Three Seasons Of Charismatic Leadership A Literary Critical And Theological Interpretation Of The Narrative Of Saul, David And Solomon

Three Seasons Of Charismatic Leadership  A Literary Critical And Theological Interpretation Of The Narrative Of Saul, David And Solomon

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Book Reviews / Pneuma 30 (2008) 147-191

Tamás Czövek, Three Seasons of Charismatic Leadership: A Literary-Critical and Theological Interpretation of the Narrative of Saul, David and Solomon, Regnum Studies in Mission (Oxford, UK: Regnum Books International, 2006). xxii + 272 pp.

This is a published dissertation from the Oxford Centre of Missions Studies. While one might be surprised that a literary-critical exegetical study appears in a Studies in Mission series, Tamás Czövek explains that the study’s focus is on Charismatic leadership, a key issue in organizational transformation, hence the missional link.

The text basis for the analysis is the narrative of transition from the period of the judges to the early Israelite monarchy, spanning I Samuel 8 — I Kings 11. Methodologically, the work proceeds on a synchronic, “close” reading of the narrative, paying careful attention especially to rhetorical clues in the plot and character development in the text as it now stands. This dictates, for example, that I Kings 1-2 on Solomon’s inauguration be read look- ing forward as the introduction to his reign rather than as the culmination of the sordid power struggle for David’s throne known as the Succession Narrative (I Sam 9-20 and I Kings 1-2) if treated in classic diachronic fashion. T rough this method, Czövek hopes to distinguish the narrator’s voice from the diversity of voices heard in the text.

The author straightforwardly admits an agenda in approaching the texts from the per- spective of charismatic leadership. He argues in the Preface that interpreting biblical texts with an agenda will yield fresh insights. The methodology is consistent with recent syn- chronic narrative approaches, nicely summarized and evaluated in the literature review.

With respect to Saul’s charismatic leadership, Czövek’s close reading discerns that Saul failed to appropriate his charisma because he allowed himself to be controlled by his mentor Samuel, a dark, manipulative character who was struggling to maintain his own charismatic priority over Saul. The analysis is highly persuasive in this section. Whether Czövek is really hearing the narrator’s voice in I Samuel 15, however, when he ponders if the narrator defends Saul against Yahweh’s own rejection of Saul is an open question.

Concerning David, the narrator develops his character as one endowed with charismatic military leadership but who extinguishes that charisma when he embraces the role of an oriental despot model of kingship from 2 Samuel 9 onward, with the exception of a brief “rekindling” during Absalom’s revolt. Czövek uses the centralization program begun by David with his palace and desire to build a temple as evidence of this. He does not address the question of how his narrator’s implicit criticism of David’s centralization project cor- relates with the Deuteronomic centralization program (cf. Deuteronomy 12). Intriguing analyses of David’s “strong man” Joab in relation to the extinguishing of David’s charisma as well as the implications of David’s marriages are also offered in the chapter.

Saul’s charismatic leadership rotates around the question of how he will use his gift of wisdom — for his people or for his own interests? I Kings 3-5 reflect well on Saul while chapters 9-11 present a different use of wisdom — for conspicuous consumption of the royal house rather than the good of the people. The “axis” of this change is Solomon’s build- ing projects beginning with the temple (narrated in chapters 6-8), where the narrator, per Czövek, relates Solomon’s transition to oriental kingship and his use of power for royal pretense rather than the benefit of the people — a “confiscated charisma” (p. 206). T is section raises the most questions for this reviewer, in particular the evaluation of I Kings

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2008 DOI: 10.1163/157007408X287858


Book Reviews / Pneuma 30 (2008) 147-191


6-8 as the “axis” demonstrating Solomon’s turn toward “royal pretension” as it is called in the chapter title. Most readings view this as a highlight of the Deuteronomistic History, culminating in Solomon’s dedicatory prayer in chapter 8. Typically, Solomon’s demise is traced either from chapter 9, 10, or 11. To claim that the narrator (who, on a synchronic reading, is presumably the Deuteronomistic Historian) communicates a hesitance on the Lord’s part to dwell in the temple, because He only commits his eyes and heart to the tem- ple in 9:3, seems to me to over press the point of the anthropomorphisms there. Czövek’s case however, could be made on the basis of I Kings 9-11 apart from his reading of chapters 6-8 as the axis.

The strengths of this study include: 1) the use of synchronic literary critical analysis to observe the function of charismatic leadership; 2) the combination of the method with the topic generates stimulating implications for Czövek’s own Hungarian Reformed setting as well as for Pentecostal-charismatic communities represented among readers of this journal; and 3) the study enriches the body of research and interpretation on the Deuteronomistic History. Questions for the work include: 1) Does Czövek’s “narrator” in these sections align with the larger narratological view of the Deuteronomistic History? 2) In the Conclusions section, there seems to be a step missing from a biblical-theological perspective. Granting that Czövek has surfaced a valid perspective from the text, how should the pro-monarchy and pro-temple perspective of the Chronicler, for instance, be included in the conversation? 3) Does the focus on charismatic leadership, in addition to opening up new vistas on the text, also overlook perspectives that counterbalance or even critique the issue from a per- spective of non-charismatic leadership, including issues such as routinization of charisma or ex officio leadership such as the priests and Levites?

T is fascinating, engaging work contributes importantly to leadership discussions for renewal movements and institutions in need of revitalization. The book deserves a wide read- ing for that conversation.

Reviewed by Richard D. Israel


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