As I mentioned in Week in Review: Behold the Man Edition, I have been unable to put down Brian Godawa’s Word Pictures: Knowing God Through Story & Imagination (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009).* Below is a quote relevant to Holy Week.**
One of the reasons why the Jews of the first century did not recognize the visitation of the Messiah was because even they took the Bible too literally. Indeed, they were expecting a military or political king who would crush Rome (Dan 2:44-45), restore the nation of Israel back from exile into their land (Zeph 3:14-20), build a new kingdom on earth (Dan 7:14) from Mount Zion in Jerusalem (Is 52), rebuild the Temple (Ezek 40-48), reinstate the Davidic monarchy (Ps 89:38-51) in a new “age to come” (Is 61) — all based on Old Testament prophecy. Even Jesus’ own disciples misunderstood the literary nature of these promises as literal earthly political power (Mt 20:20-28; Acts 1:6). Jesus’ kingdom did crush Rome, though not through military revolution, Jesus did restore Israel, did rebuild the Temple (Acts 15:14-17), did reinstate the Davidic monarchy (Lk 1:32), and he is the King of kings who came to Mount Zion (Mt 21:5) and rules over all things at the right hand of his father (I Pet. 3:22). He just didn’t do these things in the literal way that they had envisioned, but in a literary way. We see how the literary meaning of Israel and the Temple was first fulfilled in Christ and is now fulfilled in the church as his “body” (Rom 2:28-29; Eph 2:19-22). Christ’s rule in his kingdom may be current and real, but certainly not an earthly reign of outward political power (Lk 17:20-21).
As you might guess, this is part of a chapter which explores the Literal versus Literary reading of Scripture and Godawa has come to read the Bible literarily. How do you read the Bible this Easter?
*Wall of Silence: The Untold Story of the Medical Mistakes That Kill and Injure Millions of Americans (Rosemary Gibson & Janardan Prasad Singh, LifeLine Press, 2003), sent to me by a friend in Nursing Christian Fellowship is next in cue.
**Although I referenced some of these themes while participating in a campus Bible earlier this week, I wish I could have shared the quote. Maybe I’ll bring it next week.