Stephen Cook has published a new commentary on Deuteronomy.
I used his Social Roots of Biblical Yahwism as a reading project a while back. His approach in that book was to see the main thrust of the Hebrew Bible deriving, not from an evolution from polytheism, but from a conservative tradition maintained by village elders and Levites.
The “people of the land” who rebelled against Queen Athaliah and later installed Josiah as king were people like the prophet Micah who maintained a continuity with the 11th or 12th century village culture of ancient Israel.
The rural Levites were people like Hosea and the Asaph psalmists who maintained a Sinai tradition as an alternative to religious innovations during the Monarchy.
This was definitely a counter theory about the roots of Yahwism.
So next week I will start a reading project dealing with his Reading Deuteronomy: a Literary and Theological Commentary. From the blurbs and introduction this looks like a different approach. He says he wants to communicate his own enthusiasm for the Book of Deuteronomy and take on misconceptions about the book. He hints that he will argue that the book is not graceless and legalistic but highly relevant to the spirituality and ethics of contemporary Christians.
I am looking forward to this, especially because I feel that some of what I have blogged about recently may seem abstract and academic.
This is not my intent. I am a committed Christian dissatisfied with both the evangelical and social justice approaches that dominate contemporary church life. We now have red churches and blue churches in America, just like our red and blue states. The red churches think they are biblical. The blue churches think they are inclusive. I think both are delusional.
It seems to me that a big part of the problem is the way we interpret the Bible. So I am exploring alternatives.
Stephen Cook promises an enthusiastic and respectful reading of Deuteronomy. I do not know what he will say for sure, but it sounds like a fruitful endeavor by a scholar I already regard highly.