“Seeing the World and Knowing God”, & “Remembering Biblical Figures in the Late Persian and Early Hellenistic Periods”

These two volumes were handed over in Copenhagen by the editor of the Scandinavian Journal for the Study of the Old Testament for perusal/review.

This book aims to create a Christian theology of wisdom for the present day, in discussion with two sets of conversation-9780199644100_140partners. The first are writers of the ‘wisdom literature’ in ancient Israel and the Jewish community in Alexandria. Here, special attention is given to the biblical books of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes. The second conversation-partners are philosophers and thinkers of the late-modern age, among them Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas, Julia Kristeva, Paul Ricoeur and Hannah Arendt. In the late-modern period there has been a reaction against an inherited conception of the conscious and rational self as mastering and even subjugating the world around, and there has been an attempt to overcome the consequent split between the subject and objects of observation.

Paul S. Fiddes enters into dialogue with these late-modern concerns about the relation between the self and the world, proposing that the wisdom which is indicated by the ancient Hebraic concept of ḥokmah integrates a ‘practical wisdom’ of handling daily experience with the kind of wisdom which is ‘attunement’ to the world and ultimately to God as creator and sustainer of all. Fiddes brings detailed exegesis of texts from the ancient wisdom literature into interaction with an account of the subject in late-modern thought, in order to form a theology in which seeing the world is knowing a God whose transcendent reality is always immanent in the signs and bodies of the world. He thus argues that participation in a triune, relational God shapes a wisdom that addresses problems of a dominating self, and opens the human person to others.

And

9780199664160_140Social memory studies offer an under-utilised lens through which to approach the texts of the Hebrew Bible. In this volume, the range of associations and symbolic values evoked by twenty-one characters representing ancestors and founders, kings, female characters, and prophets are explored by a group of international scholars. The presumed social settings when most of the books comprising the TANAK had come into existence and were being read together as an emerging authoritative corpus are the late Persian and early Hellenistic periods. It is in this context then that we can profitably explore the symbolic values and networks of meanings that biblical figures encoded for the religious community of Israel in these eras, drawing on our limited knowledge of issues and life in Yehud and Judean diasporic communities in these periods.

This is the first period when scholars can plausibly try to understand the mnemonic effects of these texts, which were understood to encode the collective experience members of the community, providing them with a common identity by offering a sense of shared past while defining aspirations for the future. The introduction and the concluding essay focus on theoretical and methodological issues that arise from analysing the Hebrew Bible in the framework of memory studies. The individual character studies, as a group, provide a kaleidoscopic view of the potentialities of using a social memory approach in Biblical Studies, with the essay on Cyrus written by a classicist, in order to provide an enriching perspective on how one biblical figure was construed in Greek social memory, for comparative purposes.