Bible Scholar or Biblical Scholar?
Posted by NT Wrong on December 9, 2008
It’s the term which is most used to describe practitioners of the discipline. But it’s routinely rendered in two different ways. What should it be: “Bible scholar” or “biblical scholar”?
This is the sort of debate which has the potential to make the Jew/Judean debate insignificant in comparison.
The term “biblical scholar” appears to be more prevalent in the scholarly literature. But “Bible scholar” is used not infrequently. Can we get assistance from comparative disciplines? “Classical Scholar” is the normal designation, but “Classics Scholar” also gets employed. Is the use of one term over the other a recent development? While Google Scholar states that the biblical scholar : Bible scholar ratio is 16:100, the ratio for works since the year 2000 is… 16:100. Is there a distinction to be made between those who study the Old Testament or Tanakh and New Testament, and those who focus on non-canonical literature? The adjective “biblical” should encompass related literature, whereas the noun “Bible” does not. Does the magisterium, the Society of Biblical Literature, assist us? Not really. For every couple of references to “biblical scholar” on the SBL site, there’s one to “Bible scholar”. The discipline does seem to prefer “Biblical Studies” as the object of its study, however. After all, “Bible Studies” sounds a bit too much like an eager church group than the rigorous discipline which is Biblical Studies…
The entry for Naomi Liebowitz (“The World’s Greatest Bible Teacher”) in Great Jewish Women (1994) uses both “Bible scholar” and “biblical scholar” on the first page. Hector Avalos et al, in their introduction to This Abled Body (2007) describe Bruce C. Birch as a “Hebrew Bible scholar” but in the next sentence describe Janet Lees as a “socially committed biblical scholar”. Is the adjective more feminine? Is it less authoritative than the definitive noun? Is ‘biblical’ a little more postmodern? Bob Ekblad, in Reading the Bible with the Damned (2005) describes himself as a “biblical scholar” in one sentence, and then as a “Bible scholar” in the very next. How can the discipline continue with such terminological confusion?
What do you think?
Update: The results are overwhelmingly in favour of “biblical scholar” over “Bible scholar”.
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