Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Anachronism

***QUOTE***

Yo said:

my dear, my dear,

Yes, that is what it meant. They didn't fully understand it, just as they didn't fully understand passages dealing with the future messiah.
4/25/2006 9:56 PM
NuumbaOne said:

The argument that a sacramental reading of Jn. 3 is anachronistic has no merit, since Jesus often spoke anachronistically to foreshadow things to come in the future.

Like, what about the time Jesus told the Jews that He would tear down the temple and raise it up in three days?
In the context, they did not know what he was talking about yet. But He expected them to know what he meant.

Same with John 3:5.
4/25/2006 10:08 PM

***END-QUOTE***

One of the problems with these objections is the way they redefine an “anachronism.”

An anachronism is not simply a case of foreshadowing a future event.

I agree that Jn 6 foreshadows something to come. Yet what it foreshadows is not communion, but the cross.

That is how it functions is the narrative arc of the Forth Gospel.

This is a problem when people are prooftexting to justify something they already believe rather than reading a passage of Scripture within the larger flow of the argument.

Again, this is not a contrast between a partial understanding and a fuller understanding. Rather, what the sacramentalist is doing here is to swap out the original understanding for an entirely different and divergent understanding.

As I said before, the problem with Leithart’s interpretation is twofold: it doesn’t fit with (i) either the Jewish understanding (ii) or the Christian understanding.

As far as prophecy is concerned, the original audience knew what was prophesied. If you don’t know that much, you will be in no position to recognize the fulfillment.

But they didn’t know was the who, when, and how.

And they didn’t know it because that wasn’t given in the prophecy itself. The historical means by which the prophecy was to be realized was no part of the original prophecy.

So the original audience were in a perfect position to understand what a prophecy meant; what they were unable to grasp is not what it said, but what it left unsaid—to be penciled in by future events.

Jn 2:19-22 is a poor counterexample, for their failure consisted in an over-literal interpretation of Jesus’ words. He was speaking figuratively, and they should have been able to detect that much.

How this proves that we should take Jn 3 as a literal allusion to baptism, or Jn 6 as a literal allusion to communion, when the Johannine examples of misunderstanding move in the opposite direction—of mistaking spiritual metaphors for literal descriptions, is less than evident.

There’s also a larger principle at stake, here. Whether we allow anachronisms into our reading of Scripture is no trivial matter.

i) The presence of anachronisms is a telltale sign of forgeries.

One reason we discount the Book of Mormon is because it was written in faux Elizabethan English.

Or take The Da Vinci Code, with its abundance of historical anachronisms.

ii) Sure, you can treat Ezk 36 as a prophecy of Christian baptism.

But once you make elbowroom for anachronistic exegesis, then you can also treat Ezk 1 as a veiled reference to flying saucers.

Having debarred the grammatico-historical method, Erich von Daniken’s interpretation is just as good as Iain Duguid’s.

The cost of “proving” your own position that way is to prove every opposing position the same way.

2 comments:

  1. Steve said: "The cost of “proving” your own position that way is to prove every opposing position the same way."

    Exactly right. This is what 'necessitates' Sacred Tradition & an 'Infallible' Magesterium as face-saving apologetic devices for Catholics. The only way to prevent your opponents from employing the same technique is to proscribe alternate interpretations by fiat as being beyond the pale of orthodoxy.

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  2. This may be a side issue, but Nuumbaone wrote "...Jesus told the Jews that He would tear down the temple..." I don't find that Jesus said that. Certainly John 2:19 doesn't. "Destroy this temple.." seems to have "You" (the Jews)as the implied subject and the meaning being "When (or if) you destroy this temple..."

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