Lying Jews (and the art of biblical narrative)

I like logic because it makes sense. It has to. A is not not A. In other words if you tell me “A is not A”, you’re lying. The problem is, deceit actually can make sense but still be wrong. “A is B” could be true or false depending on what A and B are. But I’ll stop boring you with the alphabet an get into the complicated stuff.

Story #1: And then Dave said something fabulous, “Genesis sounds like a fable to me.”
Story #2: And then Dave said, “Genesis is merely mimetic myth”
Story #3: And Dave was an ocean of ideas saying, “Genesis is a metaphor”.

Now, Dave has never said any of those things to me exactly. However, I do believe that he believes them and I don’t think it would deceitful to put those words into his mouth. My thinking at this point is that we need to keep this in mind as we read Hebrew narrative (because obviously that’s what I’m blogging about, not logical stuff as the introduction may have implied). While in our context it seems dodgy to put words into someone’s mouth in a direct speech kind of way, we would certainly be willing to do it in reported speech: “Dave told me that didn’t believe Genesis was literal” could summarise an enormous conversation (Paul probably didn’t do a 2 minute sermon in Acts 17). Hebrew authors, it seems, have a propensity towards the prodigious use of direct speech but rarely reported speech and it seems clear that they were willing to summarise conversations into little speech bubble type reports which they recorded in direct speech.

In my stories I made Dave say stuff according to the rest of my story “fabulous” and “fable”, “merely mimetic myth” and the metaphor thing. I used what was true and wrote it into my story and I don’t think I was being deceitful.

The example that came to mind (beacuse I’ve been working on Jesus & the Gospels for the last week) was the centurion’s confession on seeing Jesus die. This is my conclusion:

When Luke has the centurion saying, “surely this was a Righteous man” it is for a reason. When Mark has the centurion saying, “surely this was the Son of God” it is for a reason.

Neither are deceitful and neither are wrong. Both authors are using what was said to do something artistic – something evangelicals know nothing about.

Update [Sept 3rd 2012]:  I recently read this article on patheos which talks about Thucydides writing about having to make up speech that fits the flow of history as he perceives it. It’s an interesting read down a similar sort of line.

James Cuénod
Student at Wheaton College
I love Jesus, preach his Gospel, disciple his children, study his word and I am incurably passionate about the glory of God.
Inching my way towards teaching pastors in South Africa. Student at Wheaton College. Excited by Hermeneutics, Old Testament and Biblical Theology.
  • eric kunkel

    Well, it is artistic, but it is also communicative. I agree with your “for a reason.”. I just think this is how most information sharing works.

    I posted back on the patheos site. Sunday draws to a close perhaps I will stop sermonizing.

    • James Cuénod

      I agree; I think this is how information sharing works. I also like the principle that we can expect communication to be deliberate in its delivery – it means we can take texts seriously.

      One problem is that inerrancy is an easy target from this position because in our information sharing we are careless. I would still uphold inerrancy though, in spite of recent posts on patheos.