The End of Biblical Studies by Hector Avalos
By Grant Steves
Professor Avalos has constructed a strongly argued case against the need for biblical studies in his book, The End of Biblical Studies. This attack examines the relevance of continuing studies in areas of: translation, biblical history and archeology, historical Jesus studies, literary criticism, and biblical theology. He maintains that professionals in these areas present an illusion that the Bible is relevant for our lives.
It appears, for Avalos, the religious establishment has created and maintained a profession that is a house built on shifting sand. They have taken the truth about their religious construct and hidden it beneath a web of half-truths and illusion. The paradigm of Judeo-Christian religion is at the point where Newtonian physics was in the 1920s. The accumulation of evidence against the reliability and credibility of the Bible is now at a point where we are able to identify its uninspired nature.
However, even with this acknowledged condemnatory evidence, the religious continue to sell the public on the merit of the Bible – not as literature, but as a source of history, science, and guidance in all affairs of life. In the book of 2 Timothy 3:16, the writer speaks of “all scripture being inspired by God.” Avalos would note that means all the errors and opinions in the many translations. Religionists cannot have it both ways when their own “sacred” source argues that it is “all” scripture and not just what we like.
Once Avalos argues successfully the problems of translating the Bible, he exposes other areas of weakness in biblical scholarship. Through the examination of: 1) textual problems (which text is the “Received Text”), 2) contradictions found in secular history and archeology with the biblical record, and 3) the questionable historicity of the figure of Jesus. These areas should be enough to expose the Bible as just ancient literature. However, Avalos also strikes at the theological conspiracy among theologians to keep resuscitating the Bible as the inspired word of God.
In the final chapters, Avalos examines the business of religion and biblical studies. These chapters are an exposé of how a profession, invested in keeping the Bible as a viable source, struggles to find evidence that they are right and there is an inspired word of God.
“Biblical studies as we know it should end.” – This is Avalos’ concluding comment. He wants, “… liberation from the very idea that any sacred text should be an authority for modern human existence.” For the business of Christian theology and religion this sounds extreme. However, from a paradigmatic point of view the Christian god has joined the pantheon of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and other ancient gods. It is now time for the priests and ministers of this failed system to join the priests of Osiris and Zeus.