Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Final version of my doctoral thesis

This blog has been sleeping for quite some time now (eight months, to be precise). As I wrote in my last post, I needed to prioritize in order to get my thesis in on time. I did in fact get it done by August, just in time to become a full-time stay-at-home dad. In the meantime I've done all the editing and I finally handed in the final product on October 21st. The viva voce is set for December 20th, which will hopefully mean that I'll get a doctorate for Christmas! My two external examiners are Walter Moberly and Neil B. MacDonald, i.e. an Old Testament guy and a systematic theologian. It is the interface between these two disciplines that excites me most so I'm really looking forward to the conversation we'll have!

Here is the abstract I handed in with the final form:
This thesis seeks to contribute to the theory and practice of theological interpretation by explicating the inner coherence of B.S. Childs’ “canonical approach” and by exemplifying that approach in an interpretation of Psalm 24.
Part 1 concerns the theory. In this section I argue that Childs’ approach rests upon a particular understanding of the nature of the Biblical text. In short, it has a twofold function, that of witnessing to the reality of God and that of shaping the community of faith in light of that reality. The God to whom it witnesses is himself involved in this witnessing activity in that he both evokes and infuses the tradition with his Spirit so that he may be known. The hermeneutical implication is that interpretation must attempt to grasp the reality “behind” the text while respecting the particular form in which that reality has been rendered. The result is a multi-level approach to interpretation involving a continuous dialectic between the witness (verbum) and its content (res). The affirmation of the nature of Scripture as an ongoing vehicle of revelation also implies the significance of the history of faithful Christian interpretation.
Part 2 seeks to exemplify this approach by showing how such a multi-level interpretation of Psalm 24 is both possible and fruitful for our understanding of the reality to which it witnesses. I achieve this by moving through several stages. After reviewing contemporary methodology, I first provide a poetic analysis of the Psalm and conclude that it witnesses to the economy of God in a bid to call Israel to realize its true identity. I then provide a hypothesis of how the final form of the psalm is a result of a tradition historical process with its roots in the pre-exilic temple liturgy. This historical perspective not only clarifies the poetic shape of the psalm, it provides a bridge to discussing the question of the nature of the reality experienced within Israel’s cult. I conclude that there is a parallel between the structure of this reality and the shape of Ps 24. I then both confirm and attempt to deepen our understanding of this reality by following canonical pointers internal to the psalm to three other bodies of text: Samuel, the Psalter, and Isaiah. Key to this broader context is the agency of the David found in Ps 24’s superscription. I conclude my analysis by suggesting how a better grasp of the divine economy in the light of Christ may help us better understand the inner unity of Ps 24 itself.
As always, I'd be delighted to hear any feedback and criticisms.