With few exceptions, until after World War II historical‐critical scholarship was engaged in by Protestant scholars. With the promulgation of the papal encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu in 1943, Roman Catholic scholars began to become practitioners as well. Likewise, both in the United States and in Israel, with the development there of the Hebrew University and later other institutions of higher education, Jewish scholars also made significant contributions. Facilities at major denominational graduate centers increasingly recruited scholars without regard to their affiliations. It is possible by the mid‐twentieth century to speak of a consensus of interpretation: a general agreement on methods and results that largely transcended national and confessional differences. That consensus was evidenced in a number of ecumenical endeavors, especially in the United States, including several ongoing translation and commentary projects. Within the next several decades that consensus would begin to unravel.
In its development during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, biblical criticism was often in conversation with other disciplines, including linguistics, anthropology, the history of religion, sociology, philosophical hermeneutics, and literary aesthetics, as well as with theology. Yet as biblical studies became a discipline in its own right, it developed a set of classical methods and questions that set the parameters for research. These methods were largely concerned with the history of the text and of the cultures that produced the texts. The consensus that these were the relevant questions and the methods by which they should be pursued lasted until well after the middle of the twentieth century. Since the 1970s, however, many biblical scholars have questioned the adequacy of an almost exclusive orientation to questions with a historical focus. Also, in keeping with a trend characteristic of most of the humanities and social sciences, there has been a strong movement toward interdisciplinary conversation. Although it is difficult to give a simple overview of the proliferating approaches to biblical studies since the 1970s, they can be roughly grouped under the categories of literary, social‐scientific, and cultural hermeneutical approaches.