How might New Testament Studies flourish in the next generation?

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How Might NT Studies Flourish in the Next Generation?

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7 thoughts on “How might New Testament Studies flourish in the next generation?

  1. Deane,

    My comment has more to do with the picture you posted than with your essay.

    It seems to me, based on my reading in these fields, that the people who want more “theological hermeneutics” are not the same ones who want more “philology”. In fact, these two approaches seem to be mutually exclusive, at least as practiced.

    Am I wrong?

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    • John,

      The link was to responses to a survey by members of the BNTS, if that is what you were referring to as my ‘essay’.

      But to answer your question: From what I’ve seen within Biblical Studies, there is a substantial overlap between those who press for the teaching of more Greek language technical skills and more very traditional historical-criticism, and those who desire that theology be the governing light, so to speak, in the field. They largely go hand-in-hand. We especially see this in evangelical scholarship, where historical-critical work is championed, but literary-critical work is a little suspicious, and ideological critiques must be greatly diluted before applied to the Bible. As Moore & Sherwood’s recent book argues, historical criticism provides the facade of academia to the type of scholarship which is manifestly motivated by confessional interests. Unlike the disputes of the 19th Century where there were deep rifts between historical criticism and reactionary confessional scholarship, today a form of textual and historical criticism is widely employed as a useful instrument for buttressing confessional commitments.

      Well, that’s the way I see it. You?

      Deane

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  2. Thank you, Deane.

    I haven’t read Moore and Sherwood’s book. Now I’ll have to do so.

    I do recognize the existence of a large number of Evangelical works using historical criticism to buttress traditional theological views. Where I differ is in my understanding of those who explicitly profess to belong to the “theological interpretation” movement. Although they often do go a certain distance with historical criticism, they almost all, at some point, pledge their allegiance to the Enlightenment-bashing bandwagon. They usually invoke purported difficulties of epistemology, or of problems with meaning *per se*, which they use as a reason to steer clear of intentionalist hermeneutics, or looking “behind” the text, etc. These are the types of works that have little use for philology, because, for them, what a word *meant* is of little relevance to what it *means*.

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    • John,

      Right, I agree that is certainly true of that group – such as the contributors to the Scripture and Interpretation series. I have the impression, however, that the driving force of this group are theologians, and in particular conservative and neo-orthodox theologians. They do have on board biblical scholars, too. Yet if you look at what the evangelical biblical scholars do outside of these more theological volumes to which they contribute, they typically take for granted philological and historical-contextual approaches. Their use of textual and historical criticism might be seen as tendentious or at least apologetic, but it does not fundamentally challenge the governing critical method, in the way that some of the theologians do (eg esp Webster). Interestingly, even those biblical scholars to the right of these evangelical biblical scholars (such as contributors to Carson’s The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures, 2016) are enamoured with textual and historical criticism (albeit of a strictly circumscribed form). And they too make the obligatory put-downs of ‘Enlightenment presuppositions’. I think the reason for maintaining this tension is that their limited use of textual and historical criticism (not crossing the line into ‘Higher Criticism’, as they still name it) provides a bedrock in modernity for conservative evangelical biblical scholarship. It’s perhaps paradoxical, but as Scholem wrote about Sabbetai Sevi’s Jewish following for a century after his death and conversion to Islam, paradox is the stuff on which religion thrives.

      Best,
      Deane

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  3. I can agree with your answer, and you remind me that I shall have to contrast the theologians in the TIS movement with the scholars in the movement.

    I use “theological interpretation of Scripture” (= TIS) as a technical term, which doesn’t include Carson and company. But I’m bothered by both groups.

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