Whither Biblical Theology? An Assessment of the Theological Hermeneutics of John J. Collins, Walter Brueggemann, and Michael Fishbane Open Access

Barbour, Kevin James (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/474299673?locale=en
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Abstract

This study addresses the contemporary status and practice of biblical theology within academic biblical studies. Chapter one assesses the persisting vague relationship between theology and biblical studies, and highlights the fact that biblical theology (in particular) has been seen as a subject in severe decline over the past few decades within some scholarly quarters. In part, this is due to an apparent impasse over what sort of activity "biblical theology" entails within the increasingly pluralistic and diverse field of academic biblical studies.

As a way forward through this apparent impasse, this study turns toward an examination of the hermeneutical strategies of three prominent and influential scholars in the field: John J. Collins (chapter two), Walter Brueggemann (chapter three), and Michael Fishbane (chapter four). The bulk of this study is devoted to some of the major works of these scholars over the course of their respective careers, with particular attention to how their thoughts on biblical theology--or the relationship between theological discourse and the Bible--developed over the years. The goal of these chapters is to discern, describe, and offer some critique of their respective interpretive strategies and their conceptualizations of the task of biblical theology.

Table of Contents

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

ONE INTRODUCTION: AN OVERVIEW OF THE

CONTEMPORARY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN

BIBLICAL THEOLOGY AND ACADEMIC

BIBLICAL STUDIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

What do We Mean By "Biblical Theology?" 5

Biblical Theology: Passe or Impasse? 7

Biblical Theology v. Scholarly Commentary for the

Sake of Theological Appropriation 10

An Analytical Assessment of Contemporary

Approaches to Theological Interpretation 12

TWO "BIBLICAL THEOLOGY," HISTORICAL CRITICISM,

AND THE WORK OF JOHN J. COLLINS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

The Early Work of John J. Collins 17

Critical v. Confessional Scholarship 19

Critical Scholarship and a Common Ground for

Dialogue and Debate 21

The Bible not as History, but as "History-Like" Myth

or Paradigmatic Story 23

Collins in the Intervening Years: 1980s and 1990s 25

The Four Principles of Historical Criticism 25

The Inconsistency of the "Biblical Theology Movement:"

Critical v. Confessional 27

The Need for a Common Ground for Dialogue and Debate 28

The Practice of Biblical Theology:

Analyzing God-language and Determining Genre 30

Collins in the Early Twenty-First Century:

Accounting for the Postmodern 33

A Critique of Collins' Approach to Biblical Theology 37

An Under-theorized Concept:

What do we Mean by "Context?" 39

Collins and Ecclesiastes? 47

Theoretical Over-Abstractionism:

The Argument for "Common Ground" 53

Conclusion 61

THREE: THE BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF

WALTER BRUEGGEMANN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64

Brueggemann's Early Work: A Theological

"Tract for the Times" in the 1970s 65

The Early 1970s: In Man We Trust 66

The Vitality of Old Testament Traditions 69

The Land 75

The Prophetic Imagination 80

Conclusion: Brueggemann at the End of the 1970s 84

Development and Nuancing:

Brueggemann in the 1980s 86

Genesis 86

The Message of the Psalms 90

Moving Toward the 1990s: Sociological and

Literary Approaches to "Truth" 94

David's Truth in Israel's Imagination and Memory 94

Hope Within History 96

Israel's Praise 99

Conclusion: Brueggemann at the Close of the 1990s 100

The 1990s and Brueggemann's Own

Postmodern "Linguistic Turn" 101

The Early 1990s: Old Testament Theology:

Essays on Structure, Theme, and Text 104

The Late 1990s: Theology of the Old Testament:

Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy 117

The Indictment of Enlightenment Epistemology 121

Brueggemann's own "Il n'y a pas de hors-texte" 128

Brueggemann's Courtroom Metaphor 133

Biblical Theology In Question:

Addressing the Naysayers 146

Brueggemann in the 1990s: A Summary 147

Describing Brueggemann's Hermeneutic

in Six Steps 150

Assessing and Critiquing Walter

Brueggemann's Contribution 153

Is Brueggemann a "Postmodernist?" Are We All? 155

Revisiting Collins and Critiquing

"Postmodernist" Views of Language 158

To the "Postmodernists:"

Language is Not a System of Difference 162

Brueggemann the Modernist in a Supposedly

Postmodern World? 165

The Enlightenment Dilemma: Brueggeman's

Modernist Dialectics and Discourse 167

The Issue of Reductionism:

Unexamined Problems of Quality 172

Brueggemann and Ecclesiaste 175

Conclusion 178

FOUR MICHAEL FISHBANE, "INNER-BIBLICAL EXEGESIS"

AND JEWISH THEOLOGY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180

Jewish Scholarship and the

Enterprise of "Biblical Theology" 182

Fishbane's Early Literary Approach to the Hebrew Bible 186

Fishbane's Inner-Biblical Exegesis 193

Fishbane and Explicit Hermeneutical Reflections 197

The Exegetical Imagination and

Second-Order Theological Scholarship 204

Fishbane's Jewish Theology 207

Fishbane and Ecclesiastes 216

Final Observations and Critique 219

Conclusion 226

FIVE A SYNTHESIS OF COLLINS, BRUEGGEMANN,

AND FISHBANE: DIALOGISM AND IMAGINATION FOR

THE SAKE OF THEOLOGICAL APPROPRIATION . . . . . . . . . . 228

Is Theological Interpretation and Appropriation

of the Bible Still Relevant? 234

If There is "Serious" Biblical Scholarship,

What Constitutes the "Unserious?" 240

Imagination and Creativity Within

"Serious" Biblical Scholarship 243

Dialogism 246

Dialogism In Relation to the Work of

Brueggemann and Fishbane 256

Dialogism and Biblical Theology:

A Tentative Synthesis of the Workof Collins,

Brueggemann, and Fishbane 261

Illustrating Biblical Theology According to an

Understanding of Dialogism:

Biblical Theology in Ecclesiastes 265

Qohelet and Historical Criticism:

What Ecclesiastes "Meant" 266

A Brief Sketch of Qohelet and Its

History of Interpretation and Reception:

What Ecclesiastes Has "Been Meaning"

Over the Course of History 273

Qohelet in Contemporary Biblical Scholarship:

What Ecclesiastes "Means" 283

The Potential of the Potential To Mean:

Imagination and Creativity for the

Future of Biblical Theology 287

The Future of Qohelet: Imagining What

Ecclesiastes "Potentially Means" 296

Ecclesiastes and Moving Beyond

the "Monologic Assumption" 299

Imagining Ecclesiastes as an

Internally Dialogized Monologue 301

Imagining Qohelet as Both

Orthodox and Unorthodox 304

Imagining Qohelet's Discourse as Hybrid Speech 307

Further Textual Evidence: Examples of

Ecclesiastes as an Internally Dialogized Monologue 309

The Inevitability of Qohelet's Contradictions

And The Inevitable Attempt to Finalize 317

The Superaddressee Within Ecclesiastes 320

Ecclesiastes: Construing the

Book as Biblical Theology 325

Qohelet, the Reality of God, and Death 327

The Theological Appropriation of Ecclesiastes 333

Biblical Theology or a "Bakhtinian" Biblical Theology?" 337

A Provisional Conclusion 341

BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 346

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 356

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