Friday, July 24, 2009

Who is the centre of the Bible?

I would usually say 'God'. But this afternoon, reading through a book review in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, I came across this comment:

"... as (oddly enough) Martin Luther maintained, the Bible is not about God but about human beings. To read it in order to discover the divine nature is to read it against the grain; the true way to read it is as offering insight into how life should be lived in the presence of the God who remains deeply unknown."*

There is food for thought here! The Bible certainly tells a lot of stories about human beings and the situations they get themselves into and (sometimes) how God gets them out of their predicaments while also offering narratives (sometimes) about how God is the author of their troubles. Through these stories, and various rules, regulations, proverbs, songs and proclamations we gain a sense of 'how we should then live'. But - at risk of disagreeing with the great Luther - the Bible is also about God. Barth, after all, says that we have no knowledge about God apart from the Bible (though Barth would agree that the God who reveals himself is also the God who remains deeply unknown).

But the observation is encouraging for the hermeneutical task: it is worth trying to understand properly a writing which offers insight into how life is to be lived.

*Review of: Gershom M. H. Ratheiser, Mitzvoth Ethics and the Jewish Bible: The End of Old Testament Theology (Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 460; London/New York: Clark, 2007). Pp. xiv + 409. $145, by John Barton, in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly Vol. 71, No. 3 / July 2009, pp. 624-626. Citation from p. 625.

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