Be Your Own Bible Scholar

All you have to do is think like a Bible character.

Continued from page 3

Another proof--what I consider a proof--that makes me think I'm right about the Las Vegas notion is, why else have the brothers be where they're not supposed to be? When an author tells a story, he wants it to be a good story. And if the author moves the brothers from Shechem to Dotham for no reason, and introduces a whole new character in order to effect that (whoever that unnamed man is who tells Joseph "your brothers aren't here, they're someplace else") -why would you even need to bring in somebody unless the location of the brothers is an important plot device?

The medieval Jewish interpretation, Midrash, often relies on very fanciful explanations. They're darling, but I don't like to use them. I don't like to do that. I like to have backup in the text. I like to feel that I am truly reading the lines, not between the lines, not my own fancy or predilections. I want to stick to what the author says or what he omits, because sometimes the author omits things on purpose and we're meant to notice that.

Can you give an example of a purposeful omission?

When Abraham takes Isaac to the mountain to sacrifice him. Abraham takes wood, a knife, and fire to light the wood. Isaac says, "Daddy, how come you've taken wood and fire, but there's no animal to sacrifice?" Note that Isaac says "the wood and the fire," and he omits the word 'knife.' The professor presenting this to me--this wasn't my idea--says Isaac is already scared and can't bring himself to say 'knife.'



That's very psychologically intense.

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This author, you know he's good. You know he doesn't leave out anything

by mistake

. If the word 'knife' is left out on purpose, why is it left out? And when you realize why, the story becomes so much more poignant. When you know that Isaac knows why they're going up that hill and what's going to be sacrificed, and his father knows that he knows. His father also hears him leave out the word 'knife.' It's just so sad.

What are other stylistic devices that most people aren't aware of?

Again, repetition. A lot of translations--not the KJV, fortunately--try to get away from repetition, because in English you don't want to use "he said, he said" over and over. You want to say "he sputtered," "he shouted," to make it interesting.

But when the modern translations do that, it obscures what the Bible is doing. The Bible will say "he said, he said, he said" and then something like "he nodded." When you get that change after so many "he said"s, you sit up and pay attention. So that's one of the uses of repetition.

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