Classics, biblical studies need new intellectual tools

06/20/05

Theological and classical studies are suffering intellectually because the academic tools used to study them have not progressed or evolved the way other scholarly subjects have, says Professor Bradley Mclean of biblical studies at Knox College.

"We think we are being so modern when we approach these disciplines but we continue to approach them fundamentally the same way that 19th-century scholars such as historians Ernst Troeltsch (German, 1865-1923) and Wilahem Dilthey (German, 1833-1911) did," he says. "While many scholars disagree, I truly believe we're using the same basic paradigm handed down to us by 19th-century historicism and romanticism without questioning this approach. We forget that the conditions, social biases and political pressure of the times that these intellectuals lived in colour the way they looked at classical and religious knowledge."

McLean goes as far as to say that one reason classical and biblical studies don't get their fair share of research dollars is because funding agencies believe today's scholars produce knowledge that doesn't matter anymore: "The reason biblical and classical studies have had difficulty attracting the curiosity of the media and the general public is that we as scholars don't realize that the way we approach these subjects was abandoned by so many other researchers in other fields of study such as linguistics, psychology and philosophy. The manner in which we study the classics and biblical texts should have died a natural death the way it did in other fields in the early 20th century but, curiously, it didn't."

McLean argues that biblical scholarship must move beyond "reverential antiquarianism" if it is ever going to make meaningful connections with the contemporary world.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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