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Introduction: How to Give Up the Bible, and Learn to Love It Again

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Chapter Summary

Jonathan Z. Smith's 2008 address, entitled "Religion and Bible", outlines precisely how one might go about engaging in an academically sound study of that collection of ancient yet still-used documents known collectively as the Bible. Smith has made arguments such as this for many years, of course, going back at least to his 1973 essay, "The Social Description of Early Christianity", in which biblical and non-canonical texts become the data for theoretical tools, in an effort to say something about the social worlds that produced these texts and the social worlds that, over time, have used these texts. But moving from attempts to reconstruct the social contours of the earliest forms of Christianity, Smith's 2008 presidential address is perhaps his most detailed statement on how scholars can make use of the Bible to achieve aims other than what one might characterize as the theological concerns of previous generations.

Keywords: Bible; Christianity; Jonathan Z. Smith; social worlds



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