Scripture As Talisman, Specimen, And Dragoman -- By: Edwin M. Yamauchi

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 50:1 (Mar 2007)
Article: Scripture As Talisman, Specimen, And Dragoman
Author: Edwin M. Yamauchi


Scripture As Talisman, Specimen, And Dragoman

Edwin M. Yamauchi

Edwin M. Yamauchi, department of history, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056, delivered this presidential address at the 58th annual meeting of the ETS on November 16, 2006, in Washington, DC.

I would like to call attention to three contrasting attitudes towards the Jewish and Christian Scriptures by my title. Scripture as Talisman represents the use of Scriptures by believers with little knowledge of the original setting of the texts, which are used at times for magical ends and at other times are followed literally without regard to their original contexts. Scripture as Specimen represents the critical analysis of the texts by skeptical scholars who view them simply as objects of academic study without faith in their value as divine revelation. Scripture as Dragoman or “interpreter” represents the scholarly study of Scripture by believers such as ETS members, who seek guidance through careful inquiry into the original setting of the texts to determine their significance for us today.

According to Anthony C. Thiselton,

Even if, for the moment, we leave out of account the modern reader’s historical conditionedness, we are still faced with the undeniable fact that if a text is to be understood there must occur an engagement between two sets of horizons (to use Gadamer’s phrase), namely those of the ancient text and those of the modern reader or hearer.1

I. Scripture As Talisman2

Magic is still quite prevalent in many places of the world today such as the Caribbean and Africa.3 The world of the Bible was a world pervaded by belief in magic.4 There are some alleged cases of magic in the OT and in the

NT.5 But rather than speak of these controversial examples, let me discuss some cases where scriptural quotations are clearly used in a magical context. The oldest texts from the Hebrew Scriptures were found inscribed on silver amulets discovered under the supervision of Gordon Franz, a member of ETS/NEAS.

Franz was asked by Gabriel Barkay to supervise a crew in digging a burial cave at Ketef Hinnom “The Shoulder of Hinnom” below St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Jerusalem. On Saturday morning, August 4, 1979, they began working at 6 a.m. He writes:

About mid morning, Judy Hadley, an archaeology student at ...

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