Canons in Conflict: Negotiating Texts in True and False Prophecy

Canons in Conflict: Negotiating Texts in True and False Prophecy

Canons in Conflict: Negotiating Texts in True and False Prophecy

Canons in Conflict: Negotiating Texts in True and False Prophecy

Synopsis

In this new study, James Brenneman confronts the issue of conflicting canons with full force, incorporating insights gained from both literary and biblical disciplines on the question of canon. He begins with an illuminating tour through contemporary literary theory from Hans Robert Jauss to Stanley Fish, and current discussions in theology about the canon. He goes on to a consideration of true and false prophesy, with a detailed examination of the three apparently conflicting versions of the Old Testament "swords into plowshares" prophesy, as found in Isaiah 2:2-4,5; Joel 4:9-12 (Eng. 3:9-12); and Micah 4:1-5. Suggesting that the dynamics controlling the process for negotiating between contradictory readings of prophetic texts are the same as those at work in adjudicating between canons in conflict, Brenneman concludes by pointing the way towards an integrative approach appropriate to the question of canon and authority in a "post-modern" pluralistic context.

Excerpt

In 1994,Harold Bloom, in his popular book The Western Canon, declared war on enemy literary critics. He reduced them to a "School of Resentment" bent on overthrowing "the Canon" (emphasis added). Bloom is right to engage in battle against would-be destroyers of the Western canon. Lamentably, he does so using the sole weapon remaining to canon-makers on the bow of modernism's sinking frigate. Bloom's weapon of choice, what he calls the "irreducible autonomy of the aesthetic" in canonical literature, is fast becoming obsolete.

Bloom echoes a growing debate in biblical studies about the canon of sacred scripture. In secular literary circles, the war centers primarily on defining the limits of the literary canon and discussion about how those limits are determined. The battle in biblical circles is waged more narrowly over inherent meanings of texts already deemed canonical by their inclusion in the sacred canon. The battle fought among biblical critics can no longer be so sharply circumscribed. The conflicts over true and false prophecy, right and wrong exegesis, authentic and inauthentic hands, assured and mistaken historical reconstructions, correct and incorrect interpretation are, in the end, conflicts over power and authority. They are conflicts over canon.

In a postmodern contest for canonical shape or function, postmodern weapons are needed. Those who aim to win the battle for the canon must do so on new terms. Arguing for some aesthetic essence, some irreducible kernel in the text that asserts its own canonicity over the reader, may well provide the enemies of canonical authority of any and every kind the sword by which an elegy for the (biblical or Western) canon is assured. The key to winning the canonical war hinges on the question of ethics. Canon critics (literary and . . .

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