Present and Future of Biblical Studies

This is a terrible work and ultimately  a thoroughly unsatisfying volume.  The good folk at Brill (and I love them) have provided a review copy which I’ve read through and weighed in the balances and found more than wanting.

What is the current state of the field known as biblical studies? How will biblical studies continue to develop in this diverse, globalized, and digital age? In this book, a diverse group of scholars who are known for their innovative practice of biblical interpretation come together to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the critically acclaimed journal, Biblical Interpretation, by sharing their thoughts on and questions about the assumptions, practices, and parameters of biblical studies as well as their desires and fears about its disciplinary future. Covering a wide range of topics, geographical regions, resources, understandings, and viewpoints, this exceptional collection of essays will make you and help you rethink the conventions and convictions of biblical studies as an academic discipline.

I’ll say right up front that I found the work virtually useless.  Terribly irrelevant.  Depressingly self absorbed.  The essays fail to instruct and instead simply serve as a sort of mirror allowing their various authors to look at their own interests without regard for the reader on the other side of the page.  As a result, the essays don’t connect (at least with the present reader).

We’re treated to lots and loads and freight cars full of literary theory in the pages between the covers.  We hear a lot about this philosopher and that literary critic and how so and so’s work has influenced the essayists, but we don’t hear anything substantive or even interesting.

The introduction sets the tone for the volume: mind numbingly boring. We’re ‘treated’ to soul killing sentences like ‘If nostalgia is about entangled time as well as related to narrative, what we find in this volume are some rather entangled narratives about biblical studies, whether it is about historical criticism or about the place of the Bible’ (p. 9).   ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…………

Reading the essays in this collection was literally one of the worst reading experiences I’ve had since I suffered through Hector Avalos’ grotesquely ignorant volume on the future of biblical studies.  Many words, signifying nothing.

The volume, were it a piece of art, would be a splotch of paint on a canvas dolloped by an elephant or an infant around which the pompous and silly would gather and exclaim that it was the most genius work of art they had ever seen.  It is a circle of rocks on a museum floor.

And it just doesn’t improve anywhere along the way.  Take this meaningless gem from page 147: “Reading alongside Edelman, unveiling, no matter who is being unveiled, maintains a heteronormative fantasy of reproductive futurity because it provides for a telos that preserves a fantasy of the subject and unified and unifiable, a possible future in which the Veil of Color or the white mask may be removed, and a truer self may be articulated and experienced.’

Such writing is full of itself.  And therefore completely pointless.  Essayists here are simply performing auto-erotic intellectualism and reaching satisfaction alone and singularly.  They are arrogant in their pretense and a travesty of wasted intelligence.  They could all do better: they could communicate.  But because they instead wished to ‘show off’ they achieved meaninglessness.  This is a meaningless volume.

I hate this book.  Every page of it.  I feel robbed of valuable time having read it and I regret with my entire being asking to review it.  I’ll know better next time.  In short, having read this work, I can echo, mutatis mutandis, this famous scene as my own final thoughts on this book:

3 thoughts on “Present and Future of Biblical Studies

  1. Ross Macdonald 4 May 2018 at 4:01 pm

    But tell us how you really feel!


  2. Nick Norelli 6 May 2018 at 10:27 pm

    This is perhaps my favorite review of all time. Definitely the best I’ve read in a long time. Keep up the great work! May your tribe increase!


  3. John Poirier 7 May 2018 at 9:28 am

    Great review. “It is a circle of rocks on a museum floor” is one of the best lines I have ever read, and “depressingly self absorbed” is a perfect description of this sort of scholarship. In the future, I will probably use “self-absorbed” to describe this sort of stuff.

    The sort of scholarship represented in this volume can’t vanish soon enough.


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