Saturday, October 3, 2015

Richard Bauckham on being un-mastered by the text

I couldn't resist picking up a copy of John Byron and Joel N. Lohr's edited collection of mini-autobiographies, I (Still) Believe: Leading Bible Scholars Share Their Sories of Faith and Scholarship (Zondervan: 2015). So far--one chapter in--it has more than lived up to the hype. I suspect Christian biblical studies type people will find it hard to put down. Here is an excerpt from Richard Bauckham that I haven't seen quoted yet:
"Another peril [of scholarly study of the Bible] is the sense of mastery of a text that may come with a successful attempt to understand it. I suspect that these perils are unavoidable along the path of rigorous scholarship, but if they cannot be avoided there are nevertheless ways beyond them. It helps to remember that the biblical texts are not unique in their ability to transcend their original context and to resist our objectification of them. Shakespeare's plays may seem to have all the life drained out of them by some kinds of classroom study, but they come to life again in performance. In performance the work of Shakespearean scholars makes a contribution but is also transcended. God addresses us through the Scriptures not because they communicate in some magically unique way but by means of all the ways in which texts communicate. A readiness to be un-mastered is required even for the kind of enhancement of life that poetry or philosophy or drama or nature may give us, not to mention personal relationships. In the case of Scripture, such readiness to be un-mastered is one reason why prayer and worship are the most appropriate ways in which to hear it as God's word.

"We also need to develop a broad understanding of what it means for Scripture to address us or for God to address us through it. Familiar texts do not need to surprise us with new relevance, though they may do so. Their very familiarity is their way of having deep effects in our lives. Texts do not only speak to us; they may also speak for us, enabling us to say more than we thought we knew. Texts may affect us by drawing us imaginatively into their world, if we give ourselves over to their narratives or their images. All these are ways beyond the distancing and objectifying of a text that are occupational hazards of the biblical scholar." (p. 28)

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