Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
Historical Criticism and What Prophets Would Have Done
Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? is a collection of essays which deals with a number of issues related to historical criticism, evangelicalism, and the Bible. One of the many insights I have gained from the work was in regard to the assumptions behind historical criticism when it comes to prophecy:
[R]edactional analysis is, of course, based on a number of presuppositions about Old Testament prophets and prophecy that cannot be proved, or disproved: (1) that a prophet/editor would not use the same concept or theme in more than one way… (2) that a prophet would not reuse, allude to, or elaborate upon his own (earlier) oracles… and (3) that a prophet would not proclaim anything that was not clearly relevant and perspicuous for his contemporaries ( Schultz 256, cited below)
There is great difficulty with each of these assumptions, as should be clear simply from reading through them. Although each is not necessarily without some merit–surely, for example, it is not an error to think that very often concepts are used in the same ways–the difficulty is when rather than becoming guides for interpretation, these points become areas around which to base limits on the possible meaning of various texts.
The book is full of insights like this throughout, and though I’m still reading through it, I would say I recommend it for the amount of information contained in it, along with the variety of its contents.
What do you think? Are these assumptions valid? How might historical critical methods impact how one reads the text? What presuppositions might be better suited to Christian scholarship regarding prophecy, if any?
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Richard Schultz, “Isaiah, Isaiahs, and Current Scholarship” in Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? edited by James Hoffmeier and Dennis Magary (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012).
Haven’t read this book, but it sounds intriguing. The third assumption is the one I’d weigh the most heavily, though, I have to say. I don’t deny the Spirit’s freedom to use prophets as the Spirit will, but, proceeding from the assumption that God’s message through any given prophet was first and foremost to that prophet’s contemporaries, I think the original meaning should be identified and interpreted as far as possible before proceeding to other interpretations and applications. In other words, it doesn’t have to be either/or.