I haven’t had much time to post recently as a result of my thesis and some other complications, but I recently ran across a paragraph I thought was worth sharing. It comes from David H. Aaron, Biblical Ambiguities: Metaphor, Semantics, and Divine Imagery. In going over some methodological considerations, Aaron addresses the question of Old Testament theology:
I find very little theology—in the formal sense of this word—in Hebrew Bible. Such a claim requires explanation. Theologies are first and foremost language games, in the same sense that philosophies are language games. This is how Wittgenstein approached it. He recognized that philosophies set up meanings for words in manners that are not natural to ordinary language usages. “Asked whether philosophers have hitherto spoken nonsense, you could reply: no, they have only failed to notice that they are using a word in quite different senses.” The Tanakh, with few exceptions, is fundamentally devoid of such “different senses,” and hence we can assert that there is no theology that is biblical. Put differently, there are only biblical theologies when a religious community or scholar insists upon their fabrication. Of course, the Bible is replete with beliefs and ideologies about God, politics, social order, ritual, etc., but these beliefs and ideologies are not conveyed in language games. The lack of systematic theology in Tanakh—in this sense of a language game—has been recognized by most, but this has not stopped scholars from imposing constructed theologies upon Tanakh. Scholarly attempts to describe such a theology are essentially irrelevant to the furtherance of our understanding of Israelite ideas. Ideologically speaking, it makes little sense to speak of a theology of the canon; and the canon’s redactors were much more focused on the political expediencies of their documents than on God-related ideology.
I’ve long contended that Biblical Theology attempts to impose a univocal framework on the biblical text without first bothering to consider whether or not it’s merited. I don’t think it is. Such an approach levels the diachronic and synchronic disparities in the text to about the time of the corpus’ completion in the Greco-Roman period, effectively eradicating any meaning found in the text before then and elevating the authority of editing and redacting over that of composition. It also imposes modern theological lenses on it in such a way that interpreting the text becomes an exercise in creative exegesis.