oconal.id.au home reading list

42 minute read

Amos – Introduction

11 Feb 2019


Amos – Introduction

Last week I was in Sydney for work, so I was not able to finish writing and publish my post. I don’t think anyone was waiting with baited breath so I doubt I’ve disappointed anyone, but if there is someone out there who was waiting for it, I’m sorry you had to wait.

After reading various introductions to Amos, I decided I wanted to learn a bit more about biblical criticism, so I’ve read through a couple of books on the topic and have summarised what I learnt with a particular focus on how biblical criticism applies to the Old Testament prophets.

I. Biblical Criticism

One of the books I read was an e-book called Understanding Biblical Criticism credited to F.F. Bruce and based on a range of Bruce’s articles.

[Understanding Biblical Criticism’s] theme is simply that both textual criticism and the various forms of higher criticism are proper branches of Bible study even though the idea of biblical criticism often stirs up suspicion or even hostility. Such negative reaction occurs, first, because the word “criticism” can imply fault-finding and, second, because some prominent biblical critics come to their study with skepticism of the historical value of the Bible.1

“It is important,” continues Professor Bruce, “for the study of the biblical books to know something about” the original text, the structure of the various books, the date at which they were written, the authors by whom they were written, and so forth—all the realm of Biblical criticism.2

Some scholars approach the biblical text with the assumption that miracles cannot happen, that it is not possible for prophets to have received details about the future from God. Perhaps the mistrust of biblical criticism that is sometimes seen in Christians is because they conflate these two things. Some scholars who operate in the realm of biblical criticism do not accept the possibility of the supernatural and so their conclusions are, at times, opposed to what Christians believe; they do not draw these conclusions because of biblical criticism alone but because of their initial assumptions or bias in combination with their studies. Naturally, Christians disagree with those who say miracles do not occur, that God does not intervene in his creation. It is not an issue with biblical criticism itself but with the worldview of the scholar. There are scholars (such as F. F. Bruce) who are decidedly evangelical and whose work in biblical criticism can enlighten and encourage the church.

The problem was not the field of “biblical criticism” or its methods per se; it was the presuppositions with which many biblical critics engaged their task. For example, those who start from a perspective that miracles do not happen are bound to conclude that any accounts of miracles in the Bible are either myths or inventions of the early church. On the other hand, scholars who do not believe we live in a closed system and are open to the miraculous will think that stories of Jesus healing the sick and feeding the multitudes must be taken seriously and may in fact have happened. Likewise, a scholar who is predisposed against predictive prophecy is likely to reason that such prophecies must have been uttered after an event not before it. On the other hand, a scholar who is open to prediction as an aspect to prophecy may date an oracle prior to the event itself. Put another way, belief or unbelief will determine the result. So, in matters of biblical criticism one’s starting point will determine where one ends up.3

I am not going to defend the use of biblical criticism any more than this (read F. F. Bruce’s book for yourself for an excellent argument in favour of it), but since it will likely feature to some degree in this series on Amos and in future series on OT prophets, I have decided to attempt a brief overview of the methods of studying the bible known as “biblical criticism”.

What do you think when you hear the word “criticism”? I think of putting something down, of finding and exposing its faults. But in academic usage, “criticism” doesn’t mean finding the faults in something, but assessing the merits and flaws in various arguments (e.g., which text is more faithful to the original). The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary says that:

The word “criticism” comes from the Greek verb krinein, which means to distinguish, decide, or judge. Biblical criticism therefore is the practice of analyzing and making discriminating judgments about the literature of the Bible—its origin, transmission, and interpretation. In this context, “criticism” has no negative connotation but, as in other fields, is designed to promote discriminating analysis and understanding.4

New Testament criticism has been around since at least Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–c. 215 AD), whose “story that John’s gospel provided a ‘spiritual’ complement to the ‘bodily’ Synoptic Gospels gives us a glimpse of the process of criticism that led to the acceptance of a fourfold gospel canon.”5

I.A. Textual Criticism

The original texts of the books of the Bible are sometimes called autographs (though as Bruce points out, “this term can be used properly only where the author actually wrote his own work”6.) We don’t have the biblical autographs, the original texts. What we have are fragments of varying lengths from varying times. A lot of work has been done to put together our English translations and, before any translation work can be done, we need to try to work out the original text. This is done by critically comparing the surviving copies and is known as textual criticism.

F. F. Bruce gives two amusing examples of printer’s errors that can be identified through textual criticism:

Even printed editions of the Bible have suffered at times from some very odd misprints. There was, for example, the “Wicked Bible” of 1632—an edition of the King James Version—which was so called because the vital word “not” was omitted from the seventh commandment. For this inadvertence Archbishop Laud fined the printers £300. Another edition of the King James Version exhibits the most appropriate misprint in the Book of Psalms: “Printers have persecuted me without cause”!7

I thought textual criticism would be a dry subject that I’d research a little and then discard, but it turns out to involve a wide range of interesting aspects not least of which are examples of where textual criticism (as well as more manuscripts being discovered) has given us slight changes in English versions. One example of this comes from 1 John 3:1 (the bold text shows the added text, the […] shows where it would have been in the KJV):

It doesn’t change the meaning, but it adds a nice emphasis. There are (I am sure) many other examples, but I’ll leave it here and move on.

I.B. Source Criticism

Built on the foundation of textual criticism, source criticism is a “method of biblical study which analyzes texts that are not the work of a single author but result from the combination of originally separate documents” 8. Source criticism has at times been known as literary criticism and higher criticism (with textual criticism being known as lower criticism).

In turn, “higher criticism” is built on the foundation laid by textual criticism. This made sense since you can say little about anything else until you determine what the text itself says. The higher criticisms were concerned with questions of composition, authorship, sources used by the writers, and forms that stories took on in the period prior to their being written down in texts now available to us. While Bruce was primarily a New Testament scholar, many of these essays have to do with the kinds of questions that occupied the attention of Old Testament specialists.9

In Old Testament scholarship until recently, literary criticism meant noticing such things as inconsistency, incoherence, and differences of style, in order to separate the stages in a book’s composition, and find its original form. This method of studying biblical books was at the forefront of scholarship in the modern period, that is, from the late nineteenth century on. In Pentateuchal studies, Julius Wellhausen formulated the well-known four-document theory (JEDP).10

The problems with literary criticism are, first, that it made certain assumptions about the forms of “authentic” prophecy, which may not hold true, and second that it devalues much of what we find in the prophetic books.11

Modern literary conventions forbid plagiarism, and require authors to identify and acknowledge any material they have borrowed from another writer. But in ancient times it was common to “write” a book by transcribing existing material, adapting and adding to it from other documents as required, and not indicating which parts were original and which borrowed.12

A good description of source criticism comes from Social & Historical Approaches ot the Bible in the Lexham Method series:

The dean’s office of any university will tell you that plagiarism is a problem on campus. Plagiarism has always been a temptation for students, but the internet has made finding and copying sources possible with the click of a mouse. When a professor grades a cut-and-pasted paper, she can often easily recognize the presence of different sources. The first clue that the material is not original to the student is usually that it outsmarts the student; that is, the professor knows that Student X does not have the mastery of language and material evident in the paper. Other clues are the “seams” between stolen sources; when certain paragraphs differ significantly from others in style and syntax, they most likely came from another source (probably the student). The same internet at the disposal of the student is at the disposal of the professor, who—through a Google search of phrases and clauses—can often determine what sources the student used to put together the paper. The student may have failed, but the professor has successfully carried out a modern version of source criticism.13

Examples of source-critical issues are the notion of multiple Isaiahs (“As for the book of Isaiah, most critical scholarship assumes two or three sources, though some evangelical critical scholars continue to advocate for a single author. For the most part, Isaiah studies have moved past the source-critical debate.”14), the documentary hypothesis (briefly addressed below under “My Thoughts”), and the theory of a hypothetical document containing the sayings of Jesus known as Q which is suggested as having been used in addition to Mark by Matthew and Luke.

I.C. Redaction Criticism

Redaction criticism takes up where source criticism leaves off; it builds on the results of source criticism. Once the sources have been identified, redaction critics study “the editing process, whereby the sources have been linked together and incorporated into the present, finished text”15). Another way to put it is that the source critic dismantles the text into distinct pieces while the redaction critic puts these pieces back together into a whole.16

Redaction criticism is the prevailing type of criticism in modern scholarly writing on the prophets. It is different from literary and form criticism because it is interested in principle in the formation of the books up to their final form. It recognizes that the words of prophets have been recast into new contexts, and so given new meanings. And it assumes that these new contexts and meanings are as important and interesting as any original ones. Redaction criticism has two aspects, therefore: the study of the stages of a book’s growth, and the study of the finished work itself, with all the inner relationships between its parts that have been produced by the process.17

One of the constants of the academic world is that there are always dissenting opinions and redaction criticism is not without its detractors. John Van Seters questioned some of the assumptions of redaction criticism:

Van Seters contends that the very notion of editors and editions, redactors and redaction, developed only in the print and book culture that grew out of the Renaissance. As a result, he regards the application of these terms and the modern ideas they thus import into the biblical world as grossly anachronistic. Van Seters insists biblical writers must be treated solely as authors and not as redactors. As authors, these writers may have drawn on earlier materials, but they did so in such a way that those materials are entirely subverted to the purposes of the new work. Thus, Van Seters would argue that the Yahwist is no more an editor or redactor than is Homer or Herodotus—authors surely—who nevertheless draw on earlier source material.18

I.D. Form Criticism

Form criticism is a study of forms of speech as used in specific settings. It was applied with great success to the Psalms, where a setting could be readily identified (Israel’s worship), and where a number of recurring elements suggested that Psalms could be classified into a small number of types.19

An approach that classifies biblical texts by formal features such as genre and connects them with an original social setting. Assumes biblical material may have developed from oral sources.20

Initially, form criticism focused on two key concepts:

Contemporary form critics (such as George Coats and Marvin Sweeney) purportedly take a more literary approach, focusing more on the study of genre than social context.23 24

There are other branches of criticism that I haven’t addressed here. Two that I’m aware of are tradition-historical criticism and social-scientific criticism, and I’m sure there are others. I had to draw the line somewhere and, based on what I have read in the introductions to various commentaries on Amos, the methods of criticism I discussed above are the most likely to come up in this series. Naturally, I reserve the right to be completely wrong about this.

I.E. My Thoughts

During my brief stint at the Bible College of South Australia, I came into contact with what is known as the Documentary Hypothesis, a product of source and redaction criticism where four sources are identified in the Pentateuch or Torah:

After an initial shock, I wasn’t too bothered by the idea that the first five books of the Bible were edited, compiled or augmented by someone other than Moses25 (even someone many years later) but by the conclusion that was drawn, that it “[showed] a progression in Israel’s theology from animism, to henotheism, and finally to monotheism”26). The Documentary Hypothesis was initially suggested by Julius Wellhausen (or at least popularised) in his book Prolegomena to the History of Israel.

Wellhausen proposed the following dates for the four sources:

Drawing heavily from the work of his predecessors, Wellhausen’s primary thesis is that the Mosaic law (i.e., the formation of the covenant community at Mount Sinai) was not the starting point of Israel’s history, but rather a later fabrication that served as the starting point of Judaism, the religious community that emerged out of the exile.27

I don’t see how a Christian can accept Wellhausen’s conclusions that the Mosaic law was “a later fabrication” and, as “it remains the main theory regarding the composition of the Pentateuch” I can see why some are not easily able to see the value of biblical criticism. The Documentary Hypothesis has undergone many adjustments since Wellhausen:

Wellhausen’s paradigm for understanding ancient Israel continues to be widely influential even where his specific conclusions are rejected, and with his breakthrough in Pentateuchal source criticism the modern era of OT study begins.28

However, there is no real consensus about the Documentary Hypothesis in modern scholarship; even among those who hold to the viewpoint, there is a great variation in how the theoretical sources are understood, divided, and how many sources there are.

Current opinions on the composition of the Pentateuch vary widely, from affirming traditional Mosaic authorship to complex theories involving multiple sources being woven together over centuries of textual transmission. Nonetheless, J, E, D, and P are still often used as convenient labels for identifying different types of content in the Pentateuch, apart from questions of sources or authorship.29

It is apparent that, while various forms of Wellhausen’s Documentary Hypothesis continue to be held by many (perhaps most) scholars, accepting the conclusion that various sources were used in the composition of the Pentateuch does not necessarily mean one must adopt Wellhausen’s other conclusions. Various weaknesses in the Documentary Hypothesis have been suggested3031 and there are potentially valid alternatives which I won’t go into here. Thus, one need not be as alarmed by Wellhausen’s conclusions as I was when I first encountered them; like other areas of research and scholarship, one should avoid the trap of thinking a matter is settled (no matter how emphatically people say that it is) and, of course, as Christians, we need have no fear of the facts.32

To the Christian uneducated in the ways of biblical criticism, various conclusions drawn by redaction critics can be alarming: multiple Isaiahs; multiple Jeremiahs; oral, fragmentary, documentary hypotheses for various sources in the Pentateuch; an unknown source for some gospels; etc. Certainly at times some scholars’ application of these conclusions challenges and subverts the Christian faith. For example:

One explanation for these contradictory promises concerning the future of the Davidic dynasty is that of Frank Cross, who argues that DtrH was produced in two editions. The first edition, which Cross maintains was written before the exile to support Josiah’s reforms, culminated in 2 Kings 23:25a: “Before him [Josiah] there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses.”

But when Josiah died tragically by Neco’s arrow and subsequent kings allowed his reforms to flounder, the Davidic dynastic was crushed, and the nation went into exile. It was in exile, Cross argues, that a redactor updated the first edition of the Deuteronomistic History (Dtr1), expanding earlier warnings to encompass the dynasty’s fall and the nation’s destruction and thus producing a second version of the history (Dtr2).33

I have no idea what Cross’s convictions were. Until I read these paragraphs about his work, I’d never even heard of him. His conclusions seem to give the author a purely sociological motivation (“to support Josiah’s reforms”) and suggest that the reason for the exile was added after the fact. Now, this need not necessarily be a problem; God could have inspired the writer to produce a document that spurred the people on to follow him as they should, and it could have been the grace of God to give them a reason for the exile while they were experiencing it or after they had returned. The application one draws from Cross’s conclusions depends, I think, on whether one believes God is real, that he interacts with his world and that he is behind the Bible. One could take a purely sociological approach (humans wrote for human reasons), one could take a purely spiritual approach (God wrote for God’s reasons), or one could take some hybrid of the two (e.g., humans wrote by God’s direction for God’s reasons which were beneficial to humans).

For me, the text is still authoritative and meaningful regardless of how the final form came to be. Where these branches of criticism are able to help us understand the intended meaning of the text and thus apply it appropriately to our lives, they can be very helpful. Like any area of study, Biblical criticism seems to hinge on the assumptions one brings to the text. In different hands the same set of facts can produce vastly different conclusions.

I approach the Bible as scripture, breathed out by God; this forms my base assumption and I draw conclusions with this axiom firmly in place. Others do not have this axiom and will draw different conclusions because they are operating either with different facts or from a different starting point. I don’t approach studying the Bible from a scholarly perspective but from a devotional perspective, though I believe that academic study of the Bible has the potential to yield great benefits for the devotional reader. As a result, I’ll be more inclined toward simple theories that maintain the unity of the books given to us, but I will not be overly concerned in most cases if this is not possible.

I am not disquieted by any facts or the many theories about the Bible that occupy the minds of scholars (usually it seems we’re working more in the realm of theories than facts). I approach the Bible with an inquisitive mind that looks to God as the ultimate source of truth. When I come to questions that I cannot answer simply or quickly, I am comfortable with not knowing, but I am also willing to pursue possible solutions at length (where my interest is high enough). Put another way, I’m not usually troubled by being on the way to truth, I don’t need to always have matters settled in my mind and I enjoy the process of learning and discovering new things.

Thus,l unless there is a good reason not to, I will likely take the opinion of the scholars that I read. I’ll mostly be reading evangelical scholars and so I may end up out of step with the larger academic community, but as always, I’ll be relying on the authors I read to be operating in good faith and interacting with at least the most compelling or popular dissenting viewpoints.

I.F. Biblical Criticism and Amos

I.F.1. Textual Criticism

The following excerpt from Gary Smith’s commentary on Amos has several examples of textual critical arguments:

The Hebrew text of Amos is fairly well preserved. Several difficulties with the Hebrew text do exist. Amos 2:7 and 8:4 have a word from the root šāʾāp (‘desire’), but the context seems to demand šûp (‘crush’). The problem may be scribal or a variant spelling. Confusion between aleph and ayin caused a form of t‘b (‘abhor’) to be written t’b (‘desire’) in 6:8. A s probably should be replaced by a ś in mśrp (‘corpse-burner’) in 6:10, while r’b bāʾēš (‘contend by fire’) might be better rendered reb’b ʾēš (‘rain of fire’) in 7:4. Amos 3:12 and 6:12 make better sense if the word division is adjusted slightly and 8:8 has ‘as light’ for ‘as the Nile’. The Dead Sea Scrolls readings in 5QAmos 1:3–5 present some variations that seem to be closer to the Old Greek, but the Masoretic text seems to be more original. 34

Another example of textual criticism from Amos:

When, for example, we read in the RSV of Amos 6:12, “Do horses run upon rocks? Does one plow the sea with oxen?” we must not suppose that the words “the sea”, which are not given in KJV or RV, represent some different reading from the traditional one. They are simply the result of dividing the Hebrew letters differently. This re-division of the letters greatly improves the grammar and the sense. Amos is evidently asking two questions, both of which demand an emphatic “No” for answer.35

For Amos 6:12a, the KJV has “Shall horses run upon the rock? Will one plow there with oxen?” while the RSV has (as Bruce quoted above) “Do horses run upon rocks? Does one plow the sea with oxen?” For the sake of completeness, I’ll add that the NIV has “Do horses run upon the rocky crags? Does one plow the sea with oxen?”

I.F.2. Redaction Criticism

One uncontroversial (I think) example of an editor’s work in Amos comes in the first verse:

The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—the vision he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel. (Amos 1:1, NIV)

What marks this as the work of an editor? “[It] is composed in the third person and stands outside the prophet’s oracles as a marker of the collection that follows”36.

Scholars’ views on Amos range from attributing “most or all of the sayings in the book to Amos”37 to thinking that “only parts of it may have originated with him, and other parts were added at later times”38.

Wolff finds six stages in the formation of the book:

  1. Amos’s oracles (including much of chapters 3–6);
  2. the first collection of these into ‘cycles’ (the vision-reports in 7:1–8; 8:1–2; 9:1–4, and the Oracles Against the Nations were collected and added to the sayings in chapters 3–6);
  3. the work of a ‘school’ of his disciples (responsible for some of the third-person references to Amos, as in 1:1a; 7:10–17);
  4. a reinterpretation of the Bethel sayings in Josiah’s time (e.g. 3:14b; 5:6);
  5. a Deuteronomistic redaction (also Josianic), stressing that Judah and Jerusalem are under Yahweh’s judgement (e.g. 2:4–5), and showing an interest in prophecy (2:11–12);
  6. a post-exilic eschatological addition in 9:11–15 (Wolff 1977, pp. 106–13).39

It is therefore in the highest degree unreasonable to doubt that Amos himself committed his message to writing and himself edited it into its present coherent and cogent form.40

It is not clear to me that any significant parts of the book of Amos must have been written by someone other than Amos (or at least someone closely associated with the prophet), but it is certainly a possibility and regardless, I will need to think about how to respond to these ideas as there is so much evidence that the books we have for certain other prophets were the work of later redactors.41

The belief that God called and spoke through the prophets is not in conflict with the idea that the books as we now have them were composed by later editors and perhaps even had multiple versions along the way. If we are comfortable saying that God inspired the prophets, then it is no problem to say that God inspired whatever editors or redactors worked on the text. Christians accept their various canons of scripture as the work of inspiration just as much as the individual books.

I.F.3. Form Criticism

Due to time constraints, I was not able to delve very deeply into form criticism in relation to Amos. The example of modern form-critical scholarship given in Gretchen Ellis’ section on form criticism in the Lexham Methods Series was The Forms of the Old Testament Literature series which, unfortunately, is yet to see a published volume on Amos.

Ellis did, however, give a helpful overview of how form criticism has interacted with the OT prophets generally:

As noted above, form-critical work on the prophetic books focuses on prophetic formulas or the similar patterns on prophetic messages. Form critics emphasize that the traditional verse and chapter divisions in prophetic books do not always correspond to the actual shift in subject matter. Moreover, as with many narrative genres, prophetic literature was originally spoken, rather than written. It was only later as prophecy evolved, that a preference for long, written speeches developed, as in Ezekiel and Isaiah 40–55.42

Form criticism has identified several unique forms or genres in the OT prophets:

See Ellis’s discussion for more information. I can see how categorising the text into these genres can aid in interpretation but it remains to be seen exactly what insights emerge from this sort of a study.

II. Date and Historical Background of Amos

Most of what I read suggested that Amos was written some time during the early to mid eighth century BC.

Amos’ travels from his native Judah into Israel took place in the first half of the eighth century BC, when Jeroboam II (786–746 BC) was Israel’s king.

In the final half of his tenure (i.e., the 760s and 750s), Israel reached what was probably its height in terms of economic prosperity. 43

It is generally accepted that Amos was among the first of the Old Testament prophets. The following table shows possible dates for the kings of Israel and Judah and the prophets.44

Kings of Israel Kings of Judah Prophets
Jeroboam II (786–746) Uzziah (783–742) Amos (Jonah)
Zechariah (746–745)    
Shallum (745)   Hosea
Menahem (745–738) Jothan (742–735)  
Pekahiah (738–737)    
Pekah (737–732) Ahaz (735–715) Isaiah, Micah 
Hoshea (732–722)    
  Hezekiah (715–687)  
  Manasseh (687–642)  
  Amon (642–640)  
  Josiah (640–609) Habakkuk, Nahum, Zephaniah
  Jehoahaz (609) Jeremiah
  Jehoiakim (609–597) Obadiah
  Jehoiachin (597)  
  Zedekiah (597–587) Ezekiel, Joel?

Israel had reached its height “in terms of economic prosperity” in the latter half of the reign of Jeroboam II.45 As usual, when prosperity comes to a society, it doesn’t come for all and so, in the same society where people have multiple houses and every body desire met, there is extreme poverty and abuse: “They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name.” (Amos 2:6–8, NIV)

III. Authorship and Composition of Amos

See I.F.2. Redaction Criticism.

IV. The Message of Amos

Naturally, I’ll delve into the message of Amos more once we get stuck into the text, but as I was going through it over the last two weeks, I was struck by how applicable some passages are to us today:

“On the day I punish Israel for her sins,
    I will destroy the altars of Bethel;
the horns of the altar will be cut off
    and fall to the ground.
I will tear down the winter house
    along with the summer house;
the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed
    and the mansions will be demolished,”
        declares the LORD. (Amos 3:14–15, NIV)

You lie on beds adorned with ivory
    and lounge on your couches.
You dine on choice lambs
    and fattened calves.
You strum away on your harps like David
    and improvise on musical instruments.
You drink wine by the bowlful
    and use the finest lotions,
    but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile;
    your feasting and lounging will end. (Amos 6:4–7, NIV)

I love getting into the details, but sometimes get lost in the weeds. In the preface to Robert Chisholm Jr.’s Handbook on the Prophets, I received a beautiful reminder of the true value of studying the Bible:

The prophetic literature of the Hebrew Bible presents great interpretive obstacles. Its poetry, though teeming with vivid imagery that engages the imagination and emotions, challenges the reader’s understanding because of its economy of expression, rapid shifts in mood, and sometimes cryptic allusions. The reader of the prophetic literature quickly realizes that these books were written at particular points in time to specific groups of people with whom the modern reader seems to share little. Yet these books are more than just ancient documents written to a long-dead people. They contain the very word of the eternal God, the message of which transcends time and space. Like the ancient prophets, we too worship this God, and, through the mystery of inspiration, their words can provide us insight into God’s character and challenge us to love him more and to serve him with greater devotion.46

Works Cited

Balogh, Amy, Dan Cole, and Wendy Widder, “Source Criticism.” Pages 55–98 in Social & Historical Approaches to the Bible. Edited by Douglas Mangum and Amy Balogh, vol. 3 of Lexham Methods Series. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016.

Barton, John “Source Criticism: Old Testament.” Pages 162–165 in vol. 6 of The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. Edited by David Noel Freedman. New York: DoubleDay, 1992.

Bruce, F. F. Understanding Biblical Criticism. Nashville, TN; Bath, England: Kingsley Books, 2017, Logos edition.

Capes, David B. Introduction to Understanding Biblical Criticism, by F. F. Bruce. Nashville, TN; Bath, England: Kingsley Books, 2017, Logos edition.

Chisholm, Robert B., Jr., Handbook on the Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002.

Ellis, Gretchen, “Form Criticism.” Pages 99–136 in Social & Historical Approaches to the Bible. Edited by Douglas Mangum and Amy Balogh, vol. 3 of Lexham Methods Series. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016.

Freedman, David Noel, ed. “Biblical Criticism.” Pages 725–736 in vol. 7 of The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Garrett, Duane, “The Pentateuch.” In Faithlife Study Bible. Edited by John D. Barry, et al. Bellinghham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016.

Leonard, Jeffrey, “Redaction Criticism.” Pages 163–194 in Social & Historical Approaches to the Bible. Edited by Douglas Mangum and Amy Balogh, vol. 3 of Lexham Methods Series. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016.

Longman, Tremper, III and Raymond B. Dillard. An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2007.

McConville, Gordon. The Prophets. Vol. 4 of Exploring the Old Testament, London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2002.

Motyer, J. A., The Message of Amos: The Day of the Lion. Edited by J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today. England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984.

O’Neill, J. C. “Biblical Criticism: History of Biblical Criticism.” Pages 726–730 in vol. 1 of The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. Edited by David Noel Freedman. New York: DoubleDay, 1992.

Smith, Gary V. Amos, Mentor. Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 1998.

Stuart, Douglas. Hosea–Jonah, Word Biblical Commentary 31. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002.

Wenham, Gordon J., The Pentateuch. Vol. 1 of Exploring the Old Testament, London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2003.

  1. Publisher’s introduction to Understanding Biblical Criticism, by F. F. Bruce (Nashville, TN; Bath, England: Kingsley Books, 2017). 

  2. Publisher’s introduction to _Understanding Biblical Criticism. 

  3. David B. Capes, introduction to Understanding Biblical Criticism, by F. F. Bruce (Nashville, TN; Bath, England: Kingsley Books, 2017). 

  4. David Noel Freedman, ed., “Biblical Criticism,” in The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1:725–726. 

  5. J. C. O’Neill, “Biblical Criticism: History of Biblical Criticism,” in The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman, (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1:726. 

  6. Bruce, Understanding Biblical Criticism, ch. 2. 

  7. ibid. 

  8. David Noel Freedman, ed., “Source Criticism,” The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, 162. 

  9. Capes, introduction. 

  10. Gordon McConville, The Prophets_. Vol. 4 of Exploring the Old Testament (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2002), xvii. 

  11. McConville, The Prophets_, xviii. 

  12. John Barton, “Source Criticism: Old Testament,” in Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, 6:162. 

  13. Amy Balogh, Dan Cole, and Wendy Widder, “Source Criticism,” in Social & Historical Approaches to the Bible, ed. Douglas Mangum and Amy Balogh, vol. 3 of Lexham Methods Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 55. 

  14. Balogh, Cole, and Widder, “Source Criticism,” 70. 

  15. Barton, “Source Criticism: Old Testament,” 162. 

  16. “The job of the source critic is to scientifically and artfully dismantle ancient texts, then to categorize and describe the pieces. This is one stage in the assembly line of biblical studies. From there, a different criticism must be applied in order to put the pieces back together and describe the whole.” (Balogh, Cole, and Widder, “Source Criticism,” 96.) 

  17. McConville, The Prophets, xviii. 

  18. Jeffrey Leonard, “Redaction Criticism,” in Social & Historical Approaches to the Bible, ed. Douglas Mangum and Amy Balogh, vol. 3 of Lexham Methods Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 189–190. 

  19. McConville, The Prophets, xviii. 

  20. Gretchen Ellis, “Form Criticism,” in Social & Historical Approaches to the Bible, ed. Douglas Mangum and Amy Balogh, vol. 3 of Lexham Methods Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 102. 

  21. “A conventional pattern that can be discerned in oral or written material”. (Ellis, “Form Criticism,” 104.) 

  22. “The phrase ‘social context’ better describes the underlying concept, but it is not commonly used in form criticism.” (Ellis, “Form Criticism,” 104.) 

  23. Cf. Ellis, “Form Criticism”, 113ff. 

  24. “In OT studies, form criticism is still very much an actively used methodology, though it has changed shaped in recent decades to become more closely associated with rhetorical and literary criticisms.” (Ellis, “Form Criticism,” 132.) 

  25. On a side note: I think we need to do a better job at letting people know what is said about the Bible so that they’re not shocked to the point of rejecting the whole faith when they learn these things. 

  26. Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2007), 43. 

  27. Balogh, Cole, and Widder, “Source Criticism,” 71. 

  28. Barton, “Source Criticism: Old Testament,” 162. 

  29. Duane Garrett, “The Pentateuch,” in Faithlife Study Bible, ed. John D. Barry, et al. (Bellinghham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), 35. 

  30. “The hypothesis says that the Pentateuch must be made up of different sources because it contains repetition and contradiction. However, the hypothesis supposes that the separate sources that make up the Pentateuch do not contain repetition or contradiction: that non-contradiction and non-repetition are the chief criteria for distinguishing a source. But when the sources were combined together, a repetitious and contradictory account was produced. But Whybray thinks this is odd. It presupposes that Hebrew writing practices changed drastically. Early writers did not tolerate contradition or repetition, but later writers accepted it easily. But why did their attitudes change? If later writers did not mind repetition, why should we suppose earlier Hebrew writers did? But if the earlier writers, like the later ones, did not mind contradiction or repetition, how can we separate out the sources?” [Gordon J. Wenham, The Pentateuch. Vol 1 of Exploring the Old Testament (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2003), 175.] 

  31. “The challenge form criticism presents for source criticism and, by implication, redaction criticism, lies in its contention that much of the development of the biblical traditions took place prior to being written. Indeed, various Scandinavian scholars, such as Johannes Pedersen and Ivan Engnell, placed such heavy emphasis on the oral development of traditions that they rejected outright the literary model associated with Wellhausen. While most have stopped short of the conclusions reached by the so-called Scandinavian school, it remains the case that ‘tradition history’ (Überlieferungsgeschichte), another method that developed out of form criticism, attributes to the oral phase of a tradition’s development much of the shaping and supplementation that redaction criticism would regard as a literary enterprise.” (Leonard, “Redaction Criticism,” 170.) 

  32. “Outside the academy, source criticism’s influence continunes to grow, albeit slowly. As more and more clergy, leaders, and laypeople learn about the Bible from an academic perspective, more perspectives on the Bible are shaped by the basic tenets of source crriticism. Of course one would be hard-pressed to find a church or synagogue that preaches Wellhausen, Duhm, or Griesbach, but the understanding of the biblical text that stems from their work has been part of the fabric of theological training in the West for decades.” (Balogh, Cole, and Widder, “Source Criticism,” 97.) 

  33. Leonard, “Redaction Criticism,” 174–175. 

  34. Gary V. Smith, Amos, Mentor (Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 1998), 18–19. 

  35. Bruce, Understanding Biblical Criticism, ch. 3. 

  36. Leonard, “Redaction Criticism,” 182. 

  37. McConville, The Prophets, 165. 

  38. ibid. 

  39. McConville, The Prophets, 165. 

  40. J. A. Motyer, The Message of Amos: The Day of the Lion, ed. J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984), 19. 

  41. “In studying the prophets we cannot avoid the ‘book.’ Indeed, ‘The Prophets’ in the title of this volume refers to a divison of the canon of the Old Testament. When we look for Jeremiah, what we find is a book that tells us about Jeremiah and the things he did and said. The book was written (finally at least) by someone other than Jeremiah, for a time and place other than his own. And a number of the prophets are much more elusive than Jeremiah. (How often, when introducing one or other of the prophetic books, I have had to say: ‘Very little is known about x’!). [McConville, The Prophets, xii.] 

  42. Ellis, “Form Criticism,” 128. 

  43. Douglas Stuart, Hosea–Jonah, Word Biblical Commentary 31 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 283. 

  44. McConville, The Prophets, viii. 

  45. “In the final half of his tenure (i.e., the 760s and 750s), Israel reached what was probably its height in terms of economic prosperity.” [Stuart, Hosea–Jonah, 283.] 

  46. Robert B. Chisholm Jr., Handbook on the Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 9.