In “The Wilderness Narrative in the Apostolic Fathers,” Clayton Jefford outlines the references to wilderness traditions and narratives set in Israel’s wilderness found in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. His central contention is that the uncertainty of the ancient Israelite motif of wilderness wandering appealed little to non-Jewish, second-generation Christians who were more interested in identity formation than wilderness theology. Jefford begins by tracing three major New Testament associations with wilderness: 1) that true prophets receive revelation in a wilderness context; 2) that God’s self-revelation to Israel occurred in the wilderness; and 3) that the wilderness exists as a threatening presence. He then examines references to the wilderness in 1 Clement 43 and 53, arguing that both scenes are tied to the issue of “correct governance and civility within the structure of the church.” (162) Clement’s larger purposes, therefore, led him to visit these particular passages and draw on the example of Moses. Continue reading
This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting on the appropriate approach to and method for historical theology.
Postmodernism, while notoriously difficult to define and existing in a variety of forms, essentially involves an attempt to move beyond Modernism and the questioning of metanarratives and truth claims due to the constructed nature of human language and reality. With regard to historical methodology, Postmodernism typically functions as a problematization of the Modern and a call to hear the previously unheard “ancient voices that have long been suppressed.” For Postmodern thinkers, narrative is never neutral, but is always ideologically freighted. New intellectual history, therefore, explores the “material embeddedness of ideas and their relation to power” while acknowledging the historian’s situation and interests. Accordingly, “history” becomes understood as distinctly different than “the actual past,” for the practices and structures of historians are always influencing conceptions of the past and synthesizing the past with the present. Berkofer argues that recognition of this way in which poetics impacts historical practice must be understood in order for history to move forward. Continue reading
This post is part of an ongoing series examining whether or not God commanded Israel to commit genocide in the conquest of the Promised Land.
The Total Destruction of Ai
What about those instances where near-total destruction—including women, children, and non-combatants—does seem to be ordered by Yahweh? As an example of this, let’s consider Joshua 8 and Israel’s battle against the inhabitants of Ai. Continue reading
In Miracles, Lewis reflects on the importance of myth in regards to the Old Testament and Israel. Lewis writes that “The Hebrews, like other people, had mythology: but as they were the chosen people so their mythology was the chosen mythology –the mythology chosen by God to be the vehicle of the earliest sacred truths, the first step in that process which ends in the New Testament where truth has become completely historical” (Miracles, 218). For Lewis, myth is historically important in creating the context of beliefs for the truly factual, the person and work of Jesus Christ. He writes that “Just as God is none the less God by being Man, so the Myth remains Myth even when it becomes Fact. The story of Christ demands us, and repays, not only a religious and historical but also an imaginative response” (Ibid., 218) Continue reading
Having examined Luther’s major writings and construction concerning the relationship of the Christian to the world, we must now consider the common critique of Luther’s theology, that it does not provide a solid foundation for the Christian engagement of temporal authority. In his major reformation works, Luther placed a great deal of emphasis on the equality of all Christians within the spiritual kingdom, including those who were ordained as temporal rulers. When Luther first writes of resisting tyranny, he does so in a relative passive manner, arguing that disobedience and verbal disunity are proper forms of resistance. Althaus inhabits the common traditional interpretation of Luther, saying that Christ concerns himself with the spiritual kingdom and does not participate in the secular kingdom and that for Luther’s construction, the “secular government existed long before Christ and also exercised power without him. This indicates that secular government and Christ’s kingdom are two distinct entities and that Christ is not directly involved in secular government.” Luther’s doctrine interpreted in this way allows for a great deal of Christian passivity within the realm of the temporal. Such an understanding explains both general German Lutheran passivity to the Third Reich and the modern critique of Lutherans as a ‘conservative’ political movement in Latin America. Were this the only basis or interpretive framework that fit Luther’s thought, it would seem that the strong critique of Luther’s theology as somewhat naïve and generally unconcerned with the world would stick. Continue reading