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A New Compass for Old Testament Ethics

A couple weeks ago I posted a very lengthy (though perhaps rather minimally illuminating) analysis of the nature of law and economic ethics in Exodus 19-24, and announced that more would be forthcoming, presumably all the way through Deuteronomy. But then a gift from heaven dropped into my hands in the form of Christopher J.H. Wright's Old Testament Ethics for the People of God (as well as a half-dozen other books he's published on the subject). Wright is, so far, proving to be everything one could ask for on this issue:
--he's very conservative (which means he actually treats the Old Testament as a text, and not a jumbled collection of manuscripts some Jew dug out the attic in the third century BC and decided to stick together in a book)
--he's very well-read in the relevant scholarship, seems to share same basic theological paradigms that I consider essential on this matter (a Reformed understanding of the continuity of Old and New Testaments, a strong sense of the eschatology of creation, a strong covenantal theology, etc.)
--he emphasizes all the right things, which have been ignored too much in conservative Protestant circles--the social, economic, and ecological dimensions of the Law.

So I've subsumed my "Me and my Bible and OT Ethics" venture to a new larger project under Wright's guidance, which I plan to bear fruit in two major research papers over the next couple months.

Here's a little tidbit on an OT ethic of property:

Since the earth was given to all humankind, its resources were meant to be shared and be available to all. Access to, and use of, the resources of the whole planet constitute the legacy bequeathed to the whole human race. The creation narratives cannot be used to justify privatized, individually exclusive claims of ownership, since it is to humanity as a whole that the earth is entrusted. This is not to say that there can be no legitimate private ownership of material goods; we have already seen how in Israel legitimate property rights were grounded in the belief in God's gift of the land, and in its distribution to the household units. It is to say that such individual property rights, even when legitimate, always remain subordinate to the priorr right of all people to have access to, and use of, the resources of the earth. In other words, the claim 'I (or we) own it' is never a final answer in the economic moral argument. For, ultimately, God owns all things and I (or we) hold them only in trust. And God holds us answerable to himself for others who might have greater need of that which is in our possession. Ownership of land and resources does not entail an absolute right of dispoal, but rather responsibility for administration and distribution. The right of all to use the resources of the earth seems to be morally prior to the right of any to own them for exclusive enjoyment.


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