Reading the Bible Critically and Religiously: Interview with Dr. Marc Zvi Brettler

Reading the Bible Critically and Religiously: Interview with Dr. Marc Zvi Brettler October 21, 2014

 

Brigham Young University’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship continues to offer impressive contributions in the field of Religious Studies.  I highly recommend listening to their recent podcast interview with biblical scholar Marc Zvi Brettler.  Dr. Brettler is the Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies at Brandeis University.  Blair Hodges, the Institute’s public communications specialist and acquisitions and development editor, conducts the interview. Hodges does an excellent job formulating thoughtful questions on the topic of approaching the Bible as both believer and critical scholar.  The entire interview is well-worth listening to. It’s an incredibly thoughtful discussion on a variety of issues.

I believe one of the highlights was Dr. Brettler’s response to Blair’s question concerning source criticism that draws upon an analogy articulated by British social anthropologist, Edmund Leach.  Leach famously criticized the pursuit of biblical source criticism as an impossible effort that by analogy amounts to an unsuccessful attempt at “unscrambling the omelet.” Dr. Brettler’s response to this critique is well-worth noting.  He explains that from his perspective, when he looks critically at the Hebrew Bible, Brettler does not see an omelet at all. Instead, a more appropriate metaphor for what Dr. Brettler’s sees would be “eggs over easy.”  In other words, unlike an omelet, Brettler still sees in the Bible the white, the yolk, etc., which can be dissected from its source.

While it’s true that documentary sources in the Pentateuch have been mixed together, they’re not blended in the way an omelet combines separate elements. Granted, there are editorial insertions, and redactional deletions in the biblical omelet. But we can still extract the Priestly source, the Yahwistic thread, the Elohist document from Genesis, for instance, since these various parts more or less still appear upon the proverbial plate.

Ultimately, the discussion focuses upon the topic explored in the book The Bible and the Believer: How to Read the Bible Critically and Religiously Hodges questions and Brettler’s thoughtful responses present a podcast on this important subject that I would strongly encourage religious readers of the Bible to carefully consider.

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