Are believers better exegetes than non-believers?

Charles on his blog BibleX has a fascinating quote, which suggests that the believer might be a better exegete than a non-believer:

“There are differences of opinion among scholars about whether being aloof and detached is a better way to read ancient texts without bias, or whether being profoundly interested and passionate about getting at the truth about a text better propels one toward the goal of understanding the Bible. In my view, as long as you can take into account your own predilections, the latter orientation is more likely to produce an accurate result, not least because the person actually cares about the outcome and is willing to go the extra mile to get to the bottom of things…”   Ben Witherington III, Is There a Doctor in the House? An Insider’s Story and Advice on Becoming a Biblical Scholar (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 128.

As a Reformed Christian, I believe that both non-believers and believers are capable of reading and exegeting the text well. God has, after all, given all people the ability to think and make logical conclusions based on the information that is available. Furthermore, presuppositions are a challenge and potential hinderance for everyone who approaches the text, and they become more problematic the more one denies their existence and the more extreme one’s position is, whether it be fundamentalist or emphatically anti-Christian.

Nonetheless, there is something profound about realizing that it is Christians who have the most invested in the text. As such, we should be the ones working the hardest to read it well – as a means of honouring the One who orchestrated the text. As a means of challenging our presuppositions so that we can read it well, we ought to be listening well to non-Christians who question the standard Christian rhetoric. At the same time, we should also question scholarship that adamantly tries to deny or minimize the Christian traditions in reading a text, as this denial indicates a rejection of the importance of the text and its own internal claim for meaning within the Christian tradition.

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