Doubt and Scholarship

Ben Witherington has a good post entitled, “Justification by Doubt“, that is worth a read. Here is an excerpt:

But there is a particular trait of some Biblical scholars, indeed many of them, which I would like to comment on, on this blog, because it drives too much of what passes for critical Biblical scholarship. It is the tendency I call justification by doubt. A scholar tries to demonstrate his or her scholarly acumen by showing not merely great learning, but how much he can explain away, dismiss, discredit, or otherwise pour cold water on. This activity in itself is sometimes mistakenly called ‘critical scholarship’ apparently in contradistinction to uncritical or pre-critical scholarship. And having once trotted out this label it is then assumed that any real scholar worth her or his salt will want to be a skeptic so they can then be revered as a ‘critical scholar’. Otherwise they are not really being scholarly.

Read the whole post for yourself — it’ll be worth the effort! I pretty much agree with his perspective, though some skepticism is necessary for critical biblical scholarship. It’s all a matter of balance.

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2 Responses to Doubt and Scholarship

  1. James says:

    I have noted that, too. As I was reading Acts in the GNT, I noticed that Paul was thought to be mad with great learning because he believed God could raise the dead. Now, we would say that he was mad with lack of learning because he believed God could raise the dead! Interesting change, isn’t it?

  2. How things change! That’s a neat observation — great for a sermon or lecture!

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