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February 11, 2014


Andrew Klager

Thank you very much for your thorough comments, and many apologies for my inexcusable delay in responding—I appreciate you taking the time out to share your thoughts. Yes, the comparison of ancient Semitic tribal law codes and later developments in Roman law stems from my university teaching in Western Civilization and world history. In terms of narrative literature being a process, I can’t quite make out the heart of your question or its premise, but I will affirm that, yes, sequence and transformation are linked when it comes to incremental divine self-revelation and its ramifications; this is essential and the primary reason for the process in the first place. Your points about typologies or prefigurements in the Hebrew Tanakh (Eve/Mary; tree/cross, etc.) are apt, yet my points here related more to moving *beyond* arguments or simple explanations of OT violence (such as my earlier outline of God’s incremental self-revelation) to a focus on attentiveness and transfiguration—to partaking of the divine nature itself rather than adjudicating on God’s decision-making abilities and “character”—so that we too can stand with Christ on Mt. Tabor and “know” him intuitively by what we become rather than rationally by what we think we understand. So, to answer your main question, we measure this transfiguration—or the extent to which we have measured up to the “full revelation of God and with the Gospel”—cautiously and incompletely—trying but fumbling, though with a mature confessor or spiritual guide, at least acquiring a modicum of reassurance—especially through the practice of “nepsis” or watchfulness and attentiveness in the Orthodox ascetic or philokalic tradition, wherein our quietude and stillness (cf. hesychasm) we can monitor ourselves, being ever-watchful of both virtues and vices and the sacred spaces that can encourage transfiguration if we let them, to discern true, radical humility, patience, compassion, mercy, self-control, and love. This is what God always wanted for us—to become what he actually is—but it took millennia to show us what this looks like in ways that we can understand only piecemeal until the full telos, goal, or “image of the invisible God.”

Ole S.

This is a rich feast with much to ponder.

In the fifth paragraph of the essay you underscore the distinction between Semitic tribal law and Roman juridical law, and the importance for making such a recognition in interpreting the Scriptures, however the significance of this is not explicated. I assume of course that you've written elsewhere on this, but a brief mention or a link to another essay would be helpful.

I'd like to say something about one pregnant parenthetical comment in the eleventh paragraph, that narrative literature "is itself a process." Because of the context of this sentence, I imagined you are inviting us to consider narrative literature as an incremental process.
Certainly it is without question that reading a story or sitting and listening to a narrative is an incremental process in the measure of minutes, pages, time, even the number of sentences etc., but the chronos of the sequential and the incremental, the A to B to C, is surely shot through with the kairos of events that once disclosed transform the significance for the reading or listening community of everything that has been understood, and transform expectations for everything to follow. Doesn't narrative literature somehow bring the sequential and the transformative into some kind of incomplete synthesis for our understanding?

It seems to me that reading together the pairs of disobedient Eve and obedient Mary, and even more illustrative, the pairs of the consuming the tree and offering up the fruit of the tree, reveal correspondences qualitatively different from the kind of coherences we usually described as "incremental," as how you sing your way up a musical scale, raise a car with a jack, or how a government might tax a population. The shift in the narrative from consuming the tree to offering up the tree holds together in our understanding something that exceeds division into increments.

From Psalms of lament to Psalms of praise, or from Sarah laughing to Mount Moriah, these are not comprehended together in ways that accord with units or increments. But, on the other hand, putting into practice something that has already been planned, bringing completion something projected, something programmed, something written as law, or designed or in advance in whatever way that could be fulfilled however much adequately to a standard, this seems to work with narrative because you can describe the progress toward the goal.

So in the fourth paragraph above,

"That is, whenever Christ attributes the law to Moses in a positive light, it is because this does align with the full revelation of God and with the Gospel."

What I would like to hear you describe more is how the increments of the Semitic tribal law revealed from God *are in the same field of incremental measure* as the "full of revelation of God and with the Gospel." How is the injunction against divorce cut from the same cloth (or sounded out from the same musical scale) as "the full revelation of God"? The injunction against divorce is something I can measure against my conscience: have I fulfilled it? Have I broken it? The full revelation of God in Jesus is something incommensurate with my reflection on my own ability. In so far as I am finite and even the work of understanding myself (and the whole world) is forever incomplete and in question (including the extent to which I am unaware that I am so much a sinner, etc.) yet that immeasurable extent is *how much more* Jesus the Saviour goes to save, and how much farther faith goes with him, and with faith, hope and love. We consumed, and we consume endlessly and ad nauseum, but *how much more* does Christ offer his life in obedience to God even through our flesh. Without a measure to gauge its adequacy toward completion.

I measure how much I have failed or fulfilled divorce, but I can't measure how far Jesus goes to save. That disclosed event transforms the whole horizon, this is so because death and sin and humankind and God and forgiveness are brought into sentences that had never been said in the same way before the full revelation of the Gospel. The genre of sentences that creatively disclose something *for us* are qualitatively different than the genre of sentences that address our conscience back toward our history and our ability to measure our history against the law, don't they? If they are of different genres, they are brought into relation to one another for certain, as we *hear them* and *read them* in the same text and the same community of readers and hearers gathered around the text, but how is that relation accounted for as incremental? The one (proscription against divorce) I can measure myself against, but the other illuminates the whole world (and the divorces and divisions of every stripe we are all entangled and implicated in)...?

Peace of Christ

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