8/21/2008

Origen's Goal Was Different

I've been meaning for some time to post about some of the interesting books I've read lately, by Geza Vermes, Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Doug Pagitt, and the editors of Plain magazine.

However, this week while Robin and the boys are away, I had time to attend midweek meeting for worship, and go to dinner with a friend afterwards for two hours, for some tasty Vietnamese food; and then to attend the Thursday night Quaker study group tonight. So I haven't had as much time for writing as I might have.

The Thursday night group is reading Quakerism: A Theology for Our Times by Patricia Williams. They're on page 60. Our group was bristling at some of the assumptions, and some of the projection of contemporary Quaker views back in time onto Fox and Barclay as quasi-original universalists.

On the BART ride home, I was reading Karen Armstrong's The Bible: A Biography and found passages in there that spoke to what we had been discussing. So I typed a couple of passages up and emailed them to people in the group. And I wanted to share this one here, too, since it's typed up already, from pages 111-112:
Exegesis brought the interpreter and his students a moment of ekstasis, a ‘stepping outside’ of the mundane. Modern biblical scholarship seeks to place a text in the worldly economy of academe, treating it like any other ancient document. Origen’s goal was different…. ‘The contents of scripture are outward forms of certain mysteries and the images of divine things,’ he explained. When he perused the New Testament, he was constantly ‘amazed by the deep obscurity of the unspeakable mysteries contained therein’; at every turn he came upon ‘thousands of passages that provide, as if through a window, a narrow opening leading to multitudes of deepest thoughts.’
For me, modern biblical scholarship definitely opens fascinating windows into the texts of the Bible. Yet the purpose in the end is to open the mysteries, not to figure out "the facts" underlying all these manifold bits of spirituality, morality, allegory, ritual, poetry, folklore, myth, history, and wisdom teaching which have been put together in the sprawling, puzzling, inspiring, and fascinating book called the Bible.

1 comment:

R. Scot Miller said...

Hi Chris, I have enjoyed the work of Geza Vermes, but I am not familiar with the other authors you mentioned. Vermes is one whose academic work has lent significant insight to my thinking about Jesus, who is mainly known historically through the Bible.

We know that early friends valued teh bible a great deal, and reading their work is like reading Scripture in its condensed form. They relied heavily on biblical terms when communicating with others, both fellow Quakers and their contemporary radical and not-so-radical counterparts.

While many of our contemporaries like to paint Fox and Barclay as being open to views that feoo outside of the constraints of Scripture, that is generally far from the case. In fact, all of the early Quaker talk of the inward teacher, the inward light, and that of God etc. are determinedly Chirst-centered, and as much informed by the language of Scripture as they may be original to Friends.

In fact, none of the early Quaker experience is possible if not for Scripture, which informed a\every aspect of the work of the Spirit. Scripture gave Quakers a language with whcih to put voice to the mysteries contained therein. I think this speaks somewhat to your Origen quote: ‘amazed by the deep obscurity of the unspeakable mysteries contained therein’; at every turn he came upon ‘thousands of passages that provide, as if through a window, a narrow opening leading to multitudes of deepest thoughts.’
thanks for your post, I enjoyed it.