September 1, 2012

About Borg's Chronological Aims...

Marcus Borg wants to see the New Testament's 27 documents rearranged "based on contemporary mainstream biblical scholarship" and "scholarly consensus about the basic framework." This article is so interesting, I don't quite know where to start. For brevity's sake, I'll just cut to the chase.

If any mainstream publications start making hay with such a "chronological new testament", one based on the liberal consensus Borg recommends, then I predict one of two reactions from the conservative side (who are tragically always reactive instead of proactive about the NT historically). Either (a) a handful of contrary projects will develop, with a more scripture-affirming timeline, which might raise the concern among evangelicals that NT chronology needs more attention (thus providing us with chronology projects deeply flawed in another direction, because conservatives generally care more about shoring up doctrine than for reconstructing actual history)... Or (b) a handful of strong authority figures will simply circle the wagons around canonical sequencing by decrying once more the feasibility of knowing such dates with much confidence (as they go on passionately debating the finer points of much more knowable things, such as precisely how much God does or does not predetermine).

I don't honestly know which of those two outcomes I'd prefer less.

The major parts of Borg's rationale, I agree with. His "consensus" package of dates, not so much. Yes, it makes a huge difference in the way we see the New Testament, and yet it's for that very same reason that we certainly do ourselves more harm than good with the wrong sequence of dates.

Obviously, all this merely begs the main question once more. What are the right dates? As it so happens, a couple of Bibliobloggers were on Facebook just this week, discussing how there's so little consensus among various NT Chronologies currently 'out there', and how it's easier to just make up one's own and then look for whomever's published work most closely approximates that, to get support! (Yes, I'm pretty sure they were mostly just joking, but it's not far from the truth.)

I have so much work still cut out for me. (He said, unashamedly.) Though it is not now what it might have been in recent years. (He said, mysteriously.)

More to come on my changing objectives, anon, but unless I suddenly win the lotto (anyone want to buy me a ticket?) I'll just keep battling circumstances to carve out more significant project time. Any year now, I really ought to start hitting my groove. Until then, I'll just let these others speak for themselves, without further commentary, from me, today:

Marcus Borg:  A Chronological New Testament

Aside from 347 comments at the moment (which I've not yet read more than a dozen of), the post also has over a thousand shares and 'likes', and a couple of bibliobloggers have already responded:

Phillip J. Long: Reading the New Testament, Chronological or Canonical?
Victoria Gaile Laidler: Chronological or Canonical?

Perhaps more opinions will follow. I'd love to see yours, in the comments below...


Chris Jefferies said...

You do know that resistance is futile?

Sorry, Bill, I was unable to restrain myself.

Bill Heroman said...

I will not be assimilated. ;-)

Bob MacDonald said...

I wish people could find their way around the OT. The other day, someone who had read the Song with me in Bible study couldn't find it in the OT. Maybe if it had been in TNK order, she would have been luckier. Since she was reading in public the first lesson, it would have been wise to have bookmarked it!

Chronology would not have helped her. Both NT and OT and TNK are wrapped editions, arranged as they are because they are, not because time is the ultimate decision maker.

Bill Heroman said...

Wow, Bob. Was she too proud to use the table of contents?

Years ago I wanted to see the NT books resequenced in publications. Now I like the cannonical order just fine... but I strongly believe we need more education about the chronology.

Which is to say, I agree. The book is perfectly fine, just as it is.

Our comprehension of things is what needs more improving.

Bob MacDonald said...

I think the TOC was too much to find since this is a big bible on the lectern and it is heavy. But perhaps it is just a 'learning' opportunity. I have had times when I can't find what I am looking for (and they are increasing with age!)

Bill Heroman said...

I understand. Like many, I forget too. Galatians, especially, is always in the "wrong" place. I have to change directions two or three times when flipping.

Bob MacDonald said...

You have a comment pending on another earlier post - at least I hope you have

Bill Heroman said...

I got it, Bob, but I apologize for not seeing what it had to do with that particular post or thread. I'm glad you reminded me, though. Can you send me an e-mail? I'm at my name: [firstlast]

In all sincerity, I'm intrigued by your studies. You seem to combine scholarly rigor with spiritual passion, and I think we need much more of that in the world.

I can reproduce your comment in the e-mail, to start our private discussion, if you'd be so kind as to write me. Thanks!

Neil said...

"Biblical inerrancy is an innovation of the last few centuries, becoming widespread in American Protestantism beginning only a hundred years ago."

Historically speaking, Borg is correct here. And many of the current forms of Christianity owe their heritage to that innovation. The tendency among inerrantists is to de-emphasize the human or historical antecedents to biblical events and narratives in the interest of emphasizing the divine elements. As long as that tendency persists, there will be resistance to academic pursuits which challenge the theological status quo.

A belief in inerrancy and a commitment to academic honesty in historical studies are natural enemies, IMO. :-)

Bill Heroman said...

Can't argue with that, Neil. The word "openness" might fit better than "Honesty", but I assume that's a big part of what you mean.

And yes, as for the resistance...

Tell. Me. Aboutit!

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