The Bible And Anti-Intellectualism

I’ve been told more than a few times that I rely too much on the opinions of scholars when it comes to reading and interpreting the Bible. Instead of reading books that talk about the Bible, I’m told I ought to “just read the Bible” and “believe what it says.”

Those who advocate this just-read-the-Bible-and-do-what-it-says approach fail to acknowledge, however, the centuries of Biblical scholarship that have taken place in order to allow them to read their Bible in the first place.

The truth is, all of us, especially those of us who don’t know the Biblical languages (Hebrew and Aramaic for the OT and Greek for the NT), are dependent on the work of countless scholars who have devoted their professional lives to sorting through the wealth of ancient manuscripts in order to determine which ones are the earliest (more on this in another post) and then translating these manuscripts into English so that we can read them in our native language.

There simply is no such thing as “just reading the Bible” apart from the work of modern Biblical scholarship. If you read your Bible in English then you are dependent on the work of modern scholars.

The great irony of anti-intellectual Fundamentalism is that it’s fully dependent on centuries of rigorous intellectual achievement. That is, those who claim we ought not concern ourselves with the work of modern Biblical scholarship but instead on the Bible and the Bible alone are themselves dependent on the very scholarship that they scorn–and often unknowingly!

As if the Bible dropped out of the sky, bound and translated with a nifty 1 year reading plan placed at the back for your devotional convenience…

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See also: Reading the Bible Is More Complicated Than You Think OR Why Proof-Texting Is Bad OR The Lens Through Which I Read the Bible

 

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One response to “The Bible And Anti-Intellectualism

  1. Not only has our current English translations of the Bible passed through countless scholars hands, but we also are looking at a couple thousand years of social and cultural evolution. And especially for us in North America, we are even further removed from the original context having a distinctly Western and First World perspective when we approach the Scriptures.

    Not only is the just-read-the-bible-and-do-what-it-says approach ignorant of historical, literary, and cultural context, but I can guarantee every person who would claim to do this has some section of the Bible that they read and don’t do what it says.

    Not only is this view of Scripture shallow and narrow-minded, but it becomes idolatry very quickly, holding up the KJV or NIV as the Divine Word of God, rather than acknowledging Jesus as the Word. Not to say that the Bible is not inspired by the Spirit. We just fall into this notion that as soon as the last line of Revelation was penned, the Spirit stopped speaking to us. All we are doing is following in Israel’s footsteps because we can’t handle a Theocracy….we want a king. We want something other than God himself to tell us what to do and how to live, so we have elevated His scriptures above all else. While they are absolutely the primary way God has spoken and God’s story has been made known, a particular organization of translated ancient texts is not where God’s Word ends, it is where it begins.

    The living and active Word of God goes beyond the pages of our leather-bound ESV study bibles, beyond the countless men and women who have spent their lives studying and working out the smallest details found within it’s pages, and somehow, mysteriously, speaks to our hearts and has the power to change us. This is not the power of the written word, but the Living Word. The Word who was with God in the beginning; who was God in the beginning. The Word who became flesh and made His dwelling among us.

    Thanks for the thought-break Garret. Miss you my friend,

    Darcy Wood
    movement/repose

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