How are we to see the Old Testament's characters--typically a tangle of both virtue and vice--as models for our own ethical living? It is clear that Scripture intends for us to embody some qualities while eschewing others, and at times these are immediately obvious: David's wholehearted pursuit of God is admirable, while his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah are deplorable. But more often than not we are left with shades of gray, not really knowing whether the narrator approves, disapproves, or is indifferent to the behavior of these characters.
The present work seeks to address this issue, situating itself at the fault line of the problem: character portrayal. It argues that often what we take to be the narrator's silence about a character is not silence at all; rather, the narrator is simply speaking in ways that we are not attuned to. By becoming attuned to the voice of biblical narrative and by understanding its role in ethics, therefore, we are better able to understand the characters as resources for our own ethics. This work develops its ideas by leveraging pertinent literary and ethical models, which are then trained upon a particular case in point: the Gideon account in Judges 6-8.
Endorsements & Reviews-
"The book of Judges poses great problems for biblical readers: how are we to know whether the deeds of its heroes are to be admired or shunned? Puzzling Portraits is a careful and lucid discussion of this issue that builds on the insights of the best modern scholarship. Scholars, preachers, and other readers of Judges will greatly profit from this perceptive work" --Gordon Wenham, Trinity College, Bristol
"This work introduces the reader to some of the major approaches to reading the Old Testament for ethics and then grounds the gleaned insights in an examination of the story of Gideon in the book of Judges. The combination of theory and exegesis is a fertile one and demonstrates how much a narrative, literary reading has to offer in terms of the Old Testament." --Craig G. Bartholomew, Redeemer University College
"In Puzzling Portraits, Culp adds solid research to continuing efforts to validate the abiding significance of the Old Testament canon for ethics. As the supervisor of the thesis that is the basis of this publication, it gives me great joy to commend the work of this young scholar to those who desire that the Old Testament remain a light unto their path and a fire in their bones." --from the Foreword by M. Daniel Carroll R., Denver Seminary
A.J. Culp M. Daniel Carroll R.
A.J. Culp is Assistant Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Yellowstone Theological Institute.