Round three on historical-criticism – a reply to DG

Deane, we are talking about two different things.

Your position, inspired in part by Barton’s wayward argument, is that ‘historical-criticism’ is based on reason (logos) versus faith/theology/tradition (mythos) and reading a text in terms of looking what is objectively there.

You’ll have to stop calling it ‘historical-criticism’, since that would be to make Plato, the troubled champion of logos, a ‘historical-critic’. Far better to call it rational criticism, or simply interpretation.

In that light, historical-criticism – a specific, German-inspired method of biblical criticism – is one method among other methods of interpretation. I couldn’t agree more. The problem is that to use ‘historical-criticism’ for what you are proposing effects a sleight of hand, since it sounds like a defence of historical criticism as it is commonly understood: a search for the history of the text and the history behind the text via the three great approaches and their derivatives (source, form and redaction). In other words, h-c doesn’t actually read the text.

However, to return to your own proposal for interpretation, based on reasoned objectivity, we face the problem first traced so well by Horkheimer and Adorno, namely that the faith/theology/tradition that is supposed to hobble such an approach is part of its very definition.