Conversations on Canaanite and Biblical Themes
At the last ERMC residential weekend, we celebrated the publication of Dr Rebecca Watson’s latest book. Here she describes the book, its approach and its objectives in more detail.
“The book was co-edited with Adrian Curtis, from the University of Manchester, who was the external examiner for my doctoral thesis. Adrian is also a Methodist lay preacher and may be familiar to readers as the author of the Epworth commentary on the Psalms and editor of the Old Testament Guide series.
“The book is basically a collection of three dialogues, with each dialogue involving two scholars debating a single issue in relation to a specific text. One pair of scholars debates creation, chaos and creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing) in Genesis 1, another re-examines Josiah’s reform—whether it happened and if so what it was—and the third looks at the Psalm of Habakkuk 3. Verse 8 of this Psalm which asks of God,
“Was your wrath against the rivers, O LORD?
Was your anger against the rivers,
or your indignation against the sea,
when you rode on your horses,
not your chariot of salvation?”
“This felt like a good question to try to answer as it is much debated. Is God seen here as doing battle with the sea, either literally or metaphorically, or is the answer that of course he wasn’t, he was battling Israel’s enemies instead?
“Working on the book brought out very clearly to me how much we are products of our church backgrounds and education, and how our presuppositions and the methods we use determine the course of any argument we make. Not only that, but we can sometimes be a little too quick to make assumptions about what someone else will say or think, once we know their background, without always giving them a proper hearing.
“However, another factor which isn’t talked about much in academic circles is how important personality is in finding commonality or conflict with others in our debates. Some people are more open to agreement whereas others are wired more to win the argument. In theological matters, the aspect of religious conviction can add an extra edge to this. One of the pair of scholars commented that if they expressed things sharply at times ‘it is because these things matter’. Academics can be personally invested in a particular view more than one might think, even if what they write in print is couched in wholly rational terms.”
There’s more information on the book here.