According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What is Biblical or Historical Criticism? Part 1 of 3

The Roles of Biblical Criticism

by RJS
November 15, 2012

“Historical criticism,” which means placing a biblical text in its original historical context, is our preferred term. Historical criticism often involves comparing the text with parallel or analogous biblical or extrabiblical texts from the same general geographical area and the same general time period. This helps us better understand what was “in the air” at the time and what may have been the cultural assumptions underlying the biblical texts, its authors, and earliest audiences. (p. 4)
The sketch of the history of biblical interpretation begins almost immediately after the writing of the earliest portions of the Hebrew scriptures. The later writers wrestle with and interpret the earlier texts. The inter-testamental authors wrestled with the text – as we see in works like those found among the Dead Sea scrolls. Large portions of the New Testament “can be regarded as an interpretative process of connecting Israel’s story with the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.” ( p. 11) This later point is important. Unless we understand the Old Testament, and the general cultural assumptions concerning the Hebrew Scriptures at play in the first century, we will almost certainly misinterpret large parts of the New Testament message. The New Testament authors, Brettler, Enns, and Harrington note, “quote the Old Testament well over 300 times and allude to it over a thousand times.” These are significant quotations and allusions, deeply entwined with the meaning the authors wishes to convey.
The reformation laid the groundwork for scholarly biblical criticism and the rise of skeptical biblical criticism. The reformation doctrine of sola scriptura required that the faithful believer pay close attention to what Scripture is actually saying. This also led to a political twist to biblical criticism. Biblical criticism moved out of the church and became a tool to undermine the authority of the church, and the authority of the state when church and state were intertwined. The deep enlightenment and modernist skepticism grew further and became tied to questions of science and faith – with miracles denied and the text demythologized. There is much more to this history – more in the brief sketch provided by Brettler, Enns and Harrington; and even more in the books suggested for Further Reading.
Out of this history though, there is perhaps a path forward. A path that does not ignore the results of textual criticism, source criticism, redaction criticism, historical criticism, but considers them critically in conversation with traditions of religious faith.
While we may sympathize at times with some of the critics on either side, we are convinced that it is possible to read the Bible both critically and religiously. Although historically it has been the case that “the scriptural Bible and the academic Bible are fundamentally different creations oriented toward rival interpretive communities,” we do not believe that this should be so. We used the broad understanding of historical criticism, proposed by scholars like John Barton, as outlined earlier: biblical criticism refers to the process of establishing the original contextual meaning of biblical texts with the tools of literary and historical analysis. Whatever challenges such study raises for religious belief are brought into conversation with religious tradition rather than deemed grounds for dismissing either that tradition or biblical criticism. (p. 18-19)
The next three or so posts will look at how this conversation between historical criticism and religious tradition plays out for Brettler’s Jewish approach, Harrington’s Catholic approach, and Enns’s Protestant approach.
What does it mean to use historical criticism in conversation with religious tradition?
Does the Protestant refrain of Sola Scriptura require that the conversation occur?
After all, if Scripture is our authority, whatever contributes to a a better understanding of scripture should help us better understand the faith.
Or does the Protestant refrain of Sola Scriptura relegate historical criticism to a back seat?
After all, the plain meaning of scripture should be accessible to anyone, anywhere, with only a moderate education required.

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