Answering Bible Critics

Just what is Bible criticism? How does it affect you?
The Great Isaiah Scroll, one of the 2,000-year-old scrolls found at the northern edge of the Dead Sea.
Public Domain

The Bible—more than any other religious writings of similar age—has drawn intense examination. What is the common conclusion? Bible critics write off the Bible as the not-divinely-inspired writings of an unlearned people. Many claim the Bible is full of contradiction and historical inaccuracies. Some go so far as to say that the Bible is a carefully contrived sham to keep tight-fisted control over mindless people. Others say the Bible is a work of fiction. What is truly appalling is that many theologians agree. Understand that there is nothing new here. The Bible has been under violent attack for centuries—by scholars, philosophers, cynics and the religious.

Why this book and not others? Many theologians hold great reverence for the writings of men like Buddha and Confucius. Many Protestant ministers even call the writings of these men sacred. But are they? According to the Encarta Dictionary, the first definition of the word sacred is, “dedicated to a deity or religious purpose.” If you know the beliefs of Buddha, he would never have considered his own writings sacred, because he did not believe in a deity. Confucius was an atheist. Although today many see him as godlike, he would have claimed his own writings to be merely practical or ethical.

Think on this too. No one questions that the writings of Buddha are Buddha’s or that the writings of Confucius are Confuscius’s. Yet, Bible critics say—without a doubt—Moses did not write the books attributed to his name. Critics have determined five men other than Isaiah wrote Isaiah. Critics claim that a fake Ezekiel wrote Ezekiel. Critics maintain—without question—an imposter wrote Daniel centuries after his death. Is there an answer for the critics?

The Unique Book

You must recognize this fact. The Bible is radically different than all other so-called sacred literature. This book of books asserts that it is the divinely inspired writings of a supreme Deity. The Bible is a book full of personal quotes from a very active, living God. Here is an example: “Remember the former things of old: That I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me; Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done; Saying: ‘My counsel shall stand, And all My pleasure will I do’” (Isaiah 46:9-10). The God of the Bible declares the supremacy of His own power. There is none like Him. He is capable of initiating and carrying out a purpose on Earth. A real understanding of God’s purpose shows that there are stupendous and wonderful things ahead for all mankind.

The Bible asserts that it alone contains the divine revelation of that plan—that the Almighty God directed all the writing. Here are some examples: “And the Lord said unto Moses: ‘Write thou these words, for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel’” (Exodus 34:27). God told Isaiah, “Now go, write it before them on a tablet, And inscribe it in a book, That it may be for the time to come for ever and ever” (Isaiah 30:8). The expression “time to come for ever and ever” is best translated latter days—or our time right now! Isaiah is not an outdated book. It bears a vital message for us today. In fact, the entire Bible carries essential knowledge that only God can make known to mankind. It is one of His many remarkable gifts to all men. This sole piece of sacred literature contains the historical record and prophecies about how God is working out His plans. This makes the Bible a great treasure. Yet, few truly value the Bible.

Defining Bible Criticism

So, why is there so much hostility toward the Bible? There is a cause. It begins with modern Bible criticism. What is Bible criticism? Most of the people involved in such effort like to refer to their activities as biblical scholarship. This sounds harmless enough. It makes their occupation appear more acceptable. What could be wrong with these types of biblical studies? When we understand the effect—everything!

Let’s look at some excerpts from a current article on biblical scholarship to show you what we mean. The Encarta Encyclopedia states: “Biblical scholarship … attempts a critical assessment of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures in the light of all contemporary resources of knowledge.” Sound good? It is not. Essentially, Bible scholars want to take the Bible and measure it using all the up-to-date knowledge society has accumulated. But let’s not forget that contemporary knowledge has been strained through the filter of evolution, which is an atheistic theory—the explanation of a creation without a creator! Ask yourself, how can scholars educated with an anti-God bias objectively study the Bible? It is impossible.

Continuing its defense of Bible scholarship, Encarta casually states: “Unlike the literature of various other religions, the Bible has always been subject to some measure of scholarly criticism and correction.” Simply making that statement doesn’t make it true. Logic tells us we should seriously think about a statement with the word always in it. Has the Bible always been subject to scholarly criticism and correction?

Also, note in the above quote that Encarta admits that the literature of other religions is not subject to scholarly scrutiny. Now why would that be? The answer is simple. The Bible uniquely claims to be the express Word of God. The Bible speaks out with God’s authority. If one could prove that it is not the Word of God, then there would be no need to read or follow it. This is the real reason Bible scholars have worked so hard at examining the Bible. Uncovering any flaw would be proof that it is not the literal Word of God, and need not be followed. Critics may deny this fact, but it is the truth.

Justifying the work of critics, Encarta continues: “This criticism undoubtedly developed because Jews and Christians conceive of religion as historical, as the product of definite historical events. Even though the great majority of the Old and New Testament writings are, in fact, anonymous, they have always been ascribed to particular human authors. It has therefore been considered legitimate for other human beings to evaluate them. They have never been regarded simply as literature transmitted directly from heaven or as so remote from the contemporary human condition as to render them immune to critical study.” This sweeping statement is incredible. It is a cleverly planned concealment of true motive. Here’s what Encarta’s writers are really saying. The Bible’s religion is a human invention—the result of historical events, or legend. God is not in it. The Bible was not written by men like Moses, Joshua, Samuel and Isaiah; we don’t know who wrote it. Since the book never came directly from God and is from the distant past, we have the right to dissect, ridicule and reject it. Are we just a little too hard on Bible scholars? If they are hard on the Bible, can’t we be a little hard on them?

The point is, true Bible scholars understand that comprehending that the Bible is the literal Word of God is an eternal-life-or-death matter for all human beings. Someone must stand up and defend the Bible.

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A Short History of Criticism

Knowing the historical roots of modern Bible criticism greatly helps us understand why this field of study can never produce any good results. Let’s briefly discuss several key points of history.

Although historians consider the writings of the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo Judaeus as the beginning of the history of Bible criticism, modern criticism as we know it was born at the time of the Reformation. The Oxford Companion to the Bible states, “The religious conflicts that most stimulated the rise of biblical criticism were, however, the Catholic-Protestant conflict within Christianity and, later, the disputes among the many different directions within Protestantism, for these particularly emphasized the unique role of Scripture and the implications of reading it for and from itself.” In essence, the Bible became the battleground in the war between Catholics and Protestants—then, again, among disagreeing Protestant groups.

“Rebels against the authority of the Roman Catholic Church … had traditionally appealed to Scripture in justifying their defiance of the pope and the institutional church” (ibid.). Reacting to the domination and religious hypocrisy of the papacy, reformers explained and published views on the Scriptures as a means to weaken the abusive power that the Roman Church wielded over the spiritual lives of men and women.

The Catholic Church did not take such attacks lying down. Besides the bloodshed of the infamous Inquisition, Catholic theologians responded with their own commentaries related to the Bible. The war was on. The Oxford Companion continues, “Roman Catholic theologians, of course, did not view scriptural authority as a substitute for papal primacy, but during the 16th century they too turned their attention to the Bible with special urgency.” Protestants and Catholics used the Bible to club each other. Nothing good came out of such conflict. Both interpreted the Bible to shore up their positions. Whose doctrine was truly correct?

Martin Luther (Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1529)
Public Domain

The leading figure in the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, had his own Bible criticism—for example, he carried great scorn for the New Testament book of James, referring to it as a “right strawy epistle.” And on the Catholic side at this time, authorities continually asserted their exclusive right to control and interpret the Scriptures—a right never given to them by God. Considering the Roman Catholic Church’s view of the Bible as being secondary to papal authority, could we expect from that church a solid defense in favor of the Bible?

The Renaissance

Consider also the Renaissance’s effect on Bible criticism. This movement was the spark for the Reformation and, like its subsequent sister movement, above all else was a reaction to the subjugation of the Roman church. Freed from religious oppression, intellectually minded people pursued vigorous investigation into the fields of science, classical Greek literature, philosophy and art. Our modern knowledge explosion began at that time. With new discoveries in science and astronomy, questioning minds uncovered serious error in Roman Catholic teaching about scientific matters concerning Earth and the universe. Betrayed by religion, men began to rely on self-expression, experimentation, observation and human reason to come to knowledge. There was a drive to throw off all religious authority. To do this, they focused their attack on the Bible.

Coming now from two different directions—the Renaissance and the Reformation—a heated debate on the nature of biblical inspiration raged. With intellectuals now involved, the war of the religious denominations became simply a war against the Bible. Theologians, philosophers and scientists attempted to answer the question, how did God inspire men to write the Bible? It was essentially a debate of human reason. The answer depended upon a person’s religious or educational persuasion. Scientists at the time rejected the Bible because of the Roman church’s false teachings. Yet, the church of Rome has survived well during all the attacks. What ultimately suffered the most damage was people’s confidence in the veracity of the Bible.

As men increased their scientific knowledge of the world around them, significantly less importance was attached to the Bible as a guide and authority in human affairs. Science became the new guide—even for the so-called religious. By the time of the Enlightenment, “theologians … focused on issues of biblical authority; for example, whether the Bible, the product of ancient cultures, has any claim on modern humanity. Supernatural revelation was often denied in whole or in part, with such views gaining further support from the rise of modern biblical criticism in the 19th century” (ibid.). Historians of Bible criticism want all of us to think well of the so-called developments in biblical studies. Reality tells us there is no advancement at all, but rather a process of continual degeneration. As Bible criticism developed, humans strayed further from God.

German Rationalism

Most scholars uphold and praise the development of Bible criticism in the 19th century—the so-called higher criticism. Some think of it as the golden age of Bible criticism. In reality, it has done the most damage to people’s faith in the Bible. Higher criticism has been heavily influenced by German rationalism, which is the philosophy that regards human reason as the chief source and test of knowledge—even spiritual knowledge. German rationalism denies the need for divine revelation. Higher criticism has reduced the Bible to a merely human book.

Julius Wellhausen, 1844-1918
Public Domain

German Bible critics such as Julius Wellhausen focused their attention on Moses’s authorship of the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Bible. To a German rationalist, there can be no such thing as divine revelation. Since the first five books of the Bible make the claim that God directed Moses to write them down, there had to be an alternative, rational explanation. What Wellhausen and others supposedly uncovered was a Jewish sham. Their attack states that anonymous individuals later than Moses wrote the books. Why? They say that a man who lived that long ago would not have had the education to draft such writings. The “documentary hypothesis” was formulated, which assigns capital letters such as J, E, P and D to sections of the books supposedly written by the anonymous authors.

The Encarta Encyclopedia admits, “By the end of the 19th century higher criticism had aroused tremendous opposition from those who considered it an attack on the reliability of Scripture. To some degree this opposition has not yet been overcome, although the great majority of biblical scholars regard higher criticism as an indispensable tool of biblical interpretation.” A few recognize what higher criticism is all about and are opposed to it, but the majority of Bible scholars have been swept right along with it. Recent archaeological discoveries have placed major cracks in the documentary theory, but scholars refuse to depart from it. Read any article about the Old Testament in current literature and you will see continual references to the anonymous authors of the ancient Scriptures. Don’t be deceived. The documentary hypothesis is a theory and a sham just as evolution is a theory and a sham. Unfortunately, Bible scholars cannot come around to admitting that fact.

If you desire to know more details about the history of Bible criticism, your public library should be able to provide you with reference books for further study.

Battlegrounds of Bible Criticism

The fruits of Bible criticism have been devastating for many. Yet it does not have to be that way for you. A dedicated, faith-filled study of the Bible will yield true understanding of it contents. Are you willing to take the plunge?

The five books of Moses and the book of Daniel are the two most attacked sections of the Bible. This makes sense if one intends to attack the reliability of the Bible.

The Pentateuch lays the necessary foundation to understanding God’s purpose for all mankind. Moses’s books contain essential history now lost to mankind, as well as God’s revealed civil and spiritual laws and prophecies about our time. A right understanding of these books is a faith-builder. These books motivate us to earnestly seek God. Ignorance of these books leads to spiritual error.

Why Daniel’s book? Daniel’s book contains a series of vivid and historically accurate visions, prophecies that could only be explained as the result of supernatural inspiration—and prophecies that provide a key to understanding specifically end-time world events.

Doesn’t all of this show that there has been an invisible spirit behind the Bible criticism movement? Since the creation of Adam and Eve, God has been sending a message to mankind. A powerful, evil being has been working diligently to discredit that message. Genesis chapter 3 reveals the very beginning of his work. “Yea, hath God said …?” Satan’s goal is to blind all men to the words of God—His incredible truth. He has been doing an effective job. Yet, you do not have to be one of his victims.

Moses—Fraud?

Robert Ingersoll, a famous 19th-century atheist and Bible critic, wrote this about the history of Moses and the Israelites in the Pentateuch: “Everything that happened was attributed to the interference of this God. Moses declared that he met this God face to face; that on Sinai’s top from the hands of this God he had received the tables of stone on which, by the finger of this God, the Ten Commandments had been written, and that, in addition to this, Jehovah had made known the sacrifices and ceremonies that were pleasing to him and the laws by which the people should be governed.

“In this way the Jewish religion and the Mosaic Code were established.

“It is now claimed that this religion and these laws were and are revealed and established for all mankind.

“At that time, these wanderers had no commerce with other nations, they had no written language, they could neither read nor write. They had no means by which they could make this revelation known to other nations, and so it remained buried in the jargon of a few ignorant, impoverished and unknown tribes for more than 2,000 years.

“Many centuries after Moses … many centuries after all of his followers had passed away—the Pentateuch was written, the work of many writers, and to give it force and authority it was claimed that Moses was the author.

“We now know that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses” (About the Holy Bible, 1894).

What about those statements? Do they rock your faith—or compel you to study? How would you answer Mr. Ingersoll? We’ll look at that in the next article.

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