Since the emergence of biblical criticism, scholars have argued over how to interpret the Bible. Some think that the text’s meaning can be understood only when we place ourselves in the shoes of the people who wrote it (in this case, Jews living 2,000–3,000 years ago). Others think that the text’s meaning can be reached only through the divine mediation of the Holy Spirit, or some other source of direct divine authority.
From this latter camp, we often hear arguments that history simply “doesn’t matter”—that the text “speaks for itself,” and that further study about the texts’ language and context is useless at best and damaging to faith at worst. On the other hand, from those advocating “higher criticism,” we hear that the text “has no meaning” outside of its historical context—that in order to come to a consensus about the text’s truth (if such a truth even exists), we must see exactly as the writers saw.
And so the student of Scripture is torn: which of these seemingly irreconcilable approaches is right? [Read more…]