Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Post 3 from the 2008 CBA Meetings



It's Tuesday morning, the last morning of the conference. This morning I'll be part of a discussion of Ellen White's paper in the Divinity in Israel seminar, and we get to hear Anathea Portier-Young's talk on Daniel and language. There was concern among the attendees last evening about a rift between the CBA and the conference of Catholic Bishops over the CBA continuing to receive a bit of the royalties from sales of the NAB translation, which of course the CBA itself produced! Then at 8pm there was a very good general session by Ronald D. Witherup, just voted "superior general" of the Sulpician Provincial House. He joked this position was much better than being an "inferior particular." The talk was entitled, "Raymond Brown and the Question of Catholic Exegesis." Of the several discussions of what might constitute Catholic exegesis at this conference, this one was the least "political" and most hermeneutical and theoretical, so well worth hearing. Ray Brown of course was a giant, who I got to know a little bit when I was on the faculty at UTS. Hearing the talk, I did wonder about this commitment to "historical-critical exegesis properly applied." Is the historical-criticism really able to be "baptized" (my term) so easily and safely?? I guess Brown thought so.

I received this lovely email about my talk from Prof. Jenny Knust, a NT scholar now teaching at Boston University, and it is so nice that I told her I would post it here:

Hi Stephen,

I think the thing I loved the most about your talk was the generosity and openness at its core, which was reflected so beautifully in your reading of the RS's theology.

Listening to your account of this theology, I was struck by how similar it is to something I've been thinking about lately, after re-reading Levinas and Judith Butler's book Precarious Life. Of course, Butler in particular would not acknowledge that she is a theologian, but I think she is. And she has a theology similar to the RS's as you described it. One should behave ethically not because of the law or because it is one's duty but because one has recognized that vulnerability and mortality are the most important truths of the human condition. We are all vulnerable, we are all finite, we are all fragile and no amount of hoarding, violence, law or control will change this. Nice. I thought I didn't like theologies stressing the distance and complete otherness of God, but I guess I'm changing my mind.

One other thing: If the material I study can lend anything to what you are doing, I would say that it is not important that Ezra and Nehemiah don't quote 2 Isaiah or acknowledge him/them in anyway. As I see it, there are preliminary questions that have to be asked: How did ancient people quote? How did they acknowledge their sources? Was it important to acknowledge one's contemporary conversation partners? The NT authors were all writing around the same period of time and they hardly ever directly acknowledge one another (which creates a huge problem for scholars now--Did John know Mark? Did Luke-Acts know Paul? etc. etc.). We may be trained to cite one another in footnotes, but ancients were not.

Thanks so much for a great paper!

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