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“Monument Facts and Higher Critical Fancies”: Archaeology and the Popularization of Old Testament Criticism in Nineteenth-Century Britain

  • Barbara Zink Machaffie (a1)


Historians of the development of biblical criticism in the nineteenth century have normally treated this aspect of intellectual history as a preserve of the university don and the ambitious cleric. However, further study points to a movement of considerable magnitude and momentum beginning in the last decades of that century which aimed at popularizing the methods and results of the higher criticism of the Old Testament. Widespread popular recognition of a critical approach to the Old Testament and its implications began in the 1860s in response to the work of J. W. Colenso and the contributors to Essays and Reviews.



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1. For the development of Old and New Testament criticism in nineteenth-century Britain, see Owen, Chadwick, The Victorian Church, 2 vols. (London, 1970), 2: 6075, and Willis, B. Glover, Evangelical Nonconformists and Higher Criticism in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1954), pp. 2535.

2. See, for example, John, R. Cohu, The Old Testament in the Light of Modern Research (Oxford, 1908);Herbert, Knight, Criticism and the Old Testament (London, 1906);Bertram, Talbot, Information Concerning the History and Growth of the Bible (London, 1901);Walter, F. Adeney, How to Read the Bible (London, 1897);Walter, A. Moberly, The Old Testament in Modern Light (London, 1906).

3. See Edward, Bradby, The Books of the Bible Dated (London, 1890);Buchanan, Blake, Joseph and Moses (Edinburgh, 1902); idem, How to Read the Prophets (Edinburgh, 1892, 1895);John, E. McFadyen, Messages of the Priestly and Prophetic Historians (London, 1901);Robert, Ottley, A Short History of the Hebrews to the Roman Period, 2d ed. (Cambridge, 1904);George, W. Wade, Old Testament History, 10th ed. (London, 1901).

4. See Louise, B. Houghton, Telling Bible Stories (London, 1906);Claude, Montefiore, The Bible for Home Reading (London, 1897, 1899);Farrar, F. W. et al. , The Bible and the Child: The Higher Criticism and the Teaching of the Young (London, 1897).

5. The Sunday School Chronicle, 20 02 1891, p. 93.

6. World Missionary Conference, 1910, Report of Commission IV: The Missionary Message in Relation to Non-Christian Religions (Edinburgh and London, [1910]).

7. Robert, Ker Porter, Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, etc., during the years 1817, 1818,1819, and 1820 (London, 1822).

8. Josias, Porter, A Handbook for Travellers in Syria and Palestine: Including an Account of the Geography, History, Antiquities and Inhabitants of these Countries (London, 1858).

9. Thomas, Nicol, Recent Explorations in Bible Lands (Edinburgh, 1892);Richard, Newton, Rambles in Bible Lands (London, 1879).

10. William, Thomson, The Land and the Book (London, 1876), pp. 407414.

11. Stanley, A. P., Sinai and Palestine (London, 1856), p. xvii.

12. Susan, B. Macy, Some Mistakes of the Higher Critics (London, 1913), p. 42.

13. John, Alison, “Thebes: A Sketch from Egypt,” Life and Work, 07 1895, p. 135.

14. See, for example, Henry, Rider Haggard, She: A History of Adventure (London, 1887).

15. Joseph, Bonomi, Nineveh and Its Palaces (London, 1852).

16. Kitchin, J. G., The Bible Student in the British Museum (London, 1892).

17. C. R. Conder, a colonel with the Royal Engineers, completed extensive scientific surveys of Palestine for the Exploration Fund late in the nineteenth century. Conder used his discoveries in a series of popular books and articles in order to illustrate and validate the historical portions of the Old Testament. His 1887 article, “The Old Testament: Ancient Monuments and Modern Critics,” The Contemporary Review, 03 1887, pp. 376393, and his book, Bible Accuracy As Shown By the Monuments (London, 1903), defended the biblical record and challenged the critics by pointing to the results of the archaeological exploration. W. Robertson Smith singled out Conder for criticism for his superficial and mischievous assumption that to be set on a camel in the wilderness gives a man “an independent knowledge of Oriental history, antiquity and thought” (see The Contemporary Reveiw, 04 1887, p. 561).

18. Archibald, Sayce, Reminiscences (London, 1923), p. 13.

19. Ibid., p.22 .

20. Sayce, , Fresh Light from the Ancient Monuments, By-Paths of Bible Knowledge, 2d ed. (London, 1884).

21. Sayce, , Reminiscences, pp. 272273.

22. Ibid., p.273.

23. Sayce, , “Archaeology v. Old Testament Criticism,” The Contemporary Review, 10 1895, p. 478.

24. Sayce, , The Higher Criticism and the Verdict of the Monuments, 5th ed. (London, 1895).

25. Church Times, 9 02 1894, p. 161.

26. Sayce, , The Higher Criticism and the Verdict of the Monuments, p. 362.

27. Ibid., p.v.

28. Sayce, , Archaeology and Criticism (London, 1909); idem, Monument Facts and Higher Critical Fancies (London, 1904).

29. Cheyne, T. K., Founders of Old Testament Criticism (London, 1893), p.232.

30. Sayce, , The Higher Criticism and the Verdict of the Monuments, p. 24.

31. Macy, , Some Mistakes of Higher Critics;Charles, Ovenden, Modern Criticism and the Holy Scriptures (London, 1913).


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