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2,000 years from now?

advertisementI’ve asked people what the advertisement (left) means.[Firstly: everyone who sees this in a newspaper or magazine realises it’s an advertisement].

They all realise that Adrienne Winkelmann is a brand of clothing; that this brand is available in Shop 26, The Chancery Auckland; that this brand will be available in store now for winter 2013; and that the image is not of a person called “Adrienne Winkelmann” (in fact it is not very difficult to discover that the name of the model in the advertisement is Chloe Graham).

2,000 years from now I think people could be forgiven if they pick up this image and think that the name of the person in the picture is actually Adrienne Winkelmann, and that she will be in the shop all winter 2013 (some people, 2,000 years from now, may struggle to realise that it is an advertisement – such a concept may not exist 2,000 years from now).

You can see the parallel with the Bible. The obvious flaw in being able to pick up a collection of documents 2,000 and more years old, immediately recognising the genre, taking account of the cultural context, and thinking that, as an individual, without any community assistance, everyone can make individual sense of what they are reading…

There is a difference, of course, if the community that created the Adrienne Winkelmann advertisement continues for the next 2,000 years, handing on, from generation to generation, the understanding of what an advertisement is, what “Adrienne Winkelmann” refers to, and who the image is actually of in the picture.

There is a difference, of course, if the community that created the Bible…

This article may encourage some to examine the series “The Bible says”:

Textual Criticism
The Septuagint (LXX)
Hebrew vowel pointing
The canon
Continuity problems
Social Cultural Historical Geographic context
Setting a trajectory

There’s also been a related post, “the pope says…

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6 thoughts on “2,000 years from now?”

  1. Gillian Trewinnard

    At a Eucharist service in Nelson (NZ) cathedral last winter, the priest said with confidence that, although God used human beings and therefore human languages to ‘write’ the Bible, by some miracle the texts do not reflect the personality, mind or culture of those human beings. I was stunned and found it hard to concentrate on the rest of the service. I have discussed the sermon with friends at my home church. Some have no problem with it; in fact they say that to let go of these beliefs would be to throw out the entire Bible as worthless. Yet it is easy to imagine how even a simple cultural object, such as the above advertisement, would be open to interpretation in the distant future. At that time, our cultural norms may only be known to weird geeky historians specialising in ‘early 3rd millennium texts’.

    1. Thank, Gillian. What you report is plainly false. I wonder how agile the priest you mention is in the original languages. The quality of writing certainly varies from author to author, and material is written with cultural assumptions. We also read these texts with our own cultural assumptions – which, even currently, vary from place to place. Blessings.

  2. This is the very reason trained historians are needed! To quote the Blessed Rowan, ‘Good history makes us think again about the definition of things we thought we understood pretty well, because it engages not just with what is familiar but with what is strange. It recognizes that ‘the past is a foreign country'[Lowenthal?] as well as being ‘our’ past’ (Williams 2005). Historians aim to contextualize the past with meaning and authenticity. And to add a final quote, ‘history is a never ending argument’, meaning that history is always open to reinterpretation. (End of rant!)

  3. Almost always when someone prefaces their remarks with,”The Bible says…” my eyes glaze over and I tune out whatever it is that they have to say.

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