The Promise of Not-Knowing: A New New Testament Reading
David E. Fredrickson asks a key question for interpreters of the New Testament in the twenty-first century: Do established ways of reading the New Testament need to be challenged and new ones explored? His answer is "yes," but he takes care not to dismiss readers' experiences in the previous two millennia. He values the readings of the past even as he contests the insights of scholars, preachers, monks, nuns, skeptics, the devout, the disinterested, the keenly interested, and all the rest who have tried to make sense of the earliest Christian writings.
Fredrickson does not want to give an impression of "I know better than them." But he goes on to say that "strange as it sounds, not-knowing is actually the point of this book. More than anything else, not-knowing is, I believe, the key to reading the New Testament in the twenty-first century." Fredrickson claims that the reduction of a text to its usefulness is something a deconstructive approach seeks to avoid. That leads to readings in which practicality enjoys a privilege over mystery, knowing wins out over not-knowing, and control triumphs over hope. Ultimately, his goal in this book is to give mystery, hope, andnot-knowing a chance.
For Fredrickson the experience of reading is more than coming to know something or receiving information, and the "more" that he has in mind exists in the shock of encountering some other or something that is not easily assimilated to an already known world, a familiar horizon, or the repeatability of language. What if reading the New Testament meant giving an unexpected other a chance to take place and to change the world you thought was an unchangeable given? What if we thought of reading as a way of preparing for what postmodernism calls an event?