Biblical Studies is the scholarly, multi-dimensional pursuit of a diverse array of disciplines to the study of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. Regardless of what may be claimed regarding objectivity, there is always a benchmark set of presuppositions from which a given individual begins work in this area and which determines the general tenor of any conclusions they may form. It is not always a given that an individual will truly know where they are on the hermeneutic continuum when they begin, but they will certainly know where they stand as they spend more and more time in the field.
Just like theology, Biblical Studies is not the sole provenance of learned Greek and Hebrew scholars – all Bible-believing Christians need to think about how and why they believe what they believe about the Bible as deeply as they can. One’s very salvation may depend on that!
Hermeneutics is the key “word-concept” within Biblical Studies, but even those who might have taken time to know better often grotesquely abuse that very word.
In addition to (at times highly notional constructions of) hermeneutics, those working in the field have tended to draw upon disciplines that include archaeology, history, philology, and linguistics. These are some of the general areas in which doctrinally-conservative Adventist Bible scholars have historically worked. However, as time has progressed, other disciplines such as various social sciences, literary theory, semantics and more have become part of the Biblical expositor’s toolbox.
In more ‘progressive’ theological/Scriptural hermeneutic circles, we now see Egyptology, textual criticism, gender studies (including the rise of feminist deconconstructions/reconstructions), queer theology and other post-modern intellectual frameworks being brought to bear in Biblical Studies. Biblical scholars do not necessarily have a faith commitment to the texts they study, and while this may shock some people, this also applies in the Adventist world.
The study of original languages in which the Bible was written is usually considered imperative for serious Biblical interpretation. Most of the Jewish Bible, the Tanakh, which is the basis of the Christian Old Testament, was written in Biblical Hebrew, though a few chapters were written in Biblical Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek, with possible Aramaic undertones, as was the first translation of the Jewish Bible known as the Septuagint or Greek Old Testament.
It is with no small measure of irony that we have noted here at Cognitive Ministries that many Bible-believing Adventists are in fact not as Biblically literate as would be ideal. Regardless of the theological or ideological lens, it is increasingly standard that commentaries, concordances and lexicons are consulted and mined for various bits of disembodied information that often takes very little account of actual grammar. There is a panoply of ‘conservative’ Adventist preachers who do excellent work without reading the Biblical languages, but who are frequently pilloried by those with more ‘education’ but lesser homiletic and evangelistic gifts – and the Church suffers as a result of these people and their small-mindedness.
Here at Cognitive Ministries, we do not believe that literacy in Biblical languages is necessary for salvation, but we support all those earnest Christians who seek to operate at the best level of honest scholarship for the Kingdom. It is true that there are times when the dependency on English translations results in misunderstanding the text and subsequent erroneous theology, but we can be kind and charitable in pointing out the technical errors of others.
Some Christian communities have accused seventh-Day Adventists of eisegesis and not exegesis, but as we have some of the foremost Old Testament scholars in the entire world within our ranks, whose work has been recognised by other world experts, we’ll take our chances on our prophetic interpretations, our eschatology and our reading of the fourth commandment. Cognitive Ministries sees the role of Biblical Studies as being of importance only in a confessional context where God is glorified and the Church is edified. As such, this ministry cannot possibly endorse any forms and schemas for Biblical interpretation that deny the essential and ultimate authority of the Bible.