Michal, Contradicting Values: Understanding The Moral Dilemma Faced By Saul’s Daughter -- By: Jonathan Y. Rowe

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 60:2 (NA 2009)
Article: Michal, Contradicting Values: Understanding The Moral Dilemma Faced By Saul’s Daughter
Author: Jonathan Y. Rowe


Michal, Contradicting Values: Understanding The Moral Dilemma Faced By Saul’s Daughter1

Jonathan Y. Rowe

Value conflicts owing to cultural differences are an increasingly pressing issue in many societies. Because Old Testament texts hail from a very different milieu to our own they may provide new perspectives upon contemporary conflicts. Michal, Contradicting Values is an interdisciplinary investigation of the value clash in 1 Samuel 19:10-18a that employs insights from Old Testament studies, ethics and anthropology.

Studies of Old Testament ethics have attended to narrative only relatively recently. Although social-scientific interpretation has a longer pedigree, there are important debates about how to employ the fruits of anthropology in biblical studies. For these reasons the first part of the thesis (chapters 1-4) attends to methodological issues.

Chapter 1 considers whether the Old Testament itself provides sufficient resources to address cases of conflicting moral values. A discussion of moral norms, moral goods and moral motivations concludes that neither laws nor motivations are foundational but that moral goods are basic. Legal stipulations or sapiential aphorisms, for example, are statements about configurations of particular goods.

Chapter 2 examines the nature of ‘the good’ and the ways in which it has been related to ‘the right’. Because the study is not an investigation in moral philosophy the aim is simply to show the contested nature of ‘the good’ and ‘goods’, and the implications of choosing a particular interpretation when seeking to comprehend Old Testament ethics. Via a critique of Martha Nussbaum’s call to attend to what narrative may contribute to ethics the thesis briefly considers the relationship of moral goods to the moral order, and then the question of

incommensurability, that is, whether there are insoluble moral dilemmas. The final part of the chapter discusses how Erhard Gerstenberger and Waldemar Janzen conceive the family to be a key nexus of moral goods within the Old Testament.

The ‘family’ has been a traditional focus of anthropology. Chapter 3, therefore, examines anthropological approaches to kinship and the ethics of kinship. A key conclusion is that ‘the family’ is not essentially a matter of descent, marriage alliance, nor even cultural understandings of gender, but rather a constellation of practices. The analysis of practice has typically been undertaken in terms of ‘structure’ and ‘agency’. Starting from Pierre Bourdieu’s seminal work on...

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