Phenomenologies of Scripture

Phenomenologies of Scripture

Phenomenologies of Scripture

Phenomenologies of Scripture


Phenomenologies of Scripture addresses two increasingly convergent disciplines: philosophy and biblical studies. On the one hand, the recent “theological turn” in phenomenology has established religion as a legitimate area of phenomenological inquiry. If that turn is to be enduringly successful, phenomenology must pay attention to the scriptures on which religious life, practice, and thought are based. On the other hand, biblical studies finds itself in a methodological morass. Contemporary approaches to scripture have raised important questions about the meaning and function of scriptural texts that phenomenology is uniquely positioned to answer: How is the meaning of a text constructed or gleaned? How can the divine be present in human words? Is a scientific approach to the Bible still possible?<\p>

Bringing together essays by eight of today’s most prominent philosophers of religion with responses by two leading biblical scholars, Phenomenologies of Scripture reestablishes the possibility of fruitful, dialectical exchange between fields that demand to be read together.<\p>


adam Y. wells

What Can Phenomenology Do for Biblical Studies?

Science is central to the discourse of modern biblical interpretation: how should we study the Bible scientifically? Can we discover truths about biblical narratives with scientific rigor? Do recent scientific discoveries undermine or support biblical narratives? We tend to assume that science—for example, historical science, archaeology, etymology, and so forth—is the truer and more stable intellectual discourse, to which biblical interpretation must be conformed. Yet this veneration of Bibelwissenschaft (biblical science) is not simply a natural extension of our culture’s regard for scientific and technological achievement. Rather, it is generated out of a particular historical nexus—namely, a convergence of the Enlightenment’s regard for natural science and the Reformation’s suspicion of ecclesial authority. Far from forming the stable center of biblical interpretation, science has functioned ambivalently within the historical discourse of biblical studies as both cure and disease. Accordingly, a phenomenological approach to scripture aims to shift the center of biblical studies from science to scripture itself. This approach is not unscientific or anti-scientific; it refuses to draw unreflectively from the methods of the natural sciences, for a true science of scripture must draw its methods from a concrete engagement with scripture.

The methods of modern biblical criticism have their roots in Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670), which establishes “the marching orders . . .

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