Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BBR 18:2 (2008) p. 315
Robin Parry. Old Testament Story and Christian Ethics: The Rape of Dinah as a Test Case. Paternoster Biblical Monographs. Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 2004. Pp. xx + 350. ISBN 1-84227-210-1. $29.99 paper.
Old Testament Story and Christian Ethics is a revision of a Ph.D. thesis completed under the supervision of Professor Gordon Wenham at the University of Gloucester. This work deals with how to utilize narrative for ethics, and in this Wenham, of course, is a worthy guide. His Story as Torah: Reading the Old Testament Ethically (T. & T. Clark, 2000) was an important contribution to this very area. Parry offers an extensive discussion of important theoretical underpinnings for this task and concentrates on a particular story, the rape of Dinah in Gen 34, to illustrate his methodological proposal.
Part One encompasses the first two chapters, both of which probe how stories are useful for ethics. Chapter one appeals to the work of various scholars, but Parry’s primary source is the thought of Paul Ricoeur. He begins with the notion that human life is shaped and ordered around narratives. The next step is to describe how the world of a story impacts the actual world of readers by offering realistic depictions, whether genuine or possible, of how life is and could be lived (here Parry offers a helpful explanation of the various aspects of mimesis). These models of attitudes and behavior can be worthy of emulation or can serve as warnings of what is to be avoided. This interaction with stories instructs a reader’s moral discernment.
Chapter two turns from the philosophical to studies in Old Testament ethics. Parry’s goal at this point is to demonstrate that story also is fundamental to classic approaches to Old Testament ethics and that, additionally, there is a biblical metanarrative that fashions Christian identity. For his discussion of the more traditional paradigms for Old Testament ethics, he uses John Barton’s three categories, divine command, natural law, and the imitation of God. Parry argues that each is inseparably tied to narrative: the divine commands of God are grounded in the narrative of redemption from Egypt, natural law arises within the story of creation and the fall, and the imitation of God is incomprehensible apart from the biblical accounts of divine activity. Parry then contends that the Bible contains an overarching metanarrative of which the biblical authors—and Jewish and Christian readers—deem they too are a part. This assertion is necessary for exploring how texts are appropriated in other passages and by later faith communities. Parry can study how his case text is appropriated within the broad boundaries of Scripture and by its subsequent interpretation,...
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