Monday, August 17, 2009

Critical scholarship as being more faithful to the Bible than conservative evangelicalism

"It is often said that fundamentalists are 'people who take the Bible literally.' This however is a mistake. Fundamentalist interpretation concentrates not on taking the Bible literally, but on taking it so that it will appear inerrant, without error in point of fact. Far from insisting that interpretation should be literal, it veers back and forward between the literal sense and non-literal sense, in order to preserve the impression that the Bible is, especially in historical regards, always 'right'...It is the inerrancy of the Bible, especially its truth in historical regards, that is the fundamentalist position, and not the notion that it must always be interpreted literally. The contrary is the case. It is the critical interpretation of the Bible that has noticed, and given full value to, the literal sense. In this sense, as Ebeling and others have noted, the critical movement is the true heir of the Reformation with its emphasis on the plain sense of scripture. It is precisely because of its respect for the literal sense that critical scholarshp has concluded that different sources in (say) the Pentateuch, or the gospels, must be identified...My argument is simply and squarely that fundamentalist interpretation, because it insists that the Bible cannot err, not even in historical regards, has been forced to interpret the Bible wrongly; conversely, it is the critical analysis, and not the fundamentalist approach, that has taken the Bible for what it is and interpreted it accordingly. The problem of fundamentalism is that, far from being a biblical religion, an interpretation of scripture in its own terms, it has evaded the natural and literal sense of the Bible in order to imprison it within a particular tradition of human interpretation." --James Barr, The Scope and Authority of the Bible, 78-79.