Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Did You Find?

I have been browsing through a book entitled Egyptian Mummies: Unraveling the Secrets of an Ancient Art by Bob Brier. It is an interesting book, though not one that I will read in depth.

In it, Brier laments that one of the earliest remains of a Pharaoh, an arm of King Zer of the First Dynasty, was thrown away by someone who had no interest in mummification techniques, but rather only in the chronology of the First and Second Dynasties. In this case, the excavator had no interest in what the physical remains might reveal about the practices of mummification, and so he discarded them.

Brier makes this observation:

It is generally acknowledged that the particular interests of an excavator will influence what he finds and, even more so, what he records (p. 81).

The seems to be true no less in theology. A student of the word will often find just what he is looking for in a text, not because it is necessarily there, but because his mind is tuned to that particular matter, and is looking for a way to support it.

Perhaps even when the topic of interest is legitimately a subject of  a passage, other truths go unnoticed. I am reminded of the story of the fish. If I were a better notetaker, I would tell you where to find the story of the fish. But alas, my memory fails. (Someone feel free to help me out here.)

The story of the fish is that you have to keep looking.

In our study of the word, let us not draw up short of mining the depths. There is no substitute for time spent in careful reflection of a passage. We must be wary of tunnel vision that cuts off the reflective process too soon.

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