Thursday, 27 October 2011

Horizons in Biblical Theology 33, 2 (2011)

The latest Horizons in Biblical Theology carries four interesting-looking main essays, with the following summaries:

Nicholas Ansell

On (Not) Obeying the Sabbath: Reading Jesus Reading Scripture

This essay examines the sabbath controversy of Mark 2:23-28 to see how Jesus faces the challenge of biblical interpretation as he models what it means for his disciples to image God in freedom. In dominant approaches to the Gospels, the interpretive process set in motion by this passage, which I characterize as ‘reading Scripture reading Jesus reading Scripture,’ is confined to its earlier stages – a reductionism that calls for hermeneutical reflection. If a narrative has a ‘life of its own’ beyond authorial intention (indispensable though the author may be), can we say the same about a character who is central to a narrative? If so, is ‘the Jesus of Mark’s Gospel’ ‘more than’ the ‘Markan Jesus’ of much scholarly concern? This essay seeks to develop an intertextual, Christocentric hermeneutic by attending to the implicit as well as explicit ways in which Jesus’ reading of Scripture takes place ‘within’ the Gospel narrative.

James E. Robson

Forgotten Dimensions of Holiness

This article explores a sometimes forgotten dimension of divine holiness, divine holiness as love. It starts by reflecting on an apparent incongruity between the New Testament summary of the law, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev 19:18) and that verse’s context in Leviticus, where a more probable summary is the call, “Be holy for I, YHWH your God, am holy” (Lev 19:2). It examines the significance of the conjunction of Lev 19:2 and 19:18, and argues that it is appropriate to speak of love as a dimension of divine holiness. In the main part of the article, which looks at the Old Testament more widely, including Exodus, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Hosea and the prayer life of Israel, divine holiness as love is evident on closer examination in three ways: holiness and self-disclosure, holiness and saving activity, and holiness and divine presence.

Yung Suk Kim

“Imitators” (Mimetai) in 1 Cor. 4:16 and 11:1: A New Reading of Threefold Embodiment

When it comes to the language of “imitation” (mimesis) in Paul’s letters (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 1 Thess. 1:6-7; 2:14), divisions among scholars are most clearly manifest. At one end of the scholarly spectrum, Paul follows a Stoic model of imitation, according to which the teacher exhorts pupils to follow him, based upon his authority established (demonstrated) by good conduct. Accordingly, Paul is viewed as an advocate of the Hellenistic ideal of unity at the expense of diversity. At the other end of the spectrum, Paul is seen as a social conservative and an obstacle to true liberation. Here the idea of imitation serves as a means of control and domination of others, as post-colonial and feminist scholars have pointed out. So Paul’s exhortation to “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1) is understood as a demand for sameness, an appeal to copy Paul. However, the language of imitation can be read through the eyes of “embodiment” – a way of life, as an alternate meaning of imitation in 1 Corinthians, which will lead to the involvement of three aspects of God, Christ and the believer. I argue that imitation in 1 Corinthians is neither a copy or sameness nor a type or model to be emulated by the Corinthians. Rather, it should be understood as a way of life rooted in the image of Christ crucified, which plays a central role in the letter, deconstructing abusive, destructive powers in a community and society and reconstructing a beloved community for all.

Mark McEntire

The God at the End of the Story: Are Biblical Theology and Narrative Character Development Compatible?

If the end goal of theology of the Hebrew Scriptures is a description of God and God’s relationship to the world, then the Hebrew Scriptures present us with a dilemma. It is increasingly apparent that the Tanak provides a wide variety of portraits of the divine being. There are two basic possibilities for making use of all of these portraits. The first option is to lay all of them out on a level surface and allow them be in dialogue and tension with one another. The second option is to place these portrayals on a trajectory which gives a position of privilege to those which are at some particular point along the path. Of course there are three choices of trajectory: Historical, canonical, or narrative. The last two differ far more for the Christian Old Testament than for the Tanak. A strictly narrative approach, which reads the biblical story from Genesis to Nehemiah, presents a divine being who is changing and developing as a character, a process which has been well demonstrated over the past decade by Jack Miles, Richard Elliot Friedman, W. Lee Humphreys, Meir Sternberg, Jerome M. Segal, and others. There is general agreement that the divine character portrayed at the end of this narrative trajectory is the one which matches the religious experience of those who were putting the literature, both the individual books and the canon, into its final form. This conclusion would seem to point toward a narrative method of doing theology which gives this endpoint a place of privilege, an observation which raises two questions. First, does this match the actual use of texts by those who are attempting narrative approaches to biblical theology? Second, what role do those portrayals which present earlier stages in the divine character development play in a narrative approach to a theology of the Hebrew Scriptures?

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