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Posts Tagged ‘Postmodern’

Just been reading the opening chapter of McKnight’s Jesus and his Death

I seek to follow a method known as critical realism which seeks to avoid the pitfalls of a modernist approach whilst not allowing a full postmodern position such as that espoused by Keith Jenkins.

McKnight offers this summary of the two positions.

“If the postmodernist, someone like Jenkins, wants to usurp the Object with the Subject by contending that history is narrative, history is rhetoric, and history is ideology, the modernist wants to blanket the Subject and find the Object, pure and simple and untouched, and build on the disinterested knowledge for a better world. Let this be said before we go further: what the modernist wants to do cannot be achieved in its pure form’ page 19

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Postmodernity and New Testament History- Jon Swales

Over the last few days I have been trying to write a short essay on baptism in the early church. I wrote  a first draft and then became every aware that I was being a ‘naive realist’ in approaching the primary sources. I was simply assuming that I could read the text and using ‘pure reason’ could put the pieces together to form an authentic narrative. Obviously I was mistaken with my modernist arrogance so I re-started the essay recognising that a modern or postmodern epistemology simply won’t ‘cut the mustard’. (err! where does that expression come from’.)

Here is the opening paragraphs of an essay I did a few years at Sheffield on the topic of

Postmodernity and New Testament History- Jon Swales (For the full essay just click the link)

Postmodernity and New Testament History

Postmodernity, whether we like it or not, cannot be ignored. Perhaps this is because it permeates the culture around us and has displayed itself through Art and Architecture for some years. Perhaps, also, it is because, during the last 25 years, it seems to have stood knocking at the door of every academic department. Many academic disciplines, it seems, opened the door to postmodernity years ago, particularly in the areas of philosophy and literature criticism, and welcomed its arrival, while others just wait for it to go away. It is my view that, before opening the door to postmodernism, we should at first see who it is, if possible, that is knocking. Although I am aware that whilst we stand puzzled, asking ‘who is this figure who stands knocking?’, its influence is already being felt within all academic communities.

My task in this paper will be to critically analyse the influence and character of postmodernity, and to look at what impact this may have on the writing of history, particularly the writing of New Testament (N.T) history. It may be helpful to define what I mean by N.T history. N.T History is the product of a historian who has sought to construct a narrative of Christian origins using the N.T text as a source. I will approach this task by discussing four distinct areas that seek to show how (a) ‘modern historiography’ is being challenged, by (b) postmodern approaches. I will then try to show, sharing company with leading historians, what the (c) strengths and weaknesses of postmodernity are. The closing part of this paper will seek to (d) relate these insights to the specific subject of N.T history.

a) Modern Historiography

Postmodernity is a movement that is very difficult to define1, however, as the word suggests, it is a movement that seeks to distance itself from modernism. At the risk of painting a caricature of ‘modernist historiography’2 we can describe it as an approach to writing history which includes the following traits; i) realism ii) empiricism and iii) objectivity

For the full essay click here.

Postmodernity and New Testament History- Jon Swales

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