Magazine article Anglican Journal

Books Encourage a Second Look at Scriptures for Church's Renewal: Capon Mourns Loss of Sense of Poetry

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Books Encourage a Second Look at Scriptures for Church's Renewal: Capon Mourns Loss of Sense of Poetry

Article excerpt

WHEN I FIRST picked up Genesis: The Movie by Robert Farrar Capon, I was fully expecting a rather frivolous read. How wrong I was. But it is certainly a different approach to the first book of the Old Testament.

For those who enjoy having their understandings stimulated and stretched who see the world in terms of poetry and imagination, who appreciate the pursuit of troth over a registry of facts, then this a book you will not only enjoy but return to, time and again, to freshly invigorate your mind and your soul.

The author's goal is to provide a "new slant on Scripture" and in the process rise above, go beyond, sidestep, the pitfalls of both ultra-conservative and ultra-liberal approaches which today seem mired on a battlefield, hopelessly entrenched. He aims to reclaim the importance of poetry if we would truly understand Scripture. "But in ecclesiastical circles, it was precisely our loss of that sense of poetry that most vitiated our preaching. Our seminary professors generally wrote off such image play as mere allegorizing--as an imposition of alien interpretations on the text rather than a legitimate, if poetic, way of getting to its truth. But images are not allegories. They don't mean something other than what they are; they are something other than what they literally mean."

In making his case he brings into play a thorough knowledge of Hebrew, Greek and Latin as well as familiarity with the King James, Revised Standard and New Revised Standard versions of the scriptures, to which, when he feels it is required, he adds his own. He also draws heavily on the commentary on Genesis by Augustine in De Genesis ad Litteram, which he admires not only for its economy of words but also its perceptions of depth in the meaning of words.

Is this a book for literalists, or for those liberals who have dismissed portions of Scripture because they are inconvenient? Perhaps it is time for both camps to go see the movie. It is Oscar-winning quality.

Many will remember Hans Kung's 1974 book. On Being A Christian, which received wide ecumenical acclaim. In retirement since 1996 he has now published volume one of a proposed two-volume autobiography. In My Struggle For Freedom--Memoirs he relates the experiences of growing up in a small Swiss town, his attraction to the church through a priest in whom he saw the reflection of the spirit of Jesus, his rigorous course of studies in Rome, his involvement in the Second Vatican Council, how he became a good friend of the Swiss Protestant theologian Karl Barth, and above all his struggles to remain free in the fields of critical intellectual and academic enquiry in the interests of the integrity of the gospel and the Roman Catholic church. …

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