The Literary Art of Numbers | Matthew 1
Genealogies might look boring. But every profession trades in particularities. Biology has cells, programmers have bits of code, and designers have colors and shapes. The particularities here are people, people particularities, the best kind. And particularities make up the language like letters. Of course you won’t appreciate the fullness of Goethe if you don’t know german.
The Subtlety of The Son of David and Abraham | Matthew 1:1
We often think that genealogies are lists of names, just a collection of people without any purpose or perspective. But nothing could be further from the truth.In Jesus’ family tree, there are hundreds, if not thousands of names missing.
The Literary Structure of Matthew's Gospel
Matthew organizes his book into alternating sections of stories and teachings. And we know this not only because we see Jesus doing things and then having long speeches but also because after each of the teaching sections Matthew repeats the same phrase, “when Jesus finished saying these things…” And Matthew does this to indicate the end of each teaching section (7:28, 11:1, 13:53, 19:1, 26:1).
Matthew 1:1 - Jesus' Subtle Identity
The first sentence in Matthew’s Gospel is this, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.” Why start this way? By the time we get to Matthew’s Gospel, we’re in the fifth act of a five act play, we’re at the end of the story, so where are we in the story, what’s happening?
Judges 1:1-7 - Should Judah Have Invited Simeon?
One of the difficult questions in Judges 1 is whether it was right for Judah to invite Simeon to lead the fight against the Canaanites given that God had said that Judah was supposed to lead. Often when there are multiple interpretive options if there is an allusion to another text, that can provide the correct perspective.
Luke 12:1 - Crowd-Dough
Luke 12 opens with a description of the setting, "...many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another." While this may seem that Luke includes this to emphasize the quantity of people gathering to hear Jesus speak, there are indications that this is not the reason or not the only reason.
Ruth and Esther
Ruth and Esther are the only two books with primary female protagonists. Ruth is about a foreigner coming into Israel and Esther is about an Israelite going into a foreign society.
Genealogies Aren’t Boring, You’re Boring | Matthew 1:1
By the time we get to Matthew’s Gospel, we’re in the fifth act of a five act play, we’re at the end of the story, so where are we in the story, what’s happening?
The Art of the Riddle | Inception, Plato, and Jonah
Inception ends with a riddle. The movie is about dreams and reality. And each character has an object, called a totem, that works differently in the real world and in dreams. Cobb, played by Leonardo Dicaprio, has a spinning top that works normally in the real world but never stops spinning, never falls over when he’s in a dream. The top tells him what’s real and what’s fake.
Metaphor to Reality
It’s a common literary technique to use physical things for metaphorical reasons. For instance in Dante’s Divine Comedy, Dante is on a physical journey from hell to heaven that is meant to be a metaphor for his spiritual journey or in the Bible, Israel’s physical wilderness wanderings for 40 years are meant to be metaphorical of their spiritual wanderings.
Jesus and the Serpent in the Garden
There are only two scenes in a garden in all four gospels and both of them are in John: the garden of Gethsemane (chapter 18) and the garden of resurrection (chapter 20-21).
Why Does Matthew Give Us Another Language and Then Translate It?
Why does Matthew provide the original words of Jesus in Aramaic, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani”. Matthew never gives us any other Aramaic, so why here?
The Parallel of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel
There’s a connection between Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar has dreams and Daniel has dreams. The narrator gives first person sections to both Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel, and both include a lengthy prayer. So why is the author paralleling these characters.
Pendulum Swing Mostly to One Side
Gnostics were a strange bunch. Their oddity is intimated in the wild divergences of their practices. For some, the valuation of spirit over matter, immateriality over corporeality, signaled a license to baccenalian festivity . . .
We look at Scripture for our hermeneutic for looking at the world. What does that tell us, then, that Scripture is 1/3 poetry?
Fruit, Meat, Flesh
The layers of meaning of Scripture unfold the further we read. In the Garden, we ate with God . . .
Levels of Love
My son (5 yrs old) asked my male cousin (15 yrs old) to build his new Lego contraption that he received. My cousin agreed and built it for him. It struck me . . .
Double House Inspection
In Leviticus 14:33-57 details the procedures for house leprosy. If the owner of the owner of the house thinks the house may have leprosy, then he goes to the priest and the priest inspects it. If it seems to be below the surface, then the priest comes back on the seventh day to inspect it again. If it is indeed house leprosy, the house is torn down . . .
Excess in Translation
We are always told in hermeneutics classes that something is lost in translation. I agree. But what if something is gained? What if there is an excess of meaning and poetics in Scripture such that translations release more meanings, variations, and permutations, not contradictory but confirmatory and glorifying of the original message?
This is a Great Mystery and I'm Telling You It Refers to Christ and the Church
I am excited to work through a new volume entitled “The Song of Songs and the Eros of God: A Study in Biblical Intertextuality” by Edmée Kingsmill. This is her dissertation from Oxford. Ellen F. Davis has a nice review. Here are some highlights . . .
Donne Describes the Bible
“My God, my God, Thou art a direct God, may I not say a literal God, a God that wouldest bee understood literally, and according to the plain sense of all that thou saiest? But thou art also (Lord, I intend it to thy glory, and let no profane misinterpreter abuse it to thy diminution), thou art a figurative, a metaphorical God too . . .
Chronicles and Matthew
One of my interests right now is canonical ordering. I am completely convinced that the MT ordering is the correct. Thus, Chronicles is the last book in the OT. The end of 2 Chron is a quotation of Cyrus’ decree to build the temple . . .
Against Scholarship; Or, The Case For Lay Hermeneutics
Rikk Watts points out that we have no intertestamental literature that connects the “Son of David” to healing. Furthermore, there are no OT texts that explicitly make that connection either. The Pharisees do not understand Jesus, but these two blind men do . . .
Victor Sasson has an interesting article in Biblica Vol 79 (1998) entitled “The Literary and Theological Function of Job’s Wife in the Book of Job”. He argues inter alia, against a negative reading by Clines, that “Job’s wife is not a major character in the dramatis personae . . . She plays a minor role”. I don’t think this is exactly on the mark . . .
‘Ish TO ‘Ishah
Genesis 1-3 contains many micro-cosmic elements. The creation week is symbolic of human history moving towards Sabbath, the day moves from evening to morning symbolizing the history’s eschatological movement towards the “Day of the Lord”, etc . . .
Matthew 4 and Deuteronomy
In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus recapitulates Israel’s story (see Peter Leithart’s paper “Jesus as Israel: The Typological Structure of Matthew’s Gospel”). After Jesus’ 40 day fast, he is tempted by the Devil and resists using three quotations from Deuteronomy . . .
Blood and Wine
Not that the connection between blood and wine was ever in doubt (cf. Gen 49), but note the parallel in the sacrificial cult: the bread of the face and the sacrifices (most everything save the blood) could be eaten but the wine/beer and blood of the sacrifices could not . . .
Abraham and the Astrologers
In Matt 2 the astrologers see the star that leads them to Christ. Clearly, that has an Isaianic context. In Matt 1, there is an allusion to Isaiah 7 concerning Immanuael. In Is 7:11, YHWH says, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” Thus, the star is the sign in heaven.
Bread to Meat
I don’t know exactly what to make of this, but here it goes. In the temple bread and wine are more holy than their symbolic parallels in the courtyard: meat and blood. In Numbers, Israel complains about the bread and God gives them meat. They think this this is a greater gift, but it is really a demotion in holiness.
Ezekiel's North Gate
In Ezekiel’s second vision he is brought to the Jerusalem temple “to the entrance of the gateway of the inner court that faces north, where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy” (Ezek 8:3).
Sternberg on the Sacrifice of Isaac
“A close reading of the exchange between son and father (“But where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” – “God will provide himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son”) may enable us to fill in the gap and reconstruct the father’s thoughts after a fashion.
Ezekiel's Four-Fold Forth
The phrase “The word of the Lord came to me” occurs 50 times in Ezekiel. The four time is in 7:1. In 7:2, YHWH speaks of a four-fold destruction of Israel: “And you, O son of man, thus says the Lord God to the land of Israel: An end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land.”
Too Important for Grammar
The passage is replete with redundancies, confusion of gender, omitted articles, missing verbs, obscure allusions, incomplete and garbled statements (v. 11), as well as words, forms, and constructions unheard of elsewhere . . . [S]ome of the textual problems may reflect the prophet’s emotional excitement . . . The end is at hand. There is no time to worry about fine literary style
Begbie argues that western music has at times been too intellectualistic and denied to somatic necessity in music
Fokkelman Against the Bible as Literature
the bible is literature and does not want to waste its energy on the option of “the bible as literature”