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Tuesday, March 08, 2011  

Christians and the Bible

We don't know it very well. This is old news, and to Andrew Stuttaford at Secular Right, it's good news:

Ignorance is never to be celebrated, but in this case it beats the most likely alternative for many of the Bible’s would-be readers; the dreary and obsessive rote-learning, study and purported follow-to-the letter of sacred text that is a characteristic of, say, much of Islam and certain strains of Judaism. The Bible certainly has its moments, but the West has benefited immensely from the way that Christianity has broken free from its ancient founding text into something infinitely more fluid, flexible and syncretic.

I get tired of saying things like this, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Andrew Stuttaford hasn't made a very thorough study of people like Maimonides, Averroes, or St. Augustine. Close readers of Scripture, these gentlemen, and profoundly influenced by Aristotle and (for Augustine) Platonism.

Moreover, it's hard to imagine that this view--which is perfectly conventional among a large group of people who fancy themselves modern and sophisticated--could co-exist with any deep knowledge of either the Bible or of the history of the West. You'd be hard pressed to find a penal code more restrained in its use of capital punishment than the Torah is before the 19th century. You'd be hard-pressed to find an impulse toward humane reform that didn't have serious grounding in the Bible and the church. The traditions of interpretation, going back to the New Testament and the earliest post-canonical writings of the Christian Church, are profoundly rich and creative (this practice is even older in Judaism, of course). The tedious literary fundamentalism Stuttaford and so many others imagine to be the true nature of Western religion is to a startling degree a creature of modernity, not of the ancients.

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posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 3:08 PM
Good Lord! How do these clowns find their idiotic way into print? "Broken free from its ancient founding text"...that doesn't even make any SENSE, especially in the case of a religion that names its only divine figure as the LOGOS.

How is it possible that people who claim to have any scholarly footing in any subject can continue to read any text, especially foundational religious ones, in such a narrow and ignorant way? Have they been sleeping for the past sixty years? Grrr. Read your Tracy, jerky!
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