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Possibly of Some Interest

 

Some of you may get the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review.  It often has interesting stuff in it, for
the non-specialists.  Here’s the announcment of a recent article of possible interest.
 
 

Biblical Views: The Value of Methodological Doubt

Ron Hendel Defends Critical Biblical Scholarship

 

What’s the use of critical Biblical scholarship? If you asked evangelical Calvinist philosopher Alvin Plantinga, he’d probably say “not much.” He compares the endeavor to mowing the lawn with nail clippers. Instead he believes only in the inerrancy of scripture, trusting that the Holy Spirit will reveal everything one needs to understand the Bible. Ron Hendel, on the other hand, the Norma and Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, believes that critical Biblical scholarship and the methodological doubt that accompanies it are valuable tools for understanding and appreciating the Biblical text. Unlike the certainty that accompanies Plantinga’s belief in the inerrancy of scripture, the questioning of authority and tradition that comprises methodological doubt can ultimately lead to greater clarity and more solid faith, Hendel says. “Only a position that survives the scrutiny of methodological doubt can be regarded as reliable, and even then it is subject to future testing.”

Ron Hendel adds that the belief in the inerrancy of scripture is a fairly recent development of contemporary evangelical theology. Even in the 16th century John Calvin noted “erroneous views ‘of the humble and unlearned'” in certain Biblical passages, as did Martin Luther and other Reformers. For them the divine inspiration of scripture did not equate to an inerrancy of scripture.

Read more in Ron Hendel’s Biblical Views column “Critical Biblical Scholarship: What’s the Use?” as it appears in the July/August 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.


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Comments

  1. Avatar
    John  July 14, 2012

    Interesting.

  2. Avatar
    Jacobus  July 14, 2012

    Dr. Ehrman, thank you for an interesting link. When I was studying Theology the three stances advocated was 1. the Bible is the inerrant Word of God (Mechanical inspiration), 2. The Bible is God’s Word in Human Words (God se Woord in Mensetaal), 3. The Bible is words about God. My lecturers (professors) either held the second or the third view, most the second. I suppose that there was a time that the first view was the general accepted view in the Dutch Reformed Church and advocates of this view argues that the moment you start “compromising” (that is the word they use) on this view you land on a slippery slope that moves to view 3 and brings you to atheism. I believe that even if you might hold to the third view, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will land there. It seems that the move from believe to non-believe is more a personal journey and usually has to do with the silence of God in their lives. (However, I won’t really know, because I am not there.)

    I do think that when doctrine is the point of departure in studying the Bible, you’ve already limited the possibilities of discovery and understanding. When the Bible as written documents from an oral society can be vigorously studied, not being scared of where your study will lead you, it grows integrity.

    Personally I am thankful that Christianity is not where Islam is today. The taboos in the study of the Qur’an (eg. the lack of a study textual criticism) makes a lot with the religion sound hollow. Fortunately figures like Reza Aslan, Faruq Essad etc. seems to challenge and change this situation.

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    BELewis  July 14, 2012

    I thought the bit on Alvin Plantinga was interesting. I have always said, that at the end of the day, the differences between Biblical Scholars and Theologians (especially between reformed theologians and critical Biblical Scholarship) are really about Philosophy. Men like Plantinga (Also…Van Til, Gordan Clark) reject (ed) and refute (ed) any epistemological position that ends in skepticism. For them, an “initial” commitment to Jesus Christ and the Bible as God’s inerrant source of revelation is necessary-and-not surrendering it in one’s argumentation. For them, ultimate commitment (as Van Til called it) to these two principles is the beginning point and not the ending point in their epistemology.

  4. Avatar
    Adam  July 18, 2012

    I find in the seminary settings I’ve been in that some (not all!!) theologians are skeptical of some methods of biblical scholars and many biblical scholars are skeptical of some methods theologians.

    The historical critical method is not perfect, but it is helpful! To say we shouldn’t be critical when studying the Bible is like saying we shouldn’t use logic when practicing philosophy.

  5. Avatar
    brandyrose  August 10, 2012

    Very interesting; I’m a practicing Christian, and in our women’s bible study this summer we are studying James. One of the quotes was from Martin Luther, who wanted to “throw old Jimmy out” of the New Testament 🙂

  6. Avatar
    Michael Burgess  December 30, 2013

    I was an usher at my local Episcopalian church for several years, but I fled when the new rector began to insist that the Bible is “the inerrant word of God.”

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