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Biblical Theology as the key to understanding the relationship between Law and Narrative in the Pentateuch

Biblical Theology as the key to understanding the relationship between Law and Narrative in the Pentateuch

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Published by: nm_campbell on Jun 14, 2012
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201017867 1
BIBLICAL THEOLOGY AS KEY: UNDERSTANDING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEENLAW AND NARRATIVE IN THE PENTATEUCH ABSTRACT 
The apparent hodge-podge of legal and narrative material contained not justwithin the five books of the Pentateuch as a whole, but within the boundariesof the books themselves, has created a dilemma for interpreters throughouthistory.Assuming that the Pentateuch is Christian Scripture, we will survey thevariety of approaches to this complex law and narrative relationship (LNR),with an emphasis on the views popular in current Biblical studies,particularly the traditional, critical, canonical, and Biblical Theological views.We will assess each model on its treatment of the text, context, and subtext,which we will assume relates to the Pentateuch’s ultimate fulfillment inChrist.
 
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INTRODUCTION
The blend of legal material and narrative within the Pentateuch has longpresented an interpretive conundrum, which many have attempted to resolve by placing one in the service of the other. The Pentateuch’s obvious mix ofgenres has been a flashpoint for various approaches to Biblical interpretation,with wildly different presuppositions producing a variety of accounts for thelaw-narrative relationship (LNR).We will provide a treatment of the Pentateuch’s text, and context, and itsinterpretation through history, before surveying the approach to thePentateuch adopted by critical scholars, more recently by canonical scholars,and the frameworks adopted by scholars who are concerned to treat the textas Christian Scripture.We will consider the foundations and merits of each approach, in an attemptto account for the initial purpose of the Pentateuch, and its ultimatefulfillment in Christ.
METHODOLOGY AND ASSUMPTIONS
This survey will proceed on the basis of the author’s convictions regardingthe unity and inspiration of Scripture, and its fulfillment in, and testimonyabout, Christ (Matt 5:17, John 5:39, Romans 10:4, Hebrews 7:11-28).Interpretive models will be assessed on this basis, and accounts thatcoherently heed the unity of Scripture will therefore be preferred.We will consider various approaches to the Pentateuch on their ability tointeract with the text, the context, and the subtext, or rather, the text’srelationship with the rest of the canon.So, we will assess each approach on its ability to coherently account for thetext, both in terms of the mix of genres contained therein, and in the finalform of the Pentateuch. Further, we will assess models on their ability toaccount for the Pentateuch’s relationship with its Ancient Near Eastern background, which provides some insight into the genre and function of thePentateuch as a text. Finally, we will consider how each model relates to the
 
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Pentateuch’s position in Christian scripture, and how it relates to theunfolding of salvation history. This means trying to navigate between theCharybdis of critical, liberal, prophetic, and dispensational views of the legalmaterial that place it as a passing phase in Israel’s, or salvation, history, andthe Scylla of theonomic or ethical readings that fail to consider the Pentateuchwithin the Biblical meta-narrative.
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 We will conclude that a truly satisfying understanding of the LNR grasps itspurpose for Israel, as revelation shaping identity, ethics, and future hope, andits culmination in Jesus.
 THE TEXT – A MIX OF LAW AND NARRATIVE, AND LAWS AS NARRATIVE
The Pentateuch features an intertwined mix of genres that depict Israel’shistory from Creation to the Promised Land. This story takes place in severalmajor narrative movements. In Genesis, Adam leaves the Garden (Genesis 3),Abraham leaves the land of his forefathers (Genesis 12), Joseph leaves forEgypt (Genesis 37), bringing his father and brothers (Genesis 45-47). Thisphysically sets the scene for the central section of the Pentateuch’s narrative(Exodus to Numbers), which includes the Exodus (Exodus 1-18), the Sinainarrative (Ex 19-34),
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and the Wilderness wanderings (Numbers 10:11-20:39).
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 These main narratives contain smaller pericopes, such as Balaam, his donkey,and Balak (Num 22-24).
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 These narratives are linked by various law codes and passages of case law,such as the Decalogue (Exodus 20:1-17), Covenant Code (Exodus 20:22-23:33),Holiness Code (Leviticus 17-26), and priestly code (Exodus 35-40).
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Legalmaterial is embedded in this middle section,
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in almost equal quantities,
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and

1
P.T Vogt,
Interpreting the Pentateuch,
(Grand Rapids, Kregel, 2009), 37-42, provides asummary of these approaches
2
On the unity of this narrative see J.I Lawlor, ‘The “At Sinai Narrative”: Exodus 18-Numbers10,’
Bulletin for Biblical Research
21.1 (2011) 23-42, contra A. Phillips, ‘A Fresh Look at the SinaiPericope: Part 1’
Vetus Testamentum,
34, 1 (1984), 39-52, A. Phillips, ‘A Fresh Look at the SinaiPericope: Part 2’
Vetus Testamentum,
34, 3 (1984), 282-294
3
J.H Sailhamer,
The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition and Interpretation,
(Downers Grove, IVP, 2009), 360
4
J.H Sailhamer,
The Meaning of the Pentateuch,
357
5
J.H Sailhamer,
The Meaning of the Pentateuch,
357
6
J. Barton, ‘Law and Narrative in the Pentateuch,’
Communio viatorum,
51 no 2 (200
9),
126-140,
 
126-127, A. Bartor,
Reading Law as Narrative: A Study in the Causistic Laws of the Pentateuch
 ,

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