The Crazy Level of Symbology
One area of fascination for me is the nature of language itself.
Charles Hartshorne, in a wonderful lecture on this topic, commented that he believed that (in some sense) God was above language, the animals were below it and we inhabit this space in-between. And it is not to be missed that in orthodoxy it is primarily in the space of words and ideas that God speaks to us.
Subjectively, from the very beginning, God walked and talked with us in the cool of the day. His voice came to and through the patriachs, the prophets, the priests and even a king or two. Even in this world of incredulite skepticism, if we pause, our bones remember.
Exhibit B would be the cathedral of holy scripture.
In that expression, we are told in the gospel of John that Jesus, as Incarnate, comes to us as "the Word" of God and the idea here is worthy of note. A huge part of His coming was the expression of the divine, in specificity, in a language that can be learned and understood. As Hartshorne pointed out, God meets us with words, in this case perhaps, the Word of words. Certainly there are mystical encounters of emotion, of dreaming, of visions and the ineffable presence that believers have experienced from the beginning as well.
But it is words that win the day.
It is the foolishness of preaching that still oddly serves us well. We dig and write and speak and sing and ponder as the "meta" meanings with Inception-like layers retain their sense of playful fun while losing none of their weight. We read God's word, in translated words, talking about the Word that came and lived among us with our words. Every level filled with meaning, packed with significance, even as the weakness of language points beyond itself to strength of the highest sort.
I don't know how you account for that outside of the simple acknowledgement that language itself, shares something like a divine nature. Also, this is why lying is a very big problem indeed.
Tying this back to the Bible, let me give you an example of what I mean. The depth and richness of figurative symbols that tie Hebrew Bible to the New Testament are incredible.
First, in Genesis 40:8-19, these are the dreams in prison from the story of Joseph:
8 They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.” 9 So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, 10 and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. 11 Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand.” 12 Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. 13 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh's cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. 14 Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. 15 For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.” 16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, 17 and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.” 18 And Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. 19 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.”
Subsequent events happened exactly as Joseph foretold. Notice some of the primary images and outcomes of each dream:
Wine (along with vines, grapes and preparation)
Prominent number 3 (becoming 3 days)
Prominent cup, placed in hand
Prominent number 3 (becoming days again)
Bread as flesh, being eaten
Hanging on a tree
Does any of this sound familiar? It's not a stretch to notice that these are the elements of communion. And what is the Cross and the Gospel at it's heart but a Dream of Death and simultaneously a Dream of Restoration? The Bread that is broken, the Wine that we consume in remembrance, in the story of Joseph become the catalyst to bring redemption to the known world. 3 days? Remember Me!
Here's the thing. Genesis was written thousands of years before the Last Supper. As far as we know, Jesus or Paul or Luke never mention the dreams of Joseph as a direct tie to the early act of communion. This kind of figurative picture and connection doesn't happen only here, it literally happens thousands of times, in extraordinary consistency and clarity.
As someone who loves great writers, Shakespeare, Dante, Eliot and all the rest... I'm telling you that no one is that smart. And that would be assuming a single human mind with uncommon clarity of vision and focus. The reality is that the Bible was written by 40 different authors, over 1600 years, in multiple languages - yet the depth of agreement with foundational principles, unfailing direction and detail is impossible to imagine.
Ever try to get 5 people to deliver on a group project for a class due on Friday? Multiple that by a billion and you have the authorship of the Bible. The only way it works is if you have a single Showrunner Who is driving the train, even while a variety of authors are working pen to paper.
That's one of the reasons I believe this text is the real thing.
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.