Once again, and in a way different from either Genesis or the middle books, the canonical editors have shaped the material into a theological witness to be used by later generations of Israel. By removing Deuteronomy from its canonical setting and seeking to interpret it from an allegedly original historical context of the seventh century, the decisive function which the canon has assigned this material is lost."
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
The Canonical Shape of Deuteronomy
The Book of Deuteronomy plays a decisive role within the theological purpose of the canonical editors. Regardless of its actual original function (part of the reform program of Josiah?), within the present shape of the Pentateuch it functions to reinterpret the events of Sinai for the future generation of Israelites. In a series of speeches Moses explains and recapitulates the meaning of the Sinai law, and he does so on the plains of Moab before a new generation about to claim the promises of God. Childs (1972) lists three points that are made:
1) The original covenant concerns the later generations as much as the first. God's covenant was not tied to past history but was offered to all the people of God.
2) The interpretation of Moses is future-orientated: after the realization of the promises Israel is to respond obediently.
3) The purpose of Deuteronomy is to inculcate the Law in the heart of the people. The issue is a matter of life and death and Israel is to choose.
Childs argues that the Deuteronomy functions to provide a theological norm for how the Law is to be understood. The "spirit" of the Law is summarized in terms of "loving God with heart, soul, and might," a decisive check against legalistic abuse.
To summarize, Childs states,