Mignon Jacobs | Eerdmans Author Interview Series

Mignon Jacobs | Eerdmans Author Interview Series



sometimes the text may not say what we want it to say and that is okay because it may lead us to an insight a perspective and understanding that we need to consider or reconsider for that hi I'm Rachel bond burger with Edmonds publishing I'm here with mignon Jacobs who is author of the new new international commentary on the Old Testament volume on Haggai and Malachi welcome minion thank you now what drew you to a study of these two relatively obscure Old Testament prophets and made you say I would like to study these more deeply and offer these insights up in a commentary I think the first thing was that they are prophetic texts and asking questions about what's the role of the prophets in society and dealing with issues about the priorities that we have reference to God and also the issues that we commonly take for granted like who oversees the resources of the earth who helps us to understand the responsibilities of leaders when they're doing right by the society when they are not doing as well and so as obscure as these books are they have a lot of information and insights about our lives and also the way our systems work within society mm-hmm now of course when I read through these books I'm constantly seeing parallels to our present day and yet I think scholars often feel pressure to to interpret the text as much as possible whether in their original context and to try and find their original meaning how do you negotiate the tensions between these two sets of priorities one that seeks to look at this you know original context and the other that really needs and wants to apply it to our contemporary reality it's inevitable in doing interpretation that we respect our context and when we are in this present-day reality where we can readily see those issues it's a natural part of interpretation there is no such thing as interpreting without your present context so I hold that intention but the first step for me is always asking what is the ethic of interpretation so me as a interpreter and the text the text will tell me that there are parameters to the way I interpret it I'm trying to understand it in its own context because there we find the insights that helps us to understand what it means for us today and the challenges that it poses for us today because part of it I think right now is to understand that sometimes the text may not say what we want it to say and that is okay because it may lead us to an insight a perspective and understanding that we need to consider or reconsider for that matter I'll have your own identity and your faith commitments and your theological stance shaped the way you read these texts obviously no one is completely objective when they come to the scriptures so how is that played out in your work I'm a person of faith and I respect that and I allow that to be part of the discipline that I bring to the interpretation of the text I'm also very aware that I have distinct perspectives that are mine and when I go to the text and I encounter things that are not within my framework I recognize it for what it is I do not attempt to fit it into my own framework and so there are times that I am dealing with the tags then I say okay that was not what I would want it to say but it is a dialogue between me the interpreter and it it's a dynamic text and there are days what I do I just pull back and I say as a responsible reader as I've said there's an ethics toward interpretation that I must also allow the text to speak and it challenges at times my own faith it challenges interpretive stands that I may have brought to the tags but I think that's part of the that's part of the wealth of interpretation that's part of writing and interpreting text is that it is an engagement between the author myself in this situation and the text yeah I think that's it's a wonderful point I think people often look to commentary writers to tell them what a text means and how to use it and how to apply it and yet these texts rich as they are come with a variety of interpretive options how do you as a commentary writer try to give people what they want from a commentary but also respect the nuance that is there when I started writing one of the things that I committed to is to hear what the text is saying I started writing and on my understanding of a commentary is that I will not only allow my interpretation to be part of the writing but if I encounter interpretations that are viable for the text to lay them alongside of each other to juxtapose them and so you will find in this work that I will just oppose the different meanings or interpretations I will present the arguments for the various readings and at times I don't ask the reader to choose one because if they are viable within the text and because the texture that is at a distance from us and we are at times not sure exactly what it was going to mean we have to we have to be ready enough to say these are possible meanings and responsible enough for our contemporary audience to say these are the parameters these are the reasons and with people being so engaged with interpretations with reading with the age that we are in where people can search it is the role of the author at this point to lay out the possibilities so that as readers are engaging the text they are not researching and find things that were never explored within the commentary so it is an opportunity to engage the readers in the possible interpretations of the text and not to be afraid of that what do you see as the key messages of God to his people in the books of Haggai in Malachi the key parts of the messages they differ in each book there's a core of course yeah one is the just the awesome engagement and presence of God among people in nature the main message I think for Haggai would be that God is engaged and God has given some directions we are not without guidance from the divine and so I talk about geopolitical systems and the theö political messages the message ask for the people to rebuild and a key challenge is setting up our human priorities over against the priorities that God has given us and what does that look like for you using the resources that were given to us yet we are in some ways not taking a proper use of those resources so for Haga I the emphasis and God is with you and even if you feel discouraged when you see the way that the geopolitical says that a political system is going when you see those instances do not be discouraged God is with us and the reason that that message becomes so important is that the people had a memory of the past and it happens just like us with we have a memory of the past we have a crystallized memory and in that memory we can't allow variations you remember the good old days and then if you were to look at those good old days you realize well there were things there too that were challenging and part of the challenge was to rebuild a temple with some memory however crystallize however inaccurate and to be discouraged that what they would rebuild would not live up to the reputation of the past and to be cognizant that God has provided the resources and when in the present there the reality of the present seem to contradict what you want for the future that tension is what they were dealing with and so for the book of Malachi a bit different yes asking about how do you Accord respect honor there's one way you honor your human leaders there is another way that you honor God the divine how do you accord the appropriate honor for each so that you're not dishonouring God and you are not shifting the honor that belongs to the deity onto a human leader and in that you are not giving the responsibility to a human leader that is rightly on a divine guidance don't expect from your human leaders what only the divine can do but at the same time holding the leaders to their responsibilities these messages of course are messages that are for all time and not just this one specific moment in time what advice would you give to working pastors and preachers and teachers who are wanting to introduce the people around them to the messages of these books I would say go slow and part of that is when you're dealing with people already having a set of beliefs part of the role of pastors and teachers is first of all to be compassionate and to realize that pastors and those of us who are interpreting and guiding others may already have a lot more information and information sometimes lead people to overlook basic compassion for others so to meet people where they are allow people to engage with the text and the other part is to linger with the text sometimes we are too ready to dismiss attacks as something that is obscure something that may be irrelevant in the past and then not to realize that we have not given it a chance to be heard and to be heard again so to linger with the text to have compassion for those we are teaching those we are leading and then thirdly to simply allow ourselves to understand that there there is still much that we don't understand so to be patient with us I mean thank you very much for speaking with us today it's been such a pleasure thank you [Applause] you

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