When Reviews Get Strange— Philip Jenkins

The Bible and Culture | 8/8/2019 | Staff
Emzah92 (Posted by) Level 3
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When I read the excellent reviews offered by the Wall Street Journal, I always enjoy pieces by the versatile, well-informed, and wide-ranging Barton Swaim. I say that before disagreeing with him in a major way on his most recent offering, a highly critical reading of John Barton’s important new book A History of the Bible.

While acknowledging much that is positive about the book, Swaim launches a basic attack on the historical critical method that it exemplifies. His complaint is that if we follow these principles as consistently and logically as John Barton does, we are basically left with nothing. That critical approach is in a sense an exercise in nihilism. Might that description fit such efforts in some cases? Certainly. But they don’t apply to Barton.

Exhibit - A - John - Barton - Defense

Let me offer Exhibit A in John Barton’s defense. Here is Swaim:

Historical-critical theories on the New Testament are a little more amenable to empirical corroboration. The dominant paradigm on the origins of the Gospels, for example, holds that the Synoptic accounts were second-century compilations of rumors and exaggerated tales about Jesus, written and edited long after anybody had any firm information about the man and his deeds. But the Gospels, as Richard Bauckham cogently demonstrated in his 2006 book “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses,” simply aren’t written that way. The Gospel-writers frequently use names, dates, specific locations and odd details, as if to invite readers to verify their claims. Mr. Bauckham’s book shook the field of New Testament studies when it appeared. Mr. Barton, scandalously in my view, doesn’t mention the book or list it in his lengthy bibliography.

Wall

You might want to read that again, as it is so off the wall.

Let me begin with Swaim’s “dominant paradigm” sentence, which is simply incorrect at every stage, almost in every word. Please find me a competent scholar...
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