Robert Myles, a visiting scholar at the University of Sheffield, has put up a post which "shows" the deficiencies of my recent article on biblical literacy. Apparently, it is all in the definition. I've just had a discussion with James Crossley, Prof of Bible, Culture and Politics in Sheffield, who basically said the same thing - decline in biblical literacy is probably correct on my definition but Katie Edwards' definition is more complex.
Well. I have seven dimensions to my definition so...
Anyway, looks like I am being projected as the opponent to the Sheffield discourse which is quite ironic since I received my doctorate from Sheffield. Hope it isn't going to be withdrawn.
It is also problematic because most of what Robert Myles says I am in complete agreement with. After all my blog is postmodernbible - I'm no stranger to ideological criticism or the absolute that context is part and parcel of every interpretative act. But I do still think that cultural echoes or use of echoes within contemporary linguistic practice are not the same as literacy. Sociolinguistic practice and literacy studies are different categories of scholarship with major overlaps. This has been explored fairly well in the literature and in studies such as the Fairfax reports.
In fact, part of my own research in Biblical Literacy will try and argue the case that the current push for Biblical Literacy misunderstands the historical engagement with the Bible which is bigger than just reading the text. That the very kind of allusion which Katie points to has been one of the normative processes for the transmission of biblical knowledge. But no one seems to want to hear that just to project opposition onto what I am saying!
By the way, I realise that in The Times piece, Katie does not argue for an increase in Biblical Literacy. But I would also draw people's attention to Katie's article in The Conversation, entitled "Biblical Literacy is going up, not down - thanks Lady Gaga". I'd love that to be the case.
But there is no quantitative study which proves it so. All the stats which reflect reading the bible, or knowledge of biblical information, or understanding of biblical allusions point in the opposite directions. even though people are still using the terms, they don't seem to know the background to the allusion. That's not intellectual snobbery, just statistics. I will rejoice when a quantitative study tells me that that is not the case.
It's all about definitions and that's why Katie's book (now even more heavily publicised) will be a helpful addition to the discussion come the spring.