Interpreting Old Testament Narratives
"When we interpret Old Testament stories, we should always remember that we are not hearing texts spoken directly to us; we are overhearing stories told to others. This fact creates tension, pulling us back and forth between the relevance and distance of these stories."
Richard L. Pratt Jr., He Gave Us Stories: The Bible Student's Guide to Interpreting Old Testament Narratives (Phillipsburg, PA: P & R, 1990),15.
This has a limited legitimacy when one considers inspiration. God's purpose is certainly to communicate to the first audience. But those who study narrative also identify the "implied audience," the ideal group that the story teller is addressing. God's ideal group, or implied audience, is also a legitimate narratee, and the community of faith continues to be the implied audience. This idea must be used with caution, but it is still useful.
I agree that the statement might require some qualification. One could get into the process of inspiration involving the Divine and human authors, authorial intention, and implied audiences. On the one hand, the Divine Author certainly knew who would read these narratives and in that sense certainly would be addressing readers of every generation. On the other hand, there seems to be good evidence that the human authors were more limited in their understanding of who they thought might read their book. In fairness to Pratt, he does speak of a "tension" and his broader point is that one must recognize the chronological and cultural gap that exists between the reader of today and a story that is set in a particular historical context. To that end I agree with you that this is "useful" to recognize.
You are right about Pratt's statement. I just think it needs more nuancing to be really helpful.
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