “the closer the approximation of a passage in the Gospels to the style and idiom of contemporary Aramaic, the greater the presumption of authenticity.”
In reply, some strategic considerations militate strongly against its validity: 1) This chapter has already demonstrated that the mere presence of Aramaisms is no real indication of primitiveness or earliness. On the contrary, Greek and Hellenism in general, as well as Aramaic, exercised a profound influence on the New Testament Palestinian environment, especially in terms of language and culture. Jesus and many of the disciples, being raised in Galilee or having contact with Gentiles, would also have spoken and taught in Greek as well as Aramaic. Jesus’s use of uJpokrithv” in Matthew 6:2, 5, 16 is a case in point, for it retains the classical Greek meaning of “play actor,” a meaning that is found in the papyri. As Argyle relates, “It is probable . . . that Jesus was really speaking Greek not only in his use of uJpokrithv” but in the other words of his teaching when doing so in Galilee of the Gentiles.” Therefore, something cannot be ruled out merely because it does not reflect an alleged Aramaic source. 2) The principle is hermeneutically misguided. Inerrancy and the grammatico-historical hermeneutic dictate that inspiration is grounded in the autographs and not in any hypothesized sources that allegedly lay behind them.
The Criterion of Palestinian Environmental Phenomena contends that if a tradition evidences Palestinian social, domestic, agricultural, religious or other customs, then the tradition originated in a Palestinian environment rather than being a creation of a Greek or non-Palestinian church. The assumption here is that if a tradition betrays the time and environment of Jesus, the higher the likelihood that the tradition is authentic. Jeremias argues that if the “pictorial element” of the tradition betrays Palestinian conditions, then a greater likelihood exists for the genuineness of the tradition.
In reply, not all of Jesus teachings or incidents are exclusively Palestinian, especially since Jesus said things that indicate a Greek environmental influence also. For example, physicians served as models for sententious sayings in many cultures, and some serve as striking parallels to Jesus’s words (Mark 2:17 cf. Meander, Fragment 591 K). Traditions, therefore, should not be doubted merely because they do not indicate an exclusively Palestinian background.
In addition to these “formal criteria,” two highly strategic “material criteria” exist: the Criteria of Dissimilarity and Coherence. Although its origin is uncertain, the Criterion of Dissimilarity (or, Distinctiveness) is among the most strategic tradition-critical factors used by its advocates and heralded as the most useful. France comments, “This is the essential criterion, around which all others revolve” and “All others [i.e. criteria] are extensions of it or are used only to check and confirm its findings.” It is deeply rooted in the form-critical approach of Dibelius, Schmidt, and Bultmann. Bultmann constantly subjected the gospel material to this criterion in his History of the Synoptic Tradition. Käsemann describes it in the following terms, “In only one case do we have more or less safe ground under our feet [in determining authentic material]; when there are no grounds either for deriving a tradition from Judaism or for ascribing it to primitive Christianity.”
This criterion has come to its most fervent expression in the work of Perrin and Fuller. Fuller argues, “As regards the sayings of Jesus, traditio-historical criticism eliminates from the authentic sayings of Jesus those which are paralleled in the Jewish tradition on one hand (apocalyptic and Rabbinic) and those which reflect the faith, practice and situations of the post-Easter church as we know them from outside the gospels.” Perrin goes so far as to assert, “the criterion of dissimilarity . . . must be regarded as the basis for all contemporary attempts to reconstruct the teaching of Jesus.” The essence of this Criterion is that authenticity of a tradition about Jesus is established only when it does not fit within either the Christian community that transmitted it or the Jewish world in which Jesus lived and taught.
Several serious flaws render this Criterion tenuous. First, this criterion blatantly assumes the inauthenticity of the traditions as its operating principle. It automatically condemns the tradition to suspicion and unreliability (“guilty until declared innocent approach”). Second, by its very formulation, it eliminates the vast majority of the gospel material, especially since most does not conflict with Judaism or the early church. Third, this tool is based on an argument from silence. Our knowledge of Judaism during Jesus day and of the early church is limited. To eliminate material based on our limited knowledge of these periods is precarious. Fourth, acute subjectivity reigns in the application of this principle. Scholars constantly differ as to whether a particular item is more “natural” against the background of primitive Christianity or against the background of Jesus ministry. Fifth, this principle erroneously presupposes no connection between Jesus and contemporary Judaism to which he belonged, and especially also assumes no connection between Jesus and the Old Testament. A continuity would naturally have existed between Jesus and his contemporaries. To exclude such agreement would lead only to distortion of what Jesus taught and resulted in a minimalistic Jesus or what is euphemistically termed “a critically assured minimum.” Fifth, this method directly conflicts with the Criterion of Palestinian Environmental Phenomena and Aramaic Criterion that an “authentic” saying of Jesus should reflect first century Palestine. The tradition critic eliminates material if it can be paralleled in contemporary Judaism and also if it has a background that cannot be positively shown to be consistent with Palestinian Judaism of the first century. At the outset, the critic has eliminated most, if not all, material.
The Criterion of Coherence functions as a buttressing corollary to that of Dissimilarity. Moreover, its essential validity is dependent upon the validity of the other principles discussed. If those principles are wrong or invalid, then any data accepted through coherence is also wrong and invalid. Although he not explicitly formulates this principle, Bultmann used this type of criterion in the course of his form-critical work on the synoptic tradition. Commenting on Matthew 12:28, he argues that the verse “can, in my view, claim the highest degree of authenticity which we can make for any saying of Jesus: it is full of that feeling of eschatological power which must have characterized the activity of Jesus.”
Perrin defines Coherence as follows, “material from the earliest strata of the tradition may be accepted as authentic if it can be shown to cohere with material established as authentic by means of the criterion of dissimilarity” and “once characteristics of Jesus teachings are established in this way [by the Criterion of Dissimilarity], these characteristics can be used to validate sayings which themselves would not meet the requirements of the criterion of dissimilarity.” Thus, this principle contends that what is coherent with the material accepted as genuine by means of the Criterion of Dissimilarity can also be accepted as genuine.
Some strategic arguments also render this Criterion tenuous. First, and perhaps most obvious, since this principle depends so heavily upon the criterion of dissimilarity, it automatically inherits the same problems. The application of coherence will magnify errors in results derived by the application of dissimilarity. Second, acute subjectivity reigns in its formulation. What standards judge coherence? What may seem coherent to modern scholars may not have seemed coherent to a Jew or Christian in the first century. This is capriciousness at its most brazen form.
In sum, tradition critics have carefully chosen these criteria to ensure results. Minds already closed to the legitimacy of the tradition have devised principles designed to reinforce their preconceptions (perhaps better, misconceptions). Tradition critics never designed these principles to confirm, only to underscore their negativity about the reliability of tradition as a whole. At best, they conceive of only a bare minimum of credibility to the tradition, and they predetermined the results to confirm this a priori assumption by intentional design of criteria. It is circular reasoning in its most malignant form. They have guaranteed the results as meager. These tradition-critical principles betray a philosophically preconceived agenda buttressing the contention that a preconceived hostility to the text exists in tradition criticism that eliminates any hope of objectivity. Perhaps more significantly, these so-called tradition criteria are devoid of any concept of inspiration in regards to the biblical text. Their historical development stands as a salient testimony to this assertion. Critics formulated these principles entirely apart from such considerations, and, to a large degree, from a virulent hostility to such concepts.
- The Growing Evangelical Practice of Form and Tradition Criticism
A recent article in Christianity Today, entitled “Who Do Scholars Say That I am?,” decried with indignation the Jesus Seminar’s wholesale purging of the words and works of Jesus. In the past, other articles have also castigated the members of the Jesus Seminar for their “liberal theological persuasion” in deciding “what Jesus did and did not say.” Recent works, such as Jesus under Fire, The Jesus Quest—The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth, Cynic Sage or Son of God? written by prominent evangelicals, have also attempted to spotlight the negative pronouncements of the Seminar.
This finger-pointing, however, by evangelicals is, to a very large extent, misleading, for sadly, many evangelicals are increasingly utilizing the same seriously flawed historical-critical hermeneutics and methodologies that they so strongly react against toward the Jesus Seminar. Evangelicals are operating from the same presuppositional grid as traced in this chapter. The result among evangelicals is the same type of dehistoricizing and rejection of the words and works of Jesus as reflected by the anathematized Jesus Seminar. Increasingly, the pertinent question for evangelicals no longer can be “who do the Jesus Seminar scholars say that Jesus is?” but “who do evangelicals say that Jesus is?” This growing evangelical practice that parallels the methodologies of the Jesus Seminar is also true in the employment of the historical-critical methods of form and tradition criticism. The following will highlight a mere sampling of evangelical usage of these methods.
For many years, among conservative evangelicals, a consistent, though not exclusive trend had tended toward rejection of form criticism. At one time Gundry argued,
[I]t is obvious that a consistent, thorough-going form criticism will have no appeal to those who desire to recognize the inspiration of the Scriptures and the historical continuity between the Lord Jesus and the early church. And let all “conservatives” who are inclined to adopt some form critical terminology and viewpoints be apprised of the basic nature of that to which they are accommodating themselves.
Unfortunately, many conservative evangelicals did not fully realize the pernicious basis of form-critical speculation, for Gundry asserted that the fundamental assumption of form criticism, i.e., “Gospel tradition first existed as brief, rounded units, circulating orally in the Christian community,” could be “quite innocuous” without perhaps realizing that such a speculation has a tacit evolutionary presuppositional background as its motivating principle. One cannot overstress that this fundamental assumption is extremely suspect in light of form criticism’s presuppositional and historical development. It arose at a time in which evolutionary dogma was overwhelming not only the scientific but also the theological scene. One must not divorce form speculation from the history and presuppositions that led to its development. If the foundations of the method and the history that produced the discipline is highly questionable, then the practice and assumptions of the disciple must also be.
Moreover, this article has demonstrated that at the basis of this hypothesis of brief, rounded units also centers in the radical skepticism of K. L. Schmidt, who denigrated the contextual connections as unhistorical and embellished. If those connections are viewed, as they properly should be, as historically and chronologically trustworthy, then evangelicals should reject this “fundamental” assumption of form criticism. No form-critical dismantling of individual pericopes can be safely undertaken, for no one can with any accuracy or any certainty identify pericopes as isolated units that actually circulated independently. Instead, the pericopes are integral to the gospel and primarily reflect the personal reminiscences of the apostles and first-century eyewitnesses as they composed their work. The pericopes give no real proof of any circulation in terms of form critical speculation.
Conservative evangelicals must be careful in this regard to elucidate presuppositions and historical developments that gave rise form critical speculation, for as Linnemann has correctly identified, historical-critical practices are in essence ideologies rather than methodologies. Similarly, Donald Guthrie’s words are telling, “When all the limitations are taken into account the scope of a true form-critical approach will be seen to be severely restricted. Yet with such restrictions, it may well be asked whether such a movement can really make any effective contribution to gospel criticism.”
However, a growing trend among conservatives in this group appears to be a consensus toward engaging in various “modified” versions of historical criticism (e.g. form and tradition criticism) in hopes of engaging in “dialogue” with contemporary theological scholarship as a whole. This desire is evident in the comment of Kingsbury regarding the recently published work New Testament Criticism and Interpretation, produced by a variety of German and British-trained evangelical theologians, “New Testament Criticism and Interpretation constitutes a bold and imaginative undertaking: to bring American scholarship into dialogue with the contemporary guild of biblical scholarship.” Unfortunately, in this “dialogue” of evangelicals with “biblical scholarship,” conservative evangelicals are the ones who have evidenced substantial change, not contemporary scholarship. Prominent evangelicals have been only too willing to adopt not only the terminology but also methodology of historical criticism.
Perhaps the assumed hope may be that some “modified” version of form criticism avoids the negative connotation that liberals and others have held toward conservative evangelicals as being “closed-minded” to current methodological practices (or, perhaps a better term is ideologies) and failing to engage in “dialogue” with contemporary scholarship as a whole. Perhaps the desire to exhibit scholarship has driven the growing evangelical consensus. Sadly, however, liberal conceptions of “scholarship” have driven evangelical perceptions of what scholarship really is. When liberal methodologies are unmasked for what they really are, philosophical agendas, the perception of genuine “scholarship” evaporates.
This current state of scholarship, however, also has produced another sad state of affairs among conservative evangelicals. Those who do not subscribe to form-critical suppositions are sometimes subjected to a variety of subtle ad hominem arguments and downright ostracism within the theological community for failing to dialogue and conform to such practices. Theological, as well as political, correctness attempts to drown out dissenting voices that
Some impose a tactic like Davies. Davies writes, “all serious students of the New Testament today are to some extent Form Critics.” Davis not only uses the term “form criticism” in an aberrant sense in this sentence but does he really seek to imply by such a statement that those who question form criticism are not serious students of New Testament but only those who practice the method?
McKnight, follows a similar tactic, citing George Ladd as “an evangelical scholar who is the product of the American fundamentalism of the 1920’s” who accepts form-critical analysis. Again the thought appears to be that if George Ladd as a “fundamentalist” uses the method, “evangelical scholars” as a whole should adopt it. Apparently again, if someone is to be considered a “scholar” by the liberal community (and now increasingly the same ideas are touted by the evangelical community), then their methodologies must be adopted. If not, then the detractor is not a scholar. Such logic is non-sequitur as well as shameful!
McKnight emphasizes his point by citing Ladd’s acknowledgment that form criticism contains “valid elements” and that it “has thrown considerable light on the nature of the gospels and the traditions they employ. Evangelical scholars should be willing to accept this light.” Besides McKnight’s argument from authority being extremely weak in logic, just because some conservative theologians have accepted form criticism does not in any way legitimize its usage in the conservative evangelical camp. The issue must remain the validity of form-critical speculations rather than assuming validity based on a hand-count of what the “majority” decides.
Furthermore, does Ladd wish to imply by this statement that those who reject form criticism are ignorant fops when he asserts that “they should be willing to accept this light”? Perhaps the rejecters of form-critical method know full well the implications of the discipline and reject it upon that basis. Ladd begs the question when he argues that evangelical scholars should be willing to “accept the light.” The crucial issues must always center on whether form criticism demonstrates sound hermeneutical validity (“light”), or whether it destroys the perspicuity of the Word and plunges conservative evangelicals into deeper darkness in the interpretation of Scripture because of an already preconceived and biased agenda.
Ladd’s form-critical approach adopts much questionable methodology. While rejecting the views of “extreme form critics,” Ladd advocates a modified version of form criticism since, he contends, form criticism “contains valid elements.” He accepts the Two-Document Hypothesis as a presuppositional working basis for form criticism, arguing it is “to be accepted as a literary fact.” Yet, Ladd makes a telling admission: “The Solution to the Synoptic problem was not achieved by scholars who held a high view of the Bible but by men who were concerned primarily with historical and literary questions. These men felt that only because they had been set free from any dogmatic view of biblical inspiration were they able to deal fully with the Gospels as historical documents.” Perhaps that admission should make conservative evangelicals more cautious in accepting such “light.” Ladd admits that an anti-supernatural bias led to the acceptance of Markan priority (Mark has no mention of Jesus’s virgin birth, his infancy, etc.) but still prefers to adopt Markan priority apart from these considerations. However, the presuppositional and historical motives of the two- and four-source hypothesis are highly questionable and render Ladd’s assertion of “literary fact” quite tenuous.
Ladd seeks to assert that traditional form criticism’s “skepticism” is not a result of the method by itself but of form criticism coupled with a rationalistic view of the nature of history.” Yet, this article and a previous one (“The Philosophical and Theological bent of Historical Criticism”) have demonstrated that form criticism’s fundamental assumptions rest on a foundation of skepticism. That foundation produced the method and provided its working basis. How then can Ladd call the method valid? It can be no more valid than its presuppositions and historical developments!
Ladd advocates a modified approach. Yet, like other form critics, however, he advocates an exclusively oral period and categorically rejects out of hand any concept that that written documents could have existed early. However, the idea of an exclusively oral period is an assumption that has become a dogma. Credible arguments exist that during Jesus’s ministry his disciples may have written notes on the main aspects of his teaching.
Ladd argues: “A second valid contention of form criticism is that the Gospels are not ‘neutral, objective, impartial’ records but are witnesses to the faith of Christian believers.” Although he qualifies this statement, he concludes “the redemptive events recorded in the Gospels are ‘objective’ in the sense that they really happened in space and time, but their nature is such that they stand apart from merely human ‘historical events’ . . . for they cannot be understood by ordinary human observation but only by the response of faith.” However, one should not confine historicity in the Scripture only to acts of redemption. In Scripture, history is wedded to theology. If the foundational chapters of Genesis are not historical (e.g. Gunkel, Bultmann), then the redemptive acts addressed in the gospels have no validity. Geisler correctly notes,
Evangelicals cannot look at historical and scientific affirmations in Scripture as purely symbolic or mythical. In short, we cannot separate science from the Scripture. When the Bible declares that Jesus was born of a virgin, then it affirms a biological truth as well as a spiritual one. And when Jesus answered the question about divorce by saying, ‘Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female'” (Matt. 19:4), He not only laid down a moral principle but made a scientific pronouncement as well. The scientific cannot be separated from the spiritual without doing violence to the spiritual.
Thus, if Adam was not a real person, if no actual Fall occurred in time and history, then the significance of Christ’s death and all other redemptive acts are rendered suspect in the New Testament as well.
Ladd also accepts the analysis of forms according to “its setting in the early church” (Sitz im Leben) arguing “this is, to a certain extent, a valid position.” However, such a position forces him to admit that “such a study is highly hypothetical.” As part of his form analysis, he concludes that Mark was written in Rome to a Gentile audience and Matthew to a Jewish one. Yet, theologians have long reached such conclusions without the existence or need of form criticism.
Robert Stein is an example of an evangelical who reflects significant agreement with historical-critical and form-critical assumptions. Like other form critics, he assumes the British Four-Source hypothesis as a working presupposition. He basis many of his interpretive conclusions on this hypothesis. Yet, more and more voices within the evangelical camp have identified significant reasons for the tenuous nature of such a hypothesis. To make any interpretive decisions on such a tenuous approach is ill-advised.
He also finds the primary assumption of form criticism positive: “One of the positive contributions of form criticism is the recognition that in general the Gospel traditions circulated as independent oral units before being incorporated into the Gospels. Some material, however, was collected into larger complexes such as Mark 1:21-39 (45); 2:1 to 3:6; and 4:1-34 before being incorporated into our Gospels.” As this article has noted, the Gospels offer no real proof for such form-critical assertions. Only by assuming historical-critical dogma can the assertion be buttressed. Because this period of church history is shrouded in mystery from approximately 30 to 50 or 60 C.E., dogmatic pronouncements concerning the nature of the tradition should make such dogmatic pronouncements merely speculative. The period of 20-30 years before the gospels were written is largely unknown. Guthrie writes, “the very fact that our historical data for the first thirty years of Christian history are so limited means that form critics inevitably had to draw a good deal on imagination.”
Stein also supports K. L. Schmidt’s thesis that denigrates the historical, geographical, and chronological connections in the gospels:
It would appear that there is a great deal to be said for Schmidt’s thesis. When one looks at much of the material in the Gospel of Mark, it appears that the accounts were, for the most part, joined together on a non-chronological basis and that they indeed existed as independent units of tradition. . . . One can easily think of the pericopes as having begun with such introductions as “Once upon a time, Jesus . . . ” or Once Jesus . . . .”
Interestingly, Stein uses the traditional opening to fairy tales to describe an assumed early church introduction to these alleged isolated pericopes.
However, the particular identification of these independent units centers in the whim of the interpreter emphasizing the subjective nature of the selection. Instead of the evolutionary idea of independent units circulating in the church over a long period of time, evidence indicates that Mark may well reflect the personal recollections of the eyewitness and Apostle, Peter that he emphasized in his preaching. Eusebius records the words of Papias who was a personal acquaintance of the Apostle John in Ecclesiastical History 3.39: “‘And John the Presbyter also said this, mark being the interpreter [eJrmhneuvte”] of Peter whatsoever he recorded he wrote with great accuracy but not however in the order in which it was spoken or done by our Lord.”
Regarding the “Criterion of Multiple Attestation,” Stein argues, “It is . . . true that this tool cannot provide historical certainty but only probability, but in historical matters this is all we can ever hope to achieve. Faith and belief may have unique access to historical certainty, but historical research can only deal with probabilities.” Does this mean that Jesus said and did can never be known for certain? Is certainty possible only through the eyes of faith? Is an existential leap required? Interestingly, he again basis probability of the historicity of the tradition upon multiple attestations within the Four-Source Hypothesis (i.e., Mark, Q, M, L). However, as noted, increasing evidence suggests the tenuous nature of this hypothesis, and thus the tenuous nature of Stein’s assertions. Furthermore, as has been argued, these criteria place the burden of proof upon the tradition rather than allowing an objective approach to the historical accuracy of the tradition.
Regarding the “Criterion of Divergent Patterns from Redaction,” he argues “materials in the Gospels that reflect an Evangelist’s unique theological emphasis are probably less authentic or historical, especially if they appear only in his unique material (M in Matthew and L in Luke) or in his redactional work (summaries, explanatory clauses, seams, etc.).” Thus, as with the more radical form and tradition critics, elements appearing in the Gospels to be historical can be demonstrated to be unhistorical.
Stein allows for the odd possibility of “inauthentic” but “authoritative” sayings attributed to Jesus:
If a saying attributed to Jesus in the Gospels were inauthentic, its authoritative quality would remain, for the Evangelists not only recalled what the historical Jesus said and did but were taught by the Spirit and empowered by Him to interpret what the historical Jesus said and did (John 14:26; 16:14). Thus in the Gospels the risen Christ also speaks through his Spirit by means of his prophets and apostles. These words are also authoritative even if not authentic. As a result, if the inauthenticity of a sayings should be demonstrated this should not be taken to mean that this saying lacks authority.”
In Matthew 5:31-32, Stein argues that the exception clause “is an interpretive comment added by Matthew” and that the version without the exception clause in Mark, Luke, and Q “is more authentic.” Thus, according to Stein’s logic, although Matthew placed these words directly on the lips of Jesus and although the exception clause is not authentic (Jesus did not speak the exception clause—it was really Matthew’s interpretation), it would still be authoritative. In sum, however, this assertion actually results in attributing some quasi-concept of inspired deception to the gospel record. Furthermore, how would Matthew’s readers recognize this interpretation in context? They would not. No indications exist that this exception clause is an interpretation.
For Stein, even if eyewitnesses of the events wrote the gospels, “it does not follow that eyewitness accounts of historical events are a priori accurate historical accounts . . . . We cannot . . . assume that we have proven the historicity of the gospel accounts even if we can that behind them stands the testimony of an eyewitness . . . . if eyewitness testimony of the gospel material should be established, then the burden of proof should rest upon those who would deny the historicity of the events reported.” For Stein, one can never be sure of the gospel events even if eyewitnesses are present. All that eyewitnesses can do is shift the burden of proof, but doubt always remains.
Stein supports the criterion of multiple forms, arguing “it would appear reasonable to suppose that the appearance of a tradition or motif in multiple forms is supportive, even if not conclusive, evidence for . . . authenticity.” Yet, as has been demonstrated, this criteria assumes so much form-critical subjectivity that it demonstrates nothing. He supports the Criterion of the Tendencies of the Developing Tradition, asserting that the gospel writers could change the original audience of the pericope. Thus, according to Stein, Luke 15:4-7 preserves the original audience to whom Jesus spoke the parable of the lost sheep, while Matthew, in 18:12-14, changed the original audience of this pericope from Jesus’s opponents to the ‘church.” While Luke has the original audience, Matthew changed it for his own theological purposes to address the situation of his own audience, i.e. Sitz im Leben of the evangelist and his audience. Thus, for Stein, one can never be sure what the original audience of a pericope was, for the evangelist was free to change at will according to some hypothesized Sitz im Leben. By recognizing “certain of the ‘laws’ which the tradition experienced during the oral period, such as the changing of audience in the first and second/third Sitz im Leben” one can “be better able to ascertain what is authentic” Being so thoroughly preconditioned by tradition-critical principles, he does not even consider the fact that as an itinerant preacher, Jesus may have repeated his parables to different audiences and adapted his message to those situations (thus, both audiences are original, and no postulating of fabrication on the part of the evangelists is needed). Instead, he allows subjective postulating of hypothetical Sitz im Lebens to control any determination of what is authentic and what is not.
Stein calls multiple attestation “a helpful tool for ascertaining the authenticity of the Gospel tradition.” Indeed, he argues that “the multiple attestation of a tradition places the burden of proof upon those who would argue against the authenticity of a such a tradition.” Yet, since as has been seen, the underlying assumption of this criterion places the onus propandi on the tradition and has its basis in a highly doubtful synoptic hypothesis, one wonders how Stein has any confidence on a reversal of this burden of proof. The intent of the criterion is to cast suspicion on the tradition not to confirm the tradition. No amount of reform will overcome this built-in intent. Something predicated on acute skepticism cannot produce any positive results, no matter how much it is “reformed.”
In Matthew 5:31-32, Stein advocates that Matthew placed upon the lips of Jesus the phrase “except on the ground of unchastity” as an interpretation. He bases this on his working presupposition of the Four Source hypothesis, “It seems reasonably clear in light of the threefold testimony of Mark, Q (Luke), and Paul, and by the difficulty of the saying when it lacks the exception for unchastity, that this form of the saying (without Matthew’s ‘exception clause’) is more authentic.”
Stein also considers “[t]he Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:1-7:29) and the Sermon on the Plain Luke 6:20-49)” to be “literary creations of Matthew and Luke in the sense that they are collections of Jesus’ sayings that were uttered at various times and places and have been brought together due to topical considerations, i.e. in order to have an orderly account ([Luke]1:3).” To Stein, although “there is no need, however, to deny that a historical event lies behind the scene,” no “Sermon on the Mount” or “on the plain” ever took place as presented in the gospels but was a creative, fabricated embellishment of the evangelist.
Stein supports the classification of forms, preferring Taylor’s method. However, he admits that of three major classification systems (e.g., Bultmann, Dibelius, Taylor) “only two of the categories possess a distinct form–the pronouncement stories and miracle stories. The remaining types of material are essentially formless” and classification often “does not depend upon form as much as upon content.” He concludes that such “classification systems are helpful in that they provide convenient handles to refer to the various gospel traditions.” Yet, such admittedly meager abilities of form criticism serve to demonstrate that the vastly superior nature of the grammatico-historical hermeneutic renders form analysis tenuous as well as subjective. In addition, Stein, like other evangelical form critic, makes so many qualifications to an evangelical approach to form criticism that the validity and usefulness of the practice are entirely suspect in spite of claims to the contrary.
Robert Guelich, in his The Sermon on the Mount (1982) follows George Ladd’s lead, his mentor, in asserting: “this commentary offers a critical exegesis in that it makes use of the literary and historical critical tools including text, source, form, tradition, redaction, and structural criticism” and goes on to assert “for many to whom the Scriptures are vital the use of these critical tools has historically been more ‘destructive’ than ‘constructive.’ But one need not discard the tool because of its abuse.” Guelich prefers to ignore this history of abuse, for he asserts, contrary to historical evidence, “Like any other ‘tool,’ these of literary and historical criticism are basically neutral and often reflect the tendencies of the person using them . . . . But they have been refined to the extent that they offer the best instruments to date in exegeting the text.” Contrary to Guelich, as has been demonstrated in this article, literary and historical criticism are anything but “neutral” tools (see also chapter on “The Presuppositional and Theological Bent of Historical Criticism”).
Like the early form critics, Guelich does not acknowledge the authorship of the Gospel as that of the tax-collector Matthew, in spite of the overwhelming historical attestation. He argues that his usage of the name “Matthew” in referring to the Gospel, “merely denotes the common traditional designation of the Gospel’s author. The Gospel itself, of course, comes to us as anonymous in spite of the early church’s assignment of it to the apostle Matthew.” As a result, Guelich prefers the “evangelist” in referring to the author of the Gospel of Matthew.
As with other form critics, Guelich assumes the four-source hypothesis. This presupposition controls many of his hermeneutical decisions. Accordingly, based on this assumption (“The Sources of the Sermon on the Mount”), Guelich makes many extrapolations regarding the Sermon. For Guelich, although the tradition “most likely” stem from Jesus’s ministry, the Sermon on the Mount was not actually preached by Jesus as it is presented in Matthew (or Luke): “the Sermon on the Mount, as we know it, is ultimately the literary product of the first evangelist.” Instead, “as Dibelius suggested, even this underlying tradition resulted from the early community’s compilation of various traditional units to meet their own catechal needs.” In light of this, “the actual ‘Sermon’ as such came into being when the tradition was combined into its present form in the post-Easter community, a process that makes moot the question of when and where Jesus ‘preached’ the Sermon.” Thus, according to Guelich, although both Matthew and Luke portray Jesus as preaching the “Sermon on the Mount,” the sermon is not actually from Jesus but the product of the Christian community and the evangelists. Guelich contends that “Matthew has considerably changed the extent and profile of the Sermon tradition.”
He asserts that originally the Beatitudes were three (see Luke 6:20-21 // Matt. 3-4, 6). A fourth Beatitude (Luke 6:22-23 // Matt. 5:11-12) was “a separate traditional saying” that also goes back to Jesus. According to Guelich,
These four Beatitudes underwent further modification in the tradition with the change of person, with the expansion in number to eight in Matt. 5:5, 7-9, the first relating to the Beatitude of 5:3 and the other three corresponding in context to the three admonitions that followed in the tradition, and with the formulation of the antithetically parallel Woes in Luke 6:24-26, either in the tradition or by Luke. Therefore, Matthew found eight beatitudes in his Sermon tradition which he then adapted redactionally for his own purposes.
The evangelist created one beatitude (Matt. 5:10), while four more (Matt. 5:5, 7-9) are the later products of the Christian community. Guelich encapsulates his thesis,
The Beatitudes of Matt. 5:3-12 indicate several stages of development. First, the core (5:3, 4, 6 par. Luke 6:20-21) had roots extending to Jesus’ ministry to the desperate ones of his day . . . The fourth Beatitude (5:11-12, par. Luke 6:22-23) depicts the continuing struggle in this age for God’s people. . . . Second, these four Beatitudes, brought together to make a clear declarative statement as the opening of the Sermon tradition, were later expanded by the use of the Psalms and Jesus’ sayings to form four additional Beatitudes (5:5, 7-9) commensurate with Jesus’ teachings and preaching as found in the tradition. Third, Matthew expressly adapted these Beatitudes (5:3, 4, 5, 6, 10) to Isaiah 61 in order to underline Jesus’ person and work . . . Throughout the entire process of development, these nine Beatitudes remain consistent with the Jesus of the tradition.
For Guelich, the Sermon on the “Mount” never happened as presented.
Such “extensive modification” not only leaves the bewildering question of how many beatitudes Jesus originally spoke (3, 4, 8?) but even what kind of “Sermon” took place. Would the original readers of the gospel be able to determine that such was the case? Such ephemeral and esoteric clues centering in the four-source hypothesis and cited by Guelich as to the compositional nature of the tradition do not accord with the grammatico-historical emphasis on the perspicuity of Scripture. Sadly, Guelich’s assertions are based not on any objective analysis, but by the subjective whim of the interpreter utilizing, as Guelich terms them, the “neutral tools” of historical criticism (e.g., form and redaction criticism). Many have decried the Jesus Seminar’s decision to vote out the fourth beatitude (“The Jesus Seminar decides what Jesus did and did not say”), but evangelicals like Guelich do the very same thing.
Guelich contends that “Matthew’s Gospel and the Sermon in particular reflect the portrait artist’s freedom to modulate, modify, relocate, rearrange, restructure, and restate as exercised by the community in the traditional process and by the evangelist’s redaction.” This comment reveals that, for Guelich, not only does the Sermon often not reflect what Jesus said, but that the tradition was considerably modified by Christian community and the evangelist. All three Sitz im Lebens (i.e. Jesus, the Christian community, and the evangelist) exist for Guelich, so that not only the words but even the thoughts of Jesus are obscured by layers of life situations originating in the community and through the redaction of the evangelist. His conclusions result in a hopeless quagmire of seeking to determine whether Jesus actually said what is written in the gospel or whether it was reshaped by the Christian community or the evangelist. Under Guelich’s system one can never be sure what was originally said by Jesus, if indeed, it was spoken at all by him or where it actually took place.
Guelich asserts that “the references to persecution and suffering, the deliberate contrast with ‘the scribes and Pharisees’ and ‘hypocrites,’ and the use of the Old Testament passages and types suggest an apologetic and polemical tone commensurate with a community that now found itself separated from and at odds with a Jewish community that now stood under the judgment of having rejected Jesus Messiah and his followers.” Yet, such factors are presented contextually in Matthew 5-7 as an integral whole within the Sermon and as coming from the lips of Jesus as he spoke to the disciples and multitudes present at the actual, historical occasion of the Sermon. The most natural understanding of these factors is that they reveal the historic situation of Jesus (i.e., His tensions and conflicts with the Jewish community as a whole during His lifetime) rather than any esoteric and subjective revelation of the situation of the evangelist’s community. Any assertions to the contrary exist more in the form and redactional imagination of Guelich rather than being actually or clearly discernible in the Gospel.
Guelich also claims that the evangelist addressed a threat “of a strict Jewish-Christian attempt to maintain the Law of Moses by using the Jesus tradition as its basis and doubtless raised questions anew regarding the nature of the gospel and Gentile mission.” Guelich contends, “Matthew saw their presence as a threat so serious that he reshaped their Jesus tradition (e.g. 5:17-19) to counter and warn his community about these ‘false prophets’ (7:15-23). Thus the sermon must be read within the context of Judaism and a rigorous Jewish-Christianity.” He goes on to contend regarding Matthew 5:17-20 that “In no other section of the Sermon does the meaning of the passage depend so much on the use of tradition and redaction . . . . Consequently, the primary focus of the exegesis of 5:17-20 centers on the literary questions of form, source, and redaction.” He contends that “one can attempt to delineate the various stages in the development of this unit with its differing, at times conflicting, meanings.” Furthermore, Guelich contends that the evangelist sometimes adds to the tradition “on the basis of ‘an unconscious association of ideas’ with little or no theological basis.”
Guelich blurs interpretation and application, for while warnings of persecution may have application to Christians at any time, a grammatico-historical interpretation of the passage legitimately must link the Sermon to only one Sitz im Leben: the earthly life of Jesus. This latter thought receives reinforcement by the fact that the life situations proposed for isolated units of tradition centers in pure speculation. No beliefs of the period when the synoptic gospels were produced can be or should be distinguished from the teachings of Jesus. Alleged Sitz im Lebens of the Christian community or evangelist is entirely based in acute subjectivity and imagination of the interpreter. No adequate proof that the material owed its present shape to the practical needs of an assumed community. The Book of Acts and Paul’s epistles actually give very little information on the history of the early church. How can we reconstruct the church situation of the gospels when nothing of the church community history is given? To an overwhelmingly large degree, form critics have invented a Sitz im Leben of the church.
To Guelich, the evangelist displays authorial ineptitude with the tradition in 5:17-20 for “By adding or the Prophets to this context, the evangelist alters the saying from being a reference to Jesus’ coming related specifically to the Law to being a reference to Jesus’s coming related generally to the Scriptures. This modification has resulted in the blurring of the antithesis between the verbs kataluvw and plhrovw.” He goes on to argue that the evangelists reworking of the antithesis of 5:17 “has lost its sharpness since kataluvw and plhrovw no longer express a clear antithesis with reference to the object Scriptures. Whereas Jesus’ coming to fulfill the Scriptures makes good sense, to annul or to destroy is awkward at best both lexically and materially. Jesus was hardly viewed as annulling or destroying the Scriptures in general.” Guelich explains this authorial ineptitude by “the differentiation between the pre-Matthean and Matthean forms of 5:17.” He also bases “modification” of the tradition in 5:17 upon his assumed “Jewish-Christian misuse of the saying for their purposes” of promoting legalism.
Sadly, after Guelich’s analysis, one is left wondering whether Jesus actually spoke 5:17-20, whether or to what extent the tradition actually existed in the community, or to what extend the imagination of the evangelist was working and how poorly it was operating. Again, would Matthew’s readers have been capable of detecting the esoteric signals that indicated the substantial modification of the material by the “pre-Matthean tradition?” The evangelist presents 5:17-20 as coming exactly from the lips of Jesus which are the most natural reading and understanding of the passage. Was the early church so devoid of historical interest (e.g., 1 Cor. 7:10, 12)? Importantly, should such conclusions be reached based upon the tenuous and extremely subjective nature of Guelich’s hypothesized historical situation existing for Matthew and his audience? Once again, Guelich’s imagination is at work rather than a grammatico-historical analysis of the Sermon.
Guelich also appears to support Schmidt’s contention for the artificial nature of geographical and chronological connections. Indeed, for Guelich one cannot ever be sure that “the tradition” reflects “a theological tendency to localize events such as with calling of the Twelve, the Sermon, the Transfiguration, and the Olivet Discourse on a mountain” and “to what extent was this a historically accurate description of the location of the events . . . or . . . both?” He continues, “the ultimate answer to this question lies beyond our historical control . . . . the combination of the Sermon tradition with the traditional mountain setting for the calling for the Twelve may have resulted merely from the Church’s catechetical interest in the Q Sermon material for new ‘disciples’ in the early church.” In other words, the church’s primary interest in the tradition may reflect “the Church’s catechetical interests” and be a creation of the Christian community and the redaction of the evangelist. To Guelich, was the early church so devoid of historical interest that a literary device was used as a means to an end of instructing disciples? For Guelich, the ultimate question of where the Sermon on the “Mountain” took place is obscured by the early church’s lack of interest in such details. Guelich’s analyses throughout reveals a mind that is thoroughly preconditions by the negative presuppositions of historical criticism.
Mounce serves as another example of this tendency to dehistoricize the gospel tradition. He argues, “We are not to think of the Sermon on the Mount as a single discourse given by Jesus at one particular time. Undoubtedly, there was a primitive and actual sermon, but it has been enlarged significantly by Matthew.” Thus, for Mounce, what appears in Matthew 5-7 is not what actually took place as presented in Matthew. The Sermon is a creation or fabrication (“enlarged significantly”) of Matthew where words and sayings are placed onto the lips of Jesus that he did not speak on the occasion presented.
He cites several reasons as the basis for his postulating a synthetic creation known as the “Sermon on the Mount:” 1) “As a master teacher Jesus would not expect his listeners to be able to absorb this much ethical instruction at one time.” “Even if Jesus cold have delivered the entire Sermon at one sitting, that would have been pedagogically unsound and psychologically unwise.” 2) “Certain sections appear disconnected from what precedes and follows (e.g. 5:31, 32; 7:7-11);” 3) “More importantly” . . . “thirty-four of the verses found in Matthew’s sermon (which totals 107 verses) are not found in Luke’s record of the event (Luke 6:20-49).”
Mounce’s first reason has no basis in reality, for, unlike modern teaching techniques, Jewish teachers of Jesus’s time stressed content and memorization. Moreover, Jesus addressed the Sermon primarily to his disciples so content would naturally be expected (5:1); both Mounce’s first and second reason completely ignore the beginning and concluding formulas (5:1; 7:28-29 cf. 11:113:53;19:1) that indicate not only authenticity but one single occasion. Matthew gives no clues in the immediate context that this was not what Jesus spoke on one occasion so that Matthew’s readers would naturally have understood the Sermon as delivered on one historical occasion. Mounce’s third reason assumes that Jesus spoke these sayings only once and did not consider that as an itinerant preacher Jesus may well have uttered these sayings on more than one occasion, and this would account for the scattering of sayings in Luke (e.g. Luke 12:22-31 cf. Matthew 6:25-34).
Hagner appears to echo an assessment somewhat like that of Bultmann regarding the negative portrayal of the Pharisees in the gospel tradition, especially Matthew 23:13-39. While Bultmann argues that “the schematic presentation according to which Pharisees and scribes are from the outset the sworn enemies of Jesus is certainly unhistorical,” Hagner comments,
Taken at face value Matthew 23:13-39 represents anything but an attractive picture of the Pharisees. Jesus accused them of hypocrisy and pretentiousness, and pronounced upon them a succession of woes (seven in all) culminating in the terrible climactic exclamation: ‘You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?’ (23:33). It is a tragedy that from this ch. in Matthew the word ‘Pharisee’ has come to mean popularly a self-righteous, hypocritical pig. Unfortunately not even Christian scholarship was able over the centuries to rid itself of an unfair bias against the Pharisees.
Hagner relates that much of this negative assessment stems partly from anti-Semitism and especially from neglecting rabbinic literature, and only by considering the rabbinic literature can a balanced picture of the Pharisees be developed (“it will do not good to shut the eyes to the positive qualities of Pharisaism as revealed in the rabbinic literature”). Wyatt goes so far as to propose that “studies have demonstrated that an accurate portrayal of the Pharisees can be attained only by a comparison of the three major sources.”
Westerholm concurs with this thinking. He argues, “Gospel texts depicting certain Pharisees, when detached from their historical context and seen as portraying Jewish piety as a whole, have prevented Christians from arriving at a sympathetic understanding of Judaism. The concern of much contemporary scholarship to portray Judaism (and Pharisaism) in its own terms represents an important corrective.” According to Westerholm, this negativity in Matthew owes its existence to a hypothetical Sitz im Leben that assumes some type of tension between Matthew’s community and Jews: “Matthew’s community, which includes both Jewish and Gentile Christians, clearly lives in an environment with a noticeable Jewish presence. Relations are tense, and the Matthean community perceives itself to be the object of persecution (cf. 5:10-12; 10:17-18; 23:34).” One is left wondering whether Matthew’s portrayal is actually reflecting Jesus’s historical situation and true condition of the Pharisees or whether the evangelist Matthew has a hidden agenda and selectively distorts the “true” picture of the Pharisees in reaction to some hypothetical situation of persecution because of Pharisaical dominance. According to Westerholm’s logic, the latter is the real case and responsible for this distortion of an accurate portrait of the Pharisees.
Yet, contrary to this kind of thinking, surely one must consider Jesus’s (and the Scripture’s) own portrayal of the spiritual condition of the Pharisees in Matthew as the true and consistently accurate assessment since he knew the hearts of men (cf. John 2:24; Matt. 5:20) and the disciples, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, were conveying that correct, historical assessment rather than rabbinical literature or Josephus.
An evangelical form critic, Bock, contends, “In the hands of a skilled exegete who uses the tools of interpretation in a way that fits what they are capable of, Form Criticism can be a fruitful aid to understanding and to exposition.” Bock appears to favor Klaus Berger’s form-critical approach, but he admits “This surgery on Form Criticism probably strikes some as no longer being Form Criticism, but what it represents is a slimmed down version that allows the tool to do what it does best, which is to describe.” This admission is telling. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Berger’s approach merely describes without reaching a negative conclusion regarding historicity, labeling this version as “form criticism” supplies an aberrant definition and understanding of form criticism both presuppositionally and historically. Moreover, if the role of form criticism is “to describe” then it is entirely unnecessary. One must also remember the words of Bultmann, ” I am entirely in agreement with M. Dibelius when he maintains that form-criticism is not simply an exercise in aesthetics nor yet simply a process of description or classification; that is to say, it does not consist of identifying the individual units of the tradition according to their aesthetics or other characteristics and placing them in their various categories. It is much rather ‘to discover the origin and the history of the particular units and thereby to throw some light on the history of the tradition before it took literary form.'” Form criticism by its origin and design was intended to do more than merely describe. Bock supplies an aberrant definition that those who originated and designed the practiced would most likely not accept and which is foreign to the historical and presuppositional development. From the outset, Bultmann, Dibelius, and others who originated the discipline, declared that form criticism involves much more than classification but also makes inherent judgments on historicity, for it views the gospels as the product of the Christian community rather than eyewitness accounts by the apostles whose names they bear. Evangelicals must not enervate terminology and definition as a pretext for demonstrating “scholarly” involvement in historical-critical disciplines (e.g. a text without a context is a pretext) in attempting to invite broad-based appeal.
Since the Reformation, the grammatico-historical hermeneutic, in the hands of a skillful exegete, has successfully supplied genre descriptions without the negative conclusions in terms of historicity and the miraculous than has form-critical analysis. Only the grammatico-historical method supplies the necessary checks and balances against the predilections of form criticism to eisegete rather than exegete the text. Moreover, the grammatico-historical hermeneutic operates from the presupposition of the inerrancy of Scripture, while form criticism does not.
In contradistinction to Bock, Grant correctly and honestly contends that the negative evaluations of form criticism concerning historicity is integral to the discipline and must not be separated:
It was maintained . . . that form criticism had nothing to do with the historicity of events whose purported records had been handed down orally, but only with the outward form of the tradition; but this was an impossible view. All literary criticism of the New Testament is ultimately historical criticism.
This conclusion is more intellectually honest with its assessment of historical-critical disciplines and is confirmed by the high incidence of the negation of historicity of the tradition by those evangelicals who are linked to the more conservative evangelical camp and yet practice historical-critical methods.
Bock goes on to assert that “As long as one does not deny that the origins of the tradition go back to the participants, this search for the Sitz im Leben in the church need not be a problem and in fact can help show the way to methods one might use to teach the account today.” This statement ignores the subjective nature of determining some alleged Sitz im Leben beyond that of the historical situation of Jesus. It allows the imagination of the interpreter to roam with few checks and balances. Importantly, the interpreter has no actual way of determining the sitz in Leben in the church beyond acute speculation that has no place in exegesis. The aim of the Gospel writers is to write a Gospel about Jesus, not a church addressing some esoteric problem that few readers of the Gospel could even begin to identify or decode. The early church was interested in the historical Jesus and would naturally want to know what he taught and why. No evidence exists for any hypothesized Christian community and its alleged Sitz im Leben(s) apart from the gospels themselves. Unchecked imagination drives the engine of the hypothesized community situation.
Hooker, although somewhat favorable to form analysis, correctly identifies the subjective nature of determining a Sitz im Leben in the church,
We have no independent knowledge of the groups which formed the pericopes which we are discussing, and we can only deduce the needs and interests of the community which shaped the material from the material itself. The Sitz im Leben to which a pericope is assigned—often with great confidence—is only a hypothesis, and sometimes one feels that the hypotheses demonstrate an excessive endowment of imaginative ability on the part of those who put them forward . . . whether or not the early Church was adept at thinking up stories about Jesus to fit Church situations, the form-critics are certainly adept at thinking up Church situations to fit the stories of Jesus.
The “life-situation” (or, Sitz im Leben) proposed for isolated units of tradition centers in pure speculation. The goal of sound hermeneutics must be to avoid subjectivity as much as possible not to add layers of additional speculation. Sound exegesis demands the maintenance of objectivity on the part of the interpreter and the suppressing of speculative imagination regarding an assumed “Sitz im Leben in the church.” Only the grammatico-historical hermeneutic supplies the time tested and necessary checks and balances to avoid eisegesis. Certainly form criticism has demonstrated the exact opposite. Form criticism, whose very nature centers in a speculative, subjective, and questionable hermeneutic hypothesis should not be labeled as “a fruitful aid to understanding and to exposition.” Form criticism, regardless of whatever “modified” form is pursued, is inherently inclined to assume without adequate proof that the gospel material owed its present shape to practical needs of the Christian community. Furthermore, the form-critical tendency to dehistoricize or discount the Gospel narratives centers in assuming some sort of dichotomy between the post-Easter and Pre-Easter periods based upon hypothesizing separate Sitz im Lebens for these two periods. Evangelicals continue to court hermeneutical disaster by embracing form-critical directions.
Contrary to Bock’s assertions, form criticism is also hermeneutically misguided. Inspiration and inerrancy extends to the written text not the period behind the gospel. Form criticism is not necessary to discover what Jesus taught, nor is form criticism necessary to understand the gospels adequately. The Gospels are not reinterpretations of the life of Christ to fit the historical situation of some later Christian community. Most importantly, the grammatico-historical hermeneutic recognizes only one Sitz im Leben as legitimate: that of the earthly life of Jesus as presented in the Gospels. Evangelicals must also recognize the gospels for what they are: apostolic eyewitness (or acquaintances of eyewitnesses) reporting of what actually took place. To go beyond this invites hermeneutical disaster.
This tendency toward hermeneutical disaster is seen in Bock’s proposal that Matthew 13 and Mark 4 are most likely anthologies or collections of sayings. To Bock, these See Thomas, page 21 and Bock, p. 718, 742-743.
The evangelical concern for multiple Sitz im Lebens extends even to preaching. According to Greidanus, one needs to remember two horizons in preaching: that of the historical Jesus and that of the evangelist. Moreover, one should preach mainly from the horizon of the evangelist, not that of Jesus. Greidanus argues,
Many preachers almost automatically opt for the horizon of the historical Jesus, preaching sermons on Jesus calling his disciples, Jesus healing the sick, Jesus challenging the Pharisees, etc. and applying the message from that original horizon to the church today. The question may be raised, however, if this aproach does full justice to the written text . . . . The Gospels, however, are not transparent windowpanes but distinctly colored presentations of the historical Jesus. To look right through the written text to Jesus’ historical horizon is to miss the kerygmatic point made by the Gospel writer in a later horizon.
Greidanus continues, “Which horizon has priority, that of the historical Jesus or that of the Gospel writer? Although the horizon of Jesus is chronologically prior, one learns about the historical Jesus only through the later Gospel writer. Hence, one’s interpretation needs to begin with the horizon of the Gospel writer.” Thus, the superimposition of acute subjectivity of some assumed Sitz im Leben of the evangelist or his community becomes the starting point for teaching and proclaiming the Scripture. This position renders the historical situation of Jesus as secondary and the superimposition of the creative imagination of the interpreter as a primary starting point in the understanding of the meaning of Scripture. Consequently, eisegesis reigns in the interpretation of Scripture rather than a proper exegesis that must originate from the historical situation of Jesus as contained in the Gospels.
Catchpole, in New Testament Interpretation, advocates the use of tradition critical principles. Catchpole asserts, “the gospel tradition itself compels us to engage in tradition-historical inquiry.” He goes on, “we can hardly avoid attributing to the later post-Easter stage both the redaction of material and, on occasion, its creation.” Arguing from a tradition-historical basis, Catchpole asserts that Matthew 18:17 could not have been spoken by Jesus. He contends:
This saying has in mind a disciplinary purification of the community, which is somewhat discordant with the message of the two parables of the two parables of the wheat and the tares (Mt. 13:24-30), and the dragnet (Matt. 13:47f.). Moreover, the saying presupposes an audience which is Jewish and which also deprecates and excludes Gentiles and tax collectors. This seems most unlike the historical Jesus. The exclusion of Gentiles was hardly his approach: quite the contrary, he announced in word (18:11ff.) and action (Mk. 11:15-17) their acceptance and continually held them up as those whose example the Jews should follow in responding to the appeal or word of God (Lk. 7:9; 10:12-14; 11:31f.). And what applies to the Gentiles applies even more forcefully to the tax collectors. It was their inclusion, their joyful participation in his fellowship meals, their genuine repentance, which Jesus was prepared to defend with vigour and in the teeth of scathing criticism (Lk. 7:34; 15:1ff.; Mark 2:15-17).
In light of this logic, he concludes, “So it appears to be unlikely that Matthew 18:17 is authentic; indeed, it seems to represent a later acceptance of attitudes which Jesus himself had resisted.” Yet, Catchpole’s conclusion is not based on any convincing evidence but what he subjectively perceives to be an inconsistency in the Gospel at this point. Catchpole basis his argument not upon objective criteria, but only a subjective opinion (perhaps a better word is “whim”) that it “seems” like Matthew 18:17 does not belong here or that such an action “seems most unlike the historical Jesus.” It allows great subjective bias to determine what is authentic and what is not. Therein lies the danger of picking and choosing what the interpreter deems is authentic from what is not.
On the contrary, a very cogent case can be made that the overall contextual outworking of Matthew reveals that Matthew, the Jewish tax collector, and eyewitness of these events, places great emphasis on the primacy of Jesus’s mission to the Jews. The focus of Matthew is upon the primacy of the offer of the kingdom to the Jews (Matt. 4:17, 23) that was promised in the Old Testament (Is. 42:1-3). Jesus warns his disciples not to go to the Gentiles or Samaritans in proclaiming the message of the kingdom (10:5-6). In 15:24, Jesus states to the Canaanite woman “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” yet still heals her son due to her expression of faith. This stress is consistent with the Old Testament promises that Messiah would first offer salvation to Israel and also be a light to the Gentiles (Is. 42:5-9; 61:1-3 cf. John 4:22). Paul also stressed the primacy of the Jews role in salvation and first hearing the message of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16; 2:9-10) and such a conviction governed his own early missionary efforts (Acts 13:5, 44-48; 14:1-2).
Furthermore, the focus of 18:17 is not so much upon deprecating Gentiles and tax-gatherers as it centers on the prevailing Jewish attitudes toward such groups in terms of exclusion. Jesus’s point is that in the same way that Jews exclude Gentiles and tax-collectors, so should the church(or, assembly) treat the sinning members who do not repent. The focus of the comparison is upon the manner of exclusion not deprecation.
If such a statement in Matthew 18:17 (“let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer”) were produced by the post-Easter church, then would not statements centering on the universal ministry of Jesus to the Gentiles be placed more likely onto the lips of Jesus by the post-Easter Church than statements centering in ministry exclusive to Jews? That this and other sayings like it were preserved is a manifest testimony to the authenticity of the tradition rather than its inauthenticity. For conservative evangelicals, the best way to proceed is to operate solely on the basis of the authenticity of the saying and allow the text to speak for itself.
Catchpole also doubts the authenticity of Matthew 23:2-3. He argues that “such a saying undergirds Pharisaic traditional teaching with Mosaic authority and accepts Moses as the final court of appeal . . . . But this historic Jesus does not seem to have adopted so conservative an attitude to either tradition or law.” Catchpole concludes regarding these verses, “we would have to ask whether an alternative post-Easter setting is available for Matthew 23-2f. In view of the Pharisaic membership and theological influence within the church, which is attested in Acts 15:5, 21:10 (cf. Gal. 2:4f., 12), the answer might not be hard to reach.” For Catchpole, as well as the radical form and tradition critics sighted in this article, the Christian community attributed words and sayings to Jesus that he did not say, and a distinction must be drawn between what the historical Jesus said and did and the post-Easter activity of the early church that attributed words and deed to Jesus that he did not really say.
In addition, Catchpole dismisses the idea that Jesus spoke Matthew 11:19. Instead, “the form of Matthew 11:19 is the product of the evangelists intervention.” Relying heavily on the two-Gospel hypothesis, he dismisses sayings in Matthew that equate Jesus with “wisdom” because “Q and Luke are witnesses to the existence of a christology which does not go beyond the view that Jesus is a messenger of Wisdom.” Instead, sayings of Jesus where he is equated with wisdom is a later product of the early church and “Matthew’s community.” In terms of the gospel tradition developments, Catchpole thinks in evolutionary terms: “we have to learn to live with a greater degree of raggedness at the edges and a less neat evolutionary process than would emerge if we envisaged a straight and consecutive development from Jesus to the Aramaic-speaking and Hellenistic Jewish-Christian outlooks and ultimately to the Gentile Christian position.” For Catchpole, this evolutionary development produced “varied” and competing theologies within the Christian community. He also affirms the basic distinction between the form-critical concept of historie and geschichte:
The gospels do belong to Jesus and also to the churches. For Jesus this means that he is seen as not merely historisch, a figure of the past, but also one whom we can see within the developing tradition as truly geschichtlich, that is, a person whose relevance is explored and exploited ever and again in places far removed from Galilee and Jerusalem and in times long after A.D. 30.
Osborne also supports “a positive reappraisal of criteria for studying development tradition.” He argues that “criteria should build on a positive foundation and seek to authenticate rather than disprove genuineness.” Once again, Osborne tries to reform principles that inherently make the tradition suspect no matter how one attempts reforms them. Ultimately the question centers in this: to whom is he attempting to demonstrate authenticity? If he attempts to demonstrate authenticity to a group (historical critics) that ultimately do not want to accept his a priori assumption of the genuineness of the tradition, then no matter how much he attempts to reform tradition critical principles, such critics will not be moved in the slightest to accept his conclusions. The massive shift in biblical scholarship as a whole (apart from evangelicals) has been toward inherent suspicion of the tradition. No amount of attempted “positive” spin of these inherently negative principles will carry weight with the vast majority. If he is attempting to demonstrate the authenticity of the tradition to those evangelicals already inclined to accept the tradition as genuine, then at best, all that Osborne’s tradition-critical principles might offer is a tenuous possibility that the tradition might be from Jesus. Even Osborne admits that his criteria “can do no more than show probability” and are “so tentative.” He can only decry the fact that this conclusion is “unwarranted pessimism.” Yet, one sees little value in such tentative judgments through such subjective principles. Such pessimism regarding Osborne’s principles, however, actually centers not so much in pessimism but on a sober understanding of the true nature of these tradition-critical principles as presuppositionally and historically developed. Osborne’s concludes,
[T]here is no reason to ignore or repudiate Traditionsgeschichte as a positive tool for investigating the life and unfolding theology of the early Church. When he control the negative dangers and wield the tool with honesty and sensitivity, the results will magnify the Word of God and continue the exciting discovery of ultimate truth in our time.
However, even Osborne himself has not been able to control the “negative dangers” inherent in historical-critical methods, for at one time he advocated that Matthew had expanded the wording of the Great Commission: “it seems most likely that at some point the tradition or Matthew expanded an original monadic formula.” Thus, for Osborne, Jesus did not speak the Great Commission as it appears in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus originally told the disciples to baptize in the name of the Father but that monadic stipulation was expanded into the “triadic baptismal formula of Matt 28:19” in order to “interpret the true meaning of Jesus’ message for his own day . . . . However, we can know that Matthew has faithfully reproduced the intent and meaning of what Jesus said. “Due to “widespread dissatisfaction,” Osborne later attempted to revise his explanation.
Osborne also appears to think in evolutionary terms in the development of the gospel.
Carson, Moo, and Morris, in a section entitled, “the Evolution of the Synoptic Gospels,” discuss form criticism. They decry the work of Bultmann and Dibelius for negating the historicity of the Gospels and assert that “Radical historical judgements . . . are not intrinsic to form criticism” and “form criticism entails no a priori judgment about the historicity of the material that it analyzes.” Yet, as this article has shown, the very the presuppositions and history that led to the tenets of form criticism center in virulent antisupernaturalism (e.g. K. L. Schmidt’s denegration of the chronological and geographical framework led to the hypothesizing of individual pericopes). The development form criticism was not possible without such factors. To say that form criticism entails no a priori judgment about historicity either ignores form criticism’s history or attempts to supply an aberrant understanding to the term at the very least (“defined narrowly”). As has been demonstrated in this article, even evangelical from critics make such a prior judgments about historicity. Carson himself supplies another example of the tendency of evangelicals to dehistoricize the gospels accounts. In the pericope of the commissioning of the twelve (Matt. 10:5-42 //, reflecting Wenham’s position, he argues, “it is possible that some sayings of Jesus, repeated by him often and on diverse occasions, were jotted down in a sort of amalgam form encapsulating their substance and then used by the evangelists in different contexts and adapted accordingly.” For Carson, the door is now open to assume that what appears in the Gospels may not be what actually was, and in the case of the commissioning of the twelve in Matthew 10, the sermon may have come from a variety of sources (i.e. “Q”) rather than on one historical occasion.
In addition, Carson, Moo, and Morris accept several key evolutionary-driven assumptions, including the concept of “small units” of gospel material circulating orally in the Christian community and “the two-source hypothesis” as “the best overall explanation for the relationship among the Synoptic Gospels.”
Several conclusions ensue from this discussion: First, the practice of form and tradition criticism must be considered in light of their historical and presuppositional developments. Form and tradition criticism are no more valid than the presuppositional and historical foundations that led to their development. If the foundations of a methodology are tenuous, then so is any practice of that methodology. The presuppositions and history of form and tradition criticism lead to the obvious conclusion that a radical and virulent antisupernaturalism along with evolutionary dogma led to their development
Second, evangelicals who attempt to practice “modified” versions of these disciplines either must attempt to ignore the presuppositional and historical impetuses that produced fundamental assumptions or supply an aberrant definition of the practice. In either case, the high failure rate of evangelicals to avoid the negative presuppositions of these disciples decisively demonstrates that these negative presuppositions are wedded to the practice and cannot be separated.
Third, since the gospels were written by apostles and eyewitnesses, they reflect an eyewitness account of what happened, i.e. only one Sitz im Leben truly exists–that of the period of the earthly life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. Moreover, the Holy Spirit supernaturally guided and aided the formation of the gospel records (John 14:26; 16:13). The practice of these disciplines by evangelicals completely ignores and impugns this work of the Holy Spirit by positing errors and outright falsehoods in the gospels. Although the Gospels convey theology and are selective not exhaustive (John 21:30), this factor does not militate against the fact they are accurate historical and biographical works of Jesus life.
Fourth, since the Reformation (1517), the grammatico-historical hermeneutic has been the time-proven safeguard in hermeneutics that actively downplays subjectivity, and, instead, emphasizes objectivity in interpreting the written documents plainly and normally, according to the rules of grammar and the facts of history. Evangelicals who depart from this foundational hermeneutic and practice form and tradition criticism are courting hermeneutical disaster. Inspiration and inerrancy extend to the documents themselves, not to any hypothesized oral period or sources behind the gospels. The grammatico-historical hermeneutic alone is capable of identifying all literary genres without the negative presuppositions of form and tradition criticism. Any one of these four factors alone are entirely sufficient reasons for rejecting form and tradition criticism.
Sadly, in this evangelical dialogue with liberals and their methodologies, the liberals have not changed their essential practice. Evangelicals are the ones who have demonstrated such a willingness to change through compromise with dangerous hermeneutical methodologies. They have done all of the changes to the detriment of the Word. The price necessary to dialogue is not worth the cost to the Word. The time has come to expose these hypotheses as tenuous and philosophically-motivated agendas rather than their masquerade as objective purveyors of truth. An iron to all of this is that evangelicals are using principles inherently hostile to the Word to “confirm” the authenticity of the Scripture; principles that cannot possibly lead to any form of certainty regarding the gospels; principles that were inherently designed not to lead to any form of objectivity. How then may they possibly be used as effective weapons against the liberal charge of non-historicity especially since they are being used for purposes that they were not intended?
The liberal theological world at large has squeezed evangelicals into its mold in the practice of form and tradition criticism. This sad situation has resulted from an incessant desire by some evangelicals to “dialogue” with their liberal counterparts in hopes of demonstrating “scholarship” and perhaps also to obtain a voice of influence or recognition in the liberal camp. While a host of evangelicals may be sighted as to the adverse influence of form and redaction, few, if any, liberals have been influenced by evangelicals to adopt a more conservative stance in this attempt at dialogue. Sadly, in the evangelical drive to keep up with the “theological Jonses,” evangelicals are the ones who have adversely changed not their liberal counterparts. As a result, evangelicals, as well as liberals now, impugn the integrity and authority of Scripture through the practice of these methodologies.
Robert Yarbrough, in an article entitled “Evangelical Theology in Germany,” has catalogued an interesting development: a significant trend (“of considerable moment”) in current German scholarship from “a dissenting voice, small but hardly still” is toward abandoning historical-critical methods as bankrupt methodologies. They call “for spiritual renewal and biblical fidelity in a land which has done much to undermine, or at least radically redefine, both of these in recent generations.” According to Maier, historical-criticism “has arrived at the end of a blind alley.”
The evangelical drive to keep up with the “theological Jones” and dialogue with current methodologies should perhaps catch up to this trend: rejection of historical-critical methods. Only in this way would they fulfill their desire of being truly on the cutting edge of scholarship. Evangelicals dance on the edge of hermeneutical and, as a result, theological disaster, with historical-critical methods such as form and tradition criticism, for they have pushed the Scriptures over the dangling precipice that is historical criticism.
Please Help Us Keep These Thousands of Blog Posts Free for All
THOUSANDS OF FREE BIBLE-BASED CHRISTIAN ARTICLES AND GROWING
CPH BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS
Andrews has written The Biblical Guide to Avoid the Pitfalls of Sexual Immorality. This tool is for both man and woman, husband and wife, all Christians who will marry one day and those who have been married for some time. The fallen world that we live in is fertile ground for immorality. The grass always seems greener somewhere away from one’s own spouse. Adultery is something everyone should avoid. It destroys more than just marriages, it destroys a person’s life, family and most importantly their relationship with God. Such is the danger of adultery that the Bible strongly warns every man and woman against it. The world that we currently live in is very vile, and sexual morality is no longer a quality that is valued. What can Christians do to stay safe in such an influential world that caters to the fallen flesh? What can help the husband and wife relationship to flourish as they cultivate a love that will survive the immoral world that surrounds them? We might have thought that a book, like God’s Word that is 2,000-3,500 years old would be out of date on such modern issues, but the Bible is ever applicable. The Biblical Guide to Avoid the Pitfalls of Sexual Immorality will give us the biblical answers that we need.
WHAT IS A MIRACLE? It is an event that goes beyond all known human and natural powers and is generally attributed to some supernatural power. Why should YOU be interested in miracles?
“Miracles, by definition, violate the principles of science.”—RICHARD DAWKINS.
“Belief in miracles is entirely rational. Far from being an embarrassment to religious faith, they are signs of God’s love for, and continuing involvement in, creation.”—ROBERT A. LARMER, PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY.
SHOULD YOU believe in miracles? As we can see from the above quotations, opinions vary considerably. But how could you convincingly answer that question?
Some of YOU may immediately answer, “Yes, I believe.” Others might say, “No, I don’t believe.” Then, there are some who may say, “I don’t know, and I really don’t care! Miracles don’t happen in my life!” Really, why should YOU be interested in miracles? The Bible promises its readers that in the future some miracles far beyond all ever recorded or experienced is going to occur and will affect every living person on earth. Therefore, would it not be worth some of your time and energy to find out whether those promises are reliable? What does God’s Word really teach about miracles of Bible times, after that, our day, and the future?
Andrews, an author of over 100 books, has chosen the 40 most beneficial Proverbs, to give the readers an abundance of wise, inspired counsel to help them acquire understanding and safeguard their heart, “for out of it are the sources of life.” (4:23) GODLY WISDOM SPEAKS sets things straight by turning the readers to Almighty God. Each Proverb is dealt with individually, giving the readers easy to understand access to what the original language really means. This gives the readers what the inspired author meant by the words that he used. After this, the reader is given practical guidance on how those words can be applied for maneuvering through life today. GODLY WISDOM with its instruction and counsel never go out of date.
Yes, God will be pleased to give you strength. He even gives “extraordinary power” to those who are serving him. (2 Cor. 4:7) Do you not feel drawn to this powerful Almighty God, who uses his power in such kind and principled ways? God is certainly a “shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30) You understand that he does not use his power to protect you from all tragedy now. He does, however, always use his protective power to ensure the outworking of his will and purpose. In the long run, his doing so is in your best interests. Andrews shares a profound truth of how you too can have a share in the power of God. With THE POWER OF GOD as your guide, you will discover your strengths and abilities that will make you steadfast in your walk with God. You can choose to rise to a new level and invite God’s power by focusing on The Word That Will Change Your Life Today.
Herein Andrews will answer the “why.” He will address whether God is responsible for the suffering we see. He will also delve into whether God’s foreknowledge is compatible with our having free will. He will consider how we can objectively view Bible evidence, as he answers why an almighty, loving and just God would allow bad things to happen to good people. Will there ever be an end to the suffering? He will explain why life is so unfair and does God step in and solve our every problem because we are faithful? He will also discuss how the work of the Holy Spirit and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit should be understood in the light of wickedness. Lastly, Andrews will also offer biblical counsel on how we can cope when any tragedy strikes, …
GOD knows best. Nobody surpasses him in thought, word, or action. As our Creator, he is aware of our needs and supplies them abundantly. He certainly knows how to instruct us. And if we apply divine teaching, we benefit ourselves and enjoy true happiness. Centuries ago, the psalmist David petitioned God: “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me” (Psalm 25:4-5) God did this for David, and surely He can answer such a prayer for His present-day servants.
Whom do we lean upon when facing distressing situations, making important decisions, or resisting temptations? With good reason, the Bible admonishes us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways know him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6) Note the expression “do not lean upon your own understanding.” It is followed by “In all your ways know him.” God is the One with a truly sound mind. Thus, it follows that whenever we are faced with a decision, we need to turn to the Bible to see what God’s view is. This is how we acquire the mind of Christ.
Yes, God will be pleased to give you strength. He even gives “extraordinary power” to those who are serving him. (2 Cor. 4:7) Do you not feel drawn to this powerful Almighty God, who uses his power in such kind and principled ways? God is certainly a “shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30) You understand that he does not use his power to protect you from all tragedy now. He does, however, always use his protective power to ensure the outworking of his will and purpose. In the long run, his doing so is in your best interests. Andrews shares a profound truth …
All of us will go through difficult times that we may not fully understand. The apostle Paul wrote, “in the last days difficult times will come.” (2 Tim. 3:1) Those difficulties are part of the human imperfection (Rom. 5:12) and living in a fallen world that is ruled by Satan (2 Cor. 4:3-4). But when we find ourselves in such a place, it’s crucial that we realize God has given us a way out. (1 Cor. 10:13) Edward Andrews writes that if we remain steadfast in our faith and apply God’s Word correctly when we go through difficult times, we will not only grow spiritually, but we will …
Why should you be interested in the prophecy recorded by Daniel in chapter 11 of the book that bears his name? The King of the North and the King of the South of Daniel are locked in an all-out conflict for domination as a world power. As the centuries pass, turning into millenniums, first one, then the other, gains domination over the other. At times, one king rules as a world power while the other suffers destruction, and there are stretches of time where there is no conflict. But then another battle abruptly erupts, and the conflict begins anew. Who is the current King of the North and the King of the South? Who are the seven kings or kingdoms of Bible history in Revelation chapter 17? We are living in the last days that the apostle Paul spoke of, when he said, “difficult times will come.” (2 Tim. 3:1-7) How close we are to the end of these last days, wherein we will enter into the Great Tribulation that Jesus Christ spoke of (Matt. 24:21), no one can know for a certainty. However, Jesus and the New Testament authors have helped to understand the signs of the times and …
The theme of Andrews’ new book is “YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.” As a Christian, you touch the lives of other people, wherein you can make a positive difference. Men and women of ancient times such as David, Nehemiah, Deborah, Esther, and the apostle Paul had a positive influence on others by caring deeply for them, maintaining courageous faith, and displaying a mild, spiritual attitude. Christians are a special people. They are also very strong and courageous for taking on such an amazingly great responsibility. But if you can make a difference, be it with ten others or just one, you will have done what Jesus asked of you, and there is no more beautiful feeling. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE with joy.
Many have successfully conquered bad habits and addictions by applying suggestions found in the Bible and by seeking help from God through prayer. You simply cannot develop good habits and kick all your bad ones overnight. See how to establish priorities. Make sure that your new habits work for you instead of your old bad habits against you. It is one thing to strip off the old habits, yet quite another to keep them off. How can we succeed in doing both, no matter how deeply we may have been involved in bad habitual practices?
It may seem to almost all of us that we are either entering into a difficult time, living in one, or just getting over one and that we face one problem after another. This difficulty may be the loss of a loved one in death or a severe marriage issue, a grave illness, the lack of a job, or simply the stress of daily life. As Christians, we need to understand that God’s Word will carry us through these times, as we maintain our integrity whether in the face of tremendous trials or the tension of everyday life. We are far better facing these hurdles of life with the help of God, who can make the worst circumstances much better and more bearable.
The world that you live in today has many real reasons to be fearful. Many are addicted to drugs, alcohol, bringing violence into even the safest communities. Terrorism has plagued the world for more than a decade now. Bullying in schools has caused many teen suicides. The divorce rate even in Christian households is on the rise. Lack of economic opportunity and unemployment is prevalent everywhere. Our safety, security, and well-being are in danger at all times. We now live in a prison of fear to even come outside the protection of our locked doors at home. Imagine living where all these things existed, but you could go about your daily life untouched by fear and anxiety. What if you could be courageous and strong through your faith in these last days? What if you could live by faith not fear? What if insight into God’s Word could remove your fear, anxiety, and dread? Imagine a life of calmness, peace, unconcern, confidence, comfort, hope, and faith. Are you able to picture a life without fear? It is possible.
John 3:16 is one of the most widely quoted verses from the Christian Bible. It has also been called the “Gospel in a nutshell,” because it is considered a summary of the central theme of traditional Christianity. Martin Luther called John 3:16 “The heart of the Bible, the Gospel in miniature.” The Father had sent his Son to earth to be born as a human baby. Doing this meant that for over three decades, his Son was susceptible to the same pains and suffering as the rest of humankind, ending in the most gruesome torture and execution imaginable. The Father watched the divine human child Jesus grow into a perfect man. He watched as John the Baptist baptized the Son, where the Father said from heaven, “This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17) The Father watched on as the Son faithfully carried out his will, fulfilling all of the prophecies, which certainly pleased the Father.–John 5:36; 17:4. …
This commentary volume is part of a series by Christian Publishing House (CPH) that covers all of the sixty-six books of the Bible. These volumes are a study tool for the pastor, small group biblical studies leader, or the churchgoer. The primary purpose of studying the Bible is to learn about God and his personal revelation, allowing it to change our lives by drawing closer to God. The Book of James volume is written in a style that is easy to understand. The Bible can be difficult and complex at times. Our effort herein is to make it easier to read and understand, while also accurately communicating truth. CPH New Testament Commentary will convey the meaning of the verses in the book of Philippians. In addition, we will also cover the Bible background, the custom and culture of the times, as well as Bible difficulties. …
SECTION 1 Surviving Sexual Desires and Love will cover such subjects as What Is Wrong with Flirting, The Pornography Deception, Peer Pressure to Have Sexual Relations, Coping With Constant Sexual Thoughts, Fully Understanding Sexting, Is Oral Sex Really Sex, …SECTION 2 Surviving My Friends will cover such subjects as Dealing with Loneliness, Where Do I Fit In, Why I Struggle with Having Friends, …SECTION 3 Surviving the Family will cover such subjects as Appreciating the House Rules, Getting Along with My Brothers and Sisters, How Do I Find Privacy, … SECTION 4 Surviving School will cover such subjects as How Do I Deal With Bullies, How Can I Cope With School When I Hate It, … SECTION 5 Surviving Who I Am will cover such subjects as Why Do I Procrastinate, … SECTION 6 Surviving Recreation will cover such subjects as … SECTION 7 Surviving My Health will cover such subjects as How Can I Overcome My Depression, …
Who should read THIRTEEN REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD KEEP LIVING? Anyone who is struggling in their walk as a young person. Anyone who has a friend who is having difficulty handling or coping with their young life, so you can offer them the help they need. Any parent who has young ones. And grade school, junior high or high school that wants to provide an, in touch, anti-suicide message to their students. … Many youths say that they would never dream of killing themselves. Still, they all have the deep feeling that there are no reasons for going on with their lives. Some have even hoped that some sort of accident would take their pain away for them. They view death as a release, a way out, a friend, not their enemy. …
The purpose of Waging War is to guide the youth of this program from start to finish in their therapeutic efforts to gain insight into their patterns of thinking and beliefs that have led to the current outcomes in their life thus far and enable them to change the path which they are on. Waging War is a guide to start the youth with the most basic information and work pages to the culmination of all of the facts, scripture, and their newly gained insight to offer a more clear picture of where they are and how to change their lives for the better. Every chapter will have work pages that Freeman has used and had found to be useful in therapy, but most importantly, this workbook will teach the Word to a population that does not hear it in its’ most correct form. What is the significance of controlling ones’ thoughts and how does that apply to you? Doubts, fears, and insecurities come from somewhere, especially when they are pervasive. Understanding this idea will help one to fight those thoughts and free them from the shackles their mind puts around their hearts, preventing them from achieving their dreams and the plans God had intended for them when they were created.
There are many reasons the Christian view of humanity is very important. The Christian view of humanity believes that humans were created in the image of God. We will look at the biblical view of humanity. We are going to look at the nature of man, the freedom of man, the personality of man, the fall of man, the nature of sin and death, as well as why God has allowed sin to enter into the world, as well as all of the wickedness and suffering that came with it. Andrews will answer the following questions and far more. How does the Bible explain and describe the creation of man and woman? Why is it imperative that we understand our fallen condition? What does it mean to be made in the image of God? …
In FOR AS I THINK IN MY HEART – SO I AM, Edward D. Andrews offers practical and biblical insights on a host of Christian spiritual growth struggles, from the challenge of forgiveness to eating disorders, anger, alcoholism, depression, anxiety, pornography, masturbation, same-sex attraction, and many others. Based on Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV): “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he,” Andrews’ text works from the position that if we can change the way that we think, we can alter the way we feel, which will modify the way we behave. FOR AS I THINK IN MY HEART – SO I AM offers far more than self-help to dozens of spiritual struggles, personal difficulties, and mental disorders. It will benefit Christian and non-Christian alike. The Scriptural advice and counsel coupled with cognitive behavioral therapy will be helpful even if every chapter is not one of your struggles. For As I Think in My Heart enables readers to examine the lies and half-truths …
THERE IS A GENUINE HAPPINESS, contentment, and joy, which come from reading, studying and applying God’s Word. This is true because the Scriptures offer us guidance and direction that aids us in living a life that coincides with our existence as a creation of Almighty God. For example, we have a moral law that was written on our heart. (Rom. 2:14-15) However, at the same time, we have a warring against the law of our mind and taking us captive in the law of sin, which is in our members. (Rom. 7:21-25) When we live by the moral law, it brings us joy, when we live by the law of sin; it brings about distress, anxiety, regrets to both mind and heart, creating a conflict between our two natures. In our study of the Bible, we can interact with a living God who wants a personal relationship with us. And in APPLYING GOD’S WORD MORE FULLY, we will learn how to engage His words like never before. Andrews helps his readers …
THERE IS ONE MAJOR DIFFERENCE between Christian living books by Andrews and those by others. Generally speaking, his books are filled with Scripture and offer its readers what the Bible authors meant by what they penned. In this publication, it is really God’s Word offering the counsel, which is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17) From the moment that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, humans have been brought forth in sin, having become more and more mentally bent toward evil, having developed a heart (i.e., inner person) that is treacherous, and unknowable to them, with sin’s law dwelling within them. Sadly, many of us within the church have not been fully informed …
A clean conscience brings us inner peace, calmness, and profound joy that is seldom found in this world under the imperfection of fallen flesh that is catered to by Satan, the god of the world. Many who were formerly living in sin and have now turned their life over to God, they now know this amazing relief and are able today to hold a good and clean conscience as they carry out the will of the Father. WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD, has been written to help its readers to find that same joy, to have and maintain a good, clean conscience in their lives. Of course, it is incapable of covering every detail that one would need to consider and apply in their lives …
This book is primarily for WIVES, but husbands will greatly benefit from it as well. WIVES will learn to use God’s Word to construct a solid and happy marriage. The Creator of the family gives the very best advice. Many have been so eager to read this new publication: WIVES BE SUBJECT TO YOUR HUSBANDS. It offers wives the best insights into a happy marriage, by way of using God’s Word as the foundational guide, along with Andrews’ insights. WIVES learn that marriage is a gift from God. WIVEStake in information that will help them survive the first year of marriage. WIVES will be able to make Christian marriage a success. WIVES will maintain an honorable marriage. WIVES will see how to submit correctly to Christ’s headship. WIVES will learn how to strengthen their marriage through good communication. …
This book is primarily for HUSBANDS, but wives will greatly benefit from it as well. HUSBANDS will learn to use God’s Word to construct a solid and happy marriage. The Creator of the family gives the very best advice. Many have been so eager to read this new publication: HUSBANDS LOVE YOUR WIVES. It offers husbands the best insights into a happy marriage, by way of using God’s Word as the foundational guide, along with Andrews’ insights. HUSBANDS learn that marriage is a gift from God. HUSBANDS take in information that will help them survive the first year of marriage. HUSBANDS will be able to make Christian marriage a success. HUSBANDS will maintain an honorable marriage. …
Technological and societal change is all around us. What does the future hold? Trying to predict the future is difficult, but we can get a clue from the social and technological trends in our society. The chapters in this book provide a framework as Christians explore the uncharted territory in our world of technology and social change. Some of the questions that Anderson will answer are: What are the technological challenges of the 21st century? How should we think about the new philosophies like transhumanism? Should we be concerned about big data? What about our privacy in a world where government and corporations have some much information about us? How should we think about a world experiencing exponential growth in data and knowledge? What social trends are affecting baby boomers, baby busters, and millennials?
Government affects our daily lives, and Christians need to think about how to apply biblical principles to politics and government. This book provides an overview of the biblical principles relating to what the apostle Paul calls “governing authorities” (i.e., government) with specific chapters dealing with the founding principles of the American government. This includes an examination of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Federalist Papers. The thirteen chapters in this book not only look at the broad founding principles but also provide an in-depth look at other important political and governmental issues. One section explains the history and application of church and state issues. Another section describes aspects of political debate and discourse. A final section provides a brief overview of the Christian heritage of this nation that was important in the founding of this country and the framing of our founding documents.
Economics affects our daily lives, and Christians need to think about how to apply biblical principles to money, investment, borrowing, and spending. They also need to understand the free enterprise system and know how to defend capitalism. Chapters in this book not only look at broad economic principles, but a section of the book is devoted to the challenges we face in the 21st century from globalization and tough economic times. A section of the book also provides an in-depth look at other important social and economic issues (gambling, welfare) that we face every day …
Do you desire to follow Jesus Christ and transform the culture around you? Are you sure you know what it means to be a disciple and follow a dangerous revolutionary who often comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable? Jesus Christ is not the mild status quo rabbi you may have been taught in your local church. He is dangerous and anyone who follows him is on a dangerous journey. The demands he places upon you and the challenges you will encounter are necessary on the journey. The journey with Jesus Christ is not for the fainthearted. If you are really serious about joining Jesus Christ in the transformation of the culture around you, here is a raw outlook on what to expect on this DANGEROUS JOURNEY.
Each of the twenty-five chapters in the POWER THROUGH PRAYER provides helpful methods and suggestions for growing and improving your prayer life with God through the power of prayer. So, what can we expect if we make prayer a part of our life? Prayer can give you a peace of mind. Prayer can comfort and strength when facing trials. Prayer can help us make better life choices. The Bible says: “If any of you lacks wisdom [especially in dealing with trials], let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5) Prayer can help to avoid temptation. Prayer is the path yo forgiveness of sins. Your prayers can help others. You will receive encouragement when your prayers are answered.
DOZENS OF QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED: Why is prayer necessary? What must we do to be heard by God? How does God answer our prayers? Does God listen to all prayers? Does God hear everyone’s prayers? What may we pray about? Does the Father truly grant everything we ask for? What kind of prayers would the Father reject? How long should our prayers be? How often should we pray? Why should we say “Amen” at the end of a prayer? Must we assume a special position or posture when praying? There are far more than this asked and answered.
What forms of prayer do you personally need to offer more often? Who benefits when you pray for others? Why is it important to pray regularly? Why should true Christians pray continually? To whom should we pray, and how? What are the proper subjects for prayer? When should you pray? Does God listen to all prayers? Whose prayers is God willing to hear? What could make a person’s prayers unacceptable to God? When Jesus says, “whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive if you have faith,” an absolute guarantee that we will receive it? HOW TO PRAY by Torrey and Andrews is a spiritual gem that will answer all of these questions and far more. HOW TO PRAY is a practical guidebook covers the how, when, and most importantly, the way of praying. An excellent devotional resource for any Christian library.
Christian Apologetics and Evangelism
Some of the questions asked and answered in THE YOUNG CHRISTIAN’S SURVIVAL GUIDE are “You claim the Bible is inspired because it says it is, right (2 Tim. 3:16)? Isn’t that circular reasoning?” “You claim the Bible was inspired, but there was no inspired list of which books that is true of. So how can we know which ones to trust?” “With so many different copies of manuscripts that have 400,000+ variants (errors), how can we even know what the Bible says?” “Why can’t the people who wrote the four Gospels get their story straight?” These questions and many more will be asked and answered with reasonable, rational, Scriptural answers.
Was the Gospel of Mark Written First? Were the Gospel Writers Plagiarists? What is the Q Document? What about Document Q? Critical Bible scholars have assumed that Matthew and Luke used the book of Mark to compile their Gospels and that they consulted a supplementary source, a document the scholars call Q from the German Quelle, or source. From the close of the first century A.D. to the 18th century, the reliability of the Gospels was never really brought into question. However, once we enter the so-called period of enlightenment, especially from the 19th century onward, some critical Bible scholars viewed the Gospels not as the inspired, inerrant Word of God but rather as the word of man, and a jumbled word at that. In addition, they determined that the Gospels were not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, saying the Gospels were written after the apostles, denying that the writers of the Gospels had any firsthand knowledge of Jesus; therefore, for these Bible critics such men were unable to offer a record of reliable history. Moreover, these critical Bible scholars came to the conclusion that the similarities in structure and content in the synoptic (similar view) Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), suggests that the evangelists copied extensively from one other. Further, the critical Bible scholars have rejected that the miracles of Jesus and his resurrection ever occurred as recorded in the Gospels. Lastly, some have even gone so far as to reject the historicity of Jesus himself.
Inside of some Christians unbeknownst to their family, friends or the church, they are screaming, “I doubt, I doubt, I have very grave doubts!” Ours is an age of doubt. Skepticism has become fashionable. We are urged to question everything: especially the existence of God and the truthfulness of his Word, the Bible. A SUBSTANTIAL PORTION of REASONABLE FAITH is on healing for the elements of emotional doubt. However, much attention is given to more evidenced-based chapters in our pursuit of overcoming any fears or doubts that we may have or that may creep up on us in the future.
How can you improve your effectiveness as teachers? Essentially, it is by imitating JESUS CHRIST The Great Teacher You may wonder, ‘But how can we imitate Jesus?’ ‘He was the perfect, divine, Son of God.’ Admittedly, you cannot be a perfect teacher. Nevertheless, regardless of your abilities, you can do your best to imitate the way Jesus taught. JESUS CHRIST The Great Teacher will discuss how you can employ all of his teaching methods. What a privilege it is to be a teacher of God’s Word and to share spiritual values that can have long-lasting benefits!
How can you improve your effectiveness as teachers? Essentially, it is by imitating THE APOSTLE PAUL: The Preacher, Teacher, Apologist. You may wonder, ‘But how can we imitate Paul?’ ‘He was an inspired author, who served as an apostle, given miraculous powers.’ Admittedly, Paul likely accomplished more than any other imperfect human. Nevertheless, regardless of your abilities, you can do your best to imitate the way Paul taught. THE APOSTLE PAUL: The Preacher, Teacher, Apologist will discuss how you can employ all of his teaching methods. When it comes to teaching, genuine Christians have a special responsibility. We are commanded to “make disciples of all nations . . . , teaching them.” (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20; Ac 1:8)
How true is the Old Testament? For over two centuries Biblical scholars have held to the so-called documentary hypothesis, namely, that Genesis – Deuteronomy was not authored by Moses, but rather by several writers, some of whom lived centuries after Moses’ time. How have many scholars questioned the writership of Isaiah, and are they correct? When did skepticism regarding the writership of Isaiah begin, and how did it spread? What dissecting of the book of Isaiah has taken place? When did criticism of the book of Daniel begin, and what fueled similar criticism in more recent centuries? What charges are sometimes made regarding the history in Daniel? Why is the question of the authenticity of the books of Moses, the Book of Isaiah and the Book of Daniel an important one? What evidence is there to show that the books of Moses, the Book of Isaiah and the Book of Daniel is authentic and true? Do these critics have grounds for challenging these Bible author’s authenticity and historical truthfulness? Why is it important to discuss whether Old Testament Aurhoriship is authentic and true or not?
Who wrote the first five books of the Bible? Was it Moses or was it others centuries later? If Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, then how was his own death and burial written in Deuteronomy Chapter 34? Many mainstream Bible scholars argue that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch since he likely existed many centuries earlier than the development of the Hebrew language. When was the origin of the Hebrew language? Popular scholarship says that if Moses had written the Pentateuch, he would have written in the Egyptian language, not the Hebrew. Moreover, most of the Israelites and other people of the sixteenth century B.C.E. were illiteral, so who could have written the Torah, and for whom would it be written because the people of that period did not read?
Finally, analysis of the first five books demonstrates multiple authors, not just one, which explains the many discrepancies. Multiple authors also explain the many cases of telling of the same story twice, making the same events appear to happen more than once. The modern mainstream scholarship would argue that within the Pentateuch we see such things as preferences for certain words, differences in vocabulary, reoccurring expressions in Deuteronomy that are not found in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, all evidence for their case for multiple authors.
What does the evidence say? What does archaeology, linguistic analysis, historical studies, textual analysis, and insights from Egyptologists tell us? Again, who wrote the first five books of the Bible? Was it Moses or was it others centuries later? Andrews offers his readers an objective view of the evidence.
Agabus is a mysterious prophetic figure that appears only twice in the book of Acts. Though his role is minor, he is a significant figure in a great debate between cessationists and continualists. On one side are those who believe that the gift of prophecy is on par with the inspired Scriptures, infallible, and has ceased. On the other side are those who define it as fallible and non-revelatory speech that continues today in the life of the church. Proponents of both camps attempt to claim Agabus as an illustration of their convictions. This study defends the position that Agabus’ prophecies are true in every detail. Beginning with a survey of major figures in the debate, the author conducts an exegetical analysis of passages where Agabus appears in defense of the infallible view.
Islam is making a significant mark on our world. It is perhaps the fastest-growing religion in the world. It has become a major obstacle to Christian missions. And Muslim terrorists threaten the West and modern democracies. What is the history of Islam? What do Muslims believe? Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? Why do we have this clash of civilizations? Is sharia law a threat to modern democratic values? How can we fight terrorists in the 21st century? These are significant questions that deserve thoughtful answers. This book provides practical, biblical answers so Christians can understand Islam, witness to their Muslim friends, and support efforts by the government to protect all of us from terrorism.
IS THE QURAN THE WORD OF GOD? Is Islam the One True Faith? This book covers the worldview, practices, and history of Islam and the Quran. This book is designed as an apologetic evangelistic tool for Christians, as they come across Muslims in their daily lives, as well as to inform them, as a protection again the misleading media. The non-Muslims need to hear these truths about Islam and the Quran so they can have an accurate understanding of the Muslim mindset that leads to their actions. Islam is the second largest religion in the world. Radical Islam has taken the world by storm, and the “fake media” has genuinely misled their audience for the sake of political correctness. This book is not a dogmatic attack on Islam and the Quran but rather an uncovering of the lies and describing of the truths. The reader will be introduced to the most helpful way of viewing the evidence objectively. We will answer the question of whether the Quran is a literary miracle, as well as is there evidence that the Quran is inspired by God, along with is the Quran harmonious and consistent, and is the Quran from God or man? We will also examine Islamic teachings, discuss the need to search for the truth, as well as identify the book of truth. We will look at how Islam views the Bible. Finally, we will take up the subjects of Shariah Law, the rise of radical Islam, Islamic eschatology, and how to effectively witness to Muslims.
The average Christian knows somewhat how dangerous radical Islam is because of the regular media coverage of beheadings of Christians, Jews, and even young little children, not to mention Muslims with which they disagree. However, the average Christian does not know their true beliefs, just how many there are, to the extent they will go to carry out these beliefs. Daily we find Islamic commentators on the TV and radio, offering up misleading information, quoting certain portions of the Quran while leaving other parts out. When considering Islamic beliefs, other Islamic writings must be considered, like the Hadith or Sunnah, and the Shariah, or canon law. While Islam, in general, does not support radical Islam, the vast majority do support radical beliefs. For example, beheadings, stoning for adultery or homosexuality, suicide bombings, turning the world into an Islamic state, and far too many other heinous things. THE GUIDE TO ISLAM provides Christians with an overview of Islamic terminology. The reader will learn about Muhammad’s calling, the history of the Quran, how Islam expanded, the death of Muhammad and the splinter groups that followed. In addition, the three sources of their teaching, six pillars of belief, five pillars of Islam, the twelfth Imam, and much more will be discussed. All of this from the mind of radical Islam. While there are several books on Islam and radical Islam, this will be the first that will prepare its readers to communicate effectively with Muslims in an effort toward sharing biblical truths. …
If you have the desire to become better equipped to reach others for the lost or to strengthen your faith, Judy Salisbury’s guide—written specifically to meet the needs of Christian women today—offers you a safe, practical, and approachable place to start. In her lively, … If you have the desire to become better equipped to reach others for the lost or to strengthen your faith, Judy Salisbury’s guide—written specifically to meet the needs of Christian women today—offers you a safe, practical, and approachable place to start. In her lively, straightforward style, Salisbury covers such issues as: Does God exist? Can I trust the Bible? Does Christianity oppress women? Can we know truth? Why would God allow evil and suffering? Was Jesus God and did He really rise from the dead? How does or should my faith guide my life?
A Time to Speak: Practical Training for the Christian Presenteris a complete guide for effective communication and presentation skills. Discuss any subject with credibility and confidence, from Christian apologetics to the sensitive moral issues of our day, when sharing a testimony, addressing a school board, a community meeting, or conference. This exceptional training is the perfect resource for Christians with any level of public speaking ability. With its easy, systematic format, A Time to Speak is also an excellent resource for home-schooled and college students. The reader, in addition to specific skills and techniques, will also learn how to construct their presentation content, diffuse hostility, guidance for a successful Q&A, effective ways to turn apathy into action, and tips on gaining their speaking invitation.
Historical Criticism of the Bible got started in earnest, known then as Higher Criticism, during the 18th and 19th centuries, it is also known as the Historical-Critical Method of biblical interpretation. Are there any weakness to the Historical-Critical Method of biblical interpretation (Historical Criticism), and why is historical criticism so popular among Bible scholars today? Its popularity is because biblical criticism is subjective, that is, based on or influenced by personal feelings or opinions and is dependent on the Bible scholar’s perception. In other words, biblical criticism allows the Bible scholar, teacher, or pastor the freedom to interpret the Scriptures, so that God’s Word it tells them things that they want to hear. Why is this book so critical for all Christians? Farnell and Andrews will inform the reader about Biblical criticism (historical criticism) and its weaknesses, helping you to defend God’s Word far better.
Biblical criticism is an umbrella term covering various techniques for applying literary historical-critical methods in analyzing and studying the Bible and its textual content. Biblical criticism is also known as higher criticism, literary criticism, and historical criticism. Biblical criticism has done nothing more than weaken and demoralize people’s assurance in the Bible as being the inspired and fully inerrant Word of God and is destructive in its very nature. Historical criticism is made up of many forms of biblical criticism that are harmful to the authoritative Word of God: historical criticism, source criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, social-science criticism, canonical criticism, rhetorical criticism, structural criticism, narrative criticism, reader-response criticism, and feminist criticism. Not just liberal scholarship, but many moderate, even some “conservative” scholars have …
APOLOGETICS: Reaching Hearts with the Art of Persuasion by Edward D. Andrews, author of over seventy books, covers information that proves that the Bible is accurate, trustworthy, fully inerrant, and inspired by God for the benefit of humankind. The reader will be introduced to Christan apologetics and evangelism. They will learn what Christian apologetics is. They will be given a biblical answer to the most demanding Bible question: Problem of Evil. The reader will learn how to reach hearts with are the art of persuasion. They will use persuasion to help others accept Christ. They will learn to teach with insight and persuasiveness. They will learn to use persuasion to reach the heart of those who listen to them.
REVIEWING 2013 New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses is going to challenge your objectivity. Being objective means that personal feelings or opinions do not influence you in considering and representing facts. Being subjective means that your understanding is based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or ideas. If the reader finds these insights offense, it might be a little mind control at work from years of being told the same misinformation repeatedly, so ponder things objectively. We can also have preconceived ideas that have been a part of our thinking for so long; we do not question them. Preconceived is an idea or opinion that is formed before having the evidence for its truth. If we are to be effective, we must season our words, so that they are received well. Then there is the term preconception, which means a preconceived idea or prejudice. Seasoned words, honesty, and accuracy are distinctive features of effective apologetic evangelism.
Use of REASONING FROM THE SCRIPTURES should help you to cultivate the ability to reason from the Scriptures and to use them effectively in assisting others to learn about “the mighty works of God.” – Acts 2:11. If Christians are going to be capable, powerful, efficient teachers of God’s Word, we must not only pay attention to what we tell those who are interested but also how we tell them. Yes, we must focus our attention on the message of God’s Word that we share but also the method in which we do so. Our message, the Gospel (i.e., the good news of the Kingdom), this does not change, but we do adjust our methods. Why? We are seeking to reach as many receptive people as possible. “You will be my witnesses … to the End of the Earth.” – ACTS 1:8.
Why should we be interested in the religion of others? The world has become a melting pot of people, cultures, and values, as well as many different religions. Religion has the most significant impact on the lives of mankind today. There are only a few of the major religions that make up billions of people throughout the earth. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world. God’s will is that “all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4) God has assigned all Christians the task of proclaiming the Word of God, teaching, to make disciples. (Matt. 24:15; 28:19-20: Ac 1;8) That includes men and women who profess a non-Christian religion, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam to mention just a few. If there are Hindus, Buddhist or Muslims are in your community, why not initiate a conversation with them? Christians who take the Great Commission seriously cannot afford to ignore these religions. …
Evangelism is the work of a Christian evangelist, of which all true Christians are obligated to partake to some extent, which seeks to persuade other people to become Christian, especially by sharing the basics of the Gospel, but also the deeper message of biblical truths. Today the Gospel is almost an unknown, so what does the Christian evangelist do? Preevangelism is laying a foundation for those who have no knowledge of the Gospel, giving them background information, so that they can grasp what they are hearing. The Christian evangelist is preparing their mind and heart so that they will be receptive to the biblical truths. In many ways, this is known as apologetics. Christian apologetics [Greek: apologia, “verbal defense, speech in defense”] is a field of Christian theology which endeavors to offer a reasonable and sensible basis for the Christian faith, defending the faith against objections. It is reasoning from the Scriptures, explaining and proving, as one instructs in sound doctrine, many times having to overturn false reasoning before he can plant the seeds of truth. …
MOST Christian apologetic books help the reader know WHAT to say; THE CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST is HOW to communicate it effectively. The Christian apologist’s words should always be seasoned with salt as he or she shares the unadulterated truths of Scripture with gentleness and respect. Our example in helping the unbeliever to understand the Bible has been provided by Jesus Christ and his apostles. Whether dealing with Bible critics or answering questions from those genuinely interested, Jesus referred to the Scriptures and at times used appropriate illustrations, helping those with a receptive heart to accept the Word of God. The apostle Paul “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving” what was biblically true. (Ac 17:2-3) The material in THE CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST can enable us to do the same. Apologist Normal L. Geisler informs us that “evangelism is planting seeds of the Gospel” and “pre-evangelism is tilling the soil of people’s minds and hearts to help them be more willing to listen to the truth (1 Cor. 3: 6).”
THE EVANGELISM HANDBOOK is a practical guide (for real-life application) in aiding all Christians in sharing biblical beliefs, the Good News of the Kingdom, how to deal with Bible critics, overturning false beliefs, so as to make disciples, as commanded by Christ. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20; Ac 1:8) Why do Christians desire to talk about their beliefs? Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed in the whole inhabited earth for a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt 24:14) This is the assignment, which all Christians are obligated to assist in carrying out. Jesus also said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:39) Jesus commanded that we “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them” and “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20) If one failed to be obedient to the great commission of Matthew 28:19-20, he or she could hardly claim that they have genuine faith. All true Christians have a determination to imitate God, which moves us to persist in reflecting his glory through our sharing Bible beliefs with others.
“Absorbing, instructional, insightful. Judy Salisbury’s book Divine Appointments embodies examples of truly speaking the truth in love. The stories she weaves together provide perfect examples of how to relate to others through conversational evangelism… Divine Appointments is an apt companion to any apologetics book, showing how to put principles into practice. It’s an apologetics manual wrapped in a warm blanket. Snuggle up with it.”— Julie Loos, Director, Ratio Christi Boosters
The reader will receive eight small introductory books in this one publication. Andrews’ intention is to offer his reader several chapters on eight of the most critical subject areas of understanding and defending the Word of God. This will enable the reader to lay a solid foundation for which he can build throughout his Christian life. These eight sections with multiple chapters in each cover biblical interpretation, Bible translation philosophies, textual criticism, Bible difficulties, the Holy Spirit, Christian Apologetics, Christian Evangelism, and Christian Living.
“‘Deep’ study is no guarantee that mature faith will result, but shallow study guarantees that immaturity continues.”(p. xiii)—Dr. Lee M. Fields.
The Culture War. How the West lost its greatness and was weakened from within outlines how the West lost its values, causing its current decline. It is a forceful attack on the extreme liberal, anti-religious ideology which since the 1960’s has permeated the Western culture and weakened its very core. The West is now characterized by strict elitist media censorship, hedonism, a culture of drug abuse, abortion, ethnic clashes and racial divide, a destructive feminism and the dramatic breakdown of the family. An ultra-rich elite pushes our nations into a new, authoritarian globalist structure, with no respect for Western historical values. Yet, even in the darkest hour, there is hope. This manifesto outlines the remedy for the current malaise and describes the greatness of our traditional and religious values that once made our civilization prosper. It shows how we can restore these values to bring back justice, mercy, faith, honesty, fidelity, kindness and respect for one another. Virtues that will motivate individuals to love one another, the core of what will make us great again.
EARLY CHRISTIANITY IN THE FIRST CENTURY will give its readers a thrilling account of first-century Christianity. When and how did they come to be called Christians? Who are all obligated to be Christian evangelists? In what way did Jesus set the example for our evangelism? What is the Kingdom of God? What was their worship like and why were they called the Truth and the Way? How did 120 disciples at Pentecost grow to over one million within 70-80-years? What was meant by their witness to the ends of the earth? How did Christianity in its infancy function to accomplish all it did? How was it structured? How were the early Christians, not of the world? How were they affected by persecution? How were they not to love the world, in what sense? What divisions were there in the second and third centuries? Who were the Gnostics? These questions will be answered, as well as a short overview of the division that grew out of the second and third centuries, pre-reformation, the reformation, and a summary of Catholicism and Protestantism. After a lengthy introduction to First-Century Christianity, there is a chapter on the Holy Spirit in the First Century and Today, followed by sixteen chapters that cover the most prominent Christians from the second to fourth centuries, as well as a chapter on Constantine the Great.
Inside of some Christians unbeknownst to their family, friends or congregation, they are screaming, “I doubt, I doubt, I have very grave doubts!” OURS is an age of doubt. Skepticism has become fashionable. We are urged to question everything: especially the existence of God and the truthfulness of his Word, the Bible. A half brother of Jesus warned us against doubting: “the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” (Jam. 1:6) When insidious doubts begin to creep into the mind and the heart, it is only a matter of time before a CRISIS OF FAITH gives way spiritual shipwreck. Since we have been warned that “some will fall away from the faith,” we should be ready “to save some,” even ourselves. …
The intention of this book is to investigate the biblical chronology behind Jehovah’s Witnesses most controversial doctrinal position that Jesus began to rule invisibly from heaven in October 1914. This biblical chronology of the Witnesses hinges upon their belief that the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, which they say occurred in 607 B.C.E. The Witnesses conclude that Chapter 4 of the book of Daniel prophesied a 2,520 year period that began in 607 B.C.E. and ended in 1914 C.E. They state, “Clearly, the ‘seven times’ and ‘the appointed times of the nations’ refer to the same time period.” (Lu 21:24) It is their position that When the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, the Davidic line of kings was interrupted, God’s throne was “trampled on by the nations” until 1914, at which time Jesus began to rule invisibly from heaven. …
In order to overcome and church problems, we must first talk about the different problems of the church. Many of the church problems today stem from the isms: liberalism, humanism, modernism, Christian progressivism, theological liberalism, feminism, higher criticism, and biblical criticism. Moreover, many are simply not a biblically grounded church regardless of how much they claim to be so. The marks of a true Christian church would be like the different lines that make up a church’s fingerprint, a print that cannot belong to any other church. The true Christian church contains their own unique grouping of marks, forming a positive “fingerprint” that cannot belong to any other church. William Lange Craig wrote, “Remember that our faith is not based on emotions, but on the truth, and therefore you must hold on to it.” What truth? Jesus said to the Father in prayer, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Are you doing the will of the Father? Is your church doing the will of the Father? – Matthew 7:21-23; 1 John 2:15-17.
Evangelist Norman Robertson claims that “Tithing is God’s way of financing His kingdom on the earth.” He asserts that “It is His system of economics which enables the Gospel to be preached.” Not bashful about telling his followers of their duty to give, he flatly states: ‘Tithing isn’t something you do because you can afford it. It is an act of obedience. Not tithing is a clear violation of God’s commandments. It is embezzlement.’ Most likely you accept that giving should be part of Christian worship. However, do you find continuous demanding appeals for money disturbing, perhaps even offensive? FLEECING THE FLOCK by Anthony Wade is an exhaustive examination of all of the popular tithing arguments made from the pulpit today. …
DECEPTION IN THE CHURCH by Fred DeRuvo asks Does It Matter How You Worship? There are 41,000 different denominations that call themselves “Christian” and all would claim that they are the truth. Can just any Christian denomination please God? Can all be true or genuine Christianity if they all have different views on the same Bible doctrines? DeRuvo will answer. He will focus on the largest part of Christianity that has many different denominations, the charismatic, ecstatic Signs and Wonders Movements. These ecstatic worshipers claim … DeRuvo will answer all these questions and more according to the truth of God’s Word.—John 8:31-32; 17:17.
Plunkett exposes the errors corrupting the Christian church through the Word of Faith, New Apostolic Reformation, and extreme charismatic movements. LEARN TO DISCERN, by author Daniel Plunkett highlights how an encounter with a rising star in the Word of Faith / “Signs and Wonders” movement was used by God to open his eyes to the deceptions, false teachings, and spiritual abuses running rampant in the charismatic movement today. These doctrines are thoroughly explored as taught by some of today’s most prominent speakers and evangelists and contrasted with the clear teachings of Scripture. LEARN TO DISCERN is an invaluable resource …
Translation and Textual Criticism
The King James Bible was originally published in 1611. Some have estimated that the number of copies of the King James Version that have been produced in print worldwide is over one billion! There is little doubt that the King James Version is a literary masterpiece, which this author has and will appreciate and value for its unparalleled beauty of expression. This book is in no way trying to take away from what the King James Version has accomplished. The King James Version is a book to be commended for all that it has accomplished. For four centuries, when English-speaking people spoke of “the Bible,” they meant the King James Version. The question that begs to be asked of those who favor the King James Bible is, Do You Know the King James Version? What do most users of the King James Bible not know about their translation? Whether you are one who favors the King James Version or one who prefers a modern translation, Andrews will answer the questions that have long been asked for centuries about the King James Bible and far more.
THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO BIBLE TRANSLATION (CGBT) is for all individuals interested in how the Bible came down to us, as well as having an insight into the Bible translation process. CGBT is also for those who are interested in which translation(s) would be the most beneficial to use. The translation of God’s Word from the original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek is a task unlike any other and should never be taken lightly because it carries with it the heaviest responsibility: the translator renders God’s thoughts into a modern language. It is CGBT’s desire to take challenging and complex subjects and make them easy to understand. CGBT will communicate as clearly and powerfully as possible to all of its readers while also accurately communicating information about the Bible. …
We have come a long, long way from the time that the KJV was The Bible in English and the many translations available today. Finding the right Bible for the right person can be daunting, with almost too many choices available. However, it is still possible to divide the options into two broad categories: literal translations and dynamic equivalents. What is the difference, and why should you care? Bible publishers used to say that literal translations are good for study purposes, and dynamic equivalents are better for reading. So literal translations were advertised with terms like “accurate,” “reliable,” and, of course, “literal.” For dynamic equivalent translations, terms like “contemporary,” “easy to read,” and “written in today’s English” were used. Naturally, publishers do not advertise the negatives, so they did not point out that the literal translations might be a little harder to read, or that the dynamic equivalents might not be entirely faithful to the original languages of the Bible. However, more recently, some scholars have been taking this analysis in a new direction, assessing literal translations as less desirable than dynamic equivalents even for accuracy and reliability.
There are more than 150 different Bible translations in the English language alone. Some are what we call literal translations, which seeks to give the reader the exact English equivalent of what was written in the original language text, thus allowing the reader access to the actual Word of God. Then, there are dynamic equivalents, where the translator determines what the author meant by the original language text, and this is what they give the reader. There is also a paraphrase translation, which is an extremely interpretive translation. Exactly what are these differences? Are some translations better than others? What standards and principles can we use to determine what makes a good translation? Andrews introduces the readers to the central issues in this debate and presents several reasons why literal translations are superior to dynamic equivalent and paraphrase translations. We do not need to be a Bible scholar to understand these issues, as well as the importance of having the most accurate and faithful translation that is reflective of the original text. …
THE TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT (TTNT) is an introduction, intermediate and advanced level coverage of the text of the New Testament. Andrews introduces the new and relatively new reader to this subject in the first few chapters of the TTNT. Andrews deepens his handling of the material, while still making it easy to understand in the next few chapters of the TTNT, all the while being very informative in both sections. All of this prepares the reader for Wilkins’ advanced chapters. THE TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT was copied and recopied by hand for 1,500 years. Regardless of those scribes who had worked very hard to be faithful in their copying, errors crept into the text. How can we be confident that what we have today is the Word of God? Wilkins and Andrews offer the reader an account of the copying by hand and transmission of the Greek New Testament. They present a comprehensive survey of the manuscript history from the penning of the 27 New Testament books to the current critical texts. What did the ancient books look like and how were documents written? How were the New Testament books published? Who would use secretaries? Why was it so hard to be a secretary in the first century? How was such work done? What do we know about the early Christian copyists? What were the scribal habits and tendencies? Is it possible to establish the original text of the NewTestament? …
INTRODUCTION TO THE TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT is a shortened 321 pages of Andrews and Wilkins 602 page TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT without losing the value of content. The foremost thing the reader is going to learn is that the Greek New Testament that our modern translations are based on is a mirror-like reflection of the original and can be fully trusted. The reader will learn how the New Testament authors made and published their books, the secretaries in antiquity and their materials like Teritus who helped Paul pen the epistle to the Romans, and the book writing process of the New Testament authors and early copyists. The reader will also discover the reading culture of early Christianity and their view of the integrity of the Greek New Testament. The reader will also learn how textual scholars known as paleography determine the age of the manuscripts.
The reader will learn all about the different sources that go into our restoring the Greek New Testament to its original form. Then, Andrews will cover the ancient version, the era of the printed text, and the arrival of the critical text. After that, the reader will be given a lengthy chapter on examples of how the textual scholar determines the correct reading by his looking at the internal and external evidence. Finally, and most importantly, the reader will find out the truth about the supposed 400,000 textual errors within the Greek New Testament manuscripts. The last chapter will be faith-building and enable you to defend the Word of God as inerrant.
THE READING CULTURE OF EARLY CHRISTIANITY provides the reader with the production process of the New Testament books, the publication process, how they were circulated, and to what extent they were used in the early Christian church. It examines the making of the New Testament books, the New Testament secretaries and the material they used, how the early Christians viewed the New Testament books, and the literacy level of the Christians in the first three centuries. It also explores how the gospels went from an oral message to a written record, the accusation that the apostles were uneducated, the inspiration and inerrancy in the writing process of the New Testament books, the trustworthiness of the early Christian copyists, and the claim that the early scribes were predominantly amateurs. Andrews also looks into the early Christian’s use of the codex [book form], how did the spread of early Christianity affect the text of the New Testament, and how was the text impacted by the Roman Empire’s persecution of the early Christians?
Edward D. Andrews boldly answers the challenges Bart D. Ehrman alleges against the fully inerrant, Spirit-inspired, authoritative Word of God. By glimpsing into the life of Bart D. Ehrman and following along his course of academic studies, Andrews helps the reader to understand the biases, assumptions, and shortcomings supporting Ehrman’s arguments. Using sound reason, scholarly exegesis, and the Historical-Grammatical method of interpretation, as well as New Testament textual criticism, Andrews helps both churchgoer/Bible students, as well as scholars, overcome the teachings of biblical errancy that Ehrman propagates.—Easy to read and understand. …
CALVINISM VS. ARMINIANISM goes back to the early seventeenth century with a Christian theological debate between the followers of John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius, and continues today among some Protestants, particularly evangelicals. The debate is centered around soteriology, that is, the study of salvation, and includes disputes about total depravity, predestination, and atonement. While the debate has developed its Calvinist–Arminian form in the 17th century, the issues that are fundamental to the debate have been discussed in Christianity in some fashion since the days of Augustine of Hippo’s disputes with the Pelagians in the fifth century. CALVINISM VS. ARMINIANISM is taking a different approach in that the issues will be discussed as The Bible Answers being that it is the centerpiece.
A comprehensive book on HOW TO STUDY YOUR BIBLE by observing, interpreting, and applying, which will focus on the most basic Bible study tools, principles, and processes for moving from an in-depth reading of the Scriptures to application. What, though, if you have long felt that you are not studiously inclined? Realize that the primary difference between a serious Bible student and a less serious Bible student is usually diligence and effort, not being a gifted student. Being a gifted Bible student alone is not enough. Efficient methods of Bible study are worth learning, for those seeking to become serious Bible students. The joy missing from many Bible students is because they do not know how to study their Bible, which means they do not do it well. Perhaps you dislike Bible study because you have not developed your study skills sufficiently to make your Bible study enjoyable. Maybe you have neglected your Bible study simply because you would rather be doing something else you enjoy.
How can we find more enjoyment in studying the Bible? How can we make our study periods more productive? What circumstances contribute to effective personal study? How can we derive real benefit and pleasure from our Bible reading? From what activities can time be bought out for reading and studying the Bible? Why should we watch our spiritual feeding habits? What benefits come from reading and studying the Scriptures? There is a great and constantly growing interest in the study of the English Bible in these days. However, very much of the so-called study of the English Bible is unintelligent and not fitted to produce the most satisfactory results. The authors of this book already have a book entitled “HOW TO STUDY: Study the Bible for the Greatest Profit,” but that book is intended for those who are willing to buy out the time to put into thorough Bible study.
Why is personal and family Bible study so important in our life now? How can we apply the Word of God in our lives? How can we use the Bible to help others? How can we effectively use the Scriptures when teaching others? How can we make decisions God’s way? How can Bible principles help us to decide wisely? Why should we have faith in God and his word? The Psalmist tells us, God’s Word “is a lamp to my foot, and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) Since the Bible is a gift from God, the time and effort that we put into our personal Bible Study is a reflection of how much we appreciate that gift. What do our personal Bible study habits reveal about the depth of our appreciation of God’s Word? Certainly, the Bible is a deep and complex book, and reading and studying are not easy at times. However, with time and effort, we can develop a spiritual appetite for personal Bible study. (1 Peter 2:2)
Correctly interpreting the Bible is paramount to understanding the Word of God. As Christians, we do not want to read our 21st-century worldview INTO the Scriptures, but rather to takeOUT OF the Scriptures what the author meant by the words that he used. The guaranteed way of arriving a correct understanding of God’s Words is to have an accurate knowledge of the historical setting, cultural background, and of the people, governments, and religious leaders, as well as the place and time of the New Testament writings. Only with the background, setting, and context can you grasp the author’s intended meaning to his original readers and …
The life of Christ is an exhaustless theme. It reveals a character of greater massiveness than the hills, of a more serene beauty than the stars, of sweeter fragrance than the flowers, higher than the heavens in sublimity and deeper than the seas in mystery. As good Jean Paul has eloquently said, “It concerns Him who, being the holiest among the mighty, and the mightiest among the holy, lifted with His pierced hands empires off their hinges, turned the stream of centuries out of its channels, and still governs the ages.” …
Stalker’s Life of St. Paul became one of the most widely read and respected biographies of the Apostle to the Gentiles. As an insightful compendium on the life of Paul, this work is of particular interest to pastors and teachers who desire to add realism and vividness to their account of one of the greatest Christians who ever lived. Stalker’s work includes a section at the back entitled “Hints for Teachers and Questions for Pupils.” This supplement contains notes and “further reading” suggestions for those teaching on the life of St. Paul, along with a number of questions over each chapter for students to discuss. In addition, seventeen extra chapters have been added that will help the reader better understand who the Apostle Paul was and what first-century Christianity was like. For example, a chapter on the conversion of Saul/Paul, Gamaliel Taught Saul of Tarsus, the Rights, and Privileges of Citizenship, the “Unknown God,” Areopagus, the Observance of Law as to Vows, and much more.
With solid scholarship and exceptional clarity, beginning in Gethsemane, Stalker and Andrews examine Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Their work is relevant, beneficial and enjoyable because they cover this historical period of Jesus’ life in an easy to understand format. Stalker’s expressive and persuasive style provides a great resource to any Bible study of the events leading to the death of Jesus Christ. THE TRIAL AND DEATH OF JESUS CHRIST is an academicish book written with a novelish style.
Delving into the basics of biblical interpretation, Edward D. Andrews has provided a complete hands-on guide to understanding what the author meant by the words that he used from the conservative grammatical-historical perspective. He teaches how to study the Bible on a deep, scholarly level, yet making it understandable to all. He has sought to provide the very best tool for interpreting the Word of God. This includes clarification of technical terms, answers to every facet of biblical interpretation, and defense of the inerrancy and divine inspiration of Scripture. Andrews realizes that the importance of digging deeper in our understanding of the Bible, for defending our faith from modern-day misguided scholarship. Andrews gives the reader easy and memorable principles and methods to follow for producing an accurate explanation that comes out of, not what many read into the biblical text. The principal procedure within is to define, explain, offer many examples, and give illustrations, to help the reader fully grasp the grammatical-historical approach. …
Anybody who wants to study the Bible, either at a personal level or a more scholarly level needs to understand that there are certain principles that guide and govern the process. The technical word used to refer to the principles of biblical interpretation is hermeneutics, which is of immense importance in Biblical Studies and Theology. How to Interpret the Bible takes into consideration the cultural context, historical background and geographical location in which the text was originally set. This enables us to obtain clarity about the original author’s intended meaning. Linguistic and literary factors are analyzed so that the various genres of Scripture are examined for their true meaning. The importance of having sound principles of interpretation cannot be overstated as …
Once upon a time, Postmodernism was a buzzword. It pronounced Modernism dead or at least in the throes of death. It was a wave that swept over Christendom, promising to wash away sterile, dogmatic and outmoded forms of church. But whatever happened to postmodernism? It was regarded as the start of a major historical transition to something new and promising and hailed as a major paradigm shift. Is it a philosophy that has passed its “sell-by” date? No! The radical fringe has become the dominant view and has been integrated into all aspects of life, including the Christian church. With the emergence of multicultural societies comes interaction with different belief systems and religions. Values like tolerance and a dislike of dogmatism have become key operating concepts, which reflect a change in worldview. …
In an age obsessed with physical and psychological health the author emphasizes the importance of spiritual well-being as an essential element of holistic health for the individual Christian and for Christian communities. This work constitutes a template for a spiritual audit of the local church. It offers an appointment with the Great Physician that no Christian can afford to ignore. Developing Healthy Churches: A Case-Study in Revelation begins with a well-researched outline of the origins and development of the church health movement. With that background in mind the author, aware that throughout the history of the church there have been a number of diverse views about how Revelation ought to be interpreted, presents the reader with four distinct interpretive models. These are the idealist, preterist, historicist, and futurist. Beville explains these interpretive approaches simply and critiques them fairly.e …
This is a comprehensive study of euthanasia and assisted suicide. It traces the historical debate, examines the legal status of such activity in different countries and explores the political, medical and moral matters surrounding these emotive and controversial subjects in various cultural contexts. The key advocates and pioneers of this agenda-driven movement (such as the late Jack Kevorkian, popularly known as “Dr. Death” and Philip Nitschke, founder of Exit International) are profiled. Not only are the elderly and disabled becoming increasingly vulnerable but children, psychiatric patients, the depressed and those who are simply tired of life are now on a slippery slope into a dystopian nightmare. The spotlight is brought to bear on the Netherlands, in particular, where palliative care and the hospice movement are greatly underdeveloped as a result of legalization. These dubious “services” are now offered as part of “normal” medical care in Holland where it is deemed more cost-effective to be given a lethal injection. The vital role of physicians as healers in society must be preserved and the important but neglected spiritual dimension of death must be explored. Thus a biblical view of human life is presented. …
Journey with Jesus through the Message of Mark is an insightful and engaging survey of Mark’s Gospel, exploring each major section of the text along with key themes. It is a work that can be enjoyed by laypersons as well as pastors and teachers. Pastors will find the abundant use of illustrations to be helpful in preparing their own messages and as such, it will find a welcome place in the preacher’s library. Simply, powerfully, with great precision, and exegetical accuracy, Kieran Beville masterfully brings us on a life-transforming journey. Readers will be both inspired and challenged as they hear the words of Jesus speaking afresh from the page of Scripture and experience the ministry of Jesus in a spiritually captivating way. The author has a pastor’s heart, a theologian’s mind, and a writer’s gift. His style is gripping, as he beautifully explains and illustrates Mark’s Gospel. Kieran Beville has done a great service to the church, and especially to true believers, who desire to grow in grace, increase in their knowledge of truth, and experience the intimacy, joy, and underserved and unspeakable privilege of walking, as disciples, with Jesus. This book is ideal as a study companion for Mark’s Gospel. One can read a section from the gospel and then read the corresponding section to receive a fresh viewpoint and a practical application. …
What are angels & demons? Can angels help us? What does the Bible say about angels? What is the truth about angels? Can Angels affect your life? Who were the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2? Who were the Nephilim in Genesis 6:2? Who is Michael the archangel? Can Satan the Devil control humans? How can we win our struggle against dark spiritual forces? How can you resist the demons? Do evil spirits exercise power over humankind? Is Satan really the god of this world and just what does that mean? What did Jesus mean when he said, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one [i.e., Satan]”? Andrews using the Bible will answer all of these questions and far more. …
Donald T. Williams learned a lot about the Christian worldview from Francis Schaeffer and C. S. Lewis, but it was actually Tolkien who first showed him that such a thing exists and is an essential component of maturing faith. Not only do explicitly Christian themes underlie the plot structure of The Lord of the Rings, but in essays such as “On Fairie Stories” Tolkien shows us that he not only believed the Gospel on Sunday but treated it as true the rest of the week and used his commitment to that truth as the key to further insights in his work as a student of literature. “You can do that?” Williams thought as a young man not yet exposed to any Christian who was a serious thinker. “I want to do that!” His hope is that his readers will catch that same vision from this book. An Encouraging Thought elucidates the ways in which Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are informed by and communicate a biblical worldview. This book will help readers appreciate the ways in which a biblical worldview informs Tolkien’s work, to the end that their own faith may be confirmed in strength, focused in understanding, deepened in joy, and honed in its ability to communicate the Gospel.
The Bible describes the events that will occur before and after the destruction of Gog of Magog. Who is Gog of Magog mentioned in the book of Ezekiel? Why should we be interested in the prophecy recorded in Daniel chapter 11? Find out in a verse-by-verse explanation of Daniel Chapter 11, as you discover who the kings of the North and the South are from before Jesus’ day throughout the last days. You will benefit from paying attention to Daniel’s prophecy about the battle between the two kings? Taken together, the Bible books of Daniel and Revelation not only identify eight kings but also show the sequence in which they would appear. We can explain those prophecies.
People grow old, get sick, and die. Even some children die. Should you be afraid of death or of anybody who has died? Do you know what happens if we die? Will you ever see your dead loved ones again? “If a man dies, shall he live again?” asked the man Job long ago. (Job 14:14) Did God originally intend for humans to die? Why do you grow old and die? What is the Bible’s viewpoint of death? What is the condition of the dead? Are the dead aware of what is happening around them? What hope is there for the dead?
Herein Andrews will give the reader exactly what the Bible offers on exposing who the Antichrist and the Man of Lawlessness are. If we look at the texts that refer to the antichrist and the man of lawlessness, we will have lines of evidence that will enable us to identify them. Why is it important that we know who the antichrist and the man of lawlessness are? The antichrist and the man of lawlessness have had a greater impact on humanity and Christianity over the past centuries than many know. Moreover, the influence on the true worshipers of Christianity today has been even more significant and will only go from bad to worse as we come closer to the second coming of Christ. …
Throughout the Scriptures, God is identified as the Creator. He is the One “who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it.” (Isa 45:18) He is the One “who forms mountains and creates the wind” (Am 4:13) and is the One “who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them.” (Ac 4:24; 14:15; 17:24) “God . . . created all things.” (Eph. 3:9) Jesus Christ tells us that it is the Father who “created them [humans] from the beginning made them male and female.” (Matt. 19:4; Mark 10:6) Hence, the Father is fittingly and uniquely called “the Creator.” (Isa 40:28) It is because of God’s will that we exist, for He has ‘created all things, and because of his will they existed and were created.’―Revelations 4:11 …
Eschatology is the teaching of what is commonly called the “Last Things.” That is the subject of Andrews’ book, which will cover, Explaining Prophecy, Explaining Clean and Pure Worship, The New Testament Writers Use of the Old Testament, Explaining the Antichrist, Explaining the Man of Lawlessness, Explaining the Mark of the Beast, Explaining Signs of the End of the Age, Explaining the Rapture, Explaining the Great Tribulation, Explaining Armageddon, Explaining the Resurrection Hope, Explaining the Millennium, Explaining the Final Judgment, Explaining the Unevangelized, Explaining Hell
The information herein is based on the disciples coming to Jesus privately, saying, “Tell us, (1) when will these things be, and (2) what will be the sign of your coming, and (3) of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3) What will end? When will the end come? What comes after the end? Who will survive the end? These questions and far more will be answered as Andrews delves into The SECOND COMING of CHRIST. In chapters 1 and 2, we must address why Jesus is saying there would be an end to the Jewish age. In chapter 3, we will take a deep look at the signs that establish the great tribulation is closing in, and when is it time to flee. In chapter 4, we will go over the signs of the end of the Jewish age. In chapter 5, we will walk through the events leading up to the end of the Jewish age from 66 – 70 C.E., and how it applies to our Great Tribulation in these last days. In chapter 6, we will cover the second coming of Jesus where the reader will get the answers as to whether verses 3-28 of Matthew Chapter 24 apply to Christ’s second coming. We will close out with chapter 7, and how we should understand the signs, and how we do not want to be led astray, just as Jesus warned even some of the chosen ones would be misled. We will also address what comes after the end.
What Really Is Hell? What Kind of Place is Hell? What Really Happens at Death? What Did Jesus Teach About Hell? How Does Learning the Truth About Hell Affect You? Who Goes to Hell? What Is Hell? Is It a Place of Eternal Torment? Does God Punish People in Hellfire? Do the Wicked Suffer in Hell? What Is the Lake of Fire? Is It the Same as Hell or Gehenna? Where Do We Go When We Die? What Does the Bible Say About Hell? Andrews Shares the Truth on WHAT IS HELL From God’s Word.
Miracles were certainly a part of certain periods in Bible times. What about today? Are miracles still taking place? There are some very important subjects that surround this area of discussion that is often misunderstood. Andrews will answer such questions as does God step in and solve every problem if we are faithful? Does the Bible provide absolutes or guarantees in this age of imperfect humanity? Are miracles still happening today? Is faith healing Scriptural? Is speaking in tongues evidence of true Christianity? Is snake handling biblical? How are we to understand the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? The work of the Holy Spirit. Andrews offers his readers very straightforward, biblically accurate explanations for these difficult questions. If any have discussed such questions, without a doubt, they will be very interested in the Bible’s answers in this easy to read publication.
Today there are many questions about homosexuality as it relates to the Bible and Christians. What does the Bible say about homosexuality? Does genetics, environment, or traumatic life experiences justify homosexuality? What is God’s will for people with same-sex attractions? Does the Bible discriminate against people with same-sex attractions? Is it possible to abstain from homosexual acts? Should not Christians respect all people, regardless of their sexual orientation? Did not Jesus preach tolerance? If so, should not Christians take a permissive view of homosexuality? Does God approve of same-sex marriage? Does God disapprove of homosexuality? If so, how could God tell someone who is attracted to people of the same sex to shun homosexuality, is that not cruel? If one has same-sex attraction, is it possible to avoid homosexuality? How can I as a Christian explain the Bible’s view of homosexuality? IT IS CRUCIAL that Christians always be prepared to reason from the Scriptures, explaining and proving what the Bible does and does not say about homosexuality, yet doing it with gentleness and respect. Andrews will answer these questions and far more.
If you’ve struggled in the world of difficulties that surround you, you’re not alone. Maybe you have looked for help, and you have been given conflicting answers. 40 DAYS DEVOTIONAL FOR YOUTHS: Coming-of-Age In Christ, can help you. Its advice is based on answers that actually work, which are found in the Bible. God’s Word has helped billions over thousands of years to face life’s challenges successfully. Find out how it can help you! 40 DAYS DEVOTIONAL FOR YOUTHS includes seven sections, with several chapters in each. It includes the following sections: Sexual Desires and Love, your friends, your family, school, recreation, your health. You need advice you can trust! 40 DAYS DEVOTIONAL FOR YOUTHS will give you that. This author has worked with thousands of youths from around the world. The Bible-based sound advice helped them. Now you can discover how it can help you.
Young ones and teens, you are exposed to complex problems that your parents may not understand. Young Christians, you are bombarded with multiple options for solving everyday problems through social media. Where do you turn to find answers? Where can you look to find guidance from Scripture? In order to provide a Christian perspective to problem-solving, the author of this devotional book decided to take a different approach. Terry Overton was determined to find out what problems middle school children and teens were worried about the most. While visiting her grandchildren one weekend, she asked her granddaughter to send topics to her so that she could write a devotional about the topic. In a matter of weeks, not only did her granddaughter send her topics, but the other grandchildren and their friends sent topics of concern. Once the author wrote a devotional for a topic, it was sent to the teen requesting the devotional. Soon, these requests were happening in real time. Students sent text requests about problems happening in school and asked what the student should do? How should this be handled?
This devotional book follows the author’s own faith journey back to God. Significant life events can shake our world and distort our faith. Following life’s tragedies, a common reaction is to become angry with God or to reject Him altogether. Examples of tragedies or traumas include life-changing events such as physical or sexual assault, destruction of one’s home, the tragic death of a loved one, diagnoses of terminal diseases, divorce, miscarriages, or being a victim of a crime. Tragedies or traumas can cause feelings of anxiety, depression, shame, and guilt.
Throughout the book, common themes emerge to support caregivers. The reader will find interesting Bible Scriptures, offering a Christian perspective, for handling issues that may arise. These inspiring passages will assist the caregiver in finding peace and faith as they travel their journey as a caregiver. Although caregivers may not know how long they will play this role, they take on the responsibility without any question. Taking care of others is often mentioned in the Bible and, as noted in this devotional, this self-sacrificing, highly valued, and often challenging service will ultimately be rewarded.
Humans must breathe in the air of our atmosphere to survive. Many cities because of pollution face a dangerous level of contamination in their air. However, an even more deadly air affects both Christians and nonChristians. Ordinary methods or devices cannot detect this poisonous air. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, spoke of the “air,” when he said that Satan was “the ruler of the authority of the air.” (Eph. 2:2) In that, very same verse Paul said the “air” is “the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience.” If we breathe in this “air,” we will begin to adopt their attitude, thoughts, speech, and conduct.
Humans must breathe in the air of our atmosphere to survive. Many cities because of pollution face a dangerous level of contamination in their air. However, an even more deadly air affects both Christians and nonChristians. Ordinary methods or devices cannot detect this poisonous air. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, spoke of the “air,” when he said that Satan was “the ruler of the authority of the air.” (Eph. 2:2) In that, very same verse Paul said the “air” is “the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience.” If we breathe in this “air,” we will begin to adopt their attitude, thoughts, speech, and conduct.
BREAD OF HEAVEN helps the reader to have a greater understanding of the timeless truths of Scripture and a deeper appreciation of the grandeur of God. It offers meditations on selected Scriptures which will draw the reader’s attention upwards to the Savior. Kieran Beville’s daily devotional combines down-to-earth, unstuffy humanity in today’s world with a biblical and God-centered approach, and draws on rich theology in a thoroughly accessible way. He addresses not just the intellect and the will but gets to the heart, our motivational center, through the mind. If your Christian life could benefit from a short, well-written daily blast of Christ’s comfort and challenge, get this book and use it! These short Bible-based meditations are fresh and contemporary. Beville gives to the twenty-first-century reader what earlier authors have given to theirs. Here is practical wisdom that is a helpful guide to stimulate worship and set you thinking as you begin each day with God.
The Conversation: An Intimate Journal of the Emmaus Encounter is a unique and riveting reconstruction from the unnamed disciple’s account found in Luke 24 regarding his journey with Cleopas on the road to Emmaus after witnessing Jesus’s crucifixion and burial, along with hearing claims of His empty tomb. Suddenly, a Stranger begins walking with them. With their eyes “prevented” from recognizing Him as the risen Lord Jesus Christ—Yeshua the Messiah, their new, wise Traveling Companion correlates the Old Covenant Scriptures, by way of Moses and the prophets, with what they witnessed.
This “journal” is your opportunity to eavesdrop and learn what that conversation might have been like, as pertinent prophecies unfold revealing evidence that the Messiah’s suffering, death, burial, and resurrection were, in fact, specifically foretold.
Unique and life-changing, More Than Devotion, through a melding of accounts from both the Old Covenant and New, proves that our trustworthy God truly is the same yesterday, today, and forever. All fifty convicting devotions draw from a rich scriptural context, concluding with a practical, achievable call to action, plus journaling space for personal reflection. New believers and veteran followers of our Lord can grow in the innermost areas of their lives and enjoy a more intimate walk with the Savior.
Stella Mae Clark thought she had a wonderful life. She idolized her father, a military man who raised her to love Christ with all of her heart. She had a mother who loved her father and their example of true love gave her the sparkle in her eyes. That is until the unimaginable happens and her life is completely shattered. One decision at the age of sixteen would again turn her world completely upside down. Stella Mae makes the decision to leave her life and her family behind to seek refuge from her painful past. She desperately seeks solace, answers, and for something to fill the aching void within her heart. Just as she thinks she has settled into a new life with Christ, tragedy once again strikes and shatters any hope she had for a normal life. She abandons Christ and turns to a life of sin before it ultimately consumes her and breaks her down. Will it take nearly losing her life to find her way back to God or will her shame and regret keep holding her back? Join Stella Mae on her journey to find meaning and purpose in the midst of all her tragedy as she seeks to find the One her heart has been missing. The story of her past is one of loss, shame, heartbreak, and fear. With the help of those who see her for more than her past, she is able to become the person she always wanted to be and a new creature.
AN APOCALYPTIC NOVEL: As you are no doubt are aware, Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye in 1995 wrote a novel entitled “Left Behind.” Jerry and Tim had some prior success with a major publisher and were able to get their novel published. The Left Behind novel was published by Tyndale House beginning in 1995 within a multiple volumes Left Behind series resulting in sales exceeding 60 million books. In 1992 Don Alexander wrote the storyline embedded in Left Behind. He copyrighted the novel in 1992 under the title “Oren Natas” [who is the Anti-Christ in his storyline]. The entire novel is contained in a single volume. It is a novel written depicting a colorful and witty cast of characters who live through all the “end time” Bible prophecies.
A routine classified telepathic interrogation of a potential terrorist, followed by an assignment that doesn’t go as planned thrusts Tabatha – the world’s only telepathic human – into the public eye. The exposure leads an evil neuro-scientist requesting a meeting with her in hopes of luring her to his cause as well as unveiling a deadly creative work that has spanned three decades of research and development.
ONLINE REVIEW: “Very fun read. Fast paced and honest. Tons of evolution occurs during the process thru the story. Wonderful girl trying to become an adult Christian in a world that also pits her superpowers against terrorists with the help of her own special forces team. Buy this book and just enjoy!”
In June 1985, an excavation project was undertaken by The British Antiquities Volunteers (BAV) at a plot of rocky land where the Kidron and Hinnom Valleys meet near the eastern side of Old Jerusalem. That year many hundreds of (mostly redundant) ‘small finds’ were recovered in the Judean desert but none of such significance as a handful of scrolls retrieved from a buried Roman satchel (presumed stolen) at this site. The discovery has since come to be known as ‘The Diary of Judas Iscariot.’ In The Diary of Judas Iscariot Owen Batstone relates the observations and feelings of Judas, a disgruntled disciple, as he accompanies Jesus of Nazareth during His ministry, and uses this fable and allegory to explore some of the ways a person might resist becoming a Christian.
Kevin Trill struggles with the notion that he may have missed the Rapture. With nothing but the clothes on his back and a solid gold pocket watch, he sets off towards Garbor, a safe haven for those who haven’t yet taken the mark of the beast. While on his way to Garbor, he meets up with an unlikely trio who befriends him. Together, they set out towards Garbor. Unfortunately, however, they are soon faced with their first major catastrophe, which sparks debate among them as to whether or not they really are in the Great Tribulation. On their journey, the group meets up with many people, some of them good and some of them evil. …
There grew an element in the valley that did not want to be ruled by the Light of the Word. Over time, they convinced the people to reject it. As they started to reject this Light, the valley grew dim and the fog rolled in. The people craved the darkness rather than the Light because they were evil. They did not want to embrace the Light because it exposed their wickedness. They rejected the Light of the Word and ruled themselves. Those few who had embraced the Light and hated the darkness were killed. Since that time anyone who embraced the Light of the Word, pursued or talked about it were arrested. Those arrested were sentenced to death by stoning. The last prophet gave a prophecy before he was martyred. “The whisperer will come and empower three witnesses that will make manifest the works of darkness and destroy it, and deliver my people from the grip of darkness to the freedom found in the light.” All the Children of the Light were killed off or went into hiding living among the Children of Darkness in secret, not mentioning the Light for fear of death. Generations grew up being ignorant of the Light of the Word and never knowing the difference. No one ever mentioned the Light or dared to even talk about the Light. …
 The Encarta Dictionary defines Form criticism as “a method of analyzing the Bible to determine the presumed original oral form of the written text by removing known historical conventions that emerged at a later period.” Hayes and Holladay, proponents of the so-called historical-critical methodologies offer the following on Form Criticism,
“Form criticism seeks to identify various literary genres and then to classify a passage within one of these genres. Form critics also recognize that literary classification is not enough. They also try to ascertain the “situation in life” (German: Sitz im Leben) in which genres originated and developed. The phrase “in life” reminds us that what we experience as literary forms–something we read–originally had a “life setting.” Imagining different situations in life, such as worship, teaching, preaching, and argument, enables us to appreciate the original oral form of literary genres. What we experience as formalized, written genres typically acquired their literary shape through oral repetition.”–John H. Hayes; Carl R. Holladay (2010-11-05). Biblical Exegesis, 3rd ed. (pp. 104-105). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
It should be noted that these definitions make form criticism seem innocent, which could not be further from the truth. I define these approaches by historical/ideological background. The definitions do not reveal their true intentions, i.e. to dehistoricize and control the text as to meaning, i.e. make it suitable to the critics ideologies rather than to the plain normal sense of Scripture.
 The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines tradition criticism as a “study of biblical literature, method of criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the New Testament that attempts to trace the developmental stages of the oral tradition, from its historical emergence to its literary presentation in scripture. Scholars of the Hebrew Bible might, for example, study the development of a narrative tradition about the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) or the judges (such as Deborah and Samuel) as it unfolded over several generations. New Testament scholars often pay special attention to the oral stage of Gospel transmission, investigating both the record of the ministry of Jesus and the development of Christian theology in the short preliterary. stage.”
It should be noted that these definitions make tradition criticism seem innocent, which could not be further from the truth. I define these approaches by historical/ideological background. The definitions do not reveal their true intentions, i.e. to dehistoricize and control the text as to meaning, i.e. make it suitable to the critics ideologies rather than to the plain normal sense of Scripture.
For further information on the ideological, as well as philosophical, basis of historical-critical methodologies, consult the excellent work of the post-Bultmannian turned evangelical Eta Linnemann, Historical Criticism of the Bible, Methodology or Ideology? Translated by Robert W. Yarbrough (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990).
 Norman Perrin, Rediscovering the Teaching of Jesus (New York: Harper and Row, 1976), 218.
 See “Preface” in E. Basil Redlich, Form Criticism, Its Value and Limitations (London: Duckworth, 1939), n.p.
 Robert A. Guelich, The Sermon on the Mount, A Foundation for Understanding (Waco, TX.: Word, 1982), 23.
 Darrell L. Bock, “Form Criticism,” in New Testament Criticism and Interpretation. Edited by David A. Black and David S. Dockery (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 192.
 Alister McGrath, “Why Evangelicalism is the Future of Protestantism,” Christianity Today, June 19, 1995, 18-23.
 Rudolf Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition. Translated by John Marsh. Revised Edition (Basil Blackwell, 1963; Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson, n.d.), 3-4
 S. v. “Criticism,” by F. F. Bruce, in ISBE, 1:822.
 Eta Linnemann, Historical Criticism of the Bible, Methodology or Ideology? Translated by Robert W. Yarbrough (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 111.
 S. v. “Historie; Geschichte/geschichtlich; historisch,” in Handbook of Biblical Criticism. Edited by Richard N. Soulen (Atlanta: John Knox, 1981), 88-89.
 Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology, 11-21; For an overview of Bultmann’s method of demythologization, s. v. “Myth” by M. J. A. Horsnell, ISBE, vol. 3, 461-463.
 Werner H. Kelber, The Oral and Written Gospel (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983), 5-6.
 McKnight, What is Form Criticism?, 18.
 An exception to this principle would be the passion narrative. Early form critics asserted that this very early existed as a connected narrative. Taylor remarks, “[T]he Gospel tradition came to be mainly a collection of isolated stories, sayings, and sayings-groups. The most important exception to the dissolving process continued to be the Passion Story which existed in the form of short accounts of the Arrest, Trial, and Crucifixion of Jesus current at different centres of primitive Christianity.” See Vincent Taylor, The Formation of the Gospel Tradition (London: Macmillan, 1953), 169-170.
 This period varies among form critics. The period starts between C.E. 30-33 and goes anywhere between C.E. 50 and 70. For example, Dibelius saw this period as between C.E. 30 and C.E. 70. See Martin Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel (Charles Scribner’s Sons, n.d.), 9-10. Taylor sees the period from about 30 to around C.E. 50 when the alleged “Q” document was composed with the oral period ending from C. E. 65 to 100 when the Gospels and other books of the Bible were allegedly composed. Vincent Taylor, The Formation of the Gospel Tradition, 168. Most of the radical form critics place the Synoptics and John well outside the eyewitness period, dating them from late in the first century.
 Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction. Revised Edition (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity, 1990), 210.
 Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 231.
 For further information, see Birger Gerhardsson, Memory and Manuscript (Lund: C. W. K. Gleerup); The Origins of the Gospel Traditions (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977); Harald Riesenfeld, The Gospel Tradition (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1970).
 Gundry argues, “The Apostle Matthew was a note-taker during the earthly ministry of Jesus and . . . his notes provided the basis for the bulk of the apostolic gospel tradition. The use of notebooks which were carried on one’s person was very common in the Graeco-Roman world. In ancient schools outline notes (gravmmata uJpomnhmatikav) were often taken by pupils as the teacher lectured. . . . Shorthand was used possibly as early as the fourth century B. C. and certainly by Jesus time . . . . Rabbinic tradition was transmitted by the employment of catchwords and phrases which were written down in shorthand notes. Thus, from both the Hellenistic side and the Judaistic side it is wholly plausible to suppose that one from the apostolic band was a note-taker—especially since the relationship of Jesus to his disciples was that of a teacher, or rabbi, to his pupils.
As an ex-publican, whose employment and post near Capernaum on the Great West Road would have required and given a good command of Greek and instilled the habit of jotting down information, and perhaps as a Levite, whose background would have given him acquaintance with the OT in its Semitic as well as Greek forms, Mt the Apostle was admirably fitted for such a function among the unlettered disciples.” See Robert H. Gundry, The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s School: With Special Reference to the Messianic Hope (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1967), 182-183. Goodspeed revived this hypothesis, but it has largely been ignored. Unfortunately, both Gundry and Goodspeed also held that Mark, instead of Matthew, was the first gospel written. See Edgar J. Goodspeed, Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Philadelphia: John C. Winston, 1959), 115, 159-160.
 George B. Caird, “The Study of the Gospels: II. Form Criticism,” Expository Times LXXXVII (February 1976): 139.
 Bultmann, Form Criticism, Two Essays on New Testament Research, 15, 21.
 Richard H. Lightfoot, History and Interpretation in the Gospels (New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1934), 225.
 Lightfoot, History and Interpretation in the Gospels, 225.
 D. E. Nineham, “Eyewitness Testimony and the Gospel Tradition—I,” Journal of Theological Studies 9 (April 1958): 13.
 Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel, 293.
 Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel, 295.
 Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel, 289.
 Ernst Käsemann, “The Problem of the Historical Jesus,” in Essays on New Testament Themes. Translated by W. J. Montague (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), 15.
 Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 222.
 John A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), 358. See also, John A. T. Robinson, Can We Trust the New Testament? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977); “The New Testament Dating Game,” Time (March 21, 1977), 95.
 See Rudolf Bultmann, “The Study of the Synoptic Gospels,” in Form Criticism, Two Essays on New Testament Research. Translated by Frederick C. Grant (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1934), 32.
 Rudolf Bultmann, “The New Approach to the Synoptic Problem,” Journal of Religion (July 1926): 345.
 William D. Davies, Invitation to the New Testament, A Guide to Its Main Witnesses (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966), 98.
 For further information, consult Martin J. Buss, “The Idea of Sitz-im Leben—History and Critique, Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 90 (1978): 157-170; See “Sitz-im-Leben” in Richard N. Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism (Atlanta: John Knox, 1981), 178-179. Soulen notes that while Sitz-im-Leben is a technical term in form criticism to refer to a sociological setting within the life of Israel or the Church, in NT redaction criticism the term is modified to refer “to a literary setting, viz., ‘the setting with in the Gospel’ . . . which the various traditions (parables, miracle stories, sayings, etc.) have been given by the writers.”
See Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel, 9; Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition, 1-7; E. Basil Redlich, Form Criticism, Its Value and Limitations (London: Duckworth1939), 17-19; Robert H. Lightfoot, History and Interpretation in the Gospels (New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1934), 7-15; Taylor, The Formation of the Gospel Tradition, 5-9.
 Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel, 70.
 For example, see Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition, 48-49, 281-282.
 Bultmann’s strong belief in the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule (History-of-Religions School) led him to assert that a syncretistic tendency toward assimilation of mystery religion concepts led to church to Hellenize the story of Jesus: “For if the kuvrio” was essentially a cultic deity for the Hellenistic church as well, then, in order to retain the peculiar character of Christian faith—the union of the cultic deity with the historical person of Jesus—a tradition about the story of Jesus was necessary; and the analogy of Hellenistic saviors about whom stories were related could not but help to further the demand for and consequently the taking over the tradition.” Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition, 369 (see also 368-374).
 Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher, “Ueber die Zeugnisse des Papias von unsern beiden ersten Evangelien,” Theologische Studien und Kritiken (1832), 735-768. For an excellent overview of Schleiermacher’s contribution to synoptic studies, See William R. Farmer, The Synoptic Problem (Macon, GA.: Mercer, 1976), 15.
 Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel, 59.
 Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition, 350.
 See “Author’s Preface,” in Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel, n.p.
 See “Author’s Preface,” in Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel, n.p.
 Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition, 2-3.
 Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition, 6.
S. v. “Form Criticism” by C. Blomberg, in Dictionary of the Gospels and Jesus. Edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity, 1992), 243.
 For more detailed information on the presuppositional and philosophical background to historical criticism, see Chapter 2: “The Philosophical and Theological Bent of Historical Criticism.”
 McKnight relates, “The work of Reimarus must be considered a ‘prologue’ rather than a beginning of the critical study of the earthly Jesus, for the ideas of Reimarus did not directly influence the works which followed. Yet the forces at work in the life of Reimarus were at work in the life and thought of others in the eighteenth century who pioneered in the historical study of Jesus and who did influence the later developments in the study.” Edgar V. McKnight, What is Form Criticism? (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), 3-4.
 A recent English translation is Ralph S. Fraser, Reimarus: Fragments. Edited by Charles H. Talbert (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1970).
 For the English text of the sixth and seventh articles respectively, see Fraser, Reimarus: Fragments, 61-269 (“Concerning the Resurrection” fragment is sandwiched by Fraser into pp. 153-200 [û10-32] in accordance with Lessing’s directions–see pp. 24, 153 fn. 55 for specifics).
 Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus. Translated by W. Montgomery. Introduction by James M. Robinson (New York: Macmillan, 1968), 24.
 Norman Perrin, What is Redaction Criticism? (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), 4.
Strauss himself espoused the philosophy of Hegel. For further information on Hegel’s influence upon Strauss and others, consult such works as Cornelio Fabro, God in Exile. Translated and Edited by Arthur Gibson (Westminster, Md.: Newman, 1968); Bruno Bauer, The Trumpet of the Last Judgement Against Hegel the Atheist and Antichrist. Translated by Lawrence Stepelevich (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1989).
See David Friedrich Strauss, “Hermann Samuel Reimarus and His Apology,” in Reimarus: Fragments, 44.
 See David Friedrich Strauss, A New Life of Jesus. Authorized Translation. Second Edition (Williams and Norgate, 1879), 199.
See Strauss, “Hermann Samuel Reimarus and His Apology, in Reimarus: Fragments, 44-57.
 For further information, see David Friedrich Strauss, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined. Edited by Peter C. Hodgson. Translated by George Eliot (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972), 52-91 (û8-16).
See Stephen Neill and Tom Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament, 1861-1986. Second Edition (Oxford: Oxford University, 1988), 14.
 For an example of Bultmann’s mythological approach to the Gospels, see Rudolf Bultmann, “New Testament and Mythology,” in Kerygma and Myth. Edited by Hans Werner Bartsch. Translated by Reginald H. Fuller (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), 1-44; “The Case for Demythologizing,” in Kerygma and Myth II. Edited by Hans-Werner Bartsch. Translated by Reginald H. Fuller (London: SPCK, 1962), 181-194; Jesus Christ and Mythology (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958).
 For further information, consult Henry M. Morris, The Long War Against God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 151-260; The Troubled Waters of Evolution (San Diego, CA.: Creation Life, 1982), 51-76.
 John C. Hutchison, “Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory and 19th-Century Natural Theology,” Bibliotheca Sacra 152 (July-September 1995), 334.
 This pervasive influence of evolution in the United Kingdom is demonstrated by an interesting side note. In the United Kingdom, the Church’s celebration of Darwin is seen in his burial place at Westminster Abbey. Today, many of the world’s leading evolutionists live in Britain. See “Astounding Response to Creation in Darwin’s Homeland,” in Acts and Facts, vol. 22, August 1993), 1. However, the great churchman and creationist, John Knox, who led the great Protestant Reformation in Scotland in the sixteenth century, has a possible burial cite (unmarked) in a automobile parking lot. Ham notes, “A man who popularized an idea that attacks the foundations of the Church, is honored by a church and buried in a prominent place for all to see. Yet, a man who stood for the authority of the Word of God is all but forgotten, and his grave is housed in a parking lot.” See Ken Ham, “A Tale of Two Graves,” in Creation Ex Nihilo 16 (June-August, 1994), 16-18.
 For an excellent critique of evolution, consult Phillip E. Johnson, Darwin on Trial. Second Edition (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity, 1993).
See the interesting discussion of Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Revised and Expanded (Chicago: Moody, 1994), 149-50.
Thoroughgoing refutations of the Wellhausen Hypothesis app