Saturday, March 24, 2007
  It is all in how you look
Several bibliobloggers have posted about the conversation on Biblical Archaeology Review about the interrelationship of biblical scholarship and faith. Since I am trying out tumblr (see below) as a way of grabbing quotes I will add to the list.

As you might expect, I don't agree with any of the four, who were:
  • Bart Ehrman (apocryphal gospels) lost his faith study,
  • James F. Strange (archaeologist) a quite untypical Baptist,
  • Lawrence H. Schiffman (Dead Sea Scrolls) Orthodox Jew
  • and William G. Dever (archaeologist) evangelical preacher, who lost his faith, and then became a Reform Jew.
They began the conversation considering the "fundamentalist" notion
of Scripture as the inerrant word of God, no mistakes of any kind—geographical or historical. No contradictions. Inviolate.
Ehrman exhibits clearly the danger of placing one's faith in the Bible, rather than the Lord of History.
My scholarship early on as a graduate student showed me that in fact these views about the Bible were wrong. I started finding contradictions and finding other discrepancies and started finding problems with the Bible. What that ended up doing for me was showing me that the basis of my faith, which at that time was the Bible, was problematic.
Strange seems to have started with a less "fundamentalist" religion, though in a fundamentalist context, and his faith seems always to have been founded on his love for God:
I grew up in east Texas, where the choices were you believed in the Bible literally or you didn’t believe in the Bible literally. That was it. I didn’t. So it’s my own experience with God that tipped me over on the other side. My best analogy is falling in love.
James F. Strange — Biblical Archaeology Society
Shanks: Does this God of yours have any attributes?

Strange: I suppose so, but I’m not really much interested. If I’m passionately in love, I hardly ever want to discuss the attributes of the person I’m in love with. Or if I do, I wind up saying superfluous things for everybody listening. “She’s wonderful.” “Can you give me some more information?” “Yeah, she’s really wonderful.” [Laughs] When you’re in this state, you don’t utter propositions.
James F. Strange — Biblical Archaeology Society
This seems to me a good way of explaining, or at least picturing, why one wants to resist attempts to pin theology down too much to a set of propositions. And yet as Ehrman says:
In other words, the faith is rooted in certain historical claims. As historical claims, they can be shown as either probable or improbable. And I got to a point where the historical claims about Jesus seemed implausible, especially the resurrection.
Bart Ehrman — Biblical Archaeology Society
I agree with his point, I just disagree with his conclusions. His central historical conclusion is that the resurrection did not happen. By contrast it seems to me the only sensible explanation for the descriptions of the disciples' behaviour after the crucifixion. I do not imagine that these descriptions of a terrified group huddling and hiding are deliberate "spin". Yet this fear is followed by an explosion of evangelism that, within a generation, takes faith in Jesus around most of the Mediterranean world.

Beyond this I can't get overly excited by history. It seems to me that here Strange is closer to the mark, it is about loving and being loved. And as he says:
What I can’t help but notice is that two people look at precisely the same event and one sees God intervening and the other does not.
James F. Strange — Biblical Archaeology Society
Or, as Isaiah puts it:
They do not know, nor do they comprehend; for their eyes are shut, so that they cannot see, and their minds as well, so that they cannot understand.
Isaiah 44:18
It is all in how you look. Just do not expect comfort and joy in this life, and you will be blessed like Job to see God at work and to learn:
Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.
Isaiah 30:20

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