Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Four hours or so reading at the library

I had my introduction to Brevard Childs this morning - 1 hour on his psalms chapter in the Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, and then 2 or so hours with his Old Testament Theology in a canonical Context. My notes from these chapters are much more readable than the ones from the conference. He appears to me, through the idea of 'canonical criticism', to be drawing attention to a tool for criticism and also responding to the excesses of earlier forms of Biblical criticism of the past 200 years.

Having read John Sandys-Wunch - What have they done with the Bible, I was not too surprised at what I read in Childs and later in a couple of books on the NT that I scanned: Richard Hayes, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul - this seems a very nice book, putting the texts in some accurate contexts, and James Sanders essay on Habakkuk in Qumran, Paul and the Old Testament. This is a fine essay that shows that God's action with respect to justification by faith was a current topic in Qumran theology and not simply Paul's invention. It also points out the elasticity of the text. Even in the New Testament, the Greek is different in the three places that Habakkuk 2:4 is referenced.

The multiple ways of understanding 'my righteous one will live by his faithfulness' have remained with me ever since I looked at the Anchor Bible Commentary on Habakkuk several years ago. There is no magical original autograph. The reality of salvation and faith is much more difficult than that. It requires stillness, listening, and following of God. I know - without the text or without tradition or without the Church, all sorts of 'enthusiams' are likely to emerge. But ultimately - who's in charge, and who's got the power? Is it the dominance of a human hierarchy, or of a wordy confession, or of "that's the way its always been done"? Or is it the living God, the fire of the Spirit, the Anointing that was fully present in the Incarnate Jesus, the risen Christ who is in charge? I am convinced that this One will use tradition, Scripture, and hierarchy creatively and will also undermine false certainties and enable an assessment that is the perfect curriculum for each one who finds this faithfulness to live by. But who am I to say? Just another voice delighting in the children of dust and rendering thanks for time redeemed. After a few more psalms conference summaries, perhaps I will return to these notes on Childs and report some more for those who may not have read him.