Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Andrew Perriman, Metalepsis, and A Philosophy of History

Rule #4 Metalepsis rules, OK

If it is the narrative of Israel’s troubled historical existence that controls meaning in the biblical texts, we take it that the New Testament quotes from or alludes to the Jewish scriptures not so much to provide authoritative scriptural support for New Testament teachings (i.e. as proof texts) as to bring the larger narratives and arguments into play. This works essentially because in the first century Israel was facing a crisis analogous to previous crises such as the Babylonian invasion or the assault of Antiochus IV against Jewish religion. Richard Hays introduced the term metalepsis for the practice of hearing the intertextual echoes generated by allusion:
When a literary echo links the text in which it occurs to an earlier text, the figurative effect of the echo can lie in the unstated or suppressed… points of resonance between the two texts.
I don't want to spend much more time on Perriman's rules for narrative-historical interpretation. I think most readers get the picture that the technique serves as another way by which orthodox Christianity can be deconstructed and ideas and theologies imported into Christianity that were there from the start.

Here we see another monstrous and unproven assumption in Andrew's rules. "If it is the narrative of Israel's troubled historical existence that controls the meaning of the biblical texts, we take it that New Testament quotes from or alludes to the Jewish scriptures not so much to provide authoritative scriptural support for New Testament teachings (i.e. as proof texts) as to bring the larger narratives and arguments into play." Perriman continues to emphasize his thesis that the NT text is really obsessed with the Jewish struggles as a nation. He fails to recognize that most of the New Testament was not directed at primarily Jewish audiences. Moreover, one has to wonder why, if the NT writers were not concerned to appeal to the OT text as the authority by which Christian theism is established and by which we must believe that Jesus is the Christ, they appealed to it to make these very points in the manner in which they did and as often as they did.

In addition, if one understands metalepsis, then one realizes that there are numerous passages in the NT that turn the idea on its head. That is not to say that it is never useful to examine the OT text that is being employed by the NT writer. On the contrary, that is just good exegesis. However, the guiding rule for understanding how an OT text is being employed is not necessarily the OT as it stands by itself. The best way to understand how a writer is using an OT and why is the present mindset of that writer. Since we know that NT use of OT passages is a very complex and challenging area, that we could formulate hard and fast rules, such as metalepsis is untenable. In other words, the number of times that the technique just doesn't work out so well are so numerous that we risk introducing exegetical arbitrariness into our process. The theme of Jewish focus continues to create massive misunderstandings for Perriman's theology. If one were to accept his theories at face value, we would have no choice but to conclude that Jesus has in fact NOT protected His Church from serious error for the entire Church has been wrong for two-thousand years now.

Once more, while metalepsis can be quite useful in many places to help us understand a number of texts, adding much to the exegetical objective, over-reliance on the technique tends to cloud meaning and create confusion. From my point of view, there seems to be a continual theme of over-emphasis emerging in Andrew's narrative-historical method. This habit is responsible for introducing theological conclusions that are not just wrong, but egregious in numerous places.

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