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No. 106Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study ProgramJuly 2003

CREATIVE IMAGINATION IN THE OLD TESTAMENT READING OF WALTER BRUEGGEMANN

by John F. McCarthy

1. A large Catholic theological book service operated by a religious institute of priests recently advertised, as its feature selection of the month, Walter Brueggemann’s An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination (Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, 2003). Brueggemann is a widely published Protestant writer and Professor Emeritus of Old Testament Studies at Columbia Theological Seminary. In this book he presents what he calls a "newer method" of biblical interpretation that in his view escapes the negative results of the historical-criticism that has dominated biblical studies up to a couple of decades ago (p. xi). Thus, he does not oppose the finding of historical-critics that "the story-line given in the Old Testament is itself no reliable guide for ‘what happened,’" or that "much of what is claimed as ‘history’ in the Old Testament has no basis in ‘verifiable fact’" (p. 4). Again, he accepts the judgment of "current scholarship" that the claims of the Old Testament to historical fact are "mostly unreliable and unprovable, and often unlikely" (p. 8). My comments in this review are based upon the theory expressed in the explanations given by Walter Brueggemann in his lengthy Introduction to the Introduction to the Old Testament (pp. xi-42) and do not include an analysis of what he says further in his ensuing textual commentary.

2. For Brueggemann the key to a contemporary understanding of the Old Testament is to see it as both normative and imaginative: as adaptation to "the categories of normative church teaching" in ancient Israel and as reflecting "imaginative interpretation that does not and will not conform to the strictures, limits, and demands of church faith" (p. xii). He accepts that the text of the Old Testament "does not purport to be ‘history’ in any modern sense of the term," because it is not "a product of ‘events,’ but a product of imaginative interpretation" (p. 4). He thus reasons that the Old Testament is not a product of sheer fantasy, but is rather the result of an interplay of "historical reportage" and "canonical formation" which becomes "the work of tradition," a process of transmission and interpretation that he calls "imaginative remembering" (p. 7). In his view, "the tradition that became Scripture is a relentless act of imagination" in that it "dares, by artistic sensibility and risk-taking rhetoric, to posit, characterize, and vouch for a world beyond the ‘common sense’" (p. 9).

3. Brueggemann distinguishes within the Old Testament text a "Primary Narrative," extending from Genesis to 2 Kings apart from Ruth, which has resulted from an extraordinary act of imagination, which dared to claim that the story of heaven and earth "culminates in the deportation of the leading inhabitants of Jerusalem to a foreign land," thus making, for the exiles, the story of the world to be their story (p. 15). Brueggemann agrees with those historical-critics who say that the text of the Pentateuch was finalized at the time of the Exile in the fifth century B.C. and presents the faith of that era (p. 5). Does this make of the Exile a crucial historical fact? No. To Brueggemann "it does not matter greatly if the exile is historical," as he would prefer to think, "or if it is an ideological self-characterization" (p. 22). Rather, he sees the Old Testament text as "a major theological achievement" (p. 20), in that theological purpose and flights of imagination enabled the narrative process "to fashion widely variegated and different memories into a more or less coherent statement" upon which the community would be willing to stake its life (pp. 22-23).

4. Regarding the Pentateuch, Brueggemann avers that Hermann Gunkel, the founder of the form-criticism of the Old Testament [notably in his book Genesis (1901)], "by introducing formal categories of ‘myth, legend, saga, fable, and novella,’" drew attention to "the artistic, imaginative dimension of the material that could not be regarded in any scientific way as ‘history’" (p. 18). But, he says, these categories are not necessarily to be regarded as false. Instead, he points out that "myths," for instance, "do not imply falsehood," but rather "founding poetic narratives that provide the basic self-understanding of a society," presenting "great founding events in which ‘the gods’ are the key actors and the actions undertaken are primordial in that they precede any concrete historical data." To Brueggemann it is clear that the Old Testament "emerged in a cultural world where founding myths were commonly shared from one society to another." The prehistory of these chapters, as regards antecedent materials and different sources of tradition, "is well established and is not in dispute" (p. 30). To him this means that Israel was a willing participator in that one common cultural heritage and "made use of the same narrative materials" (pp. 29-30), but in a somewhat different way. For example, in the use in Genesis 1-11 of the common cultural stock of creation narratives, there is voiced a claim that is in contrast to the claims of the dominant cultural materials. "The claim that the world belongs to the God of Israel is a mighty and daring alternative to the dominant, easily visible claim that the world is governed by Babylonian gods."

5. Brueggemann thus accepts that each of the narratives in Genesis 1-11 "reflects older ancient Near East traditions, so that it is impossible to ask questions about ‘historicity,’" and he identifies these narratives as rather being "complex, artistic attempts to articulate the most elemental presuppositions of life and faith in Israel," with the world being taken "in a Yahwistic way" (p. 31). Thus, the earlier "myths of origin," have been transposed into "a theological statement of divine judgment and divine rescue," embracing "the primal drama of the Bible," which is "the restoration and mending of a scarred, broken creation" (p. 33). And the Jewish community is sustained by its reliance on "this imaginative tradition" (p. 36).

6. What is to be said of this contemporary biblical theory? First of all, Walter Brueggemann’s "newer method" does not, in fact, escape the negative results of historical research; as he claims it does; it merely offers to preachers of historical-critical persuasion an imaginative way to find some residual Christian meaning in the Old Testament. Brueggemann accepts uncritically the whole package of negative results and then tries to build a biblical theology on the ruins that historical-criticism has left behind.

7. Second, Brueggemann’s "newer method" is not really a newer method. He offers the technical challenge of reviewing, in the supposed formation of the Old Testament, a suggested interplay between the official demands of the believing community as such and the literary freedom of the biblical writers to imagine and interpose whatever they pleased. This is just a small modification of what had already been presupposed by Hermann Gunkel and the whole school of historical-critics, since they all assume that both religious imagination and the demands of the faith community were functioning in the formation of the Old Testament.

8. Third, Brueggemann’s interpretation is an unscientific approach to the Old Testament in his use of the concept of reality. In his theory the composition of the Old Testament is supposed to have taken place as a progressive expression of a religious dream-world set apart from the real world of common sense. This notion of a Judaeo-Christian religious dream-world is a presupposition of all historical-critics that has no proven basis in historical fact. The studied conclusions of Hermann Gunkel and his historical-critical followers that the various historical accounts in the Old Testament are instances of religious fantasy have not been reached by rigorous scientific thinking, but rather by using illogical and unfactual reasoning to conclude what they had presupposed to begin with. Brueggemann has been taken in by this pseudoscientific system.

9. Let us take time to examine Brueggemann’s affirmation that the text of the Old Testament "does not purport to be ‘history’ in any modern sense of the term," and that various accounts in Genesis "could not be regarded in any scientific way as ‘history’" (nos. 2 and 4 above). What is "history" in the modern sense of the term, and what does it mean to regard "history" in a "scientific way"? In order to answer these questions it is necessary to have in mind adequate definitions of science and history.

10. One seldom sees an adequate definition of science. Many of the definitions given of science do not express the essence of science but are merely descriptive, or they define only part but not all of science. Thus, to take one example, W.H. Walsh defines a science as "a body of knowledge acquired as the result of an attempt to study a certain subject-matter in a methodical way, following a determinate set of guiding principles." This is a rather good definition of technical science, but it does not distinguish between true science and pseudoscience, since pseudoscience is also an attempt to study a certain subject matter in a methodical way, while following a determinate set of guiding principles.

11. Science, in its broadest denotation, is the "knowledge of reality as such." 1 Scientific reasoning begins from a studied awareness of the notion of reality and from a consistent separation of the real from all elements of the unreal. The first great distinction between sciences is the distinction between common science, usually referred to as "common sense," and technical science. Both of these levels of science act from a studied awareness of what is real, and this notion of reality is the beginning and essential condition of all science. The difference between these two levels of science is that the notion of reality in technical science has added to it certain proven rules of method and a precise definition of terms that are lacking to mere common sense. The use of common sense alone may thus lead to errors that can be corrected by technical science. However, technical science is based upon the same notion of reality as is common sense. 2

12. History, in its broadest denotation, is "the knowledge of the past as such." 3 The first great distinction between kinds of history is that between real history and fiction, that is, between knowledge of what really took place in the past and knowledge of what is fictitiously said to have happened in the past. Historical science has to do with what really took place in the past and which, therefore, fits within the limits of the notion of reality in the mind of the historian. 4 Hermann Gunkel was using the notion of reality when he excluded the writings of Genesis from the real past, but his reason for this exclusion was based upon the false methods of historical-criticism. Thus, in his criticism of Genesis, Gunkel constructed a pseudoscientific interpretation of the Book of Genesis. Brueggemann follows suit to a certain extent in that he also uncritically excludes the writings of Genesis and of much of the Old Testament from the realm of the real past, but he falls entirely away from science where he denies any clear notion of reality in his framework of thought, as is evident from what he says about theology and about God.

13. Theology is about God, and true biblical theology is about the one true God, the real, objective, living God. Brueggemann makes a big mistake in reducing the one true God of Hebrew and Christian faith to the level of an allegedly imaginary god of the Hebrews. On the one hand, he says, the Israelite notion of its god came from pagan mythologies, and, therefore, even if purified of pagan dressings, remains merely the lower-case god of the Hebrews. Thus, the god of the Hebrews is a fictitious god, even though he is their chosen god. Does Brueggemann believe in the real existence of the one true God, and, if so, how does he relate the one true God to his notion of the god of the Hebrews? Brueggemann affirms that "the Old Testament provides the categories of faith and interpretation through which the New Testament is to be understood and without which the New Testament cannot be faithfully and intelligently read" (p. 3). One of these Old Testament categories, according to what Brueggemann tells us, is myth and another is the dream-world of faith. We ask Walter Brueggemann: Are the objects also of Christian faith mere elements of a religious dream-world, of what he calls a "world beyond the ‘common sense’"(p. 9), as Rudolf Bultmann and other historical-critics of the New Testament try to tell us? Again we ask, Is what traditional believers call the one true God merely the mythological god of an allegedly mythological Christian faith? We are talking from reality as the rest of us understand that word to mean, and we think that Brueggemann is subtlely taking the objects of Christian faith out of the realm of reality as we know reality to be. What Brueggemann says about the God of Hebrew and Christian faith he has not passed through the fundamental mental operation of separating the real from the unreal. He expressly blurs the notion of reality where he quotes Amos Wilder 5 in the following words: "We lose our place in the story if we stop to ask what this feature means or refers to outside it. More important, these students of language will ask us what we mean by ‘real world.’ There is no ‘world’ for us until we have named and languaged and storied whatever is. What we take to be the nature of things has been shaped by calling it so. This, therefore, is also a story-world. Here again we cannot move behind the story to what may be more ‘real.’ Our language-worlds are the only worlds we know!" (Brueggemann, p. xiii).

14. Hence, for Brueggemann one cannot even reasonably ask whether the God of the Hebrews, the God of Christian faith, is real or not, and this kind of reasoning about reality is totally contrary to Christian faith as well as to all levels of scientific thinking. Both technical science and common sense constantly distinguish whether an object of thought is real or not. They gather and organize real objects of thought from those which are merely erroneous, imaginary, artistic, fictitious, illusionary, lying, or deceiving. Authentic Christian faith constantly affirms the reality of the true objects of faith, while excluding proposed objects that are not real. When we ask Walter Brueggemann whether he believes that the God of Christian faith is real, we are also asking him whether, in his own act of faith, he affirms the reality of God and of every essential object of Christian faith, and whether he affirms that the God of Christian faith is a reality (the supreme reality) within the one continuum of reality that excludes anything fictitious or imaginary. For true Christian faith is an affirmation that the objects of faith are real. Science is certified knowledge, and true Christian faith is a form of science, because it is certified knowledge. It is called faith only because its conviction is based, not upon one’s own experience, but upon the testimony of God and of those who have seen the acts of God. And the testimony of God is trustworthy. Hence, we are correct in saying that simple Christian faith is a branch of common science, and truly reasoned Christian theology is a branch of technical science. But Brueggemann’s theology of the Old Testament is not scientific, because he uses terms like "faith" and "theology," without having first identified them in a reality-based mental framework of his own.

15. This is to say that Brueggemann does not expound his interpretation from an adequate mental frame of reference. Not only is the fundamental notion of reality missing, but he accepts uncritically the fallacious reasonings of Hermann Gunkel and his followers in their analysis of the historical accounts in the Old Testament. Brueggemann uses various terms like "historical" and "scientific" without defining them properly. The idea that the literary genres of "myth, legend, saga, fable, and novella" are categories of faith embedded in the Old Testament is a misconception common to historical-critics, while the idea that these genres of fiction "provide the categories of faith and interpretation through which the New Testament is to be understood" (Brueggemann, p. 3) is a fatal methodological error into which Brueggemann has fallen. The truth of the matter is that all historical understanding comes from the knowledge of how earlier historical events turned out. 6 Therefore, historical understanding of the Old Testament comes from the knowledge of how the events of the Old Testament turned into the reality of the New Testament. And Christian theological understanding comes from seeing the Old Testament in the light of the revelation of Jesus Christ.

16. The proposal that the understanding of the New Testament is to be had in the supposed light of the Old Testament is but one element of a false method of interpretation that has grown up in some intellectual circles since the rise of Protestantism. With the outbreak of Protestantism in the sixteenth century there arose on the part of many a belief in the absolute separation of faith and reason. This distinction made the world of faith an "alternate world" to the real world of sense experience and common sense. Liberal Protestants seized upon this separation to extol the role of reason and belittle the role of faith. Out of this came the school of rationalist criticism of Sacred Scripture, working from a so-called "higher viewpoint," and it was from within the rationalist school of liberal Protestants that historical-criticism has grown and flourished over three centuries down to the present day. Rationalists assume without good reason that the supernatural does not exist, and they, therefore, exclude a priori the possibility of divine inspiration, of divine revelation, of miracles, and of any other action of God in the real world known to physical science and common sense. What does Brueggemann say about divine inspiration? He tells his readers: "If we recall the mention of ‘artistic imagination,’ we may for starters say that the biblical text is ‘inspired’ in the way that every gifted artistic accomplishment is inspired. [ . . . ] To say this much is to say a great deal: that the singers and story-tellers and poets who constituted the Old Testament did indeed reach beyond themselves in an extraordinary way" (p. 10). Note that this description of inspiration is purely natural and does not include any action on the part of a really existing God. And so Brueggemann makes the text of the Old Testament a merely human accomplishment.

17. Brueggemann sees as outstanding in this merely human accomplishment of the Old Testament composers that "the world is articulated with YHWH [Yahweh] as the defining character" (p. 9). This he sees as daring "artistic sensibility" (p. 9). But what is so special about this? Brueggemann tells us that the primordial myths of the various ancient Near Eastern cultures were all "great founding events in which ‘the gods’ are the key actors" (p. 29). That is to say that each separate culture or city tended to make its god or gods the protagonists of history and of the world, and so, what was so special or daring about the supposed fact that the Hebrews made their fictitious god do the same? Isn’t this an attempt to attribute greatness where greatness is lacking? The truth as we see it is that what makes the actions of God in the Old Testament so defining is that they were really done by the one true God in that continuum of physical and historical reality that is known and recognized by reason and common sense to be the real world.

18. Rudolf Bultmann, the most famous historical-critic of the twentieth century, in a celebrated article published in 1943, 7 proclaimed the need for the "demythologizing" of the New Testament, which he claimed to be a mere product of religious fantasy. As a rationalist and thoroughgoing modernist, he ruled out the three-story world of the Bible (heaven, earth, and hell), the depiction of angels and demons, the narration of miracles and prophecies. 8 And he declared that any affirmation of an action of God in this world is "mythological," because it is an illogical passage "from the other side to this side." We might ask, From the other side of what? Undoubtedly, from the other side of reality, that is, from a fictitious and imaginary world to the real world. He was denying that the Christian God is within the continuum of reality of whose existence we know first from our sense experience. Now, this may seem to be a logical position for Protestants who accept an absolute separation of faith and reason, but it is logically unacceptable to those for whom Christian faith is an affirmation of the real existence of God and of what God has revealed. Whoever ceases to affirm the real existence and real interventions of God in this world does not have Catholic faith. Hence, for a Catholic, Brueggemann’s "alternate world" of faith is a pure figment of his imagination.

19. The liberal and rationalist school of Protestant biblical interpretation, with its historical-critical method, has been opposed over the last three centuries or so by other Protestant interpreters, especially those of the evangelical communities. They published telling critiques of historical-critical works, but with a certain lack of completeness, due to their own incomplete framework of thought. They did not have all of the methodological tools needed for the job. Thus, they could not decisively defeat the historical-critics on their own turf of "technical historical research and analysis." What has been especially lacking for this task have been adequate theories of science and scientific method on the one hand, and of history and historical method on the other. And this lack reaches down even to the level of simple faith and common sense. Thus, unprepared believers have had great difficulty in formulating and refuting the fallacies in historical-critical method, even though the conclusions of this method are often to them obviously false.

20. Brueggemann maintains that the fictitious presentations of the Pentateuch had a positive social result in the chosen people in that it gave them an object of hope amidst the desperate conditions of the Babylonian Exile. Thus, the Torah served as a "normative resource" for the sustaining of this Jewish faith-community. In his words, "The narrative conditioning process, propelled by great theological intentionality, was able, through great imaginative maneuvers, to fashion widely variegated and diffuse memories into a more or less coherent statement upon which this otherwise resourceless community could stake its life" (pp. 22-23). Brueggemann, in other words, is saying that a naive belief in the fictitious presentations of the first five books of the Old Testament served the theological purpose of keeping alive the hopes of the captive Jewish people. Two things are wrong with this position.. The first is that the presentations of the Pentateuch are fictitious only to those who have uncritically accepted the conclusions of historical-criticism. The other is that the intent to motivate a people by the use of fictitious stories is basically dishonest and can in no way be called theological in the true sense of the word. We understand Christian theology to be "the science of revealed reality as such." Hence, there is no true theology of unreality.

21. The conclusions of historical-criticism tend to be deductions from a set of false principles. Thus, for instance, the principle of rationalism excludes as unhistorical any affirmation that supposes an intervention of God in human history, any true divine providence, any true nature-miracle, any real prophecy regarding the future, any supernatural enlightenment of the biblical writers, etc. And this rationalist principle is contrary to true historical method, because it is the task of the scientific historian to determine what has taken place in the past strictly in terms of the evidence for it and not in terms of an a priori exclusion of the evidence. Again, the arguments of historical-criticism are unscientific inasmuch as they tend to conclude what they have already assumed by constructing arguments in a circle. And again, the arguments of historical criticism are unscientific in that they are usually built on mere plausibility which is then taken as proof in subsequent arguments. Rationalist historical-critics are satisfied with strings of plausibility, because it gives them an excuse for not believing the historical truth of the Scriptures. They tend to treasure the biases of their method.

22. Hermann Gunkel, in his form-critical historical-criticism of the Old Testament, does use a reality-based mental framework of research inasmuch as, after he has excluded the accounts of Genesis from the continuum of reality by categorizing them as basically literary creations, he studies their origin in the reality of the minds of the story-tellers and tries to determine what occasioned the idea of each story and how the story developed over a period of time. We could make a modern comparison with the story of Alice in Wonderland. In a reality-based framework, it would not be reasonable to ask where the potion came from that enabled Alice to become ten inches tall, or where the cake came from that enabled her to become nine feet tall, because these things have no causes in reality. But it would be reasonable to ask who Lewis Carroll really was and how his earlier story-telling to a family of small girls later became this children’s classic. And that is what the form-criticism of Sacred Scripture purports to do. However, the form-criticism of Sacred Scripture starts from the supposed but unproved assumption that the accounts in the Bible are mere literary creations and not real historical events.

23. Rudolf Bultmann, in his form-criticism of the Gospels, also uses a reality-based mental framework of research inasmuch as, after he has excluded the episodes recounted in the Gospels from the continuum of reality by categorizing them as basically literary creations, he sets out to determine what occasioned the idea of each story in the mind of the story-teller and how the story developed to the form that is presented in the Gospels. Again, Bultmann starts from the unproven assumption that the episodes in the Gospels are not real historical events and, like Gunkel, uses some false historical method to search back into the earlier forms of these stories. But Bultmann, from the conclusions of his method, calls upon modern theologians and preachers of the Gospel to exercise "absolute clarity and ruthless honesty" in not hiding from their hearers what Scriptural objects of belief they themselves, as historical-critics, have eliminated from [what I call] the continuum of reality, 9 and he resorts to the extremely subjectivistic philosophy of Martin Heidegger to replace the objects of Christian faith that he has found to be fictitious with existentialist reasonings. 10 Brueggemann, rather, while he in general accepts the devastating conclusions of historical-criticism, tries to reclaim from the historical-critical discard some inspiration for Christian preachers of today.

24. Where similar accounts occur in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the neighboring pagan literature, historical-critics tend almost always to assume that the Hebrew narratives were shaped from the earlier pagan stories. But there is no historical reason for this assumption. It could just as well be and it probably is that there was a true revealed and historical tradition stemming from Adam and Eve themselves and passing down from generation to generation. Pagan poets, using their own undisciplined imaginations with help from the inspiration of demons, distorted that tradition away from the true God into the fictitious stories of the gods that they produced. Moses, with the help of divine inspiration, recovered the true revealed and historical tradition and recorded it in the Pentateuch. Disciplined thought allows for this assumption.

25. Protestants, of course, have always maintained their freedom to interpret the Bible as they see fit, and so Brueggemann’s theory sits comfortably under the umbrella of liberal Protestant exegesis, but it is rather sobering to see such liberal Protestant approaches to the Scriptures, spun from the pool of rationalist historical-critical scholarship, mixed with Catholic books on the stands of Catholic religious book shops and featured by Catholic book distributors. The fact calls for some historical explanation. The rise of historical-criticism in liberal Protestant scholarship has historically raised an enormous challenge to Catholic biblical scholarship. This challenge was met by the Magisterium of the Church especially in the encyclicals on Sacred Scripture of Popes Leo XIII, Benedict XV, and Pius XII, and in the encyclical of Pope Pius X on Modernism, and many traditional Catholic biblical scholars of the time did publish critiques of various kinds regarding this new approach, above all by pointing out its implicit attack upon Christian faith and trust in the truth of the Scriptures. But the painstaking work of analyzing the techniques used by historical-critical scholars and finding the fallacies in their approach was never seriously taken up. M.-J. Lagrange introduced historical-criticism to the world of Catholic exegetes with a work in French entitled La methode historique, but in this book he did not present any analysis of what historical method is but simply repeated, with some adjustment to Catholic doctrinal sensibilities, the same new set of so-called "literary genres" in the Book of Genesis that we now hear almost everywhere even in Catholic faculties of theology. 11 Would that Father Lagrange had, in fact, seriously taken up the question of what is true historical method and analyzed the idea on the basis of traditional Catholic philosophy and theology, a thing which had never been done before, and then applied the resulting set of concepts to the problems raised by historical-critics. Great writers of the past like Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas used correct historical method but never undertook to write a theory of history, and there are consequently unformulated principles of historical method that historical-critics characteristically misuse today to produce their often outrageous conclusions. When Rudolf Bultmann published in German shortly after the end of the First World War his History of the Synoptic Tradition, in which he seemed to have shown with impressive Teutonic order and thoroughness the total historical unreliability of the first three Gospels, his work sat around unrefuted for decades in the minds of many Catholic biblical scholars and gradually came to be more and more accepted into the mainstream of Catholic biblical interpretation.

26. As the gradual acceptance of historical-criticism by Catholic biblical scholars was the experience of the twentieth century, so the overcoming of historical-criticism is the task of the twenty-first century. And this can take place through the gradual acceptance of the neopatristic approach to Sacred Scripture, because the neopatristic method not only penetrates into the text of Sacred Scripture as it really is, but also refutes historical-critical interpretations as it goes. This is a formidable task inasmuch as historical-critics have managed to build a system of conclusions that tend to undermine the truth of Sacred Scripture from beginning to end. The truth of the Bible stands on its own merits. But how can this truth be found again in the presence of so many alleged claims to contradiction, unfactual statements, mythology, and other false things in the text of the Bible? For those who have been deceived by historical-critical arguments, the truth can be found again by learning to refute these arguments systematically one after another.


Endnotes

1. Cf. J.F. McCarthy, The Science of Historical Theology (reprinted Rockford: TAN, 1991), pp. 34-42.

2. Cf. ibid., pp. 42-56.

3. Cf. ibid., p. 60.

4. Cf. ibid., pp. 60-63.

5. Amos N. Wilder, "Story and Story-World," in Interpretation 37 (1983), p. 361.

6. See J.F. McCarthy, The Science of Historical Theology (1976, reprint by TAN Books: Rockford, IL, 1991), p. 73, no. 4, and p. 187, no. 7.

7. R. Bultmann, English trans., "New Testament and Mythology," in H.W. Bartsch, ed., Kerygma and Myth: A Theoogical Debate, vol. I (London: SPCK, 1953; first Harper Torchbook edition, 1961), opening article.

8. Bultmann, ibid., pp. 1-2.

9. Bultmann, ibid., p. 9

10. Rudolf Bultmann was the famous proponent of "demythologizing" the "myth" of the Christian God. For him "myth" speaks of a reality beyond the reality that is observable and objectifiable, and God is not an objectively perceivable phenomenon of the world, with the result that one can speak of an "act of God" only inasmuch as it refers to our own (subjective) existence as encountered through an act of God (cf. Bultmann, ibid., pp. 10-11, 16). Thus, the affirmation of Godís creating and ruling is valid only in the understanding that a man has of himself (cf. Bultmann, ibid., p. 35). "If the action of God is not to be conceived as a worldly phenomenon capable of being apprehended apart from its existential reference, it can only be spoken of by speaking simultaneously of myself as the person who is existentially concerned. To speak of the act of God means to speak at the same time of my existence" (R. Bultmann, "Bultmann Replies to His Critics," in Kerygma and Myth [see above, note 7], p. 196. Bultmann maintained a double notion of reality: a)Realität: objective reality; and b)Wirklichkeit: the [subjective] reality of the authentically existing man. Bultmann did not accept the objective reality (Realität) of God. Cf. Bultmannís explanation in Kerygma und Mythos, vol. VI-1 (Hamburg: Herbert Reich Ė Evangelischer Verlag, 1963) and my presentation in The Science of Historical Theology, p. 14.

11. M.-J. Lagrange, La méthode historique surtout à propos de l'Ancien Testament (Paris, 1903). This work appeared in English two years later under the title Historical Criticism and the Old Testament (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1905). In this celebrated work, Father Lagrange followed the critical method of Hermann Gunkel, but uncritically in that he did not undertake the preliminary task of determining from an analytical point of view what historical method is. In this regard it is interesting to note that, in the title of the English translation of Father Lagrange's work, the translator dropped the expression "historical method."


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