Adventist Criticism of Higher Criticism

What alternative is there if the goal is to gain knowledge? You use “materialistic” as though it has a negative connotation. Substitute “empirical” or “evidentiary”. Like it or not, existence, our existence, earth’s existence, the universe’s existence is material. Of course our knowledge isn’t perfect, yet the scientific method is our only means of gaining knowledge of our reality. The scientific method, recognizing the possibility of error, sets itself the task of self-correction.

When dealing with history, we are dealing with probabilities when human behavior is involved. Greater levels of certainty are possible when examining harder evidence.

I always find it interesting that believers in magical knowledge, when faced with evidence disconfirming their beliefs, never seek to revise that which comes through faith in the claims of others. Rather, the fallback is always to undermine science in all its fields. The argument always seems to revert to “the possible” rather than “the probable”. When multiple scientific disciplines arrive at parallel conclusions, the level of certainty rises considerably.

So when seeking knowledge of deep antiquity, which method is useful for creating a historical paradigm? The disciplines of science? Or reading a story written by unknown persons in the ancient world without validating their source of information?

Is it really? “Ai” means “ruin”. Is it really probable that the inhabitants of that ancient city referred to their home as “Ruin”? Of course not. We don’t know the ancient name of this place which was destroyed in the 2nd millennium BC. Neither did the Biblical writer. They simply knew the place as an old city which was now uninhabited and lying in a heap. The writer(s) obviously, and I use that word intentionally, created a story around this place whose history was completely forgotten. Their name for the place “The Ruin” stuck in that story and became the actual place name in their minds. Remember, we are dealing here with probabilities. The writer(s) never gave any indication as to how they came by their “knowledge”. They just told a story. Speculation? Well, the findings of Tel Ai completely invalidate the story in the Bible, so if we have to identify who is speculating, we should conclude that it was the Bible writer(s) whose speculation has been invalidated. Is it too much of an affront to say that the writer(s) was speculating? He was writing of a time period a millennium prior to his own time. It is entirely improbable that he had access to reliable information, and in any event doesn’t claim to. If these anonymously written tales hadn’t been deemed canonical by a group of, again, anonymous individuals, why would you deem them to be anything more than folklore?

So let’s review again:

We have an anonymously written story set 1000 years before the writer’s time with no appeal to verifiable sources of information.


We have Carbon 14 data
We have the findings of intensive archaeological study stretching over a century
We have cultural/anthropological studies

All three of choice 2 parallel

But we also have intensive studies of the wider Canaanite past showing that there is no evidence of a great conquest of Hebrews grinding down the city states in the region in a massive military action. Rather, the evidence points to a gradual migration of Hebrews from the coastal regions up into the hill country of Judea. No conquest. Just a movement of farmers and goat herders into a hardscrabble region, sharing the chief god of the Canaanite pantheon (El) with their neighbors.

Did I miss something? I thought Solomon was supposed to have ruled over a vast empire as a very significant potentate. Although none of the evidence backs up this story. But as to the accounts of El or Yahweh punishing the misdeeds of the people or the kings, which is more probable:

That the writer actually knew what invisible forces caused periods of prosperity and then devestation?

That the writer was trying to write a morality tale to convince the readers/hearers that THEY must obey a now conflated El/Yahweh by following the dictates of his priesthood and appointed rulers? You better fall in line or you will end up like those disobedient people of old.

Is this your way of defending the Biblical picture of Yahweh ordering genocide? This brings up the question, Is something moral because Yahweh orders it? Or does Yahweh order things because they are moral? Choice one would allow all manner of horror and terrorism (similar to Muslim terror on unbelievers) if Yahweh orders it (through a holy man) and it is completely justified and moral. Choice two subjugates Yahweh to an independent morality by which his orders can be evaluated. By any enlightened view of right and wrong, Yahweh as portrayed in the Hexateuch is a moral monster. But if Yahweh’s orders (through a holy man claiming to speak for him) are horrific, it must be morally sanctioned because…well…he is Yahweh.


A mindset is the opposite of proper starting point…unless one’s mindset is to examine evidence and draw conclusions therefrom. But if one comes to the subject with the mindset that evidence must conform to the Book of Joshua, then the project is doomed from the start. That is starting with a conclusion, that the Book of Joshua is a narration of actual and accurate history. Non-confirming evidence must then be challenged. The various disciplines and methodologies would have to be undermined. In short, anything which calls the prior conclusion into question is false and must be shown to be so.


Yes, OK, OK - but you are on another level - I fully accept ! - with your theological approach.

The environment was a problem - and the serch for wisdom. The Job displays himself as a righteuous man before Godand hisethical - social ideals in chapter 31 - applable also for em in my environment - daily ! And in chapter 33 : 14 ff you have the clinical description - the oldest I know of - of a maior deoression - - -

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There is a huge difference between filling in the gaps between known events; extrapolating likely connections, and on the other hand doing as the ancients did, filling in THE gap prior to known events and creating a mythical past. See Rome: Romulus and Remus and the founding of the city. Britain: King Arthur. Israel: The exodus and conquest of the land. China: Lady Yuan being impregnated after stepping into the footprint of the king of heaven.

In the first paradigm, the gaps are anchored between known events of history.
In the second paradigm, prior to known history, a mythology is presented to fill in the gap of the unknown.


Your mistake is to believe that the Bible is not history in spite of the fact that many pages give a chronology. The style of Scripture has nothing mythological. Even when there are fantastic beasts like in the books of Daniel and Revelation, the authors took care of saying that they were visions (even God said that He would speak to the prophets through dreams and visions). When you compare with the story of Odysseus, for example, Homer didn’t say the monsters his hero saw were visions. The stories are said as if Odysseus had real accounters with them.

You seem to ignore (or maybe you chose to ignore) that there is still a debate as for the real location of Ai. Some archaeologists have affirmed that they have found another site that corresponds better to the biblical description of the location. So to say that the findings of Tel Ai completely invalidate the Bible is more wishful thinking that anything else.

Speaking of mindset, the attitude of a certain number of proponents of the HC method shows why it is not appropriate. In their minds, if there is no external evidence for a particular biblical subject it means that this subject is mythical… in spite of the fact that the Bible was written to serve as a witness. When we read Scripture, we can see that God was eager to preserve the witness of what occurred so that the following generations of the children of Israel may know about God and about what He did for their fathers.

While it can be understood why researchers from the world would not take the Bible at face value their presuppositions and their materialistic worldview create barriers that prevent them to properly investigate the Word of God.

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Where else would we encounter talking snakes if not mythology?


My mistake? I don’t believe I ever said that the various writings never had any convergence with history. In fact I’m quite certain that I said that that convergence gets more accurate the closer the events narrated get to the writer’s time. But having accuracy in some accounts in no way gives credibility to historical claims from long before the writer’s time period.

Before blindly accepting all the stories as straightforward accurate history, you should ask yourself, "Where did the writer(s) get their information? This is a question which goes to the heart of the issue. When the writer recites conversations purportedly happening many centuries prior, it might be interesting to know the source. The writers never tell us. Who was there writing down private conversations? Even private thoughts and motives are narrated as though they could be known. In fiction literature, this is known as the omniscient author. He can somehow know the unknowable. When one of the writers gives a word for word account of Yahweh’s conversation with some individual, we don’t have that individual’s claim for the occurrence. No, we have the writing of an unknown person who doesn’t tell us his source. Then we have unknown persons compiling these various writings and excluding others. What were their criteria? Who were they? Why should their decisions be determinative? At best we have hearsay and imagination presented as fact. When we hear a narration of the Red Sea parting so that millions of people could cross through on dry land, (no, certainly nothing like mythology or Homer presenting fantastic stories as though they were real) we might ask for some backup. The problem with stories written long before the author’s time without sourcing is twofold when one wishes to examine the purported facts:

  1. Evidence to the contrary exists in many of the primitive stories.
  2. Evidence which should be there if the accounts were accurate is absent.

Where else would you encounter someone walking on water, changing water into wine, making the blind to see and the lame to walk, even resurrecting the dead?

You are making the mistake of judging Scripture by your everyday experience. But how can you evaluate someone who said that his kingdom was not of this world?

This shows the limits of investigations informed by our human limited knowledge and experience.

Going back to the talking snake, Scripture doesn’t give us a lot of details about it. It could have been a real talking snake or it could have been a trick from the devil who is, after all, called “that old serpent” in Revelation 12:9. We simply don’t know.

Now, can we simply say that the story is just mythological just because talking snakes are not parts of our daily experience? We could (though we would have no proof that the story is just a myth) but we could be mistaken as one of the purposes of Scripture is precisely to tell us things that most people didn’t know anything about. After all, who in the human race was present when God created the world? Even Adam and Eve didn’t witness the creation as they came last.

Let’s not take our human experience to be the final judge about something that may be beyond our comprehension. At least, let’s be cautious and keep our minds open. We might learn something.

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Give us some examples.


As if evidence would just stick around to satisfy our curiosity.

Evidence can be lost or destroyed.

Evidence can be scarce, hidden, not yet found.

Or evidence can simply be not existant.

This is why history and archaeology are difficult disciplines. You find what you can (if you are lucky) not what you want.

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You’re actually arguing for a creation account that says that there were three twenty four hour days before there was ever a sun in the sky, or that the firmament/raqia’s function was to separate the waters of chaos above from the waters below, as being a literal scientific and historical account in the way we engage in such today. And before you argue that God was the light before the sun, the text doesn’t say that. You would be reading that into it.

Either way, unless one realizes the cultural matrix within which Genesis 1 was written, and the intention behind the text within that matrix, understanding and interpretation will be botched and distorted, being refracted through a modern lens. This is the fundamentalist/literalist error. In trumpeting a literal reading of the text, it destroys the distance of the text and its world from our own. It actually doesn’t take the text seriously enough on its own terms.

HCM actually seeks to do just that. Even if one doesn’t buy all its presuppositions, it looks to take the text seriously in its own world, before applying it to ours.



Joshua 10:12–14

English Standard Version

12 At that time Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,

z“Sun, stand still at Gibeon,

and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”

13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,

until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.

Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. 14 aThere has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for bthe Lord fought for Israel.

This is in relation to the MYTHICAL conquest stories we have discussed. The ancients had a primitive, unscientific, and completely false cosmology, one which the writer of Joshua accepted as true. So he had no difficulty claiming that the sun which obviously normally moved across the sky could be stopped. This from someone who didn’t know where the sun went at night. He had no concept of the earth spinning on its axis or of the catastrophic consequences of suddenly stopping its movement from 1000 miles per hour to 0. He could simply add such an event to his tale and who could argue with him? However, I believe there is pretty good evidence that this didn’t and couldn’t happen. Imagine the carnage which would have occurred if such a ridiculous event had taken place. But I would point out that if such a preposterous item was included in a recitation of a “historical” account, the entire account has been poisoned. It is impossible to separate real history in this narrative from the fanciful. If something like this can be presented as fact, nothing can be trusted. Ai was destroyed 1000 years before the purported date. Sure, a few have challenged the identity of the site, but that has gained no traction from the archaeological community. Similarly, Jericho had been destroyed 150-200 years prior to the purported date; all the evidence confirms it.


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A day represents a complete rotation of the earth. This rotation doesn’t depend on the presence or not of the sun. So, yes, there were already normal days at creation.

As for light, Genesis just says that God created light. That’s it. The source could be anything even a flashlight for what I care. The text doesn’t give us more details. So I don’t speculate.

Concerning the firmament, yes, Genesis 1 tells us that there was water above and water below. And Genesis 7 tells us that the waters of the Flood came from the fountains of the deep and from the windows of heaven. The Bible is consistent.

Oftentimes, this “cultural matrix” is just an excuse to dismiss the real meaning of what is being said, that is, one uses the context to dismiss the content.

This is the problem with those who think of themselves as non fundamentalists.

So, in the case of Genesis 1, in spite of the fact that the author said that there was an evening and a morning and that it was the first day, then an evening and a morning and that it was the second day, etc, we decide that these days were not real days. In spite of the fact that God said in Exodus 20 that He created the world in six days.

In fact, it is oftentimes us, using a modern worldview, who distort the meaning of the texts and betray its intention.

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Not dependent on the sun?? The account says evening and morning for those first three days, as it does for the next three. There is no such thing without rotations in relation to the sun. You are already doing interpretive gymnastics in your first few sentences to rescue a modern literal reading of the text. It makes zero sense.

Knowing the cultural world of the writer and audience is to get to the real meaning of the text in its time. Just the opposite of what you are saying. Without that, we twist its meaning for ours. The writer of Genesis wasn’t giving a scientific or strictly historical account of origins in the way we understand or practice today. It was understood according to their own cosmology, and their own narrative purposes, which is nothing like what Hubbel, etc., has revealed, or the way we do history.

One can believe that God is creator without collapsing such differences, and without demonizing what science keeps discovering.

Fundamentalism can’t and won’t.



One uses the context to dismiss the content?? Lol!
One can’t rightly understand content without context.

I read a letter to a class from a man to a woman describing the problems with days of cloud cover and weather impeding progress of an outdoor operation. To a person, they all thought that it was a soldier writing to his wife in war time. When I told them at the end that it was Claude Monet writing to his wife about his inability to paint Big Ben and the House of Parliament outdoors because of weather conditions, that totally changed their view of the letter’s content.

Context, who was writing, when, where, and why, changes what we think content means. That’s not even to mention genre…a transcript of a weather report and a personal letter can also attach entirely different meanings to the description of weather, just by their formats and purposes.

C’mon now! Listen to yourself!



Let’s talk about absence of evidence for a moment. Yes, we can agree that we can’t find everything we are looking for. However, when evidence which should be there and can be expected to be there is lacking, there is a problem which is stronger than any literary tale to the contrary; anything can be written without being true (fiction/myth/legend).

If I claim that there is an elephant in my 10X10 shed in the backyard, there is evidence which can and should be expected. You would look for stacks of hay for feed. You would listen for trumpeting. You would look for a pile of excrement. You would sniff for animal smells. You would ask neighbors if they had seen any evidence of an elephant in my shed. You might peek through a hole in the wall, and seeing no elephant ask me about it. Of course I might claim that the beast is hiding in a corner. Bottom line; the absence of evidence where some would be expected is enough for you to conclude that my claim was simply a tall tale…no elephant in the shed. Or maybe it is a magic, invisible elephant…

Now, for the sake of argument, let’s take the claim of the exodus at face value. If we accept the numbers in Numbers, there would have been some two million people marching through the Red Sea into the Sinai peninsula. That is more than the entire population of Canaan at the time. So let’s just assume the writer was exaggerating and it was only one million. Now the claim is that this vast and concentrated crowd lived there for 40 years.

Where did they get water? There is no evident water supply there. Oh, magic springs provided by Yahweh.

Where did they get food? There is nothing out there to feed this crowd. Oh, magic food provided by Yahweh.

Where did they get clothing? The writer didn’t think of that. Magic cloth?

The desert gets cold in the winter at night. Where did they get firewood? The writer didn’t think of that, but let’s assume magic logs provided by Yahweh.

Shelter is needed. Where did tents or building materials come from? Oh yes, magic shelter.

Now we should expect quite a lot of material to be discovered from this crowd. All over Egypt and Canaan, we can find the scraps of the people who lived there. The same should be left over in the Sinai. Here are just a few:

  1. Where are the trash heaps? Every village and town had their dump sites for broken pottery and other discards. Yet, there is nothing.
  2. Where are the graves? The bones of a million people don’t just disappear.
  3. Where are the animal remains? Those are missing also.
  4. Inscriptions? Nada.
  5. Foundations? Nada. Maybe magic tents leave no trace…
  6. Contemporary written records mentioning this huge crowd out in the desert? Nada
  7. Satellite imagery of large tracts of soil disturbance? Nada
  8. Color changes in the soil showing large areas of habitation? Nada
  9. Ground penetrating radar showing latrine pits? Nada
  10. Fire pits? These are found everywhere on the ancient caravan trails, yet nothing from this crowd.

After more than a century of searching for evidence of the 40 years in the wilderness, nothing has been discovered; its a snipe hunt. It is almost as though this vast multitude of Israelites had never been there for 40 years. Did Yahweh send in an angelic cleaning crew to return the Sinai to its pristine condition?

Let’s deal in probabilities. It is implausible in the extreme that the stories in the Hexateuch are accurate history. It is far more probable that the writers simply told stories about a mythical past. We might call them tall tales or fiction, but we certainly can’t refer to these purported events as historical. Why not recognize the stories for what they are; foundation myths for a people being brought together and unified under a common religion ca 5th-3rd centuries BC. If one wants to find meaning in the stories, go for it. But recognize that the historicity of the stories is highly, highly improbable. Only a prior belief that the stories must be true because they are in the Bible can rescue this in the fundamentalist mind.This mindset places belief positions beyond the possibility of analysis, and/or falsification.

The absence of evidence for my elephant-in-the-shed and the absence of evidence for the exodus-wilderness stories where there should/must be something is enough to dismiss them as implausible. Of course, all the magic inherent in the story doesn’t do much for historical reliability either: Rods turning into serpents, plagues, parting of the sea, whacking a rock to get water, fire from the sky, Yahweh showing his backside to Moses, manna, etc.

Again, you have avoided my question, WHERE DID THE WRITERS GET THEIR INFORMATION?


It does say that, but the earlier creation story of Gen 2 and 3 ** says God created the world in one day!**

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, (Gen 2:4)


You asked for examples. I gave you some in two posts. You went silent. Does that mean you agree or is the water-gun empty?

But in the interest of keeping the conversation going, I’ll offer yet another example. The gospels have very few historical anchors of convergence with known historical events by which they can be tested and verified. One of the few is the purported birth date of Jesus. Matthew places the birth in the time of Herod. Luke places the birth at the time of the census of Quirinius. Both of these have known dates.

Herod died in 4 BC. Setting aside the fictional killing of babies, since Herod died in 4 BC, and the events narrated in the post natal period must push the date back at least 2 years, let’s assume the birth is placed at 6 BC.

The census of Quirinius took place in 6 AD. Setting aside the fictional and inaccurate requirement of traveling to a hometown, the date of the census is secure.

So known dates of 6 BC and 6 AD are historical anchors. There is a 12 + year contradiction. At least one is false. Both could be (and I think both birth narratives were fictional for many reasons), but they cannot both be correct. The historical critical method simply recognizes the dates and the logical impossibility of the same event occurring at both times. From that point on, interpreters using historical/factual information suggest different explanations for the problem. The one possibility that doesn’t and can’t work is the fundamentalist approach that both Matthew and Luke must both be true.

The HCM interpreter might ask questions in light of the above such as:

  1. Were the accounts simply imaginative ways to have Jesus be born in Bethlehem and then live in Nazareth? Literary inventions?
  2. Were the accounts late interpolations following the time of Marcion ca 145 AD? His gospel of Luke didn’t contain the birth stories and probably began at the baptism as Mark did.
  3. How much of the gospels, if any, is actually historical?
  4. If verifiable information is faulty, how should unverifiable material be judged?
  5. Did the gospel writers have access to any reliable histories?
  6. Are the gospels simply literature of an epic/allegorical genre rather than a narration of actual remembered events?
  7. Since the birth narratives are problematic as history, can we look to miraculous birth narratives of other individuals such as Caesar Augustus or of the Greco-Roman savior gods as source parallels?
  8. If the birth narratives appear to have been created out of whole cloth, what other events in the gospel narratives might be of the same kind?
  9. Why are the birth narratives and genealogies between Mathew and Luke incompatible?
  10. Did the absence of birth and genealogical information in Mark inspire the need to create them in the other gospels?

The problem of historical comparison in the gospels is important because wherever there are mentions of information of time and place which are historical, the gospel accounts have serious issues of inaccuracy. This is just one of them. If places where the gospel stories can be checked for verification shows them to be inaccurate or implausible, what are the implications for the fantastic narratives which cannot be verified?

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Thank you again for illustrating the limits of HCM.

Just in this small paragraph there are several problems.

First, you are imposing your materialistic worldview to the text. This worldview clashes with the content of a book which shows that God can do things which are outside our usual experience.

Second, you are practically asserting that only science can validate or invalidate phenomena or events. This is a very restrictive and an assertion that is unproven.

Third, you invalidate the witness of a person without being able to prove that the event didn’t occur in spite of the fact that he said that the said event was recorded in the book of Jasher. The fact that this event is said to be recorded in a book (book also mentioned in the book of Samuel) shows that this event was intended to be considered historical.
Also, it is interesting to notice that the writer, in spite of being an ancient with “a primitive, unscientific, and completely false cosmology”, was totally aware of the unorthodoxy of the event.

So, there is nothing indicating that it is a myth… except your modern man worldview with its restrictive paradigms.

Truth is not just a matter of numbers. The history of science has shown how many times the majority was wrong.

Also, I has already mentioned in some other comments some scientific articles about the carbon 14 method being questioned as some assumptions on which it relies are being challenged.

So, we need to be cautious when throwing dates.

Prove it. So far, everything you’ve presented was rather inconclusive.

It is not that you are automatically wrong but rather there is no way to really validate the claims.

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I don’t know where to go from here. If you think the account of the sun standing still is historical, I am admittedly apoplectic. In your approach, nothing in the bible can possibly be invalidated. Snakes talk. So do donkeys. Seas can part. The sun can be stopped in the sky. Historical analysis is simply incompatible with this kind of delusion.


No, the book doesn’t show that God (El) can do things which violate all physical laws. Rather it makes CLAIMS. That is a subtle difference. You don’t know who wrote it down, where he got his information, or who collected it into an anthology and deemed it to be infallible. Certainly the author doesn’t offer any of that information.

Anything, ANYTHING can be written down. I read that Abraham Lincoln was a time traveler from the 25th century. I know it sounds silly, but it was written by an anonymous person and collected into an anthology claiming other non-credible events. Do you believe it? It was written down…

Simple question: What year was Jesus born? 6 BC or 6 AD? This isn’t even a dreaded scientific issue as you like to put it in denigrating a “worldview”. This is simple math with a 12 year discrepancy. Choose Matthew or Luke. At least one of them was wrong.

Still haven’t figured out when Jesus was born? It really is a simple question…but it will require recognizing that one or both gospel writers was in error.

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