Friday, February 02, 2007

Beyond the Canon?

April DeConick posts on Beyond the New Testament Canon, which raises some fascinating questions. I appreciate the kind of raw honesty in such an approach but I find this sentiment to be a rather overstatement of the case which provides more confusion. I can agree with her statement that we must: "take very seriously the study of a variety of early Christian documents, and not operate within the boundaries of the New Testament canon." I concur with the fact that: "An enormous amount of literature was written by the early Christians in the first two centuries, and all of it needs to be studied critically in order to get a full picture of what was going on. If we only study the New Testament documents, our reconstruction of early Christianity is inherently flawed." But this is a far cry from saying: "The impediment is the fact that the majority of biblical scholars still have not dislodged themselves from their own faith perspectives. As long as this is the case, historical inquiry is impossible because the historical-critical perspective cannot be used uncompromisingly."
I'm currently reading Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses and I was very tempted to think, before I began reading, that this was masked apologetics. However, upon embarking on this journey, one quickly discovers that Bauckham's strength IS his historical analysis. Think of Bauckham's various writings, has his faith-perspective damaged/deluded his historical analysis? Most of the academy has not judged him like this, so DeConick is being unfair and rather biased with her comments. Rather, I am in complete agreement with Mark Goodacre who clearly states:
If it's scholarship that one is doing, my feeling is that personal faith has no part to play, at least not in the way that one's arguments are constructed or in the evidence one adduces. In other words, I am interested in scholarly arguments based on publicly available evidence, arguments that make sense to an audience of scholars and students who may not share one's own faith perspective. As soon as my arguments only work for those who share my faith perspective, at best my arguments become apologetics and at worse my arguments run the risk of becoming weak and unscholarly. As soon as I begin to use evidence that is not in the public arena and that cannot be submitted to scholarly scrutiny by everyone, I am not engaging in academic scholarship. I do not expect my students to use their personal faith in their essays; how much more would I not expect professional scholarship to bring personal faith into their work.
This is the kind of scholarship that we need. Add to that the legendary Craig Evans, who has done much to unveil the history the period in question, both Jewish, Gentile and Christian. I'm with Evans who notes that:
For me Christian faith makes investigation of Christian origins worth pursuing. This includes critical study of Christian Scripture, as well as related writings. It also means critical study of the early history and development of the Christian movement, from the historical Jesus, to the preaching, teaching, and activities of the first two or three generations that followed him. However, Christian faith, just as surely as agnosticism or atheism, can become a problem, if there are pre-conceived notions in place that prevent honest, critical study.
This is what you'll hopefully find on this blog, if not - please offer critical comments!

1 comment:

Michael F. Bird said...

Loren, a very fair and generous approach. Bravura!