Then they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
and to the hills, “Cover us!” (Luke 23:30)
What we see
and what we seem
are but a dream…
a dream within a dream.
These lines by Edgar Allan Poe, slightly reshaped, are the first spoken words in the classic Australian film, Peter Weir’s Picnic At Hanging Rock (1975). Based on a novel by the enigmatic Joan Lindsay, it is an experience that clings to you, not merely because it is so carefully and beautifully made, but also because it is a film with secret blades: it is a mystery without a solution, a horror story without savagery, a nightmare in which all the watches stop at noonday.
On Saturday 14th February 1900, a party of schoolgirls from Appleyard College picnicked at Hanging Rock near Mount Macedon in the state of Victoria. During the afternoon several members of the party disappeared without trace…
(Spoilers follow, but feel free to read on…)
[This post has been refined and included in Sweet Counsel: Essays to Brighten the Eyes.]
“The reason literature, like art, has no hard-and-fast rules, is because authors and artists confer meaning upon things as they go.”
Recently on the hermeneutics exchange, Monica Cellio (one of the bright lights, whose eyes are like lasers) asked,
Do any principles commonly used in the field of hermeneutics have any counterparts in scientific principles? Is there a corollary in hermeneutics to the requirements that science demands as far as the reproducibility of experiments, peer review of results, etc?
This is a fantastic question, not because it will lead us towards a better understanding of the Bible, but because it exposes the reason why modern academics have such a problem with understanding and teaching the Bible.
A recent lecture by Peter Leithart:
or The Killer Hermeneutic
An online acquaintance asked: “There’s a hermeneutical method that’s been used on this site called ‘systematic typology’. What is it? How does one apply it? Are there contexts where it is considered to be a particularly good or particularly bad fit? Where can one go to learn more about it? And where does it come from? (Who developed it, and based on what?)
“…there is no sacrifice to Bathsheba…”
Jon Ericson asked this question on the Biblical Hermeneutics site:
To what extent is Psalm 51:4 poetic exaggeration?
The context of Psalm 51 is clear:
To the choirmaster. A psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
These events are described in 2nd Samuel 11–12. In summary, David essentially murdered Uriah the Hittite in order to cover up an affair with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. So this verse causes me trouble:
“For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land…”
Many modern commentators hamstring various parts of the Bible so they don’t run against the grain of modern scientism and historical revisionism. They do this by “classifying” the bits of Scripture that offend modern theory into neat literary genres. “If Genesis is poetry, it can’t be historical,” and other stupidities. Nice try. Another one is “apocalyptic,” a genre which, to the eye of unbelief, might appear to actually exist.
or the Covenanto-Architecturo-Historico-Grammatico-Muso Method
“A seal is meant to be broken.”
During the first of his recent lectures in London, James Jordan tore a page out of his Bible. It was the page announcing the New Testament as a separate book with its own pagination. It is one thing to interpret the New Testament in the light of contemporary literature and history, but their importance pales in comparison to the texts being recognized as a continuation of the Scriptures.
“Getting Genesis 1 wrong, capitulating to the worldview and resulting pseudo-science and pseudo-history of darkened minds, will eventually lead you to get Genesis 2 wrong as well.”
[Addendum added below for those who are not familiar with my biblical-theological framework. This post is not really about the complementarian debate. It is about our modern ignorance of biblical structure and process.]
Sydney Anglicans used to have an online forum for discussion of theology. It was a great way to spend a few hours I didn’t have. From those times, two things stick in my mind: the creation/evolution thread that would not die, and one commenter who denied that compromising on a particular controversial issue would lead the compromisers down the proverbial “slippery slope.”
Since I called people names this week, very ungraciously, perhaps it might help if I explained myself a little. I see the interpretation of early Genesis as crucial for our interpretation of the rest of the Bible, but also for our understanding of the world we live in. If a Christian gives in to whatever the prevailing culture demands, there will be ramifications for the rest of his theology. This is because the Bible is fractal in its nature. It is a closely knit network, a carefully constructed grid, just like the created world. To cave on one issue will have outcomes in other areas of theology, and the example I have in mind right now is John Dickson, a brave, educated and wise Christian apologist.
Most of what you have been taught about the Bible — especially by modern experts — is wrong. The dumb things John Dickson said about Genesis 1 on ABCTV this week are a prime example. Academics are capable of astounding levels of cognitive dissonance. Yes, the texts are ancient, but the ancients weren’t idiots, especially when it came to chronology. Treating the text as a myth throws the entire Bible’s chronology out the window. It’s not the ancients who are the idiots in this case.
Here’s four talks given this week in London by James Jordan. Let him clear away the clutter for you, especially if you are in ministry and have been taught some of the incredibly dumb things invented by those well-meaning but misguided modernist dunderheads in the academies. Learn to read the Bible with new eyes…
“With this theory of the joke in mind, the final chapter of Nehemiah is holy and hysterical.”
In his book, Deep Exegesis, Peter Leithart speaks of the biblical text as many things, but none is more confronting than his viewing the text as a “joke.” His explanation, however, makes perfect sense. What makes a joke funny? It is either prior knowledge to which not everyone is privy, or a confounding of expectations (which are also based on prior knowledge to some degree). The Bible is full of such jokes, and realizing one is in on the joke is immensely satisfying.