Re: Criteria

On Thu, 31 Mar 1994, George Aichele wrote:

> I would argue that any search for an origin is inherently
> theological, & thus that any search for the very words or an
> authentic (or legitimate) text is theological.  I do not deny
> that this search may also be historical, but I would reject the
> possibility that one could begin with a theologically-neutral
> historical or textual criticism -- that one could read without
> preunderstanding.  I realize that historically-oriented scholars
> might disagree with this.  That's fine.  (I also think our
> disagreement on this point would be a theological one!)  I think
> it is extremely important that we be also critical of our own
> reading agendas, precisely because they are theological, & open
> discussion is one good way to achieve that.

I don't mean to sound coy, but this paragraph reminded me of that great 
scene from "Fiddler on the Roof" when the young communist (I can't 
remember his name) told Tevya's daughter that he wished to discuss a 
political question with her -- the question of marriage.  "That's a 
political question?" she replied in astonishment.  "Well, yes," was his 
answer, "*Everything* is political!"  Is *everything* theological?  Is 
there no reasonable notion of a purely historical or historiographical 
process that is applicable to the study of the text of scripture?  Of 
course all research is theory laden and prone to influence from 
presuppositions if we are not careful.  But this is a hermeneutical 
issue, and not purely a theological one.  There are principles in 
historical research to guard against such prejudices and influences, just 
as there are in theological research.  If the historian does not follow 
them, that does not make him a theologian -- it just makes him a bad 
historian.  It seems to me that, if there is a legitimate research 
enterprise to be labeled "history" at all (and I certainly think there 
is), then there is a legitimate application of that enterprise to the 
recovery of the NT texts that is not, purely on the strength of the 
subject matter, required to wear the label "theological."

"Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana."
--Groucho Marx

Prof. James F. Sennett
Asst. Professor of Philosophy
Palm Beach Atlantic College
PO Box 24708
West Palm Beach, FL  33416-4708