Conservatives are moving into the scholarly intellectual mainstream with an eye for pulpit ministry.

In spite of the worldwide recession afflicting commerce and industry, Old Testament studies continue to boom when measured by the yardstick of sheer production.

The average annual output of publications in this field in the late seventies and early eighties (taking as a guide one of the standard international bibliographies) is approximately 150 books, 40 doctoral dissertations, and 750 articles. These figures exclude popular writings on the Old Testament; their inclusion would more than double the total. As a field of scholarship, it is not a multinational corporation so much as an international cottage industry. Each year Old Testament scholars in various parts of the world produce a body of literature that bulks considerably larger than the original Old Testament.

But is the massive quantity of this scholarly writing matched by quality? Is this flood producing real progress?

Much of it is good, if somewhat pedestrian. Many trends in Old Testament scholarship are just that: trendy. But others open genuinely new perspectives on the ancient text. Some writings of the structuralists and redaction critics seem particularly arcane, but those of other movements, such as the challenge of liberation theology, the renewed interest in canon, and the implications of the latest archaeological findings, are refreshing.

For all the progress being made in Old Testament studies, an old and persistent problem endures. It is an almost unbridgeable gap between studying the text in the classroom and preaching it from the pulpit. The minutiae of history of which literary criticism consists—so crucial for the final Old Testament examination—seems ...

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