Thursday, February 07, 2008

Jesus and Yahweh, The Names Divine

I picked up the subject book by Harold Bloom on the bargain rack for $6, a deal just WAY too good to pass up. Our congregation is reading through the whole bible this year again, and I have also been in a class studying "The Purpose Driven Life" (due to be blogged on soon), and the Bloom book really hit me well at this time.

Bloom is a "higher critic" of literature in the sense that he searches for the meaning of the style, allusions to other literature, creation of characters and even feeling, and tries to gain as much meaning as he can from the text. He is a non-practicing Jew by religious background, and he is awed by the literary power and originality of especially Yahweh in the bible. He is similarly moved and bothered by Mark's Jesus, and by the "impossibility" of the relationship of the trinity. He is unconcerned about "literal truth"--these are religious texts, they are to be MORE than "literally true". They are about a God and an existence beyond the human, beyond the temporal, beyond beyond. He sees trying to to put God in a book is "the literal heresy". Yahweh states "I am that I am" to Moses, leaving the obvious potential for the inverse "I am not,  that I am not not"-Yahweh answers to nobody. He abandons his chosen people, his prophets, and even his Son to a cross of ultimate despair.

When we first meet Yahweh, he is a God beyond human imagination, and fits nearly none of what humans would see as a "good God"- constantly demanding of praise, capricious, playing favorites with his people, and  throwing up his hands and drowning them all. Dealing with the devil to all but destroy his servant Job, in whom he shows a pride that seems "sinful" to mere mortals. Bloom comes very close to what I suspect to be a major truth of the bible: it isn't about US. God is SOVEREIGN, that means that "his ways are not our ways", but one of our gigantic tasks in this life is to accept that sovereignty, in total, but especially over our pitiful little lives. We don't judge God, he judges us, and without the covering blood of Christ, the result of that judgment is Hell.

"J's Yahweh is a very persuasive representation of transcendent otherness. And yet Yahweh is not only "anthropomorphic" in the text,  but presented as just "superhuman", and not at all a pleasant fellow. Why should he be? He is not running for office, questing after fame, or seeking benign treatment in the media. Christianity sometimes calls Jesus Christ "the good news" (Mark 1), certainly true as our saviour, but he does "bring a sword", brutally demonstrated by Christians throughout history. 

Being Jewish, Bloom has a hard time dealing with the idea of Yahweh leaving his chosen people to the Holocaust at the hands of "the Christians". Bloom is essentially an agnostic Jew, so for him, "Christian" is a term without power, yet it is tragic to see how close he comes to the flame of the Word without the power found there being quite able to reach his soul.

In reading Bloom I come closer to seeing how literature is so much more than "words on paper". Not well enough to convey that to another reader for certain, but maybe enough to see it through a lens darkly. 

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