12th December 2016

Source Criticism What Is It

“What is source criticism?”Source criticism is a specialized field of biblical studies that seeks to determine the sources used to develop the final form of the biblical text. The source critic reads the book of Genesis, for example, and asks, “Where did the author get this information? What written documents and/or oral traditions contributed to the stories recorded here?” Source criticism was used first to analyze secular literature, but in the eighteenth century Jean Astruc began adapting the source critical method for use with particular books of Scripture.Because of source criticism’s development within academic circles, it has often been used without regard to important theological concerns such as the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. Further, some researchers have developed radical theories regarding the development of some portions of Scripture, leading conservative scholars to criticize the use of source criticism in biblical studies.Most notably, source criticism has been used to analyze the Torah, Isaiah, and the Gospels. Regarding the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, some scholars have arranged the contents to fit a theory of four unique sources (labeled J, E, D, and P). In doing so, these source critics deny Mosaic authorship of the Torah in favor of their idea that the books were developed by many writers/editors over many years.Because of the major transitions within the book of Isaiah, the second longest book of the Old Testament, many source critics speak of a “second” (and even “third”) Isaiah. Their belief in more than one author of Isaiah was based primarily on diction and literary structure. However, their theory has been increasingly difficult to support since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Isaiah scrolls found in the caves of Qumran date from as early as the second century B.C. and confirm that Isaiah is a single document, not an amalgamation of multiple authors.The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) have been a major focus of source critics. The Gospels contain varied accounts of similar events, and some accounts do not mention important events. For example, the birth of Jesus is found only in Matthew and Luke, with both Gospels revealing a very different part of the story. What is the best explanation for these differences? What sources were utilized?In the twentieth century, a so-called Q document was popularized to explain similarities within the Gospels. According to this theory, both Matthew and Luke used the content of Mark’s book plus an unknown Q document to compile their accounts. This would explain why Mark did not mention Jesus’ birth—that story was in the Q document, which only Matthew and Luke used. Many source critics consider the Q source as the only “true” account of Jesus’ life and a “lost book” of the Bible. While there were written accounts of Jesus’ life before some of the Gospels were written (see Luke 1:1), there is absolutely no record of a Q document in history. The existence of Q has never been proved, and there is no way to confirm that any of the Synoptic writers culled from a common source. Q is a theory, nothing more.Bible-believing Christians are right to be concerned with the skeptical assumptions of source criticism. However, this type of study can lend some valuable information. For example, Luke clearly states that he used different sources in his Gospel (Luke 1:1-4). No doubt Luke interviewed Mary, the mother of Jesus, and it is very likely that he used the content of Mark as a starting point. Most New Testament scholars agree that Mark was written before the other Gospels. None of this detracts from the inspiration or inerrancy of God’s Word.Ultimately, the Holy Spirit is the source of the biblical text. “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). As the human authors of Scripture wrote, the Spirit led them to include only what was true. All inaccurate sources were rejected. God’s Word “never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).


“What is the JEDP Theory?”In brief, the JEDP theory states that the first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, were not written entirely by Moses, who died in the 1400’s B.C., but also by different authors/compliers after Moses. The theory is based on the fact that different names for God are used in different portions of the Pentateuch, and there are detectable differences in linguistic style. The letters of the JEDP theory stand for the four supposed authors: the author who uses Jehovah for God’s name, the author who uses Elohim for God’s name, the author of Deuteronomy, and the priestly author of Leviticus. The JEDP theory goes on to state that the different portions of the Pentateuch were likely compiled in the 4th Century B.C., possibly by Ezra.So, why are there different names for God in books supposedly written by a single author? For example, Genesis chapter 1 uses the name Elohim while Genesis chapter 2 uses the name YHWH. Patterns like this occur quite frequently in the Pentateuch. The answer is simple. Moses used God’s names to make a point. In Genesis chapter 1, God is Elohim, the mighty Creator God. In Genesis chapter 2, God is Yahweh, the personal God who created and relates to humanity. This does not point to different authors but to a single author using God’s various names to emphasize a point and describe different aspects of His character.Regarding the different styles, should we not expect an author to have a different style when he is writing history (Genesis), writing legal statutes (Exodus, Deuteronomy), and writing intricate details of the sacrificial system (Leviticus)? The JEDP theory takes the explainable differences in the Pentateuch and invents an elaborate theory that has no basis in reality or history. No J, E, D, or P document has ever been discovered. No ancient Jewish or Christian scholar has even hinted that such documents existed.The most powerful argument against the JEDP theory is the Bible itself. Jesus, in Mark 12:26, said, “Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?” Therefore, Jesus says plainly that Moses wrote the account of the burning bush in Exodus 3:1-3. Luke, in Acts 3:22, comments on a passage in Deuteronomy 18:15 and credits Moses as being the author of that passage. Paul, in Romans 10:5, talks about the righteousness Moses describes in Leviticus 18:5. Paul, therefore, testifies that Moses is the author of Leviticus. So, we have Jesus showing that Moses was the author of Exodus, Luke (in Acts) showing that Moses wrote Deuteronomy, and Paul saying that Moses was the author of Leviticus. In order for the JEDP theory to be true, Jesus, Luke, and Paul must all either be liars or be in error in their understanding of the Old Testament. Let us put our faith in Jesus and the human authors of Scripture rather than the ridiculous and baseless JEDP theory (2 Timothy 3:16-17).


“What are the Dead Sea Scrolls and why are they important?”Answer: The first of the Dead Sea Scroll discoveries occurred in 1947 in Qumran, a village situated about twenty miles east of Jerusalem on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. A young Bedouin shepherd, following a goat that had gone astray, tossed a rock into one of the caves along the seacliffs and heard a cracking sound: the rock had hit a ceramic pot containing leather and papyrus scrolls that were later determined to be nearly twenty centuries old. Ten years and many searches later, eleven caves around the Dead Sea were found to contain tens of thousands of scroll fragments dating from the third century B.C. to A.D. 68 and representing an estimated eight hundred separate works.The Dead Sea Scrolls comprise a vast collection of Jewish documents written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and encompassing many subjects and literary styles. They include manuscripts or fragments of every book in the Hebrew Bible except the Book of Esther, all of them created nearly one thousand years earlier than any previously known biblical manuscripts. The scrolls also contain the earliest existing biblical commentary, on the Book of Habakkuk, and many other writings, among them religious works pertaining to Jewish sects of the timeThe legends of what was contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls are far beyond what was actually there. There were no lost books of the Bible or other literature that there was not already other copies of. The vast majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls were simply copies of books of the Old Testament from 250-150 B.C. A copy or portion of nearly every Old Testament book was found in Qumran. There were extra-biblical and apocryphal books found as well, but again, the vast majority of the scrolls were copies of the Hebrew Old Testament. The Dead Sea Scrolls were such an amazing discovery in that the scrolls were in excellent condition and had remained hidden for so long (over 2000 years). The Dead Sea Scrolls can also give us confidence in the reliability of the Old Testament manuscripts since there were minimal differences between the manuscripts that had previously been discovered and those that were found in Qumran. Clearly this is a testament to the way God has preserved His Word down through the centuries, protecting it from extinction and guarding it against significant error.


“What is the Q gospel? Is there any evidence for the gospel of Q?”The gospel of “Q” gets its title from the German word quelle which means “source.” The whole idea of a Q gospel is based on the concept that the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are so similar that they must have copied from each other and/or another source. This other source has been given the name “Q.” The predominant argument for the existence of a Q gospel is essentially this: (1) The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written after A.D. 70 and therefore could not have been written by the Apostle Matthew, John Mark, or Luke the doctor. (2) Since the authors of the Gospels were not firsthand witnesses, they must have used other sources. (3) Since Mark is the shortest Gospel and has the least original material, Mark was written first and Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source. (4) Since there are many similarities in Matthew and Luke which do not occur in Mark, Matthew and Luke must have had another source. (5) This source, Q, was likely a collection of sayings of Jesus, similar to the gospel to Thomas.When considering the possibility of a Q gospel, it is important to remember that no evidence whatsoever has ever been found for the existence of a Q gospel. Not even a single manuscript fragment of Q has ever been found. None of the early church fathers mentioned anything that could have been the Q gospel. Second, there is strong evidence that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written between A.D. 50 and 65, not after A.D. 70. Many of the early church fathers attributed the Gospels to the Apostle Matthew, John Mark, and Luke the doctor. Third, since the Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, they were written by actual eyewitnesses of Jesus and/or close companions of eyewitnesses of Jesus. Therefore, it is natural that we should expect many similarities. If the Gospels record actual words spoken by Jesus, we should expect the eyewitnesses to report Jesus saying the same things.Finally, there is nothing wrong with the idea of the Gospel writers using the other Gospels as sources. Luke states in Luke chapter 1 that he used sources. It is possible that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source. It is possible that there was another source in addition to Mark. The possible use of a “Q” source is not the reason why the Q gospel concept should be rejected. The use of a source which contained the sayings of Jesus does not take away from the inspiration of Scripture. The reason the Q gospel should be rejected is the presupposition of most Q gospel advocates – namely, that the Gospels are not divinely inspired.The vast majority of those who promote the Q gospel concept do not believe the Bible is inspired (God-breathed). The vast majority of proponents of Q do not believe that the Gospels were written by the Apostles and their close associates, or that the Gospels were written within the generation of the Apostles. They do not believe it is possible that two or three authors could use the exact same words without using each others’ writings as sources. Crucially, most Q advocates reject the inspiration of the Holy Spirit helping the Gospel writers to accurately record the words and works of Jesus Christ. Again, the use of a “Q” source is not the problem. The problem is the reason why most Q gospel advocates believe a “Q” was used, namely a denial of the inspiration of Scripture (Matthew 5:1824:35John 10:3516:12, 1317:171 Corinthians 2:132 Timothy 3:15–17; Hebrews 4:122 Peter 1:20, 21).

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