This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

900 Pound Gorillas in the Room

There are two 900 lb. gorillas sitting on every page of Scripture and we ignore them at our peril. They are rarely mentioned explicitly, but they are there like black holes, shaping the gravity field and even bending the light.  

1.  One is Empire.  For the New Testament this is obviously Rome, but the whole Bible is influenced by the critique of imperialism, beginning with Pharaoh, if not earlier.  It may be said of the New Testament in particular, but also of the Bible as a whole, that it is an anti-imperialist tract.  The Bible becomes incomprehensible --- and badly interpreted --- unless this backdrop is articulated.  

2.  The other is the mythology, symbolism, and ritual of the Temple.  For over a millennia, the Temple shaped and reflected the spiritual/religious life of the Israelite/Jewish people.   The people worked out their relationship to God in its light (or shadow).  Prophets, priests, sages, and kings all had to know intimately what it was about.  Temple imagery and vocabulary permeate the whole Bible.

There are probably others, but two 900 lb. gorillas is enough for one day.


John Edward Harris said...

First, thanks for adding my blog to your list.

Second, let me suggest a third 900 pound gorilla: Midrash. A few years ago John Shelby Spong introduced me to Jewish Midrash and the idea of reading the New Testament as Midrash. It makes so much sense. Yet in all my seminary and post seminary study I had never been exposed to Midrash except by Spong.

Paul Rack said...

Say more, John. Do you mean looking at the way the NT reworks themes and stories from the OT? I think that would be very helpful. It might be what I was getting at in that previous note about viewing the NT "ahead" from the OT.

John Edward Harris said...

Yes Paul. I am going to be on the road for a few days. If I do not get back to you in a week, remind me to follow up on this. As one example, read the passion narrative as a Midrash (retelling) of Psalm 22.