In The Dynamics of Human Life in the Bible: Receptivity and Power, Martin J. Buss describes the dynamics of human life that are encouraged in the Bible and how biblical guidance compares with other religious traditions. The dynamics include both receptivity (“from” another) and power (“for” or “over” another), often in combination (“with” another). For example, love joins receptive cognition of worth with energetic support. Receptivity, the only way to deal with fundamental values, seeks material and religious benefits and is the human side of revelation and salvation. Public acknowledgement strengthens divine influence. Furthermore, receptivity accepts challenges. These include individual and social growth and semi-identification with others, which has societal rather than concrete individual consequences. Power is crucial in legal remedies and penalties. Life with others is important in practical “wisdom” and in Christian “mutual love.” Buss finds that biblical directives parallel those of non-Christian religious traditions. This situation is in line with biblical views of general revelation and developments in history.
Martin J. Buss is professor emeritus at Emory University.
Chapter 1: Basic Perspectives on Reality
Chapter 2: Receiving Benefits in the Hebrew Bible
Chapter 3: Challenges: Major Issues
Chapter 4: Positively Good Social Life
Chapter 5: Remedial Actions in the Hebrew Bible
Chapter 6: Defense of Communal Integrity
Chapter 7: Rituals
Chapter 8: Advice about Flourishing with Others: Proverbs
Chapter 9: Realistic Assessments of Life
Chapter 10: The Background of the Christian Testament
Chapter 11: Receiving Benefits in the Christian Testament
Chapter 12: Receiving Challenges in the Christian Testament
In this engaging book, Martin Buss, one of the most profound scholars of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Testament today, offers his reflections on what makes a good life in light of these biblical writings. Free of technicalities, his perceptions are original, independent, stimulating, and gently persuasive.
We do need new approaches to biblical exegesis and theology. Here is a superb example of what can and should be done. Buss ventures to ask vital contemporary questions of human existence, not to individual biblical texts but to crowds of ancient witnesses. What makes a life ‘good’? How can we achieve justice, peace, and love? His mind is wide open to religious experiences outside our Jewish-Christian tradition. The intricate relationship of receiving impulses, goods, and insights and reaching out to give back and possibly appropriate positions of dominance—also an eminent philosophical and psychological problem—are at the center of Buss’s deliberations. Under his scrutiny, the Bible and other testimonies of good faith become vivid partners in a dialogue concerning a disturbing question: What is humankind that Deity should consider it? This book is for a wide range of serious searchers.