Gary continues his interview with Kim Burgess about the complete story of the Bible.
Ancient and medieval literature abounds in numerical symbolism, large parallel structures, intricate chiastic devices, astral allusions, sweeping metaphors, typological parallels, and symbolism in general. Modern literature, whether fiction or non-fiction, is almost always written in a straight line. You don’t have to go back and forth in such books to unpack allusions or get “hidden” messages. In other words, you don’t have to study such books in a literary fashion. You just read them and get the message. Ancient and medieval literature, however, must be studied.
Modern American Christians have trouble understanding the Bible for other reasons as well. Not only are we unaccustomed to reading ancient literature, we are also unfamiliar with visual symbolism. The symbols of the Scripture are foreign to us in a way that they were not foreign to previous generations. When the Psalms were at the center of the Church’s worship, Biblical symbolism was much better understood because the Psalter abounds in it. Also, the traditional liturgies of the Church, being thoroughly grounded in Scripture, communicated Biblical symbolism. God’s people were also familiar with such imagery from the architecture and decor of their churches. All this has disappeared from the modern American church, and the result is that it is much harder for us to read the Bible accurately.
It is, of course, possible to jump enthusiastically into the Bible and find all kinds of symbols and allusions that sober study would discount. We moderns lack the kinds of instincts needed to be able to pick up on such things without effort. We have to read and study the Bible, immersing ourselves in its worldview, and then we will be able to discern valid symbols and allusions. Even so, it is doubtful if any twentieth-century expositor can do a perfect job of this; there will always be room for debate and discussion over particular passages. We can, though, set out some canons, or rules, for proper Biblical interpretation.
Through New Eyes
James B Jordan provides a provocative introduction to Christian worldview using Biblical world models and symbols, making the claim that this was the way God has chosen to set forth how we are to think about His world and about human history.Buy Now
Gary continues his interview with Kim Burgess about the complete story of the Bible. In this part, Kim likens systematic theology to dissection and biblical theology to vivisection. While both methods seek to understand what the Bible is saying, one works in bits and pieces, while the other works to understand the Bible as an organic whole. Traditional evangelical interpretations are too often informed by the dissection method and less by vivisection.