THE TORAH AS VISION
IN A WHOLE NEW LIFE, REYNOLDS PRICE REFLECTS ON HIS TEN-YEAR battle with the cancer that invaded his body and grew up his spinal column like an eel.1 The cancer's assault was massive and relentless. Once it had penetrated his body's defenses, he was powerless before its steady march toward takeover and control. He survived, although with a paralysis that bears witness to his war, and he now enjoys what he self-consciously describes as a new and better life.
On the other side of his battle with cancer, from the “far side of catastrophe,”2 where life is marked by both inalterable limitation and relentless yearning, Price offers three survival steps for all who may be victims of similar physical or psychic takeovers. First, grieve hard and for a decent time over whatever parts of your old self you have lost. Next, check the grief. Finally, “find your way to be somebody else, the next viable you.”3 Such is the advice of one who learned to look his real self square in the eye and say, “Reynolds Price is dead. Who will you be now?”4
Price's personal struggle to create a new life for himself offers a heuristic analogy for reflecting on the struggle that defined the community of faith in the Persian Period.5 After nearly fifty years of Babylonian exile and domination, submerged in what would be two centuries of intrusive control by the Persian Empire, the community in Yehud had reason to concede that the old, pre-exilic way of being Israel was dead. What used to be the kingdom of Israel had become a secondary state, a political entity created by Persian takeover and governed by Persian policies. Persia designed Yehud to function as a controlled environment, with limited opportunities
1. R. Price, A Whole New Life (New York: Atheneum, 1994).
2. ibid., 180.
3. Ibid., 183.
4. Ibid., 184.
5. I used this analogy previously in discussing the influence of Persian politics on the
shaping of the canonical frame of the Writings. Cf. S. E. Balentine, “The Politics of Religion in
the Persian Period,” in After the Exile: Essays in Honour of Rex Mason, eds.). Barton and
D. Reimer (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1996), 129–46.