I am approaching a year and a half as part of the Logos Institute at the University of St. Andrews, whose mission in part is to try to bridge the fields of analytic theology (and by implication of analytic’s theology employment of it, analytic philosophy) with Biblical exegesis. As the one person of my original cohort that most represented the Biblical Studies side of things based upon personal interest and prior education in that field (there was one other who would compete with me on this), I felt a particular challenge as being somewhat alone on trying to integrate analytic theology into Biblical Studies. The papers where I made the best grades were the one I did what I do best, exegesis and tried to figure out how to bring in some analytic-styled conclusions into my work. I didn’t witness quite the struggle form my more theological and philosophical oriented cohorts. Meanwhile, many of the discussion had with theologians were readily accessible to others even if it is difficult to penetrate into the fullest implications of the ideas, whereas one had to sometimes penetrate deep into the rabbit hole to really bring exegetical discussions up as such discussions inevitably gets into matters of methodology (whether directly or indirectly in the type of evidence one presents).
I don’t mention this to present a “woe is me” attitude. I have tremendously benefited from my time at the Logos Institute and I am a better at Biblical exegesis, much more knowledgable about the specific topics and ideas at stake in theology, I have become more proficient
Firstly, is the challenge of the necessary skills. In analytic theology and philosophy, the skill sets one needs includes the ability to read academic English, see the structure of arguments, parse analytic concepts, etc. By and large, the primary skill sets
This isn’t to suggest that Biblical exegetes are superior intellectual to analytic theologians. Far from it. Biblical exegetes operate more in an
One option for someone aspiring to study Scripture is to focus more so on the theological interpretation of Scripture. Here, one does not need to devote as much time to trying to interpret within the historical context and linguistic usage, but focus more on the intellectual content that one can presuppose is a part of the text. I myself was tempted to go in that direction, but I realized that my skill set was best for the more traditional for of exegesis based upon my greater familiarity and adeptness in historical, anthropological, sociological, and linguistic fields.
Another option is to relish the contrarian, if not sometimes deconstructionist, role that the Biblical scholar can play with the analytic theologian. But this doesn’t do much to actually further the advancement of bridging the fields of exegesis and analytic theology.
I have come up with another conclusion. The Biblical scholar will just have to take more time to mature in doing analytic theology before they can engage proficiently at the analytic task. Something that I have found can help is trying to incorporate some of the work of analytic philosophy or theology into one’s own exegetical work. I have done this a bit with my research in 1 Corinthians. However, at the end of the day, that knowledge of the analytic content tends to end where its usefulness for the exegetical task ceases. Consequently, the Biblical scholar will have to be satisfied with feeling a bit out of place in the discussion of analytic theology for a while, with hopes that in the spare time they can afford to give to analytic theology independent of exegesis that they will grow over time. I have had to accept this limitation in myself.
However, there are some useful principles I have discovered in the differences between the two tasks that pertain to the style of thinking. Broadly speaking, analytic theologians and philosophers start from basic concepts and propositions and build their argument from that point. By contrast, Biblical exegesis
We can understand this distinction in accordance
For instance, concepts like wisdom can be used differently from one context to the next: whereas “wisdom” is employed in reference the educated forms of philosophy and religion in 1.18-25, it becomes associated with religious mystery in 2.6-16, and then applied to Paul’s metaphorical artisanal role in 3.10. Wisdom goes from matters of education to inspiration, then to skills in specific tasks. A conceptual analysis of wisdom would not be able to describe the polysemy with which Paul employs the language of wisdom. A person more concerned about logical coherence might accuse Paul of equivocation, but that would undermine Paul’s purpose which isn’t to define wisdom as
Then, there is historical coherence. Paul’s discourse about wisdom does not emerge from thin air, but it is embedded with the various discourses and practices of other practitioners of wisdom in that day. While Paul is capable of appropriate and using these concepts for his own discursive and pedagogical goals, the premise of being understandable to the Corinthians necessitates that Paul’s own ideas have some degree of coherence with the surrounding culture, even if the most significant elements of Paul’s discourse is in how contained in how his ideas are different from the surrounding culture the Corinthians inhabit and are influenced by. This leads to consideration of plurality and diversity as there are various forms of wisdom in that day and age that philosophers, Jewish religious scholars, and rhetoricians would claim to have. This leads to a messy sort of coherence emerging from abduction that doesn’t always seem so methodical but can be somewhat haphazard.
The point is that these two forms of coherence are messier forms of coherence. Loose ends are not always tightly tied together; it isn’t even obvious where the loose ends are.
Conceptual coherence is the manner in analytic philosophers and theologians take special care in the analysis of concepts and to define them appropriately. This might entail coming up with a specific definition of wisdom that says “wisdom is a type of reliable knowledge about the complexities of day-to-day life”3 They would then craft their argument that pulls from examples and analysis of that specific concept. In
Inferential coherence, or what is regularly known as logic,
If you don’t see the pattern, allow me to demonstrate. The forms of coherence in Biblical studies are messier forms of coherence that commonly rely more upon more abductive forms of reasoning. Biblical scholars operate more like scientists who construct hypotheses and then test them. By contrast, the analytic theology will engage in more deductive and occasionally inductive forms of reasoning that provide a clear, more concise and rigorous picture by comparison. To continue the scientific analogy, analytical theologians are like scientists when they draw their conclusions from the observations and then present their theories.
I don’t compare Biblical studies and analytical theology to science because I feel science is
However, in order to become an expert within an integrated practice of Biblical studies and theology, one would likely need to restrict the specific topics and the relevant passages. One could not be an analytic theologian of the New Testament, for instance, with ease. Much as scientists have to pick a specialty, all but the most exceptionally gifted and disciplined, would need to focus on a specific area of integration, such as (to make this somewhat autobiographical) on theological epistemology and Biblical passages that present epistemic implications (such as part of the Gospel of John, Romans and 1 Corinthians). One could branch out in either Biblical Studies and or analytic theology in other topics; an analytic theologian of New Testament epistemology could branch into the understanding of the wider Pauline corpus, such as the way Paul subtly cools a latent, Maccabean hostility in Romans, but it would be particularly taxing on time and mental energy to then try to integrate that into some analytic analysis on top of an analytic theology of New Testament epistemology.
Long story short, there are many complexities when it comes to trying to bridge the gaps between analytic theology and scholarly exegesis. IT is certainly doable, albeit quite challenging. At the same time, maybe it is best for those who are not as
- Although, perhaps this is also due in part to Biblical studies being more indebted historically to continental philosophy.
- I can also imagine there being others form of coherence, such as cultural coherence, but for the ease of making my point, I keep it down to four.
- This is woefully inadequate to what a typical analytic theologian might come up with, but is useful for demonstration.
- I use this term only to keep the analogy, not to treat Scripture as some object of measurement that should be turned into some abstracted form of information.