The Application Of Principles From The Sociology Of Knowledge For Understanding The Setting, Tradition And Theology Of The Prophets -- By: Gary V. Smith
Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 32:2 (Jun 1989)
Article: The Application Of Principles From The Sociology Of Knowledge For Understanding The Setting, Tradition And Theology Of The Prophets
Author: Gary V. Smith
JETS 32:2 (June 1989) p. 145
The Application Of Principles
From The Sociology Of Knowledge
For Understanding The Setting, Tradition
And Theology Of The Prophets
In recent years the interpretation of the prophetic books has become increasingly complex. Biblical scholars have introduced new methods of investigating the lives of the prophets, their writings and their theology.1 These approaches have opened up new ways of looking at old problems and given a fresh impetus to the study of the OT. Each study is significant because each strives to shed light on some aspect of a prophet’s life or message. In this article the focus of attention will be on an interdisciplinary approach to the study of (1) the historical and social setting of the prophets and their audience, (2) the literary traditions used by the prophets, and (3) the theological message of the prophets.
An understanding of the setting is the first step because it opens a window into the world of the prophets. It provides insight on the people who were prophets and also on Israel’s political and theological struggles between 800 and 400 B.C. By gaining an understanding of the various cultural, social, political and economic factors that influenced the prophets one is able to place them in their proper context. It is essential to recognize that many prophetic acts and words include cultural and social clues that reveal a great deal about that particular setting. Although these social and cultural factors influenced how the prophets acted and spoke, it would be wrong to conclude that a prophet’s historical or social setting totally determines every aspect of life (as some social scientists do).2 In addition to these social forces that mold behavior, there are personal (including genius, imagination and free will) and divine (including supernatural experiences and spiritual direction) influences that sometimes produce actions contrary to the accepted patterns of a society.
* Gary Smith is professor of Old Testament at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.
JETS 32:2 (June 1989) p. 146
These independent sources of understanding life interact with existing explanations within society to produce fresh perspectives on life.
A second ingredient that helps explain each prophet’s ministry is the wealth of oral and written tradition that served as a resource for prophetic analysis and proclamation. These traditions reveal something of the literary and theological setting of the prophet. The prophets based their thinking on older theological traditions from the Torah, from temple hymns and from other prophets. The prophe...
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