Thursday, October 15, 2015

Deskbound exegesis

2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times (Mt 16:2-3).
The notion that Scripture reflects a three-story cosmography has been around for generations. The main development is that more recently, this has been popularized by "evangelical" scholars like John Walton, Peter Enns, and Kyle Greenwood. 
This is what I call deskbound exegesis. It's only plausible to scholars who don't spend much time out of doors, unlike the original author and audience. Only plausible to scholars who are out of touch with the natural world, unlike the original author and audience. I'd add that there are modern people who spend time out of doors, but they are inattentive to their surroundings, unlike the original author and audience.
I've often discussed this. Let's take another example: consider fishermen. Say they live in a coastal village. Suppose these are “primitive,” prescientific fishermen.
Even so, don’t they pay attention to the weather before they set sail? Do they go fishing when the skies are full of dark lowering clouds? Or do they go fishing on a clear sunny day?
If they thought the sky was a dam that kept water back, except when sluice-gates were opened, rain would be utterly unpredictable. It could rain at any moment, on a clear sunny day. If rain was thought to come from the sky rather than the clouds, then it both could and would rain on cloudless days. A downpour could occur literally out of the blue.
But, of course, fishermen know from experience that that isn’t the case. Their life depends on it. It’s dangerous to venture miles into the open sea with stormclouds on the horizon, much less right overhead. It’s completely unrealistic to imagine that ancient people didn’t notice these things.
I grew up on the shore of a lake, in a heavily wooded area. I spent lots of time out of doors as a kid.
As a result, I became attuned to certain natural cues. I could predict when it was going to rain, before rainclouds appeared on the horizon.
I could sense an atmospheric change. A shift in the air. A light onshore breeze (as I recall), would be a precursor to a weather front.
That's not something I read in a book. That's not something I consciously observed. Rather, it's something I simply acquired by osmosis through regular exposure to the natural world. 

1 comment:

  1. Excellent points - bravo. Is it not also problematic when scholars culturally, temporally, liguistically, and geographically far separated from Scripture's original audiences opine as to how said audiences would necessarily think of various passages of Scripture? Perhaps scholars should eschew the publish-or-perish m.o. and be slower on the trigger?