Many scholars view Abraham’s demonstration of hospitality to strangers (Gn 18:1-15) as a feature of doing righteousness that earns rewards in the form of receiving the promised son (cf. Jarick 2000:86; Gunkel 1997:196; Dilmann 1897:93; Skinner 1980: 298; Wenham 1994:45; Oden 2002:64). In the larger context of “the Fellowship Narrative” (Gn 18:1-15) there are some elements that emphasize obeying the demand of the Lord in relation to the fulfillment of his promise, which may be understood as doing righteousness required by the Lord as the precondition of the fulfillment of God’s promise (Gn 17:1-27; 18:17-19; 22:1-19). However, in the episode of Genesis 15:1-6, Abraham was depicted as the one who was credited as the righteous one by faith.
The two contrasting concepts of righteousness seem to affect readers when they interpret the narrative of Genesis 18:1-15. Those conflicting elements in the larger context of the narrative (Gn 17:1-27; 18:17-19; 22:1-19) create tensions for understanding the first section of the Fellowship Narrative (Gn 18:1-15). The main concern here is to first find the author’s theological intent as it is presented throughout the whole Abraham narrative (Gn 11:27-25:10). Secondly this writer must try to understand the relationship of these conflicting elements to interpret the Fellowship Narrative (Gn 18:1-15) properly thereby addressing another research gap.
Methodology of thesis
Scholars tried to find the significance of the original meaning of the text by using different historical approaches. The endeavor to locate the patriarchs within a specific historical context has been long and complicated (cf. LaSor et al 1996:40). The diverse views on the historical origin of the Fellowship Narrative (Gn 18:1-15) confused readers in their understanding of this narrative (cf. Hermann 1960:208-209; Gunkel 1997:196; Simpson 1978:507,618; Westermann 1985:275-279; Von Rad 1972:205; Skinner 1980:300; Hamori 2004:9; Korpel 1990:91; Xella 1978:483-488). Historical questions from both the grammatical-historical approach and the historical-critical methods (source, form, and redaction criticisms) seemed to have ignored the author’s (or narrator’s) own interpretation of the patriarchal events (cf. Dockery et al 1999:209).
As readers neglected the narrator’s theological guidance, they seemed to have produced several fragmentary and inconsistent interpretations of the Hebron Narrative. This writer finds that each of these fragmented views is based on different interpretative perspectives borrowed from outside the Old Testament, ignoring narrator’s own directions (cf. Gunkel 1997:192-193; Skinner 1980:302-303; Simpson 1978:616-617). In response to these, many scholars attempted reading the Bible in a holistic or synchronic way, solely concentrating on the existing form of the text (cf. Dockery et al 1999:206). The main reason this writer chooses the method of narrative criticism is that it asserts that authorial intent can be discovered by a careful analysis of the author’s product, the text itself, writtten by his unique literary skills (cf. Dockery et al 1999:209; Hamori 2004:52; Sailhamer 1976:142).
Narrative critics are not interested in discerning the historical reliability, scientific proof, or source strata that lie behind the text. They are rather interested in determining the effect that the final text has on the reader in its present form (cf. Knight 2004:170). Thus, this method is concerned with the effect that the text has as it now stands on readers (cf. Knignt 2004:169-170; Dockery et al 1999:209).
The neglect of history could be the most damaging feature the narrative approach has (cf. Dockery at al 1999:226). Narrative critism, however, respects the narrator’s divine authority, as the theological insight the author projects into the significance of the events he narrates (cf. Chisholm 2006:72). I stand on the view that the Old Testament narratives do not simply inform the reader of what happened, but they also have a literary dimension that contributes to its overall theological purpose (cf. Chisholm 2006:26). These aspects of narrative criticism encourage this writer to attempt reading the Fellowship Narrative to investigate the narrator’s theological insight found in the text.
In the Bible original independent units are combined with each other to form larger narrative units, creating a new larger narrative theme (cf. Venter 2005:5-6; Sarna 1989:128; Mathews 1996:195; Sailhamer 1976:143; Hartley 1995:175). The research purpose of this writer is to find the author’s own theological intent in the Fellowship Narrative (Gn 18:1-15) in relationship to the author’s perspective embedded in the whole Abraham narrative (Gn 11:27-25:10), functioning as the larger context of the Fellowship Narrative (Gn 18:1-15). This wrirter assumes that the Fellowship Narrative was written by a final editor (narrator) in relationship with the thematic flow of the macro context of the whole Abraham narrative.
All of the research work will be done based on the study method of narrative criticism. This approach is basically synchronic and favors the final form of the text as it is found in the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Literary parallelism at the level of the macroplot in the Old Testament narratives shows the narrative typology. Earlier characters supply the pattern for later character in the story (cf. Chisholm 2006:81). Therefore, I wish to attempt to use the inter-textual study method limitting to the parallels within the Old Testament itself.
This writer has indeed found that inter-textual study of pagan parallels outside the Old Testament have contributed in supplying many new insights for biblical interpretation. However, to find the author’s own theological intent within the given text, inter-textual study on the parallels within the Old Testament should preferably be restricted to the Old Testament itself.
This writer expects that this research may help readers to find the author’s (or final compiler’s) own theological view of the Fellowship narrative in a holistic way, being not fragmented (Gn 18:1-15).