Textual Surface and the Bible’s Underground (Modern Art and the Bible 4)

July 29, 2016

IMG_20160714_145618066Phoenix’s Art Museum has a set of photographs (I forgot to note the artist’s name), showing tree roots and their effects on sidewalks.

They provide a great illustration for all sorts of themes–the power of nature vs. human artifice, the ultimate destruction of all things human, even plate techtonics.


This one (to the right) especially caught my eye.  The image of the root, partly hidden, IMG_20160714_145749471partly visible, snaking subterraneously under the flat surface of the sidewalk, seemed unusually evocative as I think about the nature of the Bible and its writing.

The biblical text is like a flat surface–like the sidewalk’s surface, it gives the appearance of being simply available for visual inspection.  Just as the sidewalk can be apprehended by a simple act of seeing, so the biblical text seems capable of being understood by a simple act of reading.

But it’s telling that the root slithers snake-like under the sidewalk, subtly raising it and displacing the asphalt next to it.  In a similar way, the apparently smooth surface of the biblical text reveals bumps and ripples caused by something under the text, something that sometimes appears and sometimes is hidden.

There is always more to the text than what meets the eye.

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