The Corruption of Biblical Studies

This is a fantastic essay by Jonathan Berman of Bar Ilan.  With thanks to William Ross for the heads up.

Midway through we read

The point: in biblical studies, there are two types of practitioners: genuine scholars, and conservative scholars. The former are presumed innocent, motivated only by the disinterested and rigorous search for truth and guided solely by the dictates of rational inquiry, unmodified and uncontaminated by ideology. The latter are presumed to be agenda-driven, and to have donned academic cap and gown only to achieve a surreptitious panache of legitimacy for their cherished and unreconstructed religious dogmas. To those it wishes to marginalize and delegitimize, the mainstream establishment will apply the label “conservative.”

Scholars can be slapped with the conservative label if they argue one or more of three things. The first concerns the coherence of the biblical text. So-called genuine scholars—source critics, here—underscore the incoherence of the text. By contrast, a “conservative”—or, worse, “uncritical”—scholar is one who puts forth evidence for a text’s unity and coherence. Such a scholar may readily admit that the text could have a prehistory. But if such scholars—among notable exemplars are Robert Alter and Meir Sternberg, the latter a winner of the coveted Israel Prize—also claim that the received text, which is the only actual text we have, can still be read as a coherent work, and that many of the “problems” that other modern scholars see in it are an imposition of anachronistic aesthetic sensibilities, they will not be spared opprobrium as “uncritical.”

Really, do read the whole.

About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.
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