In the world of biblical scholarship, it has long been clear that there are two very different ways of approaching the biblical text. And these different approaches determine whether scholars find historical (or theological) value in the words of Scripture.
On the one side is the higher-critical approach. Generally speaking, this approach is marked by skepticism towards the claims of the biblical text. The stories contained in the Bible are not taken at face value. While they may contain a “historical core,” they have been embellished and expanded, and perhaps even fabricated. The Bible is a disparate collection of texts that have been cobbled together for various reasons, and not authored by the people we think.
On the other side is what might be called a “confessional” approach. This approach views the biblical text more sympathetically; more of an “innocent until proven guilty” posture. Stories are taken more at face value (though the challenges and issues are not ignored). Most in this camp have a high view of Scripture and think the Bible reliably tells us about key doctrines about God, man, Christ, etc.
Of course, the descriptions above are a vast over-simplification. Each scholar is different, and there are countless ways to nuance and define each camp. But, generally speaking, these two approaches can be traced historically and in the present day.
This critical vs. confessional battle over Scripture has been highlighted in two recent resources. [Read more…]