Carolyn Sharp on “naively performed” historical-critical inquiry of the Bible

In Carolyn Sharp’s new book Wrestling the Word (which I am hoping to use in the future for some classes), she addresses in her opening chapter the question of “What’s at Stake in Different Ways of Reading?” I found her comments about historical-critical inquiry to be particularly interesting (perhaps because I share many of them), yet I should point out that Sharp quotes John Barton’s  quite unflattering remarks about postmodern biblical interpretation . . . and so the knife cuts both ways.

Sharp writes the following about the difficulties and problems of historical-critical interpretation “naively practiced” (18-19):

1. Historical critics are sometimes unduly influenced by the views of those who wielded political power in the societies under investigation.

2. Historical critics sometimes confuse the views of biblical characters and narrators with what may have actually happened in history (i.e., they “can be startlingly naive about the relationship between text and context, missing the subtleties with which literary texts use misidrection, conflicting viewpoints, irony, and other artful means to tell stories,” p. 20)

3. Historical critics sometimes seem unaware of their own cultural and epistemological biases. (To expand, Sharp writes “But biblical hisorical inquiry, as it has traditionally been formulated, has made something of a fetish out of purportedly ‘neutral’ and ‘objective’ scholarship, dismissing the biases and values of the historian as irrelevant. Bracketing one’s own opinions is one thing. Pretending one’s own biases do not exist is quite another, and that latter approach has been a hallmark of biblical historical-critical scholarship in many quarters,” p. 20).

And . . . that’s where my Amazon books preview cuts me off (I must buy this book!). Some sharp words from Sharp!

(I cannot resist comment . . . that is one beautiful and compelling cover! Well done whoever designed that!).



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