Robert Dick Wilson’s talk “Is the Higher Criticism Scholarly?” (part 7 of transcript)


The Bible and Archaeology (4/5)

For many more archaeological evidences in support of the Bible, see Archaeology and the Bible

Robert Dick Wilson at the Grove City Bible Conference in 1909.

(Part 5 of 5 film series on archaeology)

IS THE HIGHER CRITICISM SCHOLARLY?Clearly attested facts showing that thedestructive “assured results of modern scholarship” are indefensible

By Robert Dick Wilson, Ph.D., D.D.

Professor of Semitic Philology in Princeton Theological Seminary[Originally Published in 1922] 


Prophecies That Contain No Persian or Greek Word

But how about Jonah, Joel, Isaiah 24-27, the Priest Codex, the Song of Songs, and the multitude of Psalms, which the critics arbitrarily place in this period? There is not in them one certainly Persian word, nor a single Greek word. Not a Babylonian word, not already found in earlier literature, appears in any one of them, and scarcely a word that the critics can even allege to be an Aramaism. In language, style, and thought, no greater contrast can be found in the whole literature of the Old Testament than there is between the books that purport to have been written and those which the critics allege to have been written in this period.

It is to be hoped that the reader appreciates the value and the bearing of these facts. The Higher Criticism, as Dr. Driver affirms in the Preface to his “Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament,” is based upon “a comparative study of the writings.” No one will object to this method of investigation. Only, let us abide by the results. Let us not bring in our subjective views and make them outweigh the obvious facts.

Nothing in 1800 Years of History to Invalidate the Old Testament

Last of all we must cast a glance at the history of the religion of Israel. It must be admitted that, before we can attempt such a history, we must determine two great facts; the dates of the documents on which the history is based; and, secondly, the attitude we are going to take with regard to miracle and prophesy. As to the first of these facts, I have already given a number of the reasons for holding that there is no sufficient ground for believing that the Pentateuch did not originate with Moses, or that David did not write many of the Psalms; and there is every reason in language and history for supposing that all but a few of the books were written before 500 B. C. I have not attempted to fix the exact dates of composition, or final redaction, of the books composed before that time, preferring rather to show that there is nothing in the history of the world from 2000 to 164 B. C. that militates against the possibility, nor even against the probability, of the trustworthiness of the history of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament. Nor, in spite of some alleged inconsistencies and of many passages difficult to explain satisfactorily, owing to our ignorance of all the facts, is there anything in the history of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament that makes it appear unbelievable or untrue. No one knows enough to affirm with confidence that any one of the prophetic books was not written by the man whose name it bears. No one knows enough to assert that the kings and others mentioned did not do and say what is ascribed to them.

If, then, we can accept the documents of the Old Testament as substantially correct, we come to the further question of weather the presentment of the Israelitish religion, as we find it described in the Old Testament, is true. But there is no use of discussing this subject until at least the possibility of God’s making known His will to man is admitted. Whoever admits this possibility is in a fair way to become a Christian. So long as one denies this, he cannot possibly become a Christian nor even a Theist. For those who believe in the resurrection of Jesus and what it implies as to the person and work of the Son of God and of His apostles under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, the question of the history of the religion of Israel assumes an entirely different character and purpose. It becomes part of the plan of God for the world’s redemption. They who accept the statements of the New Testament writers and of the Lord as true will accept what they say about the Old Testament as true. And if the Old Testament is shown not to agree with what Christ and the apostles say, it will be presumed that the text has not been rightly transmitted or correctly interpreted.

The Plan, Purpose, and People of the History of Redemption Offer a Reasonable Basis for Belief

The attitude of one who believes that God spoke to man through the prophets to whom He gave a message for His people is also fundamentally different from that of one who disbelieves this hundred times repeated statement of the Old Testament. A believer in Theism can accept the statements of the Old Testament books, especially in the light of the New, as being what they appear on the face of them to be. For he is convinced that the Bible is the revelation of the divine plan for the redemption of humanity from sin unto holiness and everlasting life. All that he wants, or needs, to have established, is that this plan has been handed down to us in a sufficiently reliable form to insure the purpose of the divine author. The reasonable Christian can rejoice and believe that the Bible has thus been handed down. The plan is there in the documents of the Old Testament and of the New, as clear as day. The purpose is there. The Jewish people existed and exist, according to the Scripture, as an ever-present evidence that the plan and purpose were of God.

The Christian church in like manner exists as an evidence that the Gospel of salvation was really meant for the whole world. This gospel has met and satisfied the need and the hope of human nature for pardon and communion with God, and it is meeting them today. Millions exalt in their present faith and die in peace and in hope of a blessed and everlasting life. The Bible and the church are the foundation of this faith and peace and hope. The history of Israel is continued in the history of the Christian church. He who attacks one attacks both. United they stand; divided they fall. Unitedly they present a reasonable foundation for the belief that God has never left Himself without a witness that He loves mankind and will have all men to believe and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Looked at in the light of the whole world’s history from the beginning until now, the history of the religion of the Old Testament as given in the books themselves, unrevised and fairly interpreted, is rational and worthy of trust. In this faith we live; in this faith let us die.

A Parallel Monstrosity to the Denial of Old Testament History Imagined

Notwithstanding this evident plan and purpose of a divine redemption which runs through the Scriptures, there are today many professedly Christian writers who treat the Israelitish religion as if it were a purely natural development. They diligently pick out every instance of a superstitious observance, or of a departure from the law, or of a disobedience to the divine commands, as if these represented the true religion of ancient Israel. The cut up the books and doctor the documents and change the text and wrest the meaning, to suit the perverted view of their own fancy. They seem to think that they know better what the Scriptures ought to have been than the prophets and apostles and even the Lord Himself! They tell us when revelations must have been made, and how and where they must have been given, and what their contents could have been, as if they knew more about such matters than God himself. Imagine a man’s writing the history of the last eighteen hundred years and denying that the New Testament had been in existence during all that time, denying that the Christian church with all its saving doctrines and benevolent institutions and beneficent social system derived from the New Testament had been active and, in a sense, triumphant for at least fifteen hundred years, simply because he could select thousands of examples of superstitious customs, and hellish deeds, and impious words, and avowed agnostics, and heaven-defying atheists, that have disgraced the pages of history during this time!

Grovel for beetles, — or Pluck Violets?

Let us not grovel for the beetles and the earth worms of almost forgotten faiths which may perchance be discovered beneath the stones and sod of the Old Testament, while the violets and the lilies- of-the-valley of a sweet and lowly faith are in bloom on every page and every oracle revealed within the Word of God is jubilant with songs of everlasting joy. The true religion of Israel came down from God arrayed in the beautiful garments of  righteousness and life. We cannot substitute for this heaven made apparel a robe of human manufacture, however fine it be.

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