When Time Stumbled: Judges as Postmodern

Dissertation, Westminster Theological Seminary (1999)
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What do we do with Judges? This two-edged word? This ambidextrous book? These ambivalent heroes? The Judges were drawing their last fleeting breaths shipwrecked and scattered upon the shores of historical-critical-grammatical-linear-modernist-masculine interpretation. "The narrative is primitive," they said. "The editors have made a mess," they exclaimed. "The conclusion is really an appendix," another said. Then the bible-acrobats jumped in pretending there was no literary carnage while at the same time drawing our eyes away from the literary carnage. "No, no, there is an order to this disorderly book!" "Gideon is a man of faith," they explained. "Gideon is a sham," others retorted. "Long live the king," they cried. "Oh no, the king will bring down the nation," others said. Enter the latest literary critics and the fresh feminist readers to save the day. And save they have. Barry noted the irony. Cheryl called attention to the elaborate, spiraling labyrinth. Phyllis remembered the forgotten. Mieke heralded the incoherence. Deborah the Bee slings Barak with irony. Cowardly Jephthah sacrifices his virgin daughter immediately after he is filled with the spirit. Blind Samson remains stuck in some adolescent, Pinnochio-like stage milling around the same old vices. The Levite, the man of word and sacrifice, lies to the people and dismembers his wife. To beat it all the myopic narrator joins in lock step with the other blind characters stumbling around in the narrative. What manner of text is this? These Judges, these stories, are even more troubling now that we take them seriously. Now what do we do with Judges? The recent scholarship is most promising, but I think we must press forward, or is that backward, or perhaps to another plan. Perhaps Judges hearkens forward to the postmodern. What would Judges look like if we viewed the story through a postmodern lens? Would we see the text in another dimension? Would we let the characters live and breathe as confusing, confounding, intricate characters? Judges speaks to me. These judges, they teach me. How can I ever forget my reading of Judges? For once I found a text reflecting the madness of faith in my maddening world. For once I saw a text like Pablo. I heard the echo of Umberto. I noted the faint murmurings of Jacques. I danced a most joyous jig with Julia. I saw, up ahead, or was that behind me, or over to the side, Martin's flickering candle. Mieke, meet Jael. Barak, meet Barry. Jacques, meet Gideon. Samson, meet Martin. Umberto, meet the narrator or two or three. Pablo, meet the Levite's wife---sorry, she has no name


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