Biblical Criticism

Malherbe States Paul was not a Metaphysician

From Light from the Gentiles – Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity:

During the last century, NT scholars have shown that many aspects of Paul’s life and letters are illuminated when they are examined in light of Greco-Roman culture. There is no longer any doubt that Paul was thoroughly familiar with the teaching, methods of operation, and style of argumentation of the philosophers of the period, all of which he adopted and | adapted to his own purposes. This is not to argue that he was a technical philosopher; neither were his philosophical contemporaries. The philosophers with whom Paul should be compared were not metaphysicians who specialized in systematizing abstractions, but, like Paul, were preachers and teachers who saw their main goal to be the reformation of the lives of people they encountered in a variety of contexts, ranging from the imperial court and the salons of the rich to the street corners.

Sarah Ruden on Romans 8:33

Rom 8:33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Sarah Ruden comments on this verse:

In The Face of Water, I confronted the possibility that the momentous notion of “election”—which culminates in the Calvinist assertion that saved individuals are chosen unchangeably from the beginning of time—owes something to some joyous and lighthearted wordplay of Paul in Romans 8:33 (KJV: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth”). It looks to me, in this verse at least, not as if he’s naming a special category of people who are inherently “elect” or “chosen” but rather that he’s just pointing out the absurdity of the notion that any force in the universe could haul INTO court for a verdict of damnation those (that is, all of Jesus’ sincere followers) who are singled OUT for a friendly verdict by the ultimate judge, God, through his love. In other words, the divine fix is in. This is part of the courtroom conceit that dominates the passage. The critical words are the jingly enkahlesei (“INdict”) and eklektōn (“EXempted”). Paul’s language wasn’t just Greek; it was also rhetoric, the play of sounds and ideas. That’s how he made his points in detail, and with emotion, and with precision. Since we moderns don’t respect rhetoric, since we habitually condemn whatever’s “rhetorical,” we lose many heights and depths and angles of Paul.

Yamasaki on Reading the Bible like Cinematography

1. The point of view of a given shot is largely determined by the positioning of the movie camera lens that is taking the shot. In 1982, Hebrew scholar Adele Berlin proffered the analogy of a movie camera lens as a way of understanding the concept of point of view:

[I]n any film . . . the story is filtered through the perspective of the camera eye. Sometimes the camera gives long-shots, sometimes close-ups. . . . And it constantly shifts perspective, showing the action from different angles. The viewer’s perspective is both expanded and controlled by the camera; he can see the action from many directions and perspectives, but can see only what the camera shows him. Biblical narrative narrates like film. The narrator is the camera eye; we “see” the story through what he presents. The Biblical narrator is omniscient in that everything is at his disposal, but he selects carefully what he will include and what he will omit. He can survey the scene from a distance, or zoom in for a detailed look at a small part of it. He can follow one character throughout, or hop from the vantage point of one to another

Yamasaki, Gary. Insights from Filmmaking for Analyzing Biblical Narrative (Reading the Bible in the Twenty-First Century) (Kindle Locations 1249-1259). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

Hayes on God Learning about Man

He created humans with high hopes, but as they corrupted their path, he destroyed them with a flood, saving one individual as a fresh start. But humans continue to frustrate his plans for them, seeking aggrandizement instead of filling the earth as commanded. Having promised never to destroy creation again, Yahweh responds by frustrating their plans, scattering them far and wide, and once again pinning his hopes on a single individual— Abraham. And now the children of Abraham have disappointed him with their faithlessness and corruption, and once again, as if by reflex, Yahweh’s first thought is to abandon them and start afresh with Moses. But Moses draws the line. He refuses to accept the offer and advances a line of argument that appeals primarily to Yahweh’s vanity: What will the neighbors think if you destroy them? They will think you couldn’t fulfill your promise. They will think you are not the powerful god of history.

Hayes, Christine. Introduction to the Bible (The Open Yale Courses Series) (Kindle Locations 2250-2256). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

Critical scholar finds Open Theism in Genesis 22

From Jews, Christians, and the Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures by Joel S. Kaminsky:

So what might we learn about God from this story? I remember the moment when that dimension of the text opened up for me. My homiletics colleague, Richard Ward, and I were doing a teaching session together, and he recited Gen 22 from memory. In the freshness of that new medium, I heard a verse I had always passed over before, although I do not recall his giving it any special emphasis. Again, the angel of the LORD is speaking: “Do not stretch out your hand to the lad and do not do a single thing to him, for now I know that you are a God-fearer, and you did not withhold your son, your only one, from me” (v. 12). If we take those words seriously—and in this narrative not a word is wasted—then we have to believe that there is something God now knows for the first time. (For all its theocentricity, the book of Genesis gives little comfort to the doctrine of divine omniscience.) What God knows now is so crucial that this most terrible “test” (v. 1) was devised, in order to show whether in fact Abraham cares for God above everything and everyone else—even above Isaac, his son and his own slender hope for fulfillment of God’s promise.

I spoke earlier of cultivating generosity toward the text, if we are indeed to befriend it. Generosity toward the Old Testament must mean this at least: accepting the text on its own terms, literally, working seriously with the language it offers us. The advantage of this present reading is that it is directed by the words of the passage rather than by an extraneous idea—the immorality of child sacrifice, the omniscience of God—however valid that idea might be in another interpretive situation.

This reading also coheres with the larger narrative context, to which the very first words of the chapter point us: “After these things, God tested Abraham.” After what things? Where are we in the history of salvation? At this point, all God’s eggs are in Abraham’s basket, almost literally. Recall that after the tower of Babel, God gave up on working a blessing directly upon all humankind and adopted a new strategy: channeling the blessing through Abraham’s line (Gen 12:3). Our story takes account of that new divine strategy: “And all the nations of the earth will find blessing through your seed, because you heeded my voice” (22:18). God, having been badly and repeatedly burned by human sin throughout the first chapters of Genesis, yet still passionately desirous of working blessing in the world, now consents to become totally vulnerable on the point of this one man’s faithfulness. But the narrative has just cast a shadow of doubt over Abraham’s total faith in God. Remember those two episodes in which Abraham has Sarah pass herself off as his sister? In Egypt and again in Canaan he lets his beautiful wife go into a king’s harem, rather than trusting God to protect them on their sojourn (Gen 12:10-17 and 20:1-18). “After these things, God tested Abraham.” After all that, we can begin to understand why God must know for sure whether the single human thread upon which the blessing hangs will hold firm.

Mcmahon on Job 42.11

Job 42:11 Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.

Timothy Mcmahon Comments on Job 42:11 on the Facebook page God is Open:

…if I were translating the text I’d go with “that HaShem brought on him” and then deal with it exegetically. The OT authors, at least in an earlier phase, simply didn’t wrestle with the issue of whether God allows or initiates. Throughout the book of Job, everyone agrees that God has brought Job’s calamity on him; they disagree on the reason for it. It’s only later, when the prose sections are appended to the poem, that we learn of the Satan’s intermediary role. You see the same development between 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21.

Hayes on Reading the Bible

From a Huffington Post article, 5 Common Misconceptions About the Bible:

Correction #5

The character “Yahweh” in the Hebrew Bible should not be confused with the god of western theological speculation (generally referred to as “God”). The attributes assigned to “God” by post-biblical theologians — such as omniscience and immutability — are simply not attributes possessed by the character Yahweh as drawn in biblical narratives. Indeed, on several occasions Yahweh is explicitly described as changing his mind, because when it comes to human beings his learning curve is steep. Humans have free will; they act in ways that surprise him and he must change tack and respond. One of the greatest challenges for modern readers of the Hebrew Bible is to allow the text to mean what it says, when what is says flies in the face of doctrines that emerged centuries later from philosophical debates about the abstract category “God.”

Hayes on the History of Genesis

From Introduction to the Old Testament by Yale Professor Christine Hayes:

With Jacob, who is now Israel, God seems perhaps to finally have found the working relationship with humans that he has been seeking since their creation. God learned immediately after creating this unique being, that he will exercise his free will against God. God saw that he had to limit the life span of humans, or risk creating an enemy that was nearly equal to him. So he casts the humans out of the Garden, blocks access to the tree of life. But humans continue their violent and evil ways, and in desperation, God wipes them out, and starts again. This second creation proves to be not much better. They forget God, they turn to idolatry. God has promised at this point, however, not to destroy all humankind again, so he experiments with a single individual of faith. Abraham’s faith withstands many a trial. He is obedient to God in a way that no one has been up to this point in the narrative, but perhaps ultimately the model of blind obedience is rejected, too. When Abraham prepares to slaughter his own son, perhaps God sees that blind faith can be as destructive and evil as disobedience, so God relinquishes his demand for blind obedience: he stops Abraham himself.