Legaspi on the Academic and Scriptural Bibles

“I believe that the scriptural Bible and the academic Bible are fundamentally different creations oriented toward rival interpretive communities. Though in some ways homologous, they can and should function independently if each is to retain its integrity. While it is true that the scriptural reader and the academic interpreter can offer information and insights that the other finds useful or interesting, they remain, in the end, loyal to separate authorities. I grant the moral seriousness of the modern critical project and, to a modest degree, the social and political utility of the academic Bible. I also grant the intellectual value of academic criticism. A rational, irenic study of the Bible supported by state resources and disciplined by academic standards cultivated across a range of fields has produced, in a relatively short time, an astonishing amount of useful information. It has become dear, though, that academic criticism in its contemporary form cannot offer a coherent, intellectually compelling account of what this information is actually for. What critics like Collins have done as a result is to shift the rationale for modern criticism away from the intellectual and back toward the social and moral. There is value in the social and moral by-products of academic criticism, in things like tolerance, reasonableness, and self-awareness. The problem is that these rather thin, pale virtues seem only thinner and paler when compared to the classic virtues associated with the scriptural Bible: instead of bland tolerance, love that sacrifices self; instead of an agreeable reasonability, hope that opens the mind to goodness and greatness that it has not yet fully imagined; and instead of critical self-awareness, faith that inspires and animates the human heart. Academic criticism tempers belief, while scriptural reading edifies and directs it. In this sense, they work at cross-purposes. Yet each mode presumes the value of knowledge. Perhaps the two are closest, then, when in that brief moment before thought recognizes itself, the mind wavers between words that have suddenly become strange, and knowledge is a choice between knowing what the text said and knowing what the words might be saying. It is a choice, at such a moment, between the letter that has been revived and the letter that never died.”

Michael C. Legaspi, The Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Studies (Oxford Studies in Historical Theology; Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 169.

About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, living and learning in Eastern Europe…Old Testament professor, ordained minister, occasional liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth…eldest sibling to three…uncle to Marshall and Leeland...son-in-law to Claudia.
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2 Responses to Legaspi on the Academic and Scriptural Bibles

  1. Susan Soesbe says:

    Is this the premise?

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