Thus, Athanasius is actually the Hellenist and Arius is the Hebraist (albeit, perhaps one of the exteremely Philonic variety). If anything this shows that the revelation of God as Triune is just as subversive of an allegedly pure “Hebraic” notion of God’s being as it is of the “Hellenic” theology that is so often decried. It is, in the parlance of Scripture, both a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks.
OLD TESTAMENT THEOLOGY: The "OT" bit references historical, literary, cultural issues (the particulars), the "theology" bit references the Big Picture (and why it matters). These two poles are expressed in the title. This blog concerns everything in between.
Sunday, 31 August 2008
Subverting "Hebraic" and "Hellenic" ontology
The "martyr complex"
“The pathology of a martyr complex is often a heavy-handed attempt to escape the vulnerability of speaking the turth without the means of convincing others that it is true. It signifies impatience with the freedom of others not to believe. It betrays an insecurity that cannot bear its own knowledge without compulsion for everyone else. In a word, it expresses doubt. Such doubt may explain why martyrdom is sometimes misconstrued and applied to the deaths of fighters. For the New Testament, martyrs do not die because they fight for what is right but precisely because they refuse to fight for what is true. A fighter fundamentally dubts whether his truth is true and anxiously grasps at it, preferring secure knowledge to uncertain promise made certain only through faith. Fighters do not stand by the truth of their convictions.”~Craig Hovey, To Share in the Body: A Theology of Martyrdom for Today’s Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 148.
The unity of Scripture in its diverse transmission
The purpose of my next few posts is to look at how Childs' canonical approach deals with this issue. Stay tuned!
Saturday, 30 August 2008
How to understand the ways of God: Some pointers
1. Christian spiritual vitality necessitates wrestling with the Bible as the vehicle of God’s word. “To speak of moving beyond the Bible always signals a return to the wilderness and a loss of divine blessing.”
2. Scripture functions properly within the life of the church only if it is heard addressing issues of life and death. When received as a divine gift to believers, the Bible becomes a guide for faith and practice.
3. There is a family resemblance among the ways in which faithful response to the Bible occurs. A likeness arises from the serious encounter with the selfsame God who shapes obedient response into Christian likeness, with a parallel family resemblance on the side of unbelief and scepticism.
4. The Bible calls for faithful reflection, but also for faithful action. Where there is true understanding of the Scriptures, by necessity there arises an imperative for evangelism and mission, a care for the impoverished and suffering.
Jesus and Jewish tradition
“where the Law as the content of the paradosis is no longer understood to be the present concrete requirement of God, demanding the self-surrender of man, but rather serves as a form of human righteousness which can be manipulated by man himself in the interests of his own self-justification, then the law in question is to be rejected.” (155)
“opposes the tendency to establish the Law as an absolute by putting forward the point of view that the Law exists for the sake of man and not man for the sake of the Law. By this means He refers us back from the Law to the Lawgiver, and thus changes as radically as possible the meaning of the Law itself by restoring its original connexion with the divine Covenant. The Rabbis have forgotten the consolation and the promise of the law and no longer envisage the Scriptures as a whole, as the Book of the Covenant, the document which bears witness to the Covenant grace of God.” (157)
Friday, 29 August 2008
Questions for Biblical Theology
Has New Testament theology any need to take an interest in the historical reconstruction of Jesus attempted in the quest of the historical Jesus, or are the canonical renderings of Jesus in the four Gospels the only proper and sufficient concern of New Testament theology? Similarly, is a history-of-religions account of the origins and development of ancient Israel’s exclusive Yahwism relevant to the understanding of faith in YHWH that must be central to an Old Testament theology, not to mention a pan-biblical theology?Out of Egypt: Biblical Theology and Biblical Interpretation, 197.
Here's the answer I wrote in response:
I think your answer to this depends on your dogmatic presuppositions concerning the nature of the Gospel. Brevard Childs would obviously take the canonical option, but theologically he was a Barthian. I think Childs' canonical approach can be greatly elucidated if you take into account Barth's concept of the "three times of the word," the nature of the texts as "witness" to revelation, and his understanding of the gospel as something which arises out of the dialectical interplay of the two testaments. Childs was also a fan of Hermann Diem, who wrote concerning the kerygmatic nature of the text that Jesus is both the subject and the object of the proclamation, during his earthly ministry but also afterwards in the preaching of the apostles. I think he extends this to the OT, thus giving theological legitimacy to tradition-criticism. Childs' canonical approach (which Baukham is inevitably referencing here) grew out of a tradtion-critical approach, arguing that if one is consistent then one must take the final form as authoritative given its critical nature in relation to earlier levels.
Sometimes, when I read the stuff I write, I wonder if it makes any sense to those outside the speciliased circle of an initiated few.
[HT Vox Stefani]
Eine Fürbitte für die Christen im Irak
Liturg: Gütiger und barmherziger Gott,
wir legen unsere Hände zusammen
und halten Fürbitte für die verfolgten Christen im Irak:
Gott, Ruhe und Sicherheit
gibt es noch immer nicht im Irak.
Die Situation ist so verworren, wie nie zuvor.
Die Bevölkerung lebt in großer Angst
und ihre Hoffnung wird kleiner
angesichts der vielen Anschläge und der vielen Toten.
So viele Menschen sind auf der Flucht -
Christen, Muslime, Yeziden,
Mandäer, Kurden, Araber, Turkmenen -
der ganze Irak scheint unterwegs zu sein.
Wo gibt es Sicherheit, wo Schutz, wo Geborgenheit
in diesem friedlosen und von Gewalt erschütterten Land?
Wann wird dieses geschundene Land
endlich im Frieden leben dürfen?
Gott, wir machen uns große Sorgen
um unsere christlichen Brüder und Schwestern -
grausame Nachrichten erreichen uns fast täglich,
sie müssen, um ihr Leben bangen.
Von fanatischen Islamisten werden sie gejagt und vertrieben.
Ihre Gotteshäuser sind Zielscheibe von Zerstörungen.
Gott, wir können es nicht fassen,
dass Christen im Irak wegen ihres Glaubens
Stärke die Kraft ihres Glaubens;
halte deine Hand über alle,
die Angst haben;
gib ihnen Menschen zur Seite,
die sie schützen und für sie beten;
Gott, wir denken an die vielen Flüchtlinge unter den Christen,
die aus Angst ihre Heimat verlassen haben,
deren Familien auseinander gerissen sind,
die um einen ihrer Lieben trauern.
Vor unseren Augen vollzieht sich gegenwärtig
der größte Exodus von Christen weltweit.
Wir denken an die Kinder,
die heimatlos geworden sind;
wir denken an die Eltern, die nicht wissen,
wie es mit ihnen in Jordanien und Syrien weitergeht;
Wir denken aber auch an die Menschen,
die sich um diese Flüchtlinge kümmern,
die sie begleiten und trösten.
Gib ihnen Kraft, barmherziger Gott,
und Mut für diesen wichtigen Dienst.
Inner-referentiality in the New Testament and the Scriptures as "divine vehicle"
The effect is that a knowledge of the whole New Testament corpus emerges as an actual literary force in shaping once independent writings into a unified composition.
Thursday, 28 August 2008
The Spirit, Bonhoeffer and Gunkel
“The coercion of the biblical text occurred in different ways, often matching the unique personalities of each interpreter, but theirs was always a stance of reception. ... In every case, the Scriptures were the vehicle for the transformation of perspective.” (204)
“The Bible begins with God’s free affirmation, ... free revelation of himself. . . . In the beginning, out of freedom, out of nothing, God created the heavens and the earth. This is the comfort with which the Bible addresses us . . . who are anxious before the false void, the beginning without a beginning and the end without an end. It is the gospel, it is the resurrected Christ of whom one is speaking here. God is in the beginning and he will be in the end. . . . The fact that he lets us know this is mercy, grace, forgiveness and comfort.” (Creation and Fall: A Theological Interpretation of Genesis 1-3 (London: SCM, 1959), 11, 16.)
“was a new perception of the reality of God and a fresh grappling with the substance of the Bible as providing the true content of the Christian faith.” (206)
Sefer ha-Bloggadah - what a great blog name!
We're studying all of Sefer Ha-Aggadah, a little bit every day for 2 years, and blogging it as we go.
Compiled by the Hebrew poet Hayim Nachman Bialik and the editor Yehoshua Ravnitsky, it is a collection of thousands of stories and folklore from the Talmud and throughout rabbinic literature, from the creation of the world to the world to come.
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
The Spirit and inspiration in theological exegesis
“they were regarded so not only because of their divine source, but also by their assigned role as medium of God’s continuing communication.” ("Speech-Act theory," 379).
“The crucial action of rendering the human words of the past as the continuing divine message – the rendering of human speech into divine speech – was achieved by the promise of the Holy Spirit” (Ibid. 380; cf. John 14:26; Acts 1:8, 16; 1 Cor. 2:10, 13).
“the human words were not appropriated, changed or semantically filtered, but illuminated in their original temporal form as a divine vehicle.” (Ibid.)
A new Biblical Theology blog
This blog exists for the glory of God, in service to the church, to promote the study and discussion of biblical theology’s history, methodology, aims, achievements, developments, direction, and points of contact with other approaches to the study of the Bible. This will be a collaborative effort, and the purpose of this post is to introduce the contributors to the blog.The blog has an impressive cast of moderators (with the promise of more):
Dr. Desi Alexander is Director of Christian Training for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, based at Union Theological College, having previously lectured for nearly 20 years in Semitic Studies at the Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK. He co-edited the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (IVP) and has recently written a book on biblical theology, From Eden to the New Jerusalem, published in the UK by IVP and coming out soon in the US from Kregel. An elder in Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, he is married to Anne, and they have two children, Jane and David.
Dr. Michael Bird is Tutor in New Testament at the Highland Theological College in Dingwall, Scotland. He is an Australian and holds a Ph.D from the University of Queensland. Michael’s research interests include the historical Jesus, the Gospel of Mark, Pauline theology, New Testament theology, and Christian origins. He is married to Naomi and they have two children and together they attend Dingwall Baptist Church.
Dr. Steve Dempster is the Stuart E. Murray Professor of Religious Studies at Atlantic Baptist University, New Brunswick, Canada. He is the author of Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible, and he contributed to the Anchor Bible Dictionary, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, and Biblical Theology: Retrospect and Prospect.
Dr. Jim Hamilton is Associate Professor of Biblical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, USA, having previously served as Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Houston campus and as the preaching pastor at Baptist Church of the Redeemer. He is married to Jill, and they have three sons.
Posting from Ireland, Scotland (by an Australian), Canada, and the United States, we are excited about the international character of this blog, and we hope it will serve you well. We seek to know God in Christ by the power of the Spirit as revealed in the Bible.
Justin Taylor is evidently responsible for the idea for the blog. The tone has already been set by the Evangelical Text Criticism blog, as summarized by P.J. Williams, who wrote
I want this forum to be robust in two ways: first, it is not going to be embarrassed about believing that the Bible is true and that the Bible is made up of particular words which come from God. Secondly, it is going to be a place where we discuss textual criticism based on a familiarity with the issues involved. . . .I look forward to hearing more!
The blog will not generally try to justify the historic evangelical perspective that says that the inspired text of the Bible is Greek for the NT and Hebrew (or Aramaic) for the OT. Justifications may emerge within this group, but it will be more profitable to those involved if we take this as our basis.
What is said there about text criticism can be applied here about biblical theology, and we hope you will find this blog profitable.
Hmmm ... the question is: which blog roll do I add them to: "biblical studies" or "theology"?
[Hat tip: Celucien Joseph of the blog Christ my Righteousness]
Die unerträglichen Qualen der Christen im Irak
- Deutsche Freikirchen fordern von Politikern Soforthilfe für Irakische Flüchtlinge
- Die unerträglichen Qualen der Christen im Irak
- Irakische Flüchtlinge bitten Christen der Welt um Solidarität
Die Liste der Gräueltaten gegen Christen im Irak ist lang: Schutzgelder werden erpresst, Läden geplündert, gebrandschatzt und enteignet, Kirchen in die Luft gesprengt, Mädchen vergewaltigt und zwangsislamisiert, Priester enthauptet oder gekreuzigt. Deutschland setzt sich in der EU für die Aufnahme von Flüchtlingen ein.
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
The divine and human authorship of Scripture
The question arises, how was it possible that fallible human words could have been received as words from God?
Eisenbrauns' August Web Sale
David and Zion
Biblical Studies in Honor of J. J. M. Roberts
Edited by Bernard F. Batto and Kathryn Roberts
xxvi + 444 pages, English
Cloth, 6 x 9
List Price: $55.00
Your Price: $11.00
A God So Near
Essays on Old Testament Theology in Honor of Patrick D. Miller
Edited by Brent A. Strawn and Nancy R. Bowen
xviii + 439 pages, English
List Price: $59.50
Your Price: $17.85
Unfortunately, by the time I got to check out I realised that postage and packaging (for Germany) had doubled the price ($22), so I decided to stick to interlibrary loan in Germany. Nevertheless, a bargain for those who live in the States (who represent the bulk of my readership)!
Monday, 25 August 2008
On handling continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Testament
I argued in my literal/spiritual sense of scripture thread that the literal sense must be preserved from being subsumed in a construal of its "spiritual" referent. In the same way, the the integrity of the two testaments must be preserved in their joint witness to their one theological reality. As Childs says,
“The Old Testament bears its true witness as the Old which remains distinct from the New. It is promise not fulfilment. Yet its voice continues to sound and it has not been stilled by the fulfilment of the promise” (Biblical Theology, 77)This fact should warn Biblical theologians against the extremes of overemphasising either continuity or discontinuity between the two testaments. On the one hand, the New Testament is neither the culmination of a unified traditio-historical trajectory nor a midrashic extension of the Hebrew Scriptures. On the other hand, the designation of the Old Testament as “old” is not a reference to its failure and rejection. The canonical relationship is far more complex, in which the Old is understood by its relation to the New, but the New is incomprehensible apart from the Old. The Christian canon asserts the continuing integrity of the Old Testament witness, so that it must be heard on its own terms. Yet the New Testament too tells its own story in which something totally new enters the picture. The complexity of the issue is seen in the fact that this totally new witness is borne in terms of the old, and thereby transforms the Old Testament. In reflecting on the whole Christian Bible with its two very different voices, it must be borne in mind that there is no one overarching hermeneutical theory by which to resolve the tension. The continuing challenge of Biblical theology
“is to engage in the continual activity of theological reflection which studies the canonical text in detailed exegesis, and seeks to do justice to the witness of both testaments in the light of its subject matter who is Jesus Christ" (Childs, Bilbical Theology, 78).
This is the last post in my thread on the two-testamental nature of Christian scripture, a subset of my overall look at traditional Christian exegesis. My next thread will deal with the issue of divine and human authorship of Scripture.
The Transcendence of God and Human Historicity
At the moment we are especially interested in how this paradigm deals with the dimension of transcendence. The simplest answer is that the method encourages either antagonism or neutrality toward the presence of such a dimension. Altizer, for example, says, “We inherit the historical revolution of the nineteenth centruy, a revolution which stripped all historical events of a transcendent ground” (Thomas J.J., The New Apocalypse, xiv). In the less enthusiastic words of A.E. Loen, the historical process has been “de-divinized,” since the message of the Bible comes to be seen as “determined exclusively by historical factors.” The sequence of historical events is sundered from its metaphysical ground, so that “forgetfulness of the sphere of being robs history of its essence, just as it robs man of his.” (Secularization, 7, 10).
Minear concludes his chapter with the following words of wisdom:
Can exegetes transfer that task to the preacher and the theologian and limit their own work to the business of objective historical description? Should they do this, their decision will reflect their mastery by the paradigm of historical science as well as mastery over it. (pp. 40-41)
The task of contemporary exegetes is to allow Scripture itself to criticize both the assumptions and the methods that are used in its study. They must listen also, of course, to secular historians and to theologians. Success in their task will be possible only through a conviction that the temporal distance between this and earlier centruies is itself bridged by the eternal purpose of God and by the participation of the church in that purpose. But it will also be possible only if there is more effective collaboration between historians and theologians. Even the ideal cooperation among scholars, however, will never lead to reducing God's transcendence to the size of our various conceptual boxes. (49).Oh how not only the academy but also the church needs to hear this!
A completed thread on A. Louth's Discerning the Mystery
Incarnation and Childs' subtle dialectic
The Bible in its human, fully time-conditioned form, functions theologically for the church as a witness to God's divine revelation in Jesus Christ. The church confesses that in this human form, the Holy Spirit unlocks its truthful message to its hearers in the mystery of faith. This theological reading cannot be simply fused with a historical reconstruction of the biblical text, nor conversely, neither can it be separated. This is to say, the Bible's witness to the creative and salvific activity of God in time and space cannot be encompassed with the categories of historical criticism whose approach filters out this very kerygmatic dimension of God's activity. In a word, the divine and human dimensions remain inseparably intertwined, but in a highly profound, theological manner. Its ontological relation finds its closest analogy in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, truly man and truly God.Brevard Childs, "The Canon in Recent Biblical Studies: Reflections on an Era, " Pro Ecclesia 14 (2005): 44-45.
For the perfect compliment to these reflections, see my post on The transcendence of God and human historicity.
I should add that Hyperekperissou has made some related comments in relation to a forthcoming book review on Augustine and the Psalms.
Sunday, 24 August 2008
Disturbing trends in Eastern Orthodoxy?
“We deplore those who are led astray — those Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, evangelicals, Pentecostals and many others who cut Christ’s robes like bandits, who are like the soldiers who crucified Christ, who ripped apart Christ’s holy coat."
Barth and Bultmann on Romans: Who's the better exegete?
Barth was a horrible exegete. His Romans commentary is Paul Lite. 99% Barth, 1% Paul. Barth was a theologian much more than an exegete.
One thing about Bultmann is that he was very honest, ... . He clearly makes distinctions between what he believes as a "modern" reader of Scripture, and what the writer of the text believed. With Barth, you get his ideas and theology, and these can be brilliant, but there is often a disconnect with the text if you are looking for anything resembling exegesis.
My main point:
I have also recently posted on the relation between Bultmann, exegesis, and ideology.
Saturday, 23 August 2008
Some thoughts on Bultmann's birthday
What is interesting to me (if this analysis is correct) is that Heidegger's essentialist philosophy helps Bultmann to see what is there, it opens his eyes, so to speak; it helps him get to what the Bible “is really all about.” Without this broader philosophical understanding, we would be blinded by the fact that the “primitive” thought of the NT actually believed that God interacts in history. Our more developed, modern world-view would “get in the way,” and so existentialist analysis of being helps us discern what Jesus and the disciples were all about.
The intertextual reader-writer
The intertextual reader-writer does not always look for a fixed meaning of a word or phrase, but for a more fluid possibility. The intertextual reader-writer is always looking for how a text refers to other "texts," sometimes as a simile, sometimes as a parody, sometimes as a presupposition. The intertextual reader-writer uses other texts to say more than is apparent in the printed text - words and even worlds hidden between the lines, and meanings are formed from a variety of spheres of reference.
Friday, 22 August 2008
Two testaments, four gospels: the hermeneutical significance of juxtaposition
the influence of the Old Testament on the individual shaping of the Gospels belongs to the level of the New Testament’s compositional history and cannot be directly related to the formation of the Christian Bible qua collection. This means that the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament, either by direct citation or allusion, cannot provide a central category for Biblical Theology because this cross-referencing operates on a different level. There is no literary or theological warrant for assuming that the forces which shaped the New Testament can be simply extended to the level of Biblical Theology involving theological reflection on both testaments (Biblical Theology, 76).
What does Barth mean when he says that the criterion of truth is the "essential being of the church"?
Pornography and murder: an interview with Ted Bundy
The issue of pornography has concerned me in other posts. I have linked to a video documentary analysing teenage porn addiction in Britain as well as an interview with an ex-porn producer turned trainee pastor.
Thursday, 21 August 2008
The relation of the New Testament to the Old
This is an issue that Childs wrestled with throughout his career. In my review of his theological approach (summarized here), the categorization of the biblical text as a "witness" has consistently been of fundamental significance. I've summarized Childs on this issue in my post, Canonical Process and the Text as "witness."
The choice to see the text as “witness” to something beyond itself (its substance, which for Childs is God, Christ, the regula fidei, the divine reality etc.) also plays a central role in contemplating the nature of the relationship between the two testaments. According to Childs, the juxtaposition of the two testaments to form the Christian Bible arose, not simply to establish a historical continuity between Israel and the church, but above all as an affirmation of a theological continuity. In other words, it was believed that in some way the unity of the two testaments lay in its theological referent. How exactly these two testaments were to be correlated in order to witness to this reality most fully has been a matter of debate for centuries. The two testamental nature of the Christian Bible consists of simply a juxtaposition of two entities, and this juxtaposition has led to a number of strategies by which to understand the nature of the relationship, such as the one purpose of God, the one redemptive history, the one people of God, prophecy and fulfilment, law and gospel, shadow and substance, etc. [*]
Rather than arguing for the appropriateness of this or that construal (though see my comments on prophecy and fulfilment), in my next post I will look at the theological significance of this simple juxtaposition of two testaments, which is comparable to the juxtaposition of the four gospels.
[*] See Childs' Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments, 74.
Balance: a video
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
Bibliography for the figural reading of scripture
I've only read the article by Childs, which is exciting as ever, but I intend to work through the rest in due course. Any thoughts on the others?
J. Barr, "Allegory and Typology," in Old and New in Interpretation (Harper & Row, 1966), 103-48.
B.S. Childs, "Allegory and Typology within Biblical Interpretation" (unpublished paper delivered at the University of St Andrews, April 2000).
H. Crouzel, "The Interpretation of Scripture," in Origen (ET; T&T Clark, 1989).
R. Greer, Theodore of Mopsuestia: Exegete and Theologian (The Faith Press, 1961).
___, Broken Lights and Mended Lives (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1986).
A. Louth, Discerning the Mystery (Oxford, 1983).
T.E. Pollard, "The Exegesis of Scripture and the Arian Controversy," BJRL 41 (1958-9), 414-29.
M. Simonetti, Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church (T&T Clark, 1994).
K. Torjesen, Hermeneutical Procedure and Theological Method (de Gruyter, 1986).
J.W. Trigg, Origen: The Bible and Philosophy in the Third Century (SCM, 1985)
___, "Allegory," in Encyclodpedia of Early Christianity (2d ed.; Garland, 1998)
Frances Young, "Exegetical Method and Scriptural Proof: The Bible in Doctrinal Debate," Studia Patristica 29 (1989) 291-304.
___, "Allegory and the Ethics of Reading," in The Open Text. New Directions for Biblical Studies? (F. Watson, ed.; SPCK, 1993)
___, "Typology," in Crossing the Boundaries: Essays in Biblical Interpretation in Honour of Michael D. Goulder (S.E. Porter, P. Joyce, D.E. Orton, eds.; E.J. Brill, 1994) 29-48.
___, Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture (Cambridge University Press, 1997).
I note that R. N. Longnecker's Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period (Paternoster Press, 1992) isn't on the list. I randomly bought the book at the age of 19 (?) from a Doulos ship and still haven't got round to reading it. I hear he's critical of patristic interpretation ... Is that why he's excluded from this list?
Brueggemann audio online
Monday, 18 August 2008
Some quotes for the Valley of the Shadow of Death
It's an odd world we live in. In that time I collected the following quotes in my Facebook account that reflected my mood and situation. I figured that now I'm at a new stage in my life I need to find some new ones.
"When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul ....I have no Faith." (Mother Teresa)
"I am a child of doubt and unbelief. What terrible suffering it has cost me and still costs me, this longing to believe, which is so much the stronger in my soul as more arguments against it rise up within me. ... My 'hosanna' has passed thorugh the crucible of doubt." (F. Dostoyevski)
"Truly God is good to ... those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.... All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.... If I had said, "I will speak thus,"I would have betrayed the generation of your children.But when I thought how to understand this,it seemed to me a wearisome task,until I went into the sanctuary of God;then I discerned their end.... But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,that I may tell of all your works." (Psalm 73)
He has put eternity into man's mind, yet in such a way that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3.11)
He has showed you, O man, what is good;and what does the LORD require of youbut to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
If you would be the light, you must endure the burning (a French monk)
Sunday, 17 August 2008
Musical appropriation of the Psalms (and why I dig Gregorian chant)
and Anglican plain song:
(Richard has also posted audio clips of Psalms 8, 90 and 100 [their source is here]).
I've been looking for ways to appropriate the Psalms in my own devotional life. They are practically non-existent, as far as the Free Churches that I know go. The one I'm at now is an exception, in that we read a Psalm about once a month.
Luckily, a Gregorian chant fanatic at the Protestant faculty here in Bonn has led a course on the subject over the past two semesters. I only had time to visit 3/4 of the first and the singing of the Divine Office to round of the second and I've since become a major fan. I'm not sure what it is, but that monotone somehow helps carry me through the endless text. I feel like I'm floating, observing the content of the Psalm from above. It's as if the "music" creates a space in which I can be alone with the Psalm. This was brought home to me as we chanted a particularly bloodthirsty psalm. On the one hand, the aesthetic of the chapel with the mellow candels, chilled atmosphere and gentle chant didn't gel well with a text about destroying our enemies and grinding their bones into dust. On the other hand, from that "chanting state," I was able to look down from above,as it were, and oberserve what was going on in a different dimension of realty.
I now do it everyday on my own and have managed to stick to it far more consistently than other projects I've tried ... so far. I find that it provides an especially healthy corrective to my otherwise intellectualized engagement with the text, which tends to rush over stuff that one normally thinks "one already understands." It also holds me back from my usual rush to extend my knowledge by reading more and more rather than reading deeper and deeper, which requires far more patience and a special disposition. Oh, and the last benefit of Gregorian chanting, it simply helps me remember the text better. I need less and less read the text and recite everything by heart, which also has the advantage that I can do it wherever I want.
Sister Macrina, Citercian nun and authoress of the blog A Vow of Conversation, has linked to her Abbey in Holland, where you can listen to the sisters chanting the divine office in Gregorian chant, a large percentage of which is psamoldy. You can even watch them on video.
Thursday, 14 August 2008
Comic of the Day: The creative process
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
Video lecture of Marcus Borg's Religious Pluralism: Seeing Religions Again
Most helpfully, David posts a detailed outline of the major points of the lecture in order to make it easier to follow. To save myself from stealing too much from someone else's post, I'll post the video clip here and link you to his course outline here.
I should add that I posted a short critique Christopher Seitz made of Borg here, drawing on Augustine.
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
A psalmic pop-group: The Sons of Korah
Richard of תהלים links to a interesting band from Australia, The Sons of Korah. Their music consists in one thing only: singing the Psalms. And I don't think worship music can get any better than that. The leader singer has a PhD in theology/philosphy and has even written a commentary to every Psalm that has appeared on their various albums.
Monday, 11 August 2008
The Passing of a Palestinian Poet: Mahmoud Darwish
Sunday, 10 August 2008
Jewish and Christian appropriation of the Law of Moses
This is a complex area, Jewish and Christian hermeneutics. I think B.S. Childs had the best insights, but his views are hard to understand and not particularly systematically worked out in one place (they presume a knowledge of other works, such as Barth and Hägglund, which I'm still trying to get through). His point is that regardless of the hermeneutic we use to interpret the Bible, it is always undergirded by a specific theology. Christianity inherited the Old Testament as Holy Scripture, just like the Jews, but how it functioned within the community was different. This is seen in the fact that for Jews midrash was the primary mode for appropriating Scripture, whereas for Christians it was allegory. For the Jews, with their focus on Torah as the centre of Scripture, there was a strong emphasis on making the various parts fit into an interconnected whole which could then be put into practice. The boundaries of the canon, the order of the books, the language of the text, where all firmly fixed so that the text could be "applied" as strictly as possible. The church however, confessed that the centre of Scripture is Christ. The text was seen to point beyond itself to another reality, which was not necessarily to be identified with the literal meaning of the text but which as the same time could only be accessed via it. Hence the development of "allegory" as a means of moving beyond the literal and on to the spiritual sense.
This has implications for how the church appropriates the law. Along with the rest of Scripture, it can't be taken literally - read "legalistically," - as to do so runs the danger of missing the real point. The law is connected with God's eschatological will for His people and makes ultimate sense within that framework. Reading it in the light of Christ, then, provides the church with the angle of reading that can open up what the text "is really all about," what its true kerygmatic function is within the overall economy of God.
This doesn't give you a concrete answer, but I think it shows a starting point. I think the hermeneutical implication is that for the Christian the narrative framework relativizes the legal content by placing it within its utlimate eschatological framework (e.g. Genesis 12.1-3). I don't know how a Jew relates law and narrative in this sense. A great way of seeing these two different theological hermeneutics at work is to look at the history of interpretation. Childs' 1974 commentary on Exodus does this helpfully. I strongly recommend you get hold of it and read the section on the Ten Commandments. He outlines the history of thought and looks for general trends, differences and similarities between the two traditions.
The fate of Israeli Hebrew ...
The revival of Hebrew "is often hailed as one of the greatest feats of the Zionist enterprise; today Hebrew is the first language of millions of Israelis, a loquacious and literary nation that is said to publish an average of 5,500 books a year.
But in a country where self-doubt and insecurity run deep, even a linguistic triumph can be a cause for concern. After such a meteoric comeback, some worry that the common language may already be in decline, popularized to the point where many Israelis can no longer cope with the rich complexities of traditional Hebrew prose.
There is the creeping foreign influence, as urban sophisticates pepper their Hebrew speech with accented English affectations like “please,” “sorry” and “whatever,” along with a noticeable loss of nuance and relative paucity of vocabulary in regular use.
But he [Rosenthal, a popular Hebrew guru] and other Hebrew watchers point to a potentially more disturbing trend: living Hebrew has moved at a fast pace, and in the process, it has become increasingly estranged from its loftier ancient form.
“We used to understand the biblical language better, and our language was closer to it,” said Ronit Gadish, academic secretary of the Academy of the Hebrew Language, the state’s supreme guardian of the national tongue. “Now, what can we do to keep up the continuity?”After reviewing the historical development of the language, the author's conclusion is particularly interesting:
Mr. Birnbaum, like most of the experts, views what is apparently the deterioration of Hebrew as a natural process, if it can be considered degeneration at all. The reality, they say, is not as bad as it sounds. Rather, the anxiety may stem less from the state of Hebrew and more from the Israeli state of mind.
“It comes from a lack of security,” said Mr. Rosenthal, who was born in 1948 and explained the linguistic qualms as part of the collective summing up of the past 60 years. “The state of Israel has no confidence in its continued existence.”
The language may have moved on since the days of the prophets, but perhaps the sense of doom has not.