Higher criticism

Historical criticism or higher criticism is a branch of literary analysis that investigates the origins of a text: as applied in biblical studies it naturally investigates foremost the books of the Bible. In Classical studies, the new higher criticism of the nineteenth century set aside "efforts to fill ancient religion with direct meaning and relevance and devoted itself instead to the critical collection and chronological ordering of the source material," [Burkert, "Greek Religion" (1985), Introduction.] Thus higher criticism, whether biblical, classical, Byzantine or medieval, focuses on the sources of a document to determine who wrote it, when it was written, and where. For example, higher criticism deals with the synoptic problem, the question of how Matthew, Mark, and Luke relate to each other. In some cases, such as with several Pauline epistles, higher criticism confirms the traditional understanding of authorship. In other cases, higher criticism contradicts church tradition (as with the gospels) or even the words of the Bible itself (as with 2 Peter). The documentary hypothesis, which attempts to chart the origins of the Torah, is another key issue in higher criticism.

The Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus (1466? - 1536) is usually credited as the first to study the Bible in this light, [Will Durant, "The Story of Philosophy", p. 125, Touchstone, 1961, ISBN 0-671-20159-X,] although many of his methods are also found in the much earlier writing of Saint Augustine (354 - 430).Fact|date=February 2008

Higher criticism is used in contrast with Lower criticism (or textual criticism), the endeavour to determine what a text originally said before it was altered (through error or intent). Once lower critics have done their job and we have a good idea of what the original text looked like, higher critics can then compare this text with the writing of other authors.


Diagram of the Documentary Hypothesis.

Higher criticism of other religious texts

Both higher and lower forms of criticism are carried out today with the religious writings of many religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.


Modern higher criticism is just beginning for the Qur'an. This scholarship questions some traditional claims about its composition and content, contending that the Qur'an incorporates material from both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament; however, other scholars argue that it cites examples from previous texts, as the New Testament did to the Old Testament. For example, Islamic history records that Uthman collected all variants of the Qur'an and destroyed those that he did not approve of.

See also

* Biblical criticism
* Textual criticism (lower criticism)
* Documentary hypothesis
* Synoptic Problem
* Historical-grammatical
* Historical-grammatical method
* Biblical genres
* Misquoting Jesus
* Journal of Higher Criticism

History of higher criticism

* Alexander Geddes
* Edwin Johnson (historian)


* Gerald P. Fogarty, S.J. "American Catholic Biblical Scholarship: A History from the Early Republic to Vatican II", Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1989, ISBN 0-06-062666-6. "Nihil obstat" by Raymond E. Brown, S.S., and Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J.

External links

* [http://virtualreligion.net/primer/ Rutgers University] : Synoptic Gospels Primer: introduction to the history of literary analysis of the Greek gospels, and aids in confronting the range of factors that need to be taken into consideration in accounting for the literary relationship of the first three gospels.
* [http://HigherCriticism.org Journal of Higher Criticism]
* [http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/andrew_white/Chapter20.html From the Divine Oracle to Higher Criticism]
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04491c.htm Catholic Encyclopedia article "Biblical Criticism (Higher)"]
* [http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/cgi-local/DHI/dhi.cgi?id=dv1-51 "Dictionary of the history of Ideas" - Modernism and the Church]
* [http://www.bible.x10hosting.com/ Teaching Bible based on Higher Criticism]
* [http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_criticism_osborne.html "Historical Criticism and the Evangelical" by Grant Osborne]
* [http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/andrew_white/Chapter20.html "From the Divine Oracle to Higher Criticism" from The Warfare of Science With Theology by Andrew White, 1896]
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04491c.htm Catholic Encyclopedia article (1908) "Biblical Criticism (Higher)"]
* [http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/cgi-local/DHI/dhi.cgi?id=dv1-51 Dictionary of the history of Ideas: Modernism in the Christian Church]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Higher criticism — High er crit i*cism Criticism which includes the study of the contents, literary character, date, authorship, etc., of any writing; as, the higher criticism of the Pentateuch. Called also {historical criticism}. The comparison of the Hebrew and… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Higher Criticism — • Biblical criticism in its fullest comprehension is the examination of the literary origins and historical values of the books composing the Bible, with the state in which these exist at the present day Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • higher criticism — n. the study of the authorship, dates of writing, meaning, etc. of the books of the Bible, using the techniques or findings of archaeology, literary criticism, comparative religion, etc …   English World dictionary

  • higher criticism — noun Date: 1836 study of biblical writings to determine their literary history and the purpose and meaning of the authors compare lower criticism • higher critic noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • higher criticism — the study of the Bible having as its object the establishment of such facts as authorship and date of composition, as well as determination of a basis for exegesis. Cf. lower criticism. [1830 40] * * * …   Universalium

  • HIGHER CRITICISM —    that part of BIBLICAL CRITICISM which seeks to discover the sources used by Biblical authors and in doing so trace the ideas involved to non scriptural roots. In general it is a highly RATIONALISTIC practice which removes all SUPERNATURAL… …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • higher criticism —    See biblical criticism …   Glossary of theological terms

  • higher criticism — noun the scientific study of biblical writings to determine their origin and meaning • Hypernyms: ↑textual criticism …   Useful english dictionary

  • higher criticism — noun the study of the literary methods and sources discernible in biblical texts …   English new terms dictionary

  • higher criticism —  Высшая критика …   Вестминстерский словарь теологических терминов

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.