Archive for July, 2012

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading and compiling an annotated bibliography for the purpose of formulating and refining a thesis. You’ll forgive me, I hope, if my writing is a bit complicated. I tend to absorb the writing style of those that I’ve subjected my eyes to the most. Scholarly writing isn’t always “readable” writing.

I can tell that I’m becoming more familiar with parts of the field as I make fewer and fewer notes. At first, my annotations were summaries of the articles I was reading. Now, I’m able to sum the article up in 4-5 lines. I’ve also made sure to add a couple of lines of my thoughts of the article and its usefulness toward my “thesis.”

I’ve focused primarily on two works. First, is the work on the Enneateuch (fancy word for Genesis-Kings). The scholars in this book describe methodologies and case studies for the literary works in the Ennaeteuch. The second work is focused current scholarship on the Penteteuch. The first work is topically focused but literarily broad, and the second is more broadly focused but centers its study on the first 5 books of the Bible rather than the first 9. I’m reading both so that I can get a general grasp on the state of Old Testament studies on the Pentateuch and Former Prophets. I’ve only compiled 11 sources so far, and I have a long way to go.

Although I’m in the early stages of my bibliography, I’m already trying work through some issues with my thesis. First of all, I should mention that I’m looking at the book of Joshua and…well, I’m still thinking of an “and.” I know I want to focus on language, text critical, and literary development issues and how they impact interpretation of the final form of Joshua. Other than that, I’m too broad right now to say much about specifics.

Methodologically, I have some questions to answer. The “critical” field is definitely concerned with source criticism/literary analysis and its impact on interpretation. Evangelicals are interested in final form centering around dogmatic issues. The line between the two isn’t that bold, but I need to deal in both realms for the purpose of my thesis. This fact leads me to ask questions about “evangelical” use of “critical” scholarship. Namely, what is the useful, best, and wise use of critical scholarship? Don’t get me wrong. I have to ask the same question about evangelical scholarship. Since I am plunging myself into the deep end of source criticism at the moment, the question about critical scholarship is more pressing. The real question is: How much do I discuss source/literary/historical critical issues? I suppose I could help myself by having a more specific thesis – my problem is really the chicken-or-the-egg syndrome.

I’m not too stressed right now, but at least I’m thinking…and praying. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading my ramblings.

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Thomas Romer traces certain scholarly trends as the guild struggles with the issue of literary works in the Hebrew Bible. He provides a brief history on how certain scholars have tried to fit the books together and ends with a few of what he calls “Open Questions.”

Martin Noth, of course, articulated the theory of the Deuteronomistic History (DH). He proposed that the end of the Pentateuch was lost and that the Tetrateuch was appended to the DH. In the light of this theory, Some scholars have rejected the original Documentary Hypothesis theory in favor of some new theories to address the problem that the DH raises with the Pentateuch (i.e. the loss of sources). John Van Seters, for instance, proposes that Genesis-Numbers operates as  a prologue to the DH: “[he] considers the Yahwist to be a post-Deuteronomist author who wrote the pre-Priestly traditions of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.” According to Romer, this model does not seem to address the issue of certain passages within the “Tetrateuch” only making sense within the context of a Hexateuch.

From there, Romer moves on to the question of whether we have a Pentateuch or Hexateuch. “The most decisive argument for the existence of a Hexateuch,” Romer writes, “is Joshua 24. The final discourse is clearly later than Joshua’s last words in chapter 23, which stem from Deuteronomistic redactors.” The expressions “these words” and “Thus says the LORD” in Joshua 24 strongly link this chapter with the end of Deuteronomy. Romer sees validity in distinguishing between what he calls a “Pentateuch redaction” and a “Hexateuch redaction” within the first books of the Old Testament. The “Pentateuch redaction” seems to be concerned with a theology of founding “Israel’s identity in the Torah mediated by Moses;” whereas the “Hexateuch redaction” is primarily concerned with idea of land. Keeping in mind the evidence for the Hexateuch, we can note that much speaks in favor of the “Pentateuch redaction:” Moses’s death at 120 years, the oath formula, and the No-Prophet-Like-Moses formula.

Then, Romer raises the question of whether these two literary units point to a larger, earlier unit known as the Primary History or the Enneateuch. In fact, a number of scholars have the opinion that the an “epic story” (some form of Enneateuch) predates the Pentateuch, Hexateuch, or DH. This idea is based off a number of literary and thematic links in Genesis through Kings.  Deuteronomy 34 and Joshua 24 aren’t viewed as conclusions to their respective literary unit. They are, instead, transitions to different themes in the Enneateuch. Romer also mentions literary links between the end of Kings and the beginning of the Latter Prophets which suggests that a redactor wanted to make that connection and that the Enneateuch may have been read long with these Latter Prophets. The main problem for the proponents of the Enneateuch is where Deuteronomy fits in with the literary unit. Some scholars suggest that Deuteronomy is late addition, but Deuteronomy has much more in common with Joshua-Kings than with Genesis-Numbers. Thus, the Primary History may have been read as a unit, but it wasn’t a “canonical unit.”

Finally, Romer makes this observation:

How can we distinguish comprehensive redactional activity from restrictive additions that are limited to one or two passages, or from cases of intertextuality, which do not necessarily imply redactional activities[?] One may, for instance, observe that the story of Jephthah sacrificing his daughter has many parallels with the Adequah story in Gen 22, but this does not mean that the author of Judg 11 wrote his story in the context of the Enneateuch.

We have some evidence what Romer calls historical summaries in the Psalms and Prophets that suggest the existence of a Pentateuch, Hexateuch, and Enneateuch. Romer maintains that we have little redactional evidence of the Enneateuch, but that fact does not preclude certain books being read in units.

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I had a good conversation with my friend, Jacob, about our goals with the academic training we are receiving at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and (hopefully) beyond. Here’s my confession: I didn’t go to school because I wanted to be a pastor. I went to school because I love to study. I got hooked on the Biblical languages and theology and never looked back. I never intended to be a minister. Anytime someone asks me why I’m in school, I always tell them that I want to research the world the Bible and teach hopefully in a university and especially in the church.

I’m in a place right now where I get to use my teaching gifts. I will be preaching this Sunday night, and I have been teaching through the book of Joshua in Sunday School. I love it.

I’m in school because I love scholarship. I’m not seeking glory. I have too many doubts about my own abilities to even begin to dream of making a Wellhausian-impact in the realm of Old Testament studies. I simply want to contribute. I want to widen my own knowledge of the field, contribute to scholarship in some way, and transfer what I’ve learned to the church (which is one of my favorite things to do).

I still battle some sense of shame when I say that I’m not in school to be a pastor. I love and respect my pastors. I consider the office of pastor a noble one. We lay all these burdens we lay on our pastors – administration, counselling, preaching, teaching, etc. I think we’ve professionalized office. I have two (personal)  problems with that. First, I don’t want “pastor” to be my job. I don’t want to be “Pastor” Nathaniel. I’m fine with just Nathaniel. I’ll do what I’m gifted at doing. I’m more than willing to preach and teach. I’m willing to grow in areas I’m not strong in as well. I, however, don’t want all the expectations we lay on our pastors, and I definitely don’t want it to be a job in the same way that programming is a job. Second, I enjoy being a “lay person;” although, I really don’t think “lay person” is the right word. An unfortunate side effect of the professionalization of the ministry is that we have “pastors” and “lay-people.” Two groups of people, one church. I just want to be a part of the community of believers. I don’t want a title.

At the end of this reflection, I don’t know if my lack of desire to be a pastor is to my shame and reflects a lack of courage on my part. I hope not. I really do love serving in the capacity that I do. I’m willing to grow where ever I’m planted. I just don’t want to be a professional minister.

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Grace and I decided that we would check out the new wing in the science museum last week. As a kid, I loved the science museum, and I had not been in a while. I was looking forward to the trip. I made three observations while at the museum.

First, the exhibits (the new wing in particular) had a lot of visual pop and sizzle. Models of dinosaurs, whales, bacteria, and viruses. Real labs with glass walls so that any museum visitor could see what real scientists are up to. Several “hands-on” labs for anyone who wants to explore the exhibit more. One of the floors even had a nice theater (looked like a mini omnitheater). I’ve always enjoyed the visually appealing atmosphere of the science museum, and the new wing did not disappoint.

The second observation was: despite the great aesthetic feel of many of the exhibits, they lacked information that an informed museum goer seeks when they go into a museum. Granted, the science museum is geared toward the general public, and more specifically, children. Yet, I still could not help but be annoyed by the lack of information in each exhibit. I could tell you how many of a particular type of bacterium could fit on my eyelash, but the exhibits did not deepen my knowledge of a particular field let alone introduce me to exciting breakthroughs or interesting new research.

The third observation I made was that many exhibits contained a moral imperative for the interested observer. Species are going extinct, we should stop that. We are littering the planet, we should be more conscious of what we throw away. These exhortations toward ethical behavior in and of themselves are not bad, but in the context of the science museum, I find them irksome. The moral imperative was not well-grounded in the indicative (see the last paragraph). The behavior these exhibits are encouraging may be upstanding behavior, but they assume rather than argue for the rationale that founds that behavior. The exhibits, to me, came across as saying, “This is good to do. We know because we’re scientists.” I suppose the museum isn’t the last place you would expect to see fallacious appeals to authority, but at least give me a reason to care!

Here’s the takeaway. The general exhibits look very nice – appreciate their beauty. For those who want to deepen their knowledge of a particular field, look for special exhibits and programs that the museum hosts from time to time. When you go to those special programs, take the opportunity then to go to the new wing. I wouldn’t take a trip to the museum otherwise.

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In this appropriately named article (see the title of this post), Konrad Schmid gives a brief historical sketch on how Biblical studies has viewed the literary connections of Genesis through Kings through recent years.

Two major theories regarding the composition of those books has dominated the field until recently. Some scholars have proposed that the Genesis-Joshua actually makes up a 6-book literary work known as the Hexateuch. They hold to this theory for two reasons: 1) they claim to be able to find evidence of the four Pentateuchal sources (JEDP) in Joshua and 2) Joshua thematically completes the Torah by giving Israel the land that God promised them (Josh 21:43).

The second theory is most often associated with Martin Noth (although he was influenced by Albrecht Alt). He proposed that the first four books (Genesis-Numbers) is one work, and the books Deuteronomy through Kings make up the “Deuteronomistic History (DH).” He argues that Genesis-Numbers exhibits “no Deuteronomistic editorial activity” although he concedes that the books do evidence some Deuteronomistic “reworking.” He also argues that the DH shows no signs of the other Pentateuchal sources (JEP).

This brief historical sketch sets the stage for Konrad’s examination of what he calls “the von Rad-Noth compromise.” Von Rad maintained that Genesis-Joshua displays a “broad narrative arc”  – holding to the theory of an original Hexateuch. He, however, makes one major concession to Martin Noth: the “earlier text form was no longer extant in Joshua, because it had been replaced when the hexateuchal narrative was combined with the [DH].” In other words, von Rad proposed that we have lost the “original” Hexateuch. Schmid points out that the major problem with this thesis is:

This model must come to terms with an immense loss of text. It presupposes that the Yahwist’s and Elohist’s accounts of the conquest of the land were lost when their texts were combined with the Deuteronomistic History. This is not only quite inelegant, but also highly improbable.

Von Rad’s concession punts to Noth’s model. If we do not have the Hexateuchal sources for Joshua and Deuteronomy, from a compositional stand point, we are forced to divide the DH from the Tetrateuch (Genesis-Numbers).

Martin Noth also made a concession. He agreed with von Rad that an “older” Hexateuch existed: “He proposed a composition that developed from several independent traditions – what he calls ‘major themes’: ‘Guidance out of Egypt,’ ‘Guidance into Arable Land,’ Promise to the Patriarch,’ and so on.” He further argued that Hexateuch developed from “oral prehistory in premonarchic times.” As Schmid notes, this proposal leads Noth to make comments to the effect of: We can study the book of Numbers in its “Pentateuchal context” (because research has shown that it was a part of a Pentateuch) even though Numbers itself shows little evidence coherence among narratives written within it.

Scholarship has recently moved away from this separation model that Noth originally proposed. Blum, for instance, has postulated the existence of a a “pre-Priestly D-composition” in Exodus through Deuteronomy. Blum’s arguments along with Thomas Romer’s thesis that “Genesis and Exodus were not found together in a single literary work before the composition of the Priestly code” and the identification of a Priestly layer in the DH, Konrad offers a two-point summation of current scholarship: 1) the Priestly document probably did not cover all of the Pentateuch and 2) Joshua-Kings contains evidence of a “priestly” influenced redaction. Thus, scholarship is moving toward a thesis of at least seeing Exodus-Kings as a literary work.

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