Friday, July 09, 2004

An Observation on 'Narrative' and Biblical Theology

Following Al's recent comments here on this blog about the importance of 'narrative' and 'story', I read this comment today by Tom Wright (again), where he makes an interesting comment in a section on today's questions about Paul's theology:
The currently fashionable category of 'story' or 'narrative' has been employed as a way into [Paul's] theology, though there is currently no agreement on how to use the category, or what might happen if we did. (p. 21)
In using the adjective 'fashionable', does he mean to treat the approach as a disposable garment? At best it is an approach yet to reach maturity, it seems. But then the comment was written in 1997...

I like how he goes on to point out a danger found amongst some biblical theologians:
The dislocation of biblical studies from theology ... has meant that Paul is often studied by people who are not trained either philosophically or theologically, and who indeed resent the idea that such training should be necessary. Many New Testament scholars use detailed exegesis as a way of escaping from heavy handed and stultifying conservatism; any attempt to articulate an overarching Pauline theology looks to them like an attempt to reconstruct the sort of system from which they themselves are glad to be free. As in some other scholarly circles, using the study of history to exorcise one's own past is an attractive, though one suspects ineffective, form of therapy.(p. 21)
Ouch. He points out one of the hazards of reading other authors: trying to work out if there is a less than obvious personal agenda. Has Wright himself got one? (he asks mischievously!)

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