James Barr advises Christians and Scholars to Take the Bible Literally
Posted by NT Wrong on July 18, 2008
from an article in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, back in 1999 …
“A literal biblical chronology would mean a world created in seven days, about 4000 B.C., give or take one or two hundred years. But many creationists do not want to be biblical literalists. Of course the Bible in a general way is a big source of inspiration for their movement, but the exact figures of the Bible are not a matter of principle for them, as I understand them. In my opinion, it was a big mistake for many of the mainline religious organizations when they opposed the creationists by saying that the Bible should not be taken literally. This is not what the creationists do. It is, on the contrary, what the churches and other organisations should do: that is, to argue that, in this respect, the Bible’s figures should be taken literally, because it is when they are taken literally it becomes clear that they are not historically or scientifically true.”
- James Barr
Hoorah for Barr!! Damn it, but I so often relish his words, like those of few other biblical scholars.
James Barr set himself against those who would construct an artificial separation of theology and science/history, realising that both stand and fall together. The attempt to defend the bible as ‘theologically true’ but not a ‘textbook’ on history or science is, first, a false dichotomy, and, second, a division that its authors simply could not have conceived of. The bible is ‘theologically’ false because it is ‘historically’/'scientifically’ false – if these categories are understood emically (and so, non-exclusively). Disproof of the bible’s own conception of history or science (not our categories, mind you) is disproof of its own theology. Any denial of this stems from an imposition of modern categories which attempt a separation where none was thought possible.
So, heed James Barr’s call from beyond the grave: Take the Bible literally (don’t impose your own ill-fitting concepts on it).