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other issues further. Occasionally I found myself wishing that she had extended
claims as far as she suggests she might have, that she had provided more evidence
for various claims, that she had considered more potential implications of some
claims, and that she had used a greater number of specific examples in order to
vivify and clarify general claims.
But this book is essentially a printed series of lectures, and, as Cameron herself
points out, in the lectures she could try to do little more than "to make a series of
suggestions ... [which] attempt to present a coherent, if partial, view of the whole"
(6). As I noted above, these suggestions are enlightening and intriguing, and Cameron
buttresses them with a most helpful range of notes and references. In this book,
then, Cameron reconstructs much of the story of how various kinds of discourse
contributed to the nature and spread of Christianity. She also Invites others to help
reconstruct the rest of that story.
William I. Vande Kopple
Calvin College

The Bible and the Literary Critic. By Amos N. Wilder. Philadelphia: Fortress
Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8006-2436-X. Pp, xiv + 186. $12.95.
Amos N. Wilder gathers together here some of his latest contributions to the
campaign for the twentieth-century appropriation of the Bible by literary critics and
theologians. Eight of the eleven chapters of the book have been previously published, only two dating earlier than the 1980s.
The book Is divided into three parts. The Ilrst three chapters review some contemporary literary criticism of the Bible, the longest a response to Frank Kermode's
The Genesis ofSecrecy (1979). The next three consist of Wilder's reminiscences of
Influential twentieth-century New Testament scholars, somewhat Interesting because of his personal acquaintance with most of the figures (for example, Albert
Schweitzer). The final section returns to issues raised by postmodernlsm, particularly narrative theory. These chapters also discuss the parables, the possibility of a
"Christian discrimination" (111) or criticism of the arts, and the problems posed by
viewing Scripture as primarily myth or history.
In chapter one Wilder reviews George Steiner's and Donald Davie's reviews of
Robert Alter and Kermode's The Literary Guide to the Bible (1987). Wilder is concerned to defend his own praise of the Guide against these two much more reserved
critiques. Though a review of reviews risks pedantry, It may be helpful if the work
reviewed is important enough, and the Alter and Kermode collection is such a book.
The problem with a strictly literary approach to the Bible, Steiner and Davie contend, is that It fails to account for the transcendental or numinous qualities that set
the Bible apart from other literary works. For Steiner the literary approach results
in "blandness"; Scripture is "cocooned In academic poise and urbanity" rather than
engaged in a sublime dialogue. Beyond that, literary analysis cannot account for
the Bible's kerygmatic character-its call to radical commitment-nor for the particularity of its claims. This is not a new distinction; T. S. Eliot, C. S. lewis, and
Northrop Frye, among others, have maintained as much. But Wilder insists that
Alter and Kermode's book is a good start toward the literary understanding of the
Bible's transcendental features; however, he admits the need for "special antennae," which most critics lack, to be able to appreciate the "stunning epiphanies and



prodigies," "unfathomable voices," and "unwonted range of discourse" (8) In the

In chapter two Wildcr challenges Kcnnodc's reading of the Gospel of Mark as
"enigmatic" and riddllng and disputes also the Indetenninacy theory of narrative
and "radical epistemological skepticism" (30)underlying it. For Wilder the expectations set up by Mark's eschatological genre and its historical referentiality to the
Roman world are evidence that the Gospel writer does not attempt to be mysterious. His characterization of Kennode's hermeneutic as "minimalist" and restrictive
reveals his general perspective throughout the book that the Bible resists limitation
by any critic or school of criticism. He observed earlier that "the canonical [Scripture) texts might well blunt the tools of the literary critic" (3).
Modem criticism's problem with language as a reliable vehicle of meaning Is
one of the book's main issues. But the Bible Is a foil for this llnguistic skepticism.
From its emphasis on narning by God and Adam, to that on the ordering function of
speech in the exemplum of Babel, to its Hebraic sense of rootedness in concrete
reality, the Bible affirms the purposefulness, hence the essential significance, of
speech. For Wilder the "basic drive to establish meaning underlies all signifying
and discourse" (47), a position he reasserts ln the fmal chapter.
The epigraph heading It warns, "Meflez-vous de l'abyssal autant que du celeste."
The privileging of contradiction, paradox, and enigma In tcxts is mcrely a sign of
contemporary Gnosticism, according to WIlder. He challenges the suspicion of
narrative tclcology, of "a sense of an ending," as well as thc seeming nihilism behind the attempt to undermine linguistic coherence in, for example, Joyce's or
Beckett's grammatical solipsism, by urging the Inescapability of "reference . . . the
ground of communication" (182). Once a writer refers to any kind of Identifiable
human reality or experience, he or she has committed an act of communication;
and once that is done, all relationship, give-and-take, speech, dialogue, logic, tradition, art, and culture are validated. It Is this I-Thou quality, qulnressentlally manifested In thc Bible, the book of the spoken and heard word, of the God who speaks
to His people, which Is the foundation of Wilder's optimism. (it Is a pity then that,
despite his belief in communication, much of the book Is written in a style that is
abstract, overwritten, and sometimes incoherent.)
For literary scholars Wilder's middle section on his personal reminiscences of
certain eminent twcnticth-ccntury theologians will not be compelling reading.
Wilder was personally acquainted with some of the heavyweights; he reveals that
they were, after their fashion, believers, a part of the wide spectrum of Christian
expression which he accepts. Wilder has some interesting things to say about the
different emphases of the Harvard, Yale, Chicago, and Union divinity schools-for
example, that Chicago had an "allergy" (68) to nee-orthodoxy during the 1940s.
There is an entire chapter on Schweitzer.
One of the main evaluative frames Wllder uses to assess the legacy of these
theologians is their stand on the apocalyptic strain In the New Testament, which Is
Wilder's own specialty. Related to this subject Is the matter of faith versus history.
How close is the connection between the teachings of the historical Jesus and New
Testament dogma? This dichotomy was a major preoccupation of the theologians
Wilder discusses.
But the Issue of the historical Jesus crosses over Into literary territory In respect
to the parables. Some theologians prefer the "less mysterious Jesus" (l08) of the
simple didactic, even subversive, stories, claiming that the parables represent the
authentic Jesus and contain his original teachings, whereas his prophetic and
eschatological discourses were later accretions, a preference which reveals a mod-



ern bias for social and political over religious content. But Wl1der-and here he
demonstrates his essentially historicist hermeneutic of reading in contrast to that
of modern subjectivists-insists that the visionary outlook is typical of Jesus' time
and of biblical tradition. and in no conflict with the Jesus of the parables.
In an all too brief discussion Wilder considers the validity of a Christian criticism. While acknowledging the desirability of being "continually open" to other
perspectives and rejecting dogmatic criteria. he argues for the advantages of theological insight and for the uniqueness ofthe "language-world" of Scripture. (Though
he does not state It explicitly. he is thinking especially of visionary modes of thought
and language.) The Christian or theological critic should not feel his or her perspective is of no consequence, even though literary studies are decidedly secular these
days and have expunged the religious dimension from the agenda. But "the Marxists. the structuralists. and the aestheticists" (112) have no reluctance to promote
their convictions. so neither should the religionist.
In the last three chapters Wilder considers the cultural assumptions and values
that underlie storytelling. His intention is to rescue the Bible from being dismissed
as "mere fiction" which, in part. he would agree it is. But he wishes to legitimate all
narrative, no matter how fantastic, and explain its larger social function. Fiction (or
myth) meets a basic human need for "orientatlon" (142), helping both to illuminate
the answers to the mystery of llfe and to define the questions. It also expresses
inherent cultural givens. But Erich Auerbach. Lewis. and Frye have all done this
before and better than Wilder because of their much wider frame of literary reference. (Wilder cites the work of Beckett to illustrate a point or two.) Though he
makes a higher critical concession to the fictional nature of some biblical stories
and details. Wilder is also willing to assert the historical truth of the Scriptures. His
argument is qualified. however: the personal reminiscences, eyewitness accounts,
and "gossip" of which the Gospels, for example. are composed provide theoretically
valid data since they represent contemporary reactions to the person of Iesus. Furthermore. the Gospels are being held up to an unfair standard: all history. even
"scientlflc" or formal analysis. is slanted. Still, compared with the subjective criteria
by which some theologians dismiss portions of the Gospels because they do not
match their a priori conception of Jesus. Wl1der's views on the subject are moderate.
Overall, what will be appealing about the book for many readers of Christianity
and Literature is Wilder's rational and sensible critique of some of the excesses of
postmodem theory.
William F. Gentrup
Arizona State University

Job the Silent: A Study in Historical Counterpoint By Bruce Zuckerman. New

York: Oxford University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-19-505896-8. Pp. xii + 282. $29.95.
In this rigorously and carefully argued study. Bruce Zuckerman advances the
view that the book of Job is a multiauthored work composed at various historical
times by authors advancing views on Job and his relations with God which are very
much the product of specific and varying historical traditions, circumstances, and
conditions. Thus. the subtitle is designed to suggest both sharp oppositions between related but distinct themes and also more melodic interweaving of thematic