Thursday, 15 May 2008

"Mitzvoth ethics" instead of "biblical theology"?

Walter Brueggemann has reviewed an interesting book for The Review of Biblical Literature: Gershom Ratheiser's Mitzvoth Ethics and the Jewish Bible: The End of Old Testament Theology (2007). As the title indicates, this is a polemic against all Christian attempts at "Old Testament theology," a project Brueggemann himself once embarked on. Instead, a constructive "Jewish" alternative is proposed, one which derives theology from ethics rather than vice versa.

The most interesting part of Brueggemann's review is a citation from the book. In a conclusion to his section on biblical ethics, he claims:
Rather, the ancient Jews should realize that יהוה does participate in the suffering
of his covenant vassals (Hos 11:8–9). This is, according to the Jewish bible’s tenor,
יהוה answer to the ancient Jews. In this identification process with the suffering of
the ancient Jews, יהוה loses perfection for the sake of his chosen people. He
changes. His graciousness is his limitation. (266–67)
Not only does this sound like an example of a Jew doing "biblical theology," does not this statement stand in deepest continuity with the central claim of the Christian faith? Jesus is, after all, עמנו אל, Immanu-el.

Go here for the full review.

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