Monday, June 14, 1993

Secular Presuppositions in Biblical Interpretation

Secular Presuppositions in Biblical Interpretation

Foolproof Composition or Imaginative Construal of the Rape of Dinah (Genesis 34)

By Stephen F. Noll
 
THE NEED to interpret the Bible is axiomatic in the history of theology, for Christianity has always been, as one author puts it, a "hermeneutical religion."(1) Only a super-Puritan would advocate simply reading texts seriatim. But in the contemporary setting in which philosophy has reduced itself to hermeneutics, "interpretation" means vastly different things to different people.

Some hermeneutical argumentation is downright Humpty-Dumptyesque. When the 1991 Episcopal General Convention was formulating a resolution on the evangelism of Jewish people, a debate broke out between conservatives and liberals over whether one could say that Jesus is the unique Son of God. One broad-minded clergyman, the soul of conciliation, argued that he had no objection to calling Jesus the unique Son of God: after all, we are all unique! A second example comes from the notorious "RE-Imagining" conference of November 1993, touted by its leaders as the dawn of a "second reformation." In a rather typical piece of feminist exposition, Professor Rita Nakashima Brock interpreted the story of Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matt 15:21-28) in this way:

She [the woman] gives a smart retort and wins the argument. . . . She turns the tables. The transformative power of love comes from the marginal, from those abused by the powers of domination and injustice who demand responsibility from the powerful. When Jesus is oppressed by the principalities and powers of the world, he reveals the incarnate power of God as he does through much of his life and at his death. But when Jesus has structural power over another, [he] marginalizes her. Divine power confronts Jesus from those margins. In other words, she is the incarnation of God to Jesus [applause]. . . . Jesus acknowledges this revelation when it happens with the words, "woman, what faith you have, be it as you wish" and often with the marginalized he says to them, not "I have made you whole," but "your faith has made you whole" and this is how the transformative power of God is incarnated here and here and here and here. The power of mother-root. "(2)

In the not so old days, we would call this eisegesis, give the student an F and tell her to rewrite. However, biblical interpretation of this sort is abounding under the aegis of "imaginative construal." Although the central role of imagination in interpretation goes back to the Idealists and Romantics like Kant and Coleridge, the term "imaginative construal" seems to have been coined by David Kelsey in The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology.(3)

A foolproof composition?

The hermeneutical crisis surfaces not only in church politics but in the scholarly record. One does not expect to find the tone of j’accuse in the pages of the Journal of Biblical Literature, but that is the best description of the recent exchange of articles between Danna Fewell and David Gunn on the one hand and Meir Sternberg on the other.(4) All three are front-line critics in the "literary" approach to biblical interpretation. The issue joined is Sternberg’s claim that the Bible is a "foolproof composition," which I shall define shortly. The story of the rape of Dinah (Genesis 34) is the banner case on which their hermeneutical firepower is focused.

To give you something of the tone of the debate, let me quote briefly from their articles. Fewell and Gunn’s evaluation of foolproof composition is that "this is all very acceptable if we are fundamentalist readers" (p. 194). In fact, "the foolproof text is a dangerous illusion" (p. 211), a "monopolization of biblical meaning" in the service of androcentric values and social conservatism. Fewell and Gunn make the apparently more modest claim for "an alternative reading that is rooted in a somewhat different value system, which we think of as feminist" (p. 194).

Sternberg’s judgment on their approach is withering. He describes the text in their hands a "glorified Rorschach ink blot": "If [the Bible] looks too androcentric — or for that matter too focused on God, Israelites, grown-ups, leaders, struggles, forces other than Marxist — you can always rewrite its stories by way of counterreading, fiction-maker style" (p. 481). He concludes:

So my answer is categorical. No, by the standards to which it aspires, this performance will hardly qualify as competent. It has no poetics to offer, no theory of reading, no coherent enterprise or argument, no sense of history, cultural norms, and the difference they make to understanding, no eye for detail, not even linguistic expertise worthy of the Bible’s art — only a cause that serves it ill and it ill serves in turn. If this is how women’s liberation stands to the reader’s, then politics and professionalism must never mix for the good of both. . . . (p. 488)

While "fool-proof composition" and "imaginative construal" may sound arcane to those outside the scholarly guild, they are terms that refer to crucial differences in reading Scripture and doing theology. Thus they deserve our attention. So what is "foolproof composition," according to Sternberg?

By foolproof composition I mean that the Bible is difficult to read, easy to underread and overread and even misread, but virtually impossible to, so to speak, counterread. . . . The essentials are made transparent to all comers: the story line, the world order, the value system. The old and new controversies among exegetes, spreading to every possible topic, must not blind us (as it usually does them) to the measure of agreement in this regard. The bedrock agreement is neither accidental nor self-evident. Not accidental, because it derives from the Bible’s overarching principle of composition, its strategy of strategies, maneuvering between the truth and the whole truth; nor self-evident, because such a principle does not often govern literature operating at the Bible’s level of sophistication and interpretive drama.(5)

While Sternberg writes primarily as a literary critic and with no interest in applying his principle to the Christian Bible, he nevertheless presents an issue central to classic Christian theology and exegesis from the Church Fathers to the Protestant Reformers. That issue is whether Scripture is an intelligible revelation or rule, a clear word from on high to be grasped in trust and obedience by the whole people of God. I have tried to make a contemporary defense of the "literal sense" of Scripture in "Reading the Bible as the Word of God," in The Bible’s Authority in Today’s Church, a book of essays prepared for the study of our House of Bishops.(6)

The claim to foolproof composition is rooted in the Bible itself, as when Moses says of the Law: "This commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off... But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it" (Deut 30:11,14). The same conviction is echoed in Paul’s claim for the simplicity of the Gospel when he says: ". . . we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor. 4:2). Foolproof composition provides the "rule of faith" for imaginative reading, the orthodox skeleton within which the wise reader will be forced to flesh out the subtleties and ambiguities of God’s ways.
 
The grab-bag method

Fewell and Gunn, on the other hand, see as a "dangerous illusion" Sternberg’s distinction between true readings of the Bible (whether over-, under-, or mis-readings) and counter-readings. In their view, a text can have "multiple and conflicting ‘competent’ readings." I have labeled this approach to interpretation the grab-bag method: the critic reaches into the grab-bag of possible meanings and adopts the one most congenial to contemporary sensibilities. In a similar fashion, Walter Brueggemann says:

The Bible is the compost pile that provides material for new life. I do not use this figure as an irreverent metaphor to suggest that the Bible is "garbage." Rather I use it to suggest that the Bible itself is not the actual place of new growth. Our present life, when we undertake new growth, is often inadequate, arid, or even barren. It needs to be enriched, and for that enrichment, we go back to the deposits of old growth that have been discarded, but that continue to ferment and may contain resources for a way to new life.(7)

If I may indulge in one final analogy, imaginative construal reminds me of a Far Side cartoon labelled "Boneless Chicken Ranch," where the chickens are flopped limply over every fence-rail and post. In Fewell and Gunn’s method, the Bible is the boneless chicken: the criteria for interpretation are external to the body of the biblical text, propping up whatever meaning may be assigned to Scripture.

In attacking "imaginative construal," I do not mean to slight the role of imagination (and its sister concepts metaphor and narrative) in understanding the artistry of the Bible. Prickett’s Words and the Word is an eloquent defense of imagination in terms of the revelatory power of the Logos (see e.g., page 241). In fact, the danger of the post-modern approach is that it displaces imagination from the realm of aesthetics into the realm of truth. Note the rash of current coupling of theology and hermeneutics in proposals of "narrative theology," "metaphorical theology," and "imagining God," e.g. works by Gordon Kaufmann, Garrett Green, David Tracy, Sallie McFague, James McClendon, and Stanley Hauerwas.

Thus Fewell and Gunn offer their reading as a moral, not an aesthetic, alternative to Sternberg’s: ". . . we stand by our [feminist] moral judgments over against his" (p. 194). So we end up with an interesting reversal, that whereas imaginative features of the Bible have been traditionally seen as an adornment of its doctrine, in post-modern theology, the Bible is rendered imaginatively as ornamentation to the tenets of radical politics.

Secular criticism, ironically, is solipsistic, world-denying. The world is a figment of the imagination. Over against this contemporary trend, the literary critic A. D. Nuttall has argued for a "new mimesis," which is in fact nothing but the older understanding of the imitative relationship between art and the world of reality. "Mimesis," he writes, "is mimesis of something, or it is not mimesis. It exists in tense relation with that which is other than itself. I plead that a sense of that `other’ be reincorporated in our critical and theoretical activity."(8)

Genuine readings vs. counterreadings

If the proper task of the artist and the critic is to "try the world" of the text by the test of reality, then it might be equally said that the role of the biblical interpreter is to try the world of the Bible in its ability both to form a coherent world-view and also to make sense of the world in which we live. But how do we do this without lapsing into arbitrariness? I will now propose three tests by which one might distinguish genuine readings (whether under-, over-, or mis-) from counterreadings. For the sake of easy access, I shall speak of them in familiar categories of Scripture, tradition, and reason. By following the debate in the particular case of the rape of Dinah, I would hope that we may renew our confidence in the "plain sense" of Scripture and be warned against cunning strategies imported from secular philosophy that undermine confidence in God’s Word.

Before we go further, let us sketch the differences between Sternberg’s and Fewell and Gunn’s reading of the Dinah story in Genesis 34. According to Sternberg, Shechem the rapist and all his kin are assumed to be corrupt in all their doings, from rape to a slippery proposal to take over the Israelites by intermarriage. Thus they have their reward at the end of the chapter. While Dinah is the victim, the weight of the narrator’s sympathy lies with her brothers who must devise a way to vindicate the honor of the chosen people in the face of their numerically superior Canaanite hosts. Despite the danger of excess, the brothers’ strategem of revenge is more faithful to the covenant purity of the people than the equivocating response of Jacob, the eponymous ancestor of Israel.
Fewell and Gunn, while not condoning the rape of Dinah, see Shechem’s "speaking to her heart" (verse 3) as a sign of genuine affection as opposed to the cold cynicism of her brothers, who regard her only as spoiled goods. "In short, her best interest within the narrow limits of this society is to marry Shechem, the man who loves her and takes delight in her" (p. 210). Meanwhile, in opposing his sons’ jihad against the Hivites, Jacob is an example of an ethic of responsibility, knowing in his fatherly wisdom that "there is never a final word to violence" (p. 208).

Test One: Scripture Interpreting Scripture

One classic test of authentic reading is conformity to other Scripture. Thus Moses warned about false prophets: "If your brother...entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods. . .," do not yield to him or listen to him" (Deut 13:6-8). In Biblical narrative especially, it is appropriate to listen to the story with the ears of the Law, the psalms, or the wisdom corpus. In the case of the Dinah narrative, Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is a significant parallel: "If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives." While there is a plausible resemblance between Shechem’s marriage proposal and this Law, the resemblance is deceptive and ironic. The "man" specified in the Law is clearly understood to be an Israelite.

On the other hand, Deuteronmy 7:1-4 specifies the Hivites as a nation doomed to destruction: "Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods. . ." Shechem’s fall is not the result of ethnic prejudice run wild but moral corruption: neither he nor any of his kin manifest any awareness that they have broken a divine commandment in the rape of Dinah. In this spiritual coarseness, they live out the curse of Canaan (Gen 9:25).

These comparisons raise another issue which Fewell and Gunn ignore: the aetiological or typological dimension of the passage. Despite his discourse-oriented approach, Sternberg has harsh word for those who see the Bible as story: "let me say, quite simply, that the hard antihistorical line in hermeneutics is too condescending and inconsistent (in varying combinations) to make a viable theory."(9)

Genesis 34 is both a personal story about the families of Shechem and Israel, but it is also about the peoples who co-occupied the land for centuries. The tip-off to this concern may be found in the sons’ initial response to the rape: "They were filled with grief and fury, because Shechem had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter — a thing that should not be done" (verse 7). The reference to Israel seems anachronistic. Jacob first received the name Israel at the Jabbok (32:28), but only in 35:10 is the name Israel publicly announced at Bethel. In any case, the sons seem to presuppose a future covenant society in which "such things should not be done."

The national implications lead us to reflect on the theological issues at stake in the passage. Genesis 34 is preceded by two brief references to places: "After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan within sight of ["in the face of"] the city" (33:18). After the Dinah incident, God commands Jacob to leave Shechem and go to Bethel. The question raised is, where is the Land, who are its people, and who are its gods?

Setting: Paddan Aram, Shechem, Bethel
Land: Mesopotamia, Canaan, Canaan
People: Arameans (relatives), Hivites (Canaanites), Israelites
God: other gods, God and other gods, God Almighty

The chart above indicates that the sojourn in Shechem was an intermediary stop on Jacob’s return, though he did not apparently understand it as such. The danger lay in Israel’s confusing possession of the Land with their identity as a people, and ultimately with their knowledge of God. This is exactly the kind of borderline temptation that Deuteronomy 7 warns against.

It is against this backdrop that we come to understand the theological themes of Genesis 34. The chapter is unique in the Jacob saga in the absence of reference to God. In place of God we find circumcision. But circumcision is the covenant sign, not the covenant reality. Analogously, marriage is the means of multiplying the promised seed, but only godly marriage brings true blessing. The Hivites do not understand anything about circumcision and do not ask whether it might involve religious obligations. The Hivites suggest that marriage is an indifferent, commercial activity: "give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves" (verse 9). The second set of speeches, between Shechem and Hamor and their kinsmen, reveals that for them circumcision is a means not to a religious calling but to take over the property (including daughters) of the Hebrew minority.
The Israelites make circumcision a prerequisite for marriage, yet they "replied deceitfully" in not instructing their neighbors on the religious requirements that accompany it. Is there any national justification for this exclusivism, with its accompanying revenge? It is at this point that Sternberg, sensing the potential injustice of their behavior, speaks of the author "working against the normal force or effect of the materials. . . ." I think he actually underestimates the sense of collective guilt built up not only by the preceding narrative but by the universal Biblical judgment on the Canaanite peoples for their idolatry.

The interesting question is whether, under the umbrella of foolproof composition, the Biblical writer would lead the reader from the "truth" of the relative justice of the Hebrews’ duplicity and revenge to reflection on the "whole truth" of their over-reactive zeal and perhaps Jacob’s under-reactive pragmatism. Put another way, if Jacob’s family is in the right, how do we judge between Jacob and his sons, when at the conclusion of the passage he complains that they have brought trouble on him and his house and they reply: "Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?" We might summon parallel texts such as the final blessing/cursing of Jacob (Gen 49:5-7) or the example of the zeal of Phinehas (Num 25:6-13) and ask what their intertextual influence might be on Genesis 34. However, this is beyond the scope of the present essay.

Test Two: The Exegetical Tradition

While "Scripture interpreting Scripture" assumes a kind of implicit inner Biblical exegesis, the process is explicit in the entire tradition of Jewish and Christian exegesis. In a recent study of early Jewish expansions on Genesis 34, James Kugel concludes: "While ideology can play a role in such interpretive interpolations, this is far from always being the case; frequently, the motive is to solve a problem in the biblical text or to account for something that cries out for explanation."(10)

What is striking about these later recountings of the Biblical story is how much they agree on elements we have already noted from the inner Biblical conversation: that the rape of Dinah was a typical act of Canaanite lust, and that the destruction of Shechem was a divine act of judgment. On the secondary dispute between Levi and Jacob, the texts favor Levi’s zeal. While Levitical texts like Testament of Levi have clear motives for favoring Levi over Jacob, non-Levitical texts like Judith take the same stance (Jdt 9:2-4). Thus on a scale of heroes to villains, the tradition ranks the Hebrews at the top, with Levi gaining highest honors, and the Hivites at the bottom.

In Fewell and Gunn’s reading, however, the black and white hats are reversed: Simeon and Levi are male chauvinists interested only in recovering their sister as property, Jacob is a political pragmatist, Shechem is a reformed rapist turned lover, and Dinah is a proto-feminist acting responsibly while waiting for a better world. While one cannot rule out the possibility that the Biblical narrator’s evaluation of his characters was totally mistaken by later interpreters, the suspicion of arbitrary counterreading on the part of Fewell and Gunn is strong indeed.

Test Three: Arguing from Reason

It might seem that reason would be the weakest ally in the quest for a faithful interpretation of the text of Genesis 34. After all, the higher critics long ago dismissed this story as a saga of tribal chauvinism, personalized in the biblical characters. At the same time, reason itself has undergone an identity crisis. Post-modernism has divorced reason from imagination in such a way that, unlike the higher critics, the text may be read holistically but has no correspondence with reality other than that imposed by the critic. The entire canon of Scripture, as James Sanders has put it, is "adaptable for life."(11)

My problem with post-modern "political readings" of Scripture stems not only from their indifference toward the original meaning of the text but also from the poverty of the liberationist ideology that governs the interpretation. This of course opens me to the charge that I am simply opposing my value system to the feminism of Fewell and Gunn. However, I am willing to open my ideology to the test of reality, problematic as that may be. If they are consistent, this is a test which Fewell and Gunn must forgo, since according to feminist liberationism all value systems are mere rationalizations for gaining and holding power.

But if both Scripture and reason refer to a common reality, then there is in principle a fruitful area of dialogue between exegetes, theologians and philosophers. Put another way, if there is an inner logic to the Bible, then a genuine biblical theology becomes possible, as has been demonstrated in the work of Brevard Childs.(12)

In a recent call for a return to theological exegesis, David Yeago has argued: "The only possible way of investigating the content and unity of biblical teaching is to inquire attentively into what the texts say and how they say it, in search of unifying common judgements which may be rendered in diverse ways, attempting to redescribe or re-render those judgments so as to do justice to the significance of their various articulations across the range of the Canon."(13)

It is this characteristic of the "reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting" which characterizes the freedom of patristic and Reformation exegesis. In her marvelous book on George Herbert’s poetics, Chana Bloch contrasts Herbert’s hermeneutic with that of his self-conscious post-modern critic Stanley Fish:

Writing about Scripture, Herbert sets before us the mind and heart of the Christian who reads and interprets. Precisely where we might expect to find the self humbled and subordinated, we find it instead vigorously at work and conscious of its own motions in bringing the text to life.... The delighted play of the mind, so characteristic of The Temple, belies Stanley Fish’s picture of Herbert, martyrlike, building his poetry into a pyre of self-immolation. In Herbert’s poetry the self is not effaced but improved.(14)

In the case of rape of Dinah, I have found a similar free dialogue with Scripture in an occasional writing of Leon Kass, a Jewish political philosopher who has written a series of exegetically sound and politically relevant studies on Old Testament texts, one of them on the rape of Dinah.(15) Kass opens his piece with a simple statement of principle that might be shared by Simeon and Levi as well as some feminists: "Ever since I was a boy, long before I had a wife and daughters, I have always thought and keenly felt that rape is a capital offense, a crime worse even than murder. For the rapist, says the book of Deuteronomy, ‘death by stoning.’ It has never seemed to me too cruel or excessive a punishment" (p. 29).

Kass’s principles, which are clearly the product of both conviction and reflection, are never far from the surface, but he does not seek to project them directly onto the Bible. "The stories [in Genesis] are supposed to speak for themselves; they `teach,’ but not directly or didactically. Thus they invite thought and require interpretation and judgment. . . . Throughout Genesis the moral ambiguity of human actions — and its lasting effects — is vividly portrayed, rarely more powerfully than in the present title" (p. 30). In the process of reading Kass’s meditations on the text, this reader was rewarded both in understanding the story and in reflecting on many current social and ecclesiastical issues with regard to sexuality.

The contrast between genuine dialogue with the text and counterreading may be exemplified in verse 3: "And [Shechem’s] soul cleaved to Dinah, daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young maiden, and he spoke to the young woman’s heart." For Fewell and Gunn, their feminism melting into sentimentality, love apparently covers a multitude of rapes. They cannot accept the enduring moral significance of the rape itself and the tragic consequences to a defiled woman in a society where chastity is a virtue and irrecoverable when lost. Kass, on the other hand, makes sense of the text from a realistic view of life:
Shechem, the rapist, was psychically as well as physically uncircumcised. First, he acted as if his lust entitled him to have his way with Dinah. Afterward, the ground of his claim shifted to his desire, to his longing for her. The generative meaning of sexuality and the attendant reverence owed to womanly shame he understood not at all; much less did he have in mind a right partner for the future work of transmission. (p. 34).

Dinah, according to Kass, is a pitiable figure, and Scripture, by isolating her from the other matriarchal women, makes us think in new directions:

With Dinah we are compelled to think about maidenhood — and about daughters. . . . With the help of the story, we readers can see the need for a special education and protection of daughters. The circumcision of males, symbolizing the restraint of male promiscuity and beckoning males to familial responsibility, must have its female counterpart: modesty, caution, refusal, self-reverence, and chastity, all exercised in the service of eventual marriage — love-filled, fruitful, sanctified. This is not, as critics would have it, the infamous double standard. In Israel, it is the single standard, differently applied, as befits the natural differences between men and women. (pp. 37-38)

Kass ends his essay with a stark application of the lessons of the Dinah story to the current American scene and a passionate appeal to turn back and learn from the Bible.

We Americans, especially the more "enlightened" and emancipated among us, have managed to become thoroughly lost in matters sexual. The sexual revolution, made possible by the contraceptive separation of sexual activity from its implicit generative consequences, deliberately sacrificed female virtue on the altar of the god of pleasure now. Not surprisingly, the result was emancipated male predation and exploitation, as men were permitted easy conquests of women without responsibility or lasting intimacy. . . .


Under such circumstances, one cannot exactly blame women for wanting to learn how to defend themselves against sexual attack. But, addressing the symptom not the cause, the remedies of karate and "take back the night" — can only complete the destruction of the healthy relations between man and woman. For, truth to tell, the night never did and never can belong to women, except for the infamous women-of-the-night. Only a restoration of sexual restraint and sexual self-respect — for both men and women — can reverse our rapid slide toward Shechem. Only a recovery of the deeper understanding of sexuality, accessible to us (among other places) in the stories of the Hebrew Bible, can allow true love and family happiness to flourish. (p. 38)

A rape of the Bible

Let me conclude with an imaginative leap of my own from the text at hand to the central issue of biblical interpretation by suggesting that "imaginative construal" as epitomized by Fewell and Gunn — and practiced by a host of other post-modern critics — involves a rape of the Bible as God’s word. Rape itself in our culture has shifted from being seen as a violation of nature — which includes a woman’s particular femininity as well as her free will — to being solely a violation of will. (It is not a crime of passion but of power, so the feminists tell us.)

Similarly, the biblical text has come to be seen not as having its own inherent nature and integrity but rather purely as an object of will. The imaginative construer imposes his interpretive will on the obliging text. In his eyes all texts are pushovers and all interpreters seducers. Like Shechem the construer may develop a sentimental attachment to his victim and wish to show her off, but he has never truly plumbed the depths of the mystery of her nature and he is offended by the idea that Scripture might in its simple maidenly way say No to his contemporary sensibilities.

Classic interpretation of the Bible, by contrast, is a kind of wooing. The boundaries of courtship are established by the rule of faith which is inherent in the foolproof composition of the text and is enforced by the Church’s rule of faith and exegetical tradition. The etiquette of interpretation includes careful attention to the text, responsible use of critical tools, and prayerful application of text to life. But the heart of interpretation is an intense passion, an expectancy that God has spoken his word of love into Scripture and that he will reward the yearning heart with a vision of the Beloved.
 
ENDNOTES
(1) Words and The Word: Language, Poetics and Biblical Interpretation (Cambridge University Press, 1986) p. 200.
(2) "Re-Imagining God" plenary presentation, November 5, 1993. Tape 2-1, side B.
(3) The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology (Fortress Press, 1975) pp. 167-170.
(4) D. N. Fewell and D. M. Gunn, "Tipping the Balance: Sternberg’s Reader and the Rape of Dinah," JBL 110 (1991) and M. Sternberg, "Biblical Poetics and Sexual Politics: From Reading to Counterreading," JBL 111 (1992).
(5) The Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Literature and the Drama of Reading (Indiana University Press, 1985) pp. 50-51.
(6) "Reading the Bible as the word of God," in The Bible’s Authority in Today’s Church, edited by Frederick Borsch (Trinity Press International, 1993) see esp. pp. 140-42.
(7) Texts under Negotiation: The Bible and Postmodern Imagination (Fortress, 1993) pp. 61-62. Elsewhere he describes the biblical text as "rather like the script of psychotherapy" (p. 39).
(8) A New Mimesis: Shakespeare and the Representation of Reality (Methuen, 1983) p. 182.
(9) The poetics of Biblical Narrative, p. 10.
(10) "The Story of Dinah in the Testament of Levi ," HTR 85 (1992) p. 2.
(11) "Adaptable for Life: The Nature and Function of Canon," in Frank M. Cross, ed., Magnalia Dei. The Mighty Acts of God: Essays on the Bible and Archaeology in Memory of G. E. Wright (Doubleday, 1976) pp. 31-60.
(12) See especially Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments: Theological Reflection on the Christian Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992) pp. 80-89.
(13) "The New Testament and Nicene Dogma: A Contribution to the Recovery of Theological Exegesis," Pro Ecclesia 3 (1994) pp. 162-63.
(14) Spelling the Word: George Herbert and the Bible (University of California Press, 1985) pp. 30-31.
(15) "Regarding Daughters and Sisters: The Rape of Dinah," Commentary (April, 1992) pp. 29-38.


Dr. Noll retired as academic dean and Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in 2000, to become the vice-chancellor of the Christian University of Uganda. He is the author of Angels of Light, Powers of Darkness: Thinking Biblically about Angels, Satan and Principalities (InterVarsity Press, 1998), Two Sexes, One Flesh (Latimer Press, 1997), and The Handwriting on the Wall (Latimer Press, 1998). He was also the founding editor of Encompass, the newsletter of the American Anglican Council, as well as a member of the AAC's board.
Versions of this paper were presented at the annual meeting of scholarly Engagement in Anglican Doctrine (SEAD) at Virginia Theological Seminary in May, 1993 and the Atlantic Theological Conference in Frederickton, New Brunswick, in June, 1993.
Copyright Stephen F. Noll 1993.

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