I have enjoyed reading an ongoing discussion on Kevin Wilson’s blog, bluecord, in which his posts have recently explored the topics of the relevance of biblical studies in higher education and the use of the historical critical method. Up to now I haven’t joined in, but I thought I might offer some thoughts from Jon Levensen upon these matters.
Let me say at the outset that I characterize myself as a faithful, critical scholar. I have a commitment to the Christian faith which I do not hide, but I also study the bible and other ancient documents using (not uncritically) certain aspects of historical critical methodology. Having said that, here is an insightful quote from Levenson:
Indeed, a historicism afraid to acknowledge normative judgments about suprahistorical truth eventually deteriorates into historical relativism and experiences mounting difficulty articulating the transhistorical value of historical study itself. This is the dead end to which, in my judgment, the secularization of biblical studies has delivered too many of its practitioners. Ironically, those eager to adapt biblical studies to the modern university now find their own discipline plunging into the crisis that has engulfed the entire university. At the heart of that crisis lie the loss of a transcendent goal for learning and the weakening of the communities and practices that can sustain the faith and belief upon which all learning–and not only biblical studies–depends.1
In light of this observation, is it any wonder that discussions that fight for the ongoing relevance of biblical studies in higher education and the historical critical method go hand in hand?
- Jon Levenson, The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and Historical Criticism: Jews and Christians in Biblical Studies, Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1993, xiv. [back]