Chapter 3: Higher and Lower Criticism

The term “criticism” refers to the analysis of the Bible by “scholars.” The higher and lower criticism of the Bible began in the 17th century in Germany. Some researchers believe that the RCC started textual criticism to undermine the authority of the Protestant Reformation because the Bible fueled the Reformation and was responsible for Protestant doctrine. The Bible is used as the rule of faith and doctrine for Protestantism, so the Roman Church calls the Protestant Bible, the “paper pope.”

Higher criticism, now usually called historical criticism, refers to the study of the history of the various books of the Bible, who wrote them, where they were written, when, under what circumstances, etc. We can thank the higher critics for saying that the prophet Daniel wrote his prophecies after the events happened, or that Matthew, Mark and Luke had to have been written after 70 A.D. because Jesus could not have known that Rome was going to surround and destroy Jerusalem! They do not believe that Jesus performed miracles, or that he rose from the dead, etc.

Surprisingly, these liberal unbelieving “scholars” have gradually taken-over many Christian universities and seminaries. Yes, they are really teaching this garbage in many seminaries and Christian universities, in both Europe and America. These are lies of total unbelief designed to put doubt into the minds of the believer of truth. Worse than external attacks, this poison is slowly killing true Christianity from within. (More info about these seminaries is given in a later chapter.)

Higher criticism spread throughout Europe, then England, and North America, but it seemed to take hold even more firmly in Europe and England and is the main cause of a great falling away from the faith during the 19th century, and by 1896 it was said:

The unspiritual condition of the churches . . . and the alarmingly prevalent skepticism, infidelity, and atheism among the masses of the people in Germany, Switzerland, and Holland is, without doubt, almost wholly attributable to the advocacy of these criticisms by a large majority of the prominent pastors and theological professors in those lands. The same condition of affairs is measurably true in England, Scotland, New England, and in every community where this criticism is believed by any very considerable number of people and openly advocated. Show me a church the pastor of which believes and preaches these criticisms, and the members of which pretty generally accept them, and I will show you a church that is worldly, formal, and unaggressive in spiritual work. (L.W. Munhall, The Highest Critics vs. the Higher Critics, 1896, p. 203-204).

The higher critics reject the literal interpretation of the Bible. These critics are the people that you see on TV documentaries commenting about Jesus or the Bible. They claim to be true Christians and have PhDs, but it is easy to see that they are not Christians. They are unbelieving “liberal scholars.” Having unbelievers teach the Bible is like having a Communist teach economic theory at a school of economics in a Capitalist nation.

The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, of 1917, included a chapter on higher and lower criticism, titled, “The Bible and Modern Criticism,” by F. Bettex, Professor Emeritus, Stuttgart, Germany (Vol. 1, chapter 4). He said:

The noted English critic, Canon Cheyne, is said to have taken great pains to tear the book of Isaiah’s prophecies into one hundred and sixty pieces, all by unknown writers; which pieces were scattered through ten different epochs including four and a half centuries (“Modern Puritan,” 1907, p. 400). Likewise this critic knows that the first chapter of 1 Samuel originated with an unknown writer living some five hundred years after the time of that prophet; also that Hannah’s glory-song, as found in 2 Kings, was written by some other “unknown.” That Eli ruled over Israel for forty years is, “in all likelihood,” the unauthentic statement of a later day (Hastings’ Bible Dictionary). Why so? we may ask. — The book of Deuteronomy was written, we are told, in 561 B.C., and Ecclesiastes in 264 B.C.; and a German critic, Budde, is certain that the book of Job has somehow lost its last chapter, and that fifty-nine verses of this book should be wholly expunged. Such are a few illustrations of the way in which Holy Scripture is treated by the criticism we are considering. But, surely, it would not require much sagacity and intelligence for one, by applying such peculiar methods, say, to Goethe’s works, to demonstrate critically that a good share of those productions, such as Erlkonig, Iphigenia, Gotz yon Berlichingen, the Wahlverwandschaften, Faust (Parts I. and II.), belong, if judged of by their style of composition and their historical and philosophical views, to wholly different epochs, and that they originated with many different authors. Moreover, it could easily be shown that none of those authors lived in the times when Napoleon Bonaparte revolutionized Europe, since his name is not mentioned in any of the productions specified. Of course this modern criticism does not stop short of the New Testament. This part of the Bible, Harnack says, narrates for us incredible stories respecting the birth and childhood of Christ. “Nevermore,” he goes on to assert, “shall we believe that he walked upon the sea and commanded the storm.” It stands to reason that He did not rise from the dead. The Fourth Gospel is spurious, and so also is (according to late Critical authority) the Epistle to the Romans. The Book of Revelation is only the occasion for derisive laughter on the part of these skeptical critics; and because it is so, the curse mentioned in its last chapter is made applicable to them (vs. 18-19). Nevertheless, these men sin most seriously against Christ. In their view the very Son of God, the Word that was in the beginning with God, and that was God, and without Whom nothing exists, is only a fanatical young rabbi; entangled in the peculiar views and superstitions of his people; and he died upon the cross only because he misconceived of the character of his own mission and the nature of his times. Jesus “is not indispensable to the Gospel,” so writes Harnack. Now all this is what is denominated Biblical criticism. It is a jumble of mere hypotheses, imaginings and assertions, brought forward often without even the shadow of proof, and with no real certainty. Still, in these times it represents itself to thousands of nominal Christians and to hundreds of miserably deceived theological students who are to become preachers of God’s word, as being the “assured results of the latest scientific research.” May God have mercy, if such is the case! (www.eaec.org/bookstore/fundamentals/04.htm)

Some people have the mistaken perception that higher criticism has been bad for us, but lower criticism has been good. Lower criticism, also called textual criticism, refers to the study of the text itself, not its meaning. It examines the papyrus and parchment the Bible books were written on, and examines the text to judge the age of the manuscript, and whether it is authentic or fake. These TCs were, like the higher critics, originally liberal unbelievers, but over the past 150 years, they have managed to convince almost all conservative Christian colleges and seminaries that their system of illogical human reason over the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, is the right way to go. They have even managed to convince most conservative Christians that what the the critics say about the text is accurate: that a corrupted Bible was used by the Eastern Church, and then it was adopted into Protestantism and spread around the world. Yet, they are the ones who have corrupted the Bible under the claim of correcting it.

Since the Bible books were copied by hand, and mistakes happened, text critics take several copies of the Bible and examine them to determine what the correct wording of any passage should be. They then produce a master Greek text which is used to make translations into other languages. The master text is also called a collated text, or critical text (CT). Jerome, did this when he created the Latin Vulgate, Erasmus did this in the 16th century. The editions of Erasmus’ text became what is called the Textus Receptus (TR), or Received Text. WH did this when they created their critical text. So textual criticism is required to have a master text of the Bible, but when it is done using the same liberal unbelief used by higher criticism, then its results are the same as with higher criticism.

The TCs created rules for judging a manuscript and deciding which reading to choose. These rules sometimes contradict each other and are also very subjective. Those rules allow them to choose whatever reading they decide to use. Yet they expect all of Christianity to trust them to decide how the text of the Bible should read.

Michael W. Holmes received his Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary and held several important positions, such as Chari of the Department of Biblical and Theological Studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN. Though he is a supporter of WH, this quote does not sound like he is, because it tells the truth:

The central element in the procedures used by Westcott and Hort in establishing their text was internal evidence of documents. Their high appraisal of the ‘Neutral’ tradition in preference to ‘Western’ or Byzantine readings rests essentially on internal evidence of readings, and it is upon this basis that most contemporary critics, even while rejecting their historical constructions, continue to follow them in viewing the Majority text as secondary. Majority text advocates, however, object quite strenuously to the use of the canons [rules] of internal evidence. These canons, they argue, are only very broad generalizations about scribal tendencies which are sometimes wrong and in any case frequently cancel each other out, leaving the critic free to manipulate the text according to his own subjective bias. ‘The result is only opinion; it is not objectively verifiable.’ Thus they call for a total rejection of all use of internal evidence. (Michael W. Holmes, “The ‘Majority Text Debate’: New Form of an Old Issue,” Themelios 8.2 (January 1983): 13-19)

Those with a preference for higher criticism and WH’s text claim that virtually everyone except Dr. Burgon all agreed with WH and their predecessors, but that is not true. Johann Griesbach was one of WH’s liberal unbelieving predecessors, he also made critical editions of the Greek N.T. The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, by James Strong and John McClintock, 1880, said this about Griesbach:

Against the complicated hypothesis on which Griesbach has based his system of recensions many very important objections were urged by learned Biblical critics

of Germany (as by Hartmann, mentioned above), and in England

, especially by archbishop Lawrence and Dr. Frederick Nolan. The primary fact enforced by Griesbach, that the Alexandrian readings which are supported by the quotations of Origen

possess the highest authority of all, is disputed

by professor Matthiae, of Moscow, in his critical edition of the New Testament, and with greater confidence by professor Martin Scholz, of Bonn, in the prolegomena to his very learned and elaborate edition, founded on a system wholly at variance with that of Griesbach. . . . The work by archbishop Lawrence on this subject is entitled Remarks upon the Systematical Classification of Manuscripts adopted by Dr. Griesbach (1814). . . . observing that Griesbach’s mode of investigation is unsatisfactory, his classification fallacious, and his statement of the number of readings inaccurate; that no such classification of the manuscripts of the New Testament is possible; the existence of three distinct species of texts being a fact only synthetically presumed,

and not capable of any analytical demonstration; so that the student finds he is treading, not on solid ground, but on a critical quicksand. Griesbach was long and severely attacked by Trinitarian writers as an opposer of the doctrine of Christ’s divinity, chiefly in consequence of his having rejected from his text the celebrated passage respecting the three that bare witness (1Jo 5:7), and also for inserting ?? for ???? in 1Ti 3:16, and ?????? for ???? in Ac 20:28. In consequence of these and other points in his critical works, the commendation and patronage of the Unitarians were bestowed upon him

. . . The laborious and minutely learned work by the Rev. Dr. Nolan, entitled An Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate, or Received Text of the New Testament, published in 1815, is chiefly occupied in presenting evidence to subvert the critical system of Griesbach, and to establish the position since taken by professor Scholz and others, that the Byzantine, and not the Alexandrian, codices are the most worthy of reliance. “Griesbach’s theory,” says Dr. Nolan, “is one of the most elaborate of those that have unsettled the foundation on which rests the entire canon. His corrected text can be received only as a proof of the general corruption of the sacred Scriptures

, and of the faithlessness of tilde traditionary testimony by which it is supported, since he states that the two principal classes of text, the Alexandrian and the Western, have been interpolated in every part

. . .” (www.biblicalcyc lopedia.com/G/griesbach-johann-jakob.html)

The above quote shows that several men were writing books refuting the liberal unbelieving theories of Griesbach. More objectors continued opposing WH, and men have continued to oppose them and their faulty theories; men like Hodges, Pickering. In 1951, Alfred Marti wrote:

It should be evident by this time that the opposing schools of textual criticism are not new, and that the lines have been drawn in practically the same way since the beginning of the conflict. Just as Bengel was opposed by Wettstein, so Griesbach was opposed by C.F. Matthaei (Martin, A Critical Examination of the Westcott-Hort Textual Theory, p. 35) (Quoted in Cloud, p. 56)

So it appears that many learned men, for many centuries, have been fighting the ideas by one group of text critics who claim the Egyptian texts are the best. It is NOT just the King James Only group that oppose these liberals and their faulty ideas.

The first TCs were going about their work and making Greek texts of the Bible that did not agree with the TR, but they were mostly ignored by the Christian public until the mid-19th century when there were calls for a better translation of the English Bible. The Edinburgh Review was one of several publications that called for a revised Bible. In 1858, Dr. Trench, Dean of Westminster, wrote a detailed article wherein he pointed out problems with the KJV and called for a revision. He stated:

I am persuaded that a revision ought to come. I am convinced that it will come. (Armitage, A History of the Baptists, 1887, p. 910)

His desire for an accurate translation was so great, that he did not want Baptists to be a part of the translation because they had previously insisted that “baptizmo” be translated “emersion.” But what the people ultimately got had many far worse changes.

Satan was at work among the Bible Societies of the 19th century because they suffered from great internal division, lack of funds, and many other problems that ultimately prevented any of them from making a revision of the KJV. The only Bible revision that succeeded was not a revision of the KJV but was a whole different translation spearheaded by Westcott and Hort, who were two liberal Anglican Bishops and Cambridge professors. Yet, it was supposed to be a revision of the KJV, which is explained in chapter five.

Hort called the TR “villainous” and said, “Think of that vile Textus Receptus leaning entirely on late MSS [manuscripts]; it is a blessing there are such early ones” (Life and Letters, V. 2, p. 211). He made that statement at only 23 years of age. He was obviously influenced by liberal unbelieving college professors, and then he became one himself.

Text critic, Constantine von Tischendorf (1815-1874), had made several trips through Europe and then the Middle East looking for ancient manuscripts, and found many, including one he named the Sinaiticus at St. Catherine’s, Greek Orthodox, Monastery in the Sinai. He first recovered 45 sheets from a wastebasket waiting to be burned, and then after two more trips recovered the entire Bible in 1859. It was eventually made available to WH for use in their collated text.

Tischendorf himself created several editions of a critical text using the manuscripts which were then available. The reason that the WH collated text became the dominant text for Bible translation, where others had failed, is because WH saw to it that an English translation was made from it before their Greek text was even published. This is what got the ball rolling which could not be stopped. The English Revised Version of 1881, usually just called the Revised Version (RV), was thoroughly attacked by many experts and ministers, even by some of the translators, but it was loved by the liberal press and liberal bishops. And because it was in modern English, it sold well.

If an English translation had been done of the revised TR made by Scrivener shortly after the RV, then the buying public would have had a choice, and they would have chosen Bibles based on the TR. But their only choices were the King James Version or the modern versions based on the WH text. They chose the easier to read Bibles, and therefore, many more editions have been churned out decade after decade, all based on the corrupt text of WH and later revisions of it.

Since the WH text became the basis for modern Bibles, it became very powerful, the King of Greek texts, even though many experts wrote many books exposing the wrongs in the text, as well as the English translations; experts like Dr. F. H. A. Scrivener (1813-1891) and Dr. John Burgon (1813-1888) who were perhaps the two greatest textual scholars of the late 19th century. Scrivener was headmaster and rector of several schools, and published several books on Textual Criticism and collated many Greek texts. Burgon was a professor at Oxford, Fellow of Oriel College, vicar of St. Mary’s (the university church), and Dean of Chichester during his last 12 years. He wrote numerous books extolling the falsehoods of Westcott and Hort’s Greek text and the Revised Version that was based on it. Yet, the TCs, old and new, dismiss him as nothing, because his response to WH was not sweet and nice.

The rise and acceptance of the WH text has been likened to the rise of the theory of evolution. Darwin published his book in 1859, and though it was based on unproven theories and not real science, it was accepted and pushed as though it were true. The WH text and their RV Bible were accepted by liberals but rejected as corrupt by conservatives. But the WH text has gradually gained more and more power until it has virtually taken over the way Darwinism has taken over. But there are still voices speaking out against evolution, and there are still voices speaking out against the corruption of the WH text.

Here is an example of what is supposed to be good textual criticism; keep that in mind while you read it:

One variant reads, “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” This is the reading of the King James version and the one that is found on most Christmas cards. However, another variant reads, “on earth, peace among men of good will.” The difference between these two variants is only one letter, the Greek letter sigma (equivalent to our letter “s”). If the final word in the Greek phrase ends in “s,” the translation is the latter; if it omits the “s,” the translation is the former. Which ending did Luke write in his Gospel? Applying the methods of textual criticism we begin by considering the external evidence of how a scribe might have produced such a difference in spelling, which reading is the most difficult, and which reading would have more easily occurred. The form without the “s” (“goodwill toward men”) is the easier reading, and a scribe would likely not have changed it intentionally. However, if the “s” was original, the reading would be harder (“among men of goodwill”), and so the scribe might have dropped the “s” intentionally to make it easier to interpret. Or, he might have omitted it accidentally since the Greek “s” was sometimes written at the end of a line as a tiny raised letter. When we compare the manuscript evidence we discover that the form ending in “s” is supported by the Alexandrian and Western text types and the form without the “s” is supported by the Caesarean and Byzantine text types. If we follow the convention that the former have earlier and better manuscripts (the best of which do support this reading) [Vaticanus and Sinaiticus], then the form with the “s” is preferred on the external evidence of the manuscripts. Therefore, both the internal and external evidence favors the reading “on earth, peace to men of good will.” Now, this must be interpreted to give it a proper meaning. Does it refer to people who have an attitude of good will toward others, or to people who are the objects of God’s good will? The latter makes better sense, and therefore we find it is translated in a version such as the New American Standard as “on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” While this may not agree with our “Christmas card theology,” it appears to be what the original text read. Therefore we are to acknowledge God’s gracious revelation of His Messiah to those for whom He was sent, especially those Jewish believers who were anxiously awaiting His advent. However, it should be apparent that whichever variant we choose, no doctrinal teaching is affected. (Price, Searching for The Original Bible, page 236)

I was shocked when I read that, amazed at the horrible faulty reasoning. If you don’t grasp what it is saying, let me explain it to you and all the lovers of WH out there. This revised version of the Bible has Christ coming to earth to bring salvation only to men who are already good. The Latin Vulgate says, “to good-willing men” (Bishop, The Doctrines of Grace, p. 81).

You may question that all the new versions cannot possibly be translating it that way, yes, they are. Here are some examples:

  • “and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!” (GNB)
  • “and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!” (NET)
  • “and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (NIV) (NAB)

Apparently, Christ has not come to call sinners to repentance but has only come for those whom God is pleased with already, those who are already good. If you are a sinner, you go to the back of the line. And we are supposed to believe that this affects no doctrine? WOW. Talk about the blind leading the blind. And it does not mean that Jesus came first to the Jews, because they needed to repent as well. Therefore they were not already good. Jesus even said that he did not come to call the righteous, but the (Jewish) sinner to repent (Luke 5:32).

This change is a subtle, snake-in-the-grass, weakening of the doctrine that Christ came to die for our sins. Why would he need to do that if we are already good? Unitarians love this change (more on Unitarians later).

But, you may believe that only a few Christian seminaries are teaching this nonsense, well you would be wrong. Almost all of them are. The author of the above-quoted book is a professor at Liberty University. Satan is at work watering down God’s Word, little by little. You will read more examples like the above in other chapters.

A well-known TC today, Daniel B. Wallace, said, “textual critics are historians who have to base their views on data, not mere theological convictions” (www.bible.org, Mark 1:2 and New Testament Textual Criticism). In other words, if they decide the evidence points to something that contradicts known doctrine, then it makes no difference to him or other textual critics; he is not concerned about doctrinal truth. The TCs do not follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, they follow their own human reasoning.

If you are a disbeliever in orthodox Christian doctrine, like the Unitarians and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and you are trying to find evidence to go against orthodoxy, then textual criticism is the tool to use. But if you do believe in orthodox Christianity, and that the Holy Spirit is leading the Church, then what goes against known truth should be rejected. I am referring to the main foundational doctrines of the faith, not minor doctrines that are just a matter of interpretation. The human mind can find reasons to believe anything that can be thought up; human reason is not how we find truth, it comes by the Holy Spirit. Truth is the bread of free men, but lies and deceit are the swill of slaves.

Dr. Zane Hodges (1932-2008) was one of the scholars and text critics who did not follow WH. In 1982 Hodge and Arthur L. Farstad published their own critical text, The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text. About textual criticism, Hodge said:

In a previous article, it was pointed out that, although the kind of Greek text which underlies our Authorized King James Version is rejected by modern textual critics, this rejection is wholly unconvincing. The acceptance of the newer critical editions of the New Testament does not, therefore, rest on factual data which can be objectively verified

, but rather upon a prevailing consensus of critical thought. It will be the purpose of this discussion to show that contemporary critical texts are, in fact, the fruit of a rationalistic approach to New Testament

textual criticism. . . . Modern Textual Criticism is psychologically ‘addicted’ to Westcott and Hort. Westcott and Hort, in turn, were rationalists in their approach to the textual problem in the New Testament and employed techniques within which rationalism and every other kind of bias are free to operate. The result of it all is a methodological quagmire where objective controls on the conclusions of critics are nearly nonexistent. It goes without saying that no Bible-believing Christian who is willing to extend the implications of his faith to textual matters

can have the slightest grounds for confidence in contemporary critical texts. (Zane C. Hodges, “Rationalism and Contemporary New Testament Textual Criticism,” Bibliotheca Sacra, (128) Jan. 1971, p. 35) (www. galaxie. com/ article/ bsac128-509-03, & Textual Optimism: A Critique of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, Kent Clarke, p. 17)

Rationalistic higher and lower criticism are just the left and right hands of the devil. We will learn much more about textual criticism gradually throughout this book.

Those textual critics who favor WH barely acknowledge that there are genuine TCs who oppose their views, such as the ones mentioned in this book. This sort of obfuscation has been going on since the beginning. Here is a partial list of the men who opposed the textual methods that were used by WH and those who came before and after them (a few were/are, no doubt, KJO): George Salmon, John Burgon, Edward Miller, Herman Hoskier, Martin Scholz, Richard Lawrence, Frederick Nolan, Henry John Todd, J.W. Whittaker, Henry Walter, John Jebb, Noah Webster, William T. Brantley, Octavius Winslow, Alexander McCaul, Lord Panmure, James Lister, Solomon Malan, Alexander McClure, D. H. Conrad, John Cumming, Anthony Cooper, Joseph Philpot, George Marsh, Thomas Birks, Robert Lewis Dabney, Robert Breckinridge, James Thornwell, Arthur Cleveland Coxe, John Dowling, etc.

Long before WH made their Greek text and Revised Version, attempts were being made by other text critics to produce a new English Bible. They made the Greek texts but not the translations. And because educated men were able to see the corruptions in those newly formed Greek texts, they knew that any English translation made from any of them would cause much more damage to the Bible and Christianity than the small number of improvements made to the text:

From either of these schemes, the bold project of a new translation, or the more specious one of a revisal of the present version of the Holy Scriptures, there can be so little gained, and may be so much hazarded, that the probable good bears no manner of proportion to the threatened danger. . . . it is of little importance that a few particles be adjusted, a few phrases polished, if the whole fabric of that faith which was once delivered to the saints is thereby shaken to its foundation. (Discourses on Various Subjects, T. Rennell, quoted in An Authentic Account of Our Authorized Translation of the Holy Bible, and of the Translators: with Testimonies to the Excellence of the Translation, collected by Henry John Todd, 1838, p. 58)

Likewise, John Jebb spoke out against the attempts to make such a translation in 1829:

. . . for one trifling error corrected I doubt we should have ten worse introduced; while, in point of style, from everything that has appeared of late years, I am obliged to think we should be infinitely losers. (Life of John Jebb, ii, p. 454, cited in Hemphill, A History of the Revised Version, p. 21-22. Quoted in Cloud, p. 70)

He was sooo right.

Notice that this page from Sinaiticus is in very good condition, but there are also many corrections of the text.

Comments are closed.