The Bible after Babel: Historical Criticism in a Postmodern by John J. Collins
By John J. Collins
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Extra resources for The Bible after Babel: Historical Criticism in a Postmodern Age
The Crisis in Historiography The field of historiography, like many others and more than most, has been subject to postmodernist critiques in recent years. ' In part, the skepticism arises from the fact that the past no longer exists, and so is accessible "only by way of its prior textualizations "s Consequently, there seems to be an unbridgeable gap between historiographical literature and the actual events of the past. In the words of Peter Munz, "We cannot glimpse at history. We can only compare one book with another book "6 In part, the skepticism arises from the inevitable contamination of any reconstruction by the interests and prejudices of the interpreter.
21 Christian theology, at least in its more liberal forms, reached an accommodation with historical criticism that acknowledged its validity, even if only within certain limits. Conversely, biblical scholars often sought to reconcile their findings with traditional faith. 25 There were, of course, profound differences between the American biblical theology movement represented by people like George Ernest Wright, and the more subtle European "history of traditions" approach of Gerhard von Rad,26 but the common ground was considerable.
Rather, the story seems to be a final episode in the gradual fall of humanity from the pristine glory of Eden to the postlapsarian condition of human history. 2 The distinctive postmodern take on the story, however, reverses the traditional evaluation. The enterprise of building the tower is still viewed negatively, but the confusion of languages is celebrated as liberation. 5 The confusion of languages, then, bespeaks political liberation, insofar as each people is freed to pursue its own identity.