ERHARD S. GERSTENBERGER
How can Biblical Theology, the very goal of our work, be approached? In this purview focusing on the Psalter as a prime example for theological reasoning in liturgical contexts I am departing from several assumptions.
One simply says, that God-talk or theology can hardly be uniform, universal, and valid through the ages. Rather, God-talk, for deeply divine and human reasons, for the very heart of faith must be contextual, temporary, unfinished and in a certain concordance with changing customs, cultures, social conditions.1 Our theological discourse must not be taken as eternal truth. We think and talk as transitory beings, firmly tied to the textures of our socialization and cultural identities.
Secondly, since there are great varieties of cultural and social patterns — in coexistence as well as in conflict with each other — we certainly have to count on quite different modes of talking about God, with different experiences and conceptualizations of the Divine. Living side by side, nowadays, with many other godfearing or godignoring people, intensely feeling the challenges of our pluralistic societies, we have the unique opportunity to test our own theological affirmations and learn of their richness and deficiencies, and their precious, human relativity — that is, affinity — to our own cultural settings.
What rarely has been recognized, however, is that pluralism (to a certain degree this always has been the case) has invaded even the stronghold of individual being. Each of us lives at the same time in very different social contexts. We are on the one hand members of small, intimate groups of family and friends, and on the other of various economic, political and religious associations. In both kinds
1 Cf. Erhard S. Gerstenberger, Theologien im Alten Testament (Stuttgart:
Kohlhammer, 2001); English transi., Theologies in the Old Testament (London: T.
& T. Clark; Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress); idem, and Ulrich Schoenborn (eds.),
Hermeneutik-sozialgeschichtlich (exuz 1, Münster: LIT-Verlag, 1999).