Thursday, 3 July 2014

My ISBL Vienna papers

I fly to Vienna tomorrow to take part in the International Society of Biblical Literature conference. I'll be giving three papers. For one of them I will be part of a panel reviewing Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation: III/1: The Nineteenth Century (ed. Magne Sæbø; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013). Other panel members will be Mark Elliot, Michael Legaspi, and Manfred Oeming.

Here are the abstracts of the other two papers:

Comparison of Childs’ Exodus and Isaiah Commentaries: continuity and development

A common misconception of the development of Brevard Childs’ thought is that he first started out as a historical critic, interested in diachronic questions and the history of tradition, and later took a more theological turn, eschewing diachronic analysis to focus exclusively on the final form of the text. This view, however, misunderstands the way Childs’ appreciation of the final form was grounded in a certain kind of diachronic consideration, one which factored the reality of the theological source of the tradition into his appreciation of its nature. It was this that led to his later development of final-form interpretation. As such, Childs’ later work as an interpreter of the canonical context is a natural extension of his earlier work as an interpreter of the development of that context. Yet these two dimensions—the “diachronic” and the “synchronic” (terms Childs hardly used)—remained intimately connected throughout his career. My thesis is that the real development in his thought involves less an abandonment of the uncertainties of speculative reconstructions in favour of the church’s traditional and apparently more objective text than a growing appreciation of and confidence in talking about the ontological reality of God as a factor in the Bible’s creation. This thesis can be illustrated by comparing the only two full-length scholarly commentaries written Childs, both of which roughly bracket his career. His first commentary on Exodus was written during 1970s before he had even coined the term “canonical approach,” the second on Isaiah was written in 2002 towards the end of his life, at a time when the term “canonical” had started to become problematic for him. This paper will demonstrate that in both commentaries Childs worked with the same exegetical logic. The difference is that in the latter commentary Childs’ relative decrease in confidence about the reliability or usefulness of diachronic reconstruction is accompanied by an increase in his confidence in using theo-ontological categories to describe the forces at work in the production of the text.

The Canonical Function of Psalm 24 and Isaiah 33

Scholars have long noted a generic connection between Psalm 24 and Isaiah 33: both texts appear to have drawn on a now lost liturgical ritual associated with the temple in order to render a new message. Yet how are we to gauge that new message?  Over the last few decades there has been an increasing awareness that often latterly textualized Biblical traditions received their form and function within the context of a broader literary whole, relating to that whole in various ways. The argument of this paper is that Ps 24 and Isa 33 not only draw on a common generic source, they have also received a similar canonical function within the context of their respective books, the first book of the Psalter and the book of Isaiah. This thesis will defended by describing how this ancient liturgical pattern has now been rendered according to a similar eschatological schema in both texts, and how these texts now function as summaries and hermeneutical horizons within their respective literary contexts for the material that both precedes and follows them. In conclusion the question will be raised as to the relation between cultic experience and canonical form.