Prayer in the Hebrew Bible: The Drama of Divine-Human Dialogue

Prayer in the Hebrew Bible: The Drama of Divine-Human Dialogue

Prayer in the Hebrew Bible: The Drama of Divine-Human Dialogue

Prayer in the Hebrew Bible: The Drama of Divine-Human Dialogue

Synopsis

Balentine has forged new categories of analysis beyond our old critical pigeonholes. In the end, he has shown that prayer is neither a marginal activity undertaken after intellectual analysis nor an act of piety to fend off critical study... These prayer texts have required and permitted much hard, disciplined work in the long traditioning process. Now they offer to us an act of communication and a special world that refuses the voicelessness of technical society. In this world of Israel's faithful prayer and prayerful faith, the heavens are not empty, and the earth need not be mute.

Excerpt

When the Overtures series was initiated in 1977, Scripture studies were in a state of great methodological confusion. Since that time, the methodological confusion has considerably abated. Now literary-rhetorical and sociological analyses have clearly emerged as especially useful tools for reading the text, even though they were scarcely in purview in the late seventies. The acceptance and articulation of these methods have both permitted and required the study of texts to be done in a way that would not previously have been possible—or accepted.

The present study by Samuel Balentine is a fine example of these recent methodological developments. Balentine shows himself to be an effective practitioner of these methods, and we are treated to a thoughtful, suggestive reading of the texts.

Balentine has employed literary methods to show that the texts are not simply ways of voicing communication but ways of presenting, portraying, and making present the characters who are involved in prayer. Literary understanding of texts as the articulation of character helps us see that prayer texts are not only reportage of what was said but ways in which the tradition constitutes Israel’s long memory of communication with God, as a resource for each succeeding generation. Thus Abraham, Elijah, or Hezekiah at prayer are different personalities than they would have been prior to that prayer or without that prayer. Moreover, the prayer texts not only sketch out human personality but also provide a fresh characterization of God. We can conclude that, in a dramatic dimension, the God of Israel would not be this particular God in this . . .

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