Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Historical-Critical Method

Krentz, Edgar. The Historical-Critical Method. Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2002.

This book is an introduction to the historical-critical method in the field of biblical studies. The book is concise which is wonderful at all times and especically for an introduction. The author takes time to give an historical overview of the method's development. Krentz also takes time to describe the various practices of modern scholars in finding meaning in the biblical text. He concludes by stating some of the objections that some modern scholars have raised to question the historical-critical endeavour but the book never really deals with postmodern philosophy. Still, it is good to see that there is some awareness of the method's shortcomings. For those interested in how the Bible is read, especially in modern scholarly circles, this book is a very good introduction.

For those that are looking for a way to affirm their religious experience, this book will not do well. Krentz is thoroughly modern philosophically. Most religious settings care far less about obtaining historically verifiable information and much more about their own experience of the divine. For these communities, a method that leads to an explanation of what happened but does not move beyond that is ultimately unsatisfying, especially if it tears down the original religious experience in the process. For Krentz "an existential interpretation that does not have a corresponding reality in history is not helpful" and personal experience is "nonhistorical." Religious readings and experiences are basically set aside in favour of the tools of historical research.

Thus, there is some disconnect between his reading of the Bible and a religious reading of scripture. This isn't good or bad, but the distinction is apparent, even to Krentz. As he says: "The gap between scholarship and the church often is great. Many people still fear historical criticism in biblical studies. The results of critical scholarship have made the Bible a strange, unused, and even silent book."

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