From: Robert Schneider (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sun Dec 29 2002 - 18:36:18 EST
----- Original Message -----
From: "jdac" <email@example.com>
Sent: Saturday, December 28, 2002 9:49 PM
Subject: Re: Does the Bible teach a flat earth?
> I think there is a lot to be gained by exploring the parallels between the
> become flesh in Jesus and the word become literature in the Bible
Jon's and Michael's comments about the human literature of the Bible have
been stirring some thoughts that came to fruition as I began to read this
morning the published copy of my own wife Maria Lichtmann's new book,
_Poetry as Prayer: Gerard Manley Hopkins_ (Pauline Books and Media, 2002).
Here's the opening paragraph of chapter one:
"Poetry was once the language of the sacred. In all the sacred
scriptures of the world, poetry rather than prose expressed the sacred
character of existence. Where other words failed, poetry's 'hints and
guesses,' [T.S. Eliot], its sparseness of words, special rhythms, and use of
metaphor, came closest to expresssing the inexpressible. The oldest sacred
stories and words of a people, including the oldest language of the Bible,
were originally poetic in form. Even the oracles of the prophets were
filled with the parallelism and rhythm of Hebrew poetry. When ancient
peoples chose to pray, their speech and song became poetic."
I believe it was Northrup Frye who noted that for the early Christian
community up to the reformation, the Bible was a metaphorical construct. As
I see it, the Bible incarnates in human language the Word of God, and it is
in the most metaphorical and mystical language of the Bible, in its poetry,
whether in recognizably poetic forms or in the poetic expressions of the
mystical Paul, that the Word is most hidden and revealed. When the metaphor
and ambiguity of the Bible's sacred poesy is mis-taken for the prose of
scientific language (as so many literalists do), then one not only does
violence to the words; one does violence to the Word. The meaning is lost
and the message mis-taken. Just as his disciples (in Mark's gospel)
misperceive and misunderstand Jesus because he did not fit their
preconceived notions of messiahship, so does the literalist reader
misperceive and misunderstand the mission and message of the sacred texts.
In a poetry retreat Maria and I attended at Gethsemane Abbey in
Kentucky, poet Kathleen Norris noted that we are living in an incredibly
literal-minded age. I agree, and think that is why it is so hard for so
many people to understand our Scripture outside of a literalist framework.
But in my view it is a framework that imprisions the Word, not reveals it.
"The letter killeth," Paul wrote, "but the spirit giveth life." That
sentence can well be applied to the interpretation Scripture generally in
all times and not only to the interpretation of Torah in his time.
Grace and peace,
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