Monthly Archives: September 2009

Realist Epistemology

… [T]here is a modern set of presuppositions, linked to the realist epistemology most evangelicals favor, which has a profound influence on their exegesis. Having a realist epistemology means that they will tend to favor truth of a factual and scientific kind and not be quite so open to truth of a more symbolic or metaphorical type. One sees it in the evangelical doctrine of biblical inspiration, which is protective of cognitive truth in general and factual inerrancy in particular. It means hermeneutically that the “natural” way to read the Bible is to read it as literally and as factually as possible. In apologetics too evangelicals like to appeal to empirical reason.

They like to ask, If you can’t trust the Bible in matters of fact, when can you trust it? In many ways then, evangelicals are in substantial agreement with the modern agenda which also prefers the factual and the scientific over the symbolic and figurative. What could be more modern that to search for scientific truth in texts three thousand years old? Such a modern presupposition will demand the right to read the Bible in modern terms whatever the authorial intention of the text might be. It just assumes that our values must have been the same as those entertained by the ancient Israelites.

David R. Vinson, Introduction to the Interpretation of Genesis 1

Find My Rest in God and His Word

It’s not just biblical texts that believers must complain about. It is God himself…What matters is the context in which complaints and criticism occur. Do I make the criticism because I expect God or scripture to answer my questions and I will not rest until I find my rest in God and his Word? Or because I’ve decided that God and his Word are something I need to protect myself against, because I’ve found a higher standard of truth by which to judge them both?

John Hobbins on his blog Ancient Hebrew Poetry

The idea of the Bible

These texts weren’t reading material; they functioned atropaically—as amulets, talismans, good luck pieces. These Bibles were owned, touched, tucked away, treasured. But not read. The idea of the Bible mattered more than its content.

From my vantage point, that attitude toward the Bible is ubiquitous, even for folks whose Bibles are big. A lot of verbage gets thrown around about the Bible (its perfection, its authority, its goodness) that makes sense only if you don’t read it—or read it seriously.

Julia O’Brien writing about an exhibition of small bibles she saw at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore