The Jewish Gospel of John by Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg
Before we move onto our next Book Club read for April, let’s review a few essential concepts posed by Dr. Eli Lizorkin in The Jewish Gospel of John. Th author brings up so many good points in his book, but one that I am particularly in favor of approaching with students.
First, there are two terms that we have to become familiar with as soon as we enter into a any class on Biblical Hermeneutics:
Eisegesis: Interpretation of the Bible by reading into it one’s own ideas and belief systems.
Exegesis: Interpretation of the Bible based upon the original or intended meaning of scripture.
Dr. Eli Lizorkin uses a quote from a scene in a Sherlock Holmes movie in which Sherlock says to Dr. Watson, “Never theorize before you have all the data.” As a disciple of Jesus, it will never serve us well if we were to, “Draw conclusions without facts.”
While there are many out there that have been told and “automatically believe“ that Christians operate by leap-of-faith technology alone. As His Ambassadors know, that is not hardly the case.
In fact, this is the assignment of every teacher and student of scripture, “Never draw conclusion before you have all the facts”. That being the case, Dr. Lizorkin poses an indirect challenge to the reader to examine their own approach to the studies of the scripture. “Are we in the habit of drawing conclusions based on a simple, literal or superficial reading of the scripture, without any consideration for the facts?”
Do we look for the facts in our investigation? Do we look beneath the surface or the letter of the word to see whether or not we are operating with what the author calls, “Deficient understandings?”
Lizorkin asks us to consider that there is a tendency for some to arrive at what he calls, “…automatic interpretations that reveal our preconditioning to our long history of interpretations. We think something is right, simply because that’s the way it’s always been taught. Therefore, we assume we absolutely learned everything correctly the first time. But did we? Did you? Dr. Lizorkin points to the danger of suffering an “…imposed theology based upon earlier, more ancient lines of thinking”. Are we missing some information? and if we are, are we willing to consider the facts or do we plant our feet in the mud and stay stuck, refusing instruction? (My words/questions not his).
There are constant daily examples of situations in which someone is observed rehearsing what others have told them or taught them about the scriptures, from the perspective of eisegesis and/or these “ancient lines of thinking” rather than peeling back the layers of the language, context, history, culture or times, etc., learning the coded messages embedded in the scriptures for themselves.
There are also two other terms we should look at that are found within Talmudic Principles:
De’oraita and de’rabanan. De’oraita refers to the traditions of GOD. De’rabanan refers to the traditions of man. It’s basically the same scenario. Do we hold fast to the traditions of man even in light of the fact that these traditions, are not in line with the traditions and the Word of GOD? Are our thoughts, ways, and traditions about the Word we preach, higher than the thoughts, ways and traditions of GOD? I think these are all good questions.
Lizorkin asks us to examine our current patterns of thought.
His book provides an opportunity to consider the patterns detected within our own thought processes and preconceived ideas through a wide variety of examples that he provides. But the questions each one of us must still ask ourselves is, “Have I critically questioned my patterns of thinking and how that applies to my understanding when it comes to scripture?” What could I be overlooking in the scriptures?
You Have a Blind Spot!
Every one of us is born with a scotomoa, a blind spot. There is a place within the visual field of each eye where there are no cones or rods in the optic disk, i.e., there is a lack of light-detecting photoreceptors.
No Light = No Image Detection.
No image detection means the brain fills in the gap, i.e., Blind Spot.
At all times, there is a dark spot between our eyes. We never see this dark spot, because the visual field between our eyes overlap and we fill in the gaps… Your brain fills in the gaps.
In my view, one of the most rewarding moments a teacher could possibly experience in teaching is when the students says, “I never saw that before, I never knew that before, or I never thought of it that way before.” For me, that’s what teaching the Word of GOD is all about, removing blind spots! Adding light, where there was no light.
Are You Nurturing Your Blind Spots?
A teacher of the WORD desires to remove the dark spots in the student’s field of vision by filling in the gaps with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Everything that the rod of GOD represents.
Lizorkin, Founder and Professor of Ancient Cultures at the Israel Bible Center, confirms these rewarding moments as he informs his readers of the discoveries that can emerge when we are willing to look at our blind spots!
We know for a fact as human beings we have a physiological blind spot and our brain compensates for it. How many blind spots might we have in the spirit? and what compensates for that? How do we overcome it?
TORAH STUDY REMOVES THE SCOTOMATA
Our primary objective in the study of the scriptures is to remove the scotomata, the blind spots that exist either from lack of study, lack of wisdom, lack of knowledge, lack of understanding, or lack of light.
If the situation exists in the natural, don’t’ you think it can also exist in the spirit?
As fearfully and wonderfully as we are made, let’s not discount the connection between the lack of light we know exist within our natural design and abilities, and the lack of light that can also exist within our spiritual sight and insight, which is just as real and evident.
Our brains help us to see by drawing conclusions based on the facts made visible from the light that we do receive. Think about that for a moment! The brain acts like a bridge between the eyes, compensating for what we cannot actually see because of this blind spot. By default, we automatically fill in the gaps so that we complete the picture of what we see, or think we see, and we move forward. We are quite the marvel of engineering and design!
There are several lessons here for us. Both within the message in the book and our physiological design. In terms of scripture, we do not have to just fill in the gaps and replace exegesis with eisegesis. We do not have to make something up or take leaps of faith because we have gaps in our knowledge or understanding of the Word. Prof. Lizorkin is showing us by an examination of scripture in his book that, filling in the gaps with what we think should be there, or what we think the scripture is saying, is not how we learn and grow in the Word of GOD. (Besides being unnecessary, it is conduct unbecoming for the disciples of Christ).
In the natural, our brains fill in the gaps based on what our minds expect to see, much like the “automatic interpretations” some defer to according to Lizorkin. We just come up with our own conclusions, much like the Inspector Lestrades’ of the world who twist the facts to fit their theories.
A Lifestyle of Study Fills in the Gaps!
Just like our brain help us to see, our spirit helps us to see as well! We have been given a gift called spiritual insight which is the bridge between what we cannot see and what is actually there. Spiritual insight is one of the key ingredients that fuels the light within us. It is enhanced by our dedication to, and the disciplines of service, selflessness, consecration, prayer and study. (Our Five Smooth Stones).
Prof. Eli Lizorkin offered a little light to help us bridge the gap between what we know and can see in the scriptures, and what we did not see and did not know. I hope you enjoyed this book and that you will join us for our next book club read coming April 12th.
We always have the option of study, to show ourselves approved!
Enjoy this Season of Study,
I hope you join us in the upcoming read in the Book Club. The Book Announcement will Post on April 12th.