Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bibliophagy: Eating the Word-Made-Flesh

Adoration of the Shepherds
Seventeenth Century
'Word Become Flesh?'

In this fourth part of my series on eating books, we encounter a 'book' that has become a human being, so perhaps this is actually the fifth part in a series on books since it loosely ties in with my post on 'Bibli', the man who became a book when the book became the man.

John the Evangelist -- who might or might not also be the author John of the Book of Revelation and who might or might not also be the Apostle John of the Twelve Disciples and who is notably never specifically identified as "John" in the Gospel of John -- introduces us to the Divine Word in its process of becoming incarnate:
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. . . . . 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (Authorized Version)
Note that this hymn to the Word -- or Logos -- acts as a hermeneutic key on the opening of Genesis, or is the latter the key?
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven 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 moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that [it was] good: and God divided the light from the darkness. (Authorized Version)
God's act of speaking the creation into being in the Book of Genesis becomes the Divine Logos creating the world in the Gospel of John. This Logos becomes flesh that later offers itself for ingestion:
John 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. 52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat? 53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. 58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. (Authorized Version)
The symbolism alone is enough to give one Johannine indigestion, but some Christian traditions have read these words literally! Perhaps we should read them that way? The verses seem to insist upon it.

We have reached perhaps the extreme of bibliophagy. The word of God, often understood as a book -- namely, the Bible, if we recall Peterson's remarks -- takes on flesh and offers itself for ingestion by anyone who might wish to have eternal life! In other words, that which biblically is consistently portrayed as the highest and most holy, God, becomes that which biblically is often portrayed as the lowest and most sinful, flesh . . . and we're supposed to eat the bloody mess! No wonder several followers are reported as having abandoned Jesus at this point (John 6:60-66).

I've written an entire, overly lengthy dissertation on this 'bread-of-life' issue, but one can more briefly read a bit on my views here and here.

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