[ 2 minutes to read ]
I have been reading Brian Godawa for a few years to some profit. His literary analyses are insightful. His understanding of the art and craft of story, coupled with his ability to communicate, makes for informing and educating reading.
This book is a collection of essays loosely dealing with a literary interpretation of the Bible. It is not a unified single work given to declaring, developing, and defending his thesis. That’s somewhat limiting but he is very clear about that in the preface so it’s best to take it for what it is and not what it is not. Being a collection of essays, which were aforetime published at sundry times and in diverse ways, the book as a whole varies in its usefulness.
The hermeneutic espoused interprets the Bible in a highly symbolic fashion. It doesn’t outright deny that the Bible presents historic, objective facts, but that the objectivity of those facts is not utmost important. For instance, he sees the Genesis 1 and 2 account of creation as not being about God’s literally creating the universe but more symbolic of God’s sovereignty over creation and His covenant with created beings. In this view, it’s not important whether God literally created the universe and whether or not He did it in 6, 24-hour days.
He decries the post-enlightenment, human grid for interpreting the Bible and I would agree with him in this. However, I would argue that he simply rejects one human grid for interpretation in history and replaces it with another from an earlier historic point. His efforts amount to interpreting the Bible through the grid of ancient near east mythopoeia. Though he decries postmodenity his view still removes meaning from the text and results in the same difference.
Interpreting the Old Testament through ANE mythopoeia is not a new concept, but I believe it’s a proverbial chicken-and-the-egg problem. Are the pagan mythologies similar to the Old Testament or is the Old Testament similar to the ANE mythologies? Redemptive analogies in pagan cultures should not surprise us. They are signs of the remnant of the imago dei in man and the and the human lineage going back to Adam and Eve and being divided at Babel. They have been corrupted and sometimes lost over time.
The Old Testament writers did not write in the language and symbols of neighboring cultures, but rather were inspired of God and spoke as they were moved (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Furthermore, it’s not a question of which human grid is right, and whether one is better than another because it is closer to the original writing. The Scriptures are revelation and only rightly understood through the revelation of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14; Matthew 11:27). God’s Word is eternal and all else is a counterfeit, so it doesn’t surprise us to find similar symbols and analogies in other cultures.
In the end I’m still unconvinced of this hermeneutic. It leads to a loss of clarity and not new insight. I certainly do not deny the historical context and its importance in interpretation, but the Scripture cannot be broken and it all must stand together as a whole. I don’t believe the Bible is a scientific textbook, nor that it claims to be. It’s is God’s revealed Word to man. It is the word of truth–objective, historical, transcendent, absolute truth.