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Jesu, Juva

Conceal

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In his lectures on Exodus, Jim Jordan mentions his (then) recent interview with the science fiction and fantasy novelist Gene Wolfe:

“Wolfe’s most striking piece of fiction so far is a set of five novels which are in continuation with one another called The Book of the New Sun. It’s real complex and there’s been a lot of analysis saying ‘What did he mean by this? What’s really going on in this chapter?’ and so forth.

“I asked him about it. ‘Are you trying to confuse the reader?’ He said, ‘No, I always leave enough clues and you have to find them.’ He said, ‘Remember: I worked on this for five or six years, so I had a lot of time to put in everything I wanted and to get it the way I wanted it to be.’ He rewrote it five times before it was done.

“Now the reader doesn’t usually take that much time. It’s true of Wolfe’s books—as one reviewer put it: ‘If you buy a novel by Gene Wolfe, you really get about four novels because you can read it over and over and get all kinds of new things out of it each time, so it’s a good investment.’

“But I was struck by the fact that he said: ‘I had five years to work on this and to get things exactly the way I wanted it and to rework this and to get the story exactly the way I wanted it, to make some things clear, to obscure some things, and to put challenges before the reader.’

“And I thought, ‘Well, God had eternity to put things in the Bible and there are plenty of things in the Bible that are clear to us and then there are things that are puzzles.’ The Book of Proverbs says, ‘The glory of God is to conceal a matter and the glory of kings is to search it out.’

Jordan goes on to mention that when Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, preaches the sermon we call Deuteronomy, he has been meditating on Genesis and Exodus and Leviticus for thirty-eight years. If we haven’t done that, we can’t really expect Deuteronomy to be crystal clear to us on a first reading:

“Moses has done that for 38 years. You and I haven’t. Now he puts Deuteronomy down, and what is Deuteronomy? It’s the fruit of 38 years of reflection on all the details in Exodus and Leviticus.

“To understand Deuteronomy really well, we would need to understand everything in Exodus and Leviticus and then we’d have to think about how they go together in a real life context for a long time. Then you’d be in a position to understand what was in Moses’ mind when he wrote Deuteronomy.

“That’s not to say that we can’t get anything out of Deuteronomy. But it is to say that there’s some complicated things in here that a lot of people haven’t gotten and that we’re not going to get today either.

“But it illustrates just how rich this book is, because Deuteronomy is the culmination of the first five books of the Bible. Everything is rolled together in Deuteronomy as a result of Moses’ reflections, under divine inspiration. So we shouldn’t expect it to be completely transparent.”

Source: John Barach

Written by Scott Moonen

April 14, 2019 at 4:51 pm

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