Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New book on Bible and disability

Some time ago, I read Amos Yong's book, Theology and Down Syndrome. As noted in one of the posts below, I found this book extremely helpful. Recently, Prof. Yong was kind enough to send me a manuscript of his forthcoming book, The Bible, Disability, and the Church: A New Vision for the People of God. Eerdmans is the publisher, and it's projected for fall 2011. This is a very insightful book. I especially valued Yong's reflections on Paul's theological treatment of weakness and strength. While Theology and Down Syndrome is a fairly technical volume, this work is more accessible, and a bit less formal in style. If you have an interest in disability studies, especially as they relate to the Bible, keep an eye out for this book.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Should we preach on Mark's longer ending?

After reading James Sanders' Torah and Canon, I made my way through its brief companion and sequel, Canon and Community. Sanders holds that historical critics, whether they meant to or not, have effectively "de-canonized" parts of the Bible. If some part of the Bible is deemed to be an interpolation, spurious, or somehow later than the larger literary unit in which it is contained, it is seen as having less authority, or perhaps simply less usefulness within the community of faith, than other parts of the Bible. Therefore, we might see letters of disputed Pauline authorship, such as Ephesians, as having less value or authority than those of undisputed authorship, such as 1 Corinthians. Or, to use a much smaller literary unit, we might question the value of Mark 16:9-20, which is almost universally believed to be a later addition to the original ending of Mark at 16:8. If vv. 9-2o weren't part of the original witness of the evangelist, should they have the same functions and value as those parts that are believed to be original (whatever "original" might mean in this context)? Sanders' answer is, basially, "Of course." Canon is always the product of a process, and the addition of these verses is simply a reflection of the church's process of canonization. It was not simply the original witness that was canonized, but a larger literary product that includes these additional verses. Insofar as they remain part of the life and witness of the community of faith, then they continue to function as canon. But when we remove them from our corporate life and witness, then we have functionally, if not formally, de-canonized them, and therefore we deprive ourselves of the full range of the church's scripture.
Very interesting stuff. Sanders' work has shown me that I have a lot to learn about these kinds of issues.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Masterpiece

I read James Sanders' Torah and Canon during my first year of PhD work, but I don't think I really appreciated it in the manner which it deserves. Recently, I reread it in my research on canon, and I'm very glad I did. Sanders demonstrates various ways in which Israel's scriptures functioned in the lives of its historic communities in a variety of periods. Put differently, we explore in this book the ways in which scripture formed a people, sustained them in exile, called them to repentance, and gave them a story by which to live. Sanders' control of the material is impressive, to say the least. There are, by the way, many ways in which Sanders' arguments apply to the life of the church today.
This book was originally published in 1972, and so some of the source-critical ideas he works with may be a bit dated. The style is accessible, not bogged down with jargon or encumbered with technical issues.
A classic in the field of canonical criticism, this work will benefit any who wish to think through the ways in which the Bible can function within our communities of faith, or those who simply wish to learn more about Israel's scriptures, which of course Christians later adopted.