Preaching the Text with Attention to the Present Conversation

Diane Jacobson

Article Type: Face to Face

Publication Date: 4/1/1994

Paired Article (Face to Face): Preaching the Text with Attention to the Historical Context

Issue: Genesis (Vol. 14, No 2, Spring, 1994)

What might our typical exegesis questions look like if we converse with a text made alive in our conversation? To be sure, we’ll ask questions that help us listen very carefully to the text in all its fullness, with all its details. Some of these questions might come to us from techniques of careful reading learned from Robert Alter, Adele Berlin, and a host of others. Who has name, voice, action, and, therefore, power in the text? What does the omnipotent narrator tell us, ask us, want us to hear? What are our expectations based on patterns, repetitions, structures? Where do the surprises lie? A repeated phrase or story, like the twice-repeated story of Hagar and Ishmael, becomes something other than an accidental duplication or an historical problem to be overcome or explained away. A repetition becomes an invitation to reflect on how the one parallel informs the other, expanding the text and changing it, as in Hebrew poetry where the first line informs the second and then back again.

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