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date: 10 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Formal theological education underwent a twentieth-century revolution that both enriched and fragmented popular Bible reading. Its legacy includes deeper understanding of the Bible and its contexts, new professions of teaching and scholarship, more professional clergy, and liberating critiques of oppressive ideas and practices. Yet its legacy also includes significant fractures, between academy and church, Bible and theology, and so on. Biblical interpretation became marginal to American intellectual life as it became more informed. Theological education’s hermeneutical story highlights the practical-moral agenda of professionals: they sought to inform, frequently even to reform, how Americans approach their Bibles—with historical awareness and various theological-political agendas ideally displacing literalist private application. The mutual popular and professional tensions in this story, given their impact on its interpretation, call for more generous scholarly attention to popular aspirations for understanding the Bible.

Keywords: theological education, biblical interpretation, hermeneutic, historical criticism, literalism, populism, priesthood of all believers, professionalization, right of private judgment

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