Day 30 of 31: “You’ve always taken care of me. My turn.”
3rd Suggestion Winner: Suggested by Ben Sears via Facebook
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Paul Davidson tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the Ark of the Covenant but were afraid to ask: “Readers of the Lost Ark: Following the Literary Trail of an Ancient Religious Symbol.” After tracing the various (conflicting) biblical traditions and narratives about the ark, Davidson notes that “diverse traditions about the ark continued to develop into the Christian era.” His post also, of course, includes some Indiana Jones allusions and images as a lighthearted touch.
But I take those Raiders references seriously, because even though Stephen Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas didn’t intend to reshape our understanding of the Ark of the Covenant, they contributed mightily to the way we imagine it, the way we think of it, and thus the way we read and tell and understand all those biblical stories.
When you read Davidson’s summary of the work of actual biblical scholars, you can’t help but notice that their understanding of these stories is very different in many ways from the popular understanding most Christians acquire in Sunday school. And it’s not just that scholars know more than what is communicated in those popular lessons. In many cases, the difference is that scholars “know” less — the popular lessons include all kinds of little details and glosses, embellishments and assumptions that can’t be found anywhere in the text.
The text itself gets popularized and its stories are retold. Its stories provide the basis for other stories about those stories, and details from those new stories seep back into the popular understanding as though they were part of the original. The revised and expanded idea of the original then provides the basis for even more new stories, and the cycle repeats itself. The text feeds into popular culture and popular culture, in turn, feeds back into the text, and after multiple repetitions of that cycle we lose the ability to distinguish one from the other.
That’s where 90 percent of what most Christians “know” about Hell or Satan or “the Antichrist” comes from. They’re confident that all this stuff they “know” is in the Bible somewhere, but you can’t find it in the text itself, only in the idea of the text that exists after generations of this text-culture-text cycle has done its work.
We learn new stories and then we carry those stories with us when we go back to the text and those stories influence what we see and don’t see when we read the text. This is true of horrible stories that intend to reshape the way we read the text itself, such as for example Left Behind. But it’s also true of really good stories that don’t seem intended to do this — like Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Omen or Dante’s Divine Comedy or The Vision of Tundale.
The new stories employ vocabulary that comes from the text, and those new stories give the words from the text new connotations and new associations that we carry with us when we go back to the text. And in that return to the text, we begin to imagine that we find those new connotations and new associations there in the original story. We read a Bible verse with the word “Hell” in it and we bring 2,000 years of other stories with us, assuming that all of that is what the writer meant when it’s neither true nor possible that the writer could have meant any of that.
Indiana Jones may not be a character you’ll find in the Bible, but then “The Antichrist” isn’t a character you’ll find in the Bible either, and that hasn’t stopped generations of Christian readers from finding him there.
Let’s face it: when it comes to being scary, Nature trumps anything.
By the way, if you haven’t heard the news, we have a new place to buy some sweet merch: Zazzle! From there, we’ll be able to offer all kinds of new goodies we couldn’t before, such as the buttons available right now! In the near future, you can look forward to a lot more, so be sure to keep an eye out for future announcements!
We’re also getting so close to our next Patreon goal of $350 (which is stunning. Jesus. Wow. Thank you.), and we wanted to do something special to celebrate its achievement. Once we hit our goal, we’ll be hosting a free live-draw stream for ALL of our patrons as a thanks, which we’ll also be recording to be available on-demand through Patreon. You’ll be able to chat with us, hang for an evening, and generally enjoy the awkward joy of our company. We’re looking forward to it! <3
Uh, guys? I think you forgot something.
Thanks for sending this in, Mark!
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Just so you know.
Trouble + Trouble = ?
Hey, if you read this comic on a mobile device, maybe consider backing the Comic Chameleon Kickstarter? It’s a pretty great app that has a ton of great webcomics on, all with the co-operation of the artists, and the Kickstarter is to bring it to Android and add extras to the iOS version too. Take a look!
Day 29 of 31: “Yes. Yes I am, Bode”
2nd Suggestion Winner: Suggested by @spacein_between via Twitter
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