Bible Nation around the Blogosphere

Bible Nation around the Blogosphere January 20, 2018

Scott McLemee has written a review of Candida Moss and Joel Baden’s book Bible Nation for Inside Higher Ed. Here is an excerpt:

Nothing in the book impugns the Greens’ motives; while donating their collection to the nonprofit museum has undeniable tax benefits, that is secondary to the real mission of celebrating the Bible and promoting the belief that it is historically accurate and literally true. The good faith of the effort is not in question. But “lacking among the members of the Green organization,” the authors write, “is any sense of due diligence.”

More problematic than that is the museum’s claim to advance a nonsectarian and interpretation-free view of the book it memorializes. The orientation is evangelical Protestant and literalist from start to finish. Bible Nation‘s chapter on the Scholars Initiative — described by the museum’s website as its “academic research wing” — makes clear that all scholarship conducted under the Greens’ auspices will both presuppose and conclude that one canon exists and that it has been transmitted, intact and unchanging, down through the centuries. A genuinely nonsectarian approach would point out that the original sequence of the Jewish scriptures was rearranged by the Christians, and that the Catholic and Orthodox churches accept a number of texts excluded from the Protestant canon.

The existence of an array of Scriptures accepted by Jewish and Christian sects later deemed heretical goes unacknowledged — with the partial exception of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby, treats them as confirming that Hebrew Scriptures have been preserved intact: “Let’s spend 90 percent [of our time] on the 90 percent [of the scrolls that are consistent with modern Bibles] and realize that’s incredible.” The authors point out that the variants “include a very different book of Samuel from the traditional Hebrew text, a book of Jeremiah that is approximately one-eighth shorter than the traditional text and a number of Psalms that are not part of our Bible today.”

Click through to read the rest. Bible Nation, for those who may not be familiar with it, is a book about the Museum of the Bible that recently opened in Washington, DC. See also Christine Emba’s article about the museum in the Washington Post, the discussion of the NY Times op-ed which called the Museum of the Bible a “safe space for Christian nationalists,” and the review in Forward in which Raphael Magarik writes:

Other portions of the Greens’ cultural empire are unsettling because they reflect not only a bumbling amateurism but also the deployment of tremendous wealth and rare, valuable artifacts to promote a narrow, extreme theological agenda.

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  • arcseconds

    From the Magarik piece:

    It is easy to recognize the foolish evil of the Green Bible industry. The Greens are déclassé, uneducated and ripe for elitist scorn. To be clear, that scorn is mine, not the book’s. Baden and Moss, despite their deep worries and misgivings, are scrupulously fair to the Greens, who are presented as sympathetic, sincere and thoughtful.

    The Greens! How jejune! How vulgar! How… nouveau riche!

    (*swirls brandy snifter*)