Whose View?

The late French philosopher and urban theorist Paul Virillio showed in his incredible book (actually, incredibly hard to read but still awesome) War and Cinema that what we see on television, or in our case now, smartphones and laptops is a development of what were originally military requirements involving field of vision.

We see what the camera shows us. The camera provides us our field of vision. This matter is so important that directors insist on using only a certain type of film, whether 35 or 70 mm, to capture and tell the story. For example, David Lean shot Lawrence of Arabia in panoramic view. This is how the movie is designed to be seen and understood.

While the Bible is not a movie, it is a narrative, and therefore it has a field of vision. That field of vision encompasses not only the entire narrative, but also the names of places, of people, and the literary topography mentioned in the previous post.

Part of literary reality, of course, is that we look at what happens in a story and we relate it to our own lives. The story of the shepherd boy David who became the immoral proprietor king of Judah is a story to which many people can relate. After all, how many people do we know or have heard of who were gentle and kind souls who “lost their way” in the pursuit of wealth and acquisition of power? You do not need to start out as a shepherd and end up as a king for that to resonate.

With the Bible, this goes to another level. The Old Testament was written in a language that is foreign to us. This language has one fantastic characteristic — it has no vowels. It is all consonants. Almost barbaric sounding to ancient ears. To us Indo-Europeans who have such expressive words and phrases, biblical Hebrew is, well, not a cocktail party language of conversation.

But it is the language of Scripture.

And language defines the field of vision. It makes the vision possible.

In biblical Hebrew, names have a meaning. Even words that seem just a part of the sentence also have place value, so to speak. They are put there by the authors of the Bible on purpose and can only be picked up and understood by those who know the original language.

This is why we have to come to terms with and learn as much as we can what the original authors said.

3 thoughts on “Whose View?

  1. Pingback: Consult the Book of Armaments! | The Literary Liturgist

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