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Biblical studies is the academic application of a set of diverse disciplines to the study of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, the Bible. For its theory and methods, the field draws on disciplines ranging from archaeology, literary criticism, history, philology, and social sciences.
Many secular as well as religious universities and colleges offer courses in biblical studies, usually in departments of religious studies, theology, Judaic studies, history, or comparative literature. Biblical scholars do not necessarily have a faith commitment to the texts they study, but many do.
The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies defines the field as a set of various, and in some cases independent disciplines for the study of the collection of ancient texts generally known as the Bible. These disciplines include but are not limited toarchaeology, Egyptology, textual criticism, linguistics, history, sociology and theology.
Several academic associations and societies promote research in the field. The largest is the Society of Biblical Literature(SBL) with around 8,500 members in more than 80 countries. It publishes many books and journals in the biblical studies, including its flagship, the Journal of Biblical Literature. SBL hosts one academic conference in North America and another international conference each year, as well as smaller regional meetings.
The research of biblical scholars is frequently called biblical criticism. It does not presuppose, but also does not deny, belief in the supernatural origins of the scriptures. Instead, it applies to the Bible methods of textual analysis used in other disciplines of the humanities and social sciences. Many biblical scholars also interact with traditional Jewish and Christian interpreters and methods of interpretation, which may be called biblical exegesis or hermeneutics and history of interpretation or reception history.
History of the Bible
Historical research has often dominated modern biblical studies. Biblical scholars usually try to interpret a particular text within its original historical context and use whatever information is available to reconstruct that setting. Historical criticismaims to determine the provenance, authorship, and process by which ancient texts were composed. Famous theories of historical criticism include the documentary hypothesis which suggests that the Pentateuch was compiled from four different written sources, and different reconstructions of “the historical Jesus” based primarily on the differences among the canonical Gospels.
Most of the Jewish Bible, the Tanakh, which is the basis of the Christian Old Testament, was written in Biblical Hebrew, though a few chapters were written in Biblical Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek, with possibleAramaic undertones, as was the first translation of the Jewish Bible known as the Septuagint or Greek Old Testament. Therefore, Hebrew, Greek and sometimes Aramaic continue to be taught in most universities, colleges and seminaries with strong programs in biblical studies.