chapter
1 Pages

Adultery the House

I n our secular world we conti.nue to authorize, albeit unconsciously, many bib-lical ideologies, granting the Bible the status not only of a spiritual guide butalso a manual f()r politics. Furthermore, we otten attach ideological formatjons to the Bible that are alien to it, ones that arose in its long and varied history of interpretation and that by association and confusion come to reap the same authority that we so reflexively attach to the Bible. I want to begin to disentangle that association, to separate the discipline of biblical studies from the Bible and then to proceed to after a reading of biblical narratives that runs contrary to the assumptions that inf()fm so much of biblical studies.] Biblical narratives make very different kinds of claims of legitimation from biblical scholarship (I use the phrase in a specialized sense here, restricting its application to the historical-critical scholarship forged in the atmosphere of German historicism). The ambition of "higher criticism" was to construct a metanarrative, a privileged metadiscourse capable of offering eventually the Truth about the history of the Bible's composition and hence necessarily about ancient Israelite history. Biblical narrativesand that plural contrasts with the singular metanarrative-make no such sweeping claim; their truths are multiple and conflicting, and they resist the consistency, continuity, and comprehensiveness that characterize metanarrative as surely as they resist being distilled into a single story. Ironic as it may sound, biblical narratives are far more compatible with the understanding of postmodernism distilled by Lyotard (xxiv) as "incredulity toward metanarratives" than they are with modern biblical scholarship. But upon reflection, there is little irony here, for the ancient narratives that arose in disparate social and historical circumstances are likely to exhibit the character of multiplicity, while modernism's biblical scholarship is bound to reflect the nineteenth century's passion for an authoritative metanarrative. If the biblical narratives cannot be accurately labeled "postmodern," it is only because they cannot exhibit incredulity toward metanarratives that await later periods to be imagined and still later ones to be critiqued. Ifwe can sometimes discern