Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Review of Michael McLymond, Familiar Stranger

Christianity Today has the following article review of Michael McLymond, Familiar Stranger: An Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004):

Not a Tame Lion
An engaging theologian questions the Jesus of modern scholars.
Reviewed by Jeremy Lott

I don't know this book myself, but the review is entertaining. I would like to comment on one aspect of it, however, since I am sceptical about how Lott characterises the approach:
McClymond is a theologian and not a text critic or a language scholar, so he is inclined to pull strands of information together, rather than apart. He challenges the sometimes narrow field of biblical studies by insisting that the distinctions that seem so important for conference papers and journal articles are not significant for helping most Christians to understand the life and message of Jesus of Nazareth.
I am not sure that I am happy with the notion that text critics and language scholars pull strands of information apart, and I'd also dispute the concern about "the sometimes narrow field of biblical studies". I would not expect academic conference papers and journal articles to be helpful for "most Christians". That is not their target. Biblical studies takes its place in the academy alongside related and other disciplines where it is practised by scholars from a variety of backgrounds. I do think that is is important for all of us, and not only those of us who are Christians, to attempt to communicate our scholarship to the wider world, including Christians, but that is never going to be the primary goal of the academic conference or the academic journals.

1 comment:

simon said...

Mark, your blog is indispensible. I read it every day and I've never left a comment.
I can understand your desire to defend your trade. Biblical scholarship is essential and the view expressed in the CT review is a tad old-fashioned - the days of biblical scholars only pulling things apart to examine the component parts are long gone.
But I wonder if you risk separating biblical scholarship from the life of the church in a way that would harm both.
Sure, academic articles are not for the person in the pew. But if there is no connection between articles and worshippers, there is a danger that biblical scholarship losing its reason for being.
I remember some time ago interviewing Tom Wright when he was at Litchfield and asking him why he didn't take a good university job so he could concentrate on his research. His answer was that it would rob his research of its context. He works as a historian of Christianity, a biblical scholar, as part of his service to the church, the church informing his work as much as his work informs the church.
But you probably agree with that.
Thanks again for a wonderful, essential blog. Keep it up