Modern Man and Scripture

Most of us have lost the integrity of the scriptural mind, even if some bits of biblical phraseology are retained. The modern man often complains that the truth of God is offerered to him in an “archaic idiom”—i.e., in the language of the Bible—which is no more his own and cannot be used spontaneously. It has recently been suggested that we should radically “demythologize” Scripture, meaning to replace the antiquated categories of the Holy Writ by something more modern. Yet the equation cannot be evaded: Is the language of Scripture really nothing else than an accidental and external wrapping out of which some “eternal idea” is to be extricated and disentangled, or is it rather a perennial vehicle of the divine message, which was once delivered for all time?

We are in danger of losing the uniqueness of the Word of God in the process of continuous “reinterpretation.” But how can we interpret at all if we have forgotten the original language? Would it not be safer to bend our thought to the mental habits of the biblical language and to relearn the idiom of the Bible? No man can receive the gospel unless he repents—”changes his mind.” For in the language of the gospel “repentance” (metanoeite) does not mean merely acknowledgment of and contrition for sins, but precisely a “change of mind”—a profound change of man’s mental and emotional attitude, an integral renewal of man’s self, which begins in self-renunciation and is accomplished and sealed by the Spirit.

We are living now in an age of intellectual chaos and disintegration. Possibly modern man has not yet made up his mind, and the variety of opinions is beyond any hope of reconciliation. Probably the only luminous signpost we have to guide us through the mental fog of our desperate age is just the “faith which was one delivered unto the saints,” obsolete or archaic as the idiom of the early church may seem to be, judged by our fleeting standards.

Father Georges Florovsky (1951)

The Return of the Son of Compare and Contrast

Since I’ve got a bit of time, and the plaster dust of renovation in stately biblicalia manor has settled to a degree, it’d be good to respond to Kevin Wilson’s last post over at Blue Cord. He’s got links there to all the back and forth over this, so see there for that.

Let me first air a clarification. I think Kevin may be supposing that my position is that I deny all development of all texts in the Hebrew Bible, but that’s not so. My position is still apparently one which is apparently quite outrageous to someone highly involved in source critical issues. Namely, while I do believe that the documents we possess in our various collections called the Bible did experience growth and alteration through several centuries, I do not believe that source criticism is sufficiently or appropriately nuanced in its work, and, for other reasons, believe that it is quite impossible to predict what those earlier sources looked like. I think source critics, particularly those working in the Documentary Hypothesis tradition, are wasting their time on scholarly pie in the sky. There are many others who believe the same thing, and this has been the case for a number of years, with the rise of various alternatives to the classical Documentary Hypothesis. As for comparative data, it is quite obvious that there is no way that someone would reconstruct the earlier versions of the Gilgamesh Epic from the later, no matter what theory one uses to explain the changes that can be observed; the differences between the works as a whole are surprising and non-intuitive, follwing no distinct pattern. Similarly, I find source criticism in the Hebrew Bible to be also a “consummately fruitless endeavor” as Charles Halton’s Professor Kaufman put it.

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