Vincent L. Wimbush

in Biblical Studies

ISBN: 9780195393361
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:


Used interchangeably with Sacred Book, “Scriptures” is the English-language term that is still popularly used to refer to a text or collection of texts deemed to be of special if not unique origins, authority, and power. Users of the term in the Western world tend to assume that “the Bible” of the Jewish and Christian traditions represents either the only instance of such or the example par excellence among some others. A popular linguistic and rhetorical placeholder among cultures of Indo-European origins, the English term originally simply meant (from the Greek hē graphē/hai graphai, ta biblia; Latin, scriptura/-ae; Hebrew, ketav/-uvim) and continues to mean “writing” or “writings” (German, Schrift; Italian, scrittura; French, écriture). But precisely because it is a baseline reference to a collection of writings, or a book, the term is reference to nothing basic or simple; rather, it is freighted shorthand for the most significant site around which turn questions and issues having to do with things that are understood or assumed to matter most and are society-ordering and culture-determining. Wider experiences and perspectives and more information about other scriptures have stimulated questions about, or outright rejection of, some of the narrow notions and assumptions. Segments of both popular and critical scholarly discourses have come to recognize the cross-cultural, if not near-universal, representation of scriptures. Scholarship is still largely focused on particular books and their content and their place within a particular tradition. Only very slowly have a few critics come to engage and wrestle with scriptures as a general social-cultural category and phenomenon and as part of comparative social-historical analysis. So the history of critical thinking about scriptures must be understood as a journey from the scandal of particularity, exclusion, and denial of the others, to the challenge of responding to the reality of multiplicity and difference, with special concerns about the ethic of comparison and the ever-present threat of falling back into different forms of co-optation, hierarchy, and dominance.

Article.  4924 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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