Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Dissecting the recipe instead of feeding the family

From a footnote in Dale Ralph Davis' No Falling Words, page 167. 

Simplicity is, in my book, a plus; the more complicated an explanatory critical theory becomes, the less probability it holds of being correct, since every additional element inserts new (frequently uncheckable) variables into the problem. Multiplying the variables in a theory multiplies the uncertainty of their (all) describing the true course of events. Whether for a book or a chapter, the customary critical proposals inspire less confidence than a naive one. For chapter 22 [of Joshua], someone will hold we have a Gilgal tradition and a Shiloh tradition - these may have been in conflict originally. Of course, a Deuteronomic editor contributes his material, and a Priestly hand adds his touches - nor must we forget another post-exilic redactor (cf. the commentaries by Gray and Soggin on Joshua 22), Someone else will speculate differently. There are no controls; it is sheer guesswork. What's more, it seldom makes any difference (except to place question marks after the reliability of Scripture).

The real problem with such bloodless speculation is that, after having done it, its practitioners strangely enough do not bother to tell us what their literary monstrosity has to say to the flock of God. The problem with most commentaries of such genre is that they can in no way nourish the church in godliness. Do they provide technical help - linguistic, archaeological? Yes. But to them the Scripture is not warm. It is an artifact from the past, not an oracle from God. Nor should they wonder if the church finds all their furrow-browed, pin-the-tail-on-the-tradition-centre activity next to useless.
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