Grander than Fact (January 31, 2012)

…Opening To…

The Bible is a harp with a thousand strings. Play on one to the exclusion of its relationship to the others, and you will develop discord. Play on all of them, keeping them in their places in the divine scale, and you will hear heavenly music all the time. (William P. White)

…Listening In…

The heavens and the earth and all who live in them were completed. On the sixth day God completed all the work that he had done, and on the seventh day God rested from all the work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation.This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. On the day the LORD God made earth and sky—before any wild plants appeared on the earth, and before any field crops grew, because the LORD God hadn’t yet sent rain on the earth and there was still no human being to farm the fertile land, though a stream rose from the earth and watered all of the fertile land—the LORD God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils. (Genesis 2:1-7; context)

…Filling Up…

We come to day two of our five days with the Hebrew Scriptures. Today, we are going to touch briefly on the topic of “historicity”; that is, do the Hebrew Scriptures tell an accurate account of the history of the time with which they are concerned. (I’ll warn you: you may think by the end of this devo that I have avoided that question.)

Back in the Enlightenment (17th and 18th centuries, give or take), it became fashionable to try to figure out the factual basis for things. It was during this time that the idea of “fact” and the idea of “truth” were unfairly melded in a way they had never been before. This unfair melding still holds sway today: often when people ask for the truth, they really mean the fact. (Think about swearing in a courtroom.) So what’s the difference? Well, truth contains fact, but is not limited to it. Oftentimes, true things don’t much care about their own factuality because their focus is much wider and grander.

Okay, so what’s this have to do with the Hebrew Scriptures. Well, let’s focus in on the beginning of the first book, Genesis. Genesis contains two stories about the creation of the world (scholars tell us they come from different sources and both made it into the book). If one is factual, then the other must not be, right? Wrong. Neither creation story is concerned with fact. They are concerned with conveying the truth of God’s involvement with God’s creation. The first story uses the cosmic imagery of God creating and ordering the heavens. The second story uses the intimate imagery of God walking in the garden and sculpting the first human. Both stories tell the truth of God, which is always too big to fit in one, small point of view.

Expanding this idea to the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures, the texts do take a historical tone in many places. But, as one scholar points out, if anything in the Hebrew Scriptures is historically true (meaning factual), it is by accident. In other words, occasionally the Bible makes historical sense, but it is not limited to historicity. The Scriptures are concerned with the truth of God’s presence in the lives of the people of the nation of Israel. Oftentimes, this presence cannot be captured by the merely factual, but can be hinted at and pointed to by trying to speak the truth.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you created and ordered your creation, and you breath life into each one of your creatures. Help me always to seek after the truth of your Word, as it appears in the Bible in in my life. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, grateful for your presence throughout time and space, as recorded in the Bible and lived in my life.

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