Politicizing the Bible
Politicizing the Bible

Politicizing the Bible

The Roots of Historical Criticism and the Secularization of Scripture 1300-1700


624 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Hardcover, ebook: EPUB, Mobipocket

Mobipocket, $58.99 (US $58.99) (CA $76.99)

Publication Date: March 2017

ISBN 9780824501624


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Uncovering science’s agenda in scriptural study

Resisting the typical, dry methods of contemporary scholarship, this powerful examination revisits the biblical days of life-and-death conflict, struggles for power between popes and kings, and secret alliances of intellectuals united by a desire to pit worldly goals against the spiritual priorities of the church. This account looks beyond the pretense of neutrality and objectivity often found in secular study, and brings to light the appropriation of scripture by politically motivated interpreters. Questioning the techniques taken for granted at divinity schools worldwide, their origins are traced to the writings of Machiavelli and Marsilio of Padua, the political projects of Henry VIII, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke, and the quest for an empire of science on the part of Descartes and Spinoza. Intellectual and inspiring, an argument is made for bringing Christianity back to biblical literacy.


"In this magisterial work of intellectual history, Hahn and Wiker have tackled the overwhelming bias of modern textual criticism of the Bible by going straight to the Gordian knot of its fractal agenda and cutting it through in a fashion reminiscent of the clarity of the Apostles themselves. As St Paul (1 Thess. 2:13) put it in his own context, the issue is whether the text is to be received by the Church merely as 'the word of men' or 'as it is in truth, the word of God.' In taking us back to the late Middle Ages for the roots of the secularizing agenda of the discipline, they give us a far more telling analysis of an ideological agenda and motives and than we could have without these pre-Enlightement foundations for the long attempt to secularize and thus marginalize the distinctive claims of Revelation. This is essential reading, and not just for biblical scholars." —David Jeffrey, professor at Baylor University and editor of The Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature and The King James Bible and the World it Made

"Hahn and Wiker show how the study of Scripture was transformed by centuries of conflict over the fundamentals of Western civilization. They demonstrate their thesis in minute detail. The Bible clearly emerges as the foundational document of western civilization and its academy." —Jacob Neusner, professor of religion and senior fellow of the Institute of Advanced Theology at Bard College

"Years ago, then Cardinal Ratzinger called for a thoughtful critique of biblical criticism, and this book is the sort of study I believe he had in mind. As Hahn and Wiker demonstrate, historical criticism did not appear fully formed in the nineteenth century, and its problems are not primarily exegetical, but philosophical. Its intellectual roots reach back to the nominalism of the late middle ages, when subtle philosophical missteps set into motion alternate ways of reading Scripture that were alien not only to the Church and her tradition, but to the classical ways of interpreting texts. Historical criticism has its own history, and its development should be subject to the scrutiny of historical method, as it is in these pages." —Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, consultor to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

"Hahn and Wiker have not only given us a notable work in theology, but one of the most compelling histories of political philosophy. I cannot recall any book that achieves that combination as arrestingly as this one. It is, altogether, the most remarkable of works."  —Hadley Arkes, Edward N. Ney Professor of Jurisprudence and American institutions, Amherst College

"Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker have produced a scholarly masterpiece. The authors demonstrate how the roots of modern biblical criticism go back to the late medieval period, even prior to the Renaissance and Reformation. . . . The impressive combination of breadth, depth, and clarity achieved in this book is unrivaled in the field. By showing how these early critical readings of Scripture reflected and reinforced the "secularization" of modern thought, this work will have far-reaching implications on how the Bible is read in universities and seminaries, as well as how it is preached in pulpits. Politicizing the Bible is the most important work to date on the history of modern biblical criticism." —Jeffrey Morrow, assistant professor of theology, Seton Hall University

"Hahn and Wiker make the case that biblical criticism has been shaped by philosophical and political ideas that are often intrinsically hostile to Christian faith. This is an important work that will force its readers to readjust, and in some cases totally reject, what they had been taught about the objectivity and neutrality of contemporary approaches to God's Word." —Francis J. Beckwith, professor of philosophy and Church-State Studies, Baylor University

"Biblical criticism has long been regarded as something scientific, and thus neutral and objective. Recent decades, however, have seen a rising awareness that scholarship is always situated and serves certain ends. In their well-researched, thoughtful, and painstaking study, Hahn and Wiker make a particular and necessary contribution to the history of biblical interpretation in going back not to nineteenth-century Germany, but rather the late medieval period and Renaissance, showing that the Erastian project of subjugating the Bible and the Christian faith to the power of the State has deeper roots and interpretive consequences than is often assumed. A must-read for those concerned with the place of the Bible and Christian faith in contemporary culture." —Leroy Huizenga, professor of scripture, University of Mary, Bismarck, North Dakota

"Over the last 20 centuries, no book has been researched, pondered, and prayed over as intensely as the Bible. Dr. Hahn has done all these things himself; but, more importantly, he has studied the work of many generations of Christians and Jews who have gone before him. Then he gathered the best of all that study to help you in your own reading. Because we're Catholic, we need to become biblically literate. We need to know the Bible well because we hunger for abundant life—because we want to know Jesus, which is the same thing. Scott Hahn does a superb job of feeding his readers with the Word of God in this immensely useful guide." —Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia

Author Biography

Scott W. Hahn holds the Fr. Michael Scanlan Chair of Biblical Theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenvile, where he's taught since 1990. He is also the Founder and President of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author/editor of over forty books, including Kinship by Covenant, The Kingdom of God as Liturgical Empire, Canon and Biblical Interpretation, Covenant and Communion, The Catholic Bible Dictionary, and The Lamb's Supper. Benjamin Wiker is an author and a senior fellow with the Envoy Institute of Belmont Abbey College, the Discovery Institute, and the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. Among his books are A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature, Answering the New Atheism, and Moral Darwinism. He lives in Hopedale, Ohio.