Wednesday, 26 October 2016
The Creative Word: Canon as a Model for Biblical Education, Second Ed.,
Walter Brueggemann, Fortress Press, 2015, page 93
Walter Brueggemann addresses an assumption that people have about G-d and then pursues that to a conclusion.
Implicit the the claim of prophetic authority is a particular characterisation of G-d as the one who identifies with and sojourns among the marginal ones. That is why the most poignant poetry comes out of the hurt of Hosea and Jeremiah, and the most radical prophetic hope comes out of the deepness of Second Isaiah.
But is that characterisation correct and does it therefore give any minority group the right to claim persecuted and marginalised status becuue their choices are not embraced and celebrated by the majority? It didn't give Marcion and his followers the right to throw the Hebrew Scriotures out of the canon in the second century, and neither did it favour the Arians, Docetists or Nestorians. It doesn't work for the Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons in today's context. Wrong is still wrong. But Brueggemann does have a point too:
One cannot move from the first to the second part of the canon without attending to the crisis in the character of G-d that comes with it. G-d is now asserted to be against the old consensus, as advocate for the marginal ones. G-d is asserted to be free to work a newness beyond the possibility of the old order. Elijah is a "troubler" in Israel because he speaks the driught (1 Ki 17:1), because he cares for the widow (17:8-16), because he overcomes death (17:17-24). He brings a newness that violates royal definitions of life and death, of possibility and necessity.
Which is all very well. Elijah certainly did those things, but none of these things were entirely new; they were all based in and predicated upon the Torah which preceded him. He was described as a "troubler" by the king of Israel, who was no doubt troubled by Elijah's words and actions - and rightly so - but he acted directly on G-d's instructions and G-d remained consistent with His declared plans and principles; it was the king and the authorities in Israel who had departed from the way of the Torah and redefined their existence and privilege in ways that matched their desires rather than G-d's declared standards.