Over the past few years, as I began to apprehend the logic behind the Bible, I realized increasingly just how difficult it is to put into words. That is, all my years of training and experience in writing with clarity, translating difficult concepts into more common terms, I find myself utterly at a loss for words. It’s not something you can simply talk about in clinical terminology.
Even among committed fellow believers, it is very hard to get across. It doesn’t help the mere mention of it suggests they might have been taught wrong all this time. I’m not interested in correcting a millennium of Christian scholarship. There is simply this matter it doesn’t add up, and maybe there is something we’ve been missing for a long time. The problem is, how do I describe it without dredging up terms with bad connotations?
Because of my heavy background in Philosophy courses, I first began using standard academic terms. The problem is, they are all dismissive in nature. To call the culture of the Old Testament “Near Eastern Mysticism” implies right away it’s illogical. That’s not true. It has its own logic, and it’s not a form of logic we are used to, so it requires some time to absorb it. Trying to analyze it in Western terms, using a Western frame of reference, inevitably ends in painting Bible logic as suspicious, at best. Saying it’s more deductive than inductive might sound neutral at first, but because our whole orientation about just how it is minds can know something favors induction, it’s as if Bible logic is primitive. It did come first, but that’s no grounds for assuming we have somehow gotten better at thinking and knowing.
Adding to the problem is the realization no culture today is quite like it was then. There are tastes of it here and there, but most every place on earth has long since been swamped by tidal waves of other cultures. There’s too much proof modern Judaism is hardly Hebraic in outlook. Even by Jesus’ day the Jewish rabbinical colleges were too Hellenized to be genuinely Hebraic. Most of His arguments with the Jewish leaders of His day was criticizing their inability to regard their Scripture from the same set of assumptions under which it was written. They were bogged down in a shallow, literalist application of something produced from a very non-literal viewpoint.
So while I could attempt to use familiar terms, I can’t be sure readers would not still end up somewhere far off track. Try to realize, something which is not “logical” in the familiar, linear sense we are used to, does not automatically become “illogical.” The first pointer is trying to understand symbolic logic. The point behind word choice in Hebrew is not a concrete description, but to an attempt to transport you to the scene being described. You aren’t supposed to walk away knowing something you can recite, but come away with an imperative to act. There is a myth Hebrew people memorized huge tomes of material word-for-word, but all we see are paraphrases. So some New Testament writer “quotes” from an Old Testament passage and comes up with something we aren’t sure makes sense. That’s because they probably saw something we missed, because we are too doggoned literal minded about it. Let me suggest the Hebrew people didn’t memorize word-for-word until much later, when they were less Hebraic. Instead, they memorized the impact a story had on them, and transmitted that impact, though surely using some of the same words.
Context was everything. The Hebrew language itself was all about context, with far fewer words than modern languages, pulling them together and conjugating in strange ways. The intent was for the words themselves to transmit a sense of experience, not an objective and detailed description. They understood such a thing, but wouldn’t use it for something which really mattered. They could cite specific numerical counts, but we find their relaxed attitude about what numbers meant to be rather alarming. Words for numbers were often used with other meanings, and it gets real confusing to us. So a story told by one speaker in one context might be told quite differently in another context. That’s because the point in telling it might change. They were pretty casual about dropping out a lot of detail, because the impact was more important than the story itself.
So calling Bible logic “intuitive” is misguiding. It resembles intuition in the way it works — there is no straight-line path from question to answer. Part of it passes outside the realm of precise calculation, detours through an area which can’t be recreated by another person, because some part of the calculation is just not possible to put in words. Yet it is far more reliable, on its own terms, than something with mathematical precision. That’s the hard part for us to swallow: “success” is not measured in the same terms. They don’t consider being and doing in the same way we do, so knowing the precise nature of a thing is not necessary. They would be more interested in knowing just what it is you are committed to, not what you are (nature) or what you actually do (behavior). Results are measured in a changed or sharpened commitment, not so much what performance points were hit or missed.
And I’m still trying to figure it out myself.