Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Holy Kevin Bacon, Batman!

Okay, so, I had a midterm in Interpretation of the Old Testament last week, and I was studying the various readings we'd covered since the end of August. I was re-reading a chapter from Jacques Berlinerblau's book "The Secular Bible" (an interesting if a little incendiary read) and a paragraph on page 37 went like so:

[Biblical scholar Michael] Fishbane's analysis often – but not in every case – points to small, modest intrusions performed by the scribes in question [while redacting the Hebrew Bible]. It was his student, Bernard Levinson, who conceptualized larger, more aggressive interventions. In his study of Deuteronomy, Levinson pointed to the radically "transformative" work of those who wrote the fifth book of the Pentateuch. Their textual reworkings of earlier biblical texts were conscious, "creative, active, revisionist, and tendentious." These scribes had a specific political and theological agenda that they sought to implement by rewriting and in essence reformulating existing works such as the Covenant Code of Exodus (20:23-23:33). Here we are asked to envision biblical scribes who are writing in dialogue with – or perhaps better yet, shouting in opposition to – other parts of the Bible.

Okay, so he's making a good point, blah blah blah – did you catch the name?? Bernard Levinson – Bernie – was my Dad's best friend growing up in South Porcupine, Ontario. They were the Jew and Gentile dynamic duo. He is now a Hebrew Bible scholar (specializing in Deuteronomy) and teaches at the University of Michigan; that quotation is from his doctoral thesis. I was totally amazed! I had even read the chapter already and hadn't caught the significance of the name the first time around.

Here's the crazy thing – in class, ages ago, we were talking about how in Jewish culture there is much more of a culture of asking questions and having discussions of the Bible than we are used to as Christians. They are taught to ask good questions and engage the Bible in a way we don't. During this class discussion, I told an anecdote my Dad told me ages ago about his friend Bernie, who Dad noticed "always had his hand up in class." Well, weeks later there he was, in my class reading! I told the class all about it, how they were best friends and did a project on Simon and Garfunkel in Grade 13. My prof thought it was great – she started referring to "Bernie" during the lecture. "Well, maybe we'd have to ask Bernie and he would disagree with that statement."

Awesome.

I tried to work him into my midterm exam but didn't quite manage it.

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