14. Scripture Theory for Beginners
- Linguistic Math using the Bible as Data Set -
What is Scripture Theory?Scripture Theory is to texts what Chaos Theory is to creation. Scripture Theory tries to isolate patterns in the narrative, in order to understand it better and to finally arrive at some kind of system that describes the principles of a text's governing dynamics. The difference between a book and a great book is often the consistency of patterns in the latter.
Look at this sentence:
"Johnny took his bike and peddled over to the store to get a pint of Ben and Jerry's."If we would stylize this sentence down to a general action, we would get something like this:
"Some personage retrieves a mode of transportation and moves towards the location of attainable things to appropriate some pleasing nutrients."Now look at this one:
"The Western World embraced science and embarked on a journey towards understanding, in order to live in peace and be greatly blessed."If we would stylize this second sentence we would get something that looks very much alike the Johnny sentence. We could say that the Johnny-sentence and the Western World-sentence are self-similar. Both scenes contain a similar action, be it on different scales of complexity. Literary texts very often use this trick to explain something about one topic (the Western World) by revealing something that happens to something else (Johnny). The difference between a metaphor and a self-similarity is that with the latter usually no obvious link is made.
Something a bit more complicated.
Look at this line from a song from REM:
If you believe they put a man on the moon...This line can mean two things:
Often translations and exegeses of old have chosen for a certain possibility which in more modern times has proven to be somewhat unfortunate. And as these unfortunate possibilities have nested themselves firmly in our collective mind, the correction of these flaws is almost undoable and becomes most painful for those who most love the text.
Hence popular understanding of Scriptures often has nothing to do with it.Click here for some examples.
Examples of Biblical Scripture Theory (1)Step I
In Genesis God likens the descendants of Abraham to three different entities: stars in the sky, sand on the shore and the dust of the earth, and all three carry a wealth of profundity. The phrase 'dust of the earth' for instance, is not the grey stuff you find underneath the refrigerator, but is the raw material from which everything was made (Genesis 1 and 2).
At many locations in the New Testament it is made clear that the 'sons of Abraham' are not his physical descendants but rather 'those who are of faith' (Gal 3:7) and that the many descendants of Abraham are in fact not many, but one: Christ (Gal 3:16)
Then, when we take in account what the Bible obviously states to be a connection between Adam and Christ: 'The first man, Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam a life-giving Spirit' (1 Cor 15:45) we find a beautiful self-similar pattern connecting Genesis 2:7 with Acts 2:
Examples of Biblical Scripture Theory (2)Scriptures knows a principle of gender-inversion, which has a very profound function. An example of this is the gender-inversion that happens when Jesus Christ (male) turns into the Body of Christ (female). The gender inverts without it changing the essential nature of the character involved, which in this case is Christ.
Now, what would you say if the most central image from the Christmas story not only happens in the New Testament but also in the Book of Judges, hidden beneath the gender-inversion principle in the translations of the Bible, but openly presented in the Hebrew text?
(I) The Hebrew word for 'lion' is ary, which is a masculine derivation from the verb ara, meaning 'to gather together'.
(II) The feminine derivation of that same verb is the word urya, meaning 'manger'. A manger is a thing around which animals gather to feed. A lion is an animal that gathers together to eat.
(III) The Hebrew verb dabar means to speak or declare in the sense that a whole or formal message is conveyed (simply talking is a different verb in Hebrew). An obvious derivation of this verb is the noun dabar, meaning 'word' in the same way as the Greek word logos means word. It's the '-logy' part of words like psychology (the message about the psyche) and sociology (the message about society). Jesus is often referred to as the Word (John 1).
(IV) A feminine derivation of the verb dabar is the noun deborah, which means bee.
(V) Conclusion: The bees in the lion from the Samsonian riddle of Judges 14 is a gender-inverted self-similarity of the Word in the crib of Luke 2. Jeremiah's enigmatic statement, "a woman will encompass a man," (31:22) is suddenly not so enigmatic anymore.
Examples of Biblical Scripture Theory (3)Often patterns from the Bible are so deeply profound and important and openly relevant to the betterment of mankind, that secular thinking comes up with it too. Sometimes the secular conclusion is openly identical to the Biblical one. An example of this are the Commandments six and eight 'you shall not kill' and 'you shall not steal.' Most governments have adopted these laws in their constitutions because a people that doesn't steal or kill is healthier and more prosperous than a people that kills and steals.
But sometimes a secular conclusion is stated in such a way that it is not immediately obvious that Scriptures has come up with it as well. Take the almighty Scientific Method for instance. During the 17th century societies began to lean more and more upon scientific knowledge and it became increasingly important to sift out nonsense from sound beliefs. Hence a scientific convention was reached: You can only work with what you observe. And what you observe must be observable by someone else, somewhere else. Your observations must be gathered into a theory that explains why the things you observe are there. If someone else devises a theory that explains the same observations, your theory and her theory must be identical. And finally, your theory must be able to predict what you are going to observe next.
This convention - this Scientific Method - still rules science today and it cancelled out a lot of superstition. Sadly, it also caused a breach between science and religion, because for long much about God couldn't be confirmed by means of the Scientific Method.
Today however, we have reached the conclusion that science leans on faith just as heavily as religion does. It's the only way to be sure about anything. And advances in Scripture Theory allow us to prove more and more the authority of the Bible in matters usually addressed by science.
In 1992 George Smoot and consorts established the famous COBE picture, which told us a lot about how spacetime came to pass. In his book Wrinkles in Time, Smoot writes,
"At present it is hard to imagine scientific societies having theologians and others to advise them on the spiritual world. Scientific societies do maintain lawyers and occasionally ethics committees to advise them. As science matures and finds it domain we are likely to see more interactions of this type."Faith - the key to all certainty - is often talked about in the Bible. And the more we learn about science and Scriptures, the more faith and scientific knowledge converge.
Paul writes, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception...(Col 2:8)," which is exactly what the Scientific Method was intended to do. Faith is not the bold trust in things that make no sense. It's not the religious platform after the understanding of the times. It has nothing to do with obedience to certain dogmas. Nothing with lack of proof. In fact, faith and scientific knowledge are really quite alike: Both Paul's definition of faith and the Scientific Method consist of two parts. Have a look:
The big difference between faith and a scientific theory is that faith is trust that yields understanding of the observable world, while a theory tries to describe the observable world and remains incomplete and requires additional trust to become convicting. The scientific method is the Jessica Rabbit deduction of Paul's definition of faith.
In this chapter we've touched some of the fundamental principles that make the Bible tick. In the next chapter we are going to look at a principle that lays at the heart of all the others:
Next: To be is to do