Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Dialogue Between the East and the West!

(Prof. Paul N. Anderson, Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies at George Fox University, Newberg, Origen, writes exclusively for NTSW)

The dialogue between the east and west has yet to find a home within biblical studies, but when it does, look out! New possibilities will emerge.

Most beneficial for scientific investigations of the Bible will be our learning how to take human experience seriously within the origin, development, and delivery of biblical content. All too easily, western scholars make assumptions based upon what “cannot” have been a possibility, when human thought and feeling are far more flexible and unpredictable than one might have thought. As a result, a good deal of biblical meaning and content are missed. All too often, non-western scholars fail to take advantage of disciplinary approaches to Scripture, when any rigorous approach to one’s analysis can bring great dividends in terms of insight and meaning. Therefore, bringing the best of our cultural perspectives together will be a great service to readers of the Bible worldwide, and this is now possible in ways it has never been before.

Within a Cognitive-Critical approach to biblical studies, the dialogue between the experiences and perceptions of biblical writers is of first importance. How did people think and feel about a subject, and how did they seek to reach their audiences with their spoken and written means of communication? Why did followers of Jesus remember the things they did about his ministry, and how did their followers gather and preserve earlier preaching and teaching about Jesus for later generations? How did Luke gather the details and stories of the deeds of the apostles, and how did he craft them so as to convey the story of how the church was—and should be for the future? How did the writers of epistles seek to teach, motivate, encourage, and inspire their audiences; and, what sorts of experiences were writers of apocalyptic literature seeking to evoke? I write as a New Testament scholar, but similar questions can be asked also of the diverse forms of literature in Hebrew Scripture, as well.

The best of biblical studies will always be interdisciplinary. Literary studies will relate to theological studies, and these will also relate to historical studies; mono-faceted analyses will always be limited in their value. And, within each field any worthy discipline that is applied meaningfully will be useful in some way. The key is finding and applying the best methodologies for the intended purposes, and this is where a global approach to our work will be beneficial. Disciplines and tools used in one culture will be of benefit to scholars in other settings, and all will be helped by the sharing of perspectives together.

Most significant will be the sharing of perspectives and approaches that help us recover a sense of meaning that would otherwise be lost to our western sensibilities. If a global approach to biblical studies can help that happen, we will not only be drawn closer to the world of the biblical writers; we will also find better meaning and interpretation for today’s readings of biblical texts. Thanks for engaging, and thanks also for sharing what works for you in your engagement with the biblical text!