Continuing my reading in Davide Weinbberger’s Too Big To Know, the BOOK has lost its dominance as the bestower of authority. The conversations it initiates, and the test of feedback and author reply and recirculating or restaing or rethinking has brought about a challenge to the traditional means of authority. This is already having impact on the notions we have regarding theological authority.
the authority of a work of knowledge is no longer a badge granted by its publication, but is continuously negotiated within the systems of editing, reading, reviewing, discussing, and revising that are now all aspects of one continuous and continual system.
—-Weinberger, David (2012-01-03). Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room is the Room (Kindle Locations 2040-2042). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.
In Judaism, the work of scholars has long been recognized and afforded a deeper level of respect than I have noticed in most Christian conversations. The “Midrash” is generally known as a set of “supplemental” or “expository” writings meant to expound upon the Torah. So the Midrash seems to be an attempt to deal with the “Too Big To Know”-ness of the sacred texts. It comes closest to the idea of the conversation that takes place around the study of the Scriptures. This brings this question to mind: Would the Net, were it available as the Torah was written and distributed, serve the function of Midrash? I think the answer is yes. And it seems that it also allows the collection of not only the scholars, but of the theological and life conversations that take place within the study of the Torah.
I often bring this sense of the conversational Scriptures into my experiences in being educated about New Testament scholarship, interpretation, and exegesis (which leads to the exposition or proclamation). What happens to exposition when it becomes conversational. And what happens to the authority of the originating writer in a world where the conversation becomes incarnate in the presentation? Would Paul’s letters, now in the New Testament canon, have become the authoritative writings they are now as a result of their having gone through ancient vetting processes for distributing written texts? They were delivered to congregations via travelers of journeys that took weeks or months. What would the instantaneous conversational ability we now possess in the Net do to this traditional process of bestowing authority?