Making and Breaking


The Bible Matrix is founded in the structures laid down in Genesis 1, but in no way is the Bible repetitious. James Jordan observes that the Bible is “front-loaded” with an incredible amount of information that we deem mostly obsolete, and yet we don’t understand the Bible because we haven’t taken the time necessary to become familiar with this material. What occurs later always acknowledges what has gone before, not just in content but in form as well, in literary and historical structure.

But what makes the later Scriptures diverse from the earlier ones is God’s process of communicating with familiar forms but using them in new ways. For instance, the visions of Zechariah follow the Creation week, yet the order of the Tabernacle furniture in this new visionary “week” has been shifted around to make a point, a point we miss if we aren’t familiar with the original form. Jesus and Paul and John do exactly the same thing. And so does all good literature. Robert Alter writes:

“The process of literary creation, as criticism has clearly recognized from the Russian Formalists onward, is an unceasing dialiectic between the necessity to use established forms in order to be able to communicate coherently, and the necessity to break and remake those forms because they are arbitrary restrictions and because what is merely repeated automatically no longer conveys a message.

‘The greater the probability of a symbol’s occurrence in any given situation,’ E. H. Gombrich observes in Art and Illusion, ‘the smaller will be its information content. Where we can anticipate, we need not listen.’ Reading any body of literature involves a specialized mode of perception in which every culture trains its members from childhood. As modern readers of the Bible, we need to relearn something of this mode of perception that was second nature to the original audiences. Instead of relegating every perceived recurrence in the text to the limbo of duplicated sources of fixed folkloric archetypes, we may begin to see that the resurgence of certain pronounced patterns at certain narrative junctures was conventionally anticipated, even counted on, and that against that ground of anticipation the biblical authors set words, motifs, themes, personages, and actions into an elaborate dance of significant innovation. For much of art lies in the shiftin aperture between the shadowy foreimage in the anticipating mind of the observer and the realized revelatory image in the work itself, and that is what we must learn to perceive more finely in the Bible.” (The Art of Biblical Narrative, p. 62.)

This is the reason that the New Covenant was just like every previous Covenant, and at the same time nothing like every previous Covenant. Those enlightened by the Spirit of God could see the historical, literary and spiritual continuity, and they became the historical, literary and spiritual continuity, the Covenant Succession. Those who were enlightened but blasphemed the Light were cut out of history with a sharp knife, like a foreskin, like Jericho.

Modern literary critics fail to realize that God’s making and breaking isn’t limited to literary forms. The familiar forms of “Jewish thought” were made to be broken and remade in Christ, and now utilized by God in an ever-increasing number of new ways as He brings humanity to the wisdom of maturity. The Word never returns void.

To use a musical analogy, if we go back to the Torah to practice our scales, we will better understand the rich symphonies in the prophets and the apostles — and not just the fragmentary allusions, but also the significance of the allusions in flow of the structures. That is what the Bible Matrix is all about.

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