Biblical Archaeology Review 38:2, March/April 2012

Biblical Views: The Bible Divide

By Mary Joan Winn Leith

Not long ago, Bible scholar Michael Coogan was interviewed for the alumni magazine of Stonehill College about his new book God and Sex.1 Coogan was characteristically articulate, striking a mild “just the facts” tone regarding the Bible’s historical background and what the Bible actually has to say about sex. Not surprisingly, the next issue carried a slew of letters from alums, quite a few expressing outrage that such a “godless” man could be teaching Religion in a Catholic college.

Accusations of godlessness and worse are a familiar hazard for professors of Biblical Studies (and for BAR), and these letters were pretty standard fare. Reading them, I was led to reflect on two issues in particular: first, the general ignorance, even among academics, that there is a difference between “Religious Studies” and “Theology”; and second, the responsibility that rigorously trained Biblical scholars have to educate the wider public about the difference, especially as the most religious nation in the world, the United States of America, is growing increasingly polarized.

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