Book Note: Law's The Historical-Critical Method

David R. Law, The Historical-Critical Method: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: Continuum, 2012). (

David R. Law's introduction to the historical-critical method of interpreting the Bible is a very thorough book. There are two primary points of focus: (1) to outline and define forms of historical criticism such as textual, source, form, and redaction and (2) to provide a history of how these forms of historical criticism developed. The introductory (Chapter 1, Introduction) and concluding (Chapter 7, The End of the Historical—Critical Method?) are primarily concerned with asking "what is the historical—critical method?" and "does it remain relevant to biblical studies?" While Law does respectfully entertain critiques of the historical-critical methods monopoly of biblical studies, and while he acknowledges that those critics have enlightened many scholars, he does argue in the final chapter that the historical—critical method remains not only indispensable, but also quite valuable, even to those who critique it.

Chapter 2, A Brief History of Historical Criticism is self-explanatory. Chapters 3-6 deal specifically with the meaning, methodology, and development of textual, source, form, and redaction criticism. In these chapters there is quite a lot of history too. 

Readers of this book will become well-informed regarding how biblical studies became dominated by the historical—critical approach and what it is that this approach entails. The flaws of various approaches are explained with integrity. This book is a solid introduction for students of the Bible, especially those focusing on hermeneutical methodology. In chapters 3-6, Law ends each study with an example of the particular method in action, which again will be quite helpful to most readers, especially those who like to visualize theory-in-action.