Sunday, August 18, 2013

Letis on parallels between the quest for the historical Jesus and the quest for the historical text

Last week I re-read chapter three of T. P. Letis’ The Ecclesiastical Text (The Institute for Renaissance and Reformation Biblical Studies, 1997) titled “The Language of Biblical Authority:  From Protestant Orthodoxy to Evangelical Equivocation” (pp. 59-85).

Letis begins the essay noting the irony of the fact that doctrinal traditionalists who rightly objected to the skeptical modern historical-critical quest for the historical Jesus were more than willing to embrace the modern historical-critical quest to reconstruct the autographa:

What I hope to establish in this [chapter] is that while everyone in confessional ranks attempted to resist to the death the invasion of the nineteenth century German higher criticism with its quest for the historical Jesus, they, nevertheless, unwittingly gave way to the process of desacralization by assuming the safe and “scientific” nature of the quest for the historical text.  There is a sense in which the entire history of the influence of Biblical criticism on confessional communities is but a working out of this theme, with adjustment after adjustment taking place, until the original paradigm of verbal inspiration evaporates and no one is so much aware that a change has taken place (p. 63).

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