Sunday, September 9, 2012

Thought for the Week

This quote on the Bible is from the great 20th century theologian and rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel:

The divine quality of the Bible is not on display, it is not apparent to an inane, fatuous mind; just as the divine in the universe is not obvious to the debaucher.  When we turn to the Bible with an empty spirit, moved by intellectual vanity, striving to show our superiority to the text; or as barren souls who go sight-seeing to the words of the prophets, we discover the shells but miss the core....To sense the presence of God in the Bible, one must learn to be present to God in the Bible. Presence is not a concept, but a situation.... Presence is not disclosed to those who are unattracted and try to judge, to those who have no power to go beyond the values they cherish; to those who sense the story, not the pathos; the idea, not the realness of God.

The Bible is the frontier of the spirit where we must move and live in order to discover and to explore.  IT is open to him who gives himself to it, who lives with it intimately.  We can only sense the presence by being responsive to it.  We must learn to respond before we may hear; must learn to fulfill before we may know.  It is the Bible that enable us to know the Bible.  

God in Search of Man, pp. 252-53.


  1. Tory,

    I love this quote by Rabbi Heschel....but, I hope you don't mind feeble minds like mine asking for further clarification???

    I've chewed on this the past couple days and have come back to it tonight, believing I understand more fully what Heschel is saying except for the last couple sentences: "We must learn to respond before we may hear; must learn to fulfill before we may know. It is the Bible that enables us to know the Bible." Help, if you don't mind. We have for years been a Bible reading, Bible digging family (and as mentioned previously, excited to go through this particular liturgical calendar format thanks to Stott's assistance.)

    Thanks for all you are doing with this blog and this study! We LOVE IT!

    Susan for the Pearsons

  2. Hi Susan

    Heschel is full of statements that appear puzzingly on first reading. It is part of his strategy - sort of like Jesus' parable - of getting to think along with him. In particular, he wants us to approach the Bible like we do no other text. In some ways the Bible can be approached like other historical literary works: from its historical context, its literary form and the like. But the Bible has another dimension and to fully understand it we must also approach it from that dimension. What is that dimension? It is God's dimension, the dimension of the holy and the transcendent.

    Heschel basically want to "rewind our minds" and "re-thread out heads" - to move from self-centered to a God-centered approach to the Bible. The Bible is a window into the mind and heart of God ABOUT humanity. It is NOT human theology but it iis divine anthropology. To begin to see this fact, we must have our perspective totally transformed. The best way to have our perspective transformed is by learning to read the Bible in terms of the Bible. This is what Jesus did - he read the Bible from God's perspective.

  3. The "holy and the transcendent." Yes, thank you. The unifying principle of all things is the Word....LOGOS. And the Word will set us free....Veritas vos liberat! Freedom comes through entering into that mind and heart of God about humanity, as you say above. Every time I approach his living, breathing, holy, mind-boggling Word, I realize just how short I measure up and just how much of my lifetime it'll take to fully enter in and grasp.

    Love it and thanks again!