Over at the Dunedin School, Deane Galbraith responded to my previous post with:

What they used to call “literary criticism” in older usage was a virtual synonym for historical criticism (or literary-historical criticism). That’s because literary critics, a century or so ago, used to be mainly into philological and source criticism (in Homeric studies, etc). But literary criticism has branched out since then. This results in the strange result in biblical studies that the modern approaches have now taken the term “literary criticism”, in distinction from anything to do with sources, by adopting the modern meaning in opposition to the older meaning. This is yet another complication. It’s messy, and there isn’t any simple answer. I agree that defining your precise approach is the way to go. But a label like “rational criticism” sounds like some Kantian Enlightenment project.

So, in response:

Actually, Deane, your last post has hit the nail pretty much on the head, without a thumb too close by. They did call it ‘literary criticism’, since they borrowed the assumptions from other literary critics outside biblical criticism. The problem from there is twofold: first, the approach became ossified within biblical studies, so much so that when I speak with historians or literary critics today, they find it a strange beast, locked into outmoded assumptions concerning both history and literature. For all their great work, varied scholars like Niels Peter Lemche, John van Seters and John Barr are all beholden to this warped tradition. Second, somewhere along the road it was forgotten that the approach arose through a process of borrowing. So when other biblical critics continued – or perhaps began anew – to find out what literary and historical critics were doing in other disciplines, they were and are accused of applying anachronistic methods, of abandoning proper biblical criticism and so on.

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