Primitive With Modern Conveniences

Last night Shirley and I were watching a lecture on Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Sprint” by Robert Greenberg. Greenberg mentioned Debussy’s rather sarcastic comment on the Rite, “If you like it, it’s primitive music with every modern convenience.” Debussy’s comment struck me as an apt metaphor for much that passes for Biblical interpretation. It is primitive, both as anachronistic and as uninformed. Still, it has all the modern conveniences. Like Stravinsky’s Rite, much modern Biblical interpretation, nearly all of it that passes as hermeneutics, is detached from its ancient roots to make modern if misguided points.
No, I don’t need to defend this. One, this is a blog. Two, look at any attempt to find guidance in the Bible as a whole or in any passage or set of passages with regard to some modern issue or moral dilemma.

One thought on “Primitive With Modern Conveniences”

  1. Very nice post!
    It perfectly reminds me of something I just read today (no kidding), from the Anchor Bible Dictionary’s section on Exegesis, under “Application”: “a basic hermeneutical rule: a passage cannot mean now what it could not originally have meant. That is, there is no valid modern application of a passage that was not also a potentially valid application of the passage for its original audience” (D. Stuart, ABD II 687).
    How many times do people (and Biblical scholars are not exempt from this for the most part) try to wring out of an ancient writing some modern application? Too many.. but I suppose this is how the more theologically minded find an anchor in their life.
    As for Debussy – his music is great at times (I am a pianist and play him when that certain mood strikes me), but his arrogance toward other composers might have been greater. I’ve always liked “The Rite of Spring” and much of Stravinsky’s music (his “Symphony of Psalms” is an interesting and very emotional setting to music of 3 of the Biblical Psalms), though his piano renditions of the Petrushka Suite are beyond my technical league, unfortunately.

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