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Tuesday, January 11, 2005
 
Maximalists? ::

Ralph the Sacred River has a fine post on the problematic of creating a term "maximalist" to correspond to and contrast with the term minimalist.

He starts:
In the study of the Hebrew Bible today, the terms "maximalism" and "minimalism" are thrown around with great abandon.
So, there must be lots of others out there who had invented the term "maximalist" as a shorthand way of saying "those who oppose the ideas and conclusions of the minimalists" - at least that's how I (uncomfortably) invented it for my Genesis class.

But a Ralph says it is easy to define a minimalist, just ask a question like "Did king David exist?". But, he claims, not so straightforward for "maximalists" there is a sort of sliding scale of different questions about the existence of Abraham, Noah, Adam etc. So he concludes:
In fact, I submit that it is impossible to define "maximalism." Even if one answered "yes" to David, Moses, and Abraham, as I do, one might still want to add "--but I don't necessarily believe every story told about him." What does that make you?
I think Ralph is right to be uncomfortable with the term "maximalist" but for the wrong reasons.

There is a sliding scale of minimalism too, at least potentially. Just take some of Ralph's questions and add a few:
Did Jesus exist?
Did John the Baptist exist?
Did Ezra exist?
Did King David exist?
Did Moses exist?
Did Abraham exist?
At what point on this scale does one become a "minimalist"?

Now, like Ralph I am not really happy with the term "maximalist" either, because there are many biblical scholars who are not minimalists or maximalists in any dictionary sense, yet who argue against the conclusions of the minimalists (so fitting my definition of what I wanted to describe by the term "maximalist" at the start: In Hebrew Bible studies Maximalists are those who oppose the ideas and conclusions of the minimalists. So, it is not the term "maximalist" that is bogus, it is the term "minimalist".

However, unlike the term "biblioblogger" the term "minimalist" is well entrenched and very widely understood. So, if biblioblogger is likely to survive "minimalist" is sure to. So, unless someone can propose another really good term for those who argue with and against the ideas and conclusions of the minimalists, I'll stick with "maximalist".


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