Saturday, 21 March 2009

Biblical 'figuration' as literary technique

According to Seitz, the Biblical text bears “witness to a process of tradition-building” (72) in which a particular conceptuality concerning time and providence was at stake. This conceptuality was inherently theological and it was the task of the tradents of the Biblical tradition to pass it on to the next generation. Given this fact, what was the best means available to the tradents for capturing, preserving, and communicating this conceptuality? According to Seitz, Israelite prophecy, including its Wirkungsgeschichte within the community, is inherently figural. The term figural denotes both a literary phenomenon and a hermeneutical intention. Today I quote Seitz on figuration as literary phenomenon, tomorrow as hermeneutical intention.

As literary phenomenon, figuration is

the means by which temporally distinct witnesses have been intentionally associated in the material form of their canonical presentation. The way this has been achieved is diverse in application. Entire books have been crafted in order to deliver their intention in association with prior, written witnesses. The effect is by no means monolithic, due to the reciprocal way in which a fresh witness affects and is affected by its association with (literarily) prior and later books. On other occasions, editorial linkages establish connections between books with a prior history of development. Technical studies are available that provide speculations about the nature of the various moves that now correlate the witnesses of the Twelve Minor Prophets … (249).
For a related and fascinating post from a New Testament perspective, see my Christian eschatology and historical methodology: the case of John.

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