Supercilious Scripture Snobs or Careful Custodians


Reading biblical text within its historical, social and literary contexts places it where it was always intended to be, thus bestowing upon it the highest possible honor. Some, who are unacquainted with this as proper treatment of text, choose rather to label it “scriptural elitism” and thereby uncharitably disregard the valiant efforts of multitudes of scholars from varieties of disciplines, stretching years into the past, whose life mission has been to better understand this priceless treasure.

John Walton summarized it well, 

"God is not superficial, and we should expect that knowledge of him and his Word would be mined rather than simply absorbed. This means that all of us will be dependent on others with particular skills to help us succeed in the enterprise of interpretation. This is not elitism; it is the interdependence of the people of God as they work together in community to serve one another with the gifts they have." Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One; Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (IVP Acedemic, 2009), 171.

I have posted this quotation in the past, but James McGrath was also spot on when he said,

"Does someone claim that they simply read the Bible and have no need for scholars, when they are reading the Bible in translation, or reading critical editions of the texts in the original languages, or using manuscripts copied by scribes, having learned Hebrew and Greek with the help of textbooks and lexicons? That person is a liar, plain and simple."

This is not to say that there haven't been or are not irresponsible conclusions or distortions (whether intentional or not is not for me to say). Brent Sandy perhaps has a balanced perspective,

"Evangelicals who support the concept of inerrancy have undoubtedly been guilty at times of claiming too much for the term and claiming that we know too much (e.g., about what historical accuracy demanded and about what authorship entailed). But critical scholarship is not innocent of similar unwarranted certainty and belief in 'assured results' as they apply the surgical knife to biblical books with such self-confidence." Walton and Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture; Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority (IVP Academic, 2013), 276. 

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