By Greg Spearritt
In my ‘reading the bible as literature’ course late last century we were presented with the outrageous proposition that a text has no meaning save that which the reader brings to it. ‘What did the author intend?’ is therefore a pointless question.
Once we were satisfied that our common sense was indeed offended by this idea, we began to see its point. Authorial intention is just one among many ways – and sometimes the least relevant – to make meaning out of a text.
The Bible is of course the text par excellence here. The history of the Christian Church is littered with readings of biblical texts – and therefore movements, and cults – that completely contradict one another. Naïve or plainly weird interpretations of bible passages (acknowledging the perspective inherent in such a judgement..) remain a cornerstone of incoherent paranoid right-wing conspiracy online.
Jesus, too, is a text. As the quest for the historical Jesus demonstrated (for instance in the work of Albert Schweitzer) this figure could essentially be a mirror in which you saw your own concerns and interests reflected.
So it was in the unfortunate district of Wieambilla, Queensland earlier this year. Jesus was on at least two sides of that traumatic story involving religion, paranoia, conspiracy and murder. ‘This town needs Jesus’, one local Tara resident is reported to have said with a heavy sigh following the calamitous events.
Yet the main antagonist in that scenario, a religiously-inspired fanatic with, most probably, a significant level of mental illness, had declared, “Yeshua [Jesus] is my King and brother.”
Who is your Jesus?
Disclaimer: views represented in SOFiA blog posts are entirely the view of the respective authors and in no way represent an official SOFiA position. They are intended to stimulate thought, rather than present a final word on any topic.