SBL and So-called Unscientific Scholarship

I deliberately chose not to enter the fray some months ago when Michael Fox of the University of Wisconsin, Madison wrote his jeremiad against “faith-based study” of the Bible, an open letter to all members of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). Only secular approaches and methods are to be allowed.

Apart from astonishment at the sheer quantity of problems with his position, my main reaction at the time, and even more so after reading the catalog of sections and papers for the SBL meeting that starts in a week, is this: if people and papers dealing with the text from a particular religious or ideological perspective are banned from SBL, there will no longer be an SBL.

Theological, feminist, postcolonial, queer, political, etc.; these are the adjectives du jour. This is not inappropriate, nor does it mean that biblical scholarship has given up on archaeology, history, literature, etc. But these things are no longer ends in themselves for most of us. This is not your parents’ SBL. Though it might be your grandparents’.

3 Responses to “SBL and So-called Unscientific Scholarship”

  1. John says:

    How then does one appreciate or respond to a radical Spiritually Informed critique of the origins of the Bible and its political purposes. A radical critique based on the most thorough 50 year long intensive investigation of every aspect of Christian doctrine that has ever been done.

    There is a paragraph in this essay where the author points out that no modern scholars have any real sympathy for, or even any kind of understanding of the esoteric dimensions of religion.

  2. Amen.

    This is really the same sort of thing that Ronald Hendel was advocating in his BAR article not long ago (although granted, they are nuanced in different ways). I’ve yet to encounter any truly convincing reason why one’s perspective (religious, cultural, or otherwise) would really get in the way of “true” interpretation.

    It seems to me as if “pure objectivity,” is meant to defend the biblical text against distortions, primarily by those who have faith-related concerns…In my mind (simple as it may be), its difficult to see how “pure objectivity” in reading the Bible isn’t itself a huge distortion of what the texts were and are about.

  3. Luke says:

    Good word, Dr. Gorman. I had heard of Hendel’s diatribe but not Fox’s. I am surprised to see such a good and careful scholar make such a preposterous claim. Modernism is dying a very slow death indeed.

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