The Critical Mindset and the Pentateuch

Critical approaches to the Pentateuch often assume that all ancient religious beliefs as lower, less evolved forms of religion. How should evangelicals evaluate this critical mindset?

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Answer

You know, there's a critical mindset that argues that all ancient forms of religion were a lower, subpar form of religion that evolves into a higher form. And I think we need to be so careful here. That simply undercuts the biblical witness, and it also imbibes of that general evolutionary model of development, or Hegelian, even, synthesis that comes out of a thesis and a contra-thesis. And that's just not what Scripture tells us. Scripture tells us that God has entered time and space and has come and taken a people, blessed them to be missionaries to the rest of the world. And if we imbibe and buy into the critical mindset, then what we're left with, and I'm quoting here from Bruce Waltke, if we see that Israel's religious understanding of Yahweh developed over the centuries and that what we have in the Pentateuch is simply the exilic or postexilic self-reflection, what happens is Yahweh ends up becoming a textual ontology something on paper, okay? So, it's very dangerous to imbibe of that view. We need to take the text and understand it for what it says. There's a great analogy: When you want to study stars you use the proper equipment, you use a telescope; when you want to study microorganisms you use a microscope; when we study Scripture you've got to study something according to the integrity of its nature. So, we come we're a faith people we come and we study Scripture in faith, and we see that what God tells us here is that he's entered time and history; he's revealed himself as Yahweh early on in the biblical text.

Answer by Dr. Erika Moore

Dr. Erika Moore is Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Trinity School for Ministry.