The Veracity of the Word
The media have never been more fascinated by the Bible as an object of public interest. Hollywood, followed by television and other entertainment vehicles, has produced blockbuster films devoted to biblical subjects. Yet increasingly the subject matter of such presentations has turned from straightforward narrations of biblical texts to creative reconstructions of those texts in a generally controversial or even blasphemous direction. “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Fifth Element,” and “John Q” come to mind. Iconoclasm and sensationalism sell.
Yet in almost inverse proportion to their coverage in the popular media are the number and significance of archaeological finds in the last thirty years that have enormous bearing on both the understanding of the Old Testament and that support it as a reliable historical account. The following list is only a sampling of significant finds.
1. Ketef Hinnom (1979). Excavation of a tomb overlooking the Hinnom Valley in Jerusalem brought to light a small silver scroll containing a tiny inscription bearing the words of the priestly benediction of Numbers 6:24–26. This sheds light on Hebrew orthography and morphology. Also its date (ca. seventh century B.C.) long precedes the composition of the P document of historical-critical scholarship (450 B.C.), thus undermining the hypothesis to that degree.
2. The ‘Ain Dara Temple (1980). In an earlier era scholars debunked the reality of a temple in Israel like Solomon’s because nothing similar was known from the ancient Near East. However, at ‘Ain Dara (and earlier in Tall Ta’yinat), Syria, a temple from the tenth century B.C. came to light that bore a remarkable similarity to the temple of Jerusalem. The size is approximately the same; it consists of two chambers, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place; and it clearly accommodated cultic features like those described in the Bible. Thus the notion that Israel had a temple in the tenth century rests on firm ground.
3. Tel Dan (1993). Avraham Biran and his team of Israeli excavators were wrapping up a day’s work when one of them noticed the faint outline of characters incised on a rock embedded in a wall. Study showed it to be an Aramaic text from about 830 B.C., the substance of which was the account by an Aramaean king of his military operations against the “house of David.” Along with a possible example in the Mesha inscription, this is the only reference to David so far in any extrabiblical text. This puts the historical existence of David beyond doubt and furthermore shows him to be so powerful a figure that the nation was named for him.
4. Wadi el-Hol (1993). Just west of Abydos in southern Egypt, the Wadi el-Hol site yielded an alphabetic inscription carved on the underface of a ledge. Palaeographically it resembled a text found at Serabit al-Khadem in the Sinai Peninsula from1600 B.C., which until 1993 was the earliest alphabet ever found. But the Wadi Hol example is at least two hundred years older, dating from the time Jacob and his sons lived in Egypt. The argument that Moses could not have written the Torah in alphabetic form that early (ca. 1400 B.C.) thus has no basis.
Dr. Eugene Merrill holds three master’s degrees and two doctorates, and his ministry has taken him around the world with concentrated work in Europe, Asia, and the Near East. He regularly contributes to leading journals, periodicals, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and commentaries. Recently Dr. Merrill has added an excavation at Khirbet el-Maqatir to his extensive indoor and outdoor studies. The site, near Palestinian cities under heavy guard, may be the ancient city of Ai, which Joshua destroyed during the Israelite Conquest (Josh. 7–8). Two summers ago a DTS student with Dr. Merrill’s team found a portion of the rim and neck of a large jar, which experts date to the fifteenth century B.C., the time of the Conquest.
Books authored or coauthored by Dr. Merrill
Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel, 2nd ed. (Baker Academic)
Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament (Broadman and Holman)
The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study: Genesis–Deuteronomy (Cook)
Die Geschichte Israels: Ein Königreich Von Priestern (Hanssler)
Nelson’s Old Testament Survey (Nelson)
Deuteronomy (Broadman and Holman)
Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Exegetical Commentary (Moody)
An Historical Survey of the Old Testament (Baker)
1, 2 Chronicles: Bible Study Commentary (Lamplighter)
Qumran and Predestination: A Theological Study of the Thanksgiving Hymns (Brill)
Listen to/Watch Dr. Merrill – DTS Chapel
“God’s Mission: Ours, As Well”
Listen and watch as Dr. Merrill speaks in chapel at DTS about God’s mission to reconcile humanity to Himself and how that should be our mission too:
Only a few years ago the topic at hand would have seemed arcane and marginal to the interests of all but the small coterie of specialists in the field. This is no longer the case. Popular books, periodical articles, television specials, and screen scripts are devoted to a seeming never-ending thirst for topics of biblical interest. Frequently these are iconoclastic diatribes directed against established beliefs, since no doubt all of us enjoy the titillation of seeing long-held traditions and convictions challenged and overthrown, especially those held by folks outside our own epistemological frame of reference. On the other hand, and more positively, sociologists report an increasing trend toward spirituality in general and individual faith traditions in particular despite a corresponding disinterest in institutional religion. Thus, media attention to the Old Testament as part of the broader spectrum of a revival of interest in religion and spirituality should not be surprising.
Scholarly as well as popular fascination with the Old Testament springs primarily from its claim to be a revelation from God. As such it has been cherished by both Judaism and Christianity, the authoritative text for belief and behavior. Currently, and apart from religious considerations, a virtual consensus remains that the Old Testament is a major foundation stone on which rests the superstructure of Western civilization. This is despite its divestment of authority in the popular imagination as well as in the halls of academe. Indeed, to assert that the Old Testament has profoundly shaped the history, culture, law, politics, and mores of both Jewish and Christian traditions as well as the secular institutions that explicitly or implicitly stand in debt to their influence is no exaggeration.
Recent years bear testimony to an abiding popular interest in the Bible and all things biblical, an interest both generated in part by the media and at the same time responsible for unprecedented media attention. Shows like “Nightline” and programming by PBS, the Discovery Channel, and the History Channel regularly features matters relevant to religion in general but more particularly to subtopics such as Jesus scholarship and Old Testament history and culture, the latter often illuminated by ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian contexts and connections. The Iran hostage crisis, the 911 attack on New York, and the war in Iraq have ironically drawn attention to sites of biblical significance as has the upsurge of technologies such as DNA, currently being employed to establish the antiquity and personal identities of Egyptian mummies. Persons with only a modicum of interest in the Bible are naturally drawn to such media exposure no matter the faith commitment they may or may not have.
History of Old Testament Scholarship
Modern approaches to Old Testament issues cannot be understood fully without at least brief acquaintance with the history of Old Testament scholarship, a survey for convenience divided into the Pre-Enlightenment, Enlightenment, and Post-Enlightenment periods. The first of these refers to a time when the Old Testament was taken largely at face value as the revealed word of God, infallible and authoritative in all it had to say. This included the miracle stories and other “incredible” events and ideas that no longer find currency in our sophisticated day.
By the end of the 17th century the first rays of the rising sun of the Enlightenment began to penetrate the darkness of the “naïve ignorance” of the church. Rationalism and the scientific method ascended, relegating the Bible to the status of a purely theological treatise at best or a hopelessly irrelevant collection of myths, legends, and folk-tales at worst. First came the documentary hypothesis concerning the Pentateuch, an approach that denied its Mosaic authorship and that viewed it as a collection of originally independent traditions woven together over a period of many centuries. In its wake, a continuing spirit of skepticism denied the possibility of miracles, predictive prophecy, and special, verbal revelation by God to humankind. This eviscerated the Old Testament in particular of any claim to scientific or historical credibility except among those derisively labeled “Fundamentalists.”
The first stirrings of archaeological research in the Middle East were concomitant with the rise of the so-called “historical critical” method just described. Two rivulets thus feed into modern assessments of the Bible in mainstream biblical scholarship, the one being modern and post-modern versions of the older criticisms and the other a disciplined and rigorous practice of archaeology now refined to the level of near-exact science. While these two at times intermingle and coincide at many junctures, they also frequently go their own ways in mutually hostile opposition. Commonly critics summon archaeological research to put to rest biblical claims to historical authenticity and just as often, or even more so, conservative scholars invoke it when it seems to support the biblical tradition. Worse still is the proclivity of both sides to realign Scripture to bring it into coherence with the assured results of archaeological method.
In an increasingly naturalistic and materialistic age, the authority and relevance of the Bible to everyday life has diminished almost to the vanishing point. This is due not only to the florescence of democratized pluralism and inclusivism as elements of a pervasive cultural ethos, but to academic and political establishmentarianism that regards religion in general and the Bible in particular as vestiges of medieval superstition unworthy of serious consideration as necessary constituents of a well-ordered society. More at blame perhaps has been the accommodation by religionists in general to unbelief and by biblio-centrists to a broadminded world view that eclipses the narrowness of evangelical epistemology and practice. No longer is it fashionable in the intellectual world to view the Bible as magisterially relevant literature. In fact, even popular culture with its general disregard for history and tradition has by and large consigned the Bible to a benign neglect, a text that at best takes its place among the curios of a day long gone by.
At the same time, and to repeat, the media have never been more fascinated by the Bible as an object of public interest. Twentieth Century Hollywood, followed by television and other entertainment vehicles, produced a number of blockbuster films devoted to biblical subjects such as “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “The Ten Commandments,” and “Ben Hur.” To reiterate again, whether these productions generated popular interest in biblical themes or whether film producers capitalized on the Evangelical resurgence that emerged early in the century is difficult to discern. In any case, there appears to be no abatement on the horizon even though increasingly the subject matter of such presentations has turned from rather straight-forward narrations of biblical or Bible-related texts to creative reconstructions of those texts in a generally controversial or even blasphemous direction. “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Fifth Element,” and “John Q” come to mind as typical examples. Iconoclasm and sensationalism still sell; thus, when the Bible and the Church have lost their magisterial standing among their own adherents, it is but a short step toward exploitation of hitherto out-of-bounds areas of sacredness in the interest of profiteering or even conscious and deliberate desecration.
Competing contemporary ideologies
The OT Bible and the state. Following the conversion of Constantine to Christianity in the early 4th century, the European states joined a few others in the Middle East as “Christian” nations, in distinction to those embracing some other religious or cultural tradition. Though vigorous disagreement on the matter of the Christian roots of the American experiment has come to the fore in recent years, the general consensus of historians of early America is that the Continental Congress that drew up the articles of American federation consisted largely of Christians who undertook their task as Founders with conscious attention to legal, moral, and social principles derived from Scripture. The very language of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution puts this beyond doubt.
At the same time, it is clear that the United States was not intended to be a “Christian” nation in the European sense. Though “biblical” in its orientation, America by law and design was obliged to hold to a position antithetic to the European model in which an established church was governed by quasi-political ecclesiastics and supported by tax-paying citizens. Thus, in the American experiment there must be a separation of church and state with respect to mutual interference though certainly not in terms of religious suppression by political power or undue influence on the political process by established religion. However, waves of immigration for over 200 years have radically changed the American political and religious landscape. Diversity and pluralism have challenged the notion of any particular brand of religious authoritarianism and with it has come a decreasing role of the institutional church in political affairs. The upshot of this manifests itself in an uneasy tension between church and state, one that naturally encompasses within it the role of the Bible in political and public life. Presidents may swear their oath of office with hands on a Bible but this symbolic act rarely translates into intentional public policy.
The OT Bible and the schools. Colonial American education was largely in the hands of the home and local community. For the most part, the state was uninvolved and thus had little or nothing to do with curriculum and other matters pertaining to local education of children. Moreover, the very notion of absolute separation of church and state was unthinkable; in fact, religion, particularly the Christian faith, was not only permitted in the school but mandatory. The Bible was the textbook that provided instruction in faith and morals and in reading and writing as well.
The establishment of the nation as a confederation of states, coupled with an increasingly diverse immigrant population, the industrial revolution, and the settlement of the West, brought an end to the concept of truly local education and the beginning of centralized standardization of every aspect of non-collegiate education. People flocked to the cities for work and in their busyness surrendered control of their children’s instruction to public schools that increasingly usurped parental authority and abandoned religion and the Bible in the interest of pluralism and tolerance. Well before the end of the 20th century American educational policy mandated that public schools be off limits to formal and (later) informal displays of organized or even personal religious expression, to say nothing of the inclusion of the Bible as a vital part of a well-rounded education.
This trend was exacerbated by increasing emphases in the public school curricula on the social and “hard” sciences, particularly by secularism in the former case and life sciences in the latter. Secularism fostered a spirit of humanism, the notion that the universe is anthropocentric rather than theocentric. This being the case, all religions grounded in the metaphysically transcendent (which include virtually all) were barred from the classroom. Biological evolution, on the other hand, runs so contrary to standard interpretations of the Old Testament account of origins and development that the latter fell into the realm of the mythical or imaginary and thus, like theism, was quickly shown the door. A reaction from the Christian community was predictable. In place of schools where their children were taught values and concepts contrary to the Bible and the Christian faith, Evangelicals in particular created Christian schools or resorted to home schooling, both of which options have grown exponentially.
The OT Bible and the church. Most ironic of all, the Bible, and most especially the Old Testament, has come to be scorned even by some quarters of the church. Theological liberalism, of course, plays a significant role in this diminution of interest in the Scriptures with a corollary disregard of any of its claims to authority. A holy book of uncertain origins and unreliable transmission can hardly become the bedrock of a viable faith. But the matter cannot rest there. At one time the Old Testament, though regarded widely as less relevant than the New for Christian faith, nevertheless provided lessons for morality and bases for proper private and public behavior. Besides, its Psalms were a source of blessing and comfort and its stories were alive with examples of men and women who triumphed as they trusted their God. However, compared to the Gospels and Epistles, the Old Testament was dull and dry, the relic of a religion long past its prime and with little or no practical relevance to the modern world. Preachers avoided employing its texts and laity despaired of ever understanding the ins and outs of its arcane practices. Thus, three quarters of the Bible was benignly allowed to die on its own, buried by its own weightiness. The Old Testament has fared hardly better in evangelical churches, either because of its relative density or a theology that relegates it to virtual non-canonicity by perceiving it as a book of law as opposed to the New Testament’s status as a book of grace. It is acceptable as moralistic Sunday school material but not as a text to be proclaimed as the Word of God to the church.
Recent Trends in Old Testament Scholarship
In the media. Nothing comparable to the sensationalism and controversy attendant to the Jesus Seminar, the James ossuary, the Shroud of Turin, and other New Testament topics has yet developed with regard to media handling of the Old Testament at the popular level. On occasion the odd story of the discovery of artifacts relating to Old Testament backgrounds such as inscriptions, building foundations, and mummified human and animal remains appears but generally with little fanfare or of such a nature as to engender strong debate. Greater interest accrues to political events surrounding modern Israel and its claims to territory based largely on Old Testament promises. These range from the fundamental right of Israel to exist, to the occupation and settlement of the West Bank, to preparations by the Temple Institute of plans and procedures to construct the Third Temple on the site of the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque. To those committed to these ideals the Old Testament has never ceased to provide sufficient justification for any course of action that brings to pass the fulfillment of its prophetic texts. On the other hand, those who have a lesser view of its authority and who deem its pre-exilic history to be but myth and legend eschew any use of the Old Testament for political purposes as misguided at best.
On the field. In almost inverse proportion to their coverage in the popular media are the number and significance of archaeological finds in the last 30 years that have enormous bearing on both the understanding of the Old Testament and its shoring up as a reliable historical account. The following list (in no particular order of importance) is illustrative of a much larger corpus.
1. Tall edh-Dabah. Since the 1970’s the Austrian scholar Manfred Bietak has focused his time and energy on a site in the northeast Delta of Egypt that he has concluded is none other than Avaris (Ramesses), the capital of the foreign dynasty of the Hyksos who ruled Egypt from ca. 1730-1580 B. C. The Hyksos, a Semitic people loosely related to the Israelites, were perhaps the people referred to in Exodus 1:10 as Pharaoh’s enemies with whom he feared that Israel might join in rebellion. If so, this places an identifiable Israel in Egypt in the Late Bronze or New Kingdom Egypt period. However, much remains to be done at Tall edh-Dabah before this assertion can be put beyond doubt.
2. The ‘Ain Dara Temple (1980). In an earlier era the reality of a portable shrine like the Israelite tabernacle was debunked because nothing similar was known from the ancient Near East. A similar claim was made regarding the Solomonic Temple. However, in ‘Ain Dara (and earlier in Tall Ta’yinat), Syria, a temple from the 10th century came to light that resembled in its layout a remarkable similarity to the Temple of Jerusalem. The size is approximately the same; it consists of two chambers, the Holy Place and Most Holy Place; and it clearly accommodated cultic features like those described in the Bible. Thus, the notion that Israel had a temple in the 10th century is, by analogy at least, on very firm ground.
3. Tel Dan (1993). Nearly 20 years ago Avraham Biran and his team of Israeli excavators were wrapping up a day’s work when one of them noticed the faint outline of characters incised on a rock surface embedded in a defensive wall. Careful analysis showed it to be an Aramaic text from about 830 B. C., the substance of which was the account of an Aramaean king of his military operations against certain enemies, notably the “house of David.” This (along with a possible example in the Mesha inscription of the same date) is the only reference to David so far in any extra-biblical text. This puts the historical existence of David beyond doubt and furthermore shows him to be so powerful a figure that the nation Israel was named for him.
4. Kuntillet ‘Ajrud (1978). This site, near Arad in the northern Negev, was clearly an Israelite worship center in mid-9th century Judah. The most remarkable thing about it was not the presence of clearly pagan altars and other religious paraphernalia but an inscription that speaks of “YHWH and his Asherah.” The formula implies that Israel’s God had a consort, that is, a divine female counterpart. Asherah is mentioned dozens of times in the Old Testament as a Canaanite goddess, usually in connection with Baal. The cult of Asherah was of the basest, most immoral kind, involving ritual prostitution and other behaviors designed to promote fertility in the land. Clearly the association of YHWH with Asherah at this place (and nearby Arad as well) was contrary to normative Israelite faith as articulated by Moses and promoted vigorously by the prophets. What it shows is that Israel in late times had syncretized its monotheism to such an extent that it had, for all practical purposes, become polytheistic, a picture that emerges from the Old Testament as well. This find therefore confirms the biblical picture of religious life prior to the exile and provides insight into the awesome words of judgment from God’s true prophets.
5. Wadi el-Hol (1993). Just west of Abydos in southern Egypt, this site yielded an alphabetic inscription carelessly carved on the under-face of a ledge. It resembled in its paleographic form a similar text found at Serabit al-Khadem in the Sinai Peninsula, the latter dating to ca. 1600 B. C. and thought previously to be the earliest alphabet ever found. However, the Wadi Hol example is at least 200 years older, dating to the period in which Jacob and his sons lived in Egypt. The argument of former times that Moses (if he existed at all) could not have written the Torah in alphabetic form that early (ca. 1400 B. C.) thus has no basis.
6. Ketef Hinnom (1979). Excavation of a tomb overlooking the Hinnom Valley in Jerusalem brought to light a small silver scroll wrapped so tightly that months were required for its unrolling. Amazingly, it contained a tiny inscription bearing the words of the priestly benediction of Numbers 6:24-26. Not only does this shed light on Hebrew orthography and morphology, its date (ca. 7th century B. C.) long precedes the composition of the P document of historical-critical scholarship (450 B. C.). To this degree at least the documentary hypothesis must be re-examined.
7. Kh. Qeiyafah (2008). This strategically located fortress overlooked the Valley of Elah where the famous battle between David and Goliath took place. The date of an inscription found there is ca. 1000 B. C., precisely within the parameters of David’s reign. Though the name of the great king or of any other identifiable individual is lacking in the text, it does seem to mention a “ruler” of Gath (Goliath’s town) and possibly the seren (“governor”) of Gaza. Thus, it fits squarely both historically and geographically the narratives about David and his troubles with the Philistines.
8. City of David (current). For most of this decade Eilat Mazar, the daughter and grand-daughter of famous Israeli archaeologists, has been excavating a large site just south and east of the south wall of the Temple Mount. She has uncovered massive building stones and other features which suggest to her by dating and location that David’s palace or some other official structure existed at that site in the time of the United Monarchy (1000-950 B. C.). It is too early to come to that conclusion with certainty but the evidence clearly points in that direction. This would have serious consequences for minimalists (see below) who deny that David was anything more than a chieftain of a petty jurisdiction.
9. Kh. al-Maqater (1995-present). Located just 16 kilometers north of Jerusalem and a kilometer SE of Bethel, this small locale is of special interest to this writer who has been part of the excavation team since 1997. Having searched the biblical accounts carefully and having examined other nearby sites, the evangelical archaeologist Bryant Wood is reasonably confident that he has found the correct location of Old Testament Ai, a military outpost that first inflicted casualties on Joshua and his troops but then was destroyed by Israel and burned to the ground (Josh. 6-8). Pottery finds attest to occupation in the Late Bronze age and the walls and gate are in line with the biblical description as is the tiny size of the place. If this is the correct identification, et-Tell, the place currently favored, would have to be rejected. The principal relevance is the date of the exodus and conquest, Maqater favoring the early date and et-Tell the late.
In the academy. By “academy” here is meant the guild of Old Testament scholarship across the board—Jewish and Christian, Catholic and Protestant, liberal and fundamentalist, with special focus on Evangelicalism. Among a multitude of issues that could be addressed relative to the academy and particularly to Evangelicalism are the following five.
1. Erosion of biblical authority. Though the documentary hypothesis and other regnant 20th century methods of accounting for the texts of the Old Testament have become largely abandoned, there has been no corresponding return to the Bible as the source and basis of ultimate truth. In fact, skepticism has never been more rampant and pervasive than today, particularly in areas of science and history. Straight-forward readings of narratives based on traditional historical-grammatical exegesis have been rejected as overly naïve and misleading in the light of modern scientific method. The social sciences have also led to reinterpretations of Old Testament laws and customs because of their alleged homophobic, anti-feminist, and militaristic overtones. Only a Bible deconstructed in such a way as to rid itself of these embarrassments may be said to speak with authority.
2. Macro-evolution. Mainstream religious traditions have long since embraced evolution as a replacement for biblical creationism or at least as a better way of understanding it. Lately, however, it is becoming fashionable for Evangelical scholars also to part company with “young earth” creationism or even with the notion that God created everything precisely as the Genesis account describes it, in “six days and six nights,” the length of those days and nights being for now a side issue. Alleviation of the tension between science and Scripture has long been found by some in so-called “Theistic Evolution,” that is, that God created all original matter and that he used the process of evolution to bring all things to pass as they now exist. The trend now is to negate even fiat creation and to suppose that the Big Bang or some other non-theistic mechanism is responsible for all origins. The BioLogos Foundation founded by Francis Collins is spearheading this approach, one being endorsed by a number of Evangelical theologians.
3. Historical minimalism. The historicity of the Old Testament has been in serious question since the days of Hegel and Ewald 200 years ago, but not to the degree that has become current in the past 25 years. In its most extreme form, minimalism asserts that no reliable account of Israel’s history exists prior to the post-exilic period (530 B. C. or later). The narratives purporting to recount history are no more than political propaganda pamphlets designed to justify Jewish occupation of the land in immediately pre-Christian times. Remarkably, this interpretation is being employed today, even by some Israeli scholars, with the unintended (or intended?) consequence of bolstering Palestinian claims to the same land. Thus, the antiquity of the patriarchal promises, channeled through the prophets, is without substantiality since they lack genuine historical grounding. Again, many Evangelicals are quite willing to play down biblical history’s importance as though theology and history can be viewed as parallel universes.
4. Canonical redactionism. Brevard Childs popularized the terms “canonical criticism” and “canonical theology,” meaning in both case that all that can be known for certain about the Old Testament and its development is what can be found in its final post-exilic canonical form. This appears to rid the scholar of the need to quarrel over method in constructing models to account for the origins and processes of biblical tradition. The whole can be dismissed by maintaining that the canonical shape is the last layer of re-shaping and re-interpreting biblical texts so as to make them meaningfully authoritative to every generation that embraced them as God’s word. Once more, Evangelicals in some instances are finding comfort in this approach because it delivers them from the burden of always having to argue for or “prove” some point or other as regards authorship, dating, text-transmission, and the like.
5. Evangelical trends towards accommodation. These have been hinted at in the previous list of issues as evidences of the point being made here, namely, that Evangelical scholars find it increasingly tempting to forego the framework that marked them as such and provided them methodological and substantive boundaries. Reasons for this could be multiplied, but the following suggestions must suffice:
• A genuine desire to be in touch with the latest and best scholarship in order to employ it in the service of Christ and the Kingdom
• An attempt to “baptize” scholarly approaches so that Evangelical truth commitment remains at the core though dressed in foreign garb
• A desire for recognition by the guild so as to avoid the scandal of appearing to be “pre-critical,” uninformed, naïve, or, worst of all, fundamentalist
Today’s fads are tomorrows de rigeurs and today’s tentative issues in scholarship are likely to become tomorrow’s solidified givens. This has been the story of the church and the academy since their beginnings; hence the need for unending introspection and reassessment lest the ancient moorings be cut loose and the vessel of Truth and Authority be scuttled. This paper has not been designed or intended to do more than to suggest some major issues confronting Old Testament scholarship. Since its author is a committed Evangelical there should be no surprise that it contains a subtext of warning and exhortation directed toward his evangelical colleagues but not to them alone.