2. God Is Polyvocal

➡ Average Reading Time: 3 minutes

We often read the text as if we were reading a blog or a Facebook post or an article in the local newspaper, which are presented as present genre of current literature. The Bible, however, is a cornucopia of various literature types, each needing attention as we read. It is fair to say that God was and is polyvocal not monotone in terms of presentation.

It is fair to say that God was and is polyvocal not monotone in terms of presentation.

There is a variety of literature in which the writers of Scripture made their presentations. Many readers are simply unaware of the kind of literature they are reading as they read. Our inadequacies in this area make readers prone to make God say something he never said. Our Western influence causes us to read with a literalness with which the ancients to whom the texts were written would have never understood.

There are several main types of literature in our sacred text: narrative, covenant-law, poetry, prophecy, wisdom, gospels, parables, apologetic history, letters, and apocalypse. In addition, Scripture has many other figures of speech that the authors used to help their first listeners and readers understand their message. They used similes, metaphors, apostrophes, personification, hyperbole, metonymy, synecdoche, riddles to name a few. In addition to major literature and other literary types, there are intertextual allusions[ref]Griffin, God’s Epic Adventure, 37. These are allusions found in the New Testament that draw attention to stories found in the Old Testament. As an example, the resurrected Jesus in the garden is an allusion for the first hearers and readers to think about the first garden story in Genesis.[/ref] of which the present reader needs to be aware. As we learn to recognize these types of literature, we will surely read the text differently.

When we go to a fiction, history, or poetry section in our local library to look for a book to read, we know what kind of literature is on those shelves. We have been taught that we don’t read poetry the same way that we read a narrative, or history the same way we read fiction. If readers are aware that they are reading a mystery novel, they will read it differently than if they were reading a section of poetry. One wonders why we don’t apply this same common sense approach to reading Scripture.

What if we learned to honor God by taking time to understand the ways in which he sent his word to us?

If we recognize literary reading to be true of books we purchase from Amazon in print or Kindle form or check a book out from the local library to read, then we should recognize them in Scripture as well. What if we learned to honor God by taking time to understand the ways in which he sent his word to us? With the understanding of what kind of literature we are reading, we read with literary freedom. But, if we are not informed to the kind of literature we are reading in Scripture, we will keep reading Scripture in a straight jacket of monotonic lateralization. Remember, a piece of poetry (think Psalms and large sections of the Prophets) is no less true than any other type of literature. I think that our fear is that if we allow ourselves to read with this freedom, we will somehow become liberal in our understanding of the text, when actually the opposite is true.


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Read Me First

 

Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.

 

I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Second

 

Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Third

 

The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.

 

Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.

 

Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)