Lord Peter Wimsey & Biblical Studies

I am catching up with everyone else by finally reading one of Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey novels (actually listening to it thanks to the free audio at Librivox).  It is an entertaining story with several insightful comments on life.

This morning I was captivated by the section below from Chapter 7 in which the detective, Parker, and Wimsey discuss “modern” commentators.  This is a shrewd criticism from Sayers of academic biblical studies (not unlike C. S. Lewis’ comments in “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism”).  Too much in biblical studies is concerned with pursuing communities and documents we are not sure even existed while people miss Christ and “the household” of faith which are clearly there.

Lord Peter spent the afternoon in a vain hunt for Mr. Parker. He ran him down eventually after dinner in Great Ormond Street.

Parker was sitting in an elderly but affectionate armchair, with his feet on the mantelpiece, relaxing his mind with a modern commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians. He received Lord Peter with quiet pleasure, though without rapturous enthusiasm, and mixed him a whisky-and-soda. Peter took up the book his friend had laid down and glanced over the pages.

“All these men work with a bias in their minds, one way or other,” he said; “they find what they are looking for.”

“Oh, they do,” agreed the detective, “but one learns to discount that almost automatically, you know. When I was at college, I was all on the other side – Conybeare and Robertson and Drews and those people, you know, till I found they were all so busy looking for a burglar whom nobody had ever seen, that they couldn’t recognize the footprints of the household, so to speak. Then I spent two years learning to be cautious.”

“Hum,” said Lord Peter, “theology must be good exercise for the brain then, for you’re easily the most cautious devil I know. But I say, do go on reading – it’s a shame for me to come and root you up in your off-time like this.”

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