This month’s RBL contains a review of a published dissertation supervised by D. A. Carson. The review is an interesting specimen of the reaction of a critical scholar to evangelical scholarship as the following quotes demonstrate:
Hoskins rejects conceptions of typology that do not presuppose the historicity of the events in the history of Israel seen as fulfilled in Jesus. Instead, he favors a “canonical” approach, rigidly historicist and literalist in its interpretations. Readers outside the narrow confines of conservative evangelicalism, even those willing “to believe that sometimes the anticipatory import of Old Testament events, persons, and institutions is clarified by later revelation” (26), will find this rigidity stultifying, culturally anachronistic, and methodologically obtuse.
Subsequent sections are similarly problematic, covering successive stages in the cultic history of Israel as though this were a monolithic process to be reconstructed by reading the Deuteronomistic History at face value. That Chronicles represents a different perspective is acknowledged, but justice is done neither to the complexity of the historical evidence and the tensions within the collated traditions nor to the interpretation of these traditions within Judaism of the first century C.E.
Hoskins’s exegesis is careful and his references to previous scholarship copious, even if there is a conspicuous preference for evangelical authors.
This is a complex book. Its central chapters are fundamentally sound and make a substantial contribution to scholarship. This is accomplished despite the weaknesses in the background study to which attention has been drawn. More problematic, however, are the essentially theological premises on which this work is based and which strongly shape its conclusions. The assumption of a single, linear sequence of historical events, accompanied by prophecies that, together with the events and the central characters therein, find their definitive if not their sole fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth, is fundamentally problematic. In that it implicitly impugns the legitimacy of alternative traditions and interpretations, and in particular the continuing existence of Judaism and practice of non-Christian Jewish worship, this work espouses a particularism that critical scholarship will never accept. Scripture is read in accordance with preconceived theological agenda, which undermines not merely academic rigor but also, ironically, evangelical principles regarding the authority of the Bible.
It is worth noting how worldview disagreements are masked in the language of scholarly critique. The reviewer could simply note that he does not believe in the historicity or unity the Old Testament. Instead he uses terms like “methodologically obtuse” or “preconceived theological agenda” (as if this review has none!). The last paragraph cited, however, reveals that the main objections are primarily theological.
This reviewer really wants a denial of the Christian faith. He admits that critical scholarship “will never accept” Jesus’ words:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.
John 5:39 (ESV)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6 ( ESV)
In other words, critical scholarship will not accept Jesus.
This calls to mind the words of Eta Linnemann:
“Mein NEIN zur historish-kritischen Theologie entspringt dem JA zu meinem wunderbaren Herrn und Heiland Jesus Christus und zu der herrlichen Erlösung, die Er Golgatha auch für mich vollbracht hat.”
My “No!” to historical-critical theology stems from my “Yes!” to my wonderful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to the glorious redemption he accomplished for me on Golgotha.