Friday, October 05, 2007

Ad Fontes not Fads

If you read only one thing this week, I would hope that it is this piece from Martin Hengel now available on the IBR webpage.

Martin Hengel, "Tasks of New Testament Scholarship," BBR 6 (1996): 67-86.

"New Testament scholarship must move beyond its current preoccupation with faddish methods (as evidenced by several variations of the so-called new literary criticism) and return to a solid grounding in history, primary source materials, archaeology, and competence in the pertinent languages. This also entails familiarity with early Judaism, the Greco-Roman world, and early patristics. The exemplary contributions of major biblical scholars of the last century are viewed."


Josh McManaway said...

It's impossible to tell, but I'm standing while applauding Dr. Hengel.

John said...

Fine, but how does this fit in with your statement that "It is now the age of Foucault, Derrida, Rorty, Fish, and Eco"?

I think Hengel is right to emphasize the things he does. If his call were taken seriously, people with Ph.D's in Bible would be expected to read Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts, biblical and extra-biblical, without the aid of a dictionary and grammar. They would be expected to have a firm grasp of many areas of research which are not so much as taught today.

But I wouldn't forget about philosophy, literary theory, and stuff like that, either. Hengel, because he's German and studied Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger both in high school and again in seminary, is not philosophically challenged, though he may not be up-to-date.

The problem this side of the pond is that so few people have a serious grounding in philosophy of any kind (unless reading Francis Schaeffer counts, but I think not).

John Lyons said...

What is most remarkable, indeed almost laughable, about Hengel's opening paragraph is the idea that NT studies is widely influenced by faddish new methods. In my view the vast majority of it remains as traditional as it ever was (witness recent blog discussions about language competence). Most traditional scholarship hates philosophy with a passion, not seeming to recognise that it is not innocent in this regard.

But I am surprised at you, Mike. Surely a reformed theologian such as yourself would know that historical critical scholarship is regarded as deeply flawed by many of your tradition's theologians (e.g. look at the historical Jesus for example, or Barth's atitude to HC). Why are you backing Hengel? I am not sure he'd back you!