Wednesday, January 6, 2010

things i'd like to do in a project

In Romans 12:1, Paul says 'present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your act of spiritual worship''. Paul expands this in terms of renewed understanding and various ethical injuntions.
How may we read this text?
I'd like to explore this interaction of worship, hermeneutics and ethics

firstly, Paul uses the metaphor of sacrifice to open a new understanding of life. For the first readers this was one imaginitive move, but for modern readers, unaccustomed to any sacrifice, let alone jewish temple sacrifice, this involves two imaginative moves. First we must imagine living in a sacrificial world, and then we must map that to life. Two unhelpful paths are often trod. The first is to equate later christian liturgy with the cultic pratices of Israel and either interpet ethics in light of modern liturgy or to sideline the ethical injunctions altogether. This approach grasps the idea that human action should be refigured by worship, but fails to see the shape of that refiguring.
The second false path is more common amongst evangelicals. This approach reacts to the first position by emphasising that ethics 'is' worship. The point on this reading is the replacement of the cult with 'whole of life'(as though the cult didn't already govern the 'whole of life' While at first this grasps the point of the metaphor, by equating the two it eventually loses it's referrent. Rather than new horizons being opened on the ethical life of the
beleiver, we simply disparage liturgy.

Then a short section on how general hermeneutical theories might help us, probably focussing on Ricouer

Common to both approaches is the idea that 'worship' is basically a universal idea that everyone understands.
Tied to this is the idea that sacrifice is also a universally understood concept.
Yet sacrifices vary from religion to religion. In the christianised west, the idea of sacrifice is dominated by the concept of 'cost'. To sacrifice is primarily to give up something of value.
Is this what paul was talking about? Where shall we find what he was referring to? Here a short discussion of the 'renewing of the mind' and the relationship of jew and gentile in rom 9-11(i come down on gentiles as ingraftesd branches and pauls sacrifice as OT)

While the idea of cost is certainly there in the bible, I don't think it the only or even main meaning of sacrifice. So part two of the project would be examining OT sacrifice what it meant, especially around the ideas of presentation and representation. How did the sacrifical system imagine the world and form the self of those participating in it?The sacrifices placed God, humans and the rest of the world in particular relationships and imagined the entire world in a particular way.

Part three would be taking this renewed imagination of sacrifice back to the ethical injunctions, what might it mean to imagine ethics as 'presentation to god'. Here i would like to engage with Ricouer with his ethics of self-sacrifice, which requires two actors, and with biblical self-sacrifice which conceives of those actions and actors as presented to god.

Part four then explores how we might be 'biblically sacrificing' interpeters and how the biblical ethic contributes to the renewing of the mind that makes this passage comprehensible after all.
(which is a tricksy way of saying the evangelicals are best off in the end, living in the worship the text commends, we are more likely to be enriched in our understanding. )

so theres some thoughts. I'd probably like to include more hermeneutics stuff than I've written here


Mike Bull said...

I found James Jordan's comments on the Hebrew word qorban very helpful. Not a sacrifice; a "nearbringing":

"Qorban, a gift or offering brought near. The verb is translated “draw near, bring near.” The traditional translation “offering” no longer conveys the idea of “bringing near,” if it ever did. There is no precise conventional English word available, except perhaps “propinquity,” which seems even more awkward than “nearbringing.” I initially thought to use “dedication,” but again this word does not bring out the idea of nearness, which is essential. Thus, I decided upon the neologism “nearbringing.”

The English “sacrifice” tends to connote the idea of giving something up for someone else. That has little if anything to do with qorban. “Offering” tends to connote a gift, which again has nothing to do with qorban. The word means to draw near, to get into close relationship with someone, and it is used only in relationship to God. We do not worship God by giving Him anything, for He needs nothing. We do not worship God by giving up anything good, for He is the one who has given us all good things. We worship God by drawing near to Him."

Mike W said...

thanks mike, thats very heplful and along the lines i was thinking (though phrased better). Is the bringing near of the offerer only, or also of what is offered? That is, is part of the priestly work of israel a 'bringing near' of the world to god?

Mike Bull said...

Blood opens the door.

The High Priest was the only one whose garments could be made of mixed threads (linen and wool) and he wore gemstones and gold. Animal, vegetable and mineral. As an Adam, he carried the whole creation before the throne.

The gospel age is Atonement. The Laver of "baptism" encompasses the world. As part of the Whole Christ, with full access to the Father, this nearbringing is also our ministry. We stand in the door with our foot on the serpent.

byron smith said...

4th yr project or PhD project? Sounds ambitious, but fascinating.