From Bruce J. Malina, "Rhetorical Criticism and Social-Scientific Criticism: Why Won't Romanticism Leave Us Alone?" in Rhetoric, Scripture and Theology: Essays from the 1994 Pretoria Conference, edited by Stanley E. Porter and Thomas H. Olbricht, 72–101. JSNTSup 131. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996.
The problem with historical-critical method as practiced by historians is that as a rule it is entirely insensitive and selectively inattentive to the non-concrete meaning and dimensions of life. From a certain perspective, it is the non-concrete, symbolic meaning-filled dimensions of life that take up most of human concern, energy, activity. The historical-critical method, paying little attention to ideology, conceptions of social meaning, models of social interaction, cross-cultural, psychological development of humans, with little attention paid to these conceptions of what life was and meant, inevitable derives from conceptions of what life presently is. And it is the lack of immediate and direct pay-off for life as it is that has generated negative judgments concerning scholarly biblical study. . . . For the past to come alive, historical biblical study will have to forget literary criticism of the aesthetic variety, rooted as it was in a firm belief in the untrustworthiness of the society in which it arose. For the past to come alive, the personages of the past must emerge in their own flesh and blood society. And this can occur if historical biblical study finds its moorings in the social-scientific approach.
On the other hand, it would seem that the real problem is not that biblical interpretation of the modern literary-critical sorts is asocial. The problem is that it is ideal, doctrinal, non-temporal, anesthetizing, tranquilizing, fantastic, imaginary, Rohrshachian—anything but a flesh and blood story of flesh and blood persons enculturated and immersed in the non-psychologically minded, anti-introspective, group-interactive, "sociologically" oriented society of the first-century Eastern Mediterranean.
Consider the usual hidden agenda in biblical study. Since people who study the Bible are expected to bolster, support and clarify life for a Church, it is the life of the Church at present that very often determines the agenda of biblical study, perception of abstract relations such as marriage, sin and faith, and obedience, etc.
(italics Malina's, bold font, mine)
(I especially like the characterization of modern literary critical biblical interpretations as "Rohrshachian" 🙂 )
(on "social-scientific approach" see Dvorak, "John H. Elliott's Social-Scientific Criticism")