No, I’m not referring to ancient texts, but to two books I’ve been reading, both published in the last year (2012). Between the two books we find a fascinating combination of Jewish studies, biblical studies, and the philosophy of religion. I thought for this post, I’d say a few words about each and draw attention to these volumes which otherwise would not be noticed by confessional Reformed readers.
I should make a quick disclaimer. On the one hand, I don’t endorse these books as being examples of completely like-minded exegetical and theological reflection. There is much to disagree with here. But on the other hand, by common grace, there are some slants these writers have which can give us a helpful, though different, perspective on various topics. Reading broadly can help enrich our own theological and exegetical conclusions.
First, I’ve been reading a book by one of my former professor at the Claremont Graduate University, Marvin Sweeney. Sweeney is such an intriguing writer and scholar. Granted those of us who are conservative and confessional will find much to disagree with theologically and exegetically. He writes from not only a Jewish perspective (and speaks negatively about Christian systematic theological concerns) but also utilizes a standard historical critical methodology. And yet Sweeney’s attention to the details of the text, and especially to the way those details shape the text as we have it now, is very insightful. This is a thorough literary, historical and theological analysis of the entire OT and there is much textual and historical analysis here to chew on and benefit from! I’ve rarely found one who draws together textual minutiae into a meaningful whole in the way that Sweeney does. One need not paint the same meta-narrative from those details to be inspired by his close reading.
Second, I’ve started skimming an interesting bridge between philosophy of religion and OT studies by Yoram Hazony. Two things struck me about this volume: 1.) It purports to be a “philosophy” of the Hebrew Scriptures. Often in academic discourse, philosophy and study of the OT are thought to be a sort of “arranged marriage” in the worst sense of the term. “Hebrew” and “Hellenism,” representing the “OT” and “Philosophy” respectively, are thought to mix like oil and water. Thus it was interesting to see a book arguing for a reading of the OT that is intentionally philosophical. 2.) Though endorsements don’t always mean much, the endorsement of Eleonore Stump caught my eye. It reminded me of a conversation I had with Stump at a conference a few years back where she spoke very highly of an Israeli philosopher of religion. I am almost certain she was referring to Hazony. In the opening chapter, Hazony notes that “reason” and “revelation” have been artificially divided in the history of western thought, but interestingly enough, he seems to indicate that strands of the Protestant Reformation have avoided this false dichotomy. I’ve been intrigued by what I’ve ready so far, even where I’ve disagreed.
Readers of this blog may or may not find either of these texts interesting, but I thought I’d draw attention to them anyway!
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)