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Have You Tasted God’s Goodness (Ps. 34) – Ken Westby


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Jacob’s “Non-Ladder” Dream

by Dr. Charles Dorothy

Most of you have heard of Jacob’s Ladder. But how many know the text from which this misconception comes? We will look at Genesis 28:10-22, which is the passage of Jacob’s dream, ladder, stone, pillar, Bethel and a host of things we are not familiar with. But this exposition is about Jacob’s “Non-Ladder” as well as his “Non-Pillow.” This is because, he didn’t have a pillow, and he didn’t have a ladder.

Editor’s note: The following article is a transcript of an informal lecture Dr. Dorothy delivered at our ACD offices in 1994. I wish to thank Gary and Robbie Arvidson for their work in bringing his recorded presentation to print. Only a few minor edits were deemed necessary to aid the reader.

— Ken Westby
__________

Are you a literary form critic? It might come as a surprise that most of you are able to determine and discern, or extrapolate, ferret out, or even expound dozens of literary forms in our modern society that are instantly recognizable to the average person. That claim may seem a little strange, but that is how we can talk about form criticism without turning anybody off. Form criticism is simply recognizing certain types of literature, and certain types of biblical writing. That is all it is.

Now if I read to you about a certain judge in the newspaper, and it tells name, age, county, and judgeship. That’s all. There is no verb. It doesn’t say what he is doing. It doesn’t say what he did. It doesn’t say where he has gone. It doesn’t say what he accomplished. It just gives his name and age and job. Do you know what section of the newspaper this came from? Sure you do. It came from the Obituary section. See, you can recognize it. You didn’t need the word obituary. It is partly because there is no verb in the main sentence. It is partly because of his age (86) and because his picture is there. Certainly if the last portion about remembrances were read to you then you would know for certain. Or if we read “survived by,” you would know instantly.

All right then, let me present something to you. Just read carefully, and see if you can identify what type of literature or what type of writing this is. If you can–fine. If you can’t–fine. If you can, you are actually doing “form criticism,” even if you are not doing it on the Bible–but on something else.

Grind two pounds of cheese thoroughly in a mortar. After grinding well, add one pound of winter wheat flour or for gourmet palates one-half pound of the finest wheat flour and stir it thoroughly with the cheese. Add one egg and stir well and shape a cake from the mixture and wrap it in leaves, bake it lightly in a warm stove under an earthenware dish.

Now what kind of writing is that? It is a recipe. The interesting and fun thing about it is that it comes from approximately 180-190 BC. This is before the New Testament was even thought of. It comes from Marcus Portius Cato and is recorded in his famous work on farming. So in this book on farming, he has a whole bunch of recipes. Now recipes really have not changed that much now have they?

The one verb I seem to be missing is “take,” like with today’s recipes “…take an egg…” etc. So here we have a recipe clearly recognizable from so long ago. They are recognized by the forms — even if we do not list all the clues. So dealing with food you notice it.

Another Example
The next one is touching. I will quote from the book, The Bible: Now I Get It, by Gerhardt Lofink. It is a pity that Doubleday let it go out of print. It is an entertaining look at the Bible for people who think they know it already. The front picture is about a camel in front of an Arab with a needle. This indicates the text that talks about a camel going through the eye of a needle. So Gerhard Lofink got Bill Woodman of the New York Times to illustrate this. This is one that Lofink took off a church wall and it moved him so much so that it probably had something to do with writing the whole book. Here it is.

In the year 1651 on Sunday, April 27th, between midnight and one o’clock, the late virtuous Maria Bilguen of the white mill nave olfman fell asleep gently and happily in her redeemer Jesus Christ. She was 22 years and two months and two days old. God have mercy on her soul. Amen.

1651…on the wall of a church. Now, do we recognize what kind of writing that is? Is that a eulogy? No, it is not telling how great she was. It does not tell all the people she served in her life. It is merely a death notice. It is another form of obituary. But it is a very touching one about falling asleep in Jesus Christ. We call it an epitaph, but it is also under the category of a death notice.

 

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The Association for Christian Development is a non-denominational Christian ministry dedicated to proclaiming the Good News of the coming Kingdom of God. We believe God has a Grand Plan for mankind, which at its core calls us to become like him—after his image in character and mind. We believe God has given us all Scripture (OT & NT) to guide us in … Learn More About the ACD.

Glasses on Open Bible ca. 2001