Introduction, “Interpreting the Pentateuch” pp. 1-79
Part C, “Historical Background and the Meaning of the Text of the Pentateuch” pp. 7-16
Sailhamer opens this segment with a question I find confusing. “Do we look for the meaning or source of the Pentateuch in the text of Scripture itself, or is the text primarily a witness to the act of God’s self-revelation in the events recorded by Scripture?” (Sailhamer 1992, 7). It seems he may be looking for a dichotomy between fact and narrative. “The real issue is our commitment to an inspired written Word of God as the locus of God’s special revelation” (Ibid.). Drawing on 2 Timothy 3:16 Sailhamer asserts that Paul’s authority is specifically the written Word of God.
Sailhamer follows with six observations.
“The Old Testament Is a Text” (Ibid., 8). As a narrative text upon which we use textual exegetical tools to analyze the actual story being told.
“The Old Testament Text Is a Written Document” (Ibid., 9). The language is known, using a known grammar and vocabulary. The meaning is dictated by the grammar and syntax. The account is a representation of reality, not reality itself.
“The Old Testament Text Represents and Author’s Intention” (Ibid., 10). The author has an intention and makes that intention known to the reader.
“The Old Testament Text and Its Communication Situation” (Ibid., 10-11). The communication situation consists of an author using a text to deliver a message to a reader. Especially use of repetition can assist a reader in understanding the message.
“The Old Testament Text Has a Literary Form” (Ibid., 12-15). There are recognizable differences in the different parts of the Old Testament. The subjects may be the same but the style of presentation may differ so as to accomplish different goals. Sailhamer defines “historical narrative as a proselike literature which seeks to render a realistic picture of the world” (Ibid., 13). He reminds us (Ibid., 14) that the world described in the text is not the same as the real world. It is a representation only.
“The Old Testament Is About Events” (Ibid., 15-16). The world has many interrelated forces, showing causality and analogy as important analytical processes. The Old Testament narrative must be understood in terms of a complex world.