Dear Workshop,

On Thursday, April 28th, David Mihalyfy, PhD Candidate in the History of Christianity will present,

“Language, Context, Criticism: Identifying Major Interpretative Shifts in Academic Biblical Exegesis, With a Glance at One Early 19th c. American Exegete’s Assumptions”

Time: 12:00, Thursday, April 28, 2011

Place: Swift Hall, Room 400

Food: Snacks provided, feel free to bring your lunch!

Paper: Email for a copy of this paper.

I’ll include the first couple paragraphs of David’s work here which I think includes a little introduction both for the American historians and the Biblical scholars:

Biblical criticism has taken a place alongside Darwinism as an academy-centered “-ism” that was associated with widespread controversy within the United States during the last part of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th c. A rough narrative of the modern controversy can be sketched: the troubling ideas were most immediately anticipated by 18th c. deists, imported from Germans, picked up by scattered antebellum individuals such as the learned 19th c. Unitarian minister Theodore Parker, and finally took off after the Civil War to the point where, like the insights of Darwin’s theory of natural selection, they eventually came in modified form to be institutionalized within mainstream scholarship amidst the wreckage of the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy.

Controversies around biblical criticism were closely associated with the questioning of received ideas about the authorship, integrity, and theological and narrative harmonization of texts. Such questioning was not without much older precedent; to take just two examples of authorship disputes, 2 Thess 2:2 references a letter “as if from us”, while Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History excerpts a writing of Dionysius of Alexandria where he argues that the author of the Gospel of John is not the author of the Book of Revelation (VII.15.1-25.27). Indeed, because analysis of biblical criticism can quickly devolve into discussion of individual books of the Bible spanning the Old and New Testaments and ideas held about them from their composition onward, biblical criticism can be a much more unwieldy subject to analyze than Darwin’s theory of natural selection. This unwieldiness is compounded by the fact that the term “biblical criticism” has also been used to refer to modern historical study of the Bible as a whole, and thus not only factors into contemporary arguments for disciplinary purposes and boundaries, but also can lead to attempts to see any previous form of historical or independent analytical thinking about biblical books as anticipation of biblical criticism.

Thanks, and I hope to see you there!

– Paul Chang

Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please contact Paul Chang in advance at