Biblical Narrative and Systematic Theology
Smith begins by noting that, in the Bible, Israel generated a “master narrative” of God's relations with man, running from Genesis through the books of Kings. As this narrative came to be recognized as “scripture,” i.e., became “the Bible,” it was also transformed from Israel's traditions into what Smith has termed the “memoirs of God.” But this new development could not hide the past, nor the highly complex way in which the individual narratives came into being and were later incorporated into a master narrative:
This master narrative was modified as it went on, with older modifications overwritten by later ones. The modified biblical narrative often left vestiges of older versions of the past, issuing in a text with a dialectic between the master narrative and other earlier, or even contemporary, conflicting versions. Israel's representation of its past in the Bible also incorporates competition and compromise over the meaning of that past. What becomes recognized as revelation is more than a single revelation about the past. (161)Obviously, to enshrine such narratives as the “word of God” presents theoretical problems, not the least of which is: what could God have intended by this procedure, and how are humans to decide among the conflicting versions and representations of God's relationship with man?