August 19, 2017 § Leave a comment
I just finished reading a marvelous book. Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels by Richard B. Hays, published by Baylor University Press; Waco, Texas; 2016. I wish I had read it many years ago, so that I could have used the knowledge and insight gained by this book all that time. Unfortunately, as noted above, the book was only published last year.
In brief, the book shows how each Gospel uses the Old Testament, mostly the LXX. It comments on the quotes, the allusions, the references, and even the very slight echoes of Scripture found in the Gospel. The echoes of scripture are a metaphor for a literary device used by the Gospel writers called metalepsis, which is “quoting a piece of text that beckons the reader to discover more of the original context from which the fragmentary citation came.” Richard Hays goes on to explain this term:
It’s a term I learned from the literary scholar and poet John Hollander, who had written an elegant book called The Figure of Echo: A Mode of Allusion in Milton and After. Hollander made the point that all great literature is densely allusive and that very often poetic texts are full of echoes of earlier texts. A sensitive reading requires us to recognize that and to see where the echoes come from.
His explanations and commentary provide profound insight into what the Gospels are teaching and showing us.
To the best of my knowledge Richard Hays is not New Church and has never read any of Swedenborg’s books. But the insights he has gained from his studies is very compatible with the teachings of the Heavenly Doctrines. By compatible I mean that while his understanding of what he says is not New Church, and I am sure quite different from our beliefs; but his words can be infilled with New Church ideas.
One example of this is the identity of Jesus Christ:
The more deeply we probe the Jewish and Old Testament roots of the Gospel narratives, the more clearly we see that each of the four Evangelists, in their diverse portrayals, identifies Jesus as the embodiment of the God of Israel. (p. 363)
While worded very differently, this is conveying the same idea as the Heavenly Doctrines, see for example AR 67:
THE FAITH OF THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW CHURCH, IN ONE UNIVERSAL IDEA, is this, that the Lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came into the world (See also LJp 366;F 34; DP124.4; AR 548; BE 116 & TCR 2)
An intriguing observation that Richard Hays makes is:
. . . the Evangelists received Scripture as a complex body of texts given to the community by God, who had scripted the whole biblical drama in such a way that it had multiple senses. Some of these senses are hidden, so they come into focus only retrospectively. (p. 358)
Richard Hays, as far as I know, is unaware that Old and New Testaments have a spiritual meaning, that was hidden and which is now revealed in the Heavenly Doctrines. Yet what he says about the meaning which the Evangelists saw retrospectively in Scriptures is also true of the Spiritual Meaning.
- The spiritual meaning was hidden within the literal meaning of the Old and New Testaments.
- And the spiritual meaning can only be seen retrospectively from the Heavenly Doctrines.
This last point is thought provoking. From the Heavenly Doctrines we can see in the Old and New Testaments a spiritual meaning. One of the things that the Heavenly Doctrines do when they reveal the spiritual meaning of a passage, is that they often confirm that meaning by citing numerous other verses in the Old and New Testaments. As laborious as it often is to read through all these citations, it is often only by reading through them and seeing how a given term is used in many verses, that we can see that the term must have a spiritual meaning. Further, as you read through the Arcana Celestia or the Apocalypse Revealed, you begin to get a glimmer that the spiritual meaning reveals an overarching narrative. From the Heavenly Doctrines and their revelation of the spiritual meaning, we can see a unity of structure in the Old and New Testaments that is not evident from the literal meaning alone. The literal meaning appears to separate stories and histories, often with conflicting views and information.
It is the revelation of the the spiritual meaning of the Old and New Testaments that tie the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Heavenly Doctrines into a unitary Word or Divine Revelation. This for me explains why the Arcana Celestia had to be the first work of the Heavenly Doctrines published.
The Writings are also filled with quotations, references, allusions, and echos of other passages in themselves, and of verse in the letter of the Word that deepen and enrich their teachings. The Heavenly Doctrines become more alive as our familiarity with them the letter of the Word grows.