The Bible as a Human Witness to Divine Revelation: Hearing the Word of God through Historically Dissimilar Traditions

By Kim, Soo J. | Hebrew Studies Journal, Annual 2011 | Go to article overview
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The Bible as a Human Witness to Divine Revelation: Hearing the Word of God through Historically Dissimilar Traditions

Kim, Soo J., Hebrew Studies Journal


This Festschrift, compiled by twenty scholars, honors the work and life of Gerald Sheppard (1946-2003) who read the Scriptures as both human testimonies and divine revelations. Throughout his career, Sheppard attempted to embrace apparently incompatible approaches, both historical-critical inquiries and reading of the present form of the Bible as the authorized Scripture. As a first step, he encouraged readers to consider modern terms of "text" and "author" as "testimony" and "designated writer" respectively, and to respect every mark from "scripture-conscious editors" as well as the history of interpretation, for they represent various voices of dissimilar traditions (p. xi).

In addition to the preface, "A Biographical Sketch," "The Published Works of Gerald T. Sheppard," and two indices, this volume consists of two parts in advancing Sheppard's canon-conscious reading, inner and outer biblical conversations, and hermeneutics of wisdom. Part 1 deals with hearing / reading of the word of God through historically dissimilar traditions while part 2 adds other dialogic partners, such as New Testament and ancient Near Eastern testimonies.

As an example of hearing dissimilar traditions within the Torah, Walter Brueggemann (pp. 3-14) picks two differently presented priesthoods shown in Gen 47:13-26 and Exod 19:3-6, and points out their scriptural functions: the former provides preliminary evidence to support the latter's polemic against Pharaoh's illegitimate claim over the land and the people (p. 10). Erich Zenger (pp. 15-31) contemplates the meaning of "If you listen to my voice" (Exod 19:5) and concludes art of listening as a crucial education subject for later generations. As if Ps 95:7 calls to listen to God's voice, continuance of the divine revelation is only possible when the descendants can also have ears to hear the word. In the Deuteronomy 29-34 study, Randall Heskett (pp. 32-50) develops Sheppard's Scripture-conscious editing, and argues that these five chapters are seams of the final editor for the formation of the Torah. In other words, for this canonical concern, the death of Moses was deliberately presented in Deuteronomy 34, the very last chapter of the Torah, not in Numbers 27 in which Moses already appoints Joshua as his successor.

John E. Harvey's parallel study between Jehoiachin and Joseph (pp. 51-61) works as a transitional essay in part 1, from the Torah to the Prophets. Observing dissimilarly presented character patterns in the Prophets, compared to the positively described ones in the Torah, Harvey concludes that Jeohoiachin is a "fulfill" and "frustrate" model of a new Joseph for the exiles, to explain the reason of the divine punishment as well as to give them hope after their repentance.

In the Prophets study, four essays are related to the book of Isaiah which Sheppard was interested in. First, Paul D. Wegner (pp. 62-94) challenges older assumptions of the three compositional stages of the book and argues that the book as a whole has three introductory and three refraining editorial seams. According to Wegner, these seams are examples of the Scripture-conscious editorial work to bring the cohesive message of the book. Meanwhile, challenging the current views of the scribal culture regarding the composition of the book of Isaiah, Robert Wilson (pp. 95-107) argues that scribes in the exilic period who composed / reworked the book were indeed supporters of the first Isaiah. These scribes were concerned with how the word of the prophet might be fulfilled in their own time. With a socioscientific model, Stephen L. Cook (pp. 108-124) understands the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah as a theological image and insists on a newly formed relationship among the servant, chorus, and audience at the moment of hearing of the vicarious sacrifice of the Servant.

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The Bible as a Human Witness to Divine Revelation: Hearing the Word of God through Historically Dissimilar Traditions


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