Soundings in the Theology of Psalms: Perspectives And Methods In Contemporary Scholarship

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Guided by his philosophical background, Marcion is known to have suggested that the Old Testament should not be part of the Bible! Even the New Testament did not escape his gnostic gaze. Only ten sections in the gospel of Luke and ten letters of Paul including the one that is no longer available to us made up to the so-called Marcion canon. Thankfully, such an abrasive attempt at deletion was successfully challenged by Tertullian, one of the Fathers of the Church. Eric Zenger cites an interesting episode that unfolded in the Carmelite convent in Dachau, Germany.

The convent was on the way of the pilgrims who went to visit one of the Nazi concentration camps, which was not far from the convent. Initially and in keeping with the conventions of that time, the convent had the custom of reciting the Office of the Hours in Latin.

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Those prayers included some imprecatory psalms as well e. Ps ; for details on Imprecatory Psalms , see below. Even, popular culture seems to follow a similar strategy. Uncritical or Bypassing: Equally Problematic.

Soundings in the Theology of Psalms: Perspectives and Methods in Contemporary Scholarship

History bears witness to the fact that a tendency to quote the Scriptures in order to garner approval for heinous crimes such as slavery, genocide, misogyny, racism, etc. A somewhat similar but equally unhelpful interpretive option is the choice to look away from these troubling texts. These Leviathan-like texts Some Interpretive Suggestions. From the discussion thus far, it needs no belaboring to state that there is violence in the Bible—in both the Old and the New Testaments on the latter, see De Villiers and Van Henten ix-x.

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And it presents a persisting problematic to us, the readers. These texts, in turn, call out to us for meaningful ways of appropriating them. As indicated earlier, the scholarly suggestions to such appropriations are aplenty. For the sake of heuristic purpose, such suggestions are grouped here under three broad categories: socio-cultural, literary-rhetorical, and theological. The categories are neither comprehensive nor mutually exclusive as the following discussion will illustrate. A brief word on each of these categories might be appropriate. Hence, it helps to pay heed to the cultural and chronological distance between the text and us.

As such, situating the text in its socio-cultural context as much as possible might pave the way for a helpful meaning-making process. Equally important in this process is the socio-cultural setting of the reader and how it informs a particular way of reading a violent text. As literary scholars make us aware, texts are written with an attendant motive of persuading the readers.

Hence, they are couched in certain literary forms and styles. If so, attention to the literary-rhetorical conventions can also come handy in this meaning-making process—a process that eschews any tendency to viewing the biblical texts as mere mirror images of historical events. For example, Dever has persuasively shown how the marauding massacre of the Canaanites, as portrayed in the book of Joshua, can hardly be supported by the available archaeological data Therefore and as stated in the socio-cultural aspect above, the context and experience of the community can also be usefully factored into the reading of these texts of terror.

The following section presents a few illustrations to highlight how these categories can aid in reading some difficult texts. Violence and in Its Varieties. Not all violence in the Bible follow a singular pattern. There are cases of violence between human beings e. There is also a third type, which is somewhat on the reverse direction. Here, human beings call out to God for vengeance e. An example from each of these types will now be briefly analyzed from the three interpretive categories suggested above. A second nuance pertains to the very names of the brothers.

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As is often the case with the Hebrew literary style, the names are already indicative of the forthcoming prospects of these two siblings. Literary features such as these point to a stylized rendition of the story of the First Family. Against the backdrop of the occupational contest that frequently unfolds between two competing groups agrarians vs. Some scholars have pointed out how such favoritism paves the way for the violence that ensues, thus implicating God.

Schwarts To summarize, while socio-cultural, literary-rhetorical, and theological sensitivities may help highlight some nuances, there still remain troubling details in this primeval story of Murder in the Field! These chapters show Israel and Judah as personified women who undergo violent punishment. The images are horrific, the language is near pornographic and the envisaged ravage gang rape is appalling.

A socio-cultural sensitivity is often suggested to engage the troubling details here. Of course, the focus of the accusation in these texts Ezekiel 16; 23 is the worship of other gods as opposed to or in addition to Yahweh. Scholars note that if the prophet had condemned such a syncretic worship in plain words, it may not have had as much persuasive effect as the use of the shocking image of a wanton wife. Hence, biblical interpreters invite us to situate these texts in such a cultural context. At the same time, we are also cautioned from stopping with a mere socio-culturally situated reading because the danger of reinforcing sexual violence and wife abuse might be close at hand cf.

In short, a socio-cultural reading ought to go hand in hand with a reader-resistance that does not at any time approve the portrayed acts. This short passage portrays the divine in blood-spattered garments which was the result of trampling down people in anger and wrath and pouring out their lifeblood. It is proposed that situating such a blood-saturated text in the socio-cultural context of a marginal post-exilic community helps attend to some nuances in this texts.

True, the text details the violent acts of the divine in arresting descriptions. Larry W. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. William W. Robert W.

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