Richard S. Briggs is a Lecturer in Old Testament and Director of Biblical Studies, Cranmer Hall, St John’s College, Durham, UK. Dr. Briggs completed a first degree in Mathematics and Philosophy at Oxford before turning to Theology. He studied at the London School of Theology and then completed a PhD at the University of Nottingham in biblical hermeneutics, which was published as “Words in Action: Speech Act Theory and Biblical Interpretation” (T&T Clark, 2001).
He has written widely on the subject of biblical interpretation, including “Reading the Bible Wisely: An Introduction to Taking Scripture Seriously” (revised edition, Wipf & Stock, 2011) and “The Virtuous Reader: Old Testament Narrative and Interpretive Virtue” (Baker Academic, 2010). He is currently working on a range of projects on the Pentateuch, including work on the book of Numbers and a projected commentary on the book of Exodus. Richard is married to Melody, and they have three children. He was ordained in the Church of England in 2015.
Never Since Has There Arisen a Book in Israel Like the Books of Moses: Canonical Constructions of the Theological Priority of the Written Torah
This paper takes up the probing proposals of Benjamin Sommer’s Revelation and Authority (Yale UP, 2015), and offers a response by way of a canonically orientated reading of the written Torah as demarcated by Deut 34:10-12. There the status of Moses as face-to-face recipient of the revelation of God is marked off as being in a class of its own. I explore the various descriptions of face-to-face revelation in the Torah and beyond (including an instance of mouth-to-mouth revelation in Num 12:8), and examine the issue of direct divine speech as it occurs in the Torah and beyond. I argue that while Sommer’s proposal effects a constructive reformulation of divine revelation in and through scripture that is attentive to historical factors, it misses the significance of canonical constructions of the theological priority of the written Torah. I conclude with a brief discussion of the extent to which this alternative canonical claim does or does not entail commitments to ‘the historical Moses’. I will argue that the key issue is what constitutes commitment to ‘the real Moses’, whose enduring significance is disclosed by way of the text of the Torah.