Thursday, October 17, 2013

Updating the Bible?

This is the comment I left on Dr. Enns' blog for Carlos Bovell.

Bryan Hodge
I've read your books before and so this is all familiar to me. I was wondering if you might clarify somethings for me?

Can you let us know whether you are primarily using a diachronic or synchronic approach to understanding Scripture? I say "primarily" to ask which one wins out when you come to the conclusion that the Bible teaches something that has been updated. Is that "updated" in terms of itself or "updated" in terms of traditions within the culture (or both)?

The problem I have with a lot of critical approaches that are popular within scholarly circles today is that they fail to use a synchronic approach and note whether the current context of a book, section of books, or canon carries previous implicatures that were held in its prehistory.

For instance, Smith makes a note in the back of one of his books (I forgot which one, but can look it up at some point), that using polytheistic language assumes the idea that other gods exist. Unfortunately, that should have been the subject of his entire book rather than the rest of what he wrote. This is merely assumed by him. The fact of the matter is that implicatures don't carry over into other contexts unless those contexts carry identical or similar referents. So if I have polytheistic language from a polytheistic text used in a work that teaches monotheism, then those implicatures obviously do not carry over. It's like my saying, "Tyra Banks is the goddess of fashion" in an atheistic/monotheistic context, such is ours. My use of the word "goddess" does not carry the implicature "other gods or goddesses exist," because the language is used in a different context and now just becomes idiomatic without those referents.

Hence, how does one go about saying, "the Bible teaches X, Y, and Z that have been updated from U, V, and W" if, in fact, the Bible is one book that carries its own referents within that canonical context? Isn't this a bait and switch number, where what you really mean by "the Bible" is "the individual traditions that the Bible has used, both in and outside the text that make up its parts"? But if that is true, then you are really just talking about the pre-biblical traditions that have been updated by the canon.

This, in turn, seems to indicate that it really has to do with one's view of canon, and whether the canon is the final word on what should be clarified, updated, etc. If not, I'm not sure any canon is worth its weight if it does not measure other canons/updates that follow it. So my question is this, Are you talking about the same Bible that evangelicals are talking about, or are you talking about some other "bible" that evangelicals never affirmed as sacred Scripture anyway?

If that is true, that you are discussing another "bible" (albeit unknowingly, as scholarship in general makes this bait and switch all of the time), is it even possible to make a leap from the assumptions that the Bible updates traditions to fit culture rather than to hold the evangelical view that the Bible incorporates traditions as its language often in order to either affirm or correct those very traditions in the first place? In other words, if the Bible updates because it is the norm of all cultural traditions, past and present, how exactly would we update it? With what norm would we do so? And would it be the Bible anymore if we fit it into our own contextual referents and gave it our own implicatures?

Thanks in advance.

No comments:

Post a Comment