PLURALISM IN THEOLOGY? AN OLD TESTAMENT INQUIRY 1 PART I SOJOURNERS WE ARE: SOCIAL ROOTINGS OF BIBLICAL WITNESSES

Erhard S. Gerstenberger

Abstract


One of the most serious errors theologians make, at least in the Western hemisphere,
has been to see themselves as having the absolute truth, so that all other theological
positions become error. This arrogant certitude has a long history. It can be found in
some biblical writings, and even in some ancient Near Eastern documents written long
before Israel came into being. Circumstances and realities, however, do not support
those lofty claims. We live in a transient world: Our bodies, minds and capacities are
not of the eternal fibre we wish they were. Even if divine actions and words descended
into our time and space they would become stale and decay, like the manna of Ex 16, as
we attempted to conserve, formalize, and manipulate them. Theology is essentially a
thoroughly transient science; God-talk is a precarious affair: The words cannot be fixed
but must constantly be renewed. To ears attuned to Western theological attitudes,
Biblical witnesses do not point to enduring stability and unchangeable validity: They
teach the transience, contextuality, and pluralism of human theological insights.
This article (together with Part II that will follow later) presents a brief survey of
concurrent as well as successive models of faith in the Hebrew Scriptures. These
paradigms are tied to clearly recognizable social organizations.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7833/88-0-994

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

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