Saturday, April 12, 2014

Situating Literary Context

Another articulate insight from James Charlesworth:
In a deeper sense, in our search for a social understanding of Early Judaism, we must acknowledge the multi-dimensional role of linguistic phenomena. We have been preoccupied with the meaning of the language in the texts, yet there is another extremely important dimension to them, namely the function of the language of the text for the early Jew who was embodying in his or her own contemporary world the functional meaning of the text. As W.A. Meeks, a New Testatement scholar and a social historian who is a moderate functionalist, writes, 'The comprehensive question concerning the texts that are our primary sources is not merely what each one says, but what it does'....It is a sensitivity to the social dimension behind (and somehow within) our texts that should guard us from repeating distortions, caricatures and false portrayals.1
1 James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and the New Testament: Prolegomena for the Study of Christian Origins, Society for New Testament Studies, Monograph Series 54 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 22-23; Charlesworth's citation for Meeks: W.A. Meeks, The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1983), 7

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