THE GARMENTS OF TORAH—OR,
TO WHAT MAY SCRIPTURE BE
In recent years, there has been a growing concern in various literary circles to accord Scripture the status of a privileged text—that is, the status of specialness which was once called sanctity. Now, such a hermeneutical move should at least raise some eyebrows in this day and age when, after centuries of benign or not so benign neglect, and after the rise of new literary attitudes and canons, Scripture has been apparently put 'in its place'—as but one corpus of national texts among all their ancient Near Eastern and Hellenistic congeners. No one factor has reversed this process of neutralization; just as no one factor has catalyzed the recent renaissance of secular interest in the Bible. Still, it may not be entirely misguided to suspect that the new concern to privilege Scripture within the acknowledged literary canon of our culture may be motivated in part by a desire to provide a challenge to modern literature, where such notions of 'specialness' and 'sanctity' are conspicuously and determinately absent. Indeed, for many moderns all texts are complexly textured by the threads of all predecessor texts and by the play of differences inherent in language itself. There is never a first thread in this garment that may be pulled loose; for there is no paradigm text, no Logos. Accordingly, the reemergence of Scripture to the privileged status of a pivotal and generative literary code presumably serves to recenter our Western cultural enterprise and its creativity. Some critics have even begun to query whether there may in fact be something specific to the biblical text which gives it this re-found specialness.
Amid all this breathless activity it would therefore seem salutary to pause for some historical air, and ask: Where would such features as might constitute the specialness of Scripture lie, and how would one ever begin to find tlhem—particularly if one started with literary categories and criteria drawn from secular literary criticism, and not from our traditional religious cultures where the tasks of reading and textual anal