Strange though it might seem, the subtitle of God, Sky & Land: Genesis 1 as the Ancient Hebrews Heard It by Brian Bull and Fritz Guy, which we have been discussing, brings to my mind something that Ellen White and her literary assistants included in Chapter 1 of Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing.
Her invitation is this:
Let us in imagination go back to that scene, and, as we sit with the disciples on the mountainside, enter into the thoughts and feelings that filled their hearts. Understanding what the words of Jesus meant to those who heard them, we may discern in them a new vividness and beauty, and may also gather for ourselves their deeper lessons.”
Both of these clearly indicate a difference between what a passage of Scripture once meant and now means. Although Bull and Guy are discussing something in the Old Testament and she was commenting on something in the New, their message is the same. It is that, no matter how "plainly" we read the text, there is always a difference between its time and place and ours. We should pay attention to this difference. If we ignore or deny it, we cause ourselves much needless perplexity and pain.
This requires us to engage in what Jon Paulien, who is the Dean of the School of Religion at Loma Linda University Health, calls "double exegesis." On the one hand, we need to study the worlds of the ancient texts as well as their words. On the other hand, we need to study our own words and worlds.
As Fritz Guy indicated last Sabbath, the area which these different spheres would share in a Venn Diagram, is where fruitful interpretation occurs. What the text "now means" can be discerned only when we use our own creativity where these very different circles overlap. Attending only to the past makes our reading of text irrelevant. Focusing only on the present makes it irresponsible.
How to distinguish "deeper" and "shallower" interpretations is an important issue. Ellen White emphasizes the importance of using our "imagination." She also employs the aesthetic norms of "vividness" and "beauty." Maybe our interpretations will be blurry and unattractive until we study great works of art. Roy Branson would have said so!
Watch Brian Bull and Fritz Guy on "Genesis 1 and Modern Science" (Part 3):
Brian Bull graduated from the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in 1961. He works in Loma Linda, California and one other location and specializes in Anatomic Pathology & Clinical Pathology and Hematology.
Fritz Guy is a Seventh-day Adventist theologian and Research Professor of Philosophical Theology at La Sierra University in Riverside, California. He has worked as a college and university professor, an academic administrator, and a church pastor. In recent years, Guy has espoused progressive Adventist theology, with lectures and articles exploring the temporality of God, the hope of universal salvation, the theology of creation, and the morality of same-sex relationships. In a 1985 survey of North American Adventist academics, Guy tied for fourth place among the Adventist authors who had most influenced them. In 1989, Gary Chartier noted a widespread view that Guy "was the leading Adventist systematic theologian of his generation."
They have recently published a second book: God, Land, and the Great Flood: Hearing the Story with 21st Century Christian Ears (Adventist Forum, 2017).
Dr. David Larson is Professor of Religion at Loma Linda University.
Image Credit: Video Still
We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.