<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b><i>The Director</i></b> <p> <p> In my new, cinematic image for the Bible, the film of Genesis begins in silence, with a black screen. First, the film's Hebrew title appears, scrolling up from the bottom. It holds for a few seconds in the center, then rolls up and off the screen. The credits follow in the same way: <p> <b>[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] <p> A TRINITY FILM <p> Produced by GOD THE FATHER <p> Starring THE FATHER'S ETERNAL WORD <p> and Directed by THE HOLY SPIRIT</b> <p> <p> Then, with the screen still black, we hear various narrators' voices begin to speak the opening lines of Genesis: <p> 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. <p> And there was evening and there was morning, one day. <p> <p> Only then, as the narrators reach verse 6, do we see the screen begin slowly to lighten. Music (Vivaldi's <i>Four Seasons</i>) comes up underneath. <p> 6 And God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." <p> <p> Dimly at first, then more and more clearly, we begin to see the previously dark waters, and we watch as the firmament, like an expanding, translucent arch, lifts the waters above it from the waters below until there is a brilliant, clear space between them—and we hear the narrators again: <p> 7 And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day. <p> * * * <p> For the moment, that may be enough to give you a hint of what I have in mind. We're just eight verses into the book of Genesis, but it's obvious that the Director has her film-making well in hand. I've made her a woman not only because the Hebrew word for the <i>Spirit</i> she represents is feminine <i>(rach)</i> but also because Liv Ullmann, whom I admire as an actress, has recently delighted me by directing her first film, <i>Faithless</i>. You and I, however, have some background work to do if we're to appreciate precisely what this movie's Spirit-Director is up to. Above all, she's a <i>poet</i>. Her filming of the scenes of Genesis isn't just a matter of cobbling together a whole whose parts continue to be what they were before she filmed them. She's making an entirely new whole that lifts its parts to another level of reality. <p> A chair manufacturer, for example, creates his product from wood, glue, stain, varnish, and cloth; but in the finished article, the wood is still wood, the glue is still glue, and the stain, varnish, and cloth remain what they were by nature. A poet, on the other hand, creates with nothing but language. But her words transcend themselves. They become <i>images</i> with powers that mere words can never have. Consider, for instance, Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Elegy Before Death": <p> Oh, there will pass with your great passing Little of beauty not your own,— Only the light from common water, Only the grace from simple stone. <p> In those lines, <i>light</i> and <i>grace</i> have leapt up from the stage of physical and theological jargon and risen into images of grief over a love that cannot last. And the bare facts of <i>common water</i> and <i>simple stone</i> have danced themselves into icons of the same hard reality. The poet, you see, uses them as artistic <i>fictions</i> ("fiction" is from the Latin <i>fingo, finxi, fictum</i>: "to stroke, fashion, form; to arrange in order")—and she fashions them into signs that have a new significance. Indeed, she makes them into <i>sacraments</i>, into <i>real presences</i> of a hitherto unrecognized reality. <p> To help you see more clearly this device by which fictions can be as true as facts, I'm going to print out for you Marianne Moore's blank verse masterpiece entitled, fittingly enough, "Poetry." But if I may, I'll take two liberties with the original. Wherever the word <i>poetry</i> appears, I'll follow it with the word <i>Scripture</i> in square brackets; and wherever the word <i>poets</i> occurs, I'll do the same thing, following it with <i>preachers</i>. With that note tucked in your mind's pocket, I think you'll find her poem a splendid guide to the poetry of <i>Genesis, the Movie:</i> <p>     <b>Poetry [Scripture]</b><br> <br>     <i>I</i>, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle.<br>     Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in<br>     it after all, a place for the genuine.<br>       Hands that can grasp, eyes<br>       that can dilate, hair that can rise<br>       if it must, these things are important not because a<br> <br>     high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because they are<br>       useful. When they become so derivative as to become unintelligible,<br>       the same thing may be said for all of us, that we<br>         do not admire what<br>         we cannot understand: the bat<br>           holding on upside down or in quest of something to<br> <br>     eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf under<br>       a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a<br>         horse that feels a flea, the baseball<br>       fan, the statistician —<br>         nor is it valid<br>           to discriminate against "business documents and<br> <br>     school-books"; all these phenomena are important. One must make<br>         a distinction<br>       however: when dragged into prominence by half-poets [preachers],<br>     the result is not poetry [Scripture],<br> <br>     nor till the poets [preachers] among us can be<br>       "literalists of<br>       the imagination"—above<br>         insolence and triviality and can present<br> <br>     for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have<br>       it [Scripture]. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand<br>         the raw material of poetry [Scripture] in<br>           all its rawness and that which is on the other hand<br>            genuine, then you are interested in poetry [Scripture].<br> <p> * * * <p> On the very last page of my previous book, <i>The Fingerprints of God</i>, I quoted this poem's lines about "literalists of the imagination" and "imaginary gardens with real toads in them"; and I said that for me, they solved all the problems of biblical criticism. I stand by that here. In our Bible studies, we've spent far too much time worrying the bone of whether this or that passage of Scripture was factual or fictional—on the silly assumption that all facts are true and all fictions false. But that got us nowhere but into trouble. For example, when we dealt with the first chapter of Genesis, we found ourselves forced to conclude that because its literal details couldn't be squared with the theory of evolution or the cosmogony of modern astrophysics, we had to choose between the Bible and science. If we felt that the Bible was literally true, science had to be false. If we thought science was right, the Bible had to be wrong. <p> Since I'll be referring frequently to both cosmogony and cosmology, I think we should make friends with the etymologies and definitions of both words. <i>Cosmogony</i> is a compound of two Greek words: <i>kosmos</i> (the ordered world, the universe) and <i>gonos</i> (offspring, procreation, seed; generation, reproduction; the manner of a specified thing's coming into being). Webster's Unabridged defines it as follows: <p> <b>Cosmogony 1:</b> the creation, origination, or manner of coming into being of the world or universe <b>2:</b> a theory or account of the origination of the universe <a primitive ~> <b>3:</b> a part of the science of astronomy that deals with the origin and development of the universe and its components. <p> <p> <i>Cosmology</i> is another such compound, made up of <i>kosmos</i> (as above) and -<i>logy</i> (from <i>logos:</i> word, reason, speech, account; oral or written expression; doctrine, theory, science; discourse, treatise). The dictionary defines it thus: <p> <b>Cosmology 1:</b> a branch of systematic philosophy [or of systematic theology, I might add] that deals with the character of the universe as a cosmos by combining speculative metaphysics and scientific knowledge; ... compare ONTOLOGY <b>2:</b> a particular theory or body of doctrine relating to the natural order. <p> <p> To put the difference between the two in my own words, a cosmogony purports to be an account of <i>how creation happened</i>, while a cosmology tries to give the reason <i>why it exists</i>—or, in the case of a theological cosmology, <i>by whom it was made</i>. The thrust of cosmogony tends to be <i>physical:</i> it tries to describe the original conditions out of which the world of time and space arose. The thrust of cosmology, on the other hand, is mostly <i>metaphysical</i>. If it's a scientific cosmology, it seeks to investigate the philosophical roots of those beginning conditions; and if it's a theological one, it tries to get back to the Beginner who made all things out of nothing. <p> But since that <i>nothing</i>, that <i>nihil</i>, just isn't there at all, no one can investigate it. Not scientists, because the condition of the universe before the Big Bang is beyond the scope of their method; and not theologians, because the question of what God was doing "before" he made the heavens and the earth is a theological non-starter. In both instances, therefore, they're like the man who tried to reach a tree by going half the distance each time he started toward it. By definition, he never arrived at the tree. And by the same token, the closer they get to the original "nothing tree," the more clearly they'll see the unbridgeable gulf that stands between them and it. <p> Accordingly, cosmogony is the province of scientists, mythmakers, and poets (each of whom can often be skilled in the others' fields), while cosmology is the province of philosophers, theologians, and poets (ditto). As you can see, the only practitioners who are completely at home in both provinces are the poets. <p> But no poet like our Director would waste her talents on the lazy habit of seeing the first chapter of Genesis as literal cosmogony. The only literalism she will allow is Marianne Moore's <i>literalism of the imagination</i>. Any other kind is just a dead end—a road that can never open up the mystery of creation. Still, it's a road on which fundamentalism has often found itself trapped. <p> Historically, fundamentalism is a recent development, an early twentieth-century phenomenon that at least had the virtue of taking the Bible's words seriously. But the literalism that so often came hand in hand with it had no virtue whatsoever when it was made the only way to read the Bible. In fact, however, the literal approach to Scripture predates fundamentalism by some three hundred years. The thinkers who first set the stage for it were rationalists of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries who objected to the Bible's miracles because they couldn't see them as literal facts of history. But during the nineteenth century, the response of many believers to such skepticism was simply to stamp their feet and say, "They really <i>are</i> literal facts of history, and we're going to believe every one of them, no matter what you say. So there!" <p> Needless to say, that was the beginning of the much-touted war between science and religion, and it was a disaster for everybody. Literalists and anti-literalists alike went forth conquering and to conquer. "Truth itself is on the line," they said, "and we're willing to die for it!" But as it turned out, they didn't die for the truth of Scripture (which went grandly on being whatever kind of truth it pleased); they died in the trenches of their own narrowness—and they were buried in the common ditch of literalism. That's what happens when you let your enemy choose the field of battle: even if you think you're winning, you're losing. <p> Luckily, though, for the sixteen centuries before that war, almost no Christians let themselves fall into that ditch. If a "literal history" view of some portion of the Bible gave them problems, they felt quite free to assign other senses to it: a moral sense, perhaps; or a spiritual, mystical, or anagogical one. Still, since that approach too had its limitations and excesses, I feel just as free to urge my Bible-as-film approach upon you. <p> For a movie is always a historical experience quite on its own, even if it shows us only fictional events. While you're watching it on the screen—and in particular, when you're going over it in your mind after you've taken in all of its images—you're perfectly aware that what you see before you didn't necessarily have to happen on land or sea in order for you to enjoy the film as a historical experience. If it contains footage of a "perfect storm," for example, the fact that the actors weren't really exposed to such wild weather doesn't bother you in the least. The storm, as you watch it in the safety of your theater or living room, terrifies you almost as much as the real thing would. <p> In fact, even if the movie is a documentary, filmed strictly from scenes of real life, you're still being asked to accept its director's fictional juxtaposition of those scenes as factual history. While you're aware that what you're watching is "just a movie," the new configuration into which the director has put his materials gives them a life that's as real as the popcorn you're eating. The only caveat you must keep in mind is that this applies only to a documentary that's a brilliant piece of film-making. Take Ken Burns's series <i>The Civil War</i> as an instance. It consists only of still photographs taken on the battlefields of the time; but, fascinatingly, those non-moving pictures become a great motion picture by force of the director's art. Through his poetry, the stills acquire a <i>moving</i> life of their own on the screen. <p> And that's true of the biblical movie as well. In the Director's hands, its antique photos come alive despite their stilted poses. You may think, for example, that she shouldn't have included her scenes of vegetation sprouting up on the third day of creation before she brought on the sun to promote photosynthesis on the fourth. But she's making history here, not writing a seventh-grade science text. In fact, if you cast about in the film as it now exists in your mind, you'll find that she's pre-empted your objection. You'll notice that she's put the first creation of light on day one, thus anticipating your problem. And if that's not enough for you, think again. Light is actually electromagnetic radiation. It doesn't foster growth because it can be seen. (It can't be: it's invisible till it hits something other than empty space—and even then, you can see only a few of its frequencies.) Light makes plants grow just by being the radiant energy it is. <p> At the point we've reached in the film so far, of course, the physical world is just as invisible as the light. Throughout the first five verses of Genesis, darkness remains on the face of the deep—and on everything else. But even before the creation of the light in verse three, the Spirit has been warming the unseen creation. Like a mother hen, she's been brooding over the world since verse 2. (Brooding is a translation, based on the Syriac of <i>m'rachepheth</i>, meaning "moving, borne upon, borne over.") As a matter of fact, throughout day one, the earth is <i>invisible and unformed</i>, as the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint) translates <i>toh vabhoh</i>, "without form and void" (KJV). Nevertheless, although darkness reigns everywhere, the world as it exists in the Mind of God is still in the right place to absorb the invisible light he's already brought forth in his divine Intellect. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>GENESIS</b> by <b>Robert Farrar Capon</b> Copyright © 2003 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Excerpted by permission of William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.