Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The Plain Reading of the Text (part 1)...

We tend to think of ourselves here in the 21st century West as being pretty cognizant of the reality of things due, in part, to a secular Worldview born, so we believe, in Christianity. For instance, we don't believe that there's any deity physically pushing the Sun across the sky. Non-Christians believe that for scientific reasons alone. Christians believe it because it contradicts the Biblical account and because of our understanding of the natural realm (i.e., science). But how does that logically and technologically based perception affect our reading of Biblical text? Does it help or hinder us? Consider the account of the 10 Plagues brought onto Egypt by God through Moses. What is it about? Deliverance? My own sins making me into a "Pharoh" of sorts? God's Power? It might surprise many of you to learn that each of the 10 Plagues corresponded to an Egyptian deity. Moses told Pharoh that God (I AM) demanded he let His people go. Pharoh resisted and Yahweh responded by showing that He superceded any other animistic god the Egyptians had. God desecrated everything that the Egyptians worshipped to provide rational reasons for understanding that He alone was the Creator of the natural realm. I told someone about this meaning of the text once and they responded by saying, "Well... you only understand that if you dig into the text." I guess that was supposed to mean that: 1) The meaning you present is not readily apparent, 2) The meaning you present can only be found by extensive research, 3) Therefore, the meaning you present is secondary. In general I would probably agree with #2 and #3. But #1 is the tricky one. I propose that the intended meaning of the 10 Plagues is readily apparent. Keep in mind that the original text what written by someone to an intended audience. To whom was the account of the 10 Plagues written? The Israelites at or around the time of when Moses wrote the account (although the event itself would have prompted talk throughout the region before it was actually written down). For an Israelite or Egyptian at the time of the event, the meaning of the 10 Plagues would have been clear - there would have been no mistaking the intent of God in choosing the types of plagues in which He did. For example, in plunging the land into darkness God was demonstrating His power over Ra, their Sun god. That we consider it to be hidden in the text is indicative of our being separated by a few thousand years and completely removed from the culture of the intended audience. Does this separation, of sorts, actually place on us the responsibility to do diligent research with regards to the meaning of the Biblical text? end of part 1

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