Most of you know of my interest in OT theology. I have recently been reading through the volume Biblical Theology: Introducing the Conversation and in the first essay Ben Sommer, in describing the agenda for a (Jewish) Dialogical Biblical theology, writes the following:
“The Bible does not present a doctrine so much as it endorses an agenda. Postbiiblical literature does not find a harmonizing spot on the continuum between polarities that affects a compromise but insists on maintaining the polarity itself” (50).
I can resonate with these words quite strongly; whenever someone says to me “but the Bible says” my usual, initial response is “where?” The point is, the Bible contains a plurality of voices, sometimes in tension. Those familiar with my work know I don’t regard this as a bad thing at all; in fact, I take it as a vital component of the beauty, power, and resilience of the text. But I think Sommer’s quotation does a nice job of summing up my basic sentiments: the biblical texts invites readers to a conversation, the multiplicity of voices and viewpoints of which is matched by the polyvalence and tension of the biblical text itself. Post-biblical work (such as apostolic fathers, the Mishnah or Midrashic exegesis) do not settle on doctrinal, orthodox tenets but rather continue the conversation, wrestling with the same questions and tensions we wrestle with today.