Paying Attention to the Words of Scripture

sailhamer.jpg A very helpful distinction and illustration that we must understand to read biblical history well (in the Old Testament or New Testament):

“In speaking about historical events, one may easily confuse what an author says about these events with the events themselves.  As important as history and archaeology are for understanding the ‘things’ that the Bible points to and talks about, they sometimes get in the way of understanding the ‘words‘ of Scripture.

The Pentateuch [the first five books of the Bible] may be compared to a Rembrandt painting of real persons or events.  We do not understand a Rembrandt painting by taking a photograph of the ‘thing’ that Rembrandt painted and comparing it with the painting itself.  That may help us understand the ‘thing’ that Rembrandt painted, his subject matter, but it will not help us understand the painting itself.  To understand Rembrandt’s painting, we must look at it and see its colors, shapes and textures.  In the same way, to understand the Pentateuch, one must look at its colors, contours and textures.  To understand Rembrandt’s painting, one must study the painting itself.  To understand the Pentateuch, one must study the Pentateuch itself” (Sailhamer, The Meaning of the Pentateuch, 19-20 [italics mine]).

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4 thoughts on “Paying Attention to the Words of Scripture”

  1. Thanks for posting this. I am waiting on my review copy of this book to arrive. If this morsel is representative of the book as a whole then it should be an interesting read.

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