Thursday, 23 July 2015
Adaptation and Resignification
Canon & Community: A Guide to Canonical Criticism,
James A. Sanders, Wipf and Stock, 2000, page 56-58
James Sanders suggests that 'foreign' material acquired from others went through a fourfold process: de-polytheising, monotheising, Yahwising and Israelitising. While he doesn't claim that all four steps were followed in every case, he does seem fairly taken with the idea.
The flood story in Genesis is a prime example of how the first three are rather fully processed while the fourth was not at all engaged ... the ark lands not on Mt Zion or ever Mt Zaphon, but on Ararat ... That the fourfold process was not fully followed in all instances of borrowing and adaptation is to be expected. In antiquity the author was not conscious of the process: it is a tool we have developed by inductive work on the texts that suggest borrowing.
Sanders then discusses a number of texts where he claims to see this process at work, before focusing on monotheising as the most difficult step. Then he makes a bold move:
As the OT writers and thinkers, so the contributors to the NT monotheised more or less well, yet they all monotheised. But Christians have rarely, since NT times, done so at all. A few - Augustine, Anselm, Calvin, the Nieburhs and others - have struggled to do so. But most of us collapse with the effort. It is so much easier, apparently, to let members of the heavenly council, such as the satan, rival G-d and be a successful rebel at that! It is seemingly easier to fragmentise truth.