The End of Biblical Studies

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In this radical critique of his own academic specialty, biblical scholar Hector Avalos calls for an end to biblical studies as we know them. He outlines two main arguments for this surprising conclusion. First, academic biblical scholarship has clearly succeeded in showing that the ancient civilization that produced the Bible held beliefs about the origin, nature, and purpose of the world and humanity that are fundamentally opposed to the views of modern society. The Bible is thus largely irrelevant to the needs ...
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Overview

In this radical critique of his own academic specialty, biblical scholar Hector Avalos calls for an end to biblical studies as we know them. He outlines two main arguments for this surprising conclusion. First, academic biblical scholarship has clearly succeeded in showing that the ancient civilization that produced the Bible held beliefs about the origin, nature, and purpose of the world and humanity that are fundamentally opposed to the views of modern society. The Bible is thus largely irrelevant to the needs and concerns of contemporary human beings. Second, Avalos criticizes his colleagues for applying a variety of flawed and specious techniques aimed at maintaining the illusion that the Bible is still relevant in today’s world. In effect, he accuses his profession of being more concerned about its self-preservation than about giving an honest account of its own findings to the general public and faith communities.

Dividing his study into two parts, Avalos first examines the principal subdisciplines of biblical studies (textual criticism, archaeology, historical criticism, literary criticism, biblical theology, and translations) in order to show how these fields are still influenced by religiously motivated agendas despite claims to independence from religious premises. In the second part, he focuses on the infrastructure that supports academic biblical studies to maintain the value of the profession and the Bible. This infrastructure includes academia (public and private universities and colleges), churches, the media-publishing complex, and professional organizations such as the Society of Biblical Literature.

In a controversial conclusion, Avalos argues that our world is best served by leaving the Bible as a relic of an ancient civilization instead of the "living" document most religionist scholars believe it should be. He urges his colleagues to concentrate on educating the broader society to recognize the irrelevance and even violent effects of the Bible in modern life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A bracing call for Ingersoll-style biblical studies: a relentless demonstration of the alien and offensive character of a book that some would use as a weapon to control the rest of us."
ROBERT M. PRICE, PhD
Professor of Theology and Scriptural Studies
Johnnie Coleman Theological Seminary
Editor of the Journal of Higher Criticism
Author of The Reason-Driven Life and many other works

"... should be a required textbook in every academic class in biblical study .... I highly recommend this book to the general reader as a readable and reliable guide to understanding the important results of biblical research."

GERALD A. LARUE
Emeritus Professor of Biblical History and Archaeology
University of Southern California
First Chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Study of Religion
Author of numerous books on biblical issues including
Old Testament Life and Literature, Sex and the Bible, and
Ancient Myth and Modern Life

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591025368
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 7/28/2007
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Hector Avalos (Ames, IA) is associate professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, the author of four books on biblical studies and religion, the former editor of the Journal for the Critical Study of Religion, and executive director of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2008

    Brilliant critique of biblical studies

    Hector Avalos, associate professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, has written a brilliant and original critique of biblical studies from within. He argues that biblical studies should end, because it is just religious apologetics, not an academic discipline or a branch of scholarship. Most biblical studies academics think the bible is worth keeping and studying and most are members of `faith communities¿. But Avalos shows that the bible is irrelevant, the product of an ancient and very different culture whose values and beliefs about the origin, nature and purpose of the world are not useful or ethical. Religion is a fifth wheel, superfluous to life, a hindrance to all intellectual and scientific advances. It is an illegitimate claim to extra power for foolish arguments. We should not rely on any authority, especially not on a single ancient text. He investigates biblical studies¿ various sub-disciplines. He shows that the translations of the bible are largely bowdlerised. Textual criticism has found no original texts or manuscripts, and Jesus spoke in Aramaic, not Hebrew or Greek, so there can be no original, pristine word of God. Avalos shows how history and archaeology have disproved `biblical history¿. He notes that centuries of Jesus studies have not found a historical Jesus: he has no verifiable words or deeds, and there are no contemporary eye-witness accounts. Literary criticism has not shown that the bible is better literature than other ancient works, and the excessive attention paid to this one text has meant that thousands of ancient Mesopotamian texts have never been translated. Avalos examines the USA-based Society of Biblical Literature, with its 7,000 self-serving members, and shows how it has nothing useful or original to offer. Theology has found no coherent message about God instead it is inconsistent and arbitrary, trying to rescue the bible through citing bits of texts. Nice people find the nice bits, nasty people find the nasty bits both say that theirs are the essential bits. It is often held against atheists like Richard Dawkins that they do not know theology, but they don¿t need to because others have done the work, like Walter Kaufmann in his Critique of religion and philosophy and now Avalos in this excellent book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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