Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Michael Coogan on Biblical Interpetation and Why He's Wrong

Individual biblical texts should not be appealed to selectively: Such cherry-picking is all too easy because of the nature of the Bible as a multi-authored book. Rather, as with another formative text, the Constitution, one needs first to understand it historically -- what did its words mean when they were written -- and then attempt to determine what its underlying values are, not just what it says in a specific passage. Only in this sense can the Bible be considered to have timeless relevance that transcends the historical particularities of its authors.
From CNN, HT 

It sounds so good, and he starts well, but he is wrong, the timeless relevance is not despite the historical particularity of the Bible but because of it.  According to Coogan's hermeneutic we could just dispense with the Bible altogether because all we really need is a one sentence principle that tells us to be nice to each other. 


  1. be nice? i don't find that in the bible at all. coogan would have to cite a verse.

  2. Maybe that's why so much of the Bible is stories and poems?

    The only trouble is "people" aren't content with someone just performing bits of the Bible, they want it "explained". And often, given the rampant biblical and other illiteracies common today, need it explained...

    And then... even to perform a passage you must first work out what it is "about"...

    Thosed principles are looking better and better ;)

  3. In principle I don't have problem with principles as long as they remain subordinate to the text, if we can't just find a principle and then discard the text. There is a very real risk that we found the wrong principle anyway, or that there are other principles we didn't notice and which get lost when we discard the text or flatten it out and say "this means that."

  4. "This" never means "that". Even "that" often does not! As for "the moral of this story is..." it almost never is, or not to a creative reader.

  5. I knew you'd come round to my way of thinking eventually! ;-p