A Parable

“Imagine after Armageddon all that is left on earth is an international congress of scholars who have been taking an outing in a remote part of Iceland. In their pockets they find they have 39 books from the last ten centuries of English literature, though they have all had their title pages ripped out and so are undated and lacking any information about their authors. While our scholars wait for the radiation sickness to take effect, they decide they will spend their time reconstructing the history of English literature, together with the social mores, the religious beliefs, the political controversies and the internal and external history of the British Isles and the English–speaking world for the last thousand years. This is a parable.”

David J. A. Clines, “What do We Really Know About the Pentateuch?” (Unpublished 2007 conference paper available on Academia.edu).

File under “this idea must die.” No doubt there were sources used in the composition of Scripture, but the idea that we can accurately reconstruct such things goes way beyond the evidence. What we have is ancient literature that has been given to us as Scripture. We can either do our best to engage with it as ancient literature (while doing due diligence to understand the cultural context) and as Scripture or we can admit that we are going a bit beyond the evidence.


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