July 22, 2016
Here is a panel from Liliana Porter’s painting, The Traveler (currently housed in the Phoenix Art Museum).
It depicts a small ship on the edge of a mostly gray surface.
It moves from the center to the periphery–a movement of ec-centricity. Are we to think of this movement as one of danger, of moving toward something unknown?
Or are we to attend to the ship’s smallness in relation to the surrounding gray?
Let the ship represent the interpreter of biblical texts. Interpretation is always a movement toward something new, occasionally dangerous. As the Gospel states, “Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matthew 13:52, NRSV). Interpretation inevitably involves the bringing forth of some new treasure. Sometimes the new is experienced as dangerous.
At the same time, the interpreter of a text floats on a vast sea of meaning. No text can be exhaustively interpreted. The interpreter is thus tiny in relation to the potential meaning lying in the biblical text.
Here is a second panel from The Traveler. I include it only because of a detail.
Pictured in the white field is a page from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, posed, appropriately, with a mirror (reminding the reader of the sequel, Through the Looking-Glass).
In the book that I am writing on the Bible, I use Alice as an example of someone landing in a foreign place and having to find her way about. For me, this illustrates the situation of the reader of the Bible, finding himself or herself in a very different time and culture, with strange customs and beliefs.
Just as Alice’s adventures are a journey (especially in Through the Looking-Glass), so reading the Bible is a journey. The reader is a traveler.