On “Seeing” What God Is “Saying”: Rereading Biblical Narrative In Dialogue With Kevin Vanhoozer’s “ Remythologizing Theology” -- By: Richard S. Briggs

Journal: Southeastern Theological Review
Volume: STR 05:1 (Summer 2014)
Article: On “Seeing” What God Is “Saying”: Rereading Biblical Narrative In Dialogue With Kevin Vanhoozer’s “ Remythologizing Theology”
Author: Richard S. Briggs


On “Seeing” What God Is “Saying”:
Rereading Biblical Narrative In Dialogue With Kevin Vanhoozer’s “
Remythologizing Theology”1

Richard S. Briggs

Cranmer Hall, St. John’s College, Durham University, England

Introduction

Large sections of the Old Testament might almost be read as a set of case studies in “How to do things with words … if you are the God of Israel.” The first act described on the first day of creation is a divine speech-act, “Let there be light …” (Gen 1:3), and the first argument in scripture, instigated by the serpent, focuses on the question: “Did God say …?” (Gen 3:1). In chapter 1 alone God commands, commissions, and commends the components of creation, and then blesses its human inhabitants. In chapter 3 he calls, then critiques, and even curses the ground. Divine speech acts abound.2 Indeed, so familiar an element of biblical narrative is this that remarkably little attention is given to it by biblical commentators. They generally follow the path that the biblical authors doubtless

intended, by which the speaking God is read straightforwardly as a character in the narrative world.

In ages past, this assumption played its part in the notion of biblical narrative as, in Hans Frei’s terms, realistic and ascriptive, under which rubric he subsumed without differentiation the historical and descriptive functions of such texts.3 In this model, still in play in the epistle to the Hebrews for example, there is little need to distinguish between the voice of God encountered as a speaking part in the narrative, and the voice of God heard everywhere in the sacred text.4 We today live, however, in the shadow of what Frei called the great modern “eclipse” of biblical narrative. What do we mean by talk of God’s speaking, or, in particular, by reading biblical descriptions of the speaking God at face value?

How Does Scripture Put God Into Writing?
– Some Proposals

This is mainly, although not entirely, an Old Testament issue. As often observed, God’s discourse in the New Testament is so focused in and through the person of Jesus that the incarnation largely obscures the question of how God speaks face to face in the New Testament.5 There are exceptions, such as the voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism or at the transfiguration,

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