Reflections from the ONION
Earlier this week I was reading an article published by the ONION, a farcical newspaper that features world, national and community news. Our family’s after-dinner conversation turned to the article that I read and my son, Jonathan, said something that got me thinking. He said that in years to come, if people find themselves reading articles in the ONION, and if they don’t realize that it’s satirical literature, they will have a pretty warped sense of our society during this age.
This offers us an excellent, hyperbolic example of the importance of understanding context and genre when approaching scripture. No doubt, those involved in the process of canonization must have really wrestled with which books to include in both the Old and New Testaments. They wrestled over what was divinely inspired, what was accurate and authoritative. These books became the rule of faith and practice.
As Dr. James “Mickey” Efird often reminds us, although Scripture is the “only infallible rule of faith and practice”, we must notice what this says and what it doesn’t say. There is no claim here for infallible history or geography or science or politics. These books tell us about “religion”, the nature of God, how God relates to the world, why God created, how we humans are to relate to God and how we are to get into relationship with this marvelous Deity and how we are to behave and act if we accept God’s offer of relationship.
So, back to the ONION analogy. When we approach books of the Bible we must always understand the literary genre. In Apocalyptic, as is found in part of Daniel and in the Book of Revelation, we must understand the strong symbolism and images used to make its point. All Apocalyptic Literature is written in self-contained visionary units, describing something going on at that time and place using symbolism that was well known in the time written. Any attempt to read it without having this understanding will leave us completely unguided. Just as would be the case if we were to take articles written in the ONION literally. Let us always keep this in mind…..sometimes it is necessary to peel the onion to understand the dimensions as we approach Biblical text so we don’t find ourselves out in the twilight zone with a misunderstanding.
If you would like to print or share this edition of Claire…ification, you are encouraged to use this pdf: Claire – Reflections from the ONION – 03.15.2016
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