Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Forging ahead: Leaving the Middle of Nowhere

It seems to me that we need a new introduction to biblical methodology that reflects what we have learned from postmodern philosophy. I envision chapters dedicated to complete revisions of our old tools, explaining where and why they went wrong, and then rebuilding the method from the ground up. I also envision chapters dedicated to newer methods that have entered our toolbox in the last twenty years. This would be an edited volume, written by various scholars dedicated to the project of revisioning our field and the way in which we approach the materials. It would not be a postmodern handbook which conceives of itself as "critical" and everything else as "non-critical". It would be a handbook that considers our field in the wake of postmodern critique in order to move us out of the Middle of Nowhere.

Leaving the Middle of Nowhere
A New Vision of Biblical Methods in the Wake of Postmodernity


Deane said...

"Postmodernism", eh? Sounds so zany, new and cutting-edge, here in the 1970s.

Christopher W. said...


I am very interested in what you have to say on this topic. I am of the opinion that narrative criticism is a valuable tool that should be used alongside historical investigation(mainly because source, form, and redaction criticisms--while tremendously valuable) had the unfortunate effect of breaking up the text so that it was rarely read as it came to exist in its final form. In your opinion, are narrative and reader-response criticisms a part of the "postmodern" methodologies you seem so opposed to? Or, is it that these methods have often been applied in the context of explicitly theological readings of the biblical literature? In other words, are the methodologies problematic in your view, or are the practitioners of those methodologies problematic? (Or, is it both or neither?) Hopefully you see what I'm asking.


Chris Skinner (

R.Eagle said...

Dear Dr. D.,

As a very interested scholastic novice/former intercollegiate minister and follower of your blog and scholastic expertise over the past several years, your approach (as illustrated on your blog) has been very refreshing and often supplemental to my current stand on faith and the Bible.

For me, I was born into a Catholic family. Yet, I soon (having attended Catholic school, K-8) realized this (rather sickening display of Christianity) no longer represented me and my family. This then led me to the teachings of Chuck Smith and a rather (judgmental) fundamentalist (selectively, though predominantly literal) perspective, which served its purpose for a time. However, with a father who suffered from Schizophrenia (not to mention my own metaphysical experiences) and what not, and my deep desire to understand what most had no satisfactory answer for, after 9 years in the Calvary Chapel movement, I then found myself deeply intrigued by a new Christian religion founded by a simple South Korean farmer who profoundly answered my questions which no one in the Christian community (based on my experience) was able to.

That said, I think any approach to understanding Scripture must be relevant and able to meet a people's fundamental human needs. If not, then truly, what use is it?

Best of luck in your revised approach. I'll stay tuned.


Coleman A. said...

This sounds very interesting! I agree with what Christopher said above about narrative criticism. Another important methodology that has emerged over the past 30 or so years is social-scientific criticism, both those that focus on social description and those that use social science models as heuristic devices for interpretation. My doctoral dissertation, on the characterization of Peter and Paul in the canonical Acts, combines narrative, social memory, and social identity theories to investigate how these characters, the audiences memory of them and their construction in the narrative help construct the readers/hearers identity.

Thus, I think it would be important for this project to highlight how various methods can work together. I look forward to seeing how this project develops!

Coleman A. Baker