The Historical-Critical Method Briefly Stated & Examined

The Historical critical hermeneutical method of reading the Biblical text, per Ernst Troeltsch, sits upon three tenants.

1.) Skepticism — This means one must read the Scripture as any ancient near Eastern text.

2.) Analogy — This means testing the text according to modern experience. So, for example, if modern people do no experience virgins getting pregnant or world being created or dead men rising to life again that means those things can not have happened in the past.

3.) Coherence — This means that every event has a natural, and historical cause and so there is no need to posit divine intervention.

Note that all of this can be reduced to one idea. The Historical critical method reduces to reading the Biblical text with a anti-supernatural presupposition. To read the text “historically-critically” is to read the text presupposing Naturalism. No God, except as that god is subjectively projected so as to create reality. No inspiration, except as inspiration is subjectively spoken of. And so really no reason to even bother with the text at all except for some residual silly idea that the text is sacrosanct.

Also, note that, at best, all that is left after the Historical-Critical method is applied is some kind of Historicism where the interpreter is the one who is super-imposing his meaning on the text.

Finally, note that, speaking generally, where there is any intellectual life left in the pulpit it is generally committed to this type of reading of the text. Here is just one example of this methodology being used and defended by a minister I personally know,

“Some clarification. Genesis 1 is not a scientific report. Genesis 2 and 3 is not an eyewitness account. And Revelation 21 and 22 is neither. What we have in these biblical texts is literature. Literature intended to evoke awe and wonder. Literature intended to sustain faith and hope. Literature intended to give understanding. To read these biblical texts not literarily but literally is misguided. It’s misguided to read them literally and then to dismiss them as hopelessly out of touch with reality.”

Do you see how the Historical-Critical methodology is being used here? We are not to believe the supernatural accounts. We are to reinterpret the text through a naturalistic prism.

Jonah & The Charge Of “Racism”

The post below was inspired by this sermon though I have collected other information and it is in my own words.

Many in the Evangelical world (those who write commentaries and those who preach) insist that Jonah’s sin for not wanting to go to the Ninevehites is a early world example of the Racism that God hates. For example, John Piper does just that in this quote from one of his sermons. Piper here has imagined God speaking to the prophet Jonah ,

“Jonah, forsake your racism. Forsake your nationalism and follow me.” 

Earlier, in the same sermon, Piper had explicitly said,

“Jonah was a racist, a hyper-nationalist. He did not want to go to Nineveh because he knew God would have mercy on his enemies.”

Now, Piper isn’t alone in this error of reading the 20th century sin du jour back  into the ancient world and on to the Prophet Jonah but he is a glaring example of it.

We should note here that “Racism” has become the sin that most preachers love to hammer. It is a politically correct sin to hate and it makes for great points among the Politically Correct indoctrination crowd. It’s become so bad that I have in my memory a ordination from years ago where the candidate up for ordination, though knowing literally nothing regarding the doctrine of the Christian faith, passed the exam because he could impressively denounce racism.

Now, the points for calling Jonah Racist that many of the commentaries give are as follows, 

1.) Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh.

This by itself proves that Jonah was a Racist. If Jonah hadn’t been a Racist he automatically would have had no problem in going to Nineveh.

2.) Jonah did not want the Ninevehites to Repent.

This is construed to mean that Jonah did not want them to repent because he was an evil racist.

3.) Jonah was disappointed and angry when Nineveh did Repent.

This clinches the “Jonah was a Racist” argument.

However, when examining matters more closely it may be that modern commentaries and modern preachers like Piper are wrong.

There are ways of understanding that allow us to not call Jonah a “Racist.”

Jonah’s sin is not found in his putative “racism” but in his falling into the sin of Rationalism. Jonah lifted his well intended reasoning above God’s Revelation. God had told Jonah to go to Nineveh. That is all Jonah needed in order to go. Instead Jonah reasoned that God would be dishonored by his going to Nineveh and by the Assyrians repentance. Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he knew that God would give repentance to Assyria (Nineveh) and Jonah reasoned that would detract from God’s glory if the God haters who were not God’s people repented while the Northern Kingdom who Jonah labored in calling to repentance did not repent.  Jonah understandably believed that if those who were not God’s people repented it would blacken God’s glory because those who were God’s people (Northern Kingdom) did not repent.  Jonah had labored all his life in Samaria among his own people calling for repentance with no fruit.  Those of the Northern Kingdom were God’s people. It was there that repentance should have been expected.

Secondly, Jonah did not want “to be the instrument that God would use to bring Nineveh to repentance, because such a action would make Jonah look like a traitor to his own people. The rabbis held a similar position. According to M. Avrum Ehrlich, many rabbis concluded that “their actions (Nineveh’s repentance) would show the Hebrews to be stiffnecked and stubborn.”  Another Midrash explains that “Jonah… chose to disobey God so as to save his own people.”

So, contrary to modern evangelicalism’s knee jerk insistence that Jonah was a racist, we might instead see Jonah, whose sin was not Racism, as committing a sin of a rationalism that found Jonah lifting his own ratiocination above God’s explicit command. Jonah’s sin was born of two instincts gone wrong,

1.) A wrong headed desire to protect God’s glory that defied God’s explicit command
2.) A desire to protect his own people, born of love now misguided, from being shamed

This great affection of Jonah’s for his people is something that was shared by others in God’s Revelation. Paul could say in Romans 9,

I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness in the holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness, and continual sorrow in mine heart. For I would wish myself to be separate from Christ, for my brethren that are my kinsmen according to the flesh,

 And Moses uttered this same desire, that somehow his death may be the propitiation for his people when he said in Exodus 32:32,  “Therefore now if thou pardon their sin, thy mercy shall appear: but if thou wilt not, I pray thee, raise me out of thy book, which thou hast written.”

So if we are going to fault Jonah, let us fault him for the proper reason. Jonah’s fault was found not in some kind of 21st century version of racism. Jonah’s fault was that he loved his conception of God and God’s glory above the God of the Bible. Jonah was zealous for God’s glory according to his fallen human reason as opposed to being zealous for God’s glory according to God’s command. Secondarily, Jonah’s fault was that he loved his own people, just as Paul and Moses had done, above loving God’s command. Jonah’s sin was the sin of a wrongly directed love. Jonah’s sin was not the sin of a wrongly directed hate. Not wanting to go to Nineveh had to do with Jonah’s falling into the same kind of Rationalism that Adam and Eve fell into when they lifted their reason above God’s command.

In God’s economy the repentance of Nineveh was a delay to the upcoming judgment on Israel by the Assyrians. Jonah should have known the prophecies of Amos (3:11) and Isaiah (7:17) concerning the upcoming Assyrian invasion.

Amos 3:11Therefore thus saith the Lord God, An adversary shall come even round about the country, and shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled.

Isaiah 7:17 The Lord shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy Father’s house (the days that are not come from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah) even the King of Assyria.

Jonah knew that these Ninevehites would repent as a result of this missionary trip (Jonah 4:2).

Jonah 4:2 And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? therefore I prevented it to flee unto Tarshish: for I knew, that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.

Jonah should have been keenly aware that the generation which would invade Israel would be a generation who would have returned to its wickedness (Isaiah 14:25).

Isaiah 14:25  That I will break to pieces Assyria in my land, and upon my mountains will I tread him under foot, so that his yoke shall depart from them, and his burden shall be taken from off their shoulder.

This would mean that the same generation which heard Jonah’s message would not be the generation which would invade Israel, because Israel was not invaded by a righteous nation, but rather by an evil nation. This means that the Assyrian invasion would happen, at its earliest with the succeeding generation. As such God’s grace to Nineveh was God’s grace to the Northern Kingdom as Ninevah’s repentance would therefore buy Jonah and the Northern Kingdom some time and would give his own people, Israel, perhaps another 40 – 100 years (the time of a generation) to repent before God.

Jonah should have trusted to God’s reasoning and not his own fallen reason.

Jonah’s sin was not racism. Jonah’s sin was rationalism. Before we try to out think God we should remember Jonah’s attempt to do so. We should remember that obedience to God’s explicit command is our charge above our thinking that obeying God would lead to bad consequences. We should remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways and that God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.

Ask the Pastor — What of Babel and Pentecost?

Dear Pastor,

I’m confused a bit. I’m hearing some people who call themselves Theonomists saying that the division of languages at Babel was not a curse. So, in light of that I’m wondering if you could help me out on that issue.

“Is the division of language and geographical location in Genesis 11 to be considered a curse? ”

Peter Bryans

Dear Peter,

Thank you for writing to ask.

First, you have to recognize that the Theonomic and Reconstruction movement has changed a great deal in the short time since Rushdoony’s death. What is happening is that Rushdoony and Theonomy is being reinterpreted through a Libertarian grid. The consequence of that is great division in Rushdoony’s legacy of  Theonomic / Reconstruction heritage. For my part, I believe that RJR is being overturned.

As to the question at hand I would say that the confusion of the languages and the scattering of the peoples recorded in Genesis 11 was a curse. Consider the parallels with Eden that one finds in the Babel account. God had given a specific command (fill the earth) just as Adam and Eve were given a specific command (keep the Garden).  In both cases the sin was one of denying God’s requirement of the Creator creature distinction.  In both cases the consequence of sin is alienation between the people in question (Adam contra Eve and The people of Babel contra one another.) In both cases we learn that God investigates the matter and in both cases those who had violated the commandment were “cast out,” and so cursed.

So, if we consider Adam and Eve cursed as a result of their sin then the juxtaposed narrative of Babel suggest that the scattering and confusion of tongues was indeed a curse, temporally considered.

Now at to Pentecost God reinforces the theme of Unity in diversity. Yes, understanding is facilitated by the speaking of tongues but the understanding of the Gospel proclaimed is a understanding of the Gospel that reinforce distinct Nationhood. Many are those who will say that “Pentecost reverses Babel.” I think that inaccurate Peter. I think it more accurate to say that “Pentecost sanctifies Babel,” or alternately “Pentecost takes the sting out of Babel in the context of Christianity.”

I hope that helps Peter.


Ask The Pastor; Where Does Scripture Teach That Signs & Wonders Have Ended?

Note — The name of the conversation partner has been changed to a totally random name I pulled out of a hat. Also, a tip of the hat goes to Joe Bloggs for providing some of the exegetical work. Thanks Joe.


Dear Pastor,

Where can you point out in scripture that these Signs and Wonders gifts – such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, etc. – are no longer given by Holy Spirit?

Bojidar Mavinov

Dear Bojidar

Thank you for writing. Of course the standard Reformed position held from the Reformation forwards is called “Cessationism.” Cessationism teaches that the Charismatic gifts have ceased and that the no further special Revelation is to be expected

Before we turn to the question proper let us make a few opening observations about Pentecostalism with its desire to look for further Revelation (commonly referred to as continuation-ism).

1.) What happens in continuation-ism is that the authority of Scripture is diluted. When you raise signs and wonders (SAW) to a level of authority alongside Scripture the sum effect is to lower and dilute the authority of Scripture. Now instead of looking to Scripture for God’s mind and instruction people also look beyond and outside of God’s word to “dreams and visions” and “words of knowledge,” or a “word from the Lord.”  Hence, God’s inscripturated word is diluted. This desire for additional special revelation is seen in what you have recently written,

<blockquote>”I will have to pray and wait for a supernatural revelation, for relying on my mind to use such a tremendous resource (of God’s supernatural power) would be the stupidest thing I could do as a Christian.”</blockquote>

<blockquote>”All knowledge comes through revelation, and therefore the application of the Word to present use will need supernatural revelation.”

“All knowledge comes through revelation, and therefore the application of the Word to present use will need supernatural revelation.”

“Since the Bible contains the canonical covenantal principles, but not the specific application for present use for every man in every circumstance, revelation is needed.”</blockquote>

This insisting on continued revelation on your part takes us off of God’s inscripturated word, and throws us back on intuition and mysticism masquerading as “revelation,” Human mysticism and intuition become authorities alongside Scripture.

2.) In keeping with that when one raises SAW to equal authority of Scripture one has, in essence, denied Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone). It is no longer Scripture alone that is the authority but rather it is Scripture plus signs and wonders. Of course this is to deny the very heart of the Reformation and to proclaim that one is no longer “Reformed.”

3.) Speaking of the denial of the Reformed faith, Pentecostalism, with its desire for signs and wonders (SAW) is by definition Arminian since the Reformed faith, by definition, rejects continuation-ism. Lesser theologies and their adherents (Arminianism and Arminians) which support SAW are, in principle, denying the finished work for Christ. This is so because signs and wonders, as God’s Revelation, always served the purpose in Scripture of validating and confirming Christ’s redemptive work. As such when signs and wonders are pursued independent of their attachment, in Scripture to Christ’s finished work, what is being communicated is a dissatisfaction with the finished work of Christ in favor or a theology of glory.  Arminianism is the only school of thought which can permit ongoing revelation because Arminianism has a limited view of God’s sovereignty, in that if God was sovereign then He would not need extra-Biblical methods of revealing the salvific works of Christ once the full relevation of His
atoning works were made manifest and inscripturated.

4.) Pentecostalism has an unfortunate tendency of denying the Reformed principle of “the priesthood of all believers” creating instead a two tiered Christianity, where the front tier is occupied by the “second blessing Christians” while the second tier is occupied by those poor questionable folks who just are not real Spirit-filled Christians because they don’t do glossolalia.

5.) Pentecostalism finally reduces to a mystical subjectivism.  Without the objective word anything and everything become potential for SAW. With the advent of the “Toronto Blessing,” the “Brownsville Revival” and “The Kansas City Prophets” we have seen SAW including “Laughing in the Spirit,” “Hitting in the Spirit,” “Kicking in the Spirit,” “Mooing in the Spirit,” and, my favorite, “Crowing like a Rooster in the Spirit.” All of these have been advocated as SAW. Now, Bojidar, it may be the case that you would find those antics to be silly but since there is absolutely zero standard in order to regulate SAW anything can be said to be a SAW from God. Once Pentecostals like you advocate for SAW then only the subjectivism of any given Pentecostal limits the SAW.

6.) We would add here the fact that those who have been duly called, set apart, and ordained to expound the Scriptures (as opposed to every believers duty and understand them in a common-sense manner), have stated that the miraculous ceased with the inscripturation of Scripture; such exegetes include Augustine, Luther, Calvin, the Westminster theologians, Owen, Voetius, Chas. & A.A. Hodge, Edwards, Godet, Shedd, Warfield, Kuyper, Hughes, and Lee.

Now turning to the question we started with let us explore the Scripture on the subject of why revelation has ceased.

1.)  Hebrews 1:1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

God has spoken His completed message in Christ. The incarnation of the Lord Christ is the final revelation of the Father and as such further signs and wonders are to be considered “anti-Revelation.”

There are no further special revelational messages because nothing else is to be said. With the Scriptures God’s speaking in verbal propositional form has ceased. To allow for further special Revelation is to teach that Christ was NOT God’s final Revelational Word. Your insistence on more special revelation Bojidar communicates a dissatisfaction with Christ as God’s final word.

2.)  “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” – Hebrews 2:1-4

 In this passage we see that those ‘signs and wonders’ were a thing of the past. Therefore, even by the time of the donation of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the sign gifts had ceased.  To understand the first few verses of Hebrews 2, you must understand the Greek verb ‘aorist’ past tense – that is the very point. The aorist tense means that it is done and dust, never to be continued. That is why signs and wonders have ceased; because they were ‘bearing’ witness to the start of the Lord’s preaching of the Gospel. The word translated ‘bearing’ is key in this passage to understanding the use of signs and wonders. The author of Hebrews is saying that they have served their purpose and are not to be repeated. Why? Because now the full revelation of Christ has been given (cf. Hebrews 1 in #1 above).

3.) “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” – 1 Corinthians 13:8-10

Consider that Scripture here teaches that SAW and tongues would come to an end. The foretelling (prophesy) comes to an end. The tongues (glossolalia) comes to an end, the knowledge (“word from the Lord, ” “word of wisdom,” “word of knowledge”) comes to an end.

 I know Bojidar that you and the Pentecostals will say that that which is ‘perfect’ has not yet come and so I am misinterpreting the passage. Of course that is just an assertion on your part and against the clear teaching of Scripture, (i.e., Hebrews and Revelation, and Daniel), that that which is ‘perfect’ is in fact Scripture itself as it is the full and clear revelation of Jesus Christ.  I would add here that the duly called exegetes who rightly divided God’s Word, have taught that the ‘perfect’ in I Corinthians 13 refers to the Scripture as to that which is the “perfect which is to come.” This list includes men like, Edwards, Dabney, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, Pink, Reymond, Unger, Du Toit, Gaffin, Judisch, and Budgen. Really, the Pentecostal reading is the innovative and novel reading.

4.) Daniel 9:24f — Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thine holy city, to finish the wickedness, and to seal up the sins, and to reconcile the iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

We see here that the ‘vision and prophecy’ was to be sealed up by the time Jerusalem was destroyed. This happened in 70 A.D. Now when we read Daniel 9 in light of I Corinthians 14:4-6 (also written prior to AD 70) we see that because Paul makes ‘tongues’ a subset of ‘prophecy,’ that tongues have ceased with the fall of Jerusalem.

“He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?” – 1 Corinthians 14:4-6

So, if tongues is a lesser subset of prophesy, per the inspired Apostle, and if prophesying has been sealed in 70 AD per Daniel then if what Daniel is speaking of has come to pass then prophesying and SAW is sealed up and is no more.

5.) Acts 2:16 But this is that, which was spoken by the Prophet Joel,

Note that Peter says that the signs and wonders (SAW) happening on Pentecost is the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. There is no indication in anything that Peter says that this unique event is to continue. To expect a continued pouring out of the Spirit on new believers such as what we find on the day of Pentecost would be like expecting repeated crucifixions and resurrections of Christ for each new believer. All are unique one time events that satisfy the expectations of Redemptive History.

Of course this does not deny that the believers are filled with the Spirit for as Paul teaches in I Corinthians 12

13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews, or Grecians, whether we be bond, or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

So, even though new believers do not receive a repeated 1st century Pentecost they always receive Christ by a spirit authored and spirit filled union with Christ. All believers are filled with the Spirit and do no wait for a subsequent filling of the Spirit after being united to Christ.

6.) Acts 2: 22  Ye men of Israel, hear these words, JESUS of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you with great works, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:

Note here Bojidar, that once again, as in Hebrews 2, that the SAW are uniquely connected with the ministry of the Lord Christ. SAW were God’s approval on the ministry of Christ. Note also the aorist verbs here demonstrating that all this is past. Christ was approved by God via SAW.

7.) Proverbs 30:6 Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.

SAW and tongues and prophesy add to God’s words. Now, typically Pentecostals, like yourself Bojidar, will insist that they are not adding to God’s word and that anything that is arrived at via SAW and tongues and prophesy must be 100% consistent with the inscripturated word. 

However, if SAW doesn’t say anything different than what Scripture says and is in full agreement w/ Scritpure than SAW and tongues and foretelling (prophesy) are not needed since we already have that which they are 100% consistent with. If God has spoken in such a way that anything other that is said, via extra scriptural Revelation, has to agree with what God has said then SAW is a redundancy and so not needed.

SAW would, at the very least then, be superfluous.

Anticipating and Answering and Objection

One of my old Pentecostal bible study notes comments on Acts 2:39 by saying that Peter explicitly promises what happened to the Apostles to occur over and over again. It offers, 

39 For the promise is made unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

<blockquote>“The promise of the baptism in the Holy Spirit was not just for those present on the day of Pentecost, but for all who would believe in Christ throughout this age: “for you” – Peter’s audience; “your children” – the next generation; “for all who are far off” – the third and subsequent generations. (1) The baptism in the Spirit with its accompanying power was not a once-for-all occurrence in the church’s history. It did not cease with Pentecost, nor with the close of the apostolic age. (2) It is the birthright of every Christian to seek, expect and experience the same baptism in the Spirit that was promised and given to the NT Christians.”</blockquote>

These notes are in error. Joel’s prophecy cited by Peter, is in fact given in Acts 2:17-21. However, by verse 39,  Peter has moved on from talking about Joel’s prophecy. From there Peter has discussed Jesus and David. After that Peter finishes a section of what and the people had then responded by crying out: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”. Peter then responds and says: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” And then Peter, following on from that statement says: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

The promise Peter says is for them and their children, and to all that are afar off is not the promise of what Joel prophesied clear back in vs. 17-21, pertaining to the sign gifts, but rather the promise that Peter speaks of is remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost Himself. He does not state anywhere in this passage that ‘signs and wonders’ were the continuing gift of the Holy Spirit on all new believers.  The idea that Peter in Acts 2:39 is referring to SAW is an assertion you and your fellow Pentecostals make, but it is not in the text. The Holy Ghost Himself in greater measure than in the Older Testament was the ‘gift’ spoken off by Peter, and part of the ‘promise’ – the other part of the promise was the remission of sins.

So Bojidar, I hope that this helps you see where from Scripture we conclude that SAW and continuation-ism is not biblical.

Neo-Orthodox Scholar Affirms that the Scripture’s Authors were Creationists

James Barr, a neo-orthodox scholar who did not necessarily accept what the Scriptures taught, wrote to David C.C. Watson in 1984,

‘… probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that:

a. creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience

b. the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story

c. Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark.’

Barr seemed certain that what the Scriptures taught, taking them upon their own testimony, was a literal 6-day creation.

James Barr, Oriel Professor of the interpretation of the Holy Scripture, Oxford University, England, in a letter to David C.C. Watson, 23 April 1984. Barr, consistent with his neo-orthodox views, does not believe Genesis, but he understood what the Hebrew so clearly taught. It was only the perceived need to harmonise with the alleged age of the earth which led people to think anything different—it was nothing to do with the text itself.