Experiments in the Analytical Study of the Bible

Burton Mack as Pioneer


  • Randall William Reed Appalachian State University




analytic study of religion, Burton Mack, J.Z. Smith, scholarship, theory


What it means to study the Bible analytically is current subject to much debate. One scholar who has already spent much of his career wrestling with this very issue in several forms is Burton Mack. In this article I will follow Burton Mack's professional trajectory as he went from a member of the Bultmanian school to an iconoclast in New Testament studies. What I will show is that they key issue that Mack returns to again and again is the need for a theory of Religion in doing Biblical studies. I suggest that those of us committed to the analytical study of the Bible and Religion must learn from Burton Mack that theory is the necessary prerequisite of our work.

Author Biography

  • Randall William Reed, Appalachian State University

    Randall Reed is Assistant Professor of Religion at Appalachian State University. He works on Social Theory of Religion, Apocalypticism and Christian Fundamentalism. He has recently published "A Clash of Ideologies: Marxism, Liberation Theology and Apocalypticism in New Testament Studies" (Princeton Theological Monograph Series, Pickwick Press, 2010)


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Bultmann, Rudolf. 1984. The New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

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———. 2011. Redescribing Paul and the Corinthians. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.

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———. 1987. Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World. Berkeley: Stanford University Press.

———. 1989. The Scapegoat. Translated by Yvonne Freccero. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

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Mack, Burton L. 1970. “Wisdom Myth and Mythology: An Essay in Understanding a Theological Tradition.” Interpretation 24 (1):46–60.

———. 1973. Logos und Sophia. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

———. 1985. “The Innocent Transgressor: Jesus in Early Christian Myth and History.” Semeia (33): 135–165.

———. 1988. A Myth Of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

———. 1991. “A Myth of Innocence at Sea.” Continuum 1(2):140–157.

———. 1996. “On Redescribing Christian Origins.” Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 8(3):247–269.

———. 2003. The Christian Myth: Origins, Logic, and Legacy. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.

———. 2008. Myth and the Christian Nation: A Social Theory of Religion. Sheffield: Equinox Publishing.

———. 2011. Christian Mentality: The Entanglements of Power, Violence and Fear. Sheffield: Equinox Publishing.

McCutcheon, Russell T. 2001. Critics Not Caretakers. New York: State University of New York Press.

Smith, Jonathan Z. 1975. “Wisdom and Apocalyptic.” In Religious Syncretism in Antiquity, 131–156. Missoula, Mont: Scholars Press.






How to Cite

Reed, R. (2012). Experiments in the Analytical Study of the Bible: Burton Mack as Pioneer. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 41(3), 11-16. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsor.v41i3.11