Old Testament Theology Recent Approaches to Biblical Theology

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Old Testament Theology Recent Approaches to Biblical Theology

Old Testament Theology Recent Approaches to Biblical Theology

Johannes Gabler Most biblical scholars regard the inaugural address of thirty-three year old Johann

Johannes Gabler Most biblical scholars regard the inaugural address of thirty-three year old Johann Philipp Gabler at the University of Altdorf (March 30, 1787) as the general starting point for discussing the birth of Biblical theology. Most significant was his argument that dogmatic theology and biblical theology are separate undertakings. Biblical theology was in and of itself a discipline independent of dogmatic theology.

Gabler’s Distinction between Biblical and Systematic Theologies Accordingly, Biblical Theology was an historical enterprise,

Gabler’s Distinction between Biblical and Systematic Theologies Accordingly, Biblical Theology was an historical enterprise, while Systematic (Dogmatic) Theology was to arrange the teachings of the Bible considered to be universally and eternally true into a coherent order. n The way to approach biblical theology was historically, i. e. , through historical criticism in order to understand theology of individual books of the Bible. n

University of Altdorft (center)

University of Altdorft (center)

The Rise of Historical Criticism Julius Wellhausen (1884 to 1918) Since the latter part

The Rise of Historical Criticism Julius Wellhausen (1884 to 1918) Since the latter part of the 19 th century, historical criticism has dominated most Old Testament Research. The goal is the reconstruction of the history and religion of ancient Israel. Theologically, however, this approach has locked the biblical text largely in the past. The question that has emerged in the 20 th and now into the 21 st centuries is, “What does the Old Testament say to us in the contemporary world? Historical criticism, concerned with the past, cannot deal with religious faith in the present.

Karl Barth, Epistle to the Romans n Karl Barth (1886 -1968), who became the

Karl Barth, Epistle to the Romans n Karl Barth (1886 -1968), who became the most significant theologian of the twentieth century, broke the strong grip of the history of religions approach on Biblical studies with the appearance of his commentary, Der Römerbrief, in 1919, only a year following the end of the Great War. While Swiss, Barth was teaching at Bonn when Hitler became the Führer of Germany. Barth was expelled from Germany when he refused to take the oath of loyalty to Hitler and participated in the Confessing Church against the Nazi tyranny. He returned to his native Switzerland joined the faculty of Basel where he

Karl Barth

Karl Barth

The Word of God n Barth emphasized that theological key to the interpretation of

The Word of God n Barth emphasized that theological key to the interpretation of the Bible resided in the Word of God that was located in Scripture and the believing community and not in human religious experience or in the social and cultural life of human beings. He insisted theology must be relevant to the life of the contemporary church, while the Bible was to serve as the foundation for that theology. The unifying feature of his Biblical interpretation expressed frequently in his Church Dogmatics is the affirmation that the Bible serves as a witness to the Word of God.

Jesus Christ as the Word of God Barth interpreted Scripture as the authoritative canon,

Jesus Christ as the Word of God Barth interpreted Scripture as the authoritative canon, rather than as a text reconstructed by historical criticism. Scripture contains the Word of God, most fully realized in Jesus Christ, and speaks in human words that comprise proclamation as encounter. n His theology becomes known as Neo. Orthodoxy, which continues today in the form of Neo-Barthianism. n

Walter Eichrodt n A contemporary of Barth, who taught on the same faculty at

Walter Eichrodt n A contemporary of Barth, who taught on the same faculty at Basel, Eichrodt developed the first major Old Testament theology that was to have substantial impact even to the present.

Walther Eichrodt

Walther Eichrodt

Eichrodt’s Old Testament Theology n Walter Eichrodt (1890 -1978), a Reformed minister and German

Eichrodt’s Old Testament Theology n Walter Eichrodt (1890 -1978), a Reformed minister and German colleague of Barth’s at Basel, published the first offprint of his Theology of the Old Testament at the time Hitler assumed power as chancellor of Germany in 1933. He finished his three volume theology in 1939. As he continued to write and teach, he encountered in Germany and the expanding Reich an ideology that included a virulent anti. Semitism. The German Christians (Deutsche Christen) who identified much of the Reich with the Church and the Kingdom of God viewed the Old Testament as a Jewish book to be rejected by those who were National Socialists. Indeed, Eichrodt’s theology that emphasizes the Kingdom of God should be read as contrasting with the important characteristics of German Fascism.

Covenant Theology n The emphasis on covenant and its primary expression at Sinai that

Covenant Theology n The emphasis on covenant and its primary expression at Sinai that continued to inform Israel and the later church was a direct repudiation of fascist Christianity. The covenant of God with the elect nation (Israel and the Church), the world (nature), and humanity is the chief means by which reality is brought into relationship with divine sovereignty.

Gerhard von Rad

Gerhard von Rad

Redemption History n n Viewing the events of salvation as articles of a confession

Redemption History n n Viewing the events of salvation as articles of a confession of faith, von Rad considered the earliest ancient credo to be found in Deut. 26: 5 -9, dating prior to the monarchy. He noted that the latest two traditions, creation and Sinai, were not incorporated into the creedal faith until Neh. 9 in the fifth century, B. C. E. But, if salvation history was the content of early Israelite faith that is developed into narrative and poetic forms, what are we to do with texts that make no mention of these acts? Von Rad’s only recourse, at least until the end of his life, was to consider them as later developments, implying that they possessed less theological value. In addition to rejecting Eichrodt’s systematic formulation, von Rad also opposed natural theology that, cast in a demonic form, was abused by Nazi theologians and sympathizers. For von Rad in 1934 and even after the war he opposed a theology that identified nationalism and the nation as one of the orders of creation, combined with the distorted Romantic emphasis on “blood and soil. ”Indeed, this was likely one reason he gave creation an insignificant place in Old Testament theology.

As a biblical scholar, von Rad was deeply concerned with recovering the history of

As a biblical scholar, von Rad was deeply concerned with recovering the history of Israel. Indeed, he enthusiastically proclaimed “the Old Testament is a history book. ” However, in contrast to Wright's understanding that history should be based on recoverable concrete events in space and time, von Rad contended history was a recounting of saving history (Heilsgeschichte, i. e. traditions of history) that witnessed to God's continuing redemptive actions for Israel and the world. For him, Old Testament history was in essence story or narrative, meaning that it referred to the origins and developments of major traditions of Israelite faith and not to “events” central to formative faith traditions that actually occurred.

Brevard S. Childs

Brevard S. Childs

The Canon as the Context for Biblical Theolog n A student of Walther Eichrodt

The Canon as the Context for Biblical Theolog n A student of Walther Eichrodt and Walther Baumgartner at Basel where he completed his Th. D. , Brevard Childs attended the lectures of Karl Barth and was profoundly influenced by Neo-orthodoxy. In the 1970 s, Childs’ interests shifted to Biblical theology where he began to develop what he considered to be an authentic way of appropriating the faith found in the Biblical books. This new approach, in his view, was not simply another method, but more of a hermeneutical understanding of the formation of the canon and the reception of its faith as divine revelation. The fundamental assertion made repeatedly by Childs is that Scripture is theological context in which authentic, theological affirmations of the church are made

Phyllis Trible

Phyllis Trible

God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality n Trible contends that the very nature of

God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality n Trible contends that the very nature of the Bible is hermeneutical, since it is "a pilgrim wandering through history to merge past and present. " Her book is shaped by "feminist hermeneutics. " By this she means, not an interpretation that only focuses on or is limited to women, but rather the recovery of neglected themes and counter literature which often lie dormant within the text. Yet it is not enough to awaken dormant texts to new life, for "feminism" is a "critique of culture in light of misogyny. " This critique affects all issues of significant hermeneutical import that impact human existence in all of its vicissitudes: race, class, sexuality, ecology, and psychology.

Walter Brueggemann

Walter Brueggemann

Postmodernism and the Theology of Imagination n n Writing as a theologian of the

Postmodernism and the Theology of Imagination n n Writing as a theologian of the Church, Brueggemann sees postmodernism, not as a threat to mainline faith, but rather a much needed vehicle to challenge what he calls “regnant” and “conventional” theologies and epistemologies and their dominant modes of power. Brueggemann contends that our epistemologies are by nature contextual, meaning that one’s reasoning and experiencing are significantly affected by one’s location in the world, including political, social, and geographical features. These contexts are local, meaning that generalities or universal truths cannot be imposed upon them. Epistemology is pluralistic meaning that its affirmations claim assent only with the locality in which it is used and adopted. Objectivity has been revealed to be what the dominant group within a society has wanted the entire society to believe and unquestioningly accept.

Theological Meaning is Continuous, not Static n n We cannot say one interpretation of

Theological Meaning is Continuous, not Static n n We cannot say one interpretation of a text is the final one, since texts continue to be interpreted over and over again. Truth claims, normative claims, and substantive claims (i. e. , that this is a more important theme or view than others) ultimately fail, contends Brueggemann, because the text is endlessly deconstructive. Brueggemann’s own approach is to process the content of the Hebrew Bible through the lens of an active metaphor: testimony. He positions the text imaginatively within the setting of a courtroom in which there is both core and countertestimony that form a continuing, unresolved dialectic. The core witness refers to the numerous claims that are made for the Holy One that frequently appear throughout the text. The counter witness criticizes these claims. This dialectic continues unresolved, both in the Bible and in contemporary theological faith.

Theology is an Unending Dialectic n One could end in skepticism, if the deconstruction

Theology is an Unending Dialectic n One could end in skepticism, if the deconstruction of meaning were only one step toward negation. But of course it never is only one step in Hebrew Scriptures. Because in turn the negation is also regularly deconstructed with new affirmation. And it is the full dialectic that Israel endlessly enacts in its testimony. It is this dialectic that we are to embrace in our journey toward faith.

Marvin A. Sweeney

Marvin A. Sweeney

Jon Levenson n The most vociferous voice among Jewish scholars in the conversation about

Jon Levenson n The most vociferous voice among Jewish scholars in the conversation about Jewish biblical theology is that of Jon Levenson who has flatly rejected the very contention that Jews are interested in this enterprise.

Reasons Jews are Not Interested in Biblical Theology n n For Jews, God’s revelation

Reasons Jews are Not Interested in Biblical Theology n n For Jews, God’s revelation continues beyond the Bible in the ongoing tradition of Mishnah, Talmud, The Commentaries, and modern reflection. Protestant Old Testament theology borders on anti. Semitism, regards Jews as pagans, is written from the perspectives of Sola Scriptura (“Scripture Alone”) in the Reformation, and does not differentiate between the work of the historian and the faith of the believer. This faith, of course, is in Jesus Christ.

Leo G. Perdue

Leo G. Perdue

The Collapse of History n n History is no longer the major paradigm for

The Collapse of History n n History is no longer the major paradigm for interpreting Biblical Theology. Instead, we are witnessing the rise of many different approaches that seek to capture the Old Testament’s theology. In Perdue’s view, Old Testament theology should be both descriptive and constructive. That is, it should attempt to reflect as accurately as possible theology of the Old Testament texts, but then move on to constructive work that attempts to relate the meaning of the text to the present. No biblical theology can by the very nature of the enterprise be purely descriptive, since the questions that are addressed to the text and the means of interpretation arise from the interpreter and his or her contemporary world. This does not mean that the interpreter may redescribe the content of biblical theology according to subjective whim. However, the questions addressed and the answers sought issue from the engagement of the modern interpreter, residing within a contemporary context of religious community and culture, with the biblical

New Approaches to Biblical Theology n n One cannot ignore the historical, social, and

New Approaches to Biblical Theology n n One cannot ignore the historical, social, and geographical context of the interpreter in the shaping of Old Testament theology and its contemporary meaning. However, as Gadamer notes, theology is the fusion of the past with the present; that is, if interpretation is successful, the vision of the person in a contemporary culture fuses with the vision of the classic text. There is a fusion of the horizon emerging from the very practical questions we as human beings bring to the text with the horizon of the text itself. Yet, the process for fusion of horizons is dialogical, for it involves both the questions and answers of our own cultural and social experience and the questions and answers of the Christian classics written in each culture and the Bible.

Two Recent Examples of Old Testament Theology: Canon Theology (Brevard Childs) and Postmodernism (Walter

Two Recent Examples of Old Testament Theology: Canon Theology (Brevard Childs) and Postmodernism (Walter Brueggemann)

Canonical Theology: Brevard Childs n 1923 -2007 “His major contribution to the field was

Canonical Theology: Brevard Childs n 1923 -2007 “His major contribution to the field was his insistence on the importance of the canonical shape and location of all the biblical books, ” says YDS Dean Harold Attridge. “Taking this perspective enabled him to recover the ways in which scripture has been read as a larger whole, with an integral witness to the God of Israel and of Jesus Christ. ”

New Developments in Biblical Theology n Recent years have witnessed a new and influential

New Developments in Biblical Theology n Recent years have witnessed a new and influential direction in Old Testament theology: the move from history to text. This direction, in its various forms, has produced what are considered to be alternatives to history and historical criticism. This direction in biblical study is concerned, not with the history of events residing behind the text or with developing traditions that eventuated in the present canon, but rather with the character, structure, composition, content, and theological status of the text itself. One of these examples is Canon Theology as presented by Brevard Childs

The Canonical Approach: The Canon as Context n Meaning is primarily located, not in

The Canonical Approach: The Canon as Context n Meaning is primarily located, not in the mind of the author or in how the original audience may have understood what was written or said, but rather within the boundaries of the text itself.

The Canonical Approach n n In his Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture,

The Canonical Approach n n In his Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, Brevard Childs pronounced the historical-critical method to be theologically bankrupt. The reason for this bankruptcy, according to Childs, is simple: it does not lead, in his estimation, to Old Testament theology, much less to Biblical theology and then to contemporary hermeneutics in the form of constructive and normative theology for the confessing Church. For Childs, an appropriate approach to the Old Testament recognizes that its books are intrinsically theological and authoritative for believing communities, both in the past and the present.

Canonical Approach n Historical criticism, in Childs' view, has failed theologically because of three

Canonical Approach n Historical criticism, in Childs' view, has failed theologically because of three key omissions: first, it has ignored the canonical form of the text that bears the authority and normative value of Scripture given it by the community of faith. Second, historical criticism has failed to understand the “canonical process” that eventually construed the final shape of Old Testament books. And third, historical criticism has typically ignored the creative dynamic operating between sacred books and the communities that not only produced them, but also came to honor them as normative and authoritative.

Canonical Approach n It is clear that Childs often uses historicalcritical tools in pointing

Canonical Approach n It is clear that Childs often uses historicalcritical tools in pointing to the canonical process at work in the religious community and in analyzing the canonical form of the final text. However, he indicates the method does not, in and of itself, lead to an appreciation for and understanding of theology of the text.

Canonical Approach n n Two fundamental assertions reside at the basis of Childs’ approach:

Canonical Approach n n Two fundamental assertions reside at the basis of Childs’ approach: first, the canon, not history, is the proper and primary context for interpretation. This means, among other things, that the interpretation of a single text occurs within the entire canon. Second, Childs argues that the Old Testament is a normative, authoritative collection of texts Biblical texts were intentionally shaped by communities of faith to address a Word of God to future generations.

Canonical Approach n Childs seeks to demonstrate that a canonical process was at work,

Canonical Approach n Childs seeks to demonstrate that a canonical process was at work, although only recoverable in part, throughout the growth of the Bible. In other words, people standing within communities of faith were actively at work to shape sacred texts that would address not only themselves, but also later generations. This is seen, for example in the formation of Deuteronomy, the “second law” that reshapes older legal traditions and allows them to address later generations. This is also apparent in Jeremiah, whose prophetic words, are reformulated into lengthy sermons in order to allow the prophet to speak to generations after the fall of Jerusalem in 586

Canonical Approach n Childs thus emphasizes that the formation of the canon is a

Canonical Approach n Childs thus emphasizes that the formation of the canon is a process of theological reflection within Israel, a reflection that derived from the impact certain writings had upon continuing communities of faith in the context of religious liturgy, corporate interpretation, and private meditation. The concern of the shapers of the canon was to create a formulation of the divine word that would lay authoritative claim upon successive generations who had not themselves participated in the events and circumstances of the original revelation.

Canonical Approach n n n It is the Word contained within the canonical text

Canonical Approach n n n It is the Word contained within the canonical text for Childs that is revelatory, not the particularities of the historical and social circumstances that may have influenced those authors, tradents, and editors who produced and preserved the tradition over many years. While our understanding of the historical development of Israel and the Bible is important, these are not the focus the Word’s theological claim upon our lives. Rather it is the final form of the book that entered into the Canon, and the entire Canon itself, that encounter us as the Word of God.

Canonical Process n One may summarize the canonical process viewed by Childs as taking

Canonical Process n One may summarize the canonical process viewed by Childs as taking into consideration three elements. n First, the essential task is descriptive, that is, the interpreter attempts to understand the particular shape and function of individual books in the Hebrew canon. n Second, the interpreter concentrates on the final form of a text instead of attempting to reconstruct the historical stages of its development. n Third, the canonical approach takes seriously the community of faith and practice that not only shaped the sacred literature, but also was shaped by it. The community to which Childs refers is not the historical society of ancient Israel that developed and changed over the years, but rather the people of God who continue to rise and take shape over the many centuries as they encounter the Word.

Canonical Approach n In his theological treatment of the Old Testament, Childs sets forth

Canonical Approach n In his theological treatment of the Old Testament, Childs sets forth descriptively a theology of the Old Testament from the perspective of a Christian who stands within a tradition that regards this collection as one part of the received canon. This does not mean that Childs attempts to christianize the Old Testament, for the Old Testament is an independent witness to Jesus Christ in a pre-Christian form. But it does mean that he approaches the Old Testament as a confessing Christian standing within a Christian community of faith.

The Canonical Approach and the Old Testament as Scripture n In his chapter on

The Canonical Approach and the Old Testament as Scripture n In his chapter on “The Discrete Witness of the Old Testament, ” Childs seeks to set forth its theological understanding in its own terms. To do this, Childs seeks to achieve the following methodological goals. These are (1) placing the Old Testament witness within the original setting of Israel's history; (2) following the development of this witness within the story of Israel; and (3) noting both the unity and disunity within Old Testament faith.

The Canon and Christian Hermeneutics n Childs argues that Christian hermeneutics cannot simply force

The Canon and Christian Hermeneutics n Childs argues that Christian hermeneutics cannot simply force the Old Testament into a promise (OT)fulfillment (NT) schema, since there are other, even New Testament options to this. Rather, for the Church, Childs asserts that biblical theology is both an inner-scriptural dialectic between the Old and New Testaments, and an interactive dialogue between the Christian community and a canon that has two testaments. While the Old Testament can only reflect one witness to Christian theology, it is still a part of Christian Scripture. Here, Childs dismisses Bultmann’s assessment of the Old Testament as Law that no longer has relevance for the Church, since the life and death of Jesus Christ.

An Evaluation of the Canonical Approach n First, he reminds us that, in the

An Evaluation of the Canonical Approach n First, he reminds us that, in the view of Judaism and Christianity, the Old Testament is Scripture and not only contains the religious ideas of historical communities, but also, and more importantly, witnesses to the Word of God in ways that must be taken seriously by ongoing communities of faith. Thus, Childs clearly distinguishes his approach from the works of scholars who present the history of Israelite religion. The Bible was not intended primarily to be a collection of ancient records, readily accessed by contemporary historians intent on doing historical reconstruction, but rather a sacred canon that is normative and authoritative for the faith and practice of living religious communities.

An Evaluation of the Canonical Approach n Second, Childs draws a very clear line

An Evaluation of the Canonical Approach n Second, Childs draws a very clear line between Old Testament theology that is approached by confessing scholars from within believing communities and the history of Israelite religion that is presented by scholars of the academy who may or may not have an interest in the hermeneutical implications of their study for modern faith. This means that what is studied, i. e. the Bible, is viewed differently by an Old Testament theologian (canon) and an historian (cultural artifact). The chief object of study for the Old Testament theologian is the canon, giving particular attention to the distinctive witness of this part of Scripture that needs to be heard as normative in its own terms, while the historian cannot limit his/her attention to these books without a consideration of the data of history provided by archaeology and the literatures of the ancient Near East.

An Evaluation n n Third, Childs’ contribution to Old Testament theology also resides in

An Evaluation n n Third, Childs’ contribution to Old Testament theology also resides in his rejection of the philosophy of Romanticism, indigenous to much Old Testament research, that the earliest voice within a text is the truly authentic and even normative one in contrast to later voices that do not merit an equal hearing by interpreters and their communities of faith. Childs reverses this understanding by saying it is the final form of the canon that is authoritative, not the earlier or even earliest traditions.

An Evaluation n Fourth, Childs’ approach also allows the Old Testament canon to address

An Evaluation n Fourth, Childs’ approach also allows the Old Testament canon to address the Christian community and to be heard. The Old Testament is not simply a collection of books with antiquated ideas of passing historical interest that are replaced by the New Testament, but contains within it a Word of God that addresses normatively and authoritatively future generations, including our own.

An Evaluation n Fifth, Childs also is refreshingly open about his own stance as

An Evaluation n Fifth, Childs also is refreshingly open about his own stance as a Christian interpreter of Scripture. He approaches his work, not from the position of historical curiosity, but rather from that of a believer who stands within a confessing community whose faith continues to seek understanding. His own work as scholar is shaped by his Christian confession. This parallels the frankness of many feminist and liberation interpreters who openly admit that they work out of a particular paradigm of belief or theological orientation. Indeed, Childs believes that Old Testament theology is Christian theology.

An Evaluation n Sixth, through intertextuality Childs demonstrates that each passage of Scripture should

An Evaluation n Sixth, through intertextuality Childs demonstrates that each passage of Scripture should be read and illuminated by reference to the entire canon. This does not lead to the diminishment of the importance of the diversity of voices in the text, but rather places them into creative, theological dialogue.

Evaluation n Seventh, Childs reminds us not only of theological nature of the Old

Evaluation n Seventh, Childs reminds us not only of theological nature of the Old Testament, but also of the importance of believing communities who shaped and were shaped by the texts that were selected for canonical inclusion. These communities inevitably made choices as to what to transmit and issued interpretations that appropriated the Old Testament, and for Childs these choices represent the decisions and insights of many generations of faith. The movement is away from a one-sided emphasis on the original author to focus on the importance of the community of faith in the canonical process.

An Evaluation n Yet there are weaknesses: n First, lack of clarity in speaking

An Evaluation n Yet there are weaknesses: n First, lack of clarity in speaking of rather key terms. This is true even of the crucial term canon that he seeks to define, redefine, and then define again. At times it refers to the final form of an individual book like Jeremiah, in contrast to earlier stages in the composition of a book. At other times, it is either an abstract theological concept apparently deriving from systematic or confessional theology that conveys certain understandings of the authority and revelation inherent in Scripture, or a normative value attributed by a community at some unknown time to a text or collection of texts. Sometimes it is a collection of texts, specifically the Hebrew Bible of early Judaism, that contains boundaries that exclude other writings. And at other times canon is a context in which theological interpretation is to occur. This multifaceted understanding of canon, not to mention equally ambiguous terms including canonical process, canonical intentionality, and canonical integrity, makes it difficult to grasp clearly what Childs intends as he speaks in various places about his interpretative enterprise.

Evaluation n n Second, one also wonders why “canon” in any or all of

Evaluation n n Second, one also wonders why “canon” in any or all of the above understandings should be given primary consideration in the interpretation of the Bible, in biblical theology, and in hermeneutics for the contemporary church. He seems mainly to work from the assumption that canon, theologically conceived as authoritative revelation, has this privileged status. What of the authority and theological value of events, persons, communities both ancient and modern, and tradition? What of reason and experience? What of diversity inherent in Scripture and in the social and theological contexts of believing communities that indeed interpret and appropriate these same texts in different ways.

Evaluation n Third, in contrast to Protestantism, Judaism and Roman Catholicism do not privilege

Evaluation n Third, in contrast to Protestantism, Judaism and Roman Catholicism do not privilege Scripture to the exclusion of later traditions or give it primary status in discerning what is normative. Why should interpreters who come from different religious traditions do so? Tradition does more than revitalize biblical theology. It also plays a major role in matters of authority and what is considered to be normative for believing communities.

Evaluation n Fourth, perhaps the most serious problem with Childs’ version of the canonical

Evaluation n Fourth, perhaps the most serious problem with Childs’ version of the canonical approach is the loss of the sustained importance of historical particularity in canonical interpretation. When the Bible and the interpreting community are stripped of their historical and social contexts, how is it possible for any meaning to be achieved.

Evaluation n n Fifth, Childs submits that canonical texts were shaped to transcend their

Evaluation n n Fifth, Childs submits that canonical texts were shaped to transcend their historical contexts to speak a Word of God to future communities. But if a text transcends historical context, is it nothing more than a receptacle of transcendental ideas that remain disembodied? Are we not forced into a view of theological idealism in which ideas, concepts, and beliefs are not shaped by historical and social contexts and thus somehow exist alone in an ahistorical world. Are we not then back in Plato’s cave?

Evaluation n Sixth, obviously, any text can be taken out of an original setting

Evaluation n Sixth, obviously, any text can be taken out of an original setting and placed in a new one that is totally different. Thus, meaning invariably changes. This occurs internally to the Bible in the traditioning and redactional process. And this occurs as biblical texts continue to enter new social and cultural contexts. Words, once uttered, take on a life of their own as they find opportunity to settle into new contexts. And texts create a world of meaning, a vision of reality, though not by themselves. Worldviews also require the active participation of interpreters and context. Do not the historical and cultural particularities of the later audiences play a large role in determining what a text is “heard” to say? Context becomes important, but now it is the context of the interpreter in dialogue with the context of the community that decided to canonize a particular text.

Evaluation n Seventh, Childs gives little room to diversity. Childs cannot be very explicit

Evaluation n Seventh, Childs gives little room to diversity. Childs cannot be very explicit about the function of Scripture within the believing communities of ancient Israel. [i] Is it the case that the only thing these communities have is common is “believing? ” And historically, we are well aware of the fact that these communities were extremely diverse, even in their proclamations and confessions of faith. [i]Sanders, “Canonical Context and Canonical Criticism, ” 186. Sanders asks: “How can one be so concerned to rehabilitate the function of Scripture in the believing communities when he effectively denies the importance and humanity of those very communities by ruling out ancient historical contexts in discussing ancient texts--not only the original ones but the subsequent historical contexts through the periods of intense canonical process? ” (“Canonical Context and Canonical Criticism, ” 190). Sanders is not only concerned to trace the historical development of canon, but also to determine how traditions functioned authoritatively within these historical communities (Canon and Community, 24).

Evaluation Eighth, Childs effectively removes God from active participation in human history and people’s

Evaluation Eighth, Childs effectively removes God from active participation in human history and people’s lives. n God becomes the completely transcendent Other who cannot be known and engaged except through a Word that transcends history and cultural context. n

Evaluation n Ninth, Childs admits that these earlier stages perhaps were authoritative for their

Evaluation n Ninth, Childs admits that these earlier stages perhaps were authoritative for their communities when they were first shaped and for a time, perhaps, even later, but only the final form of the text is Scripture for those living after the canon was closed. But one might ask Childs why should the interpreter, either as modern scholar or confessing believer or both, identify the final form of the text with the truly authentic voice? Why also should one prefer the work of a late canonizer from the post-exilic or Hellenistic period who shaped the meaning of the tradition in another direction over the words of the historical voice, say of Jeremiah, uttered several

Evaluation n n Tenth, there is the issue of the plurality and diversity of

Evaluation n n Tenth, there is the issue of the plurality and diversity of voices that are heard even within the same book and surely within the larger canon. Indeed, this plurality of voices is the most significant problem posed by the canon. At most, Childs will speak of intertextual dialogue, tensions, and dynamic interactions within a text or the entire canon, noting that Scripture does not attempt to harmonize differences. He is also careful to trace a theme through Scripture, indicating the variety of ways it develops and changes. Yet, is this really enough, especially for a theologian concerned with allowing Scripture to address modern faith? What happens when a Jeremiah, as best as we may understand him, and his canonizer are in conflict, or when a later tradent either misunderstood the prophet or offered a contrary theological position? What happens when a significant theological meaning from an earlier stage of a text or a book is altered or even negated by a later stage or book?

Evaluation: Conclusion n James Barr’ (The Concept of Biblical Theology, 1999) concludes that Childs’

Evaluation: Conclusion n James Barr’ (The Concept of Biblical Theology, 1999) concludes that Childs’ various works on the canonical approach to biblical theology do not really constitute a biblical or even a canonical theology at all. Rather his is a personally invested dogmatic theology with major tenets that are given scriptural proofs. While his Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments attempts to moderate some of his antihistorical critical polemic, it still does not give theological weight to traditioning, redaction, and social-critical dimensions of the coming together of Scripture. Barr concludes it is Childs’ highly judgmental approach to other theological positions, which differ from his own, that allows for absolutely no true dialogue that is the antithesis of careful and insightful work carried out by theologians who are not so radically conservative that they think they alone have the truth.

Walter Brueggemann Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy.

Walter Brueggemann Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy.

Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933) n Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933) is an American Old Testament

Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933) n Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933) is an American Old Testament scholar and author. Born in Tilden, Nebraska as the son of a United Church of Christ minister. Brueggemann received an A. B. from Elmhurst College (1955), a B. D. from Eden Theological Seminary (1958), a Th. D. from Union Theological Seminary, New York (1961), and Ph. D. from Saint Louis University (in 1974). He was professor of Old Testament (1961 -1986) and Dean (1968 -1982) at Eden Theological Seminary. Beginning in 1986, he served as William Marcellus Mc. Pheeters Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, from where he retired in the early 2000 s.

Theologian and Churchman n n A prolific writer and highly sought after speaker, Brueggemann

Theologian and Churchman n n A prolific writer and highly sought after speaker, Brueggemann has written more than 60 books and published hundreds of articles and reviews. He is best known for his work in Old Testament theology, especially in developing a theology of imagination. He edited the series, Overtures to Biblical Theology, distinguished by both its well known contributors and its emphasis on engaging the Old Testament theologically by a variety of different approaches. He has more recently combined this theology of imagination with some of the important features of postmodernism. He is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ, a partner denomination of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in which I hold my ordination.

Engaging the Old Testament: A Theology of Imagination n In his seminal article, “A

Engaging the Old Testament: A Theology of Imagination n In his seminal article, “A Convergence in Recent OT Theology” (1980, 2 -18), Brueggemann points out that “OT faith serves both to legitimate structure and to embrace pain” (Brueggemann’s italics). He suggests the God of the Old Testament “reflects the central tension of the literature. ” n He emphasizes that the God of the Old Testament is both “Above the Fray, ” i. e. , transcends the limits of earthly and human boundaries and shapes the destiny of creation and providence from afar. God is the God of order that brings stability and wholeness to society and the creation. and “Among the Fray, ” i. e. , is engaged in the social, historical, and cosmic forces of human existence to act on behalf of those who are marginalized by the political and economic powers of governments

n n n OT theology as structure legitimation: the Old Testament participated in the

n n n OT theology as structure legitimation: the Old Testament participated in the “common theology” of the ancient Near East that stressed stability, allowed for no slippage, and presented a God tuned to reward and punishment. “It offers a normative view of God who is above the fray and not impinged by social processes. ” Such a theology tends to serve the ruling class, which regularly identifies creation order with the current social arrangement. This order, however, must incorporate justice as its fundamental feature. Otherwise, it becomes a theology of tyranny and oppression. This is theology of the high gods of the empires who conquer and support powerful rulers. Viewed rightly, YHWH as governor generates and maintains the ordering of the world, (in classical theology, “creation”). It is insisted in Israel YHWH has bestowed vitality upon the formless mass of chaos, so that creation is ordered life that is sustained as a prosperous, abundant, peaceable, secure order. YHWH as governor rehabilitates the ordering of the world when that order is lost, distorted, or subverted, (in classical theological categories, “redemption”). the God of Israel is an insistent ethical force in the world who has endlessly insisted that all social power must be deployed in the service of communal well -being. Where that well-being is violated and YHWH is thereby mocked or trivialized, death and disorder are sure to come.

The Embrace of Pain n n OT theology as embrace of pain: this is

The Embrace of Pain n n OT theology as embrace of pain: this is a crucial voice, focused on grief and compassion, both in God and in Israel. The embrace of pain is “the full acknowledgement of and experience of pain, and the capacity and willingness to make that pain a substantive part of Israel’s faith-conversation with its God”. This theology possesses the elements of protest (for example the prophets and Israel’s laments) and pictures God within the life and activities of human experience. there is no other God so willingly in solidarity with subjects, and especially subjects who are poor, needy, or marginalized. It is this two-fold marking of power and solidarity that gives YHWH a peculiar identity in a world much peopled by a variety of gods. YHWH is prepared to suffer in the suffering of Israel, so great is YHWH’s passion and compassion toward Israel. This dimension of YHWH’s character is voices especially in the most daring and most imaginative poets, whose words bring to speech the hurt and dismay that envelops both Israel and YHWH. In its most extreme form, Yahweh from pathos into deeply emotive rage of hysterical proportion. While it moves in the opposite direction, it seems clear that this sensibility on the part of YHWH arises from the same emotional depth as does pathos, that is a deep covenant commitment that lives below formal relationships.

Polarities within Old Testament In Brueggemann’s article, “Trajectories in Old Testament Literature and the

Polarities within Old Testament In Brueggemann’s article, “Trajectories in Old Testament Literature and the Sociology of Ancient Israel, ” he identifies the trajectories moving out from the Mosaic and Davidic covenants. The Mosaic trajectory: pro-freedom and transformation, socially revolutionary, focused on justice and righteousness of God’s will, and sociologically lodged in a marginal group. The royal trajectory: concerning stability and control, universally oriented, focused on the glory and holiness of God, and sociologically lodged with people of power who are to rule in justice. n

n In addition to this fundamental polarity in Old Testament Theology, Brueggemann also develops

n In addition to this fundamental polarity in Old Testament Theology, Brueggemann also develops a theology of imagination. n n For Brueggemann, imagination is the capacity to generate, evoke, and articulate alternative images of reality, images that counter what hegemonic power and knowledge have declared to be impossible. n In his book Prophetic Imagination, he identifies two poles of human community: the “alternative community” or “counterculture” and the community shaped by “royal consciousness. ” n He finds two things new in history with the Exodus experience: on the one hand, Moses intended the dismantling of the oppressive empire of Pharaoh; and on the other, he intended the formation of a new community focused on the religion of God’s freedom and the politics of justice and compassion. The dismantling (or criticism) begins in the groans and complaints of his people, and the energizing begins in the doxologies (praises) of the new community. n However, the Moses movement is too radical for Israel. Therefore there is an attempt to counter the new history of energy: the monarchy with its interest in securing its self-interested power and control, seeks to silence criticism and deny protest leading to a new community. ”

n (1) (2) The prophets of Israel continue the radical movement of Moses in

n (1) (2) The prophets of Israel continue the radical movement of Moses in the face of the royal reality: Jeremiah’s radical criticism against the royal consciousness – by conjuring a funeral and bringing the grief of dying Israel to public expression in order to penetrate the numb denial of the royal community, which pretended that things must continue forever. Second Isaiah’s radical energizing against Royal consciousness – by conjuring an enthronement and bringing the amazement of reborn Israel to public expression in order to penetrate the weary despair of the royal community, which assumed things were over forever. Jesus of Nazareth appropriated the main elements of prophetic ministry and imagination in their most radical form in order to collapse Sadducean misrule and Roman power. Through his crucifixion he embodied the dismantling of abusive power. Through his resurrection he energized the future of the new human community.

Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament (1997): Introduction In his essay on Old Testament

Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament (1997): Introduction In his essay on Old Testament Theology in my collection of Essays, Blackwell’s Companion to the Hebrew Bible, 2001, Brueggemann writes: “the articulation of God in the Hebrew Bible is complex and variegated, admitting of no single or simplistic characterization. Interpretive issues concerning this God tend to be on a spectrum, moving between the religious context and modes of faith in that ancient culture on the one hand, and on the other, faith that moves toward a settled normative, canonical shape that comes to be expressed in the faith of emerging Judaism—and derivatively—the more settled, canonical formulations of Christianity. There is no easy, durable, or obvious settlement of this deep tension. ” This unresolved tension resides within the center of Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament, 1997.

n a. b. c. d. e. Following James Barr’s review of Brueggemann’s theology in

n a. b. c. d. e. Following James Barr’s review of Brueggemann’s theology in his book, The Concept of Biblical Theology (1999), the book can be summarized as followings (1999, 542 -4): The basic theme: Israel’s speech about God, which is imagined as testimony before “the court” (metaphor). Israel’s core testimony: “the core testimony is identified by the ‘grammar’ of ‘full sentences’ that are ‘organized around an active verb that bespeaks an action that is transformative, intrusive, or inverting’ (Brueggemann, 1997, 23). Examples are “God who created, ” “God who commands, ” “God who leads. ” Counter-testimony: the basic testimony is probed and questioned, in the utterance of Israel and in the alleged utterance of non-Israelites. Examples are Job, Qoheleth, Habakkuk, and the Psalms of Accusation. Unsolicited testimony: Israel gives additional information, extraneous to its speech about God, which is the only thing that “the court” considers relevant. i. e. “drama of partnership. ” Embodied testimony: Torah, the king, the prophet, the cult and the sage as means of mediation.

Features of Postmodernism Writing as a theologian of the Church, Brueggemann sees postmodernism, not

Features of Postmodernism Writing as a theologian of the Church, Brueggemann sees postmodernism, not as a threat to mainline faith, but rather a much needed vehicle to challenge what he calls “regnant” and “conventional” theologies and epistemologies and their dominant modes of power. Brueggemann is troubled by the “tyranny” of positivism that has assumed ideological control of political and economic institutions in the globe. He is especially concerned to determine in this “postcritical” age how the church can respond faithfully to the crisis that has befallen capitalism’s being co-opted by a philosophical approach, that together deny and undermine the authenticity of humanness. There are several key elements of postmodernism that are present in Bruggemann’s theology and more recent writings. These are 1. The strong diversity and pluralism in the Old Testament demonstrates there is no single portrait of God that dominates Israel’s faith. 2. One cannot affirm a static, unchanging theological truth in both Scripture and hermeneutics. Views of God, the community, human nature, and the human community continue to change. At most one affirms that the Old Testament champions those who exist on the margins

Brueggemann and Postmodernism n n Brueggemann contends that our epistemologies are by nature contextual,

Brueggemann and Postmodernism n n Brueggemann contends that our epistemologies are by nature contextual, meaning that one’s reasoning and experiencing are significantly affected by one’s location in the world, including politically, socially, and geographically. These contexts are local, meaning that generalities or universal truths cannot be imposed upon them. Epistemology is pluralistic meaning that its affirmations claim assent only with the locality in which it is used and adopted. Objectivity has been revealed to be what the dominant group within a society has wanted the entire society to believe and unquestioningly accept. We cannot say one interpretation of a text, for example, is the final one, since texts continue to be interpreted over and over again He gives no comfort to the skeptics who have given up on theological seriousness of the Hebrew Scriptures. One would end in such easy skepticism if the deconstruction were only one step toward negation. But of course it never is only one step in Hebrew Scriptures. Because in turn the negation is also regularly deconstructed with new affirmation. And it is the full dialectic that Israel endlessly enacts in its testimony.

n n In his more recent Introduction to the Old Testament, Brueggemann contends “the

n n In his more recent Introduction to the Old Testament, Brueggemann contends “the tradition that became Scripture is a relentless act of imagination” in that it “dares, by artistic sensibility and risk-taking rhetoric, to posit, characterize, and vouch for a world beyond the ‘common sense’" The primary Narrative: from Genesis to 2 Kings apart from Ruth, resulted from an extraordinary act of imagination, which dared to claim that the story of heaven and earth “culminates in the deportation of the leading inhabitants of Jerusalem to a foreign land, ” thus making, for the exiles, the story of the world to be their story. Israel was a willing participator in a common cultural heritage of the myths and stories of the Old Testament, but “made use of the same narrative materials” in a somewhat different way. Therefore, it is impossible to ask questions about the historicity of mythical events. Rather, the Old Testament presents “complex, artistic attempts to articulate the most elemental presuppositions of life and faith in Israel, ” with the world being taken “in a Yahwistic way” (31). As a result, the earlier “myths of origin, ” have been transposed into “a theological statement of divine judgment and divine rescue, ” embracing “the primal drama of the Bible, ” which is “the restoration and mending of a scarred, broken creation. ”

n In a recent address he speaks again of the importance of Imagination: n

n In a recent address he speaks again of the importance of Imagination: n In seeking to understand apply Scripture we ought to employ this faculty of creative imagining to envision “a movement of the text beyond itself in fresh ways. ” It takes a measure of fantasy or imagination to “transpose ancient voices into contemporary voices of authority. Brueggemann claims that we do this all the time in interpretation; for example, he says “those of us who think critically do not believe that the Old Testament was talking about Jesus, and yet we make the linkages. Brueggemann summarizes in the following statement: “Imagination can indeed be a gift of the Spirit, but it is a gift used with immense subjective freedom which we would do better to concede, even if that concession makes it unmistakably clear that our imaginative interpretations cannot claim the shrillness of certainty but only the tentativeness of our best extrapolations. ”

Conclusion n Brueggemann readily confesses he is a Protestant and one who has enjoyed

Conclusion n Brueggemann readily confesses he is a Protestant and one who has enjoyed the status of being western, white, and male. Yet he speaks as a troubled soul, not so much thinking he is guilty for the unfair distribution of wealth and power, but as one who is deeply concerned to assist in recharting the course of the Church into new channels that will reinstitute the humanity of all people. His vehicle for this transformation is, for him, the Bible that contains a word of God that demands to be heard. n Biblical theology is not done in order to seize control of the church or assume power in the social and political world, but rather to give the world access to the good truth of the God who creates, redeems and consummates. This truth is not to be reduced to formula or technique, or trivialized to solve certain problems or correct certain social inconveniences. We must keep in view that “reading Scripture is for the sake of the missional testimony of the church - good news that is, first and foremost, for the world. ”

Concluding Affirmation n Faith in this God is costly and not easy. But faith

Concluding Affirmation n Faith in this God is costly and not easy. But faith in this God has been found, over many times and circumstances, to be a viable way midst the vagaries of history that characteristically defy either security or meaning.