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date: 18 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Fifty years ago hardly anyone in academic circles doubted that the historical-critical method was the principal, if not all-sufficient, way of studying the Bible responsibly. Today the situation is quite different, and it is possible, in Anglo-American academic circles, to hear the historical-critical method described as a product of the Enlightenment that has become as suspect as the Enlightenment project itself. This situation was brought about by the revolution in biblical studies worked by contact with developments such as liberation theology, feminist criticism, and structuralism and post-structuralism. There is also another important strand in this, which is that the historical-critical method is not a monolithic and unchanging phenomenon, but an approach which has subjected itself to the self-critical scrutiny characteristic of, and necessary to, any academic discipline. The fact that, within historical criticism, many of what used to be described as ‘assured results’ have been challenged or overturned, has looked to outsiders as though the approach itself has been discredited, which is far from the truth. This article begins by describing some of the modifications that have occurred within historical criticism. It then considers attacks upon the method that have been driven by ecclesiastical concerns, which then leads to a broader consideration of the relationship between biblical criticism and the authority of the Bible, including the understanding of the Bible as ‘scripture’.

Keywords: biblical criticism, authority, scripture, biblical studies

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