The Garments of Torah: Essays in Biblical Hermeneutics

By Michael Fishbane | Go to book overview

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SPEECH AND SCRIPTURE:
THE GRAMMATICAL THINKING
AND THEOLOGY OF
FRANZ ROSENZWEIG

In his characteristically forthright way, Franz Rosenzweig repeatedly addressed himself to the spiritual condition of modern man. One particularly powerful expression of this concern is found in his essay, "Scripture and Luther's Translation." "This man," he says, "is neither a believer nor an unbeliever."

He believes and he doubts. And so he is nothing, but he is alive. Belief and unbelief "happen" to him and all that he is required to do is not run away from what is happening but make use of it once it has happened. This seems very simple when one has not entered the field of action, but it is actually so difficult that there is probably no one who has always accomplished it, [and] probably no one who has managed it on more than a very few, rare occasions.

Whoever lives in this way can approach the Bible only with a readiness to believe or not believe, but not with a circumscribed belief that he finds confirmed in it. Yet even this readiness of his must be uncircumscribed and unlimited ... [F]or such a man the days of his own life illumine the Scriptures, and in their quality of humanness allow him to recognize what is more than human, today at one point and tomorrow at another, nor can one day ever vouch for the next to provide a like experience ... Not everything in the Scriptures belongs to him— neither today nor ever. But he knows that he belongs to everything in them, and it is only this readiness of his which, when it is directed toward the Scriptures, constitutes belief. 1

Resonant with wisdom and challenge, this passage invokes a series of symmetries between living and reading. For both, authenticity demands the spiritual steadfastness to receive what is given in the here and now— without flight into the already known or the already written. Indeed, this combination of readiness (Bereitschaft) and resoluteness provides the only

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