against old–fashioned criticism

NDPR has a good review of a book I’ve had on my Amazon wish list since it came out, Catherine Zuckert’s Plato’s Philosophers: The Coherence of the Dialogues. One thing I appreciate about the “Straussians” is this rejection of the once–fashionable readings of the ancient philosophers that sought to create (at the very least) “periods” of their thought which were somewhat incommensurable or even different authors. The monument (to me) of the reaction against this is from an Italian who was not a Straussian: Giovanni Reale’s The Concept of First Philosophy and the Unity of the Metaphysics of Aristotle— Reale’s work is not an exciting read, but it is a thorough critique.

I’ve joked before that historians of the far future may study records (pretend video and audio are lost in some catastrophe of data) of the NFL and judge the changes in rules, tactics and teams over the years to actually represent a number of different football leagues which existed either simultaneously or sequentially. While this is fairly unlikely, I do think it captures something of the absurdity of the practice.

Even Christians (and devout Jews) who are relatively uninterested in controversies about ancient philosophers should be interested in the methods of these deconstructions and reconstructions, because they are among the techniques used for the deconstruction of Scripture. While such historical and source critical methods are in retreat in Biblical studies, they still are basis of most undergraduate courses in the Bible and even most seminary classes, in my experience and from the testimony of others. Familiarity with their weaknesses is good. (I do not think the recent, popular text about this—The Heresy of Orthodoxy—is very good. Kostenberger and Kruger’s alternative model is very unconvincing, though perhaps reassuring to members of their sect. Additionally, it is terribly dry reading, which measures up poorly against the boldness and readable prose of Bart Ehrman’s books.)

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