quote: Is examining the Bible in scientific terms (i.e., determining its origins, previous sources, history of formation, superfluous accretions, implied missing bits, and so on) somehow considered verboten and/or sacrilegious?
Verboten is prohibited by dictate and sacrilege is a gross irreverence toward a hallowed person, place, or thing.
Biblical criticism by Christian theologians has been around since the early 18th century. According to Paul Johnson in “A History of the Jews”, Page 101.
…Could not the Greek notion of the unified oikumene, world civilization, be married to the Jewish notion of the universal God?
That was the aim of the reformist intellectuals. They reread the historical scriptures and tried to deprovincialize them. Were not Abraham and Moses, these ‘strangers and sojourners’, really great citizens of the world? They embarked on the first Biblical criticism: the Law, as now written, was not very old and certainly did not go back to Moses. They argued that the original laws were far more universalistic. …The reformers found the Torah full of fables and impossible demands and prohibitions. We know of their attacks from orthodox complaints and curses. …
From what is written in the Bible, examining the Bible is not actually verboten or sacrilegious. That’s not to say that people don’t deem it verboten or sacrilegious when faced with questions they can’t answer or their way of life feels threatened.
Science evolves. Religion also evolves. The written word is stuck in time whether it is a religious book or article, science book or article, laws, constitutions, etc.
When new discoveries are made in science, the old articles or books are not rewritten; but new articles and books are written whether arguing against old results or paradigms, building on them, or correcting them. Max Planck said: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."
The Bible is stuck in time, but religion still evolves. Religions had to change or become extinct. Even within the pages of the Christian Bible we can see change. The Jews had the Oral Law to help make sense of the written word.
While Conservative and Reform Judaism also believe that some kind of Oral Law was always necessary to make the Torah comprehensible and workable, they reject the belief that most of the Talmud dates back to Moses' time. They are more apt to see the Talmud and the Oral Law as an evolving system, in which successive generations of rabbis discussed and debated how to incorporate the Torah into their lives. Thus, they feel more free than the Orthodox to ignore, modify, or change the Oral Law.
Christians had their early writings that helped develop the religion. Books continue to be written to help believers understand how to apply the lessons of the Bible to every day life.
Biblical inerrancy is the doctrinal position that the Bible is accurate and totally free of error, that "Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact." Some equate inerrancy with infallibility; others do not.
As a result of the Scientific and Technological Revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, various episodes of the Bible (for example the Noahide world wide flood, the creation in 6 days, and the creation of women from a man's rib, have in scientific circles been recognised as legendary. This led to an increasing questioning as to the veracity of Biblical texts. According to an article in Theology Today published in 1975, "There have been long periods in the history of the church when biblical inerrancy has not been a critical question. It has in fact been noted that only in the last two centuries can we legitimately speak of a formal doctrine of inerrancy.
quote: "Testing all things" is the very foundation of scientific inquiry. Why should any aspect of the Bible itself be exempt?
We know that science evolves and we know that religion evolves. People don’t usually change until they want to or have to. Stages of Change Model
The Bible isn’t exempt, but some believers have had their beliefs all their life and change can be difficult. We have no way of knowing how changing one aspect of their belief impacts their life. Only they know and, for many, religion is a big part of their social life. Odds are a person won’t change until they are ready to change or are forced to change.
Conclusion: I don’t see that the writers of the Christian Bible manuscripts deemed their writings to be above examination. Biblical criticism is not verboten or sacrilegious, but those who are unprepared or unwilling to change will probably try to dissuade inquiry. From what I’ve read, I conclude that the decision to accept new information; whether one is a scientist, clergy, or layperson, depends on how acceptance of that information will impact one’s life. There’s more to it than just accepting facts and each individual believer is a unique constellation of beliefs.
quote: What is known as "higher criticism" certainly has been around for a few centuries, and yet has been continually and widely condemned by the religious right as "irreverence" at best, and downright evil at worst.
That’s why I said that people tend to deem it verboten or sacrilegious when faced with questions they can’t answer or their way of life feels threatened. Religious leaders have power, some also have money. Organized religion is big business.
The same type of thing happens in science circles, although the tactics may differ to dissuade close examination. Science is big business.
Modern science is big business. Governments, universities, and corporations have invested billions of dollars in scientific and technological research in the hope of obtaining power and profit. For the most part, this investment has benefited science and society, leading to new discoveries, inventions, disciplines, specialties, jobs, and career opportunities. However, there is a dark side to the influx of money into science. Unbridled pursuit of financial gain in science can undermine scientific norms, such as objectivity, honesty, openness, respect for research participants, and social responsibility.
quote: It's too bad that the religious right chooses to deny this sort of thing, preferring a mythical "dead unchanging text" which almost certainly didn't exist as such in those times.
Again, IMO, it is more the leadership that is unwilling to change for fear of losing their careers, power, etc.
quote: Exactly; why should modern Christianity limit itself so? It didn't at first. Such writings didn't abruptly cease with John's Revelation; there are scads more surviving texts of those genera (gospels, epistles, apocalypses, etc.) produced during the same time or during the following centuries.
I’m not sure what you mean by limited. The Bible is the foundation, but I think I can safely say that most Christians have not read the Bible through completely as a book. There is no shortage of religious writings concerning Christianity, past and present. The leadership reads these writings (or should), not necessarily the layperson. Scientists read scientific writings, not necessarily the layperson. Today the layperson has more access to the writings of the early church fathers and scientific writings, but I would say most are not inclined to read them. They aren’t really essential to daily living. How-to and Self-help books are big sellers. Christian book stores are full of them. The people are listening to the preacher or designated teacher.
quote: That "formal doctrine of inerrancy", being a conservative reaction to that very critical scrutiny (as practiced by the scientific revolution), of course.
Again, I feel it was more of a leadership reaction. The sheep follow the shepherd usually. (People also leave churches when they don’t buy into what the preacher is selling.) Past religious conflicts.
Conclusion: Religion is a business, just like science. That doesn't mean there aren't varying degrees of sincerity with the least end not involving money or power.
Religious writings didn’t stop and religious leaders probably had access to the ancient writings. Today the layperson has more access to Christian writings past and present, but probably hasn’t even read the entire Bible, let alone bother with other ancient writings. Biblical criticism is very time consuming. I feel the majority listen to the preacher. They don’t necessarily read the whole Bible.
If their religious leadership or training has put the fear that questioning is "verboten", then they probably won't question until they feel the need for change. Probably when it adversely affects their lifestyle. If it ain't broke, why fix it?
quote:However, my contention is that viewing what most Christians call "the Bible" (be it the 66 or 73 version) as if it were a single book is precisely part of the problem.
Since we're pretty much in agreement concerning the reality of the Bible, you need to be more specific as to the "problem" you see.
IMO, Christians do understand that the Bible is a compilation of books by various authors (don't necessarily agree on who the authors are though), but the more conservative Christians view it as manuscripts written by authors who were inspired by the same muse, God, and therefore this compilation has a consistent message throughout or builds to an ultimate message.
Dogma and tradition have helped to sew together the feeling of one book. IMO, the writings are interpreted to fit the needs of the religion. But that's what religion does. What's the problem you see?
From what I've read, scientific studies can also be interpreted differently by scientists.