The Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Studies

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147 Scopus citations


During the Enlightenment, scholars guided by a new vision of a post-theological age did not simply investigate the Bible, they remade it. In place of the familiar scriptural Bibles that belonged to Christian and Jewish communities, they created a new form: the academic Bible. This book examines the creation of the academic Bible. Beginning with the fragmentation of biblical interpretation in the centuries after the Reformation, it shows how the weakening of scriptural authority in the Western churches altered the role of biblical interpretation. In contexts shaped by skepticism and religious strife, interpreters increasingly operated on the Bible as a text to be managed by critical tools. These developments prepared the way for scholars to formalize an approach to biblical study shaped by classical philology and oriented toward the statist vision of the new universities and their sponsors. Focusing on a renowned German scholar of the period, Johann David Michaelis (1717-1791) of Göttingen, this book explores the ways that critics reconceived the role of the Bible. The founders of modern biblical criticism preserved the cultural authority of the Bible, yet they did so by pushing scriptural Bibles and religious reading to the margins of academic discourse. This book offers a new account of the origins of biblical studies, illuminating the relation of the Bible to churchly readers, theological exegesis, and academic criticism. It explains why, in an age of religious resurgence, modern biblical criticism may no longer be in a position to serve as the Bible's disciplinary gatekeeper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages272
ISBN (Electronic)9780199777211
ISBN (Print)9780195394351
StatePublished - Mar 18 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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