|Friday Night Plenary Session with Craig Bartholomew at IBR
speaking on “Old Testament Origins and the Question of God”
I don’t know if I can do this for every session, but may be I can post on highlights of the day while I am at SBL-AAR 2015 in Atlanta. Last night, I heard a very challenging address by Dr. Craig Bartholomew, the H. Evan Runner Chair and Professor of Philosophy at Redeemer University. His paper title was “Old Testament Origins and the Question of God,” which gives a nod to N.T. Wright’s “Christian Origins and the Question of God” series now in its fifth volume.
There were many good challenges to Bartholomew’s address, but the most poignant one was re-assessing how historical criticism should be practiced. He charged that any theory is underdetermined in relation to the data it seeks to explain. It is time to re-assess whether historical criticism underdetermines too much data so its interpretative model no longer remains useful for reconstructing and understanding a historical event.
Bartholomew gave this example from OT history: as soon as you read the Penteteuch at the literary and theological level, Moses is clearly a central figure. But at the level of historicity or historical criticism, scholars have virtually erased Moses from history and certainly do accept, even in mediated form, the idea that Moses contributes to the authorship of the Penteteuch.
Bartholomew went on to suspect that the need to re-assess how the scholar practices historical criticism would have come sooner had it not been for the “post-modern tsunami” which blew in alternative forms of criticism (new literary, rhetorical, reader-response, deconstruction, post-colonial, and others) into biblical studies. Before exegetes realized they needed to make revisions to the historical-critical method, scholarship, in response to the post-modern tsunami, retracted deeper into historical criticism as a default method because of the destabilizing effects of new and competing criticisms.
Though delayed by the emergence of competing post-modern criticisms, Bartholomew feels that biblical scholars are long overdue in re-evaluating and revising how historical criticism is practiced, so data is more adequately determined and interpreted.
Wow! This lecture certainly gives me much to think about!