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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

AAR/SBL Secular Approaches

I should have plugged this ages ago but nevermind. Here is the AAR wildcard session on 'The Role of Secular Viewpoints in Scriptural Studies: Past, Present, and Future' at the forthcoming AAR/SBL conference in Washington.

Sunday - 5:00 pm-6:30 pm

Wildcard Session

Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley, Bowdoin College, Presiding

Theme: The Role of Secular Viewpoints in Scriptural Studies: Past, Present, and Future

Secular Criticism, the AAR, and the SBL
Jacques Berlinerblau, Hofstra University

I make two assumptions. First, that the two major scholarly organizations devoted to the study of Scripture and Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion have excluded non-theist perspectives in their scholarly discourses and practices. Second, that this exclusion has had fairly catastrophic effects for the academic study of religion, and by extension these societies themselves. Starting with a definition of “secular criticism,' I examine how a-religious and irreligious forms of criticism can find no institutional place within scholarly societies that imagine themselves to be, ironically, bastions of secular reason. I then discuss the marginalization of religious studies within the larger university framework of the humanities and the social sciences. This marginalization, it is argued, is partly attributable to the misgivings that the mainstream (and stridently ³secular²) Academy has about their pious colleagues in the fields that study religion.

What Difference Does Q Make? or Excavating Q Studies
A. J. Droge, University of Toronto

The hypothetical document 'Q' has come to play an increasingly central role in the (re)construction of Christian origins. The advocates of a traditional description of Christian origins - the synoptic gospels, Paul's letters, and Acts - are now waging a counter-offensive against a (re)description that runs along the non- (or semi-) canonical trajectory of Q, the Gospel of Thomas, the Didache, the Gospel of Matthew, and James. 'Q studies' reveal the ideological investments of scholars on both sides of the fight. The paper will try to identify what the stakes are in this disciplinary crisis. What might appear at first sight to be a While “Q” might seem to be a critical/secular alternative, it is still very much in thrall to the theological/religionist perspectives of its more conservative adversaries. What might a rigorously 'secular' perspective on 'Christian origins' be?

Translation as Manipulation: A Secular Perspective
Hector Avalos, Iowa State University

Translation theory has increasingly emphasized the use of translation as a tool of power. This paper explores the ways in which translations are used to maintain the value and relevance of biblical texts in modern contexts. The paper contends that the relevance of biblical texts is particularly maintained by attempting to hide or to mitigate the thought and culture of biblical authors because modern sensibilities would find such thoughts and culture objectionable. In particular, we explore how translation is used to mitigate anti-Judaism in the Christian scriptures, and misogyny and violence throughout the Jewish and Christian canons. Publishers of biblical translations function to maintain or enhance the market share, particularly in religious communities, for their translations rather than to educate or expose the culture of biblical authors.

What Is Secular Criticism?
James Crossley, University of Sheffield

The paper will begin with an overview of how secular perspectives have been excluded in the history of Christian origins and New Testament studies of the discipline and how this has not only led to the dominance of Christian perspectives (and therefore Christian results) but has also led to the neglect or exclusion of certain supposedly atheistic academic trends which were part of the mainstream in the humanities. I argue that there needs to be an increase in secular minded scholars within the discipline. Three areas are highlighted: 1. Historiography and the importance of asking the big “why” questions rather than what this or that person really said and meant or what this or that community looked like. 2. Theology and secular views of Christological development. 3. Politics. Questioning the validity of the relevance of NT texts by emphasizing the effectively alien to most scholars’ faith commitments.

There will be responses by Hugh Pyper and William E. Arnal


Blogger Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks for drawing our attention to this, James, especially as it does not appear on the SBL On-line Program Book. There seems to be something wrong with the Droge abstract -- half a sentence is missing. I'd like to get to his paper if I can. One answer to his last question would be to draw attention to the work of Michael Goulder who is an atheist and who famously dispenses with Q. But in the end, of course, it is cogent arguments and good uses of the evidence that counts.

September 05, 2006

Blogger Jim said...

James we all know that secretly you are quite the fideist.... make confession brother!


September 05, 2006

Blogger James Crossley said...

Mark: I wondered the same thing but we'll just have to wait and see what Droge says (apologies from the abstract - it's directly from the AAR website). I have a fairly traditional view of the development of tradition yet firmly on the secular side of life. I've also come across arguments (from all sides) claiming a kind of secular/religion divide reflecting those associated with the Jesus Seminar and their opponents which just doesn't work (on both sides). Also when I was a PhD student one person said that people like me who argue for an early date for Mark are just conservative evangelicals!

Jim, yes I'm only coming out with all this stuff to show the irrationality of rationality! Or somthing like that. ;-)

September 06, 2006


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