a type of academic inquiry which arose in the nineteenth century through the application of eighteenth century RATIONALIST assumptions to the study of the BIBLE. It originated with ANTI-CHRISTIAN writers who sought to discredit the Biblical text by ridiculing on the basis of arguments derived from a Newtonian WORLDVIEW and DEISTIC ETHICS. More sympathetic scholars developed Biblical criticism to accommodate CHRISTIANITY to the Newtonian worldview by deleting the SUPERNATURAL from the Biblical text by explaining away references to PROPHECY and MIRACLES on literary and textual grounds. Eventually ORTHODOX scholars also accepted the validity of many methods created by the Biblical critics to answer such questions as
   "What are the most reliable and trustworthy texts of the HEBREW BIBLE and NEW TESTAMENT? What is the relationship between the various books? When and by whom were the texts written and for what purpose? What are the sources, if any, the authors used? What is the relationship of these sources to other oral and written materials of the time?" Biblical criticism today is understood as the application of general historical principles and RATIONALIST assumptions to the BIBLE and has evolved into various sub-disciplines such as redaction criticism, source criticism, form criticism, literary criticism, etc. CONSERVATIVE scholars often make a distinction between "higher criticism" which they see as essentially rationalist and "lower criticism" which is understood as a legitimate quest for textual purity.

Concise dictionary of Religion. 2012.

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