Thursday, March 24, 2011

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

Poetry is more important than history in the Bible – would you agree / disagree - what are your thoughts?


Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

Interesting. I would have thought that most theologians would see it the other way around.

I think it is one woven into the other.

Maybe i tend to see history as a little bit more important and poetry as the means to transport history.

Greg said...

Thanks. Great to have met you last week. We have a sparkling day here in the Alps. Hope you're well.

I agree, but why do you think that many (most perhaps in some traditions) theologians see it like this?

And if one is woven into the other, how would we formulate this?

What perception of history do you have and why?

All big questions, I know, but well worth thinking through.

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

thanks, it was great to get to know L'Abri from more than mere words.

Maybe theologians see it like this, because it leaves the feelings out and concentrates on what I see. The reception is different for everybody so I am no longer able to build my system... ;-)

A lot of history is told by means of poetry. Some parts of history are told in "plain text", others are told in poetry. Sometimes the plain text history includes poetry. Sometimes the poetry is used to explain things one could not understand if it was in plain text. We sure need history on the other hand to understand the poetry.

As for the perception: What do you mean?

Are others up to some thoughts? ;)

(As an aside: My word verification is "bless". -> God bless all of you!)

Greg said...

Good. I was thinking that theologians in some traditions like the notion of history because they assume this gives them some sort of guarantee that sometimes amounts to a view that faith is insignificant - history just gives the facts and that's all that counts.

Here's where the question about a perception of history comes in. What is history? Do we assume we know?

Rhett & Valerie said...


I would be hesitant to choose one over the other. However, the question does raise issues as to how we have traditionally viewed the various genres of Scripture, and have attached to them, at least implicitly, different levels of authority. Another important question, I think, is: What does it mean to say the Bible is inspired? Does inspiration extend merely to Scripture's propositional content (which works well with history); or does inspiration go beyond this to include the form of the text itself (which works well with poetry). Maybe another way of phrasing the question would be: Does God intend to communicate to us on an informational/intellectual level only, or does he intend to also engage our emotions, hence the need for a variety of forms in Scripture (e.g. poetry)?


Greg said...

Thanks. Good thoughts on a mediation position. I appreciate your reluctance to choose one over the other.

I'm still guessing that a notion of history is often assumed and not articulated. Perhaps, we could speak of poetic history and theologized poetry/history - historiographicl recounting underscored by theology - something like that.

Ragnar Mogård Bergem said...

I'm fond of the story-approach to reading the Bible. And by that I don't just mean the focus on narrative that came into literary criticism some decades ago, but as a general way of viewing the world and worldviews.

Reading the Bible this way, looking for the big story the writers encountered and lived, puts the everlasting search for naked historical facts in its place. Yes, history is important, and yes poetry is important, but one does not take precedence over the other when one is looking for the big story.

Though I must add that the Christian story does depend on something happening in history - and any interpretation of history as supra-history, or faith-history must be rejected. Something did happen in the same history as the one I'm living in, and that's why I can take part in the big Story the biblical authors wrote about, both in poetry and other genres.

Greg said...

Thanks. Hope you and your studies go well.

I think you highlight a really helpful way of looking at it. Something happened that was the cause of the big story - the mega narrative - to exist in the first place. While that is true, it seems to me that the biblical text is historiography, not, as you rightly point out, supra-history, faith-history, or naked historical facts.