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"A bracing call for Ingersoll-style biblical studies: a relentless demonstration of the alien and offensive character of a book that some would use as a weapon to control the rest of us." ROBERT M. PRICE, PhD Professor of Theology and Scriptural Studies Johnnie Coleman Theological Seminary Editor of the Journal of Higher Criticism Author of The Reason-Driven Life and many other works
"... should be a required textbook in every academic class in biblical study .... I highly recommend this book to the general reader as a readable and reliable guide to understanding the important results of biblical research."
GERALD A. LARUE Emeritus Professor of Biblical History and Archaeology University of Southern California First Chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Study of Religion Author of numerous books on biblical issues including Old Testament Life and Literature, Sex and the Bible, and Ancient Myth and Modern Life
About the Author
Hector Avalos (Ames, IA) is associate professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, the author of four books on biblical studies and religion, the former editor of the Journal for the Critical Study of Religion, and executive director of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion.
GNPR 70: Biblical Studies? Marshall McLuhan, of "the medium is the message fame," used to say that his books did not sell well, because they contained more than the 25% of new material that most books did. For most people, "The End of Biblical Studies," a new book by Hector Avalos, Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, will contain material that is at least 75% new to them, even though much of what Professor Avalos has to say has been well known within the Religious Studies community for many years. What Avalos brings to this book is incredible scholarship, remarkable attention to detail, and, most of all, willingness to tell it like it is. A variety of scholars, among them Bart Ehrman, William Dever, John Dominic Crossan, have been busy popularizing what translators, literary critics, and biblical archeologists, have been saying for years. Much to the distress of fundamentalists, there is no single definitive text of the Bible, the Bible has no claims to distinctive literary merits, and the extensive archeological research of the last hundred years has done nothing but puncture holes in the hope of establishing any claims anyone might have that the Bible is in any way historically accurate. (Avalos has an excellent section pointing to the radical discrepancy between the Big Bang theory and the origins account of Genesis.) Avalos, who has a Ph.D. from Harvard in Biblical Studies, points out that few people even in very religious America, really read the Bible, and even fewer have anything but a bowdlerized grasp of what is really there. His erudition in this regard is exceptional, taking apart the popular softenings of texts like Luke 14:25: "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother...cannot be my disciple.Read more ›
Hector Avalos, associate professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, has written a brilliant and original critique of biblical studies from within. He argues that biblical studies should end, because it is just religious apologetics, not an academic discipline or a branch of scholarship.
Most biblical studies academics think the bible is worth keeping and studying and most are members of `faith communities'. But Avalos shows that the bible is irrelevant, the product of an ancient and very different culture whose values and beliefs about the origin, nature and purpose of the world are not useful or ethical. Religion is a fifth wheel, superfluous to life, a hindrance to all intellectual and scientific advances. It is an illegitimate claim to extra power for foolish arguments. We should not rely on any authority, especially not on a single ancient text.
He investigates biblical studies' various sub-disciplines. He shows that the translations of the bible are largely bowdlerised. Textual criticism has found no original texts or manuscripts, and Jesus spoke in Aramaic, not Hebrew or Greek, so there can be no original, pristine word of God.
Avalos shows how history and archaeology have disproved `biblical history'. He notes that centuries of Jesus studies have not found a historical Jesus: he has no verifiable words or deeds, and there are no contemporary eye-witness accounts. Literary criticism has not shown that the bible is better literature than other ancient works, and the excessive attention paid to this one text has meant that thousands of ancient Mesopotamian texts have never been translated.Read more ›
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Hector Avalos pulls no punches in describing the current state of Biblical studies as a field of academia in decline. Tackling Biblical archaeology, textual criticism, and theology, Avalos dismantles them in detail, pointing out how they no longer bring anything new to our current understanding of the Bible or the spurious history associated with it. Indeed, he shows that most of what we know undermines the Bible as anything we can fully trust as a source for historical data.
Avalos, a former fundamentalist child evangelist, taught himself Hebrew and Greek in high school in order to better attack the arguments of atheists and non-Christian religions. He found he couldn't buttress or accept Christian apologetics, and ended up leaving the fold.
This is a book that could easily be expanded by fleshing out some of the ideas mentioned in his footnotes. Avalos points out that a great many of the works cited by apologists (Josephus, Suetonius, etc.) are from manuscript copies written in the middle ages, centuries after their authors died...authors who themselves didn't witness first hand the events they describe.
Several months ago, I decided to let my subscription to "Biblical Archaeology Review" lapse because I'd perceived during the past several years that its content had become less scholarly and increasingly apologetic. I'd been a subscriber for over a decade, and along the way I'd added the now defunct sister publications, "Bible Review" and "Archaeology Odyssey," to my list of subscriptions. In short, more and more of the pieces in the magazine were aimed at readers who wanted to see their religious beliefs verified by, and reconciled with, the results of scientific investigation, while too many of the decreasing number of critical articles addressed trivia that offered little for anyone outside the small circle of professional specialists. Now after reading Hector Avalos's new book, "The End of Biblical Studies" (Prometheus Books, 2007), I understand why.
Avalos takes on Biblical studies from the inside: He's an associate professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University with many books and articles to his credit, and a long-time member of the Society of Biblical Literature.Read more ›
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