Biblical Interpretation

By Robert Morgan; John Barton | Go to book overview

understanding Paul the ex-Pharisee and ' Matthew', presumably a 'scribe discipled' to Jesus. The history of religions background to the Johannine community, by contrast, is more esoteric, sectarian, and uncertain. The historical Jesus himself remains an enigma, different from his closest analogues, including Qumran sectaries, apocalyptic visionaries, charismatic prophets, and even John the Baptist. But all these analogies remain important for the historical investigation of this ' Jesus who became the Christ'. The balance between history of traditions sifting of the Gospels and the history of religions study of the actual context in which the material was transmitted is now being restored in favour of the latter.

The study of apocalyptic has made steady progress over the past century and has recently been enriched by the newer social- scientific and literary approaches to be considered below (see pp. 161 and 246). This progress contrasts with history of traditions research, which is in constant danger of sterility, because fewer advances are possible there. Competing scholarly hypotheses do battle in ever-lengthening footnotes, but nobody knows who is right, and finally few people care. History of religions work, by contrast, has been kept relatively fresh by the discoveries of new source-material. Even without any alliance with theology it continues to excite intellectual curiosity, but it has also lent itself to a revival of that alliance.

The scientific study of religion has flourished outside theology and biblical studies during the present century, and has enriched history of religions research. The importance of the new social sciences for Christian theology, as well as for biblical studies and Church history, was at once recognized by the systematic theologian of the history of religions school, Ernst Troeltsch. It is now recognized by many more theologians. The social sciences can contribute both to the rational historical study of the Bible, and to its religious appropriation. Both these aspects will be explored in the following chapter.


Further reading

ANDERSON, B. W. (ed.), The Old Testament and Christian Faith ( London and New York, 1963).

-- Creation in the Old Testament ( London and Philadelphia, 1984).

-129-

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Biblical Interpretation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Oxford Bible Series ii
  • Title Page iii
  • General Editors' Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • 1 - Interpretation and Biblical Interpretation 1
  • Further Reading 42
  • 2 - Criticism and the Death of Scripture 44
  • Further Reading 61
  • 3 - History and the Growth of Knowled-Ge 62
  • Further Reading 92
  • 4 - History of Religions and History of Traditions 93
  • Further Reading 129
  • 5 - Theology and the Social Sciences 133
  • Further Reading 162
  • 6 - Theology, History, and Literature 167
  • Further Reading 200
  • 7 - Literary Study of the Bible 203
  • Further Reading 263
  • 8 - Conclusion: Interpretation and the Life of Scripture 269
  • Annotated Index of Names 297
  • Index of Other Names 336
  • Subject Index 338
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