“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89, NKJV)
Paradigms are powerful things. Sometimes they hang on long past their usefulness, like an old sports star who just cannot bear to retire and will not accept that he has passed his prime. And in academic disciplines, it seems that paradigms are especially tenacious and very hard to shift or change. When one talks about a paradigm shift, some scholars react as if one were guilty of sacrilege or heresy. They fear it the way a San Francisco resident fears seismic shifts of tectonic plates. Scholars do not want the ground to move under their feet, especially when they have spent their entire academic careers building tall intellectual skyscrapers on certain assumed unmovable underpinnings or foundations.
One of the things one learns if one stays in the academic arena long enough is that despite a professed commitment to openness and learning new things, many of the guild of biblical scholars do not very often receive the news of a paradigm shift with much, if any, gladness. Indeed, the proposed shift is more likely to be attacked, watered down, contextualized, or trivialized, if it is not simply ignored, following the practice of not-so-benign neglect. All this I know and have experienced as I have continued to write and speak about new, and yet paradoxically old, ways of approaching the study of the New Testament.
Ben Witherington III, What’s in the Word: Rethinking the Socio-Rhetorical Character of the New Testament (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2009), 1.
Critical scholarship, on the other hand, never arrives at the truth. It is always tentative, putative, and speculative. But the Bible believing Christian is under no obligation to accept the unproven axioms of critical scholarship.