Dallas Burdette

January 1, 1999

 

 

                                    What is liberalism?  This word is often employed by many believers to castigate other believers who do not agree with their particular brand of orthodoxy.  In other words, if one believes in Sunday school, individual communion cups in the distribution of the “fruit of the vine,” instrumental music in the assembly, Bible colleges, missionary societies, orphan homes, and so on, he/she may be labeled liberal by many well-meaning saints.

 

What does the word liberalism mean in the real sense of the word.  We have liberal democrats, we have liberal republicans, we have liberal professors, we have liberal clergy (ministers), and so on.  Accepting the common use of this expression by Christians, then everyone is a liberal to someone.  The word liberal is a relative term.  In other words, it all depends on which side of the fence you are on.  Every person is liberal or conservative according to someone’s own viewpoint.

 

Since this essay is considering liberalism in its religious setting, then one must determine what liberalism really is.  The term liberalism is frequently applied by many well-meaning Christians to anyone that is not within their own interpretative community.  If one is outside the camp of a particular fellowship of believers, then that person is a liberal.  The objective of this essay is to put this term (liberalism) in proper focus.  Hopefully, this paper will enable Christians to determine who is and who is not a liberal from a Christian perspective.

 

Nevertheless, one must appreciate those who are concerned about liberalism.  But liberalism must be defined as those who deny Mosaic authorship, the inspiration of the Scriptures, the virgin birth, the atonement of Christ, and the relevancy of God’s word in the lives of men and women.  Yes, every Christian must condemn this kind of liberalism.

 

One must appreciate those who are concerned about liberalism; liberalism is something that every Christian must condemn.  Jesus, Paul, and Peter address themselves to the importance of relying upon the written Word:

 

“It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).[1]

 

I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

 

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:11).

 

Christians are bound to the Word of God, not the words of men. 

 

                        In one’s study of the Older Testamental writings, one must consider the puzzling question, What Is Liberalism?  The following definition will set the stage for examination of one of the most misunderstood questions within the Churches of Christ:

 

            Liberal Protestantism is a modern movement that reinterprets the biblical and historic doctrines and practices of Christianity. Reluctant to endorse orthodox doctrines such as the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the need for renewal by the Holy Spirit and the infallibility of the Bible, liberal Protestants are more interested in adapting religious ideas to modern culture and thought. . . . Following theologians like Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976), liberal Protestants insist that modern men and women cannot understand or accept the outdated teachings of Christianity in a world so changed by modern science.  This is a thinly disguised naturalism—in Bultmann’s case a strident anti-supernaturalism—which insists that the Bible must be “demythologized,” freed of symbolic myths such as the atonement or miracles and reinterpreted to see what Jesus or the Bible’s writers really taught.  Biblical Christianity is precisely the story of great miracle—the resurrection; this view destroys any real possibility of belief in God.[2]

 

                        Based upon the above definition, liberalism is the denial of the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the infallibility of the Bible, Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, the miracles of the Bible, the atonement, and so on.  This is liberalism!

 

                        Liberalism is a denial of the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures.  Liberalism denies that “prophecy 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).   Every Christian must be concerned about liberalism.  Jesus also confronted liberalism among the religious leaders in His day:

 

But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?  (John 5:45-47).

 

SEVENTEENTH CENTURY LIBERALISM

 

                        To understand liberalism today, one must go back to the seventeenth century.  The modern-day liberal biblical theology movement has its origin in the writings of Baruch Spinoza (1631-1677) and Richard Simon (1633-1712)—a Catholic priest in France.  Both of these men were influenced by La Payrene, a French Calvinist, who challenged the commitment to biblical infallibility by creating hypotheses that contradicted biblical teaching.[3]  During the time of Spinoza and Simon, another leader arose, Jean Le Clerc (1657-1736), who also questioned the authorship of the Pentateuch.[4]  Le Clerc’s denial of Mosaic authorship was so radical that even Simon was offended by his proposals.  Another liberal, Jean Astruc (1684-1766) reflected upon the Simon/Le Clerc controversy (1685-1686) as one of the most intense confrontations in the history of ideas about the Bible.[5]

 

DOCUMENTARY HYPOTHESIS

                        Even though others, from time to time, denied Mosaic authorship, Astruc did not.  Nevertheless, Jean Astruc paved the way for later criticism of the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).  Up until the second half of the eighteenth century, Mosaic authorship remained the generally accepted position.  Although Astruc, a French medical doctor, still held to Mosaic authorship, he laid the groundwork for such men as Graf (1815-1869) and Wellhausen (1844-1919) in their Documentary Hypothesis, that is to say, the dividing of the Pentateuch into four sources (JEDP), thus denying Mosaic authorship.  Astruc maintained that there were repetitions and contradictions in the Pentateuch, and, as a result, he concluded that Moses used various sources in compiling the Pentateuch.

 

Four Sources: JEDP

 

            Originally, the key for sources (JEDP) turned upon the use of the names “Lord” (J [Y]ahweh) and “God” (Elohim). [6]  To this day the different use of names for God is the chief characteristic of source splitting, that is, dividing the books of Moses into four sources, thereby denying Mosaic authorship.  Herbert Livingston calls attention to these various sources in the naming of the documents:

 

From Astruc on, the criterion of two divine names, Elohim and Jehovah, has been elemental to analysis of the Pentateuch and the basis for three of the four documents.  The sources E and P has the name Elohim, and J had Jehovah; each of these sources or documents has separate histories. . . .

 

Julius Wellhausen is the scholar generally credited with resolving the issue of dating sequence.  Drawing heavily upon the implications of Hegel’s postulates—thesis, antithesis, and synthesis in the processes of history—Wellhausen opted for the sequence JEDP.  In his famous book, Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel, first published in 1878, Wellhausen argued so persuasively for his position that he won the day.  His theory became standard in Old Testament liberal circles for more than half a century and still is a powerful voice.[7]

 

                        The Graf-Wellhausen Documentary Hypothesis[8] has had tremendous influence upon modern day scholars.  One such scholar is Robert B. Laurin, former professor of Old Testament at the American Baptist Seminary in Covina, California.  Thus, Laurin explains that

 

Three famous sources were used in the formation of the bulk of Genesis through Numbers.  The first is called the “J” source because it tends to use consistently the proper name “Jahweh” (usually spelled “Yahweh”) for God; it is probably comes from the tenth century B.C. during the reign of Solomon.  The second source is called the “E” source because it uses the name “Elohim” for God, and perhaps comes from the Northern Kingdom of Israel about a century later, that is, in the ninth century B.C. shortly after the breakup of Solomon’s kingdom.  The third source is termed the “P” source because of its dominant priestly interest in worship and law; it appears to have been gathered together during the exile in Babylonia in the sixth century B.C. . . .  The Priestly History comprises Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.  Sometime after the destruction of Jerusalem gathered together some of the older narrative sources, particularly “J” and “E.” . . . The motive for the formation of this history was Israel’s own situation. . . . Second, the recognition of sources shows us that the main characters of the books are the heroes, not the authors, even though a given book may bear the name of Moses or Samuel or Joshua, this does not mean that it is the product of his hand.  The books are all anonymous, the products of centuries of gradual collection. . . . Thus, scholars have concluded that such expression as “the Lord said to Moses”: or “Moses said” are not indications of authorship, but rather only general formulas to introduce collections of literature.[9]

 

AGE OF SKEPTICISM

 

                        During this period of skepticism, beginning with Spinoza and Simon, other men of prominence also stand out as major players in the development of cynicism regarding the Bible: Voltaire (1694-1778), Hume (1711-1776), Rousseau (1712-1778), Diderot (1713-1784), Lessing (1729-1781), and Kant 1724-1804).[10]    Another important name that played an important role in the development of the modern-liberal theology movement was Johann Philip Gabler (1753-1826).  Gabler was essentially a rationalist, and his approach to biblical theology prevailed for approximately fifty years.  With this rationalistic technique of Gabler, scholars began to view the Bible as any other book.  No longer was the Bible the Word of God—it was now just one more book.[11] 

 

                        In the mean while, Hegel’s (1770-1831) views were put to use in the study of the Scriptures.  The comments of Livingston may be added for further confirmation of this statement: “The views of Comte, father of logical positivism, and Hegel, champion of logical progression after the pattern of a thesis-antithesis-synthesis sequence, were particularly influential among Old Testament Scholars.”[12]  Livingston explains how Hegelian philosophy was applied to the Pentateuch:

 

How then did the Wellhausen theory date the four documents?  Since the D document was declared to be written in the seventh century and made public in Josiah’s reform of 621 B.C., that document became the keystone for the procedure.  It was decided that D knew about the contents of J and E, but not of the Contents of P; hence, J and E were written before 621 B.C., and P, at a later date.

 

Dialectically, the J document, with its naïve concepts, could be dated before E, and the early phases of the divided kingdom seemed to provide a good historical setting.  It could be argued that J was the kingdom of Judah’s reaction against the establishment of the kingdom of north Israel.  The purpose of J, then, was to provide Judah with a “historical” document that would justify Judah’s and Jerusalem’s claim to be the governmental center of all Israel.  Likewise, E would be the antithetical production of the Kingdom of north Israel, led by the tribe of Ephraim, to show that there were historical antecedents in the Patriarchs and in Joshua for the governmental center to be located in the north.

 

The theory continued to conclude that after the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel, in 721 B. C., broadminded men during the reign of Manasseh (first half of seventh century B.C.) felt that the E document was too valuable to lose, so they blended it with the J document.  This new JE document became a new thesis and the D document its antithesis.  The thinking of the D document is said to have triumphed, substantially, during the Exile in Babylon and colored the composition of the historical books Joshua through II Kings.  However, the “Holiness Code,” tied with Ezekiel, arose as another antithesis to D; and slowly, for perhaps a century, the priest in exile and then in Jerusalem put together the P document and made it the framework of a grand synthesis, the Pentateuch.[13]

 

                        Scholars applied the thinking of Hegel to the study of the Bible.  Before the time of Hegel, truth was conceived on the basis of antithesis.[14]  For example, truth, in the sense of antithesis, is related to the idea of cause and effect.  In other words, if anything is true, the opposite is false.  In plain English, absolutes[15] imply antithesis.  Hegel departed from the classical methodology of antithesis.[16]  No longer did men think of thesis and antithesis; now, men thought in terms of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.[17]  He and his followers shifted the concept of truth and modern man was born.[18]

 

                        According to liberal scholarship, the words of Scripture are no longer God’s revelation.  Thus, there is no absolute standard by which right and wrong are determined.  No longer is the Word of God viewed as the Word of God, but now the Scriptures are simply looked upon as the words of men.  Scholarship, influenced by Hegel, forgot that historic Christianity stands on a basis of antithesis.  Without antithesis, then Christianity is meaningless.  Without antithesis there is no way of determining what is right and what is wrong.  If there are no absolutes, then who is to determine what is right and what is wrong?  The Christian view is that God and God alone is the answer to what is right and what is wrong.  God alone is authoritative.  Isaiah calls attention to the fact that it is God’s Word that is the determinative factor in determining what is right and what is wrong:  To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (Isaiah 8:20).  God revealed Himself through His Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit revealed God’s will through His prophets and through the apostles of Christ.

 

LIBERAL CHRONOLOGY

 

                        In order to understand the impact of the Graf-Wellhausen Documentary Hypothesis[19] upon the church today, one must understand something of the time frame within which the liberals assign to the books of Moses.  Liberals deny not only Mosaic authorship, but also the authenticity of other books of the Old Testament as well as New Testament books.  Again, the question is: What is the Graf-Wellhausen Hypothesis?  The following explanation sets forth in a nuts shell the basic theory:

 

Graf-Wellhausen Hypothesis.  A theory concerning the origins of the Pentateuch which, though having numerous antecedents, was most persuasively argued by K. H. Graf (1866) and Julius Wellhausen (1876-1884); it added to the existing hypothesis the argument that written documents, combined and revised over several centuries from varying historical and theological points of view, could be (fairly) precisely dated and placed in an evolutionary sequence.  A J (Yahwist) document (ca. 850 B.C.) and an E (Elohist) document (ca. 750 B.C.) were, according to this hypothesis, combined by a redactor (RJE) around 650 B.C.; the Deuteronomic Code (621 B.C., called D) was added by a redactor (RD) around550 B.C.; the Priestly Code (Ca. 450 B.C.) constituted the final document added by a redactor (RP) around 400 B.C.[20]

 

                        From the above citation, one observes that the liberals divide the books of Moses into four documents (JEDP).  From these four documents, the following chronology is assigned:  “J” (J [Y]ahweh) is designated a date around 850 B.C. (Elohist);  “E,” is allotted a date close to 750 B.C.; then, “J” and “E” were combined by a redactor (editor) in 650 B.C.; “D” (represents Deuteronomy) is consigned a date just about 621 B.C. during the reign of Josiah; “D” was combined with “J” and “E” by a redactor in 550 B.C.; “P” (represents primarily Leviticus) is doled out a date approximately 450 B.C.; then, finally, “J” and “E” and “D” were brought together in 400 B.C.  This chronology set forth by many scholars is vastly different from that assigned by the Holy Spirit. 

 

BIBLICAL CHRONOLOGY

 

                        In order for one to understand clearly the work of the “destructive critics” of the Bible, it is necessary to perceive a time frame of Biblical chronology in order to assess the liberals’ assigned chronology to the Pentateuch.  Does the Bible give any indication as to the dates within which the Old Testament writings can be dated?  Perhaps, one of the most important verses dealing with biblical chronology is First Kings 6:1.[21]  This passage sets the stage for biblical chronology that allows one to get a handle on some very key persons in the Old Testament.  The writer in First Kings says: “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the LORD.”  The author gives an anchor point for biblical chronology.  In fact, several important factors are contained in this verse.  For instance, consider the following: (1) It is the fourth year of Solomon’s reign; (2) it is the year in which he began to build the temple; and (3) it has been 480 years since the Exodus.

 

                        One knows from internal and external evidence that this fourth year of Solomon’s reign is 966 B.C.  One also knows that Solomon was crowned king in 970 B.C.  It is common knowledge that David reigned for forty years (First Kings 2:10).  Since Solomon came to the throne in 970 B.C., then David was crowned king over Judah in 1010 B.C.  Saul, David’s predecessor, also reigned for forty years (Acts 13:21); therefore, he was crowned king in 1050 B.C.  Thus, one can quickly see that First Kings 6:1 becomes an anchor point for an adequate knowledge of biblical chronology.[22]

 

Date of the Exodus

                        Understanding First Kings 6:1 helps one to assign a specific time period to the date of the exodus.  Since the author of First Kings tells his readers that “it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign” (First Kings 6:1), then one can arrive at a date of 966 B.C. as the fourth year of Solomon’s reign in which he began to build the house of the Lord.  With this data about Solomon’s reign, one can arrive at an exact date for the exodus.  From the date of Solomon’s fourth year of his reign (966), one can add 966 to 480 (the number of years since the exodus) to arrive at the number 1446 (the year of the exodus).  This combining of the these two dates gives one the information needed to establish the date of the exodus as well as the date of birth for some of the patriarchs. 

 

Date Jacob Moved to Egypt

 

                        Since one now knows that the date of the exodus occurred in 1446 B.C., then one can determine the date that Jacob moved into Egypt.  The key to unraveling this information is found in Exodus 12:40, where Moses says, “Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.”  If one adds 430 years to the date of the exodus (1446), then one discovers that the children of Israel began their sojourn in Egypt in 1876 B.C.  Thus, from Exodus 12:40, one discovers that Jacob moved to Egypt in 1876 B.C.

 

Date of Jacob’s Birth

 

                        As one continues to move back in time, one can discover the date of Jacob’s birth.  Again, one is indebted to Moses for a statement concerning a conversation that Jacob had with Pharaoh: “And Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage’”  (Genesis 47:9).  The sojourn of Jacob began in Egypt (1876 B.C.) when he stood before Pharaoh, thus the information from Genesis 47: 9 furnishes one with the additional knowledge to determine the date of Jacob’s birth.  Since Jacob told Pharaoh that he was 130 years old, then if one adds 130 years to the date that Jacob entered Egypt (1876 B.C.), one arrives at the date of 2006 B. C. as the date of Jacob’s birth.

 

Date of Isaac’s Birth

 

                        Armed with the above information about Jacob’s date of birth (2006 B.C.), then one can move further back into time to another statement of Moses in Genesis 25:26 in order to determine the date Of Isaac’s birth: “After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebecca gave birth to them.”  Since one knows from Genesis 47:9 that Jacob was born in 2006 B.C., then by adding Isaac’s age at the time of Jacob’s birth then one can assign a date for Isaac’s birth at 2066 B.C.

 

Abraham’s Date of Birth

 

                        Still moving back, one also learns from Genesis 21:5 that Abraham was born in 2166 B.C.[23] Moses writes: “Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.”  Since Isaac was born in 2066 B.C., then by adding 100 to Isaac’s birth, then one arrives at a date of 2166 for the birth of Abraham.  Moses not only informs his readers that Abraham the birth of Abraham, but he also records the departure of Abraham from Haran to Canaan as occurring in the year 2091 B.C: “So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran” (Genesis 12:4).  If one begins the patriarchal period with Abram (Abraham), then one is considering a time span from 2091 B.C. when he left Haran until the time when the children of Israel entered Egypt in 1876 B.C.  This calculation (2091 minus 1876) is a total of 215 years.  Some see the patriarchal period as extending from the time Abram left Haran in 2091 V.C. down to the death of Joseph in Genesis 50:26.  Joseph’s death occurred in 1805 B.C.  If one accepts this latter span, then one would have a period of 286 years for the patriarchal period.[24]

 

DATING OF CERTAIN OLD TESTAMENT BOOKS

 

Genesis

 

                        Reading from Genesis 1:1 to the final section of Genesis (chapter 50), one goes from eternity past (approximately 8000 to 12000 B.C.) to the death of Joseph, which can be shown by tracing the chronologies in Genesis to be, as stated above, 1805 B.C.[25]

 

Exodus

 

                        The book of Exodus begins in 1876 B.C in flashback, because Exodus 1:1 refers to the names of those who came into Egypt with Jacob.  Chapter one of Exodus covers the time period from 1876 B.C. to the birth of Moses as recorded in chapter two.  One can read in Acts 7 that Moses was forty years old when he fled Egypt.  He was eighty years old when he returned to lead the children of Israel out of bondage.  Since one knows that Moses died at the age of 120 (Deuteronomy 34:7), then by using the previous information about the date of the Exodus, one can date the birth of Moses at 1526 B.C.   Since Moses was eighty years old when he led the children of Israel out of Egypt, then one only needs to add 80 to 1446 to arrive at Moses’ date of birth.  Between Exodus 2:1 and Exodus 3:2, one discovers that eighty years transpired.  Then, from the night of the Passover until the tabernacle was set up at the end of the book of Exodus, one observes a time span of thirteen months.

 

                        Turning to Exodus 40:17, Moses writes: “So the tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year.”  One observes that by this time the children of Israel have left Egypt and have gone down into Sinai; Moses made his two trips up on Mount Sinai, and the tabernacle was constructed.  Exodus 40:17 informs the reader that all these events occurred within approximately thirteen months.  Thus, one can place a date of approximately 1445 B.C. along side of Exodus 40:17.[26]

 

Leviticus and Numbers

 

                        Leviticus has no chronology.  But, about a month transpires between the section in Exodus 40:17 and the movement indicated and initiated in the book of Numbers.  For instance, Moses writes: “The LORD spoke to Moses in the Tent of Meeting in the Desert of Sinai on the first day of the second month of the second year after the Israelites came out of Egypt” (Numbers 1:1).  The book of Numbers begins in the second year after the Exodus and covers a period of about thirty-nine years. Since the book of Exodus ended in 1445 B.C., the book of Numbers also begins with that same year. 

 

Deuteronomy

 

Since Moses died at the age of 120, then the death of Moses occurred in 1406 B.C. (1446 minus 40).  With this date (1406 B.C.) the wanderings were over.  From the internal evidence in the book of Deuteronomy, one is able to date this book with accuracy.  For example, Moses gives us the chronology that is essential to date this book: “In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the LORD had commanded him concerning them” (Deuteronomy 1:3).  Thus, one can write alongside the book of Deuteronomy, and especially at Deuteronomy 34:7, the date of 1406 B.C.

 

Joshua

 

                        With the death of Moses in 1406 B.C., the responsibility of leadership passed from Moses to Joshua.  Thus, the book of Joshua begins with this date.  From the internal evidence, it appears that the events of the book required about twenty-one years.  Therefore, one may date the end of Joshua at 1385 B.C. [27]

 

Judges

 

                        The book of Judges began immediately after the death of Joshua.  Again from internal evidence, the time period lasted approximately 335 years.  Those years also include the book of Ruth.  Judges can be dated from approximately 1385 to 1050 B.C.

 

First and Second Samuel

 

                        The book of First Samuel began in 1100 B.C.  There is a fifty-year overlap between the end of the book of Judges and the beginning of First Samuel.  First Samuel covers a time span from the birth of Samuel in 1100 B.C. to the death of Saul in 1010 B.C. for a total of ninety years of history.  Second Samuel began in 1010 B.C. and covers almost forty years of history until approximately 975 B.C.

 

First and Second Kings

 

                        First Kings began in 970 B.C. and ends with the death of Ahab in 853 B.C.  This book covers approximately 117 years of history (970 minus 853).  Second Kings, using the death of Ahab in 853 B.C., continues until 586 B.C., which is the year of the Babylonian captivity.  Second Kings covers roughly 267 years of history (853 minus 586).

 

First and Second Chronicles

 

                        The two books of Chronicles begin with a genealogical synopsis from Adam to 539 B.C.  Thus, Second Chronicles includes forty-seven more years of history than is contained in Second Kings (586 minus 539).

 

Ezra

 

                        Following the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.), Ezra takes up the history of Judah from 539 B..C. to 457 B.C. (539 minus 457), which is an additional eighty-two years of the history of Judah.  There is no book that covers the history of Judah from 457 B.C. to 445 B.C. (12 years), and as a result of this lack of history, one encounters twelve years that is unaccounted.

 

Nehemiah

 

                        Nehemiah picks up the history in 445/444 B.C.  By adding these years, one has 962 years of total history.  This number (444), when subtracted from 1406 (the date of the entrance into Canaan as recorded by Joshua) provides one with the date 444 B.C.  This is the date for Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem.

 

Malachi

 

                        Following this even, Malachi records the final episodes of the history of Judah, which dates to more or less 400 B.C.  So, the writing of the Old Testament took place with Moses between 1446 B.C. and 400 B.C., which is a total of 1,046 years.[28]

 

CONCLUSION

 

                        Who is a liberal?  What is liberalism?  A liberal, in the true sense of the word, is someone who denies Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch or the infallibility of Scripture or the virgin birth or the bodily resurrection of Jesus or the absolutes of God.  Disagreement over doctrinal issues so prevalent within many Churches of Christ is not liberalism.  One may be wrong in his/her interpretation of Scripture, but inexactness in understanding or interpretation is not liberalism.  Lack of understanding may simply be an honest mistake of the heart, not rebellion against God.

 

 

 

 



[1] All Scriptures citations are from The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984, unless stated otherwise.

[2] Terry L. Miethe, The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words (Minnesota: Bethany House Pub., 1988), 127.

[3] Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? (New York: Summit Books, 1987), 20.

[4] The word Pentateuch comes from Greek (pentateuchos) which means “five scrolls” or “five volumes.”  Also called by the Jews “Torah” or the “the five-fifths of the law.”  The Pentateuch consists of the first five books of the Bible.  The five books into which the Pentateuch is divided are respectively Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

[5] See R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), 3-18.

[6] Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible, 52-53.

[7] G. Herbert Livingston, The Pentateuch in Its Cultural Environment, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), 226-227.

[8] For an excellent analysis of the Graf-Wellhausen Documentary Hypothesis, see Harrison, Old Testament, 19-32.

[9] Robert B. Laurin, The Layperson’s Introduction to the Old Testament (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1991), 2-5. See also Thomas Samuel Kepler, John Knox, Herbert Gordon May, and Samuel Terrien, eds. Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, (Nashville: Abingdon, 1982). S.v. “Biblical Criticism,” by K. Grobel

[10] T. C. Smith, Kerygma and Church: Studies in Acts (South Carolina: Smyth & Helwys Publishers, 1991), 4.

[11] The rules of interpretation should be applied to the Bible as one would place upon any other book, but one should remember that the Bible is not just some fresh book, it is the Word of God.

[12] Livingston, Pentateuch, 226, 227.

[13] Ibid., 230-231.

[14] Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who Is There (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968), 177, where he says, “Antithesis: Direct opposition of contrast between two things (As in ‘joy’ which is the antithesis of ‘sorrow’).”

[15] Ibid., “Absolute: A concept which is not modifiable by factors such as culture, individual psychology or circumstances; but which is perfect and unchangeable.  Used as an antithesis of relativism.”

[16] See Francis A. Schaeffer, Escape from Reason (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968), 30-45 for an excellent treatment of Hegel’s philosophy.

[17] Schaeffer, God Who Is There, 179, “Synthesis: The combination of the partial truths of a thesis and its antithesis into a higher stage of truth, cf. Dialectic.”

[18] See Schaeffer, Escape from Reason, 9-45.  I am indebted to Schaeffer for the insights that are presented in this paper.

[19] See F.B. Huey, Jr. & Bruce Corley, A Student’s Dictionary for Biblical & Theological Studies: A Handbook of Special and Technical Terms (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), 65, where they say:

DOCUMENTARY HYPOTHESIS. A theory that explains the formation of the Scriptures, especially the Pentateuch, as being the result of combining a number of documents from different sources.  Source Criticism.  JEDP.”  See Ibid., 109, where they define JEDP: “JEDP Terminology used in the documentary hypothesis to designate the documents identified by this method of analysis: J = Jahwist, dated ca. 950 B.C.:   D = Deuteronomist, dated ca. 622 B. C.:  P = Priestly, dated ca. 500—450 B.C.  Proponents of this theory believe that J and E were combined ca. 750 B.C., to which D was added ca. 620 B.C., with P added in the postexilic period, giving the  Pentateuch its final form as we know it by 400 B.C.  This hypothesis was given its classical expression by Julius Wellhausen in 1878. Source Criticism.

[20] Richard N. Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism, 2d ed. (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1981), 79.

[21] See Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology: Principles of Time Reckoning in the Ancient World and Problems of Chronology in the Bible (Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1998), 201-208.

[22] For an excellent treatment of biblical chronology, see Thomas R. Rodgers, The Panorama of the Old Testament (Newburgh, Indiana: Impact press, 1988), 9-15.  I am deeply indebted to Rodgers for the following analysis of the dates assigned to the patriarchs.

[23] See Lawrence O. Richards, Illustrated Bible Handbook (Nashville: Nelson,  1997), 71.

[24] See John H. Walton, “Chronology of the Patriarchs,” in Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1978), 40.  See also, Lawrence O. Richards, Illustrated Bible Handbook (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 71.

[25] See Rodgers, Old Testament, 21-22.

[26] Ibid., 22-23.

[27] Ibid., 23-24.

[28] This essay was written to assist individuals in establishing the basic principles of biblical chronology.  For more detailed studies, one should consult articles on chronology in Bible dictionaries.