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Fowl on History and Historical Criticism, pt. 6

This is the sixth in an eight-part series of excerpts from Stephen E. Fowl’s forthcoming volume in the Cascade Companion series. Theological Interpretation of Scripture will be released later this summer by Cascade Books.

Theological Interpretation of ScriptureContents
Introduction: What Sort of a Companion Is This?
One – Scripture: Its Nature and Place in God’s Drama of Salvation
Two – Theological Interpretation and its Relation to Various other Concerns
Three – Practices and Habits of Theological Interpretation
Four – Prospects and Issues for the Future
Five – Guests at a Party

The series of posts will follow Fowl’s sustained discussion of history and historical criticism in the second chapter. Feel free to comment.

Part one Part two Part three Part four Part five

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Let me be clear at this point. The recognition that we all view the world and its past through a set of lenses and not immediately does not mean that all lenses result in 20/20 vision, that all lenses are equal. For my purposes it is sufficient to note that if the dominance of historical criticism depended on the assumption that the world and its past were immediately available to us, then the recognition that the world is not immediately available must also affect the claims of historical criticism. As a result, in the past thirty-five years, professional biblical scholarship has seen an explosion of interpretive strategies driven by scholars with particular sets of interests and commitments that go beyond presenting the past as it actually was. The most prominent of these are feminist and Marxist/liberationist strategies for interpreting the Bible.

As a result the field of biblical studies today appears much different, and more fragmented than it did even fifty years ago. The concerns and practices characteristic of historical criticism are still around. They exist in a chastened form, however. Historical critics can no longer claim to offer us an immediate view into the past. Rather, they pursue their specific historical investigations as one among many sets of scholarly interpretive interests. The demise of the conceptual apparatus that allowed for the dominance of historical critical interpretation of the Bible has not led to the elimination of historical criticism, nor should it. It has, however, opened the door to critical approaches to the Bible that do not grant those particular historical concerns priority over all others. This means in theory that there is now room for theological concerns to re-enter the scholarly realm. This has been slow to happen for a variety of reasons.

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  1. […] Part one Part two Part three Part four Part five Part six […]

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