Friday, March 23, 2018

Bible in a Year: Reading the Old Testament

As a Christian who participates in interfaith groups with esteemed Jewish colleagues, I think this is a wonderful quotation (copied under fair use principles), by Walter Brueggeman, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), 734-735.

“Theological interpretation… is conducted by real people who are concretely located in the historical process… preoccupied with an ancient text in a particular circumstance….

If we are to interpret the Old Testament in our circumstance, it is clear that Jewish faith and actual Jewish community must be on the horizon of Christians. More specifically Old Testament theology as a Christian enterprise most be done in light (or darkness!) of the Holocaust and the unthinkable brutality wrought against the Jewish community in a society with Christian roots… Christian interpretation of the Old Testament and its characteristic supersessionism and a long distance removed from the Holocaust. Yet the thinking behind and around supersessionism, of which Christian Old Testament theology has been one aspect, is indeed linked to the Holocaust. Therefore Christian Old Testament theology… must make important and generous adjustment sin our convention and uncritical exclusivist claims on the Old Testament…. If Christian appropriation of the Old Testament toward Jesus is an act of claiming the elusive tradition toward a Jesus-Circumstance, we can recognize that other imaginative appropriations of this elusive tradition are equally legitimate and appropriate. We have yet to decide how christological exclusivenesss is to be articulated so that it is not an ideological ground for the dismissal of a co-community of interpretation. Thus our most passionate affirmation of jesus as the ’clue’ to all reality must allow for other ‘clues’ found herein by other serious communities of interpretation. And of course this applies to none other so directly as it does to Judaism.

"Thus Christians are able to say of the Old Testament, ‘It is ours,’ but also say, ‘It is not ours alone.’ This means to recognize that Jewish imaginative construals of the Old Testament text are, in Christian purview, a legitimate theological activity. More than that, Jewish imaginative construal of the text is a legitimate theological activity to which Christians must pay attention. … I do not imagine that attention to this primate alternative construal of the text will lead to an abrupt overthrow of distinctive Christian claims. But I also do not imagine that such attention would leave Christian claims untouched, certainly not untouched in their fearful, destructive  aspects, but also not untouched in good-fain exclusively, rooted in a text that remains as elusive as its Subject that relentlessly resists closure."

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