July 6, 2008

The Point

Why is the previous post (on Herod's Temple Pavement) so important? Because I don't feel like I see enough "nuts and bolts thinking" in New Testament studies, generally. Everything in this whole "BS" world is "theological" based on IDEA centered thinking. One world-renowned star of the field recently put out a book he titled simply, "Paul" and yet it's really all about interpreting Paul's thinking.

Which is fine. But then, why not call the book "Paul's Thinking"?

I know. I taught English once. It's called "Synechdoche" - like the phrase "head of cattle". You mean 20 whole cows, but you say "20 head". I get it. To save space, the theologians just say "Paul". I know, I know.

But still... it's a hugely telling point.

The fact that the word "Paul" is available for use as a TERM says a lot about what it is NOT being used for. In fact, a book written today about Paul's life would be called "Paul's Travels" or "Paul's Life".

That just seems backwards to me.

Is it me?


Richard Fellows said...

If it is you, its me too!

Richard Fellows said...

Perhaps I should expand on what I just said. The NT is important because if its religious significance, so NT studies attract people who are interested in theological questions, rather than historical quesions. The problem with this is that to understand the theological thought of Paul and Jesus it is necessary to determine the chronology, authenticity, and reliability of the NT texts, and these are historical issues. Another problem, is that scholars, who are often literary critics with a theological focus, often seem to reconstruct the NT writers in their own image. They see literatury dependency everywhere and they declare that Acts is "theological" rather than "historical". I wonder if this kind of false dichotomy provides the critic with a convenient excuse not to pay attention to historical questions. Colin Hemer was very perceptive when he wrote that the theological focus of modern scholarship is partly responsible for the neglect of the question of the historicity of Acts.

Bill said...

Oh, hey thanks a lot, Richard. One more expensive book I have to put on my list! ;)

Seriously, thanks for the comments. So at least there's two of us. Or three - I googled Hemer and can't find much on the man himself. Is there a better site you know of?

Which reminds me... you need a blog, dude! :)

Bill said...

the theological focus of modern scholarship is partly responsible for the neglect of the question of the historicity of Acts

Someone told me once, "When all you've got is a hammer, everything else starts to look like a nail."

Bill said...

By the way, Jefferson White is another one who may have similar views. His introduction is awesome.

I see now that Hemer is included in his bibliography. And Gasque, who's just caught my attention as well.

Chris Jefferies said...

You know, I think there's another factor at work here. Archaeologists and historians sometimes (often?) seem to distrust the Bible as an historical source simply because it's seen as 'religious'. - As if religious and historical cannot exist in one and the same document.

But as believers we know that the essence of Christianity is historical. Everything the Almighty has done in the world is, by definition, historical! Jacob's family went into Egypt, and the nation of Israel came out again. Cities were built, wars were fought, battles won or lost, and words written down.

One of the reasons that historians and archaeologists shun the Bible as a source is that they've long had difficulties tying up Biblical descriptions of people and events with what has been dug out of the ground and analysed. David Rohl's New Chronology (mainly focusing on Egypt) seems to solve most of those problems. Everything seems to fit at last!

I should stress that Rohl's analysis is by no means accepted by the majority of Egyptologists - yet.

The Bible should be regarded by scholars as one of the best historical sources available. But it's not. Sad, isn't it!

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