‘What Is This Evil Thing … Profaning The Sabbath?’ A New-Historicist Look At The Sabbath Restrictions In Nehemiah 13:15-22 -- By: Dominic S. Irudayaraj S.J
Volume: CONSPECTUS 23:1 (Mar 2017)
Article: ‘What Is This Evil Thing … Profaning The Sabbath?’ A New-Historicist Look At The Sabbath Restrictions In Nehemiah 13:15-22
Author: Dominic S. Irudayaraj S.J
Conspectus 23:1 (March 2017) p. 99
‘What Is This Evil Thing … Profaning The Sabbath?’ A New-Historicist Look At The Sabbath Restrictions In Nehemiah 13:15-22
As one of the three ‘reforms’ that Nehemiah undertakes, Nehemiah 13:15-22 narrates his Sabbath ‘reforms’. In this action-filled self-portrait, Nehemiah paints himself as the safeguarder of the sanctity of the Sabbath (cf. v.22). A New Historical scrutiny of the portrait, however, reveals a twin excess therein: (i) in Nehemiah’s power; (ii) in his novel interpretation of the ‘book of Moses’ (cf. 13:1). Whereas the former provides a reading strategy (interpretive significance), the latter bears witness to the adaptability and survival of texts—both biblical and ours (pastoral significance).
Conspectus 23:1 (March 2017) p. 100
Knowledge and meaning are agglutinative (Sherwood 2000:5)
As meaning-making beings, we humans approach, apprehend, appropriate what we newly encounter in terms of what we already know. The object of such encounters can be a person or a thing. Among the latter, texts constitute a subcategory. Of these, texts that are deemed sacred and normative, such as the biblical texts, elicit an urgent need for appropriating their meaning(s). Biblical interpretation has been engaged in such meaning-making process. In fact, biblical interpretation is as old as the Bible itself, as the abounding instances of inner-biblical interpretation attest.2
Even a cursory glance at the history of biblical interpretation would reveal that its task has been anything but uniform, both in terms of methodology and perspective. For instance, during the heydays of modernism, when reason was reified by the onrush of Enlightenment air, biblical interpretation predominantly tended towards Historical Critical Method (HCM). HCM operated under a number of presuppositions: it (i) paid particular attention to the aspect of ‘history’ (so, historical),3 (ii) claimed for itself a dispassionate disposition (hence, critical), and (iii) laid out a systematic set of steps to be followed (therefore, method). Later, as the confident claims of modernism began to wane, it ushered
Conspectus 23:1 (March 2017) p. 101
in an awareness that the aspect of ‘history’ is often on a slippery slope. In response, Literary Critic...
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