Polar Tension…

Last week was a very good week, especially for my CV.*  First, on Wednesday I heard back from the editors of a collection of essays to which I’ve contributed a paper with the news that they were accepting my 4th revision for publication.  Yay!  Second, on Friday I heard back from a peer-reviewed journal saying that after the review process they are accepting my submission to the journal for publication, with some relatively minor revisions.  Double yay!

As much as this is all very happy and exciting news, the acceptance of these two particular papers in the same week has caused me to reflect on a rather odd tension in my academic work.  The first paper, the one that’s being published in a book of essays, is an analysis of the historiography of the Animal Apocalypse of 1 Enoch (title: “(Re)Visionary History: Historiography and Religious Identity in the Animal Apocalypse“).**  It’s a pretty standard biblical studies paper.  It’s methodologically eclectic, but mostly focuses on literary, historical, and sociological concerns.  The second paper is being published in the Journal of Theological Interpretation and is about the hermeneutics of allegorical interpretation…it’s kind of an apologetic for interpreting according to the spiritual sense, though in a weirdish way.  It’s a really hard paper to describe in a couple of sentences (title: “Scripture as Semiotic: Theological Interpretation and the Multiple Senses of Scripture”).***

These two papers are almost polar opposite in approach and intent, and this is pretty representative of a lot of my academic writing thus far.  I do work that’s focused on literary and sociological (especially sociolinguistic) analyses of ancient literature (especially HB/OT, but also broader 2nd Temple era stuff), and I do work that tries to engage the Bible as Christian Scripture, including questions about canon and theological hermeneutics.  Here’s the thing…I’m not really all that sure how these things fit together.  I have a deep suspicion that they do.  I think about it mostly in terms of different levels of abstraction.  But, I also know that at least some (maybe lots? or even most?) of the biblical studies guild sees these as two opposed and incompatible kinds of work.  Some people argue that biblical studies is meant to be a secular endeavor focused on history, literature, and sociology (and related concerns), and other people argue that biblical studies is meant to be a theological activity performed for the community of faith.  These get presented as polar opposites.  Maybe they are polar opposites.

If they are polar opposites then I think I’m going to have to get used to the tension between these two poles, because I’m not really willing to stop doing either kind of writing.

*The CV thing is important because I’m in the process of applying to a couple of biblical studies positions, so getting to add two lines to the “Accepted for Publication” line is happy news.

**The book began as last year’s Canadian Society of Biblical Studies session on ancient Israelite historiography.  The final product will include the essays from the session, and several invited papers.  The title is Prophets and Prophecy in Ancient Israelite Historiography.  Should be out in the next year, and I think will be well worth a look.

**Ironically both the collection of essays and the journal are published by a single publishing house: Eisenbrauns.  Maybe I’m not the only one feeling the tension here.

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