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Historical Criticism 

This term refers to the kind of scriptural interpretation which developed after the study of the texts or manuscripts of these writings. It is clear that we do not have any of the original documents, merely copies of copies. Because questions were raised about their validity, scholars began to question the significance of the different gospels and other biblical stories. The historical approach was an attempt to understand each writing in its historical context. Historical criticism seeks to explain the difference between various scriptural passages in terms of the different times of writing, the different locations of the authors, and the way earlier writings were used by later authors. If the specific details of a writing are primarily determined by its time, place, author, and situation, it is easier to understand its distinctiveness using these historical contexts. This approach also makes it easier for us to find a significant understanding for our time and place. We should analyze the text not primarily on the basis of timeless ideas or themes but in light of the cultural context of the author and the intended audience. We need to learn as much as possible about the other writings, philosophy, and language-usage of the time in which the text was created to discover its basic meaning. 

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.
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