Saturday, 12 January 2008

Were Later Redactors also Inspired?

A question often asked of Childs is whether the later redactors were 'inspired'. This is a question I used to ask, primarily because I was working with a conception of lone prophets (Isaiah, Hosea) sent to a people with a specific message. Since then, my understanding of 'prophet' has broadened. A prophet doesn't have to be named, a prophet doesn't have to write something himself, a prophet can simply be a history teller (the 'deuteronomist'?). In fact, the more I think of it, prophetic activity can be attached to all kinds of activities and not only those of the fiery-eyed finger-pointing type. The single uniting factor is the God who called this prophetic activity into being, the Word to which all these activities witness.

Given the closeness of Childs to Barth, the following words from Barth's Introduction should help fill out the picture:

"The Prophetic men of the Old Testament witnessed Yahweh's action in the history of Israel, his action as father, king, lawgiver and judge. They saw his free and constructive love, which nevertheless was a consuming love; in Israel's election and calling they beheld Yahweh's grace, and his kind but also severe and wrathful direction and rule over his people they saw his untiring protest and opposition to the conduct of Israel, the incorrigible contender with God. Israel's history spoke to the prophets. In the manifold forms of this history they heard Yahweh's commands, judgements and threats as well as his promises - not confirmations of their own religious, moral, or political preferences, or their optimistic or pessimistic views, opinions and postulates! What they heard was, instead, the sovereign voice of the God of the covenant: "Thus says the Lord!"This is the God who is constantly faithful to his unfaithful human partner. It was his own Word which these witnesses were enabled, permitted and called to echo, either as prophets in the narrower sense of the term, or as prophetic narrators, or occasionally as lawyers, or as prophetic poets or teachers of wisdom. In giving their witness they, of course, listened to their predecessors as well, appropriating in one way or another their answers and incorporating them into their own. It was Yahweh's Word itself, as it was spoken in his history with Israel, which they brought to the hearing of their people. Naturally, each prophet also spoke within the limits and horizons of his time, its problems, culture and language. They spoke, first of all, viva voce, but they also wrote down these words or had them written down so that they should be remembered by succeeding generations. The Old Testament canon is a collection of those writings which prevailed and were acknowledged in the synagogue. Their content was so persuasive that they were recognized as authentic, trustworthy and authoritative testimonies to the Word of God" (1963: 27, 8).

The conclusion of the quote can be read here.

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