Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Moribund Field of Biblical Studies: Avalos on the SBL

"Picture thousands of academics talking about religion and the Bible within the confines of nice hotels and you have a picture of what the Society of Biblical Literature is like... Around convention hotels such as the Hilton and the Marriott are dozens of destitute and homeless people that scholars hardly noticed as they run from one conference to another. Sometimes these academics nearly trample the poor to get to another show and to see another bright star talk about liberation theology and the prophetic call to help the poor and powerless.

"That whole scene is a metaphor for what ails not just the Society of Biblical Literature but also the entire acdemic field called biblical studies. For there is little hint or hope that anything that ever is said in any session of the Society of Biblical Literature will ever make the world around it better. Yet there is plenty of applause and felicitation for those who deliver an entertaining disquisition. What Jean-Jacques Rousseau said about the elite intellectual pursuits in the academics of his day applies to the SBL today: 'There are thousands of prizes for fine discourses, none for fine deeds.'" (Hector Avalos, The End of Biblical Studies, p 307)
Avalos wants to put an end to biblical studies once and for all, and I'm enjoying his book even in disagreement. More on this later.

UPDATE: See Does Theology Bring Death to Biblical Studies? for more on Avalos' book.


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