Reading the Bible in the Global Village

Article excerpt

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Reading the Bible in the Global Village, by Heikki Raisanen, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, R. S. Sugirtharajah, Krister Stendahl, and James Barr. Reading the Bible in the Global Village 1. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000. Pp. 180. $19.95 (paper).

The origins and purpose of this volume are explained in a brief preface by Kent Harold Richards, the executive director of the Society of Biblical Literature. The volume represents the first in a new series to be published by the Society under the general title of "Reading the Bible in the Global Village." This series will be tied to the tradition of annual International Meetings sponsored by the Society since 1983. The volumes in the series are thus designed to provide a wider hearing for key proceedings from such meetings, if this first example serves as a model for the series, with a particular and unifying focus in mind. The present volume comes out of the 1999 International Meeting held in Helsinki and Lahti, Finland.

It is a peculiar volume on various counts. First, its title bears the name of the proposed series, obscuring thereby the specific focus and rationale behind this first collection. This title, moreover, in no way captures or conveys the contents of the volume. Second, its contents reveal the presence of only three pieces from the meeting itself: the lead article, "Biblical Critics in the Global Village," by Heikki Raisanen, and two brief responses: "Critics, Tools, and the Global Arena," by R. S. Sugirtharajah, and "Dethroning Biblical Imperialism in Theology," by Krister Stendahl. The rest constitute a hodgepodge of material: (1) an extended response by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, "Defending the Center, Trivializing the Margins," written for the volume in light of the critical focus on her work on the part of Raisanen; (2) two previously published pieces: Stendahl's article "Biblical Theology, Contemporary," from the IDB (1962), and Schissler Fiorenza's 1987 SBL presidential address, "The Ethics of Biblical Interpretation: Decentering Biblical Scholarship," both reprinted in the volume as a result of their prominence in Raisanen's article; (3) another previously published article, slightly edited, by James Barr: "Evaluation, Commitment, and Objectivity in Biblical Theology," taken from his recent The Concept of Biblical Theology: An Old Testament Perspective (London: SCM; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999), included at the suggestion of Stendahl.

Lastly, given the centrality of Raisanen's contribution, with its focus on biblical criticism in global perspective, it is surprising to find, besides the presence of only one woman, only one representative from the non-Western world-and both as respondents.

This is a volume, therefore, in need of more enlightened editorial direction: it cries for a proper and accurate title, a more pointed table of contents, and a broader roster of authors. In terms of its new contributions, the volume proves disappointing as well. First, one finds not a collection of authors addressing the same topic but rather a set of responses directed at a main position paper. Second, the latter is not as strong as it could be, while the responses are much too uneven, both in terms of length and sharpness. Finally, given such a structure of exposition and evaluation, a final rejoinder by Professor Raisanen would have been in order. Here I concern myself only with the position paper and the responses to it-the other entries are either well known (Sch/issler Fiorenza; Stendahl) or out of place (Barry.

Raisanen's essay, a keynote address at the meeting, is clearly meant to serve as a point of departure and convergence for the volume as a whole. Unfortunately, this is not Raisanen at his best. …