Wisdom-Trek / Creating a Legacy
Welcome to Day 1271 of our Wisdom-Trek, and thank you for joining me.
I am Guthrie Chamberlain, Your Guide to Wisdom
Mastering the Bible – Written By Literary Artists – Worldview Wednesday
Wisdom – the final frontier to true knowledge. Welcome to Wisdom-Trek where our mission is to create a legacy of wisdom, to seek out discernment and insights, and to boldly grow where few have chosen to grow before.
Hello, my friend, I am Guthrie Chamberlain, your captain on our journey to increase wisdom and create a living legacy. Thank you for joining us today as we explore wisdom on our 2nd millennium of podcasts. This is Day 1271 of our trek, and it is Worldview Wednesday. Creating a Biblical Worldview is important to have a proper perspective on today’s current events. To establish a Biblical Worldview, you must also have a proper understanding of God and His Word.
Our focus for the next several months on Worldview Wednesday is Mastering the Bible, through a series of brief insights. These insights are extracted from a book of the same title from one of today’s most prominent Hebrew Scholars, Dr. Micheal S. Heiser. This book is a collection of insights designed to help you understand the Bible better. When we let the Bible be what it is, we can understand it as the original readers did, and as its writers intended. Each week we will explore two insights.
Mastering The Bible – Written By Literary Artists
Insight Nineteen: The Biblical Writers Were Literary Artists
Most of us can remember taking a course in high school or college about English literature. For Dr. Heiser, his experience was the course where he was first introduced to techniques used by writers beyond straightforward prose sentences. To be blunt, there are reasons why Shakespeare doesn’t sound like the newspaper. Fine literature like Shakespeare and the Bible, is what it is because of deliberate techniques and strategies used by the writer.
The biblical writers use an amazing array of literary techniques. Some are familiar to us, like similes and metaphors, which are techniques that draw comparisons. Others, such as alliteration, are lost in translation. Alliteration is the intentional repetition of the same initial sound of nearby words. Familiar examples include “dead as a doornail” and “pretty as a picture.” The biblical writers use alliteration many times, but they do so in Hebrew and Greek.
Most literary techniques in the Bible, however, are easily discerned if one knows what to look for. The verse in 2 Chronicles 1:15 is illustrative of this, “The king made silver and gold as plentiful in Jerusalem as stone. And valuable cedar timber was as common as the sycamore-fig trees that grow in the foothills of Judah.” This verse is a clear use of hyperbole, a deliberate exaggeration for rhetorical effect. Biblical writers frequently employ merism, a combining of opposite parts, to signify a totality. The phrase “heaven and earth” (Exodus [31:17]; Matthew. [5:18]), which signifies all of creation, is a well-known example.
At times, biblical poetry is organized by an acrostic, a succession of lines that begin with consecutive letters of the alphabet. Psalm 119 is a huge acrostic. The first eight lines begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the second series of eight begin with the second letter, and so on through the entirety of the Hebrew alphabet. Psalm 119 wasn’t downloaded into the head of the writer; it took deliberate planning and creativity.
Two of the most common literary techniques are associated with prophetic messaging. Both Old and New Testament writers use symbols known broadly in the ancient world. The book of Daniel describes four beasts coming up out of the sea (Daniel. 7:1-8). The beasts symbolize earthly empires. This technique is known from other ancient books outside the Bible that describe events related to an apocalypse. Biblical writers also employed typology.
A type is basically a nonverbal prophecy, a person, event, or institution that foreshadows something to come. The classic example is the Passover lamb, which Paul tells us conceptually represented Christ in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.” Paul also sees Adam as a type, or foreshadowing, of Jesus in Romans 5.
Dr. Heiser certainly didn’t have space in this short insight to discuss all the literary devices used by biblical writers. It’s no exaggeration to say that every chapter in the Bible employs at least one. To better understand Scripture, we need to be alert to the strategies of communication the biblical writers employ. The more alert we are, the better we can follow their thinking.
Insight Twenty: The Biblical Writers Didn’t Always Intend to Be Taken Literally
Dr. Heiser describes this insight in this manner. “I play a lot of fantasy baseball and football. I usually do okay and have even won some leagues. But occasionally I have a team that’s just horrible. Whether it’s due to injuries, happenstance, or my own poor decisions, some of my teams have stunk.
You all know that when I say my team ‘stunk,’ I don’t mean that literally. There’s no awful aroma that wafts out of my computer screen when I’m looking at my lowly place in the league standings. But my estimation of my team—as evidenced by its performance—is nevertheless real.”
This example illustrates a fallacy that is commonly embedded in the minds of Bible interpreters; we must interpret the Bible literally if we take its contents to be real. Put in reverse, the flawed assumption is that someone must be denying what the Bible says is real if they understand something in the Bible in a way other than “literalness.” That simply isn’t true.
Nonliteral interpretation does not mean “not real.” We know this from everyday experience. Dr. Heiser’s fantasy team is just one illustration. We can describe an exceptionally large man as a “mountain” or an unethical person as a “snake” or “rat.” We know intuitively, because of our worldview experience, that these descriptions should not be taken literally. Nevertheless, their metaphorical meaning can be entirely accurate and true.
The same thing goes on in Scripture, but because we aren’t thinking like an ancient person, we make the mistake of literalizing what was never intended to be understood that way. For example, the Old Testament refers to “Leviathan” in passages like Psalm [74:14] and Isaiah 27:1. These passages and others do not refer to literal prehistoric beasts or sea monsters. We know from literature outside the Bible that Leviathan was a metaphor or symbol for the wildness of the sea or chaotic disorder that threatened human existence. When the biblical writers have God taming Leviathan, it’s a metaphorical, and true, statement that God has power over creation, even if it appears chaotic to us.
Biblical writers use a range of symbols and expressions that they never intended their audience to consider literally. These instances inform us very clearly that inspiration includes a lot of content that doesn’t require or intend literal interpretation. Just because words show up in the Bible doesn’t mean that their usage is different than in any other human writing or discourse. Inspiration doesn’t bring literalism with it. We need to keep this in mind consistently in order to understand Scripture. If we don’t, we force a flawed idea of our own onto the biblical text.
That will conclude this week’s lesson on another two insights from Dr. Heiser’s book “Mastering the Bible.” Next Worldview Wednesday, we will continue with two additional insights. I believe you will find each Worldview Wednesday an interesting topic to consider as we build our Biblical worldview.
Tomorrow we will continue with our 3-minute humor nugget that will provide you with a bit of cheer, and help you to lighten up and live a rich and satisfying life. So encourage your friends and family to join us and then come along with us tomorrow for another day of our Wisdom-Trek, Creating a Legacy.
If you would like to listen to any of our past 1270 treks or read the Wisdom Journal, they are available at Wisdom-Trek.com. I encourage you to subscribe to Wisdom-Trek on your favorite podcast player so that each day’s trek will be downloaded automatically.
Thank you for allowing me to be your guide, mentor, and most importantly, your friend as I serve you through this Wisdom-Trek podcast and journal.
As we take this trek together, let us always:
- Live Abundantly (Fully)
- Love Unconditionally
- Listen Intentionally
- Learn Continuously
- Lend to others Generously
- Lead with Integrity
- Leave a Living Legacy Each Day
I am Guthrie Chamberlain reminding you to Keep Moving Forward, Enjoy Your Journey, and Create a Great Day Everyday! See you tomorrow!