Creationists presume Biblical inerrancy and/or completeness and certainty. Scientists recognize the value of tentativity. Which is a better method for understanding the nature of the Bible (and, as an aside, the world around us)?
What fundamentalists call "The Bible" has many of the earmarks of having been a work in progress, even though it is now considered by them frozen in completed form, which either stands together or falls together as one monolithic whole.
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? Paul himself said (in 1 Thessalonians 5:21):
quote:Test all things, hold fast what is good.
"Testing all things" is the very foundation of scientific inquiry. Why should any aspect of the Bible itself be exempt?
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.
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.
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.
I suppose the concept of having a given text "stuck in time" is predominately a result of the comparatively recent invention of the printing press (Gutenberg, c.1440). This was not necessarily the case for ancient Biblical manuscripts; even given the alleged scrupulous methods of copying by the various copyists, the redactors often managed to get some things (not originally there) inserted over the centuries (be it mistakenly or deliberately). In other words, one could say that the collection of extant manuscripts themselves were very much a "work in progress"; and thus in a sense "living documents". These are the very types of things which higher criticism has (so far) discovered. 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.
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."
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.
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.
That "formal doctrine of inerrancy", being a conservative reaction to that very critical scrutiny (as practiced by the scientific revolution), of course.
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.
That most Christians have not read their own Bible (with the exception of the occasional highlighted verse which may have been used as the core subject of a sermon) is probably a given. 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. In spite of the usual claims made on its behalf, it clearly isn't; what little unification that is present is very much a result of various selection processes. Being sandwiched between a single pair of book covers doesn't change that; FCOL, codexes didn't even exist until up to the 1st century AD.
Personally, I have considered reading "the Bible" immensely enjoyable and enlightening simply by seeing it as what it truly is: a mixture; an anthology of cultural stories, some genuine attempts at history, religious polemics and exhortations, a smattering of philosophy, creative poetry, speculative fiction, and so on. That others prefer to view it as nothing more than a glorified self-help book is, unfortunately, their loss.
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.
Is most of what is considered "the Bible" truly essential to daily living, even for a typical Christian??? I would say not. The huge swaths of "the Bible" which are systematically ignored by those who live according to self-help literature is still there, of course, but just tagging along for the ride. For that matter, I myself possess several "New-Testament-Only Bibles" collected over the years, and even a couple of versions of which contain nothing more than the Gospel of John(!) (containing crossreferences to a tiny handful of pre-highlighted verses, intended by the publisher to be read in a specific order whilst ignoring everything else).
That which is essential to daily living may be seen to have value, but not necessarily to the exclusion of everything else that make daily living worth living in the first place.
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?
I don't doubt that at all; sheep-shearing has always been big business.