Academic journal article Shofar

Implied Law in the Abraham Narrative: A Literary and Theological Analysis, by James K. Bruckner

Academic journal article Shofar

Implied Law in the Abraham Narrative: A Literary and Theological Analysis, by James K. Bruckner

Article excerpt

Journal for the Study of the Old Testament: Supplement Series, 335. New York and London: Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001. 260 pp. $90.00.

In this published version of his 1998 Luther Seminary dissertation (Dr. Terence Fretheim, adviser), James Bruckner, professor of Old Testament at North Park University, Chicago, investigates what the pre-Sinai narratives in Genesis 1-Exodus 18 assume about the basis for moral action and divine judgments before the giving of the Torah. His thesis is that "creation is the first and normative context for biblical law," and thus although law is not specifically mentioned, "it is implied at many levels of the narrative and is assumed to be integral to the created order" (p. 199). He bases this conclusion upon a literary study of the narratives in Genesis 18:16-20:18, using an eclectic set of methods to explore the use of post-Sinai legal terms and scenerios in the pre-Sinai stories. His focus was to "identify and to interpret the legal referents" that are assumed in the telling of stories by examining what he terms "oughts and ought nots": e.g., in Genesis 12:17-18 the Pharaoh "ought not" to have taken Sarai as a wife, and therefore God sent illness and plagues; and the Pharaoh implies that Abraham "ought" to have revealed that Sarai was his wife. Through such incidents, Bruckner determined that "categories of law, more fully represented in Exodus-Deuteronomy, are also present in Genesis" (p. 11); "the patriarchs, though they did not have the formulations of Sinai, nonetheless had some law akin to it" (p. 32). After a detailed examination of the use of legal language in the stories, Bruckner draws out some implications of his findings. Creation is a context for the moral judgments, not only because the "oughts" are part of the very fabric of the created order, but because creation also has a role in the outworking of the consequences, whether it be fire and brimstone, death, illness, barrenness, etc. In short, the stories show that there are consequences to actions that are contrary to the moral fabric of creation, and God uses "a particular moral-physical web of consequence" (p. 204) as the means of judgment. …

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