Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Robert Jenson on Theological Exegesis and "the Word of the Lord" in Ezekiel

"I will make no room for the supposed contributions of the various critical theories currently on offer in academia and sometimes invoked to guide biblical and other exegesis—each projected from the viewpoint of a class, a gender, a race, and so on. Critique in the relevant late-modern sense is the effort to discern what a text 'really' says, as against what it may to unsuspicious eyes seem to say; and a labeled critical theory (e.g., feminist theory, postcolonial theory, queer theory) is a specific set of instructions for achieving such discernment. There is indeed a critical theory at work in this commentary, and it might be called 'Nicene theory.' ...

" 'The word of the Lord came to me.' This clause, which introduces many passages in Ezekiel, is more theologically loaded than one might at first suppose. That the Lord's word comes to a prophet does not simply mean that the Lord comes and speaks to him—remarkable though that also would be. Rather, 'the word of the Lord' is a reality in some way related to the Lord and so identifiable in and as itself ... yet not separable in being from the Lord. The word of the Lord is at once the Lord speaking and identifiable as an other than the Lord.

"The phenomenon thus has the same trinitarian structure as some other Old Testament phenomena: most notably 'the glory of the Lord' (see 1:25-28b), 'the name of the Lord' (e.g., 1 Kgs. 3:2-5:5), and 'the angel of the Lord' (e.g., Gen. 16:7-12; 22:9-18; or most remarkably of all, Judg. 13:2-23). Each of these realities is related to the Lord by the genitive construction, yet as each narrative proceeds turns out also to be the Lord.

"The rabbis generalized this structure as 'the Shekinah.' Exodus calls the wilderness temple-tent God's 'dwelling place' (mishkan) amidst his people (Exod. 40:34); the rabbis then used a word from the same root for the indwelling itself and extended the word to cover various phenomena of the Lord's dwelling in Israel.

"Thus Christian theology could gloss John 1:14 with 'the Shekinah became flesh'; the Jewish-Christian disagreement is only(!) about whether this in fact happened. Indeed, by original Christian understanding, the word that came to the prophets was in fact Christ acting in anticipation of his incarnate coming, and we might even gloss our clause as 'Christ came to me.' "

—Robert Jenson, Ezekiel (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible), pp. 24-25, 27-28

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