The Role of Credentials in Biblical Interpretation: Part II

As the conclusion of my previous post indicated, I will limit myself to a few additional comments on this subject.  (I’m trying to oblige Bryan L, who recently lodged a legitimate complaint against long-winded posts.  ;-))  Jim’s desire to essentially restrict public commentary upon biblical subjects to properly credentialed individuals leads to corollary questions regarding the precise nature of such credentials.  As the semi-official “Complete List of Biblioblogs” compiled and updated by the Biblioblog Top 50 readily indicates, the current crop of bibliobloggers represent a wide array of backgrounds, expertise, and interests.  Some have completed their educational training and serve as college and university faculty or as independent researchers; some (such as myself) hold one or more advanced degrees in biblical studies or a cognate field but have not yet completed their schooling; some are just embarking upon the academic path and are chronicling their journeys from the beginning; some are devoted amateurs with a special passion for the subject.  Members of this last category with whom I am most familiar include the aforementioned Bryan L, Loren Rosson, Peter Lopez, and Nick Norelli.  Their thoughts, comments, and questions have expanded my personal reflections upon the anatomy, history, and interpretation of the Bible in innumerable ways, even in areas where we ultimately reached different conclusions or adopted different positions.  Nick, in particular, has taught me a great deal not only through his insightful posts but also through his personal exemplification of what a kind, committed, engaged, and honest interpreter should look like.  (Well, most of the time.  ;-))  He has done this despite a total lack of formal training in religious studies, or even an undergraduate degree in any subject.  If asked, I suspect he would be the first to tell you that he is by no means an authority on the topics about which he writes, merely someone moved to continually develop and share his views on the biblical text in light of its profound impact in his own life.  There is much to be learned from these unconventional exegetes, who are willing and able to explore the findings of modern scholarship and to expand its relevance beyond the boundaries of the academy.  Indeed, without their participation and multiplication the yawning chasm between “scholarship” and “faith” which plagues so many Christian denominations and which prevents so many people from thinking and talking about God in new and beneficial ways will never be successfully bridged.

I could certainly continue on this issue at length, and perhaps I’ll reserve the right to make additional comments at some future time.  But for now I’ll quit before allowing myself to become too long-winded!

10 Responses to “The Role of Credentials in Biblical Interpretation: Part II”

  1. July 15, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Wow! High praise indeed coming from one such as yourself! Thanks! One correction though: I’m the first to tell you that I’m the authority on the topics I write about. 😛

  2. July 15, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Shoot! There goes part of my argument, then. 😉

  3. July 15, 2009 at 10:12 am

    “unconventional exegetes” … them’s fightin’ words. 😉

    Nice work.

  4. 4 Jim
    July 15, 2009 at 10:23 am

    i’m happy to agree with you for the most part here matt. i have no problem with amateur’s dabbling. but when it comes right down to it, i don’t trust their exegesis any more than i would trust the diagnosis of a ‘self trained’ physician. as far as i’m concerned, and i don’t mind being essentially alone on this, the bible is too important to leave in the hands of the untrained.

  5. July 15, 2009 at 4:19 pm


    Don’t take it personally… I meant it in a good way! 😉

  6. July 17, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Thanks for the kind words Matt. Keep up the great blog. : )

    Bryan L

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July 2009


© 2006-2009, Matthew Burgess. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use of the original content of this website is strictly prohibited. Quotations or citations should include a link to this website. The views and opinions given here are my own and do not represent those of the University of Virginia (or anyone else, for that matter).

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