Can Critical Scholarship and Faith Co-exist?

Can Critical Scholarship and Faith Co-exist? April 27, 2012

The answer is yes, and I’ve got the book to prove it.

Well, actually, I don’t have it yet, and neither do you. The book is not coming out until October (Oxford University Press). But at least I have the cover. I also have the PDF page proofs, but I won’t let you people get your mitts on that quite yet.

This book originated in a symposium sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania on October 25, 2010. The topic was “The Challenge of Reading the Bible Today: Can the Bible Be Read Both Critically and Religiously? Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant Perspectives.”  Professors Jeffrey Tigay and Beth Wenger invited Marc Brettler (Brandeis University), Dan Harrington (Boston College), and your’s truly to share how we look at this issue from the perspectives of our faith traditions.

(I had a tough assignment. YOU try explaining to a non-Protestant audience what “Protestants” think about anything, let alone the BIble and criticism.)

The audience, several hundred students and community members, asked probing questions, which convinced us that our topic was worthy of publication. Over dinner we decided to do just that.

I will blog more about the book in the fall, but here is the table of contents.

Preface vii

Introduction: The Historical-Critical Reading of the

Hebrew Bible/Old Testament 3

1. My Bible: A Jew’s Perspective,—Marc Zvi Brettler 21

Response by Daniel J. Harrington, S.J. 66

Response by Peter Enns 72

2. Reading the Bible Critically and Religiously:

Catholic Perspectives,—Daniel J. Harrington, S.J. 80

Response by Peter Enns 113

Response by Marc Zvi Brettler 118

3. Protestantism and Biblical Criticism: One Perspective

on a Difficult Dialogue,—Peter Enns 126

Response by Marc Zvi Brettler 161

Response by Daniel J. Harrington, S.J. 166

Postscript 174

Notes 177

Glossary 195

Index 201



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  • Splendid. Hopefully the Catholic said that to read the Bible “religiously” is to read it _liturgically_.

    Otherwise, I fear that what we mean by “religious” is having some private “warm fuzzies” in our “heart.”

    Can’t wait to get the book.


    • peteenns

      Warm fuzzies is the Protestant view 🙂

      • Theophile

        Hi Peteens,
        In the history of the reformation, the “Protestant view” has been put forth in Foxes book of Martyrs. Since this book predates the “new world”(Americas) discovery by the Europeans, it was also in the hands of the US founders. Please enlighten us on exactly what was so “warm and fuzzy” about being burned alive at the stake, after being tortured for weeks? That was the fate of any reading of the Bible outside church/state clergy, much less thought or commentary thereon.
        Maybe You should have said: “Warm fuzzies is the Neo-Protestant view”, since I doubt much of them have read Foxes either.

        • peteenns

          Theophile, please count to ten, then note the topic we are discussing in this post, and feel free to try again.

  • RJS

    I’m looking forward to it – the talks (on line) were fascinating.

    I’m guessing Brettler had a tough assignment as well. Is there “a” Jewish perspective, or anything particularly heirarchical in Judaism?