The Blog of Jack Holloway

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Texts That Linger: Quotes from Brueggemann's Theology of the Old Testament

Brueggemann, Walter. Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997. $30.98. pp.v-777. ISBN 978-0-8006-3765-1. ★★★★☆

I just recently finished Walter Brueggemann's massive 750-page Theology of the Old Testament. While I would love to write a review of it, I wouldn't even know where to begin, and would not be able to recall all the thoughts I had over the course of reading it. Thus, I thought instead I would just post several quotes from the book that I found compelling and/or thought-provoking:

"Israel's speech about Yahweh is characteristcally situated historically. I intend only to rule out questions of positivistic history that seek to limit Israel's imaginative utterance about Yahweh to recoverable happenings. Stated another way, the history to be reckoned with in this project is emic, i.e., as accepted by the Israelite cast of characters, and not etic, i.e., the past recoverable by the reckonings of the rationality of modernity." (118)

"Yahweh is slow to anger ('rk 'ppym). The actual Hebrew idiom translates as "has long nostrils." The usage perhaps indicates that Yahweh's long nose permits divine rage and anger to cool off before they threaten Israel." (216)

Speaking of Hosea 2:2-23: "Yahweh's divorce (abandonment) of Yahweh's wife Israel was, so the poet asserts, due to Israel's fickleness as a spouse . . . [but then] the poet moves beyond divorce to contemplate remarriage, a move unthinkable in the old law of Moses." (223)

"Israel's characteristic adjectival vocabulary about Yahweh is completely lacking in terms that have dominated classical theology, such as omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. This sharp contrast suggests that classical theology, insofar as it is dominated by such interpretive categories and such concerns, is engaged in issues that are not crucial for Israel's testimony about Yahweh and are in fact quite remote from Israel's primary utterance." (225)

"Yahweh goes through loss, anguish, rage, and humiliation." (254)

"The term passion [with regard to Yahweh] . . . refers to a propensity to suffer with and suffer for, to be in solidarity with Israel in its suffering, and by such solidarity to sustain a relationship that rightfully could be terminated." (299)

"One may suggest . . . that the move toward incarnation . . . is in some inchoate way already present in Yahweh's radical decision for covenantal solidarity with Israel and more radical decision toward pathos with Israel. . . . [W]hatever may be claimed for the radicality of God in the New Testament is already present in all its radicality in these Jewish witnesses to the character of Yahweh." (302)

"Israel as witness knows that if Yahweh is not endlessly criticized and subverted, Yahweh will also become an absolute, absolutizing idol." (332)

"[I]f we are to identify what is most characteristic and most distinctive in the life and vocation of this partner of Yahweh, it is the remarkable equation of love of God with love of neighbor." (424)

"The human person, like Israel, is invited, expected, and insistently urged to engage in a genuine interaction [with Yahweh] that is variously self-asserting and self-abandoning, yielding and initiative-taking." (458)

"[S]o-called conservatives tend to take careful account of the most rigorous claims of the Bible concerning sexuality, and are indifferent to what the Bible says about economics. Mutatis mutandis, so-called liberals relish what the Bible says in demanding ways about economics, but tread lightly around what the Bible says about sexuality." (458)

Yahweh "in mutality invites challenge. The high classical tradition of Christian interpretation has not paid sufficient attention to this . . . aspect of Yahweh's fidelity, which issues in pathos and vulnerability to the human partner." (459)

"[T]he wisdom traditions make clear that obedience is not simply slavish, fearful conformity to rules and laws. Thus wisdom is a guard against legalism. Obedience, according to the traditions of wisdom, entails the imaginative capacity to take positive initiatives for the enhancement of creation." (466)

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