Meeting Notes: Exploring Difference and Particularity

Kris Lindbeck, Trinity University

Le courage de nos differences . Without becoming irresponsible, to accept what divides us, with humility and pride.

–Dag Hammarskjold [31]

Rabbi Joshua ben Levi said concerning written biblical and oral Rabbinic law: “Scripture, mishnah! that which in the future a dedicated student will teach before his master, was already given to Moses on Sinai.”

–Talmud Yerushalmi [32]


The Scriptural Reasoning session at the 2001’s AAR/SBL took place from 9:00 to 11:00 on the last evening of the conference, a time neither easy nor convenient. It testifies to the number of scholars seriously engaged with scriptural reasoning that more than thirty people, many well known in their own fields, attended the meeting, and that our conversation continued up to, and a bit past, the official end of the session. The discussion ranged widely, touching on issues raised by the main papers, by the commentaries, and by the course of the discussion itself. The multiplicity of faith commitments and disciplines represented, and the number of complex ideas presented, made for a discussion that was exciting but frustrating in its brevity. Many participants left the room saying it would have been good to have had three or four hours together, rather than two.

As has become customary, no papers were read in full. The main papers had already appeared on the web , [33] and were briefly introduced by their authors, who began the discussion. After that, those who had written commentaries before the meeting joined in, and in the last half of the session the discussion became general. This triple structure allowed for common themes to emerge while at the same time giving everyone a chance to speak. In addition, the choreography of the meeting, emphasizing discussion rather than presentation, encouraged one of the key elements of scriptural reasoning in practice: willingness to think out loud, to be surprised by new ideas, other peoples’ or one’s own.

The following description of the meeting is arranged topically, and is thus necessarily partial, as it emphasizes key themes mentioned in the introduction: the meaning of interpretive disagreement; the problem of eisegesis; and the understanding of particularity and universality. [34] The fourth theme, the use of traditional interpretation, is so thoroughly woven through the first two themes that it would have been artificial to give it a separate section. Traditional interpretation highlights the divergence between traditions (for example Jewish and Christian readings of the Tanakh/Old Testament), and also raises the problem of eisegesis. The question of “reading in” arises in part because attention to traditional interpretaton can make it difficult to encounter the original texts for themselves, and also because many traditional readings, such as trinitarian interpretations of Genesis 18, seem to be eisegesis from the perspective of modern historical study.

While this topical approach has rhetorical and logical advantages, it does short-change minor themes and overlook valuable individual comments. Fortunately, some of the discussion passed over here is taken up by two commentaries written after the meeting by Chad Pecknold and Jon Cooley . The conclusion of this essay will briefly discuss their contributions and also highlight a crucial question raised by Peter Ochs. How, Ochs asked, do we turn to scripture in these troubled times? While none of the responses explicitly given was complete, I will argue that the meeting itself, in some sense, enacted an answer to this pressing inquiry.

Notes on the Meeting

I. Interpretive Disagreement

Interpretive disagreement within and between traditions was the issue that began the meeting, with Watson’s opening remark that both papers share an emphasis on disagreement–Wolfson highlighting interreligious differences, whereas he, Watson, is concerned with intra-Christian ones. Watson continued that while there is a common view that within Christianity differing interpreters simply add new insights to those who came before, this is not the case. Celebration of multiplicity is too simple when there are real disagreements that should not be forgotten.

This does not mean, however, that any view may be dismissed or discounted. Watson expressed his interest in Eugene Rogers commentary as a modern equivalent of Augustine’s typological reading. As Genesis describes Abraham’s meal with God, the planned sacrifice of Isaac, and his restoration–so the New Testament recounts the last supper, crucifixion and resurrection. Rogers seeks to make a typological link between the two, with Genesis 18 as a foretaste of the final feast. So, Watson concluded, it is possible to breathe new life into an Augustinian reading, though he is still unconvinced that it completely works.

After reviewing his own paper, Watson then turned to aspects of Wolfson’s essay that he found difficult. Wolfson, he noted, is looking for links between Gen 17 and 18, but even though Wolfson’s paper fascinated him, he found it difficult to follow how Wolfson draws these links. Watson read from Wolfson’s quote of a midrash on Job, “from my flesh I would behold God,” [35] which, Wolfson argues, “encapsulates the rabbinic ethos that reward is consequent to action. Here it is the rite of circumcision that is singled out as the means that facilitates God’s appearance before Abraham, a point underscored by the exegesis of the verse from Job, that is, after the foreskin has been removed, one envisions God from the flesh of the penis.” Watson summarized his difficulties with this interpretation in two points:

1. He has a Christian unease with the intense symbolism associated with circumcision in Rabbinic and later Jewish readings. How can it perform such “mystical feats and functions?”

2. He finds it hard to see such a strong connection between 17 and 18 in the text itself. How can one see the theophany of Genesis 18 as a reward for circumcision? If this explanation appeared in a commentary, no one would buy it. [36]

Wolfson responded that he agreed on the level of difficulty of the midrash he presented. This, he continued, is precisely the “spiritual nub” which undoes the connection between the three faiths. By adhering to the undoing of the knot we have an opportunity for conversation, but not for re-tying the knot.

In Rabbinic thought, as in Plotinus, like sees like. One has to become divine-like, which happens in circumcision according to the Rabbinic tradition. Wolfson continued that he could not compromise at the base level of exegeting the tradition, though he wished he could, for he found it disturbing and problematic. Furthermore, he added, the emphasis on circumcision as a spiritual possibility may be as difficult for a feminist Jewish interpretation of scripture as for a Christian one.

This exchange between Watson and Wolfson presents a strong example of how traditional interpretations highlight differences between faiths. Still, as Wolfson simultaneously points out, differences within faiths may parallel some of the differences between them. To be parallel, however, is not to be identical. Both Wolfson himself and some Jewish feminists may be fully as uncomfortable with a spiritual emphasis on circumcision as Christians are. The Jewish readers, however, will be uncomfortable for different reasons, probably stemming from egalitarian and/or feminist principles; they will not share a Christian discomfort with “law,” which from a Jewish perspective is simply the embodiment of grace in Divine commandment.

Nevertheless, as Watson concludes, disagreements are signs of hope. They mean conversation is taking place. Furthemore, as his paper records, disagreements happen within each tradition, not just among the three traditions. In dialogue across religious boundaries too there may be convergences as well as divergences, not dissimilar to dialogue within one’s own tradition.

Another explicit discussion of interpretive difference between traditions came later in the session, as Basit Koshul , of the University of Virginia and Concordia College, spoke on the status of circumcision in Islam, responding to a point raised in Wolfson’s paper, that circumcision seems to be almost overlooked in the Qur’an. Koshul explained that circumcision is not explicitly commanded in Islam, in either the Qur’an or the Hadith. There is, however, a tradition from Abu Hanifah (founder of the major school of Muslim law, 700-767 C. E.) stating the principle that anything in Mosaic law not explicitly denied in the Qur’an is still in force. Koshul continued that keeping circumcision seems a reaction to–or a prevention of–a “Marcion” heresy in Islam, which would reject the Old Testament God and discard all customary law not explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an. Rather, the torah, with a small “t,” is maintained in Islam.

Nevertheless, Koshul continued, the claim of ancestral election is discarded in Islam. In the Qur’an, one of Noah’s sons drowns, and in-laws of Abraham die in God’s judgment of Sodom. What is promised to Abraham is not particular to his biological progeny, but can become universal to those who have faith in the one creator God. Thus Allah’s dialogue with Abraham, in which He reminds Abraham that His will concerning the wicked of Sodom cannot be abrogated, is a reminder to Abraham of what had been forgotten in the days of Noah, and to us of what has been forgotten in the days of Abraham (cf. Koshul’s commentary for more on this point).

I, Kris Lindbeck (a visiting professor at Trinity University) asked, what are the similarities between the ways in which Christians and Muslims universalize Abraham as founder of our faiths?

Koshul responded with modest good humor that the Christians–or Paul anyhow–go wrong when they abrogate the law in adopting Abraham as father of their faith. Faith is not enough. And the Jews, for their part, emphasize the law too much. Muslims universalize while putting proper and useful emphasis on faith and law.

This final comment of Koshul’s struck me as very helpful for understanding where Islam differs from Christianity and Judaism. It was pointed out after the meeting that Koshul’s response, so appropriate to my question, was also a standard Muslim teaching about Islam’s relationship with the two other faiths. In fact, his response is basic to Islam in the same way that the age-old Christian statement that Christianity teaches grace and Judaism teaches law is basic to Christianity–though the Muslim formulation seems a more accurate simplification. Thus Koshul’s comment served in the long run to raise the question of our responsibility as scriptural reasoners to learn more about Islam–certainly a good reminder!

The next point in the discussion useful to highlight is an example of how when one explores interpretive disagreement between traditions sometimes agreement also becomes evident. Aaron Mackler (a professor of medical ethics and Conservative rabbi) asked Watson whether there may be an affinity between traditional views of baptism and circumcision. After baptism can one better see God–is this a point of contact with Wolfson? Yes, Watson replied, there is a connection. In the reformed tradition stemming from Calvin there is a strong emphasis on the link between circumcision and baptism. Furthermore, Watson added that perhaps there is also a connection between the inscription of the wounds of Jesus and circumcision, although no one at the meeting followed up his intriguing idea. (It is interesting, however, that in the commentaries, Young compared the circumcision to the Eucharist–the body of Christ–as a fleshly welcoming of God’s presence.)

II. Eisegesis and Exegesis

Just as exploration of interpretive disagreements may lead to valuable inter-religious comparisons, the same is clearly true of the issue of eisegesis, germane to all forms of reading. Furthermore, the definition of reading out and reading in is particularly important for scriptural reasoning, because SR studies scripture in a context attentive not merely to historical and literary issues, but also to questions of truth.

A highly illuminating discussion of the issue of eisegesis, particularly as related to the use of traditional interpretation, began with a complex question from Alon Goshen Gottstein , scholar of Rabbinics and founder of the interfaith Elijah Institute in Jerusalem. Gottstein remarked that he struggles with the question of reading in and/or reading out. On one level he sees that the accumulated interpretation of tradition is a necessary part of our common baggage. As such, traditional interpretation makes it difficult to decide when it is useful to look at the original text rather than look at the interpreters, and can even at times overwhelm the original text.

On another level, Gottstein continued, one must ask when we should distinguish between explaining a text and reading into it for the sake of our interpretive ventures. We try as scholars not to read into the text, but if we reject the exegesis/eisegesis dichotomy as Wolfson does, are we not saying that our position as a link in the chain of tradition justifies our reading-in? And if one reads in, one skips important possibilities of the original text.

For example, Gottstein continued, how do we know that the case of Abraham is paradigmatic, that the Rabbinic application to Abraham of the verse “in my flesh, I shall see God” means that circumcision is a universal requirement for seeing God? In other words, if the sight of God follows circumcision, how do we know this is universal? This idea is Wolfson’s reading in. [37] Rather, Gottstein concluded, God’s presence to Abraham is made available by his descent to earth, not a phallic preparation.

Wolfson responded that he does not embrace the idea of an original text, as he accepts Foucault’s idea of genealogies as opposed to origins. Thus the beginning of anything is marked by multiplicity, not singularity. On the other hand, Wolfson added, it is a fair question whether his own reading is a reading-in.

Divine justice is embodied–that is the key point, the one he, Wolfson, cannot dispense with. Gottstein’s disagreement does not threaten his view, though he wishes that Gottstein presented his question as unraveling Wolfson’s argument. “I too,” Wolfson concluded, “Am uncomfortable with a phallocentric God.”

Watson then responded to Wolfson’s remark that it was fair for Gottstein to ask whether the use of “in my flesh . . .” was a reading-in. Watson, while agreeing that the exegesis/eisegesis dichotomy should in theory be dissolved, admitted that he himself makes the distinction in practice. He holds that Augustine’s reading is a reading in, whereas Justin’s may be indeed a reading out. Thus, Watson, concluded, even if we can’t theorize the distinction, we need to work with it.

Important as it is for understanding the right use traditional interpretation, the question of eisegesis also came sharply to the fore with the proposal of a modern midrash by Bonna Devora Haberman, resident scholar of women’s studies at Brandeis University. [38] Haberman pointed out that, as Avram became Abra h am, Sarai also received a new letter from the Divine Name, YHWH, becoming Sara h . The angels in the story, she continued, perhaps come not for Abraham, but for Sarah, to tell her, as Abraham has already been told, of the son they will be given. How long, Haberman wondered, does a man have to wait, ritually and/or physically to have intercourse after circumcision? This is the time between chapter 17 and chapter 18. The use of that newly circumcised male member is for the fathering of that special child. Thus the sex between Abraham and Sarah is significant. She is a high priestess; she is the place, the site, where this new child will come into being, so she is metaphorically found “within,” in the tent.

Watson responded that in light of Haberman’s comments it is interesting that the sexual intercourse between Abraham and Sarah is not mentioned, unlike Genesis 16:4 where Abraham “went in to Hagar, and she conceived.” Instead, where you would expect a reference to Abraham and Sarah’s intercourse, you have God appearing to her. The divine appearance substitutes for the physical relationship in the text, saying only “The LORD visited Sarah as he promised” (Gen. 21:1).

Wolfson began by thanking Haberman for her ideas, which complicate the narrative in interesting ways. Nevertheless, Wolfson emphasized, the lineage is carried out through the male; the covenant is through the male child, through circumcision. This retains a certain weight, despite the fissure in the text that Haberman presents.

Later in the meeting, Laurie Zoloth-Dorfman, Professor of Jewish Studies and Social Ethics at San Francisco, responded to Haberman in the context of a discussion of circumcision and particularity, implicitly characterizing Haberman’s views as reading-in. Zoloth-Dorfman noted that in her view any notion of the centrality of a woman’s contribution–and of Sarah’s priestly role–is anachronistic. This baby, the male child chosen for circumcision then and now, is going to be our chosen baby, marked as human rather than animal, and further marked as Jewish rather than Gentile. To be so chosen is an extraordinary gift. A phallocentric God is not so terrible, she added, joking that alternatively perhaps we could cut off some of the ears!

Haberman, however, continued with her main point in earnest, responding that Sarah sees the angels without having been circumcised. Furthermore, Sarah is able to be with God and laugh, in the inner place where she can conceive.

Haberman’s midrash most obviously raises the question of eisegesis: does she propose reading-in, and if so is that a problem? Zoloth-Dorfman’s comments relate Haberman’s interpretation to another key issue, the relationship between particularity and universality in Judaism. Haberman’s reading of Sarah as priestess, removed as it is from Jewish practice, neither endorses nor questions Jewish particularity. When, however, Zoloth-Dorfman connects Abraham’s circumcision to the brit milah of baby boys today, she explicitly embraces Jewish particularity, ending the meeting with the issue raised by Wolfson near the beginning.

Particularity and Universality

In his synopsis, Wolfson began by summarizing his conclusions on the connection between Genesis 17 and 18, between circumcision and theophany, circumcision and the Jewish ethical mission. In Rabbinic sources, the link is explicit, whereas “the pre-text [of circumcision] is significantly ignored or distorted in the two other traditions . . .” According to biblical idiom, Wolfson continued, the particularity is etched on the body, and finished by reading from his concluding paragraph

Steve Kepnes later took up the issue of particularity, summarizing some of his commentary on Wolfson. Kepnes spoke of how God works in Genesis, taking away a piece of flesh, and adding a personal element to his name –from Abram to Abraham–which is inscripted onto Abraham and furthermore into the letter of the Torah, making the covenant eternal. The insertion of the letter he means that an element of the Divine name has been added to Abraham.

Wolfson took up the idea, noting that Abram in becoming Abraham becomes a fuller being. He grows into a calling, and when he pleads for Sodom in Genesis 18 it is his moment of adopting or assuming the new role.

Watson then referred back to the text of Genesis, “No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations” (17:5). He asked how Jewish exegesis makes sense of bringing in the “many nations” at the addition of the letter he, because one would expect Abraham to be father of “one nation” at this moment of particularity.

Wolfson responded that this is precisely his point: the grounding and legitimation of the universal is found in the particular. Furthermore, Wolfson continued, he agrees that Paul’s universalism is not the only view found in the New Testament. There is evidence for a more Rabbinic approach, maybe in Matthew, maybe in communities that did not reach us, but left some trace in the text.

These comments of Wolfson’s are a good place to conclude our detailed account of the meeting, as they form a provisional conclusion to the issues of universality and particularity that Wolfson raised in his paper. They also call to mind a number of commentaries that suggest aspects of particularity and embodiment in Christian life today: in the Eucharist ( Hardy, Rogers, Young ), in the church’s obedient life of discipleship, ( Elkins ) and in the ethical life and mission of the community. ( Craig ).

Scriptural Reasoning as a Response to Crisis

One final theme from the meeting merits further mention, though it appeared more in questions than in answers. Kurt Richardson, then at Boston University, began the meeting by saying that scriptural reasoning speaks to our urgent concerns and our personal and communal lives, clearly referring to the tragedy of September 11th. Neither Watson nor Wolfson, however, followed up on his lead, though Watson noted that he had composed his paper shortly after 9/11, giving it “an eerie quality.” Later on, Peter Ochs of the University of Virginian asked both Watson and Wolfson how we can turn to scripture in these troubled times, and both responded briefly, but a detailed and explicit answer to how scriptural reasoning addresses present crises never materialized at the meeting itself.

Watson remarked to Ochs that he does not care for the language of “turning to the text,” because ideally one should live in the text and see the world through the text. Even this, he added, does not bring instant answers to crisis. Ochs expressed agreement that one should live in the text, but stood by his question: as people who see the world through the text, how may practitioners of scriptural reasoning respond to today’s crises? Wolfson’s answer to Ochs, though different from Watson’s, was similar in its refusal to suggest immediate solutions. Wolfson first of all admitted that he personally does not always find it helpful to turn to texts in times of crisis. Nevertheless, Jewish tradition (like the Christian tradition from which Watson speaks) advocates constantly reading and digesting sacred texts to find new meaning. Ideally, thus, Cordovero (as discussed by Wolfson) is right, the text and the reader are never the same, because both are constantly renewed. Text and reader are never separated in a historically situated shidduch (“match”), but also resist one another, remaining in creative tension.

Both these answers were interesting, but neither provided a satisfying response to the urgency of Ochs’s question, nor to the related question posed by Jon Cooley in his commentary written after the meeting, “Why read a religious text . . . and what value, religious or otherwise, could possibly arise from reading one, if there is no immediate relation to the historical situation, to suffering?” The key problem, I think, is to ask whether and how Ochs and Cooley’s questions may be answered. Ochs’s question was timely, heartfelt, and necessary, but it could also have been impossible to answer fully in a public gathering soon after the devastation of 9/11. No one present, quite simply, was prophet enough to find the right words.

Almost none of the Rabbinic sources on the destruction of Jerusalem come to us from the first generation after its destruction, or the following generation of the Bar Kochba revolt and its bloody suppression, when the tragedy was still raw and unexplained. Those generations were involved in remembering Temple rites, preserving and elaborating law, developing legal midrash, learning and teaching. Only later, when the tragedy had become a historical metaphor for all human and Jewish suffering, for the problem of theodicy, was it addressed directly. Christian sources, in contrast, do preserve a contemporaneous witness to the Jerusalem’s destruction. They do so, however, because they can distance themselves from the Jewish community and its tragedy, or because, like Mark in his “little apocalypse” (13:5-31), they view it as the birth pangs of the End Time. In either case, the destruction became bearable to the community by being fit into a wider framework, a framework that obscures the tragedy of innocent suffering.

Cooley’s enquiry, “Why read a religious text . . . if there is no immediate relation to the historical situation?” may be a similarly necessary but unanswerable question, at least when taken in isolation. In as far as religious texts are brought into “immediate relation” with historical crises and acute suffering, the answers derived from them, if direct and explicit, tend to be personal and/or traditional. Each believer, each close community of readers, and every American obliged to preach in the latter half of September, had to find answers to support faith, courage, and right action. Certainly many of these answers were from scripture, but they were usually taken from prior responses to suffering and applied to the new crisis. Analogously, the words of the twenty-third Psalm, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me,” are read at every Jewish and Christian funeral. Someone who derives comfort from them, however, is not doing scriptural reasoning, though he or she may be experiencing God’s love and wisdom profoundly.

At the meeting in Denver, rather than giving an answer, scriptural reasoning enacted an answer to the present crisis. In coming together to discuss and to do scriptural reasoning, participants testified that they found intrinsic value in its process and goals, regardless of their immediate practical application. Scriptural reasoning, as a thoughtful and complex form of interreligious dialogue, enacts right relationship between faiths. Furthermore, scriptural reasoning, unlike most academic approaches to text, is explicitly concerned with the truths that are encountered in scripture. It enacts a way of reading that brings people’s whole selves–intellect, academic training, passion, doubt, and faith–into relationship with these truths through a communal practice.

No doubt some of the virtues of scriptural reasoning can only be fully realized in smaller groups that meet more regularly, [39] but the yearly meeting of the National Society comes close enough to attract many seeking an encounter with scripture in community, an encounter that, though incomplete, is valuable and memorable. Scriptural reasoning also provides tools for its practitioners to eventually find answers in scripture for the present crisis, for themselves and, God willing, for their communities. Making a tentative beginning in this direction, some of this year’s commentaries, particularly Koshul’s and my own ( Lindbeck ) begin to explore how an understanding of Abraham’s righteousness may repair, rather than exacerbate, conflict among the faiths that see him as spiritual ancestor.

Chad Pecknold’s brief but evocative post-meeting commentary uses Peircean categories, such as abduction and reparative judgments, to further refine how scriptural reasoning enacts a response to contemporary troubles. He writes , “Not only in times of crisis, but perhaps especially in times of crisis, we turn to Torah. That is, we turn towards that which is most generative –the embodied covenant, the Word, the invitation to renewal–and the promise of laughter.” Pecknold is particularly strong in his description of scriptural reasoning as a kind of serious play, both in its uncensored openness to testing new readings, and in its acceptance of humour. This latter point is in harmony with the humour of a number of this year’s commentators, particularly Elkins who compares the task of finding an appropriate title for Genesis 18 to the New Yorker contest in which one writes the caption to an unlabeled cartoon.

Jon Cooley’s commentary, is also, as alluded to above, deeply concerned with how scriptural reasoning can serve to meet current political crises, as well as the personal tragedies and crises that are endemic to each family’s life. He points out that it “takes courage not to look elsewhere [for answers], when there are countless possible sources of succour and rejuvenation available–especially when it is from within the indwelt world of a set of religious texts that a trauma/tragedy arose.” Another useful aspect of Cooley’s commentary is his recollection and discussion of a remark made by Ben Quash , Dean of Peterhouse in Cambridge. Quash spoke of the “legibility of bodies,” in the context of Paul’s statement that “I carry the marks of Jesus in my body,” and asked how this relates to Wolfson’s comments on circumcision. Cooley carried Quash’s question into explicit relationship with the issue of particularity that was a leitmotif of this session. He proposed that “the history, the very identity-creating practices” of each person are etched his or her body no less than physical circumcision, and may–or may not–serve as vehicles for theophany.

Particularity, embodiment, theophany, ethical mission: from the beginning of Wolfson’s paper to the end of Cooley’s, participants in this session touched on these concepts again and again, defining them and connecting them in diverse ways. Individuals and religious communities in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are called to do more than discuss God’s will, more even than to do it; they strive in some sense to embody that will in the world. Scriptural reasoning, as a generous and demanding way of living with and in sacred texts, in community, can contribute to this ongoing struggle.

A Final Note on Exegesis

Bonna Haberman’s re-visioning of Sarah is relevant to scriptural reasoning because it exemplifies a family of post-modern approaches to exegesis increasingly popular in the modern academy, especially, but not exclusively, among feminists. Practices such as fashioning new myths and giving voice to the silent characters in the Bible are allied to scriptural reasoning (as the SSR has understood it so far) in that they use heart and imagination, are often deeply attentive to gaps in the text, and concern themselves with the relationship between interpretation and ethics. These approaches can also be problematic because in some hands they tend to overlook the history of interpretation within traditions and, even more profoundly, because they can be overly individualistic, cut adrift from communal authority and philosophical scrutiny alike. In my view, however, there are practitioners of this set of approaches who have a great deal to offer scriptural reasoning, especially those who are also deeply immersed in other fields, such as Phyllis Trible with her mastery Hebrew Bible scholarship, and Aviva Gottlieb Zornberg with her encyclopedic grasp of Rabbinic and later midrash, psychology, and contemporary literary theory.

To widen the point further, it is a historical accident of its founding that scriptural reasoning has until now been mostly the province of philosophers of religion, theologians, and students of post-biblical texts. Many–though certainly not all–biblical scholars of theological and/or literary bent are absorbed with questions of truth and meaning that also occupy scriptural reasoning, and have much to teach the society.

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