Dark Christianity
dark_christian
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May 2008
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Roots of fundementalism date from 15th Century

LJ-SEC: (ORIGINALLY POSTED BY [info]sunfell)

A Harvard University professor has found that the English Reformation spurred a Fundementalist approach to Bible reading.

The English Reformation — heyday of religious change — spurred a fundamentalist approach to Bible reading, according to new research by a Harvard professor.

“Evangelical reading habits after 1525 were disciplinary, punishing, and even demeaning,” says James Simpson, Donald P. and Katherine B. Loker Professor of English in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

In 1525, protestant reformer William Tyndale translated the Bible into early modern English. Scholars have widely hailed that moment as a liberating step for the literate public, who could suddenly read the Bible on their own terms — without the constraints of priestly interpretation.

Simpson disagrees.

“The 16th century moment was not the foundation of liberalism, as many historians have maintained, but rather the foundation of fundamentalism,” he says. “Anyone who wants to understand how fundamentalism is a product of the modern era must look to its birth in the 16th century.”

Tracing the history of biblical translations between 1525 and 1547, or from Tyndale to the death of Henry VIII, Simpson argues that reading in this era became a program of punishment that left believers “persecuted and paranoid.”

“Evangelicals did not believe that you could be saved through good works, so they looked for signs that the decision had gone their way,” Simpson says. “Reading became the locus for salvation or damnation. It was an intense experience in which your eternal fate would be decided.”


And here is religion scholar Karen Armstrong talking about her 'biography' of the Bible. She places it in a much different light than the Fundementalists do:

Because scripture has become such an explosive issue, it is important to be clear what it is and what it is not. This biography of the Bible provides some insight into this religious phenomenon. It is, for example, crucial to note that an exclusively literal interpretation of the Bible is a recent development. Until the nineteenth century, very few people imagined that the first chapter of Genesis was a factual account of the origins of life. For centuries, Jews and Christians relished highly allegorical and inventive exegesis, insisting that a wholly literal reading of the Bible was neither possible nor desirable. They have rewritten biblical history, replaced Bible stories with new myths, and interpreted the first chapter of Genesis in surprisingly different ways.

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