Historicising

One of the cliches of twentieth-century theological reading of Scripture was that radical critics ween’t critical enough. I’ve seen that most often as an interrogation of the critics’ historical discernment — ‘You can’t say that miracles are impossible, because miracles are reported even today. You need to criticise your own modernist presumption that miracles can’t be historically true.’

I’m generally ready to poke biblical modernism, but i would take the ‘not critical enough’ gesture in a different direction. That is, the prevalent historical interpretive discourse persists in treating the most recent historical interpretations as self-evidently ‘true’ or ‘correct’. But if we have any historical awareness at all, we recognise that today’s self-evidently true conclusions are tomorrow’s risibly out-dated error. The biblical interpretation industry invests contemporary historical discernment with an authority incommensurate with its inevitable transience. Miracle stories may be accurate or not, but the restless necessity that interpretive judgement keep changing is a matter that any casual observer can verify.

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