Friday, April 16, 2021

A safe distance

It is true of course that most synagogues [and churches] offer adults the chance to study the Bible. But most of these classes are ineffectual. Instead of trying to bring forth the relevance of certain biblical passages and their lasting significance to us, we sometimes discuss their historic importance or their textual difficulties. Instead of standing face to face, soul to soul with the biblical word, we often try to stand above it by trying to show our own superiority to it. The fact that the prophets knew less about physics than we do does not imply that we know more than the prophets about the meaning of existence and the nature of man.

Nor is the “literary appreciation" approach more satisfactory. When I was a student in Germany, I often heard discussion about what a great collection of books the Bible is. What a great achievement, it was said, that Goethe's Faust begins with a scene from Job. We praise the Bible because it has had such a great impact on the English language and the development of English literature. But perhaps it is the other way around. Perhaps this is the greatness of English literature—that it was influenced by the Bible.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 150–151

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