Bruggemann on No Going behind the Witnesses

Here is another quote similar to the one I posted earlier from Brueggemann’s Old Testament Theology:

No Going behind the Witnesses

This testimony is relentlessly narratival in its utterance, and therefore the narrrative articulations are the originary form and way of Yahweh in Israel. That is to say, one cannot go behind the narratival (liturgical?) accounts, but will have to take the word of the witnesses. The witnesses sometimes claim to be eyewitnesses, but often no such claim is made. Even where it is not made, however, the authority of the witness is grounded in nothing more and nothing less than the willingness of the text community to credit, believe, trust, and take seriously this testimony.

In principle, the hearer of this text who listens for its theological cadences refuses to go behind these witnesses. This means that theological interpretation does not go behind the witness with questions of history, wondering “what happened.” What happened, so our “verdict” is, is what these witnesses said happened. In complementary fashion, this means that theological interpretation does not go behind this witness with questions of ontology, wondering “what is real.” What is real, so our “verdict” is, is what these witnesses say is real, Nothing more historical or ontological is available. But this mode of “knowing” finds such a claim to be adequate. (206)

 

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4 thoughts on “Bruggemann on No Going behind the Witnesses

  1. I mentioned earlier in at least one of my posts that I recently had the opportunity to attend a series of lectures featuring Terence Fretheim. More than once in response to our questions, he would reply in this way: “Welcome to the discussion.”

    Allegiance to a particular theology is not the only way to take that theology seriously. I would love to hear more of your thoughts.

  2. “It is the work of a serious theological interpreter of the Bible to pay close and careful attention to what is in the text, regardless of how it coheres with the theological habit of the church. This is particularly true of the churches of the Reformation that stand roughly in the tradition of sola scriptura. The truth of the matter, on any careful reading and without any tendentiousness, is that Old Testament theological articulation does not conform to established church faith”

    “the authority of the witness is grounded in nothing more and nothing less than the willingness of the text community to credit, believe, trust, and take seriously this testimony.”

    A conflicting if not nullifying conundrum presents itself. In one breath Brueggemann makes a bold and daring attempt to support a method of Sola Scriptura in terms of OT Theology on the basis of a community’s willingness and in another breath says that we cannot bring to the text something that doesn’t belong to them or has their basis outside or behind the texts such as would be necessary of an acceptance of Sola Scriptura by a community’s willingness to believe. He obviously relegates his argument to this self-defeating stance because he wants to support Sola Scriptura as the proper way of doing OT theology, which doesn’t exist in the texts, and also wants to claim that the only reality that applies is that which is in the text themselves. The only outcome is absurdity.

  3. “Theological interpretation does not go behind the witness with questions of history, wondering “what happened.” What happened, so our “verdict” is, is what these witnesses said happened.

    In other words, Brueggemann asks us to behave quite unlike we would behave anywhere else or at an other time in our existence by suddenly choosing naïve realism as appropriate way to ask theological questions of the text. This is nothing more than absurdist liberalism that claims the truth to exist only in their definition of a word no matter what their definition is. They can never be wrong because they have bypassed right and wrong through a leap of faith into their own definition which lies outside of history. So Brueggemann asks us to do likewise. This way of approaching the text removes it out of the realm of human existance, authorship, or influence so that what was the word of God AND the word of man becomes only the word of God. It is nothing more than the heresy of Docetism applied to a text instead of to Yeshua.

    “My perception is that this type of theologizing is not taken seriously enough, both in our schools and our churches.”

    The question is why anyone should take this seriously. It has no power to influence or motivate or change others because it has no basis in reality from which others operate. It has no power to influence or motivate or change you because it has no basis in reality from which to operate in order to make you into something you aren’t already—it requires you to be in agreement in the very beginning in order to even accept it. One cannot learn from it because there is nothing it has to teach other than what is already present in the belief of the individual. It is the epitome of individualistic, self-serving religion instead of a faith built on a REAL God existing OUTSIDE a text.

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