Saturday, June 21, 2008

Seized by Truth, Part 2 - Joel Green on "Distance"

Here's a bit from the last chapter that clarifies Green's objection to speaking of distance between the biblical text and our own context:
Someone may urge that . . . the church must account for the historical gulf separating our world from the biblical world, and, in deed, that my own reflections on method . . . likewise assert the necessity of overcoming the historical distance of the biblical materials. This, however, would be erroneously and unnecessarily to equate 'otherness' with 'distance.' . . . [T]he Bible, when granted the status and role of Christian Scripture, is not an object to be examined or an extension of our own personalities or a container of the cultural presuppositions that I and people like me share. Scripture is subject (in the sense of its performative capacity to speak to and shape us) and other (in the sense of situating itself as partner in discourse). And this is a very different view of the biblical materials than the view inherent in attempts to discover what the text said back there and then. (156-7)
This is helpful (and the book as a whole is well worth reading). I get Green's opposition to viewing the Bible as an object to be examined. But I'm still puzzling over a few things:
  • I wonder whether Green would allow the legitimacy of a historical investigation into what the Biblical text meant back then, and what significant difference in result there would be--besides an important change in one's posture toward the text.
  • Is the approach stated here one that can be applied uniquely to Scripture as authoritative text? Or can it be applied to other literary classics? If so, how is this different from reading the Bible like any other book?


RogueMonk said...

I have not read the book, so it is easy to be a critic. But I would have some trouble with the idea that "scripture is subject." I would rather that God is subject, speaking through scripture. This gets back to my earlier comment about a well considered phneumatology. I think it is error to seperate reading scripture from the work of the Holy Spirit. An adequate hermeneutic ought to have a well considered pneumatology at its base.

Blessings, RogueMonk

d. miller said...

Hmm...I suspect Green would agree with your qualification, although I don't remember him saying very much about pneumatology. Jeanine Brown says something similar about authorship: "Scripture begins a conversation that is interpersonal and potentially life changing, because it is God who initiates the dialogue" (Scripture as Communication, 13).