A Grammar of Creation
An understanding of the visual-musical language of the Bible must begin with Genesis 1. This is fortunate, because when explaining biblical types to academics, as opposed to children, one is repeatedly forced to start from scratch.
From birth, a healthy child is attuned to rhythm and melody and image. Responsiveness to these three culminates in the understanding of human speech. But an increase in literacy meant that written text was no longer a means to an end, that is, no longer the source or record of oral communication. In language written purely for the silent transmission of data, rhythm, melody and image become optional extras.
Today, the command of a large vocabulary is all that constitutes an accomplished reader. Little attention is now paid to artistic form. Literacy training rarely reaches above basic function, so when it comes to the literary architecture of the Bible, our two dimensional skills are not up to the task.
This is an obstacle for modern Bible readers since the keys to the texts are imparted on a channel to which we are not attuned, on a frequency we cannot hear, a wavelength invisible to our eyes. For the ancients, literary structure was a means of transmitting implicit information, an indivisible facet of the communication. Moreover, for inspired literature, it was a means of sequencing images into parallel visual sentences that were intended to be compared and contrasted. The Bible has not been prohibited, but it has indeed been silenced, and this goes some way to explaining why much of it is either unintelligible or uninteresting to Christians today.
When was the last time you heard a preacher or teacher call you to appreciate the beauty of the text? The likely answer is never. Admiration for the Bible’s literary art rarely ventures outside the academy because form and function are no longer on speaking terms. Theology, like economic and political theory, has become utilitarian, so the Scriptures without an obvious moral or practical purpose are disparaged, misused or ignored. Like the hypothetical dark matter of the universe, these vast stretches of intractable literary waste account for most of the biblical canon. Here and there, familiar but isolated “fables,” “proof texts” and “life verses” twinkle in the inky blackness, and we assume that it was always so. Ironically, it was the Enlightenment which shrouded the Bible in this cloud of unknowing. The promotion of Reason discredited Sense. Sermons are dumb because preachers are deaf and blind.
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