Monday, 22 June 2009

Hermeneutics and Biblical Reading

As seen on other blogs, here are five scholarly books which influenced my reading of the Bible. This is probably in chronological order, rather than order of influence.

Tribes of Yahweh, by Norman K. Gottwald
Back when I did my Old Testament introduction, this book was the revolution for me. I'd never seen someone so methodically interrogate the social situation of the Israelites and so candidly admit that between beginning and ending this enormous volume, his opinion probably changed and that to reconcile it all would be a task as large as writing the book in the first place. Gottwald was also responsible for a great little article on Isaiah (Social Class and Ideology in Isaiah 40-55) that affected my readings more than any other. The invisible hand of man in the visible texts of God suddenly became visible and enlarged.

The Foundation of Universalism, by Alain Badiou
Part of the 20th Century fascination with Paul by secular philosophers, this little book packs a big punch. Read it slowly, then act enthusiastically.

Outline of a Theory of Practice, by Pierre Bourdieu
I include this, if only for a single concept, doxa; that which "goes without saying, because it comes without saying." It explains nicely how it is that we incorporate general cultural ideas into our theology, without even noticing it, and then explain the combination as Christian. Separating what is genuinely Christian from what is widely accepted as Christian is difficult and takes a specific effort.

Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus, by William Klassen
This volume went hand-in-hand with The Last Temptation of Christ. In both, Judas is the only disciple who is willing to sacrifice everything to support Jesus' mission. It's one thing to become a martyr and receive praise through history from the faithful, but it's another thing to also do something that will be scorned by the faithless and the faithful alike. By viewing Judas this way we see the editorial comments in the gospels. See my earlier comments on this.

Fear and Trembling, by Soren Kierkegaard
The retelling of the story of Abraham reminded me how often we read the Bible stories, already knowing the punchline. Kierkegaard labours the point that Abraham had to walk for three days to get to the top of Mount Moriah, all the while not knowing that a ram would be substituted at the last minute. How often do we read Biblical stories too fast, skipping over the details because it all works out in the end?

How about you? Which five scholarly books changed the way you read the Bible?

Post a Comment