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The Nature of Biblical Criticism [Paperback]

By John Barton (Author)
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Overview
Biblical criticism faces increasing hostility on two fronts: from biblical conservatives, who claim it is inherently positivistic and religiously skeptical, and from postmodernists, who see it as driven by the falsities of objectivity and neutrality. In this magisterial overview of the key factors and developments in biblical studies, John Barton demonstrates that these evaluations of biblical criticism fail to do justice to the work that has been done by critical scholars over many generations. Traditional biblical criticism has had as its central concern a semantic interest: a desire to establish the "plain sense" of the biblical text, which in itself requires sensitivity to many literary aspects of texts. Therefore, he argues, biblical criticism already includes many of the methodological approaches now being recommended as alternatives to it-and, further, the agenda of biblical studies is far less fragmented than often thought.

Publishers Description

Biblical criticism faces increasing hostility on two fronts: from biblical conservatives, who claim it is inherently positivistic and religiously skeptical, and from postmodernists, who see it as driven by the falsities of objectivity and neutrality. In this magisterial overview of the key factors and developments in biblical studies, John Barton demonstrates that these evaluations of biblical criticism fail to do justice to the work that has been done by critical scholars over many generations. Traditional biblical criticism has had as its central concern a semantic interest: a desire to establish the "plain sense" of the biblical text, which in itself requires sensitivity to many literary aspects of texts. Therefore, he argues, biblical criticism already includes many of the methodological approaches now being recommended as alternatives to it and, further, the agenda of biblical studies is far less fragmented than often thought.

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Item Specifications...


Studio: Westminster John Knox Press
Pages   206
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 6.51" Width: 8.85" Height: 0.57"
Weight:   0.75 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 4, 2007
Publisher   PRESBYTERIAN PUBLISHING #86
ISBN  066422587X  
ISBN13  9780664225872  


Availability  0 units.


More About John Barton


Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! John Barton is Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, University of Oxford, and Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford. He is the author of numerous books and articles on biblical texts, and is also the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Biblical Interpretation (1998) and (with John Muddiman) of The Oxford Bible Commentary (2001).

John Barton was born in 1948.

John Barton has published or released items in the following series...
  1. scm classics


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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible Study > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > General


Christian Product Categories
Books > Bible Study > General Studies > General



Reviews - What do customers think about The Nature of Biblical Criticism?

Barton's Biblical Criicism  Feb 8, 2010
There are several helpful contributions in Barton's book. First, it helpfully reminds Biblical scholarship that investigation of a historical nature is not the foundation of Biblical Criticism; rather, Biblical criticism (Barton claims) begins with a focus on the "text" (i.e. literary). The incongruities and difficulties in the text are what lead to inquiry of a historical nature (accidental). Barton emphasizes this because he desires to show that Biblical Criticism is not antithetical to literary approaches. The primary focus of Biblical criticism is textual not historical (accidental). Second, amidst Barton's attempt to show how Biblical Criticism is compatable with many literay approaches, he does not gloss over the fact that Biblical Criticism is at odds with theological approaches, including the canonical approach. He argues that the Biblical critic brackets out all theological presuppositions as one attempts to discern the "plain sense" of the text. This bracketing out enables the critic to realistically evaluate the Bible as if it were any "ancient text." This makes Biblical criticism incompatible with the canonical approach.
There are a few points missing from Barton's book. First, he does not discuss how inter-textuality fits into Biblical Criticism. If inter-textuality were permitted, would this invite a larger theological framework of the ancient Israelite audience to come to bear on the task of interpretation? Second, while Barton recognizes that various levels of meaning can be found in the text and appropriately studied by the critic, I would be interested to see how a Biblical Critic might go about finding meaning at the largest literary level (the canonical). I suppose that Barton would argue that due to a lack of congruity and coherence in the Biblical text at a larger literary level that it is best to focus on smaller literary units. It would have been helpful to have a fuller discussion regarding what it looks like to find meaning at various levels of a text and how one decides what levels are worthy of attention.
While I personally believe that it is permissible (even preferable) to interpret the text with appropriate theological presuppositions (such are unavoidable), I found Barton's book to be a helpful discussion regarding what is the essence of Biblical Criticism- a quest for the "plain sense" of the text by means of bracketing out all theological presuppositions and a willingness to question the text. While conservatives may not adopt this approach, it is a helpful explanation of Biblical Criticism by one of the foremost critics in the last 50 years.
 
Redefining biblical criticism  Mar 27, 2009
Barton's irenic work is addressed to non-conservative students and scholars of the Bible who have become disenchanted with this traditional critical method. Barton's goal is to simply make good readers of us all. Bib crit is about lit crit and the traditional term "historical-critical method" is inaccurate. Responsibly practiced biblical criticism a la Barton can be conducted by those of any theological confession because it brackets the question of truth, while refusing to kowtow to secular rationalism. The final section on the place of religious commitment is wonderful as far as it goes. Barton does not reflect on canon at all, nor does he address how the Bible might function in religious communities who adopt his recommendations. Nevertheless a valuable work.
 

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