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Roger Ferlo: second keynote

For his second keynote address, Roger Ferlo mostly let speak for themselves three biblical stories showing how particular people in the bible interpreted scripture on particular occasions. The stories were told creatively by biblical storytellers, including one first-person account (i.e., spoken in Jesus' voice) of Jesus baptism by John, temptation in the wilderness, and teaching in the synagogue (taken from Luke 4). Some notes, not as coherent as for Ferlo's first address, follow.

Roger Ferlo: Part II (notes -- not as coherent as for Part I).

The bible has a history; even a "new" bible is, in a sense, old.

Visuals: an ancient Roman inkwell, a fragment from Hosea from the Dead Sea Scrolls, papyrus fragment from the passion story in Gospel of John dating back to about 110 C.E., ancient Egyptian picture of two men holding a codex. Codex Sinaticus and Codex Vaticanus, page from an illuminated Coptic manuscript of Mark, Psalm from the Gutenberg Bible.

Biblical manuscripts in Greek had no spaces between words. To read them, you already had to know the story. And much of the population wasn't literate.

We have histories too. We all have histories with the bible. When was the first time a bible was put in your hand? What were your earliest images of what the bible is like or is about? Books are objects that have heft and a kind of aura, and our bibles do too. But also, what the bible tells us has entered into our lives and our histories.

The bible tells its own history. There are moments in scripture in which it's clear to the reader that people are rediscovering their scriptures. There's been a recent resurgence in tales claiming that the bible has a kind of secret code in it -- there's a sense that if only you knew the secret way the bible should be read, you'd have access to secret depths of history and such. When we say that the bible contains within itself clues to its own reading, we're talking about stories like that of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, in which we see people in the bible interpreting the scriptures. Scripture models for us a way in which our own story is heard be telling or remembering another story. We hear our own story in a new way. The New Testament is in some ways a retelling and revisioning of ancient scriptures. What was old is now new in your hearing.

St. Augustine was aware that the bible had obscure moments in it, and he suggested that where there are obscure moments, a less obscure one will interpret the first for you.

Biblical storytellers told scenes of reading: the story of King Josiah, Jesus in the synagogue in Luke 4, and Philip and the Ethoiopian eunuch.

Ferlo: The story of King Josiah was embedded in the consciousness of first-century Jews.

Storyteller told in the first person (i.e., in Jesus' voice) the story of Jesus' baptism, temptation in the desert, Jesus teaching in the synagogue.

The book of Isaiah was the most prominent in the consciousness of the early Christians when they thought about who God was for them.

Ferlo: Luke is self-conscious about writing a book. Luke 4 is an opening salvo in Luke's storytelling. In Acts, which is Luke's second volume, just before a great moment of crisis and change in Luke's story, just before Saul's encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road, he tells the story of Philip and the eunuch as a prelude to Paul's story. The story of Philip and the eunuch is all about inclusion.

Group of storytellers told the story of Philip and the eunuch.

Ferlo again:

The story of Philip and the eunuch was about the reading of scripture, but the reading of scripture is not the end of the story. The climax of the story is Baptism. How does the bible act on us? How do we act because of the word of God in the bible? The bible is means to an end: opening us to the work of the Spirit, so as we gather as baptized members of the community around the Eucharistic table, we open the bible as the bible opens to the Spirit.

May 7, 2005 in Churchiness | Permalink

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