Iain Provan on Higher Critics

by May 8, 2012Books, Theology0 comments


From Iain Provan’s excellent 1 & 2 Kings commentary:

It is not entirely clear why we should dig the great ditch between biblical Israel and historical Israel that the newer historians demand. It is, after all, the case that all historiography, whether ancient or modern, has a story-like quality—that all writing or speaking about the past involves turning happenings and people into events and characters. All historiography is also in some sense ideological literature. That is, any story about the past involves selection and interpretation by authors intent on persuading their readership in some way. This does not mean that the historiographical texts are in general incapable of speaking truly about the past. The historians in question clearly believe that some stories about Israel’s past are indeed true. They believe this, for example, of many of the modern stories about it—the stories told by archaeologists, anthropologists, sociologists, and the rest. We assume, in addition, that they wish us to regard their own books as true accounts of Israel’s past—and not, for example, as cleverly constructed fictions. There is evidently no difficulty in principle, then, about historiographical texts referring truly to the past. It seems that a decision has simply been made that the biblical witness to Israel’s past, in particular, is to be marginalized. A selective skepticism is at work here. The biblical stories about Israel, on the one hand, are approached with the maximum degree of suspicion in regard to the extent in which they truly reflect what happened. There is, on the other hand, a touching degree of (sometimes quite uncritical) faith displayed when it comes to modern narratives about this same entity. Confessionalism of a religious sort is attacked in the name of critical enquiry and objectivity, but the noisy ejection of religious commitment through the front door of the scholarly house is only a cover for the quieter smuggling in (whether conscious or unconscious) of a quite different form of commitment through the rear.

Man, I love 1) conservative commentaries that 2) forthrightly—but deftly and with erudition—criticize theological liberalism by 3) revealing that it is not at all objective and evenhanded but is instead run according to its own virulent ideology.

As we say at BJU Press, affection drives cognition. Only the fear of the Lord can bring true wisdom, even about historiography.

Read More 

Review: Means of Ascent

Means of Ascent by Robert A. CaroMy rating: 5 of 5 stars This book is positively monumental. How does Caro do it? Well, I know how he does it. I read his book on the topic. He does it with a lot of hard and humble work (and some excellent help from his wife). I was...

Review: Think Again by Stanley Fish

Think Again: Contrarian Reflections on Life, Culture, Politics, Religion, Law, and Education by Stanley FishMy rating: 5 of 5 stars I have read multiple Stanley Fish books; I read quite a number of these columns when they were originally published in the New York...

Review: Why I Preach from the Received Text

Review: Why I Preach from the Received Text

Why I Preach from the Received Text is an anthology of personal testimonies more than it is a collection of careful arguments. It is not intended to be academic, and I see nothing necessarily wrong with that. But it does make countless properly academic claims, and...

Review: The Power Broker, by Robert Caro

Review: The Power Broker, by Robert Caro

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro My rating: 5 of 5 stars Robert Caro is fascinated by power. He has given his life to exploring how it is gained and kept. And in Robert Moses, the subject of this epic book, power looks like the...

Leave a comment.


Leave a Reply