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The End of Biblical Studies Hardcover – 12 Sep 2007


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (12 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591025362
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591025368
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.6 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,048,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on 16 May 2008
Format: Hardcover
Hector Avalos, associate professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, has written a brilliant and original critique of biblical studies from within. He argues that biblical studies should end, because it is just religious apologetics, not an academic discipline or a branch of scholarship.

Most biblical studies academics think the bible is worth keeping and studying and most are members of `faith communities'. But Avalos shows that the bible is irrelevant, the product of an ancient and very different culture whose values and beliefs about the origin, nature and purpose of the world are not useful or ethical. Religion is a fifth wheel, superfluous to life, a hindrance to all intellectual and scientific advances. It is an illegitimate claim to extra power for foolish arguments. We should not rely on any authority, especially not on a single ancient text.

He investigates biblical studies' various sub-disciplines. He shows that the translations of the bible are largely bowdlerised. Textual criticism has found no original texts or manuscripts, and Jesus spoke in Aramaic, not Hebrew or Greek, so there can be no original, pristine word of God.

Avalos shows how history and archaeology have disproved `biblical history'. He notes that centuries of Jesus studies have not found a historical Jesus: he has no verifiable words or deeds, and there are no contemporary eye-witness accounts. Literary criticism has not shown that the bible is better literature than other ancient works, and the excessive attention paid to this one text has meant that thousands of ancient Mesopotamian texts have never been translated.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By B. Yates on 29 Mar. 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is going to be a short review.

I would recommend this book to anyone with an open mind about the Bible.

It breaks down the theological study of the Bible into its relevant disciplines and is easy to understand.

There is a lot of information here if you have not studied the various disciplines. Every bit of it is essential, and all well written.

To those coming to this from other scientific subjects (i am a geologist) the book is highly rewarding. I am not saying that it all sinks in on first read, but it is an eye opener to the sort of academic work occurring in the background.

The conclusions of the author are well argued, fair and presented in an easy to approach manner for the non-academic theologian.

Most seriously i would recommend this to anyone like me. If you have wrapped your head around the natural sciences. Totted up your points understanding time dilation and the repercussions of the Copenhagen interpretation and rammed gene selection down your throats until it hurt. This book approaches the question of the function of Biblical Studies from the inside and so is crammed with the sort of treats you cannot find scrambling around on the outside, all glued together in one lump. Very nice.

A interesting and thoroughly tasty brain meal.

I'm hungry now.
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Format: Kindle Edition
An unexpected treasure. I had not ever considered the Opportunity Cost of focusing scholars' language and other expensively trained skills and potential for enquiry on bible navel gazing alone. How many ancient documents are untouched because the god industry wants special treatment?

Avalos' "The End Of Biblical Studies" is a great find, discovered as he's cited in works by Richard Carrier, Robert M Price, John Loftus and others. I will be reading his other books, too, and will not be put off YouTubing despite some of the recordings being technically poor.

Another gem in TEOBS is Avalos' discussion of postmodernism, a phrase I've long struggled with but am now digesting thanks to him.

His reference to Reimarus as the earliest surving Jesus Mythicist proved to deliver a couple of interesting hours reading "Fragments Of Reimarus", a review of which I've recently posted and heartilly recommend for the, even mildly, curious.
I suspect that many religionists would agree with much of what's written here. Though he doesn't hint at it, I'd be surprised if some of those thousands of untranslated documents aren't holding insights that would help us understand more about ancient history im biblical eras. But maybe that's another question the 30,000+ christian denominations do not want asked - they strive to harvest only supporting data, not revealing data?

Hector Avalos is a great find, a scholar who communicates clearly, precisely and free from the look-at-me posturing of some performing apologists (eg William Lane Craig and the odious late Dwayne Gish of Gish Gallop shame) who use the material but not the makeup of clowns.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This text is vital for anybody interested in the field of Biblical Studies, whether you agree with its central premise or not; that is, the academic disciplines within the umbrella of 'Biblical Studies' have reached a terminus and should be retired. Avalos covers with great scope the history and landscape of the field in which he has studied and worked for thirty years and its meritorious accomplishments alongside its many pitfalls and academic shortcomings. Avalos's main contention is the relevance and purpose of the world of Biblical Studies in the light of continuing discoveries within the relevant fields. Biblical Archaeology, Textual Criticism and the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls in particular were all established by ardent 'religionists' (as Avalos dubs them) and used in the service of apologetics and 'proving the Bible', yet the fruits of more than a century of research in all of these fields has been anything but friendly for the Biblical record and traditional interpretations of the Biblical texts. Weighting evidence against interest, Avalos presents the striking findings of fields of study whose original purpose was primarily the vindication of religion, now left in a state of confusion and disarray by internal factionalism and infighting among Biblical scholars, often extending into bitter personal rivalries. Avalos's assessment of the growing irrelevance of the Bible in modern life, citing many surveys indicating widespread public misunderstanding and naivety around the origins of the Biblical texts and the applicability of Biblical morals and standards to everyday life is a matter for careful consideration - one does not easily dismiss a book held by half of the human species to have been the breathed word of the Creator of the Cosmos.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 30 reviews
219 of 237 people found the following review helpful
Biblical Studies? 8 Aug. 2007
By Gene C. Bammel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
GNPR 70: Biblical Studies?
Marshall McLuhan, of "the medium is the message fame," used to say that his books did not sell well, because they contained more than the 25% of new material that most books did. For most people, "The End of Biblical Studies," a new book by Hector Avalos, Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, will contain material that is at least 75% new to them, even though much of what Professor Avalos has to say has been well known within the Religious Studies community for many years.
What Avalos brings to this book is incredible scholarship, remarkable attention to detail, and, most of all, willingness to tell it like it is. A variety of scholars, among them Bart Ehrman, William Dever, John Dominic Crossan, have been busy popularizing what translators, literary critics, and biblical archeologists, have been saying for years. Much to the distress of fundamentalists, there is no single definitive text of the Bible, the Bible has no claims to distinctive literary merits, and the extensive archeological research of the last hundred years has done nothing but puncture holes in the hope of establishing any claims anyone might have that the Bible is in any way historically accurate. (Avalos has an excellent section pointing to the radical discrepancy between the Big Bang theory and the origins account of Genesis.)
Avalos, who has a Ph.D. from Harvard in Biblical Studies, points out that few people even in very religious America, really read the Bible, and even fewer have anything but a bowdlerized grasp of what is really there. His erudition in this regard is exceptional, taking apart the popular softenings of texts like Luke 14:25: "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother...cannot be my disciple." Christian exegetes have soft-pedaled this, but the text really does say "hate," a verb that has no other possible translation. (One Christian exegete says: "this is indeed a hard saying.")
What does Professor Avalos hope to accomplish? As he says: "Our purpose is to excise from modern life what little of the Bible is being used and also to eliminate the potential use of any sacred scripture in the modern world." Jews and Christians are quick to find quotations in the Koran that relate to killing of the infidels, but are eager to pass over all those references to slaughter of the innocents that occur in various books of the Bible.
Avalos makes the case that the Bible was written by primitive people in a cultural context so foreign to our own that the Bible no longer makes sense. "What I seek is liberation from the very idea that any sacred text should be an authority for modern human existence." He refers constantly to the "bibliolatry" that has gotten us into so much trouble historically, and laments that the publishing industry and academia have such a vested interest in keeping such a form of idol worship alive.
"Abolishing human reliance on sacred texts is imperative when those sacred texts imperil the existence of human civilization as it is currently configured. The letter can kill. That is why the only mission of biblical studies should be to end biblical studies as we know it." This is an extremely well written book, but written at a sufficiently popular level that even someone not well versed in biblical studies can benefit from it. Even those who read the Bible continually will find at least 25% new material, and everyone who reads it will come away with 100% satisfaction. You may not agree with what Professor Avalos concludes, but his well-put together arguments deserve your thoughtful attention.
66 of 72 people found the following review helpful
Excellent critique of biblical studies 16 May 2008
By William Podmore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Hector Avalos, associate professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, has written a brilliant and original critique of biblical studies from within. He argues that biblical studies should end, because it is just religious apologetics, not an academic discipline or a branch of scholarship.

Most biblical studies academics think the bible is worth keeping and studying and most are members of `faith communities'. But Avalos shows that the bible is irrelevant, the product of an ancient and very different culture whose values and beliefs about the origin, nature and purpose of the world are not useful or ethical. Religion is a fifth wheel, superfluous to life, a hindrance to all intellectual and scientific advances. It is an illegitimate claim to extra power for foolish arguments. We should not rely on any authority, especially not on a single ancient text.

He investigates biblical studies' various sub-disciplines. He shows that the translations of the bible are largely bowdlerised. Textual criticism has found no original texts or manuscripts, and Jesus spoke in Aramaic, not Hebrew or Greek, so there can be no original, pristine word of God.

Avalos shows how history and archaeology have disproved `biblical history'. He notes that centuries of Jesus studies have not found a historical Jesus: he has no verifiable words or deeds, and there are no contemporary eye-witness accounts. Literary criticism has not shown that the bible is better literature than other ancient works, and the excessive attention paid to this one text has meant that thousands of ancient Mesopotamian texts have never been translated.

Avalos examines the USA-based Society of Biblical Literature, with its 7,000 self-serving members, and shows how it has nothing useful or original to offer. Theology has found no coherent message about God; instead it is inconsistent and arbitrary, trying to rescue the bible through citing bits of texts. Nice people find the nice bits, nasty people find the nasty bits; both say that theirs are the essential bits.

It is often held against atheists like Richard Dawkins that they do not know theology, but they don't need to because others have done the work, like Walter Kaufmann in his Critique of religion and philosophy and now Avalos in this excellent book.
46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
An honest and courageous assessment. 7 Jan. 2008
By Steve Scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hector Avalos pulls no punches in describing the current state of Biblical studies as a field of academia in decline. Tackling Biblical archaeology, textual criticism, and theology, Avalos dismantles them in detail, pointing out how they no longer bring anything new to our current understanding of the Bible or the spurious history associated with it. Indeed, he shows that most of what we know undermines the Bible as anything we can fully trust as a source for historical data.

Avalos, a former fundamentalist child evangelist, taught himself Hebrew and Greek in high school in order to better attack the arguments of atheists and non-Christian religions. He found he couldn't buttress or accept Christian apologetics, and ended up leaving the fold.

This is a book that could easily be expanded by fleshing out some of the ideas mentioned in his footnotes. Avalos points out that a great many of the works cited by apologists (Josephus, Suetonius, etc.) are from manuscript copies written in the middle ages, centuries after their authors died...authors who themselves didn't witness first hand the events they describe.

An outstanding book.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Hard hitting and timely 2 Jan. 2009
By Thomas Cirtin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Several months ago, I decided to let my subscription to "Biblical Archaeology Review" lapse because I'd perceived during the past several years that its content had become less scholarly and increasingly apologetic. I'd been a subscriber for over a decade, and along the way I'd added the now defunct sister publications, "Bible Review" and "Archaeology Odyssey," to my list of subscriptions. In short, more and more of the pieces in the magazine were aimed at readers who wanted to see their religious beliefs verified by, and reconciled with, the results of scientific investigation, while too many of the decreasing number of critical articles addressed trivia that offered little for anyone outside the small circle of professional specialists. Now after reading Hector Avalos's new book, "The End of Biblical Studies" (Prometheus Books, 2007), I understand why.

Avalos takes on Biblical studies from the inside: He's an associate professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University with many books and articles to his credit, and a long-time member of the Society of Biblical Literature. His main points are that (1) using the tools of text criticism, scholars have been unable to discover the original text of the Bible, nor--because of the thousands of widely variant sources--can an original text ever be reconstructed; (2) archaeologists and historians have failed to confirm the Bible's narrative, even to the point of leaving in doubt the very existence of such crucial characters as Moses, David, and Jesus, as well as the historicity of the principal stories; (3) the culture that produced the Biblical texts is so far removed from modern culture that the Bible is neither understandable by, nor relevant to, people today; (4) scholars, however, prop up the Bible's public image of relevance to protect their careers, and in doing so, produce work that is largely apologetic, not scientific; (5) the pretense of relevance causes the Bible to overshadow other, more worthy, ancient literature, which is left to languish untranslated and unstudied; (6) society is ill served by a reliance on sacred texts, and we'd all be better off were the Bible to be relegated to the dustbin of history.

Avalos shores up his positions well with numerous solid examples, sometimes going into greater depth than necessary, such as in his chapter on the aesthetics of the Bible. Furthermore, he writes clearly and constructs easy-to-follow arguments. Even though his book is aimed at the general reader, he provides hundreds of endnotes and a substantial bibliography, which are of value to scholars and other readers who want to pursue the matter further.

Because Avalos focuses his book so tightly on Biblical studies, he leaves the impression that there are no related topics worthy of examination. He would have been wise to end with a "going forward" sort of chapter, in lieu of the summary he provides, delineating potentially fruitful avenues of study. For example, even though we have no archaeological or historical evidence for the existence of Jesus, we have a lot of information about ancient Christian movements and sects. Just to set the historical record straight, explaining the emergence of Christianity without the heavy baggage of the Christian foundational myth is an intriguing prospect and a worthy goal. Such Biblical scholars as Burton Mack, Robert M. Price, and Robert Eisenman have made significant strides in that endeavor. But this is a minor oversight in an otherwise well-argued and thorough treatment of the topic. "The End of Biblical Studies" should be read by everyone with an interest in Biblical archaeology, criticism, or history.
75 of 89 people found the following review helpful
Highly Academic, but Fun! 21 Nov. 2007
By Conrad Spoke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"The End of Bible Studies" is the most fun I've ever had reading such an analytical book. I can honestly say that I was in a state of perpetual shock as I read page after page of devastating critique of such a huge and firmly anchored suite of disciplines. After all, what university in the Western World doesn't have a major workforce of teachers and researchers devoted to something-or-other relating to THE BIBLE?

According to Avalos, "Bible Study" is a thoroughly worn out field where nothing new has been discovered or analyzed for decades. Even worse, nothing new can be discovered, short of a major archeological find, which seems very unlikely. Even worse than this, academics are fully aware of the futility of further study. Avalos points this out by quoting extensively from academics who are fully devoted to their profession, but strangely honest about how difficult it is to find anything remotely new to say.

I already knew that the Jewish and Christian bibles were fiction. I had no idea that the profession was so wildly hypocritical. Man, this guy is not afraid to get rude!
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