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However, African mission history has taught us that the Western interpretative framework, based on ancient Greek philosophical suppositions most directly the concepts rendered by Plato and Aristotle and rhetorical orientations, is so strong that it transposes that which it encounters in other cultures into its terms, thus rendering the initial cultural understandings inaccessible.
This is precisely the case too with Old Testament texts dating from pre-Hellenistic times, identified as mystic.
What are the methodological parameters required to understand such texts on their own terms? In fact, is such an understanding even possible? That there is a centuries-long tradition of connecting the Hebrew Bible and mysticism requires little elucidation. This can be illustrated with just a few examples such as Merkabah mysticism and Kabbalah mysticism with the Zohar from Jewish circles, which have their antecedents as far back as Qumran cf. Thomas , with particular emphasis on mystery. Another example is the fourfold senses based on the lectio Divina with which the Old Testament was read within Christianity cf.
Cousins In these and other experiences of faith related to the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament, one does not encounter spirituality-as-usual where the ordinary is related to the Bible on the Bible and spirituality, see foundationally Schneiders , also Lombaard ; on the discipline of Biblical Spirituality, see Welzen Mysticism as spirituality unusual relates to peak religious experiences cf.
Kourie ; Perrin , ; Minnaar  gives an overview of the concept of mysticism in which 'unity' 1 with God is amongst the favoured ways through which to express the ecstasy of an experienced encounter with the Divine. That the description of many of these experiences in the Christian tradition is drenched in Old Testament thematics, amongst others, is clear.
In this regard, the book of Song of Songs is by no means the least amongst the texts to which authors alluded cf. Perrin The latter should also be seen in interaction with the fact that, in the Christian church, the Song of Songs had become the most commented upon book in the Bible -and always in spiritualised fashion for a theory on why this could be, cf. Lombaard in press. There is thus no problem with historically identifying the relationship between mysticism and the Old Testament: The former clearly draws on the latter in its expression.
To identify such Old Testament influence and then to analyse it seems to present no more than the usual methodological challenges that hold for historical, literary or phenom-enological analyses.
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Though the mystic encounter itself Thomas and the Divine 'involved' in such an encounter lie outside of the parameters of scholarship as it is understood in our time, the reports on these events cf. Kourie are easier game: As Cupitt argues, all mysticism is written. Although I disagree with the point in that there is clearly more to the mystic encounter than just the text s in its wake Lombaard ; cf.
Budriunaite , it remains valid that these writings are traces to employ a concept from Derrida  - that is all we have of the mystic and the mystic encounter.
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We have the breadcrumbs of what is not cf. Kourie , and these breadcrumbs are concrete enough for historical-phenomenological study a post-secular point: cf. Lombaard , the more so given that all mystical experiences are contextually anchored Budriunaite ; Katz ; Kourie However, can the same be said of mysticism in the Old Testament: that the methodology is as per usual? Is the difference of interculturality between the ancient Near-Eastern world with its religio-cultural make-up and ours 4 not so vast that it becomes well-nigh impossible to come to a historical-contextually authentic understanding of what mysticism may have been in such an 'other' life or faith world?
In this respect, the Old Testament life or faith world is not unique and therefore the analogy of Africa's mission experience may well be instructive for our case here. Although the sometimes one-sided, negative view in recent decades that followed on the sometimes highly romanticised view of the role of missionaries from Europe in Africa is itself recently being tempered by more balanced critical evaluation, it is clear that the intercultural and interreligious contact between the West and Africa followed a fairly typical pattern.
Just as the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek fundamentally altered certain key concepts, so the Christian-Roman 'civilisation' altered the 'barbarian' mind with which it came in contact. For instance, in Germanic Europe and also in Africa, later, when missionaries from Europe engaged with their African converts-to-be, the 'receiving' culture was altered in its material goods as much as in its non-material goods of 'values, beliefs, norms, traditions' Gutman - a distinction which must be regarded as a soft division; cf.
Pfaffenberger ; Slater Leaving aside the former for the moment, the 'conceptualature' of African culture had, as one instance amongst many in history, been transformed in its meeting with Western culture. This, for instance, led to the more powerful, 'imparting' culture giving new language to phenomena and aspects of the receiving culture with the latter adopting the conveyed nomenclature unwittingly, at least to some extent.
Furthermore, the receiving culture irrevocably 5 stepped over the threshold into the intellectual household of the more powerful imparting culture cf. Mothoagae  for a description of this phenomenon, at times shockingly extreme to current sensibilities, in the South-African mission history. This South African experience does not only illustrate the power of one ancient cultural stream that is to some extent conceptually engulfed in another. It also demonstrates how, even in the subsequent reactions to this, 'the two veteran African theologies, namely those of inculturation and liberation' Munga remain linked to such earlier intercultural and interreligious tectonics.
To return again to the beginning of this broad historical sweep, I now have to apply the analogy from South African mission history: A pattern of influence similar to that of the South African mission history occurred in ancient Judean society in the centuries immediately preceding the Christian era. It must be kept in mind that the later texts of the Old Testament, certainly those that had come into being after the beginning of the Alexandrian conquest of Judea in BCE, were still in the process of being edited.
Some of these, most noticeably Ecclesiastes Lohfink , were influenced by the ancient Greek thought world. In these texts, the diverse cultural backgrounds can be indicated. Some scholars, particularly those who have become known as the Copenhagen school or minimalist group of Old Testament historiographers cf. Lemche , regard almost all of the Old Testament as having originated close to or during the Hellenistic period. This leaves two centuries, albeit the most productive literary and theologically-discursive centuries in ancient Israel's history, which can at least in some broad sense be described as pre-Hellenistic, thus with the ancient Near-Eastern religio-cultural context still as primarily formative of the life or faith world in which Old Testament traditions and texts were being created and further developed.
Clearly, by the time mystic language became prominent in Qumran and further, the Hellenistic thought world had, at least in this respect, influenced or even determined the ancient Near-Eastern thought world substantially. Thus a cultural stream was formed from which it has been difficult to retreat in the history of the Western ised world.
However, even in doing so, we are trapped within it as in a maze 8 : It can give the deep comfort of existential meaning, but can one ever leave? Returning to the distinction between mysticism and the Old Testament as opposed to mysticism in the Old Testament, the following can be noted:. However, the methodological question related to mysticism in the older Old Testament texts is cf.
Pohlig : What are the additional barriers of interculturality which will have to be crossed in order, with greater validity, to speak of mysticism in the ancient, non-'Greek' faith or life world of ancient Israel? This becomes a weightier concern if one endeavours to understand a pre-Hellenistic Old Testament text on its own terms rather than ours - as we should.
Kourie , Rather, current scholarship has to build on these efforts: Now, what is required is not less, but more. Typical of the world of post-secularism towards which Christianity is currently unevenly edging, past religio-cultural 'phases' cf. They are perhaps reflected upon anew, perhaps askew, but then precisely because past labours are being incorporated: The exegesis of a mystical text becomes more comprehensive, more involved than before.
These include, for instance, the following:. What does this mean for the reading of a text? Psalm 1 would suit well the purposes of illustrating the above.
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It is a Psalm that historically predates the later, more strongly Hellenistically influenced Judean faith or life world. It is a text that has been used in older forms of mystical readings, thus rendering us sufficient comparative material. However, it is not one of the more popular such texts from the Old Testament which includes the Genesis creation chapters, the Moses theophanies, the Isaiah visions, Song of Songs, the opening chapter of Ezekiel and Noah's ark; cf.
The call, then, is for Christians to be countercultural both in our thinking grasping the importance of marriage from a theological perspective and in our lifestyle living out what we profess. Already, in the creation story itself, humankind is marked out as distinctively different from all that God has already created. Only in the creation of humanity is the divine intent announced beforehand.
In these ways the narrative places humankind closer to God than the rest of creation. The idea of the image of God refers not to a specific attribute but to human totality. Already the double agenda of fruitfulness and stewardship is being fulfilled, by both male and female. The second chapter of Genesis, far from being an alternative account of creation is in many ways a commentary on Genesis — The grand chronological creation overture in the first chapter is re-viewed, but now with man at the centre of the created order.
Everything is seen in relation to him. I will make a helper suitable for him. In that sense, marriage is not just a union but a re-union. Husband and wife are complementary to each other in their different contributions to their marriage. All this is reflective of the dynamic interrelationship of love, which later Scripture will disclose as the very nature of the Godhead, revealed in the three persons of the Trinity.
There is more in this than at first meets the eye. Our culture is strong on the idea of marriage being dependent on love, though our concept can sometimes be over-sentimentalised and at other times over-sexualised. The line between love and lust is not one that is always easy to draw. But the human love which truly reflects the image of God is a reflection of the relationships made known to us through the doctrine of the Trinity. A visual image which may help is to regard each of the three persons as one of the fixed points of an equilateral triangle.
The sides of the triangle then represent the dynamic love which flows to and from the three persons in their eternal relationship. With the catastrophe of the declaration of human independence in Genesis 3, everything becomes skewed. The narrative turns, at least in part, on a reversal of roles. She is no longer functioning as the helper suitable for Adam. When God curses the ground, which Adam must now cultivate, through painful toil, outside the garden, it is because he is no longer the obedient servant of Yahweh.
His rebellion is consciously defiant but when confronted by God, he is as ready to blame his wife as she is to blame the serpent. However, the consequences of this first disobedience have devastating effects in marriage. From now on, there is a struggle for dominance. Control has replaced freedom; coercion has replaced persuasion; division has replaced multiplication. This does not mean, however, that we should hold back from proclaiming and defending the biblical teaching on marriage to our culture, simply because the ultimate ground of its authority is dismissed.
The consistency of biblical revelation concerning marriage, from the Garden of Eden to the wedding banquet of the Lamb in the book of Revelation, undermines the argument that it is culturally conditioned by, and imprisoned in, a primitive patriarchal framework. The unchanging nature of the divine revelation becomes even more impressive for its consistency of principle throughout the developing chronology of the Old Testament.
Human marriage, one man and one woman united together in an exclusive, lifelong commitment to each other, is predicated on promises which carry with them a binding requirement of faithful commitment. Marriage is the earliest human example in the Bible of the structure through which God relates to his people — the covenant. Prophets, such as Hosea and Isaiah, call Israel back to an exclusive commitment of covenant faithfulness to God, in terms of marriage fidelity.
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It is the character of God which determines the nature of true covenant love.