AKMA responds at some length to Rowan William’s lecture on Biblical interpretation. Having just read (and blogged) Ethan Zuckerman’s post about the history of knowledge, I’m left this morning thinking: Good G-d almighty, I love the Internet. I haven’t even finished my first cup of coffee and I’ve been given access to two brilliant, engaged minds wrestling with issues that really matter and that I would never have come across without the Linkosphere.
Williams says the Bible should be read “not as information, not as just instruction, but as a summons to assemble together as a certain sort of community, one that understands itself as called and created ‘out of nothing’.” As I said in my first post, understanding Scripture as more than something to be known strikes me (a Jew) as important and true. But I remain unconvinced that the Jewish more-than-that response is to see Scripture assembling a community. I may well be misinterpreting what Williams means by “community,” but I thought he meant that Scripture creates community by binding together believers listening to Scripture together. (Clearly the community goes beyond mere listening; I’m not getting the nuance right here.) I thought that was the “out of nothing” he has in mind. But (my point was), Jews aren’t Jews because of what they believe, any more than, say, Italians are. Akma’s response to me is that the Jewish “out of nothing” was the foundational event — the calling (Revelation at Sinai?) and the convenant.
This has me thinking, as Akma’s post always do. Akma’s interpretation makes the creation out of nothing an historical event. But if that’s what Williams meant, “community” is too weak a word. Jews are a people, not a community. (Of course, Jews also form communities; in fact, the religion is designed for community practice.) And, I assumed — thus making an ass out of u and med — that Williams’ reference to communities forming “out of nothing” wasn’t (just) to the historic foundational event of Christian history. but to the continuing creation of communities by hearing the Bible read in particular houses of worship at particular times.
If my interpretation of Williams is right — and I have no confidence that I’m getting any of this right, starting with what Jews believe — then Akma’s interpretation makes Williams’ lecture right for Jews but at the expense of obscuring an important difference between the two religions…a difference that comes down to the difference between being a people and being a community.
The truth is that I am spring-loaded on this topic — being ready to pounce is not a good intellectual position — because all too often, in my experience and opinion, Christians assume too much continuity with Judaism. (Akma is extraordinarily open to the possibility of difference — he defines “respect.”) So, when I read Williams, I tripped over that one little phrase of his.
Categories: Uncategorized dw