I just received word last night that my proposal for the Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures program unit for the 2010 annual SBL meeting in Atlanta has been accepted! This is great news, as I have wanted to get in with this group for a long while now. I still have three other proposals out, and knowing I can only do two total, I will be curious how those are received.
The proposed title for the piece is: “A Theology of Deception: Towards Understanding YHWH’s Use of Deception in the Hebrew Bible”
Here is the abstract:
Within the Hebrew Bible YHWH is portrayed as either using or availing himself of deception in nearly every part of the canon: the Pentateuch, the Deuteronomistic History, the Prophets. In these occurrences YHWH engages in deceptive activity for manifold reasons: to assist in ancient Israel’s escape from Egypt, to protect Israel in the wilderness from enemy nations, to punish a false prophet, to kill a wicked Israelite king, or as an accusation from a suffering prophet. While scholarly discussion on this topic remains inchoate, I have argued extensively elsewhere that this phenomenon of YHWH as Trickster is perhaps most strikingly manifest in the book of Genesis, specifically the Jacob cycle (Gen 25-35), as a means of advancing the ancestral promise (Gen 12:1-3; cf. 26:2-5; 28:13-15). Scholarship has yet to address this complex and manifold characterization of YHWH in the Hebrew Bible. I have dubbed this phenomenon a “theology of deception.”
This paper will attend to this issue by attempting to provide adequate theological voice to YHWH as Trickster in the Hebrew Bible. It will be proposed that despite the likely unpalatable nature of this image for contemporary readers, the portrait within the Hebrew Bible attests to a deity that employs deception in the interest of the covenant and the covenant people. Attention to this oft neglected characterization of YHWH through literary readings of the biblical text (akin to Alter and Sternberg) with theological aims (akin to Brueggemann) will be seen to provide a fuller picture of who God is in the Hebrew Bible, a picture lacking in the majority of the classic Old Testament theologies to date (Eichrodt, von Rad, Childs, etc.). I will also suggest some avenues for future study, moving toward the possibility of speaking of a canonical theology of deception.
Now I just need to write it!