Thursday, February 18, 2010

Deep Exegesis- Leithart

Just finished Peter Leithart's Deep Exegesis, The Mystery of Reading Scripture.

It is an excellent book. One of my deep mysteries is how Dr. Leithart reads so many books and remembers them. Overall, this is an excellent book as one thinks about not only reading Scripture but reading in general. Leithart shows how we bring all of our past experiences and reading into the meaning of the text. The reader correctly does this and the texts themselves encourage us to read this way.

He argues that any modern reader cannot fully or even correctly understand T.S. Eliot, unless he understands or experiences Eliot's reading. Eliot read Dante who read Virgil who read Homer. So, you read Eliot one way, until you read Dante and realize your reading of Eliot was short, or weak, or even wrong. And then you read Virgil and Homer and find in them so much of Eliot, or perhaps better said, so much of them in him. And the text takes on a fuller or even a different reading.

All texts work this way and so we should not be surprised that Scripture works this way, as well. It keeps taking on new meanings for us. This is not to say that we can mold the text into any meaning we want to. To do that to Eliot would be dishonest. But we can continue to come to know texts in deeper and deeper and surprisingly comprehensive and different ways.

I wish this book was shorter. Leithart is brilliant and so many connections flow so easily from his pen it is difficult to keep them all going in the same direction. To wit, the 'accessibility' of Leithart is blocked by his own vast knowledge. I get the sense he doesn't realize that he is making tough sledding for the rest of us. He just slides merrily down the hill. This is a book that ought to be read by many far and wide but I wonder if some of it will be too obscure and difficult for some. Not sure of his target audience but these ideas would be good to condense and present in a broader context.

Then again, it might simply be my mushy skull that fails to maintain the proper forward motion.

I give the book 3 1/2 of 4 stars simply because of some of the difficulty and flow of the book. The ideas and most of the presentation are simply top notch.

You ought to read it.

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