Brief Reaction to the “Who’s Qualified?” Debate

There’s a debate that’s been going on in the blogosphere this past week. One side says that only biblical scholars are qualified to comment on the Bible. “You wouldn’t go to an amateur if you needed brain surgery, so why would you do so if you wanted to understand the Bible?,” this argument runs. The other side retorts that dilettantes actually do have something to contribute to discussions about the Bible (imagine that!). For links to the relevant posts, see Polycarp’s Are you Really Qualified to Interpret the Bible?

My response will be brief: Why can’t we focus on the content of what people say rather than on whether or not they have a degree in Bible? If a person is wrong, show him where he is wrong! But don’t flash your degrees as if that decides anything!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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4 Responses to Brief Reaction to the “Who’s Qualified?” Debate

  1. Polycarp says:

    James I am definitely not saying that degrees qualify someone, just that there has to be some qualifications. Having come from a place that hates education, I have seen some strange interpretations – and when you tried to show them otherwise, well, that’s why I can say I came from there.


  2. James Pate says:

    Hi Polycarp,

    Yeah, emphasis on “came”–past tense!

    But that’s pretty much the way religious discussions go in general: people have their opinions, and they don’t always listen to one another. The scholarly community can be like that too, and it also can have its off-the-wall interpretations! That’s the problem with the brain surgeon analogy: which brain surgeon should I go with? Maximalists or minimalists? Oh, but who are dilettantes to decide? We’re unable to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of arguments (sarcasm)!

    Plus, I doubt anyone will say, “Oh, I must not be qualified to interpret the Bible” just because Jim West tells them so!


  3. Polycarp says:

    Shh….Jim will hear you.

    Personally, I am doing my best to qualify myself. I believe that qualifications does help in trusting someone, though, and not having to always question everything that they say.


  4. James Pate says:

    Yeah, I wouldn’t want to get on his bad side!

    I think I know what you’re trying to say. I’ve seen some pretty bad interpretations that flow from not knowing the languages behind the texts. I would trust someone who’s read all sorts of Greek texts on Greek over someone who just sits in his basement reading Strong’s.

    But I still think that the person reading English or using Strong’s can still come up with good stuff.


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