HB, not OT, please.

b.gardner at abdn.ac.uk b.gardner at abdn.ac.uk
Thu Feb 15 13:08:11 EST 2001


Dear All,

I agree with the posting regarding the nomenclature to be adopted regarding the 
Hebrew Bible. The term, 'Old Testament', is a Christian theological expression, 
but the OT is a revamped version of the LXX/HB over a very variable history. I 
believe that it was Jerome who persuaded the Pope of his day to adopt the HB as 
the base text of the OT, rather than the LXX - and interestingly for reasons of 
Jewish evangelism, because the rabbinical Jews would not take the LXX seriously.

Thus, the politically understandable, but dangerously tendentious, practice of 
selecting 'our version' to be the foundation for strict theologies has produced 
absurdities: arguments about a textus receptus which border on McCarthyism, and 
in some less gentlemanly quarters trangresses that line with bold recklessness. 

Alongside this I have to Dan's recent statement that the Bible is a whole not 
examinable in terms of Deuteronomic, Priestly, Chroncler or other layers of 
tradition. In the naive world of anti-higher-criticism, opting-out of reason is 
a badge of belonging to a religious body of opinion, guaranteeing acceptance, 
but it excludes others for whom that theological unity is quite spurious. I 
refer to those who live in and study the Torah and Talmud, Qumranology etc. If 
we are to discuss the HB, let it be the HB we study in an atmopshere of mutual 
respect. It was respect that made me, like Dan also in the Third World scene, 
form the opposite concusion to his. I knew that the best thing I could do was 
go home and get my PhD, so that I would be able to teach them how to apply the 
insights which need not kill (whatever) faith but would guarantee that they 
would have the choice whether or not to adopt Western theologies through the 
presentation of an undifferentiated Bible where Western theology was held to be 
a self-evidently integrated part of the Bible text itself. So the role of women 
and the wearing of hats, or the singing of hymns or order of church government 
was all part and parcel of being 'allowed' to study the HB in the missionary's 
theological envelope and world-view - itself in deep need of examination as to 
its cultural neuroses, self-justification and survivalism. Fundamentalism does 
not liberate; it enslaves, manipulating the weak for the mission's home purpose 
whatever other spiritual benefits it seems to confer on inexperienced believers.

Therefore, I am in favour of studying the HB, primarily - with extensions into 
LXX, Samaritan Pentateuch, Targum, Peshitta, Mishnah/Talmud, and DS Scrolls - 
in order to introduce a discipline and mutual respect into our cross-cultural 
discusssion. If we deny that freedom and respect, we endorse that link which 
many Christians, including myself, found it hard to acknowledge at first: that 
between the theory and practice of Christianity and 20thC Anti-semitic Fascism.

Criticism is democracy. You cannot turn it off at tap. Neither can you say that 
non-Christians must be forced to study their literature in anchronistic forms.

So, please, HB, not OT. And let criticism be stated unhindered by absolutisms 
which are at root the desire of powerful interest groups to escape examination.

Bruce Gardner.





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