Rob Bell: Hermeneutics

velvet_elvis I’m almost done with Rob Bell’s first book, Velvet Elvis. It’s been an interesting read, to say the least, with something interesting to blog about in every chapter. What I read last night was too “wow” not to share.

Commenting on John 20:15 when Mary thought the resurrected Jesus was the gardener, Bell says (pp. 156-57)

I love that line ‘thinking he was the gardener.’ It is so loaded. Jewish writers like John did things like this all the time in their writings. They record what seem to be random details, yet in these details we find all sorts of multiple layers of meaning.

This merited a “huh???” in the margin.

One way Bell says you can figure out those layers of meanings in the Bible is the “principle of first mention.” The first mention of “garden” in the Bible, is, of course, the Garden of Eden. Bell concludes:

And what happens to this garden and these people? They choose to live outside of how God made them to live, and they lose their place in the garden. Death enters the picture and paradise is lost.

John tells us that Jesus is buried in a garden tomb. And Jesus is mistaken for a gardener. Something else is going on here. John wants us to see a connection between the garden of Eden and Jesus rising from the dead in a garden. There is a new Adam on the scene, and he is reversing the curse of death by conquering it. As one writer put it, ‘It was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.’ and he’s doing it in a garden. He’s reclaiming creation. He’s entering into it and restoring it and renewing God’s plans for the world.

Wow, for sure. He’d make some fundamentalists get up on their pew, holler, wave their hanky and shout “Amen”!!!

To make his point on the “all sorts of multiple layers of meaning,” Bell provides a footnote (p. 190)–

Take, for example, the genealogy that begins in the book of Matthew. It appears to be a list of people who did a lot of begetting. But there’s something else going on here. The greatest king of the Jews was David. In Hebrew, that’s spelled DVD. D is the fourth letter in the Hebrew alphabet, so it has the numerical value of 4. V is the sixth letter, so it has the value of 6. DVD is therefore 4 + 6 + 4, which gives the name David in the number value of 14. Matthew groups the names in his genealogy in groups of…14. So a Jew reading the introduction to his book, which is telling something about Jesus’ family, would read king, king, king, king, king. Matthew has an agenda here. He wants you to see who he thinks Jesus is.

Anyone glad to be enlightened?