Sunday, 23 November 2008

Barth's son wrote an Old Testament introduction/theology

How bizarre. This should be exquisitely interesting to me as a major thesis of mine is that Childs' canonical approach cannot be understood without a theology of something like Karl Barth's "three times of the word" (Das Wort Gottes in seiner dreifachen Gestalt).

Interestingly, the book was originally written in Indonesian, where Christoph Barth was working as a missionary. It is apparently still the standard work there and reflects the concerns of this struggling minority.

According to reviews, it bears many similarities to von Rad's Old Testament Theology. I wonder what his father would have thought? I'm reminded of one of Brevard Childs' anecdotes about visiting a lecture by von Rad where Karl Barth was sat near to him:

There was always a sort of tension, even in those years, between those studying the Bible and Barth. I remember one incident in 1952 when Gerhard von Rad gave a lecture in Basel on the "Typological Exegesis of the Old Testament". I happened to be sitting rather near to Barth, and I was interested in his reaction. For me von Rad's lecture was simply glorious, crystal clear and exciting. When he finished, Barth turned around in a half sleepy way to the person next to him and said: "I don't quite get it". This seemed to me an appalling response, and I felt like saying, "Herr Prof., let me explain it all to you". Fortunately, I restrained the impulse. Yet in the years that have passed, and the more I have studied von Rad's lecture, the more I began to understand why Barth found problems, and why it wasn't as clear as I once had thought" (lecture at Yale, 1969).
You can read large portions of the book on Google Books.


shane said...

Thanks, Phil; good stuff! Keep up the good work. I always enjoy your posts, especially since I just started reading Childs myself.

Phil Sumpter said...

I'm glad to be of assistance, and even more glad that you're reading Childs. I'd love to hear what you think of him, especially compared to Brueggemann, who I see you are a fan of.

shane lems said...

I'll have to get back to you on that as I make my way through Exodus (using Childs and others). I think you mentioned it before on this blog, but to spare me the time to find it, could you remind me (and others) which Childs' books you'd recommend for "diving" in? Or articles, though I have read quite a few of his...

Email me if you'd rather.


Phil Sumpter said...

Here's what I wrote in response to a similar question:
I'm delighted that you want to discover one of the most brilliant Biblical scholars of the last couple centuries (I mean that). I think understanding Childs is hard work, as evidenced by his constant misprepresentation in the secondary literature. He's a global thinker and tries to leave no ground uncovered, so I think it would be good to get a smattering of bits of all his work. That would help you get a grasp of the parts. Here's a suggested list, in order of how to read it. You can get an exhaustive bibliography here:

"Interpretation in Faith," "Prophecy and Fulfilment," "The Canonical Shape of the Prophetic Literature," Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context, Introduction to the New Testament as Canon, Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments, "Does the Old Testament witness to Jesus Chris?", "Biblical Interpretation amidst cultural change", "Retrospective Reading of Old Testament Prophets."

Round this off with his two commentaries, which frame his entire career, with an eye for the continuities between them: Exodus and Isaiah.

And finally, the best explanation and defence of Childs is by Seitz, in the SHS book "Canon and biblical interpretation" called, I think, "The canonical approach and theological interpretation."All this is off the top of my head.

If you haven't much time, stick to his Biblical Theology of the O and N Testaments and his essay "Retrospective Reading of OT Prophets."