Historical criticism, also known as the historical-critical method or higher criticism, is a branch of literary criticism that investigates the origins of ancient text in order to understand "the world behind the text".
The primary goal of historical criticism is to ascertain the text's primitive or original meaning in its original historical context and its literal sense or sensus literalis historicus. The secondary goal seeks to establish a reconstruction of the historical situation of the author and recipients of the text. This may be accomplished by reconstructing the true nature of the events in which the text describes. An ancient text may also serve as a document, record or source for reconstructing the ancient past which may also serve as a chief interest to the historical critic. In regards to Semitic biblical interpretation, the historical critic would be able to interpret "The Literature of Israel" as well as "The History of Israel".
In 18th century Biblical criticism, the term higher criticism was commonly used in mainstream scholarship in contrast with lower criticism. In the 21st century, historical criticism is the more commonly used term for higher criticism, while textual criticism is more common than the loose expression lower criticism.
Historical criticism began in the 17th century and gained popular recognition in the 19th and 20th centuries. The perspective of the early historical critic was rooted in Protestant reformation ideology, in as much as their approach to biblical studies were free from the influence of traditional interpretation. Where historical investigation was unavailable, historical criticism rested on philosophical and theological interpretation. With each passing century, historical criticism became refined into various methodologies used today: source criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, tradition criticism, canonical criticism, and related methodologies.
Famous quotes containing the word method:
“Government by average opinion is merely a circuitous method of going to the devil; those who profess to lead but in fact slavishly follow this average opinion are simply the fastest runners and the loudest squeakers of the herd which is rushing blindly down to its destruction.”
—Thomas Henry Huxley (182595)