Wednesday, 31 October 2007
Tuesday, 30 October 2007
I'm delighted to see that Stephen from Emerging from Babel has posted a detailed, clear and well thought out response to Childs' critique of Brueggemann's Theology of the Old Testament. Stephen quotes some very significant sections of Childs' essay and then attempts to illustrate how Childs' approach fails to come to terms with the genuine theological diversity present in the Old Testament, with its consequent failure to meet the pastoral needs of the contemporary church. His primary accusation is that Childs 'harmonizes' what should remain an unruly text, and he does this with the Book of Ecclesiastes as his case study.
This is a great post and well worth a visit, especially as it illustrates the classic critique of Childs that is found amongst a lot of scholars today. Needless to say, as a 'Childsian' I don't feel that his critique has really got to the heart of what Childs is about, and I have responded in his comments about this (particularly what it means to speak of 'Qohelet' in the first place, and the implications of this). Despite this, if you're interested in how do exegesis 'properly', especially if you context is 'ecclesial', then give him a read (and, of course, what I consider, in my humble opinion, to be my necessary corrective in the comments section ... ).
This has inspired me to wright my own response to this little dialogue between Brueggemann and Childs (Brueggemann responded to Childs' critique in the article), which I hope to post as soon as possible. My starting point will be the confusion caused by their use of the common term 'ecclesial context', which they actually understand very differently.
This article can be found in The Scottish Journal of Theology 53 no. 2 pp. 228 - 33 (2000), "Walter Brueggemann's Theology of the Old Testament. Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy." followed by "A Response to Professor Childs".
- On a slightly different note, I'd just like to link to inabitatio dei's absolutely fascinating post on the ontological implications of the resurrection. I'm still trying to find time to read through it, but he says mouthwatering stuff like:
" The resurrection invites and requires theological-ontological discourse, but this discourse must constantly be referred back to the event which birthed it. The resurrection always sends us back to the ontological drawing board, demanding that we constantly revise our notions of being in its light."
Why do I dig stuff like that (I ask myself, wishing I could uncover the weird clock that makes me tick)?
Monday, 29 October 2007
"Just as the largest library, badly arranged, is not so useful as a very moderate one that is well arranged, so the greatest amount of knowledge, if not elaborated by our own thoughts, is worth much less than a far smaller volume that has been abundantly and repeatedly thought over. For only by universally combining what we know, by comparing every truth with every other, do we fully assimilate our own knowledge and get it into our power. We can think over only what we know, and so we should learn something; but we know only what we have thought out.
Saturday, 27 October 2007
"So let us listen to the Gospel as though Lord himself were present. And do not let us say: "How unfortunate were those who could see him!" For many of those who saw him also killed him, while many of us who have not seen him have also believed in him. The precious things that came from the mouth of the Lord were written down for us and kept for us and read aloud for us, and will be read by our children too, until the end of the world. The Lord is above, but the Lord of truth is here! The Lord's body in which he rose from the dead can be in one place only; but his truth is everywhere."
Friday, 26 October 2007
1.)On my latest “in accordance with the scriptures” post, comments have been made on the nature of Jesus' resurrection and how we know that. John has repeated his accusation of docetism on my part, I've repeated my accusation of anti-trinitarianism on his part. I think we're making progress. It's tough work, but the subject matter deserves our attention and it is only through patient and thoughtful dialogue that genuine theological progress can be made (an explicitly ecumenical statement).
2) My verbal revelation post has provoked interesting questions and angles on the nature of the Psalms, the status my quotes of Barr (seeing that he himself doesn't agree with them!), and the relationship between narrative and historical event. My response will come!
3) My post on the particularity of g/God has started a little conversation on our own particularity. Again, my response will come. All in good time ...
So, in the meantime, I thought I'd post this music video I randomely came across in YouTube. I typed the name of a man who is growing on my heart (Tim Armstrong, I hope to say more on him later) and came up with this musical gem. He's the bloke in the hat, singing with the funny black-haired girl. It's probably not everyone's taste, but it got my bum wiggling.
Thursday, 25 October 2007
A major point I've been trying to make in my posts is the centrality of verbal revelation as a component of Christian theology. This does not mean that God dictated the Bible and the prophets wrote what he said (i.e. verbal inspiration). Rather, it means that whatever we say of God and our world has to be filtered through the lens of that document we call the Bible. Words, texts, seem to be a central part of the way God has made himself known and continues to do so, and it does not seem to be the case that we we can separate 'the divine reality' from the words He uses to reveal himself. J. Barr has shown how this is an intrinsic part of the Bible's own self presentation:
"In so far as it is good to use the term "revelation" at all, it is entirely as true to say that in the Old Testament revelation is by verbal communication as to say that it is by acts in history. We have verbal communication both in that God speaks directly with men and in that men learn from other and earlier men through the verbal form of tradition. When we speak of the highly "personal" nature of the Old Testament God, it is very largely upon this verbal character of his communication with man that we are relying. The acts of God are meaningful because they are set within this frame of verbal communication. God tells what he is doing, or tells what he is going to do. He does nothing, unless he tells his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7). A God who acted in history would be a mysterious and supra-personal fate if the action was not linked with this verbal conversation ... ." (1966: 77, 8; italics my own)
"If you treat [the biblical] record as revelation through history, you commonly speak as if the basis were the doing of certain divine acts (what, exactly, they were is often difficult to determine), while the present form of tradition in its detail and circumstantiality is "interpretation" of these acts, or "meditation" upon them, or theological reflection prompted by them. Thus one may hear the great revelatory passage of Exodus 3 described as "interpretation"of this divine act of salvation, or as an inference from the fact that God had led Israel out of Egypt.
But I cannot make this scheme fit the texts, for this is not how the texts represent the Exodus events. Far from representing the divine acts as the basis of all knowledge of God and all communication with him, they represent God as communicating freely with men, and particularly with Moses, before, during, and after these events. Far from the incident at the burning bush being an "interpretation" of the divine acts, it is a direct communication from God to Moses of his purposes and intentions. This conversation, instead of being represented as an interpretation of the divine act, is a precondition of it. If God had not told Moses what he did, the Israelites would not have demanded their escape from Egypt, and the deliverance at the Sea of Reeds would not have taken place.
... this is how the biblical narrative represents these events. ... " (1963: 197; italics mine)
"... If we persist in saying that this direct, specific communication must be subsumed under revelation through events in history and taken as subsidiary interpretation of the latter, I shall say that we are abandoning the Bible's own representation of the matter for another which is apologetically more comfortable."(Ibid. 201; Pannenberg seems to comment on it here).
Wednesday, 24 October 2007
My favorite is this bit:
Childs lines up with Frei (indeed, partly learns from Frei) on "the heart of the problem: that for Calvin, the sensus literalis IS Jesus Christ. And it was only when you have the eighteenth century identification of the literal sense with the historical sense that you’re just hopelessly lost."
When they say this (Frei: "That's right.") nobody knows what they're talking about.
I love it! Read the whole dialogue here!
One of the most celebrated speakers was [Markus] Borg, who advocates a brand of pantheism that rejects notions of a personal God in favor of a broader universal spirit. "I grew up in a time and place where it was taken for granted that Christianity was the only true religion and Jesus the only way to salvation," Borg recalled with distaste. "That's why we had missionaries. ... I find it literally incredible to think that that God of the whole universe has chosen to be known in only one religious tradition".*
What are you then, my God - what, but the Lord God? For who is Lord but the Lord? Or who is God save our God? Most high, most excellent, most powerful, most almighty, most merciful, and most just; most hidden, yet most present; most beautiful, and most strong; stable, yet mysterious; unchangeable, yet changing all things; never new, never old; making all things new and bringing age upon the proud, though they know it not; ever working, yet ever at rest; still gathering, yet lacking nothing; sustaining, filling and protecting; creating, nourishing, and maturing; seeking, yet possessing all things. You love without passion; you are jealous without anxiety; you repent, yet have no sorrow; you are angry, yet serene; change your ways, yet your plans are unchanged; recover what you find, having never lost it; never in need, yet rejoicing in the gain; never covetous, yet requiring interest. You receive over and above, that you may owe - yet who has anything that is not yours? You pay debts, owing nothing; remit debts, losing nothing. And what have I now said, my God, my life, my holy joy - what is this I have said?**
Tuesday, 23 October 2007
Recently my wife told me the following story:
An American slave owner who is cruel to his slaves marries a girl of unknown parentage. They have a baby. The baby turns out to be of black ancestry, due to the girl's mother. He kicks her out. While burning everything she owned he discovers that his mother too was of black ancestry.
What is the meaning of this story? My wife automatically replied that it's about female oppression. I immediately thought it was about the absurdity of considering race an important factor in evaluating a human being. I also thought that from a Christian view point it's a brilliant illustration of the shock all humans should go through when realizing that they too are responsible for Jesus' crucifixion (imagine someone versed in the liturgical use of the Psalms being told that Paul's catena of quotations in Romans 3 applies to him/her?!).
The interesting question is how do we determine which interpretation is right? My wife confessed that her interpretation was biased as she had read a biography of the author, so she knew what was intended. But is that the meaning of the text?
James McGrath links to a more interesting debate on J. K. Rowling's intervention concerning the details of the latest Harry Potter film. Can she tell us what her texts' mean if she didn't make that clear in the book in the first place?
Monday, 22 October 2007
"In Accordance with the Scriptures" #4: Jewish Scripture and the Meaning of the Messiah's Resurrection
But when it says [citing Ps. 8.6] "All things are put in subjection," it is plain that this does not include the one one who put all things in subjection under him"
"When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.
To say that Christ rose again in "accordance with the scriptures" is at its heart a statement about God's long-range plans, with Christ, on our behalf, as this has been set forth in scripture. To quote Seitz:
"It is not that a straight line moves from the Old Testament to Christ in some mechanical fashion. Rather, we comprehend what God is doing in Christ right now and to eternity by returning to the Old Testament and seeking to find within its manifold testamony accordance with what we are coming to know about God in Christ. Once again we are brought up against the reality that the Old Testament, as Christian scripture, is not just before Jesus, but after him as well. It is both B.C and A.D., because Jesus lives in relationship to the Father, to Israel, and to the world; and the Father has set forth his broader plans for the world in his word to Israel, plans at whose center stands Christ. For an understanding of Christ's present rule and relationship to God, from the moment of God's raising him from the dead to that final point when God is all in all, it was necessary to search a first testament to learn about last things." (Seitz, 1998: 57)
Sunday, 21 October 2007
I accidently came accross this photo in Google Image, and I love it. Without any context, I interpreted the bandage to refer to the spot where a heroin needle had been inserted, the vein forced to protude by the straps of the phylactery.
What does that say to you? I thought of it as a critique of religion, opium for the masses, a crutch which we rely on to sooth our insecurities and anxieties about the meaning of our lives. I'm 'religious' (in a way, I'm not too fond of the word), but I catch myself doing this kind of thing all the time: innoculating myself from harsh reality of my world, resting on my religion to keep me secure. The danger that religion replaces genuine faith in a God who explodes our categories and promises the impossible is something that has threatened his own people throughout their history.
In this light, I find the following quote (taken from B. Meyers' blog) from Karl Barth pertinent:
“Faith is not a ground on which we can place ourselves, not a system which we can obey, not an atmosphere in which we can breathe. Viewed from a human perspective, what was once called religion, conviction and law becomes rather the abyss, anarchy, void. But ‘the law of the faithfulness of God’ [Rom. 3:27] – which is to say, ‘the law of faith’ – is the place where only God can hold us, the place where there is nothing else but God himself, God alone.”
—Karl Barth, Der Römerbrief 1922 (Zollikon-Zürich: Evangelischer Verlag, 1940), pp. 84-85 (English edition, p. 110).
Just some Sunday thoughts.
By the way, I later looked up the background for this photo and discovered my interpretation completely missed the mark. The photographer is a homosexual Jew struggling with HIV. Come to think about it, heroin addicts don't put bandages on after they've injected, do they?
Saturday, 20 October 2007
In his writings in general one can see that his response to this problem is heavily influenced by Hans Frei's work on figurative reading, i.e. pre-Enlightenment Christianity saw the biblical text as describing the real world, which experience tells us is "single world of one temporal sequence" (Frei, 1974: 2). Therefore, Christianity was driven to assume that there must in principle be one cumulative story in the Bible to depict it. The unity within the diversity was assured by means of typology, "a way of turning the variety of biblical books into a single, unitary canon"by weaving the various biblical stories together into a common narrative "referring to a single history and its patterns of meaning" (2).
My question is whether Childs is arguing that this process was already taking place at the redactional level of the text, such that contemporary figurative reading is in essential continuity with the way the text came to us in the first place. In his OT example of "exegesis in the context of biblical theology" (Genesis 22.1-19) in his 1992 Biblical Theology, he makes what I consider to be a key statement to his whole understanding of the 'canonical process':
It is my contention that this multifaceted text has been shaped through its lengthy development in such a way as to provide important hermeneutical guidelines for its theological use by a community which treasured it as scripture. By carefully observing how the editors dealt with elements which they deemed unrepeatable (einmalig) but which they reckoned to be representative or universal in application, a basic hermeneutical direction is provided by which to broaden theological reflection beyond the Old Testament" (1992: 326; italics mine).He illustrates this by reference to 'canonical clues' in the text which point to the dual dimension of the final form of the text as incorporating both particularity and universality within itself. The story of Abraham is unique, yet its editorial connection to the repeated trope concerning the promise of seed connects the story to a broader framework which can be seen to encompass us; the editorial addition of the superscription "God tested Abraham" likewise connects a unique occurrence to a more generalisable principle, one that echoes throughout scripture and again can be seen to encompass us; the word play on "the LORD sees" and "the LORD is seen" could refer to a kind of expansion of the unique story to Israel's broader experience of God in that place; finally, resonances with Levitical sacrificial rites, somehow, 'typologically' connect Abraham's experience to Israel's later cultic system.
My question is: is Childs trying to find evidence of Frei's work within the text itself? Is the redaction history of the text an example of typology in process? For me, the key phrase in the quote above is that this move within the text provides a basic hermeneutical direction, which we should imitate in the context of the final form.
Thursday, 18 October 2007
(This quote was found on an interesting website dedicated to 'the canon of Scripture', on which, amongst other things, you can get ancient canon lists quoted in full)
Wednesday, 17 October 2007
Tuesday, 16 October 2007
- improve my German;
- get to know an entirely different theological culture which has deeply influenced biblical academia since the 19th century (I mean, of course, the culture of 'higher criticism'). Last year I hung out with the Protestants (the faculties are denominationally ordered here, unlike in England, where we're all thrown into the same class room), this year I'm going to hang out with Catholics, who look far more interesting (L. Hossfeld runs the OT department. He's worked closely with Zenger on the Psalms and is interested in synchronic approaches to the Bible).
The two seminars I've decided to visit are "Die Psalmen im Neuen Testament" ("The Psalms in the New Testament") and "Das Alte Testament und seine Transparenz auf Christus hin" ("The Old Testament and its Transparency to Christ"). The second looks especially interesting, given the intellectual climate found in Bonn and the nature of my doctorate, which has something to do with reading the Old Testament as the Word of God.
So much for personal details. Iyov has started a thread on Bible translation and has posted an interesting link to a tribute to Derrida, found on the SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) website. It's worth a read if you think postmodernism is about believing what you want to believe. Here's an interesting quote from the article:
"Derrida, who never once associated himself with the much-abused term "postmodern," tended to regard newness with suspicion. Newness is too prone to make a straw man of "old"-ness, and to demolish old world orders to make new ones (often with catastrophic results). Commenting on Jesus's saying about new wineskins and new cloth (Matt. 9.14-17; Mk 2.18-22; Lk 5.33-39), he recommended a more humble, less apocalyptic form of "newness." Newness should be aware that it is always repatching and reweaving old cloth. "
Attached at the end of the article is a fascinating audio recording (mp3) of a public dialogue with Derrida at 2002 SBL Annual Meeting: "On Religion: An Interview With Jacques Derrida". He's asked questions by Yvonne Sherwood, John D. Caputo, and Kevin Hart, on topics to do with prayer, the relationship of deconstruction to Christianity and, my favorite, his interpretation of two midrashim found in Genesis Rabba.
Tomorrow I'll continue the "in accordance with scripture" sub-thread.
Monday, 15 October 2007
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures
Although other lines from the Creed are based on the claims of scripture, both New Testament and Old, this line is a direct quotation. In this sense the line is unique in the Creed, as it quotes from New Testament scripture a confession grounded through Old Testament accordance.
But what does the phrase "and he rose again in accordance with the scriptures" actually mean?
One usual explanation is that the episodes conjoined with the phrase (i.e. Jesus' death, burial, resurrection) were the ones most demanding careful defense in the face of criticism from faithful Jews who claimed that their scriptures spoke otherwise. In the face of a scriptural legacy everywhere seen to be God's very word, the Church was faced with the challenge of what to do with Jesus. In this sort of climate, the Creed asserts that the stickiest moments in the life and ministry of Jesus were fully congruent with the Old Testament and its presentation of the Christ to come. Isaiah 53:5 - 12 had spoken of an expiatory death; Hosea 6:2 and Psalm 16:10 are likewise pressed into service as proof texts from the Old Testament, demonstrations that Jesus' death and raising were "in accordance with the scriptures".
Seitz doesn't dispute this way of understanding the character of scriptural accordance, but he does believe that it is exegetically too narrow and theologically too functional a view of the matter. The problem with the idea that the congruence between Jesus' resurrection and the plain sense of scripture is a matter of collecting scattered proof texts is that it fails to understand what is at stake in Paul's larger argument in 1 Corinthians 15, where the phrases appear.
Stay tuned to find out why!
Sunday, 14 October 2007
Rape and Murder in Königswinter
How do you respond to this? How should you respond to this? I find myself choked, overwhelmed, as if my normal categories can't contain the world anymore. I feel enraged and ask myself what it is I can do in a world like this. And then I feel the fear of knowing that it won't be long until my filters come back into place, and the beauty of the light and the Autumn trees will give me a peace that I know, deep inside, I can never claim to truly own in this world.
There's a groaning in this creation so deep as to unsettle the ground of the earth upon which we stand. I want to weep like Lamentations, and ask myself where is the 'good' that God saw in this creation that he made? I feel the tension between life and death in my own bones, and I want so much to live the way living was meant to be. But I can't, because with every step I know there's death around the corner. Where does the Gospel fit into all this?
Just some Sunday thoughts.
Unconnected to my intention to write this, I listened to the best sermon I've ever heard this afternoon on my i-pod. You can download it here.
Saturday, 13 October 2007
In his essay ""In Accordance with the Scriptures": Creed, Scripture, and "Historical Jesus"" (1998: 51 - 60), Christopher Seitz discusses three aspects of the phrase "in accordance with the scriptures", found in the Nicene Creed:
- It's biblical character. "In accordance with the scriptures" is a phrase lifted bodily from 1 Corinthians 15. Therefore, any sharp separation between creed and scripture, between Bible and tradition, between exegesis and theology, misrepresents the situation.
- It's exegetical scope. While the death and resurrection of Jesus are said by the creed to be in accordance with the scriptures, close reading of 1 Corinthians 15 demonstrates that much more is implied by the phrase than that something singular happened to Jesus, according to scripture. "In accordance with the scriptures" says as much about the present life of the risen Lord, and its relationship to us, as it does about dramatic Easter events once upon a time.
- It's theological significance. To say that Jesus Christ died and rose again in accordance with scripture means that his identity is tied up with Old Testament statements on the front end, and post-Easter convictions on the other. These accordances, preceding and following his earthly life, cannot now be, nor have they ever been, impediments to understanding Jesus as a figure of time and space. "In accordance with the scriptures" is a shorthand for "in accordance with the reality for which God requires our conformity and our obedience". As Jesus was in accordance with scripture, so the church lives in accordance with the Jesus canonically presented and shared with believers through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Friday, 12 October 2007
From prison, in Advent 1943, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote the following lines, in which he expresses the growing relevance of the Old Testament to his faith in this moment of crisis:
"My thoughts and feelings seem to be getting more and more like those of the Old Testament, and in recent months I have been reading the Old Testament much more than the New. It is only when one knows the unutterability of the name of God that one can utter the name of Jesus Christ; it is only when one loves life and the earth so much that without them everything seems to be over that one may believe in the resurrection and a new world; it is only when one submits to God's law that one may speak of grace; it is only when God's wrath and vengeance are hanging as grim realities over the heads of one's enemies that something of what it means to love and forgive them can touch our hearts. In my opinion it is not Christian to want to take our thoughts and feelings too quickly and too directly from the New Testament. [...] One cannot and must not speak the last word before the last but one. We live in the last but one and believe the last, don't we?" (Letters and Papers from Prison, NY 1972: 156f.)
I should add that this post constitutes a continuation of my Authority of Scripture thread which has its roots here. In the course of discussions questions have arisen on the nature of Christian truth and the implications of this for how one reads the Bible. I believe that central to the answer to this question is the question of the authoritative role of the Old Testament as an adequate witness to Jesus Christ on its own terms. The witness is certainly recalibrated in the light of the 'Christ event', but that does not change the substance of what was there all along nor its ability to illuminate for the church today the nature and mission of its Lord. As such, my next few posts will outline the essay by Christopher Seitz: ""In Accordance with the Scriptures": Creed, Scripture, and "Historical Jesus"" (1998: 51 - 50).
" With its tales of brave men and dutiful women in a simpler, long-vanished Middle East, a Syrian soap opera has become the latest rage in the Arab world during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan."
Thursday, 11 October 2007
Wednesday, 10 October 2007
"The editors of Hermeneia impose no systematic-theological perspective upon the series (directly, or indirectly by selection of authors). It is expected that the authors will struggle to lay bare the ancient meaning of a biblical work or pericope. In this way the text's human relevance should become transparent, as is always the case in competent historical discourse" (emphasis added).Could someone explain to me the logic behind the words in italics?
Tuesday, 9 October 2007
"All Christian use of the Old Testament seems to depend on the belief that the One God who is the God of Israel is also the God and Father of Jesus Christ."
Monday, 8 October 2007
"Jerusalem isn't just any city. The Western Wall isn't real estate and the Temple Mount isn't any piece of land. These concepts are at the root of our identity and national existence. The unbearable lightness with which a government – that has no mandate or support from the Jewish people – surrenders Zion shows the deterioration of the values of Israeli society".
What do people make of that?
Saturday, 6 October 2007
What is really needed is a realistic epistemology of how we know things from texts, a literary theory explaining how texts do things to readers, a hermeneutical explanation for how authors communicate through the signs/symbols of language, and a definition of history and historiography.Anthony Thiselton, N.T. Wright, Kevin Vanhoozer, and Scot McKnight are recommended reading for each of these areas.
I'm all for a reappraisal of the way humans know, the nature of texts, the nature of reading and definitions of history (the last being a central concern of Childs'). However, as far as theological reading is concerned, I'm not sure whether the proposed areas of research really get to the heart of the crisis which the church is currently facing, and has been facing for quite some time now. The following thoughts on this issue are taken from C. Seitz's book, Figured Out.
Vanhoozer and Wolterstorff talk of the contemporary crisis as a hermeneutical one. In their works they attempt to address topics such as divine speech, inspiration, and authorship. This is done from the perspective of general hermeneutics (the philosophy of language; speech-act theory). Seitz wonders to what degree they focus on the long-standing problem of the relationship between the two testaments of Christian Scripture. To quote:
"Hermeneutics as a science of reading and interpretation could simply speak about matters of authorship, reader, text, inspiration, divine speech, and so forth, in the manner of Vanhoozer and Wolterstorff, and never once address the difference between Old and New Testaments on historical, theological, canonical, literary/genre, or specified audience/ecclesial grounds. The Bible would be one big book, whatever its differences, and the problems of talking about author or reader or text could go on in general terms without much regard for the divide separating two distinct literatures (Old Testament, or Tanak, and New Testament). And we could still plausibly argue that a hermeneutical crisis existed and buffeted the field and not be wrong.” (pp. 13, 14).Seitz goes on to point out how a series of crises already existed in biblical studies before the advent of post-modernism and post-critical theology. They focused not on general hermeneutics (text, reader, author, world) but on quite specific matters: the historicality of individual writings, literary methods and their compatibility, dating texts properly, social-historical reconstruction, the history of religion and so forth. Always sitting close to these questions were serious subisidiary or even more up-front concerns. Is there unity to Christian scripture? How is the Old Testament Christian scripture? In what way does the New Testament function as scripture, especially given its fourfold gospel record and what would come to be known as "quests for the historical Jesus" behind this fourfold account?
These questions persisted and were never completely banished from the field. Seitz believes it is proper to call these theological, and not just hermeneutical questions:
"They have to do with the way in which the testaments, each in its own specific historical and canonical way, bear witness to God. In the middle of the last century and for many decades into our own, these questions did not just hover near the fray but were first-order questions demanding first-order answers if the discipline was to have any integrity as a historically oriented one still tuned to the life of the church and an earlier history of interpretation." (14)Seitz concludes:
"The turn to hermeneutics as a general discipline, then, has not so much offered a resolution of older theological questions, historically considered, as it has changed the subject. We may wish to judge that a good thing, but in so doing there would have to be an admission that what has counted in the history of biblical studies for the past century and a half as central was misguided from the start. The field posed the wrong questions, it would have to be concluded, and therefore got wrong answers and ended up in its present desuetude - call it a "hermeneutical crisis" - as a consequence. A cursory comparison with Westermann's Essay on Old Testament Hermeneutics, produced at a period of general critical (methodological) consensus, shows an array of concerns untouched in recent hermeneutical discussions, and any accounting of our present crisis is obliged to say why this is so." (14, 15)I should just add that John's post on this topic has started an interesting conversation with Dave from Tolle Lege.
Friday, 5 October 2007
"Church history bears eloquent testimony to a few glorious periods when suddenly unexpected interest in the Bible exploded within the life of the church, and biblical scholars and theologians found themselves engaged in a common enterprise"
B.S. Childs, (1992) From the Preface
Thursday, 4 October 2007
Wednesday, 3 October 2007
The question has been raised as to whether other factors predominated in the texts' formation, such as political, economic, or even morally corrupt ones. These would undermine the nature of the text as religious literature (a kind of form-critical category) for a community of faith.
This is a significant question for Childs, as his approach depends on this theological dimension being actually present in the text. He is aware that the development of the Bible was a complex process in which political, sociological and economic factors played a role. Nevertheless, it is his claim that in these factors were subordinated to a more overarching religious end. The significance of this dimension can be seen in this quote:
"... whenever modern critical theories are proposed which would call into question the integrity of Scripture's faith claims, it is certainly appropriate to mount a reasoned defense for its support. Thus, a historical critical theory of Deuteronomy which would construe the book as a pious fraud created for propaganda reasons to support the political aspirations of the Jerusalem priesthood would, if true, raise serious questions about a canonical interpretation which claimed that the book was shaped by primarily religious concerns. Similarly, if the development of a sense of canon was only a late peripheral phenomenon of the Hellenistic period, my approach to the O.T. would be seriously damaged. For this reason, I have felt constrained to mount a reasoned case why such a politicized interpretation of Deuteronomy does less than justice to the biblical text, and why the forces associated with the canonical process lie at the heart of the entire O.T." (in his "Response to Reviewers" of his Introduction; JSOT (16) 1980: 56).Here we see that for the canonical approach history matters and that the text should constrain our interpretation. Canonical readers have an vested interest in the results of historical analysis and as such cannot escape into a safe 'narrative' world untouched by real-life concerns. Judgment depends on the results of exegesis done in tandem with a good theoretical awareness of the nature of the project actually being embarked on.