“Telescoping" is the fallacy of projecting our modern ideas back upon ancient texts. Jesus' teachings of radical universal love can be very hard to hear when the modern church projects itself upon his words. We must constantly remind ourselves that, when Jesus spoke of the “word," the Bible was not yet compiled. When he asked people to follow him, there was no institutional church to join. When he asked people to "believe in him,” he was standing right in front of them. There were no creeds yet written, so if we spoke to Jesus about the atonement or the trinity, it is entirely possible that he would have no idea what we are talking about. - Jim Rigby
In cognitive psychology, the telescoping effect (or telescoping bias) refers to the temporal displacement of an event whereby people perceive recent events as being more remote than they are and distant events as being more recent than they are. The former is known as backward telescoping or time expansion, and the latter as is known as forward telescoping. Three years is approximately the time frame in which events switch from being displaced backwards in time to forwards in time, with events occurring three years in the past being equally likely to be reported with forward telescoping bias as with backward telescoping bias. Although telescoping occurs in both the forward and backward directions, in general the effect is to increase the number of events reported too recently. This net effect in the forward direction is because of forces that impair memory, such as lack of salience, also impair time perception. Telescoping leads to an over reporting of the frequency of events. This over reporting is because participants include events beyond the period, either events that are too recent for the target time period (backward telescoping) or events that are too old for the target time period (forward telescoping). - Wikipedia
|A Timeline of Early to Medieval Alphabets|
From my friend Rance Darity comes this gentle reminder what "telescoping" means when post-Jesus institutions interpret Jesus' gospel. What theologians like Sanders, Dunn, and Wright have been reminding us these past 30 years (sic, the New Perspective of Paul directing the church to rediscover the Jewishness of the bible). That to read any of the New Testament, including the "Jewish" gospels, must be read within their own contextual existential communities of Jewishness.
I say existential because by that time the world was bathed in Hellenism and Roman ideology. So even back then the studied Jewish scribe and Pharisee struggled mightily to explain God and their faith as it was encapsulated within a post-Second Temple Reconstructive era (515 BCE) some 450 to 600 years earlier according to their Jewish traditions. Remember too that Pharisaism developed around 135 CE from the more ancient scribal traditions under Ezra and Nehemiah 635 years earlier. That Pharisasm was the ancient precursor to Rabbinic Judaism later established 100 hundred years after Jesus's death which has evolved into the various Jewish Orthodox traditions of today (so it was roughly 500 years in the making if you count the Intertestamental Period between the Old and New Testaments as canonical variants developed within their scribal camps). Overall, these groups were interested in preserving God's Word which they knew as the Tanakh, which was the Jewish canonical collection of Hebrew texts we know as the Old Testament today.
And then into this mix came the Sadducees who were all too willing to mix the Tanakh's Torah teachings with the popular philosophies of their day (a process known as Hellenization) while jettisoning some of the favored Torah teachings of old Judaism from the Hebrew Bible, along with the Prophets (Nevi'im), and Writings (Ketuv'im). In essence then, the Pharisees and their scribes were attempting to honor the old Jewish Scriptures against the incursion of newer non-Jewish ideas and radical redactionism. And yet, having done a yeoman's job in protecting the Bible they were most curiously Jesus's worst enemies who Himself was the living Bible! Talk about your paradoxes, ironies, and riddles!
|A Medieval Version of the Septuagint (the Hebrew OT written in Koine Greek|
during the 3rd and 2nd BCE era under King Ptolemy)
Then came a competing bible begun under Egpytian King Ptolemy from Alexandria comparable to what King James of England did in the early 1600s later known as the King James Bible. Unlike James the Ptolemy's commissioned the creation of the Septuagint during the 3rd to 2nd Century BCE, and to be written from the old Hebrew Canon (using the Masoretic tradition from the 7th and 10th Centuries BCE) into Koine Greek - which was the common language everyone spoke and understood throughout Egypt, eastern Africa, and the Middle East. In time, since people could only read Greek, even the Jews of the New Testament era of Jesus' day would prefer the Septuagint over their own Jewish bible. They could read it and understand it and it was this bible which Jesus and His disciples preached out of. Later on this same undertaking was again made when St. Jerome was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 CE to update the Septuagint into a Latinized Version of the bible known as the Latin(Catholic) Vulgate. Being a wise old man, and contemporary to St. Augustine, Jerome used not only the Septuagint but also the Masoretic text of the Hebrew bible to recapture what may have been lost through the centuries in translation and transmission. Having done this job the Catholic Church of the Roman Empire could distribute its pages to its priests throughout the ancient world that all Latin-speaking people might know and understand God's good news in Christ.
|The Vulgate of Clementine. Prologue of St. John|
(the Hebrew OT written in Latin by Jerome c.382 AD)
But if one goes even further back into time before the restored Second Temple era (constructed in 515 BCE to be later destroyed by Rome in 70 CE 585 years later), back into the time of old Israel and Judah themselves, back into the time of the tribes of Israel before they were a kingdom, and even further back into the time of Moses and Abraham, then God's revelation of Himself had changed and synthesized greatly down through these eras. So it was no small task for the scribes of Ezra's day to recapture and attempt to encapsulate Israel's profound history over 1500+ years of oral tradition with the God who loved and led them unto salvation by works of redemption throughout their turbulent eras.
So that by the first century of the Christian Era (CE) - into this theological soup of parsing, reparsing, and interpretive synthesis - comes Jesus, who speaks the "word" of God come to Israel after so many long years of "divine silence" (...but not really. God was always there bespeaking Himself to His children). But especially into the stage of human travail and mis-allocation of God's words by His children to sharpen-up and re-form the points of discussion of what God had been saying all these many long years since Adam's day. But this time God spoke through Himself (aka Jesus) without interpreter. And He spoke directly into the Jewish society of His children having lost their way in too many words and ideas about divinity, holiness, sin, and the afterlife.
Now this is not unlike the church today whereby we do this same task of the scribe and the Pharisee by attempting to historically discover God's Word and traditions when redacting the Christian Canon into our own era's travails and mis-allocations. And to speak it plainly without losing its way within out extra-biblical influences (unless those influences conform with biblical theology) as the Sadduccees once did. And to contemporize the preaching of God's good news buy placing it in the common language and understanding of our times (English, predominantly). Even as Jesus and His disciples did when reading from the Greek Septuagint rather than from the Jewish text which would have been gibberish to their listeners. Why? Because their audience could read, write, and speak in Koine Greek - even as their Jewish leadres and neighbors did who had long ago forgotten their mother language of Judaism through centuries of war and dissettlement. Again, we see the painstaking guidance and leadership of God to carefully maintain the pith, the center, of His revelation to man. And what is this teaching God wants us to know? Read on...
|The many variants of Redaction to Interpreting the Bible|
both in its meaning, transmission, adjudication, and relevancy
So then how does one interpret the Bible? And which Bible does one interpret? A Bible that is literal or a Bible that is a living paraphrase? In point of fact the Septuagint was all of this. And then there is the problem of redaction - how does one interpret the Bible we have? And finally there is the problem of examining our own needs-and-wants placed upon both bible and God which may be more scribal and Pharisaical in doing the hard of being faithful to the various traditions of the OT (and now the NT whose essence is distilled in the Gospels of Jesus). But even so, each era must have its "Jesus-like" moments of clarity (and human clarions) which removes man's words from God's words to hear afresh God's call to love and to act in love. That the gospel of God in the OT and the gospel of God in the NT demonstrated through His life and death is no more, nor no less, than to love one another when boiled down to its essence. And when you think about it it really isn't that hard is it? Bible interpretation has much less to do with what we believe, our Creeds and our doctrines, then how our beliefs affect our actions towards others. There's the nub of it. With James, Paul says faith without works is dead, ineffectual, unlively, a dung pile. But with it, each of our dung piles - our compost piles - may become composted gardens of resurrection enriching and nourishing all who look upon God's faithfulness and beauty.
So what is the work of God in our world today? It is no different than His work over the many long centuries of time. It is to renew our fellowship both in Himself and with one another that a spiritual healing might cleanse our benighted lands so full of turmoil and darkness. To repent of our divisive and discriminating inequities and injustices that prevent us from sitting at a table of fellowship with one another. To worry less about being "biblical" and more about being "unrighteous." To seize the days of opportunity we have now that we might build a new society of men and women focusing on the majors, the knowns, the necessaries rather than the minors, the preferentials, and ideologicals. To do the best work as we can like the scribes and Pharisees to preserve as pure a sense of God within our communities but to let go of these efforts if they should miss the simple and sublime beauty that God is love and offers this love of peace and binding to broken hearts everywhere crucified upon the pangs of sin and death.
And lastly, like God's words to Abraham, to Moses, to the prophets and kings of Israel's long history , these words are no different then Jesus and the apostles words to us now. Yes, culturally Gods words must be worked out in all of its existential variations by society, tribe, and geographic region, no less than we must always do when doing the hard work of redacting our understanding of the divine. But as a gentle reminder to us God bespoke His ancient word to ancient peoples again and again and again until finally He spoke them through Himself we know as as our Savior-God Jesus. To show to us who He is, and what it means to be in fellowship with the Creator of life, who redeems His creation from all its hard burdens of freedom gifted from the moment of our birth unto the twilight years of our grave and into the midnight sun of eternity with Him as our Lord, Shepherd, and Friend. Amen and amen.
July 9, 2015
A Word of Admonition
To not forget to "gyroscope" in the days of "telescoping."
To remember at all times our bearings, headings, and drift.
* * * * * * * * * *
TRANSMISSION OF THE BIBLE -
ITS TREES, HERITAGE, ARRANGEMENT, OUTLINE
* * * * * * * * * *
|A Timeline of Textual Transmissions|
|Textual Transmission of the Hebrew Canon|
|Textual Transmission of the Jewish Old Testament|
|Textual Transmission of the Christian New Testament|
|OT Canonical Arrangement|
|Comparison Timeline of OT Eras to one another|
|Comparison Outline of NT Canonical Arrangement to one another|