The Historical Study of Scripture – Historians and Believers, Issues and Implications

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Tanveer Azmat

Abstract

Since the Enlightenment, scriptural discourse in the West has been generally limited to the historicity of texts. Although this is a valid and necessary method to study the history of scripture, more is needed. Following Wilfred Cantwell Smith (1916-2000), this paper argues that human involvement with scriptural text is more important than the study of the text’s evolution. Smith believed that human involvement with scripture is not theological but historical as it often focuses on the historicity of the text. Further, following Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938), the paper argues that philosophy does not have jurisdiction to judge religion except to disclose the hidden dimensions of human thought. With these two insights in mind, the paper calls on believers to make their scripture(s) central to their religious life and not be overly concerned with the historical evolution of their texts. This requires critiquing the secular discourse of religion and defining new conditions of religious discourse, such that religion enacts the “transformation and guidance of man’s inner and outer life.”

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