By John J. Collins
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Additional info for The Bible after Babel: Historical Criticism in a Postmodern Age
But it also represented an ideal of judgment. In the words of the historian R. G. "" In this sense, autonomy is opposed not only to ecclesiastical interference but also to undue deference to received opinion. Biblical scholarship has not always been characterized by autonomy in the latter sense, although I doubt that many historical critics would dispute the principle! 15 To understand the ancient context of a text requires some sympathetic analogy between ancient and modern situations. Indeed, one of the assumptions of historical criticism is that texts are human products and that human nature has not changed beyond recognition over the centuries.
Nowadays there is increased sensitivity to the ideology of the conquest narratives. But nearly all biblical scholars find some parts of the canonical corpus to be morally above criticism. The Ten Commandments are one such segment, and the book of Amos is another. 98 In the case of the Ten Commandments, he disputes the common assumption that these are timeless ethical maxims and asks repeatedly whose interests are being served. 99 Women are not addressed. The people whose interests are served by having "a text telling these pillars of society what they should and shouldn't do, in the name of Yahweh" are "the fathers of those addressed, that is, the old men of the society, ...
22 Nonetheless, by the early loth century the point had been made, at least in the socalled mainline churches, that biblical texts did not necessarily always report historical events, or do so in ways that would satisfy modern criteria. 21 Christian theology, at least in its more liberal forms, reached an accommodation with historical criticism that acknowledged its validity, even if only within certain limits. Conversely, biblical scholars often sought to reconcile their findings with traditional faith.