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The act of drawing a line or uttering a word is often seen as integral to the process of making art. This is especially obvious in music and the visual arts, but applies to literature, performance, and other arts as well. These collected essays, written by scholars from diverse fields, take a historical view of the richness of creation out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo) in order to draw out debates, sometimes implicit and sometimes formally stated, about the production and reproduction of cultural meaning in a period of great change and novelty, between the beginnings of the medieval intellectual tradition and the imprint of the Enlightenment. The authors pose the following questions: Do tradition and creativity conflict with one another, or are they complementary? What are the tensions between composition and live performance? What is the role of the audience in perceiving the object of art? Are such objects fixed or flexible? What about the status of the event? Is the event part of creation, in the sense that it disturbs the still waters of historical continuity? These and other questions build on the foundation of Roland Barthes' concept of Degree Zero, offering new insights into what it means to create.
Given the premises upon which and the goals for which contrapuntal hermeneutics is undertaken, a conclusion seems somewhat counterintuitive and paradoxical. Nevertheless, I will offer here both a brief overview of what I have attempted to accomplish and a few preliminary pedagogical recommendations based on these observations.
In the first part of this book we have explored the current state of the field with an eye to the gap which currently exists between academic and vernacular hermeneutical texts and perspectives. The work of Edward W. Said is proposed as one potential resource from which to derive a means of overcoming that gap. Said's concept of contrapuntality offers a unique approach to these contemporary issues in the field of biblical hermeneutics. It is distinct from other interpretive approaches, including those reviewed in Chapter 3. Although its potential to address the gap between academic and vernacular hermeneutics is not exclusive, it nevertheless constitutes an exceptional approach to this issue.
In the second part of this book we have explored the praxiological implications of Said's concept of contrapuntal hermeneutics as applied to the book of Job. The various, often apparently dissonant themes in the book itself are identified through the various interpretive voices juxtaposed in contrapuntal dialogue. Dissonance is preserved in the interest of exploring rather than adumbrating the complexity of the book of Job. Additionally, we have identified some surprising convergences between interpretive voices and perspectives, reinforcing the connections made as well as the challenges posed across hermeneutical and contextual boundaries.
The presence or absence of the theme of human suffering in the book of Job has long been a central debate in Joban exegesis. This chapter explores the possibilities of contrapuntal conversation between those interpreters who see the “problem” of suffering or, more specifically, the suffering of the innocent as the primary theme of the book of Job and those who contend that the book of Job does not in fact address human suffering generally.
To that end, this chapter will begin by placing the specific exegetical perspectives of two of the twentieth century's most well-known and influential proponents of academic and vernacular frames of entry, namely Gerhard von Rad and Gustavo Gutiérrez, in contrapuntal dialogue. Von Rad's work has been a foundational academic voice in biblical criticism for over seventy years. Gutiérrez, whose voice represents a comparatively recent addition to the hermeneutical conversation, was and remains a vital creative force in vernacular hermeneutics. As an arena for engagement, this chapter will examine each exegete's study of Job chapters 38:1–42:6. This section will begin with a brief summary of each interpreter's general understanding of the book of Job as a whole before moving on to his treatment of the passage in question.
Carrying on the discussion of the theme of suffering from the previous chapter, this chapter juxtaposes academic, psychological perspectives on the book of Job in North American and European contexts with vernacular, HIV-positive perspectives on Job in sub-Saharan African contexts. These particular perspectives speak in various ways to the complex reality of human suffering: physical, psychological, social, and spiritual. The choice to place these perspectives in contrapuntal dialogue with one another is therefore based on their common interests in illness, pathology, suffering, and healing. The goal here is to explore certain aspects of the book of Job through these particular lenses in the interests of mutual encounter, analysis, criticism, and ethical engagement, as well as interpretation. This contrapuntal exploration will enable the process of encounter between voices to become an interpretive voice in its own right. The vocalization of the boundary-crossing process will be emphasized in the conclusion of this chapter.
I do not pretend that this process is objective; the selection of particular themes and particular voices clearly reflects my own subjectivity. Nevertheless, serious efforts have been made to include a wide variety of voices in the conversation, and the themes and issues under consideration in this chapter are those which emerge from the juxtaposition of these voices, as demonstrated by the common questions and emphases and the variety of solutions and interpretations articulated out of these particular frames of entry.
Thus far, we have explored the oeuvre of Edward W. Said with particular attention to the hermeneutical possibilities inherent in his contrapuntal approach. I have argued that such an approach offers a frame of entry with which we may begin to overcome the contemporary interpretive impasse between academic and vernacular hermeneutics. This effort is, however, by no means the first or the only such effort in contemporary biblical hermeneutics. This chapter will review other attempts to address this issue and will critically evaluate these approaches in light of the promise afforded by contrapuntal hermeneutics.
While vernacular approaches have been popularized and brought into the mainstream field of vision in university contexts, the gap between academic and vernacular approaches has in many cases been firmly and even militantly maintained. Nevertheless, several scholars are currently addressing this gap in various ways. Foremost among these scholars are Kwok Puilan, Elsa Tamez, Gerald O. West, Justin Ukpong, Fernando F. Segovia and R. S. Sugirtharajah. Before proceeding to a contrapuntal exploration of the book of Job, it is necessary first to give a brief overview of recent attempts in the field of biblical hermeneutics to bridge the gap between academic and vernacular frames of entry, to demonstrate the ways in which these approaches fall short of the goal of integration as this project conceives it, and finally to argue for the adaptation of Said's contrapuntal approach as an alternative to current attempts at bridging the gap.
Over the past 30 years, the rise of poststructuralism, postcolonialism and liberation theologies has presented a number of challenges to the field of biblical hermeneutics. Each of these approaches emphasizes the subjectivity of interpreters, texts, and interpretations, and each argues in various ways for the necessity of self-determination in interpretive communities. These are all positive challenges to which more traditional voices in the discipline have been required to respond, and many of these voices have responded positively and supportively. However, one may also observe that the positive developments associated with increasing emphases on subjectivity and self-determination have been accompanied by a retrogressive ghettoization of interpreters, interpretations and interpretive communities.
This negative development is a direct result of the positive developments previously mentioned. Subjectivity and self-determination by their very nature passively encourage the development of interpretive ghettos, which only active integrative effort on the part of interpreters can overcome. Each of these ghettos legitimizes itself with reference to its particular context as well as to the subjectivity of all other perspectives and the potential equality of all interpretations. Each is primarily concerned with its own context and with the interpretive interests delimited by various aspects of that context. This is not to suggest that boundarycrossing efforts have not been or are not being made. Nevertheless, the overall trend is towards segregation; divergent interpretive communities are increasingly viewed as separate but equal.
Thus far, our contrapuntal hermeneutics has involved academic interpretations from European and North American contexts and vernacular interpretations from Latin American and African contexts. The boundaries between the so-called “First” and “Third” or “Two-Thirds” worlds, the “West” and the “rest,” would thus appear to be synonymous with the boundaries between academic and vernacular hermeneutics. This chapter endeavours to demonstrate that such is not the case. To that end, we will juxtapose academic and vernacular interpretations from various Asian contexts, including the voices of Asian scholars educated in Europe or North America. Thus, in addition to the hermeneutical arguments here presented, this chapter will implicitly argue that vernacular interpretations cannot simply by equated with certain geographical locations.
As far as the book of Job is concerned, interpretations from Asian contexts generally focus primarily on the philosophical and relational aspects of the book rather than on the issue of theodicy. Several of these interpretations consider the issue of suffering in the book of Job, but, as we shall see below, they do so from a different perspective than those interpretations explored in previous chapters. Ultimately, this chapter will demonstrate both the diversity of interpretations of Job in these contexts as well as the transcendence of the theme of suffering achieved by a contrapuntal view of these interpretive texts.