In this radical critique of his own academic specialty, biblical scholar Hector Avalos calls for an end to biblical studies as we know them. He outlines two main arguments for this surprising conclusion. First, academic biblical scholarship has clearly succeeded in showing that the ancient civilization that produced the Bible held beliefs about the origin, nature, and purpose of the world and humanity that are fundamentally opposed to the views of modern society. The Bible is thus largely irrelevant to the needs and concerns of contemporary human beings. Second, Avalos criticizes his colleagues for applying a variety of flawed and specious techniques aimed at maintaining the illusion that the Bible is still relevant in today’s world. In effect, he accuses his profession of being more concerned about its self-preservation than about giving an honest account of its own findings to the general public and faith communities.
Dividing his study into two parts, Avalos first examines the principal subdisciplines of biblical studies (textual criticism, archaeology, historical criticism, literary criticism, biblical theology, and translations) in order to show how these fields are still influenced by religiously motivated agendas despite claims to independence from religious premises. In the second part, he focuses on the infrastructure that supports academic biblical studies to maintain the value of the profession and the Bible. This infrastructure includes academia (public and private universities and colleges), churches, the media-publishing complex, and professional organizations such as the Society of Biblical Literature. In a controversial conclusion, Avalos argues that our world is best served by leaving the Bible as a relic of an ancient civilization instead of the “living” document most religionist scholars believe it should be. He urges his colleagues to concentrate on educating the broader society to recognize the irrelevance–and even violent effects–of the Bible in modern life.
“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, and author of The Reason-Driven Life, Deconstructing Jesus, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, and numerous articles in the Secular Web Library.
“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, and
author of numerous books on biblical issues including
Old Testament Life and Literature, Sex and the Bible, and
Ancient Myth and Modern Life.
“The End of Bible Studies is the most fun I’ve ever had reading such an analytical book. I can honestly say that I was in a state of perpetual shock as I read page after page of devastating critique of such a huge and firmly anchored suite of disciplines. After all, what university in the Western World doesn’t have a major workforce of teachers and researchers devoted to something-or-other relating to THE BIBLE?” – Conrad Spoke