Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Bible: History It Is Not

Check out these articles on the internet magazine, The Bible and Interpretation. Here are a few essays regarding "minimalism." Reading these articles from bottom to top will give you an idea of the questions being asked and who the players are in Old Testament scholarship. Let me warn you. Scholars are nastier and dirtier than preachers when it comes to mud slinging. Thank Jehovah for the good guys, the ones who agree with me and who rise above it all.

For those of us trying to figure out the issues, I think the bottom line questions are these: Is the Old Testament history? Did the authors intend to write history? Can we trust anything the Bible says regarding historical events?

Here is Jim West's view from the essay, The Copenhagen Boomerang:

If the intention of the authors of the biblical text were to write history, they did a fairly poor job of it since they included virtually nothing in their account of a historical nature. God is everywhere in the pages of the Hebrew Bible after all--but God is not bound by the historical and hence cannot be the subject of historical investigation. But if, on the other hand, they intended to write a theological narrative, then they hit the mark with great accuracy and aplomb. The whole of the Old Testament (and the New) overflows with talk of God--and that is what theology is--a word about God.
Thanks, Jim. So what is the relationship between historical events and the Bible?
...the Hebrew Bible tells us nothing of events as they really were. This seems to me a self evident truth. The writers of the Old Testament had no more intention of telling about things for the sake of the telling than a mathematics textbook today intends to teach art or grammar. The purpose of the Hebrew Bible is purely, simply, and completely a theological one. The attempt to make it fit a historical model is to force a square peg into a round circle.
That sounds painful. So those who try to shore up the Bible's authority by making claims for its "historical veracity" are doing nothing more than ramming their square pegs where they don't belong?

Theological historiography, when degraded to the status of mere historiography, becomes myth and legend rather than message and claim. Curiously, the very people who are attempting to defend the Old Testament’s historical nature are denuding it of its theological value. Their misunderstanding of the purpose of the biblical writings is robbing them and their adherents of the pleasure of hearing the message contained in the text because they are focused on the shell and they forget the meat.

Nicely put. So there, fundies. Learn how to read and keep your square peg away from my Bible.