Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Define that, please

Texts speaking of protohistory come from many different genres of literature. We must be careful to allow the ancient cultures we study to define “history” on their own terms, which means we must accept whatever genre of text they put forth as “historical.” These texts frequently involve the use of myth, which has been greatly misunderstood in recent times. Correctly, we may understand myth to be analogical, and therefore full of ideologies, ancient perspectives and literary techniques that can (and frequently do) distort the presentation of reality in some way. Protohistory was often recounted metaphorically, or at the very least included metaphors, symbols, and other figurative language. The obvious result is that the texts are often difficult to understand today. This is because the tapestry of images is frequently culture-bound, and also because they may very well have lost their original vitality over the passing of time. Furthering the difficulty, mythic history often took narrative form, replete with ambiguities and redundancies. Reality was often reflected figuratively, though again we must not lose sight of the fact that the ancients believed they were indeed representing reality.—Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11, page 72 (italics original)

<idle musing>
Indeed! But it is so much easier to come to the text with our own presuppositions and then slice it and dice it to fit. Or, to just say it's all a lie.

Take your pick. Both approaches do violence to the text and short circuit what God is trying to say to you through the text...
</idle musing>

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