Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Secular Approach to Christian Origins

Over a year ago I made a list of dangerous ideas from the contributions of other bloggers. This was James Crossley's:

New Testament studies should become a secular discipline.

His wish was just granted a couple days ago. Check out the new list-serve Christian Origins, hosted by William Arnal and Zeba Crook.
"This list focuses on the social and historical location and the earliest Jesus communities, the development of their thought concerning Jesus, the development of their writings, the spread of their movement, and related topics: in other words, the stuff of Christian Origins. This is a moderated and scholarly list: lurking is welcome, but contributors to the list will either have knowledge of the languages, methodologies, and history of scholarship pertinent to the academic study of Christian Origins, or a willingness to become conversant in these. Contributors to this list attempt to understand the the various phenomena of Christians Origins exclusively from an humanist perspective: to explain the rise of Christianity and the development of Christian beliefs without invoking or relying upon such assumptions such as the existence of God, the reality of miracles, foreknowledge of the future, resuscitations of the dead, or any unique status accorded to Jesus, his earliest followers, or Christianity as a religion. This list takes the following quote of Jacques Berlinerblau with the utmost seriousness: '[T]he academic study of the Bible...desperately needs an infusion of learned critics who are willing to draw blood... Such an endeavor would not necessarily be exclusionary. All researchers would be welcome to participate as long as they pronounce something approximating a secular shahada, or profession of faith: to love critique more than God.'"
So it's a lot like Jeffrey Gibson's well-known Crosstalk list, but broader in scope, and with tighter restrictions against confessional intrusions. I've joined; it will be interesting to see where it goes.


Anonymous Ralph Hitchens said...

I agree that scholarly objectivity must prevail over faithful adherence to scripture and doctrine. Nevertheless, I find it remarkable that, as a longtime student of military & geopolitical history, my interest in Biblical history (New Testament scholarship in particular) grew over the last decade more or less in parallel to a revival of my Christian faith. I do appreciate how hard it can be to come to terms with both God and Bart Ehrman.

Anonymous Cham said...

I looked into the new blog. Fundamentalist, literalist, opinions are welcome to participate, but those believing Jesus did not exist, no matter how well founded and researched, are not. Also, the rules have changed. Only accredited biblical historians can participate. Don't look here for heaven-shattering research and interpretation, Zeb is trying to find the essence of Jesus. Not sure how they intend to do secular analysis if they aren't willing to ask secular questions.


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