The historical approach to the Hebrew Bible has often been tinged with, in the words of Solomon Schechter, “higher anti-Semitism.”
An excerpt from an introduction to the Hebrew Bible by Marc Zvi Brettler that puts the matter in perspective, and touches on recent scholarship that is sometimes alleged to be anti-Semitic (for example, the Copenhagen school), is available online. Go here. A key graf:
The most notable attack on the historical-critical perspective came from a renowned scholar of rabbinics, Solomon Schechter. At a 1903 banquet, he offered an address titled "Higher-Criticism — Higher Anti-Semitism." He equated Wellhausen's approach with "professional and imperial anti-Semitism," calling it an "intellectual persecution" of Judaism. Schechter's essay had an immense impact on the Jewish attitude toward the Bible. Its influence seems to explain why until the present generation many professional Jewish biblical scholars have been less engaged in historical-critical study than their non-Jewish counterparts.
Schechter actually offered a fair critique of Higher Criticism as it was practiced in Germany in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. Like nearly all Christians of the time, its proponents believed in the moral superiority of Christianity to Judaism, and they used their scholarly works to illustrate this. Wellhausen, for example, likened Judaism in late antiquity to a dead tree. He applied that image vigorously, describing the late biblical book of Chronicles thus: "Like ivy it overspreads the dead trunk with extraneous life, blending old and new in a strange combination… [I]n the process it is twisted and perverted."
End quote. For the full text of Schecter's lecture, courtesy of Kevin Edgecomb, go here.
Brettler goes on to remark: "As painful as [Wellhausen's] sentiments are for Jews, they neither diminish the brilliance of much of his Prolegomena, nor negate the correctness of its basic methodology." True enough, but still. The OUP edition of Brettler's volume is entitled “How to Read the Jewish Bible.” Brettler writes very well, but his introduction still strikes me as a missed opportunity. An introduction to the Hebrew Bible that recovers its historical sense and demonstrates continuities and discontinuities with its resignification by rabbinic Judaism, has yet to be written. We need such a work.