Adventures in Biblical Hermeneutics

There was some serious rain here yesterday and one of my colleagues experienced flooding in his house. It was pretty nasty. So another colleague had spent the morning helping him clean up. When the second guy came in to the office, he was carrying his muck-caked shoes.

I said, “Should have seen my shoes… wichhh.”

“What?” he said.

“Manure spreader jack-knifed on the Santa Ana…”

“I’m so glad you said that. Dontcha just love the shape of these wings?”

“Come on boys. It’s all ball-barings these days.”

It took two lines from an old, non-classic movie starring Chevy Chase to invoke an entire scene from the movie in his mind. It makes you wonder how little of a biblical passage need be spoken to do the same to people who lived and breathed the Tanak.

Richard Hayes wrote an article years ago showing how Jesus’ walking on water may have implied a verse from the God-speeches at the end of the Book of Job. It seems like a stretch, perhaps, but I wonder if were not being too conservative. I didn’t quote Casablanca or the Godfather. I quoted Fletch, which does have a following among American men my age, but still.

By the way, I posted a photo of myself on Facebook in front of the British Parliament with the caption, “Look kids, theres Big Ben… Parliament…” Several people commented on the reference, a movie I’ve seen once when it came out. Not a very good one either. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t take much for an allusion to work, even for relatively weak sources. Certainly the same can be said for the most important source in a culture.

That being said, one wonders if there is a threshold at a point where an allusion becomes so common that the origin becomes lost. I’ve spoken with Seminarians who did not realise that the so-called Golden Rule came from the Bible.


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