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On narrative

This semester, the topic of study that most interests me is an independent study on Old Testament narrative that I am doing with a professor here at Covenant named Ken Harris. Basically, the question I am trying to answer is this: How did OT narratives work in their original context, and what were they intended to do in the communities they shaped? To that end I've read Wenham's Story as Torah, and Robert Alter's Art of Biblical Narrative in the last couple of weeks.

Broadly speaking (beyond just this semester's study), I am interested in how all of our lives seem to be shaped by narrative: written, heard, seen, spoken, enacted, created. I think that what we believe as humans, or our basic "world-view" can (at least in one sense among others) be defined as which story's authority we place ourselves under--an idea I stole from N.T. Wright's NTPG. Now obviously, all people believe something, and have some kind of "world-view," and so, if my thesis is right, are always placing themselves under the authority of some story. What I am interested in as a Christian is how I might be intentional about placing myself and encouraging others to place themselves under the authority of the Christian story in all its dimensions (including, but not limited to, the story of Scripture). My interest in these topics sprang originally out from pragmatic reasons--I was teaching English literature to a group of high-school students and trying to justify in my head and consequently to them why they should bother with reading and understanding stories in the first place. Because I came into the topic from that perspective, I was unaware of the amount of material that had been written on it and how in vogue this whole idea of "story" has become. Since I am just now beginning to wade through all that material, I feel like a real novice, but I at least I am beginning to realize how complex the issue is, which is likely the first step towards thinking rightly about it. I also feel like there has yet to be a real direct and practical application of all these "narrative" insights to Christian teaching and thinking--what difference does all this make for Christian spirituality? That's the question I hope I can come to some sort of conclusion to, at least for myself, if no one else.


From a couple conversations that we've had about narrative, I thought of you when I read an article recently in preparing for a sermon. The article citation is:

Fowl, Stephen. "Know your Context: Giving and Receiving Money in Philippians," Interpretation January 2002, p. 45-58.

(You can print the article for free at the library using First Search)

The first three pages of the article Fowl discusses the function of narrative. It's nothing you haven't already thought about, I'm sure, but I still thought it was a nice concise treatment.

What I thought you might be more insterested in, however, is that Fowl has written a book that I'm guessing deals with narrative in more depth. The book is *Engaging Scripture* so you might want to check it out, esp. if CTS library has it.

Oh yeah, glad you're blogging again.

Thanks, Chris--Fowl sounds interesting, I'll have to check on his stuff tomorrow at the library.

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