Presentation Title

'From the Universal to the Particular': Seven Thesis Statements Concerning the Hermeneutics of the Pentateuch

Presenter Status

Associate Editor, Adventist Review and Adventist World; Research Professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Department of Old Testament

Location

Seminary Chapel

Start Date

4-4-2016 9:50 AM

End Date

4-4-2016 10:40 AM

Session

Cultic Laws and Alleged Priestly Sources

Presentation Abstract

Questions involving the composition of the Pentateuch and the search for the appropriate way of reading and interpreting these foundational texts are not new. In fact, generations of scholars, representing different traditions and creeds, have struggled with this topic. Since Wellhausen’s proposals in the early nineteenth century, uncounted studies have challenged, fine-tuned, reworked, or re-imagined the appropriate framework for reading the Torah. However, in spite of the often-prognosticated demise of Wellhausen’s basic framework, it seems that the paradigm has not really changed (a view distinct from the one expressed in Rendtorff’s influential essay in 1993). Scholars still take the notion of the existence or, at least, partial existence of varied sources called J, E, D, and P, as their point of departure, and most introductions to the Hebrew Bible or the Pentateuch begin their journey by recounting and re-interpreting critical scholarship’s quest to write a coherent composition history. De Wette, Graf, Kuenen, Wellhausen are ever-present in scholarly thinking about these texts (even when their suggestions are modified, revised, challenged or even negated). In other words, the existing paradigm determines to a certain degree the expected outcome. The basic physical law of input determining output highlights this dilemma. Little can change when we start at the same (or a similar) place again and again. While recent years have witnessed a multiplicity of methods and approaches—there have been few attempts to change the basic operating system. In this paper I will retrace my own journey into the Pentateuch—a journey that started 25 years ago while pursuing graduate work in the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. However, instead of interacting specifically with assumptions and results of critical scholarship that depend on the philosophical and methodological of historical-critical scholarship (something which I have done repeatedly in the past), I propose a different route. Taking as my point of departure a high view of Scripture and the recognition of faith—even in our academic work—I will suggest ten thesis statements and invite a conversation, similar to the conversation Martin Luther initiated nearly 500 years ago when he nailed his 95 theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. This does not suggest an anti-academic stance. Rather, it represents a bold attempt to contribute to the discussion about the composition of the Pentateuch without following a predetermined path. In the thesis statements I will dialogue with different methodological approaches, including comparative methods, intertextuality, ritual theory, biblical theology, pragmatics and linguistics, all of which can contribute to our search regarding the composition of the Pentateuch and represent a truly multi-disciplinary approach. I hope that the ten thesis statements will not only inspire continued dialogue with scholarship per se, but also provide a healthy invitation to consciously go beyond the comfort zone of well-established paradigms and familiar vistas.

Biographical Sketch

Since 2009, Gerald has served as an associate editor of Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines, located at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland. In the same year, Gerald was also appointed research professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Studies in the Old Testament Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.

Gerald has published dozens of peer-reviewed research articles in international journals, including Vetus Testamentum, Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages, Revue Biblique, Biblica, Estudios Bíblicos, Horizons in Biblical Theology, Scriptura, Biblische Zeitschrift, Bulletin for Biblical Research, Maarav, Tyndale Bulletin, Andrews University Seminary Studies, Ugarit-Forschungen, Theologika, Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, among others. His well-received Bridging the Gap: Ritual and Ritual Texts in the Bible (BBRSup 1; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2007) focuses upon ritual and ritual texts, one of Gerald’s major academic interests and followed A Comparative Study of the Ritual of Ordination as Found in Leviticus 8 and Emar 369 (Leviston-Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 1998).

Gerald has edited a significant number of volumes, the latest being The Genesis Creation Account and Its Reverberation in the Old Testament (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2015), and currently serves as associate editor of the one-volume Andrews Bible Commentary, to be published by Andrews University Press. Gerald was the co-founder of the “Ritual in the Biblical World” section of the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and co-chaired the section from 2007–2009. He has presented academic research on all continents, except Antarctica and is a member of a number of scholarly societies, including the Society of Biblical Literature, the American Schools of Oriental Research, the Adventist Theological Society, and is a fellow at the Institute for Biblical Research where he currently serves as an associate editor of the Bulletin for Biblical Research. He has contributed to numerous reference works, including the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (Zondervan), The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (Jerusalem Publishing House), all the volumes of the Dictionary of the Old Testament series (InterVarsity), The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Abingdon), WiBiLex (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft), and The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Theology (Oxford University Press).

Gerald is married to Chantal and they have been blessed with three teenage daughters, Hannah, Sarah, and Jemima, who keep their parents focused on what is real and help them to remain flexible.

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Apr 4th, 9:50 AM Apr 4th, 10:40 AM

'From the Universal to the Particular': Seven Thesis Statements Concerning the Hermeneutics of the Pentateuch

Seminary Chapel

Questions involving the composition of the Pentateuch and the search for the appropriate way of reading and interpreting these foundational texts are not new. In fact, generations of scholars, representing different traditions and creeds, have struggled with this topic. Since Wellhausen’s proposals in the early nineteenth century, uncounted studies have challenged, fine-tuned, reworked, or re-imagined the appropriate framework for reading the Torah. However, in spite of the often-prognosticated demise of Wellhausen’s basic framework, it seems that the paradigm has not really changed (a view distinct from the one expressed in Rendtorff’s influential essay in 1993). Scholars still take the notion of the existence or, at least, partial existence of varied sources called J, E, D, and P, as their point of departure, and most introductions to the Hebrew Bible or the Pentateuch begin their journey by recounting and re-interpreting critical scholarship’s quest to write a coherent composition history. De Wette, Graf, Kuenen, Wellhausen are ever-present in scholarly thinking about these texts (even when their suggestions are modified, revised, challenged or even negated). In other words, the existing paradigm determines to a certain degree the expected outcome. The basic physical law of input determining output highlights this dilemma. Little can change when we start at the same (or a similar) place again and again. While recent years have witnessed a multiplicity of methods and approaches—there have been few attempts to change the basic operating system. In this paper I will retrace my own journey into the Pentateuch—a journey that started 25 years ago while pursuing graduate work in the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. However, instead of interacting specifically with assumptions and results of critical scholarship that depend on the philosophical and methodological of historical-critical scholarship (something which I have done repeatedly in the past), I propose a different route. Taking as my point of departure a high view of Scripture and the recognition of faith—even in our academic work—I will suggest ten thesis statements and invite a conversation, similar to the conversation Martin Luther initiated nearly 500 years ago when he nailed his 95 theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. This does not suggest an anti-academic stance. Rather, it represents a bold attempt to contribute to the discussion about the composition of the Pentateuch without following a predetermined path. In the thesis statements I will dialogue with different methodological approaches, including comparative methods, intertextuality, ritual theory, biblical theology, pragmatics and linguistics, all of which can contribute to our search regarding the composition of the Pentateuch and represent a truly multi-disciplinary approach. I hope that the ten thesis statements will not only inspire continued dialogue with scholarship per se, but also provide a healthy invitation to consciously go beyond the comfort zone of well-established paradigms and familiar vistas.