Saturday, April 21, 2007


Rey's research was typical of a new form of historical scholarship appearing in Europe at the time, most prominently in Germany,
which constituted an extremely serious threat to the Church. The 
dissemination of Darwinian thought and agnosticism had already produced a "crisis of faith" in the late nineteenth century, and the 
new scholarship magnified the crisis. In the past historical research 
had been, for the most part, an unreliable affair, resting on highly tenuous foundations—on legend and tradition, on personal memoirs, on exaggerations promulgated for the sake of one or another cause.

Only in the nineteenth century did German scholars begin introducing the rigorous, meticulous techniques that are now accepted as 
commonplace, the stock in trade of any responsible historian. Such 
preoccupation with critical examination, with investigation of firsthand sources, with cross-references and exact chronology established the conventional stereotype of the Teutonic pedant. But if German writers of the period tended to lose themselves in minutiae, they also 
provided a solid basis for inquiry. And for a number of major archaeological discoveries as well. The most famous example, of course, is Heinrich Schliemann's excavation of the site of Troy.

It was only a matter of time before the techniques of German scholarship were applied, with similar diligence, to the Bible. And 
the Church, which rested on unquestioning acceptance of dogma, was well aware that the Bible itself could not withstand such critical scrutiny. In his best-selling and highly controversial Life of Jesus, Ernest Renan had already applied German methodology to the New Testament, and the results, for Rome, were extremely embarrassing.

The Catholic Modernist Movement arose initially as a response to this new challenge. Its original objective was to produce a generation of ecclesiastical experts trained in the German tradition, who could defend the literal truth of Scripture with all the heavy ordnance of critical scholarship. As it transpired, however, the plan backfired. The more the Church sought to equip its younger clerics with the tools for combat in the modern polemical world, the more those 
same clerics began to desert the cause for which they had been recruited. Critical examination of the Bible revealed a multitude of inconsistencies, discrepancies, and implications that were positively inimical to Roman dogma. And by the end of the century the Modernists were no longer the elite shock troops the Church had hoped they would be, but defectors and incipient heretics. Indeed, they posed the most serious threat the Church had experienced since Martin Luther had brought the entire edifice of Catholicism to the brink of a schism unparalleled for centuries.

The hotbed for Modernist activity—as it had been for the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement—was Saint Sulpice in Paris. Indeed, one of the 
most resonant voices in the Modernist movement was the man who was director of the Seminary of Saint Sulpice from 1852 to 1884. 
From Saint Sulpice Modernist attitudes spread rapidly to the rest of France and to Italy and Spain. According to these attitudes biblical texts were not unimpugnably authoritative, but had to be understood
in the specific context of their time. And the Modernists also rebelled against the increasing centralization of ecclesiastical power—especially the recently instituted doctrine of papal infallibility, which ran flagrantly counter to the new trend. Before long Modernist attitudes were being disseminated not only by intellectual clerics but by distinguished and influential writers as well. Figures like 
Roger Martin du Gard in France and Miguel de Unamuno in Spain were among the primary spokesmen for Modernism. (from the book pictured, pp.188-89)

I own a dog-eared and beat up copy of the Dartmouth Bible that I use when I want to find something in a Bible that I can trust. A literate man, reading the Dartmouth Bible, can recognize the scholarship at work which began in the 19th Century with the German scholarship mentioned in the passages above. Of course not all scholarship is scholarship. Many fundamentalist Bible defenders also pretend to scholarship, but any literate person can recognize false scholarship when he sees it. When the “scholar” always refers to the “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” whenever he mentions Jesus, that scholar is no scholar. The writer’s bias is obvious to anyone with the least bit of objectivity when it comes to Bible matters. Sad to say that too many average fundamentalists cannot recognize false scholarship when they see it because, frankly, few of them can pretend to any training in logic or scholarship or empirical methodology.

I still recall several debates with a young, not unintelligent, Christian fundamentalist who worked with me at Mackay Manufacturing. Time and again, he ran off to get a book of supposed scholarship that claimed to refute every attack on Bible inerrancy. I’d read the passages he brought to me to disprove my attacks on his beloved book of mythology. Before me was a work of polemic without the least pretense of objectivity. My heart sank because I knew that this young man was incapable of discerning Bible falsehoods when he saw them because his falsehoods were supported by a book of fake scholarship which he couldn’t see through either. I soon quit debating him. His ignorance was foolproof and buttressed with lies he could not fathom.

The forgoing, by the way, does not claim that all fundamentalists are mental defectives, but they are ignorant. The lie keeps them in the lie and all approaches to the truth have been blocked out from them since most of them were tiny tots. Fear holds them in their ignorance and the light of scholarship does not shine into their caves. If just once a ray of shining scholarship could enlighten their minds, they would not be able to turn back to the darkness of the superstitions that bind them.

1 comment:

opinion-minion said...

"Sad to say that too many average fundamentalists cannot recognize false scholarship when they see it because, frankly, few of them can pretend to any training in logic or scholarship or empirical methodology."

Many atheists cannot, either. The spread of the home-grown atheist (as opposed to that 'dang college' atheist) has simply increased that.

Nevertheless, it can be frustrating to dialogue with members of your own faith (I am a Christian) who simply cling to dogmas because they've been told that if you do not, you're X, Y, Z.

It's a pity that the Dartmouth is out of print. The idea of an abridged Bible is unique, and useful. I may be deceiving myself, but I am convinced that some of the essays or prefaces or introductory material has been used in the Oxford Annotated Bible (the third edition that has just been released) This is from a Christian perspective, and I would still rather have something like the Dartmouth in Borders than some of those laughable "study Bibles" that tell you to "kill the giants in your life, with five talents, the way that David killed Goliath" etc.

By the way, mine is the second edition updated to reflect recent discoveries in archaeology---it's still pretty old, though--1961, or something. I wasn't sure which yours was.