Review of Krentz on Historical-Critical Method

by Vern S. Poythress

[Published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 19/3 (summer 1976): 260. Used with Permission.]

The Historical-Critical Method. By Edgar Krentz. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975, 88 PP.


Krentz’s introduction to the historical-critical method complements the earlier studies by Fortress Press on form and redaction criticism. Three main chapters consider the historical-critical method in Biblical studies from three perspectives. Chapter 2 summarizes the history of the development of the method, with a judicious selection of the main innovators. Chapter 3 explains the goals and techniques of contemporary secular historiography and gives some instances of their use in Biblical studies. Chapter 4 considers both the positive achievements and the problems produced by the method, as seen by scholarly practitioners. Here the antisupernaturalist presuppositions of the most radical critics become clear (p. 59).

Most interesting for the evangelical will be the concluding chapter on some of the recent attacks on the method. In the earlier chapters some may think that Krentz insists too strenuously on the indispensability of the method. He does not frequently distinguish believing and unbelieving types of historical Biblical method. But in the final pages Krentz provides short, clear notes on conservative (Ladd, Mildenburger), secular (Nitschke, Frye), eschatological (Pannenberg, Moltmann), and methodological (Stuhlmacher) objections and modifications. However, Krentz does not intend to present us with firm guidance or solutions to the debate. The book ends with a completely open-ended situation. Doubtless such an ending is sociologically appropriate. Whatever resolutions are proposed, the debate and turmoil are likely to be with us for some time yet. The reader of Krentz’s book cannot but be impressed anew at how tangled the modern hermeneutical debate has become.

Vern S. Poythress
Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19118

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