The Return of The Passion
Well, the same day that someone starts a thread at Dom’s blog on “Where has The Passion gone” there was a forum at the ADL on The Protocols of the Elders of Mel Gibson, and this news account makes it sound like a total love-in.
One interesting thing though — the grafs near the end indicate to me (again) that Paula Fredriksen, the author of the New Republic attack on THE PASSION OF CHRIST, will never understand why she was rebuffed and why people like Gibson (and myself) pay no attention to her.
“Fredriksen said Gibson feels he is being persecuted by the scholars, but she said their intention was only to correct mistakes.
” ‘He doesn’t understand the difference between criticism and being attacked,’ she said.”
She doesn’t understand the difference between interpretation and error, I say. Now I realize the phrase I’m gonna jump on is the AP writer’s not hers, but her New Republic essay has examples of the same thought process. The phrase “only to correct mistakes” is high-handed, arrogant and a complete overplaying of what it is possible for higher Biblical criticism, of the kind Fredriksen performs, to do. No wonder Gibson told her and her acolytes to shove it; she and her ilk simply have no standing to talk about Gibson’s “mistakes.” Partly because the very category “mistake” presupposes an infallible measuring stick to determine veracity (which is to say, judging according to some other Gospel); but also partly because Gibson and Fredriksen mean completely different things when they talk about Biblical accuracy.
The contemporary world of academic Biblical scholarship is atheistic — not in the sense that only atheists practice it, or that only an atheist could practice it, or that it is an atheist plot to undermine the Church. Rather it is atheistic in the sense that it approaches the Gospels (and the rest of the Bible) as merely a human artifact, a historical-literary text, which certainly testifies about human beliefs about gods certainly. But not anything supernatural. The Bible being in some decisive sense divine or inspired — the revealed word of God, in some sense true (if not necessarily “infallible”) and reliably so — is simply a hypothesis that cannot be entertained within the rules of modern scholarship. It’s like asking to roll dice to determine how many spaces a chess piece can move — that’s just not how the pieces move or the game works.
But this approach is totally removed from the world of Christian belief and the world of the Church teaching, which is that the Bible is … true. The Higher Critics operate in ways that (try to) bracket the question of “truth” (which they varyingly consider perspectival, a patriarchal plot, a metaphysical delusion, an epistemological dodge, any number of things) in order to consider the Bible in the manner they wish. I’ll leave it to them to ponder whether the question of truth *can* be bracketed (if Jesus actually did rise from the dead, surely that’s something that *can’t* be set aside). And whether, in the absence of metaphysical, absolute truth (the presence of which would make nonsense of their method) it makes any sense ever to speak of someone’s “mistakes.” Suffice it to say that when many believing Christians, such as Gibson, see this approach, the reaction is simple: garbage in, garbage out. The method is so far gone, and so obviously inappropriately applied to something divinely inspired, that it has no more standing before them than reading tea leaves or bird entrails would have in a modern court of law. Gibson and Fredriksen are quite literally speaking different and untranslatable languages.
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