Midrash: Ancient Bible Study for a Postmodern World – Part 1

Part 1: The Need for a Deeper Method of Bible Study

A number of you have asked me to expand on comments I made in Paradoxy commending the ancient Jewish method of Bible study and interpretation known as Midrash as well-suited to the post-modern world in which the Church finds itself today: a world in which both science and theology have discredited Enlightenment Modernism’s promise that human reason could arrive at objectively certain, universal truths in all areas of human knowledge, including religion.In science, what caused the death of certainty was the developing field of Quantum Physics, including the Observer Effect and the Werner Heisenberg’s infamous Uncertainty Principle. As a result, science no longer seeks absolute certainty of truth but rather increasingverisimilitude (i.e., something approaching truth – by triangling in on the truth through repeated observations, so that errors related to observer bias are statistically reduced.

Meanwhile, theology has come to a renewed realization that our modern attempts to achieve certainty of religious truth through appeals to Biblical inerrancy (conservative) or Biblical text-critical analysis (liberal) will most certainly fall short as well. Both rest on the same flawed assumption that human subjectivity can be eliminated: the former from the reader’s understanding of the inerrant Word and the latter it from the scholar’s critical analysis of Scriptural texts. This could only be the case if the human mind were somehow less fallen — less affected by sin — than other human faculties, a presumption that flies in the face of the Judeo-Christian understand of human nature. Continue reading