Look to see the art that went into the writing

Father Francisco’s Bible Study class, formation of Torah as we know it Part 1 discusses the two-audience theory of Biblical interpretation. It is correct in relating how Torah writers had to convince both the Persians and the Jewish/Israeli people that the Jewish/Israeli population was one people.

One thing lost in the discussion is the two-writer theory of Biblical interpretation. When our sages wrote Torah, Navy, Writings, Gospel, and Letters, most people did not write. They dictated to γραμματικός. These γραμματικός were not secretaries who wrote in shorthand, then returned to their desks and typed what was in their notes. These were skilled professional writers, learned in the art of rhetoric and poetics.

We hold a static view of the Middle East in the time of our sages. We forget how the Jewish people spent generations in Egypt and in the Babylonian Exile. We forget Abraham was born in Basra, Iraq. He was influenced by the Babylonian culture. A look at the geography of Greece shows a hilly, mountainous region. To grow, the Greeks needed to look to the sea. The Minoan and other Greek cultures were all sea-based powers. When we look at Aesop’s fables, and compare them with the parables of Jesus, and the writings of the Jewish Midrash, we see how similar they seem.

Rhetoricians like Aristotle influenced the Jewish γραμματικός. Jesus warns us of the dangers of reading Torah with too fine tooth a comb, as a law book. He tells us, “Which is easier, to tell the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk?” The two-writer theory of Biblical interpretation warns us. When we ask why the writer chose one word against another and assume it must be to say a particular thing, we forget the second writer in the discourse, the γραμματικός.

Aristotle tells us, “There are persons who, by conscious art or mere habit, mimic and represent various objects through the medium of color and form, or again by the voice. So in the arts, the imitation is produced by rhythm, language, or ‘harmony,’ (ποιουνται την μῑμησιν εν ῥυθμῶι και λογωι και ἁρμονίᾱι) either singly or combined… There is another art which imitates by means of language alone, either in prose or verse- which verse, again, may either combine different meters or consist of but one kind…”

This is the art of the γραμματικός. The reason he chooses one word or one phrase over another has nothing to do with the precision of the words to reflect what the original writer saw, but has much to do with how it looks on the page and sounds in the hearing. The picture this professional writer gives us must present the actual events, but it is through the lens of his art.

The modern study of Form Criticism, Exegesis, and Hermeneutics all come into play. They expose the paintbrushes used by the artist. This includes the Seven Rules of Rabbi Hillel. We see the professional writer using his lens to filter the information of his charge. This allows us to look past this lens to see the original event. The Beatitudes use Chiasmus:

Seeing the couplets helps us understand the words. The poor in spirit are poor in spirit because they are persecuted. The peacemakers are the people who mourn. They see what war brings and suffer when they see it. The clean of heart are the meek. In Hebrew, charity and justice are the same. The idea comes from the Ten Commandments with its implied first commandment, “Remember, I am God your Almighty Judge who rescued you from Oppression.” Remember what it was like to be there, and remember your rescue. When we remember our own oppression, we suffer when we see others suffer. This causes action. This action is charity. This action is justice.

St. Matthew lists the Twelve in a photo in the enclosed slide show.

In this set of couplets, the order adds no meaning to the list. One rule of human learning is, the mind only learns in groups of threes, and groupings of four. We can learn four groupings of four, or three groupings of four, the Simon group, the James group and the Philip group, of which St. Matthew lists himself last. Ephesians 2 also uses the device to great effect, as an accompanying photo shows. As we read Torah, Gospel and letters closely, also look to see the art that went into the writing.


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