Jun 9, 2009


Commenting on Genesis 12 tonight, Larry asked, "Is this a case where we have a mountain of Mishnah out of a molehill of Torah?" I thought that was a brilliant way to ask the question. Larry modestly said he didn't come up with it, which is probably true (though he's quite witty enough to have come up with it on his own). The image refers to extra-biblical Jewish literature that comments on the text including laws and tradition.

Genesis 12 has generated a lot of scholarly literature. Some of it excellent, a lot of it highly speculative. We talked briefly of the proper role of speculation in theological method. There is a time and place where it is appropriate, principally for testing the rational coherence of an interpretation. However, it is wise to make sure hypothetical and speculative interests don't outweigh the more important questions the text is asking and answering. The point is well-illustrated in a proverbial story in which a student asked his theology professor, "What was God doing before He created the world?" The professor made his point by replying, "Creating Hell for the overly curious!"

Good theological method works to "keep the main thing the main thing"--properly prioritized, and well-disciplined when faced with the temptation to speculate.