Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quote of the Day

On what 'really happened' in the Old Testament:

"The pressing question almost everyone would agree is not, 'Did it happen?' but rather, 'Why on earth did they tell their story like that?'" (in John Holdsworth's entertaining SCM Studyguide, The Old Testament, 54)

I would simply add, in the spirit of Brueggemann, that the pressing question is also 'What on earth does their story actually say?'


At 9/17/2008 3:14 AM, Anonymous One of Freedom said...

I finally got around to reading something from Brueggemann, a short article in the Blackwell Companion to Political Theology on the Old Testament. I must say that it was every bit as brilliant as I had come to expect it would be. Someday I'm going to read his Prophetic Imagination.

Great quote BTW.

At 9/17/2008 3:23 AM, Anonymous Brant Pitre said...

Who's the "everyone" in this quote?
Josephus? Justin Martyr? Paul?...
Surely not ancient Jews and Christians.
And why just the Old Testament?
This smacks of a kind of "literary Marcionism" to me.

Just a reaction.
If (post-)modern scholars who (after many years of training) have learned how to do so want to dodge the historical question ("Did it happen?") that's fine, but let's not pretend the ancient Fathers and Rabbis didn't care (i.e., "everyone" needs to be qualified) or this is not still at the forefront of every freshman Old Testament student's mind. Anyone whose taught OT even once knows this... And behind this lies the very legitimate question: "What has God done in human history?"

Hope things are well with you, Chris!
Congrats on the new position, and hope to see you at SBL!

At 9/17/2008 10:50 AM, Anonymous steph said...

Brant: isn't the "everyone" the modern audience? And why the Old Testament, is probably because it is in a very "entertaining SCM study guide" called "The Old Testament". And "what has God done in human history" is a very legitimate religious question.

At 9/17/2008 2:49 PM, Anonymous Phil Sumpter said...

I'm totally with Brant on this. As Meier Sternberg said in his magnficent The Poetics of Biblical Narrative: "Were the narratives written or read as fiction, then God would turn from the lord of history into c creature of the imagination with the most disastrous results ... Hence the Bible's determination to sanctifiy and compel literal belief in the past" (32). In other words, saying that history doesn't matter to the Bible is to make a genre-mistake.

It's one thing to say that Biblical referentiality is a complex matter, it's another thing to say it's a non-issue.

At 9/17/2008 5:32 PM, Anonymous Nick said...

Good thoughts, Brant. My reaction exactly--you just put it much better than I could have--when I read this false antithesis. It's one thing to argue for it; it's another to engage in historical revisionism and ignore what virtually all Christians and Jews have believed for thousands of years.

At 9/17/2008 9:16 PM, Anonymous X-Cathedra said...

Ditto to Brant and Phil.

Pax Christi,

At 9/18/2008 12:14 AM, Anonymous Jim said...

speaking of childs (because i know that phil must) - chris, your sidebar is now incorrect. you dont live in germany and for those of us who like all our ducks in a row, we plead with you to fix this. it's as disorienting as childs' work.

[just for you phil- were the gratuitous comments about childs thrown in]

At 9/18/2008 12:19 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...


It is a silly name when you think about it.

(Offered in the spirit of West)

At 9/18/2008 12:19 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hey Brant (and others of his clan in this thread)
Hugely useful response that sends me back to the quote for a rethink. Thanks. I would try to think things outloud here - but gotta get up early tomorrow!

Sadly I won't go to SBL this year, but I sure hope to see you next year.

At 9/18/2008 2:48 AM, Anonymous steph said...

It's not a "non issue" (phil) or an "antithesis" (nick) - he's suggesting it isn't necessarily the main issue for a modern audience "everyone". I think there is way too much sensitivity.

At 9/18/2008 8:17 AM, Anonymous Phil Sumpter said...


it's just as well you warned me. Otherwise I would have had to have written a small essay expounding on the pure genius and utter profundity of Childs' approach.

At 9/18/2008 11:29 AM, Anonymous Phil Sumpter said...

Now now Chris, don't be childsish. that just isn't wright.


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