Biblical Studies Alternatively: An Introductory Reader

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9780130454294: Biblical Studies Alternatively: An Introductory Reader

This anthology brings together modern research and discussions on the meaning of the Bible in our world. It invites readers to appreciate the continuing cultural, political, and religious relevance of the Bible by presenting a wide range of articles that introduce the Bible as a powerful document of past and present culture. This reader is divided into four sections: Introductory Matters, The Rhetoric of Gender, The Rhetoric of Race/Ethnicity, and The Rhetoric of Class; allowing the reader to see the Bible as an influential document of past and present culture, politics, and religion. For readers interested in modern biblical interpretations in the context of gender, race/ethnicity, and class.

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From the Back Cover:

Susanne Scholz brings together scholarly research and discussions of the meaning of the Bible today. It breaks with the conventional historical approach to the Bible and teaches students to read biblical texts in light of their multiple, indeterminate, and infinite meanings, illuminating the dynamics between the Bible, readers, and the world. This anthology invites students to view the study of the Bible as an important contribution to our understanding of past and present culture, politics and religion.

Features of Biblical Studies Alternatively:
  • Thematic approach—Introduces the Bible as a cultural artifact of multiple meanings.
  • A combination of the Old and New Testament readings—Combines scholarly research on the Christian canon
  • Clearly organized into categories of gender, race/ethnicity, and class.
  • A range of perspectives on the multiple meanings of biblical literature
  • A focus on innovative research—Concentrates on studies that have emerged since the 1970/80s.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The Bible is an international bestseller, sustaining the religious life of many people around the globe. Yet many academic courses in the West explore only the historical meaning of this text, sacred to Christianity and Judaism, and so they cut off the study of the Bible from questions of contemporary meaning. Biblical Studies Alternatively is an anthology that brings both together: scholarly research as well as discussions on the meaning of the Bible in our world.

The anthology shows that the Bible can be reduced to neither a pietistic appreciation nor its historical origins. Both approaches are important in their respective contexts: among Christian and Jewish readers on the one hand and biblical scholars on the other hand. Yet, both approaches also lack each other's insight. The pietistic stance ignores the wealth of scholarly work; the historical analysis neglects the strong desire for meaning. Integrating both insights, Biblical Studies Alternatively invites readers to appreciate the continuing cultural, political, and religious relevance of the Bible as suggested by biblical scholars. The four sections of the anthology—Introductory Matters, The Rhetoric of Gender, The Rhetoric of Race/Ethnicity, and The Rhetoric of Class—present a wide range of scholarly articles that introduce the Bible as an influential document of past and present culture, politics, and religion.

During the last decades, many researchers have become quite interested in reading the Bible as a cultural artifact. Their interpretations left the traditional confinements of a field that examined biblical texts primarily with historical and archaeological questions in mind. Once, there were good reasons for interpreting the Bible in the historical setting of the ancient Near East and early Christianity. When Christian institutions held great authority over biblical meaning, the historical approach was a bold challenge to religious and political power. Many Pentecostal and fundamentalist Christians continue to reject this challenge and still consider historical readings of the Bible as unacceptable. Yet, in our time, Christian institutions do no longer hold unquestioned religious authority or political power. Especially in comparison to their past status in Western societies, many of today's Christian institutions are relatively marginalized—politically, culturally, and economically. Whose interpretation of the Bible is still regarded as a challenge to Christian institutions, which have become as diverse as contemporary Western society? For the last two hundred years, scholars have worked hard and successfully to establish the right of interpreting the Bible with scientific methodologies, and so anybody may now publish her or his views on the Bible.

Consequently, historical criticism is no longer most challenging for the students in our classrooms. Whether they are secular or Christian evangelical, students in the West wonder why they should study the Bible in an academic environment in the first place. What do they gain from the exercise? Why should they spend a whole semester on a single book that has at best a perfunctory place in the public realm of today's Western society? This anthology recognizes the changed status of biblical scholarship as well as the changed purpose of an introductory course on the Bible. It is no longer enough to present biblical texts as historical relics, as many introductory textbooks advise. No longer do students perceive the church as a publicly powerful institution. Religion is a private matter and so, to students, it is an obvious fact that the Bible belongs to the past that is read as a religiously inspirational text. In such an environment scholars have to demonstrate that the Bible offers more than individual piety or historical data. If they want to ensure the intellectual and cultural significance of the Bible for the twenty-first century, biblical studies courses have to provide an alternative. They have to demonstrate the cultural impact and the intellectual contributions of the Bible for our understanding of the world in which we live.

Biblical Studies Alternatively provides the scholarly resources for this task. Discussing biblical stories and poems in the context of gender, race/ethnicity, and class—analytical categories that are standard for contemporary intellectual discourse, the anthology introduces the Bible as a culturally, politically, and religiously indispensable resource of our time.

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