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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hector Avalos' New Book

On Bible Bending there is notice of Hector Avalos' new book, The End of Biblical Studies. People may remember the stir from his SBL Forum piece a year or so ago. I'll just copy Michelle and put the Amazon.com blurb up:

In this radical critique of his own academic specialty, biblical scholar Hector Avalos calls for an end to biblical studies as we know them. He outlines two main arguments for this surprising conclusion. First, academic biblical scholarship has clearly succeeded in showing that the ancient civilization that produced the Bible held beliefs about the origin, nature, and purpose of the world and humanity that are fundamentally opposed to the views of modern society. The Bible is thus largely irrelevant to the needs and concerns of contemporary human beings. Second, Avalos criticizes his colleagues for applying a variety of flawed and specious techniques aimed at maintaining the illusion that the Bible is still relevant in today's world. In effect, he accuses his profession of being more concerned about its self-preservation than about giving an honest account of its own findings to the general public and faith communities.

Dividing his study into two parts, Avalos first examines the principal subdisciplines of biblical studies (textual criticism, archaeology, historical criticism, literary criticism, biblical theology, and translations) in order to show how these fields are still influenced by religiously motivated agendas despite claims to independence from religious premises. In the second part, he focuses on the infrastructure that supports academic biblical studies to maintain the value of the profession and the Bible. This infrastructure includes academia (public and private universities and colleges), churches, the media-publishing complex, and professional organizations such as the Society of Biblical Literature. In a controversial conclusion, Avalos argues that our world is best served by leaving the Bible as a relic of an ancient civilization instead of the "living" document most religionist scholars believe it should be. He urges his colleagues to concentrate on educating the broader society to recognize the irrelevance and even violent effects of the Bible in modern life.


Update: there is a debate between Jim West and Hector Avalos on Jim's blog. But you didn't need me to tell you that, did you?

11 Comments:

Anonymous Jim said...

Then he should quit the guild. Or he's just a hypocrite.

May 23, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Almost everything I've read from Avalos is over the top. He strikes me as an angry atheist evangelist rather than a careful thinker.

Christian scholars will obviously always study the Bible, for good reason. Cranky religio-phobes like Avalos are not going to deconvert them recycling the same tired arguments they've been hearing since Thomas Paine. The irony is that a byproduct of the acceptance of Avalos' arguments would be less secular involvement in biblical studies, the exact opposite of Crossley's recommendation.

Anon

May 23, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's shocking. Disappointing, ridiculous and embarrassing.

steph

May 24, 2007

 
Blogger Danny Zacharias said...

I'd like to see you or Berlinerblau write a critical review of this book.

May 24, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is the bio info. at the bottom of Avalos' article “Heavenly Conflicts: The Bible and Astronomy” published in Mercury:

HECTOR AVALOS is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University in Ames, where he was named the 1996 Professor of the Year. He also serves as Executive Director for the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion. He was a former fundamentalist child evangelist who now crusades for a non-religious understanding of the universe.

Very interesting. "Atheist evangelist" would seem to be an accurate description. This is actually quite common for former fundamentalists. Usually they retain their fundamentalist mentality even when they switch worldviews.

Has anyone even heard of Hector, benefited from his work, etc., outside of his crusade against the importance of the Bible? Perhaps one should actually establish themselves in the field prior to trying to uproot it?

Anon

May 25, 2007

 
Blogger James Crossley said...

I'm not so big on the idea that you have to be established or heard of but even if we accept that idea I wouldn't dismiss Hector Avalos lightly. He is well published and his book on healing has been well received.

But, in part-answer to Danny, I wouldn't be surprised if me or Jacques got asked to review his book. If not, I think I may do something on this blog because of the obvious secular overlap.

May 25, 2007

 
Blogger J. B. Hood said...

"still influenced by religiously motivated agendas despite claims to independence from religious premises"

This is patently not the case with most scholars I know, regardless of their religious affiliation. Very few make the claim to "independence from religious premises"...Wayne Meeks, Bauckham, Richard Hays, Amy-Jill Levine, just to name a few, would probably avoid an absolute claim of independnece. So should Hector, for that matter...

May 26, 2007

 
Blogger Alex Dalton said...

An interesting take on Hector's SBL article can be found here:

http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/

Alex

May 29, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is a "living document"? A rhetorical sandwich?

October 20, 2007

 
Blogger Harry McCall said...

I, for one, totally agree with Hector Avalos.

As a S.B.L. member, I attended my first annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in 1974 and remained a member until 1998 (I have a B.A. in Bible, attended Columbia Theological Seminary, Atlanta, Ga. and I now work full time as an Electronic Tech for the State of South Carolina).

More and more I realized that the S.B.L. is a group of “ole cronies” who are only interested in maintaining the status quo by keeping a strong link between the academy and the church / synagogue . An objective example here is the conflict between John J. Collins (SBL editor) and Burke O. Long over a critic of the control and influence of William F. Albright on a century of Biblical studies in the United States. Long had originally proposed an article in the Journal of Biblical Literature describing the subjective control that Albright had as a Christian on Biblical scholarship only to end in conflict with a descendent of the Albrightian “School” or J.J. Collins who was a Harvard student of G.E. Wright and F.M. Cross. Long finally had to settle the impasse by writing a book in 1997: Planting and Reaping Albright: Politics, Ideology, and Interpreting the Bible (see his and Collin’s letters in the preference of the book).

In this respect, if Long was stopped by indirectly criticizing the S.B.L in a fair and objective way (see my review of his book at Amazon and Barnes & Nobles), I’m sure a direct critic of the guild was only going to generate the above comments on this post.

Finally, the fact that Christianity has an annual budget of over one half of a trillion dollars makes it a lucrative cash cow for both the academy and media which are guaranteed as growing religious audience. Those who dare criticize this establishment (such as Avalos or Long) are indeed “The voice of one crying in the wilderness”.

December 18, 2007

 
Blogger oscarspaz said...

I really do not understand this perspective. Who is the majority?

Finally, the fact that Christianity has an annual budget of over one half of a trillion dollars makes it a lucrative cash cow for both the academy and media which are guaranteed as growing religious audience. Those who dare criticize this establishment (such as Avalos or Long) are indeed “The voice of one crying in the wilderness”.

Christianity was and still is not the majority (even in U.S.). I really do not understand this victim mentality. For all fairness, it should be re-framed to align with reality: the secular majority have much much more than half-of-a-trillion dollars to keep people away from Christianity and to pull people out of Christianity on a daily basis. Those who dared to criticize the secular establishments are indeed “The voice of one crying in the wilderness”.

February 21, 2009

 

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