Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Reframing the Sacred Stories

There was a Morning Prayer discussion today, generated by our reading from the Wisdom of Solomon chapter 10. (it is in the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Bibles, but in the apocrypha of Protestants) Wisdom is an active character, a manifestation of the Divine, in this long Jewish book attributed to Solomon. For Christians, the presence of this type thought in Jewish writings is supportive of the theological/philosophical assumptions for the incarnation and the Trinity. What the author does is provide a summary of the Ancient Holy Stories, but inserts Wisdom as an active character in the overview. Wisdom 9:18 which introduces the reading today says that Wisdom sets the paths right, teaches people what pleases God and we are saved by Wisdom. That reframe will now be applied.

Chapter ten does not give the names of the person referenced ("the first formed father" for Adam, "an unrighteous man" is Cain, "the righteous man" is Noah, etc.) and if one was not well versed in the sacred stories the entire chapter would be a riddle and a puzzle. However, my reflection is drawn to the idea of 'reframing' the stories.

I was introduced to the concept of reframe as a therapist. Our perceptions are influenced by the frame of reference, literally (e.g., the same painting surrounded by frames of different colors) or figuratively. To reframe is to look at the same event from a different context. For example, if someone was mean or afraid. A theological reframe is looking at an event and asking different questions. For example, "what can I learn from this?" or "how does God see this?"

By taking the events of salvation history and indicating how Wisdom was present guiding events, the author is engaged in the ongoing practice of each generation--a new slant on an old story. Revelation, as I understand more and more, means to "pull back the veil" (the Greek word apocalypse). When the veil comes back we get only a glimpse. There remains so much more that is yet to be revealed. (Wisdom in this book plays a similar role to the Holy Spirit in other writings.) The reframing is all part of the interpretative process. Even in the New Testament this takes place. For example, 1 Corinthian 10:4 refers to the rock which accompanied Israel in their desert journey (found in Jewish Tradition based on Bible) and Paul declares that the rock is Jesus Christ.

However tightly or loosely one approaches the divine authority of Scripture it cannot be doubted that how one reads it and the process for understanding it require various literary tools. It is helpful for me to see how "the Bible reads the Bible." The reading of Scripture is enhanced by the insights of the ancient readers and writers. The more we listen to them and pay heed, the more we benefit in our own journey of faith. 

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