November 24, 2009

Francis Watson on Historical Criticism

Derek Leman just blogged about the SBL's section on Historical Criticism. This is the one Mike & Rob mentioned the other night, as I said. Here's the most relevant part of Derek's review.
Francis Watson of Durham University gave a provocative lecture. He said we should abandon the term historical criticism altogether for the following reasons:

(1) Biblical scholars are not historians and should not imply that we are.

(2) Historical criticism is not a neutral characterization. In its origin the term referred to textual criticism, which is about restoring texts. Historical criticism, by contrast, has been about doubting them. The historical critical movement has had an agenda to criticize, in the harsh sense, other views of the Bible.

(3) Historical criticism has claimed that its methods are objective, neutral, and not about dogma. This has been shown to be a farce.

(4) The real issue has been modernity and rationalism versus tradition.

(5) Historical approaches to a text are far from the totality of the work we do. Much Biblical scholarship is not historical but interpretive.

(6) The distance historical critics claim to put between themselves and the text is illusory.

(7) Therefore, we should talk about biblical studies or scholarship and make the term historical criticism defunct.

I was pretty jazzed after Watson’s presentation and the room was buzzing. But things only got better as Michael Legaspi gave a stinging critique of the whole enterprise of historical criticism...
Read the rest here.

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