Friday, October 18, 2013

Politicizing the Bible (Crossroad Publishing)

There are lots of things I love about being Catholic. I've never formally composed a list, but if I did you would definitely find the Bible and Scott Hahn on that list. Therefore, you can only imagine my excitement when I found out that Crossroad Publishing was releasing the book Politicizing the BiblePoliticizing the Bible is the second joint effort between Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker, the first of which was Answering the New Atheism. I knew this book would be a challenge to read, but I also knew it would contain great wisdom.

Politicizing the Bible  is a meaty tome spanning over 500 pages, which examines the origins of the historical critical method as a means of interpreting the Bible and identifies famous people who utilized this method. For those unfamiliar with the historical critical method, it is a way of understanding the Bible through understanding the literal meaning of Biblical texts when placed in the original historical context. This means the researcher wants to know who wrote it, when it was written, where it was written, what influenced the writing of it, etc. Additionally, one can use this method and compare the Biblical text to other texts written during the same period. In a nutshell, this method focuses on the human origins of the Biblical text, which isn't wrong but doesn't give you the whole picture either.

In this book, Drs. Hahn and Wiker cover both the development of the historical critical method over time and the key people in history who utilized the historical critical method. These people used their interpretation of Biblical texts to further their own political purposes and agendas. Some such people include Martin Luther, Thomas Hobbes, Machiavelli, and even King Henry VIII. Another interesting fact that I learned from reading this book is that most people believe this method originated in the 17th or 18th Century. However, the two authors demonstrate that it in fact had its earliest origins in the 14th Century, well before the Reformation ever occurred.

Each person listed above (and the others not listed in this review) is the subject of a fascinating chapter in this book, which demonstrates how the historical critical method developed over time. Drs. Hahn and Wiker were able to show how each person's idea builds off the ideas of their predecessors to further secularize and politicize the Bible. This steady shift in thought ended up having a lasting effect on modern interpretation of Scripture. It is worth pointing out that Biblical critics often claim that the historical critical method of studying Scripture is unbiased and neutral. One only needs to skim this book to see that this is not the case. A deeper read will show you that whenever people are involved, bias is impossible to eliminate; people will manipulate even the Bible if it suits their agenda.

Politicizing the Bible is THE go-to guide for an explanation and critique of the historical critical method. Be forewarned though, this is not a book for the casual reader. When placed next to your Bible, the two books look nearly equally big and thick. In addition to the size and weight of this book, almost each page is half text and half footnotes. This is a book for the serious student of Scripture, and if you fall into that category you will want this 5 star book on your shelf.

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