Earlier, I put a post out concerning historiography – the writing of history. Basically, my main point was that though we well affirm the historicity of the OT texts, we don’t have all the answers when it comes to the methodology of the OT (human) authors. We have a clear, authoritative, and accurate window into the OT, but it is a small one, one which will never answer all our questions. This post is part two of the same subject, using the same book on Eisenhower by Korda.
The second thing about history writing I want to note from this book is how the author breaks conventional or normal ways of writing a biography by starting out with Eisenhower’s D-Day experiences (and the days leading up to it). But because Korda is not doing the “normal” way of writing history, he has to explain why he starts in the middle of Ike’s story: “History has to be written chronologically, but in life it is sometimes the big moments that count” (p. 24). Korda knows well that the modern way of writing and reading history is A, B, C, D chronology, so when he does C A B D instead, he lets us know that he is doing it and why he is doing it.
We don’t have that same luxury when reading and studying OT texts. The authors rarely outright tell us that they’re breaking the “norm” much less why they break the “norm.” Further, as noted earlier, we’re not even 100% sure of the “norm.” A quick read shows that the OT narrators were not overly interested in A B C D chronology; it wasn’t necessarily the “normal” way to write history. For the most part, the OT writers were following the writing standards of their day from an ideological/theological (not scientific/biological) point of view.
As I said in the last post, these things should make us pause when considering OT narratives; just when we think we “got it,” it slips away from us because there is more to think about than just a bare or nudus recounting of a story. There are writing standards followed, broken, and assumed by the authors which are very much different than our standards today. All the while we have to be careful not to impose our standards on them.
If you’ve ever seen the TV show LOST, one of the reasons that it is so utterly fascinating is because it is so utterly huge and unpredictable – the viewer only has a little grip of the story. Each time he thinks he understands it, an overwhelming and incredible new scene is introduced, and his grip of the story is loosed significantly. So it is with the OT historiography. It is exciting because it is 1000 times bigger than the reader; our understanding of it is just a teaspoonful of the Pacific. Then a wave comes and rocks our boats and refills our little spoons. But that spoonful we have is authoritative, sufficient, and able to do to us what God intended.
If we ever fully “get it,” we’ll be racked with more boredom than an 11th grade kid in biology!
One Reply to “Historiography and Eisenhower, Part II”
LOST is a great illustration; as is Pulp Fiction from a few years back. It was, of course, pretty violent and coarse, but the dischonologisation factor was through the roof! It really adds a great deal of interest to a story when the reader is left in the dark!
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