...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Saturday, December 04, 2004

A branch will spring forth from the stump of Jesse...ca

Just kidding.

I just got back from the Holiday Gala service in the chapel. Kugler, my adviser and Old Testament professor, was the second reader during the service--he read Isaiah 9:2-7, which prophesizes the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah for Christian readers of the text, of course, is Jesus, although the evidence in the text isn't as strong as fundamentalists usually say it is. (You might remember this class discussion I wrote about in September.) When I saw his name in the order of service, I was curious what he would say, since in class he's all about the historical and textual criticism and how it's all ex eventu prophecy, in which one forecasts a prediction of something that's already happened onto the past, in order to establish legitimacy for prophesies of things that haven't happened yet.

Hearing him read the text, though, reminded me of something the pastors at my church always say when they introduce a Biblical story to the children: "I don't know if it happened exactly this way or not, but I know it to be true." When I heard Kugler read Isaiah 9:2-7, I sensed that even if, as a Biblical scholar, he doesn't believe Isaiah to have written specifically forecasting the birth of Jesus Christ, as a Lutheran pastor and as a Christian, he knows it to be true. And so do I.

On my way up to Portland to visit Chris over the summer, I sat next to this friendly strawberry-blond 14-year-old. We began talking, and before long the conversation turned to religion. He was a Biblical literalist and evangelical; I'm a liberal, non-evangelical Protestant. He asked how I can be a Christian without believing the Bible to be literally true--every story, every ancestral line, every prophecy. While trying to be respectful of his religion and faith, which are no less authentic or valid than mine, I explained that I believe that stories and teachings can and do have a metaphorical value that is even more meaningful than if they were literally true.

This evening's service was important for me. This Advent season, when I hear the Isaiah prophesies read, I'm going to remember Kugler, and keep that saying in my head: "I don't know if it happened exactly this way or not, but I know it to be true."