Note & thoughts on:
From my series on:
The title of Avalos’ book is meant to be an attention grabber — “The End of Biblical Studies” ! Well, we know Biblical studies won’t end soon, nor will his book bring them to an end. Further, in the introduction he claims the Bible is no longer relevant, which is obviously and blatantly wrong. He tries to qualify this statement by technically defining “irrelevant” to mean that biblical concepts and practices are no longer valuable, applicable or ethical. Even to this atheist, such an exaggeration seems pure rhetoric.
Dr. Avalos’ language is full of hyperbole, with all its concomitant shortcomings: Those who believe his thesis will read and rejoice and those who don’t may just focus on his exaggeration. I am guessing that Avalos is simply trying to use hyperbole as a corrective to the gross obfuscations that have protected the Bible to date. If so, I understand his feelings but suspect the hyperbole strategy will unfortunately significantly cut both his readership and the book’s effectiveness.
But if the reader can ignore Dr. Avalos’ exaggerations, the book looks like it will decisively dissect much of Biblical Studies. So much so that any reader who understands his message will walk away with a radically different view of the Bible and how the academy continues to deceptively protect the Bible from real understanding.
Here are a few rather standard objections Avalos makes to the relevance of the Bible:
- Genocide, a common practice in ancient times, is indeed one of Yahweh’s methods
- Supernatural explanations for disease and other events are offered for phenomena now understood to occur naturally.
- Women are put in a subordinate position
- Statistics of Biblical illiteracy among those who claim the Bible is the precious word of God:
- only 4/10 Christians knew the Bible claims Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount
- Christians who NEVER read scripture: 21.9 % protestants, 33.1% Catholics
Avalos points out that there is a long history of individuals who, like him, felt much of the Bible is irrelevant, starting with the early church’s heretical theologian Marcion of Sinope (85-160 AD) who wanted the O.T. excluded from Christianity. Interestingly on pg. 34 of Misquoting Jesus, Bart Ehrman tells us that Marcion’s effort to establish his special cannon is what stirred the Christian sect which was to become the winning orthodoxy, to establish their own cannon.
At the end of the introduction, Avalos softens his claim by saying “Biblical studies as we know it should end.” (emphasis mine) And he is straightforward with his motivation for pursuing this end:
… I hold that secular approaches to life will result in the minimization of human suffering, though not its end.
— Hector Avalos (pg 25)
- See Jason Bird’s Simul-blog . Jason is a reader who decided to read this book along with me and to post on it. He is a heterodox, un-churched, universalist lay Christian.