Table of Contents

The division.
How did we get here?.
Why Jowett's project was impossible.
The hermeneutic of suspicion.
So what do we do?.
The first task: listening to the individual voices.
A digression: "great literature?".
The second task: relating the parts to the whole.
The third task: so what now?.
The drama of the Word. Listening to the Bible considers the present divorce between much academic study of the Bible and the church, and traces the history of modern approaches to the Bible, particularly "historical criticism," noting its successes and failures-among the latter, notably, that it has been no more able to protect its practitioners from (in Benjamin Jowett's phrase) "bringing to the text what they found there" than were the openly faith-based approaches of earlier generations. Drawing on a wide knowledge of literature and literary critical theory, and the insights of major literary critics such as Erich Auerbach and George Steiner, Bryan asks, What, in the 21st century, is the task of the biblical scholar? He indicates a series of criteria with which biblical interpreters may do their work, and in the light of which there is no reason why that work cannot relate faithfully to the Church. This does not mean an approach to biblical interpretation that ignores the specificity of scientific or historical questions or dragoons its results into conformity with a set of ecclesial propositions: honest questions honestly asked retain their autonomy. It does mean that in asking those questions, interpreters of the biblical text will not ignore its setting-in-life in the community of faith; and they will concede that although textual interpretation has scientific elements, it is finally an exercise in imagination: an art, and not a science.