The Word for today:
Daniel 2: 1-30
Yesterday, in part 1, we started with the definition of apocalypse, the specific literary genre of the books of Daniel in the Old Testament and Revelation in the New Testament. From there we proceed to today’s discussion of the Word, upon which all meaning depends.
mark this: Daniel 1:17
To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning.
The Bible student must at all times be cognizant of literary issues. The Bible is literature, and God utilized many of its various styles. He spoke through narrative (story), through history, through poetry. He spoke through figures of speech–metaphor, simile, analogy, symbol, parable–saying one thing in terms of another.
He employed various “voices”–humor, sarcasm, irony. Especially irony.
The reason he employed these “figures” is the very same reason writers use them today–because they communicate truth better than linear, “straightforward” prose. Otherwise, scripture would be reduced to something akin to the manual we get with a new car, or–God forbid!–the assembly instructions that come with a gas grill or a backyard swing set.
Linear expression does not fit the human condition, nor speak truth to the human heart. Thus Jesus, instead of talking about “evangelism” in the way a seminary textbook might, spoke of a sower sowing seed and fishers of men. Our Savior, you see, is the master poet. More than that, he is the seminal Word, from which all poetry issues and flows.
Thus in our Bibles, as in our lives, we walk through the valley of the shadow. We see through a glass darkly. But his word is a lamp unto our feet.
We remember, when we were students in English class, discussing what a poem “means.” Though it can be helpful to analyze, it must be understood that any analysis is, de facto, a reduction of the poem’s meaning–because the poem is more than the sum of its parts. We kill to dissect.
In scripture, the grandest utterance of literature, Jesus isn’t just the poet, he himself is the poem. Theologians attempt to analyze him. But he resists dissection.
Jesus, in the end, doesn’t have a “meaning,” because he is meaning.
He told us this, way back in Exodus, when he revealed his name:
I AM THAT I AM.
He is the irreducible. Things–in fact every thing–have their meaning in terms of him, but there are no terms other than himself by which he can be explained.
Thus it is left to scripture to ask this question:
To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? (Isaiah 40:18)
And to provide the answer:
There is none besides you. (1 Samuel 2:2)