Saturday, November 08, 2008

F.F. Bruce on the Boundaries of Evangelical Scholarship

Dan Reid of IVP posts this quote from the great F.F. Bruce:

"No such conclusions [he is referring to pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic biblical scholarship] are prescribed for members of the Tyndale Fellowship. In such critical cruces, for example, as the codification of the Pentateuch, the composition of Isaiah, the date of Daniel, the sources of the Gospels, or the authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles, each of us is free to hold and proclaim the conclusion to which all the available evidence points. Any research worthy of the name, we take it for granted, must necessarily be unfettered" (F. F. Bruce, "The Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical Research" EQ 19 [1947] 52-61).

Dan subsequently comments: "This is a point well remembered today, over sixty years later, when it seems that some forces within evangelical scholarship (and no commentary on Tyndale Fellowship is intended here!) would indeed like to fetter research and its results (declaring what is in bounds and what is out, sometimes on question-begging grounds), often by appealing to the evangelical past. Well, the evangelical past was not all of one mind, just as it is not today."

For me the questions is: can one accept a certain view of the gospel and a certain view of biblical criticism (e.g. dating the final form of Daniel in the second century BCE or regard 2 Peter as a post-Petrine writing) and remain an evangelical? Bruce himself was conservative as they come, esp. with anything to do his NT history and staunch evangelical (see his biography In Retrospect). But I take his point to be that one can be confident enough in the gospel that one does not see the entire veracity of God's revelation collapse if some critical conclusions on sources happen to be correct.

I think evangelicals wrestling with the origins and study of the Bible should read three books (and these books should themselves be read critically of course!):

Kenten L. Sparks, God's Word in Human Words - on biblical criticism.
Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation - on cultural context and historical contingencies.
Craig Allert, A High View of Scripture - on canonisation.


Sam said...

I heartily agree. Here's a review of Inspiration and Incarnation.

Unknown said...

Hi Dr Bird, I've been reading your blog for up to a year now but have very rarely commented. These issues helped lead to my deconversion from evangelical faith. I would really appreciate it if you had 5 minutes that you read the following opening post.

If you have 10 minutes you could read what everyone else had said and if you have an hour you could even join up on the site!

If you could recommend reading in light of that post and the fact that I've read Enns' book, that would be great.

Reading my followup post to James Goetz would help out too. Thank you very much :)

Unknown said...

Also on the subject I've read

James Barr "The Bible in the Modern World"
NT Wright "The Last Word: Scripture and the Authority of God"
Borg "Reading the Bible again for the First Time"

I'm struggling to find a coherent doctrine of Scripture which allows it to be used for theological argument.