Imprecation as Divine Discourse: Speech Act Theory, Dual Authorship, and Theological Interpretation by Kit Barker
Barker, Kit. Imprecation as Divine Discourse: Speech Act Theory, Dual Authorship, and Theological Interpretation, Eisenbrauns, 2016.
Christian readers of the Hebrew Bible are often faced with a troubling tension. On the one hand, they are convinced that this ancient text is relevant today, yet on the other, they remain perplexed at how this can be so, particularly when parts of it appear to condone violence. Barker’s volume seeks to address this tension in two parts: (1) by defending a particular form of theological interpretation and (2) by applying this interpretive method to the imprecatory psalms.
Barker suggests that the goal of theological interpretation is to discover God’s voice in the text. While he recognizes that this goal could encourage a subjective methodology, Barker offers a hermeneutic that clearly locates God’s voice in the text of Scripture. Utilizing the resources of speech act theory, Barker notes that texts convey meaning at a number of literary levels and that God’s appropriation of speech acts at these levels is not necessarily uniform for each genre. He also discusses how the Christian canon alters the context of these ancient speech acts, both reshaping and enabling their continued function as divine discourse. In order to demonstrate the usefulness of this hermeneutic, Barker offers theological interpretations of Psalms 69 and 137. He demonstrates how christological fulfilment and the call to forgive one’s enemies are determinative for a theological interpretation of these troubling psalms, concluding that they continue to form an essential part of God’s voice that must not be ignored.
About the author: Kit Barker is Lecturer in Old Testament at Sydney Missionary and Bible College (SMBC).