The Problem with Source Criticism

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is that it comes from a generation immersed in sources. Source criticism is a theory that studies at documents like the New Testament and trying to determine where those who wrote it or even Jesus himself got his initial information from. It assumes there aren’t really many new ideas in the history of humanity but that pretty much everything is borrowed and repackaged from various sources. The theory comes out of an era of human existence where sources are readily available. You can download just about anything you want in a couple of clicks.From the printing press to the internet we live at a time when we assume sources, borrowing and adapting is common practice because we have such a wealth of resources at our disposal.

We are immersed in sources. But were they? Was it possible for Jesus to have an original thought without him having to borrow the initial concept from someone and repackage it? Is it just chance that an idea like this comes out of a generation that is quite fond of taking someone else’s ideas and re-packaging them?

Now, the be fair there are times the Bible talks about sources or references other works. I am fine with that. But I am not so sure that every little thing that we can find some sort of close ancient parallel to means the biblical writers borrowed all or most of their information and just Christianized it.


6 Responses

  1. Source critics don’t believe there are no new ideas, rather they wish to discover the origin and integrity of a source for a deeper understanding or perhaps more knowledge. As a Christian I question many things, and it has greatly benefited me. But I question things standing on the rock of faith, so to speak.

    A man who believes there are no new ideas and that 2000 years ago some fool ripped off, plagarized, and re-branded older religions has been led astray or does not belong to Christ. A man who believes Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, come to do the will of the Father that all may come to Him through His blood, this man belongs to the Son. One questions sources and glorifies God. The other mocks God. To question is neither good nor bad- it depends on why you’re asking. To seek wisdom is a worthwhile endeavour, so long as we do so wisely.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I probably spoke too generally here as there are many scholars who do excellent work in this field. I just see too often some taking this way too far. All I am saying here is not an attack against genuine inquiry but a note that often these things are taken way too far and I am hypothesizing that the root of that may well be cultural blinders. Hope that communicates what I was trying to say better than the post did.

    2. Certainly some take it too far. I reckon immature faith is a large cause of it.

      Has God made himself know to us? Did God create everything? Has God specifically chosen certain individuals and people throughout history according to his purpose? Did God divinely, mightily, powerfully (and all other adverbs which are appropriate) inspire the minds and hands of men to pen the autographs? All Christians agree on this, yet certain others will proclaim God was not able to prevent generations of copyist errors, additions, and omissions. Some say we cannot trust the scripture. They have doubt. They point to “close ancient parallels” and their doubt grows. From an earthly, fleshy perspective their fear makes sense. How can we know? How can we believe?

      Because God is God; He is that he is. A strong faith declares to your mind, “The same God you know and worship only because he has given you life on this world he created is perfectly capable and willing to preserve his word without blemish, as only God can do.”

      Folks have been questioning God and the bible forever. It is not a new phenomenon (though it may be getting worse). Those doubting source critics are crying out, “I don’t know if I can believe it.”

      Or maybe it’s the old serpent himself. “Yea, hath God said…?”

  2. In other words, the source of source criticism is the culture of repackaging ideas from souirces?

    Just a random thought that came to me – or do I have an unrecognized, hidden source?

    Good post, Matt! When we find sources in the story of Israel and her prophets, we are on solid ground. Too many have ignored the OT foundation of the NT! However, when we go to pagan sources far removed from Israel and its culture to identify the “sources” of the various ideas in the NT, we are in an extremely subjective area.

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