Queen's counsel V

January 2002

My first term at Queen's included a series of sessions on the Old Testament and, just to see how well we had progressed, we were asked to present an exegesis on one of seven chosen texts, our first assessed task, by the end of term. Exegesis is derived from a Greek word which literally means "to lead out of" and we are all doing it most of the time.Whenever we seek to understand the meaning of something or try to interpret anything, we are engaging in exegesis - we just don't normally think of calling it that.

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, we read of wise men from the East who had seen a star and who had asked themselves what it could signify. When they realised that they should journey and seek for a child who had been born King of the Jews, it became vital for them that they should come bringing gifts to worship him. How different this is from our world of free trials and having to justify everything before we can proceed. "It (wisdom) cannot be gotten for gold, and silver cannot be weighed out as its price." (Job 28:15). The wise men just left home knowing that they should seek the Messiah. To them, nothing else mattered.

Part of the richness of the Scriptures is their deep understanding of the world and their capture of true meaning. I was drawn to the book of Job as I thought about what I should study in more depth. Many people over the ages have regarded it as the greatest monument of wisdom literature in the Old Testament and it certainly rewards study. Recall that Handel included that beautiful aria in his Messiah the words from Job 19: "for I know that my Redeemer liveth". This occurs in the dialogue that Job has with three friends - they argue from their religious tradition but Job claims that the greater good comes from personal experience and being honest and true to God.

Another part of Job that stands out is the magnificent hymn to wisdom found in Job chapter 28. Here it is questioned where wisdom comes from and where it is to be found. The answer, not surprisingly, is in God, "He said to humankind: 'Truly, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil, that is understanding.'" After a final dialogue with God himself, Job feels that he does, at last, begin to see- the secret is to submit to the divine will, as we pray at Epiphany:

O God,
who by the leading of a star
manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth:
mercifully grant that we,
who know you now by faith,
may at last behold your glory face to face;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

AMEN



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This page was last updated on 2001-12-01


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