Tuesday, July 04, 2006

For Derek's Carnival, Pt. I

I. Canon
Remember--the Bible is nothing. That is, it is not something you can hold in your hand, it is not paper with ink scratches on it, it is not what monks copied down painfully word by word into their manuscripts, it is not what you translate in N.T. Greek 101: just like this--"1"--is not the number one.

The Bible only exists in relation to a reader. That is not to say the reader can make it up as she goes along, though very many do just that. Rather, the Bible is like a symphony that only truly exists when performed; just so, the Bible only exists when it is "performed," when it is read. But not all readings are alike. There are lousy readings and brilliant readings, but even reading is not something between the individual and a text.

For any reading activity is necessarily embedded in a practice of reading, a practice which does not occur all at once in any single reading, whose significance stretches out beyond any particular reader reading a particular text at a particular time. Reading must be social--this even when the reader is alone in his room, say, with his book.

The Bible as literature is not the Bible as canon, though they are not disjoined; i.e. "Bible" is not purely equivocal here, but something like equivocal pros hen. For many Christians, reading the Bible as canon exerts a prior claim on the performance of reading the Bible; it is the focus point from which any reading of the Bible derives its identity. This is disputed, of course; other critical reading styles will read from different foci. These readings produce real variety in the items read.

To read the Bible as canon is to read it within the church. But the church is church only as holy, as related to God so as to be set apart for God's use, to be available to God from having repented and entered the process of conversion. Thus, no reading of the Bible as canon apart from a community in communion with God is a genuine reading. Other readings constitute different though related objects, but doing genuine Bible reading requires right relation to God. For Anglicans, that means the Bible as canon is read embedded in worship, in liturgy.

Griswold is right to insist on the priority of communion (see previous post): Scripture is impossible without it.


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