November 20, 2011

On Thesis Present

(written last night)

I spent 10 hours in the library today.  I won't tell you it was dreadful, because you and I both know that I'm wired to enjoy research until my fingers start twitching from too much typing and my eyes flutter shut.  Give me books and journals (and coffee!) and I can be quite satisfied for a very long time.

Well, mostly.  Admittedly, it's not quite the same, working through biblical commentaries and articles, as it is to dive headfirst into real literature.  I kept stealing glances over at the rack where I knew the Mythlore and Seven journals lived.  Does anyone read them when it's not the semester in which the Inklings class is being taught?  Not nearly enough, judging by the lack of traffic in that part of the library.

I mean, Revelation is fun, too.  But the challenge I find in biblical studies is that the more you research something, the more it spins you in a circle until you are back to a principle that, on the surface, seems nothing at all like the topic at hand.  And if this were "just literature," you could make of it what you would and it might not really matter.  But it's not.

For example, if I had read Billy Budd and I had decided that Billy is not a Christ-figure, but rather, a moron (which does happen to be a position I hold), the end result would be that I think he is a moron, and that would be that.  You can agree with me or disagree with me, and perhaps we might even get into violent arguments about it, but at the end of the day, the only thing that would come of this is that I thought he was a moron and you did not.

Not so with Scripture.  With Scripture, you're not just reading for speculation and cerebral exercise--or even to be pointed toward epiphanies of truth (as Azar Nafisi would say).  Whatever you conclude is going to have to mean something when it comes to faith and practice.  (And everybody said: "Well, crap!")

Case in point: Revelation 17-18.  You exit the crazy angels-pouring-bowls-of-judgment-on-the-world scene of Revelation 16 and find yourself face to face with this fancy drunk chick sitting astride a scarlet beast alongside a river.  And you think it's all about Babylon.  Or Rome.  Or some wacko symbolism relating to the future eschatological age.  And maybe it is.  But...

It's also Isaiah 47.  It is so totally Isaiah 47 that it blows your mind when you first start examining the parallels.  The harlot representing Babylon, the imagery of rape and degradation, the arrogance that leads to destruction--all the while, a holy God longing to redeem His people.

And then you start digging deeper into Isaiah 47 and realize that maybe it's about Babylon on the surface, the sitz im leben, but really, what it's about is the Exodus.  It's like the song that they sang after Pharaoah's army was overwhelmed by the crashing-down-falling waters of the Red Sea.  Triumph and exultation.  A mockery of the enemy, even.  And although many circumstances have changed since the Exodus, the key issues remain the same from Exodus to Isaiah to Revelation, because the heart of the prophet and the heart of the apocalyptic visionary share their purpose in pointing people to a revelation not so much of what God will do but of who He is and how He desires to relate to His people. Which I kind of think is the point.

Tomorrow, I'll have to write up my thesis proposal, complete with all the Greek and Hebrew and limitations and delimitations and such.  The inner academic must be loosed.  It's going to be a while before I can talk about the subject as freely as I have here.  But this is what I find rolling around in me concerning the passages I've selected, and I want to capture these thoughts in this moment so that I can look back as I write this thing and remember the bigger picture.

He is the redeemer, the go-el.  Times and circumstances may change, but this does not.  We hope in the Resurrection because we still believe in a God who redeems His people. 

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