Saturday, March 01, 2008

Brueggeman on the Old Testament

“Reliance upon extrabiblical evidence such as archaeological remains and inscriptions, moreoever, has led many scholars to the conclusion that much of what is claimed as ‘history’ in the Old Testament has no basis in ‘verifiable fact.’ This makes the story line of the Bible, to say it boldly, fiction. While this judgment will for a long time remain in dispute, it is enough for now to recognize what is likely to be a very large divergence between ‘real history’ and ‘claimed history,’ even as we recognize that what scholars now accept as ‘real history’ is not a disinterested reconstruction of the past of Israel” (Brueggeman, An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination, p. 4).

With such a wave of the hand, Brueggeman and those of his persuasion, at once dismiss the claims of Scripture as to its own historicity, all the while not suggesting “that the Bible is historically ‘unreliable,’ but rather that different questions must be asked of the dynamic interpretive process that eventuated in the Bible” (Brueggeman, IOT, p. 4).

Later Brueggeman says,

The title of my book includes “imagination” because I believe that the text both embodies and insists on ongoing work of imaginative interpretation that does not and will not conform to the strictures, limits, and demands of church faith. … My own sense is that it is the interplay between normative and imaginatively playful that gives the text its obviously transformative energy. To be sure, the playfully imaginative by itself without the normative dissolves the text in a way that makes it of little help to a missional congregation. Thus, on the one hand, the danger of the canonical by itself is in the direction of repression; the danger of the imaginatively playful by itself, on the other hand, is to dissolve the text away from the gravitas of mission (Brueggeman, IOT, p. xii).

Brueggeman’s imagination is merely the continuation of what he sees as the ideological transmission of the stories contained in the biblical record. For him and others like him, the text is so distorted by the intent of the author to make a theological point, that the true story cannot be recovered. Imagination is therefore able to take old myths and apply them to modern life.

Brueggeman’s view of inspiration is, in fact, quite incoherent when he affirms that “ ‘inspired’ is an inchoate way of saying that the entire traditioning process continues and embodies a surplus rendering of reality that discloses all of reality in light of the holiness of YHWH” (IOT, p. 11).

I must confess that I don't even know what that means.

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