Quotable: Michael Heiser

I found this quote from Michael Heiser particularly interesting:

Readers familiar with my own research know that I’m someone who believes that terms like “Israelite religion” and “Old Testament theology” ought to be interchangeable in our thinking. They know that I’ve complained for years about the lip service evangelicals pay to “contextualizing” the Bible, when what they really do is cherry-pick ancient Near Eastern literature and material culture for comfortable parallels that protect us from seeing the Old Testament through the eyes of an ancient Semite instead of those of a 20th (or 17th) century Westerner. If we’re really serious about interpreting the Bible in its own cultural and religious context, we need to remove the modern theological filters we use to read it.

I think this is a widespread problem in a number of religious traditions, but I don’t think it’s necessarily intentional. Most Bible readers these days are searching for applicability in their own livs, and so read the Bible through that particular filter: how does this apply to me. Since most people are also naturally religio- and ethnocentric  to  one degree or another, this becomes a comfortable default lens that is difficult to remove when it comes to historicocritical considerations.

I think many want to believe the Bible is accessible to them on every level, as well, and so think they can flesh out the context on their own, without knowing much more than what the Bible itself tells them about the world of the ancient Near East. What information they do find that provides contextualization most likely comes down to devotional readers of the Bible through devotional channels, and so is probably that cherry-picked (not by them) literature and material culture. I think this is where Bart Ehrman’s criticisms of seminary graduates not using the sources and critical thinking skills they should have developed in seminary are particularly important.

Thanks for the quote, Michael. Does anyone have any thoughts?


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