Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Path to (Original) Biblical Expertise

There are four competencies for an expert on the original meaning of the Bible.
  • knowledge of the relevant languages
  • knowledge of the relevant historical background
  • knowledge of the relevant history of interpretation
  • hermeneutical competency
1. A New Testament expert must know Greek. A Hebrew Scriptures expert must know Hebrew and/or Aramaic. A New Testament expert is normally expected to know Hebrew as well, since such knowledge can be relevant for some NT interpretation.

An OT scholar will often know some of the associated Semitic languages: Aramaic, Ugaritic, Akkadian.

2. Historical background is extensive. For a NT scholar, there is Jewish history, intertestamental history, Greco-Roman history. There are extensive bodies of literature--Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, rhetoricians, Oxyrhynchus papyri, Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo and Josephus, perhaps the relevant rabbinic literature, although it is later. There is socio-cultural knowledge.

For an OT scholar there are inscriptions and the key Ancient Near Eastern collections.

3. The history of interpretation primarily refers to the scholarship of the last two hundred years and especially the last few decades. Pre-critical interpretation is of a different sort. It may be helpful spiritually but usually is not of much help for determining the original meaning.

It goes without question that a real biblical scholar will know about manuscripts and how to determine how the most likely initial reading. The true scholar will know source hypotheses. He or she will have an up to date sense of genre and how oral tradition works. They will know how redaction works. Further they will know how to analyze narratives as stories. They will know how to bring sociology and anthropology to bear on interpretation.

4. Finally, an original meaning biblical expert will be able to operate with historical-cultural excellence. They will resist theological anachronism. They will not have artificial boundaries about what the text can and cannot mean. They will read the text in the light of the world behind the text, not the preoccupations or concerns of the last hundred years. They will bring historical and literary evidence to bear on interpretive questions, and draw the most likely contextual conclusion, not twist the evidence to fit their preconceptions.


Brian Russell said...

Fascinating post Ken. 1–4 make sense and are good advice for those interested in the training.

#5 surprised me and then you ended with Ecclesiastes. All on a Saturday morning!

Ken Schenck said...

How is it now?

Brian Russell said...

Good advice. The section that you removed would be fun to have a conversation about at some point. I didn't disagree and wanted to hear more. It just seemed to be a surprising shift in tone/content.