Girard and the trajectory of Scriptural revelation

Something I’ve said for a long time now is that you cannot properly understand the Bible without Jesus interpreting it for you. Yet, many Christians read the Bible indiscriminately, as if Jesus never happened. Historically, and even to this day, quoting the Old Testament to justify just about every questionable thing. 

But if we’re to take a Christocentric view of Scripture, we pretty much need to read it backwards. In fact, the only way we fully know what God is like is if Jesus explains Him to us.

No one has ever gazed upon the fullness of God’s splendor
except the uniquely beloved Son,
who is cherished by the Father
and held close to his heart.
Now he has unfolded to us
the full explanation of who God truly is! (John 1:18 TPT, emphasis added)

We are read the Bible through the interpretative lens of Jesus Christ. This means that whatever is not like Christ, or what He taught us about His Father, is not like God…no matter who said it. Conversely, whatever is like Christ is like God. For more background on this point, you can go to my previous posts here and here on what’s been called the “Jesus Hermeneutic.”

I’ve talked about the writings and teaching of René Girard and his Mimetic Theory and Scapegoating mechanism in the last couple of posts. Girard also had a profound understanding of the trajectory of Scriptural revelation. This, again, is from the Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

According to Girard, this is the completion of a slow process begun in the Hebrew Bible. Once and for all, the New Testament reverses the violent psychosocial mechanism upon which human culture has been founded.”

In Girard’s views, the Hebrew Bible is also crucial in its rejection of ritual sacrifice. Some prophets vehemently denounced the grotesque ritual killing of sacrificial victims, although, of course, the ritual requirement of sacrificial rituals permeates much of the Old Testament. Girard understands this as a complementary approach to the defense of victims. The prophets promote a new concept of the divinity: God is no longer pleased with ritual violence. This is evocative of Hosea’s plea from God: “I want mercy, not sacrifices”. Thus, the Hebrew Bible takes a twofold reversal of culture’s violent foundation: on the one hand, it begins to present the foundational stories from the perspective of the victims; on the other hand, it begins to present a God that is not satisfied with violence and, therefore, begins to dissociate the sacred from the violent.”

Under Girard’s interpretation, the New Testament is the completion of the process that the Hebrew Bible had begun. The New Testament fully endorses the victims’ perspective, and satisfactorily dissociates the sacred from the violent. (Rene Girard, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, emphasis added)

Here is a short video by YouTuber, Les Bridgeman, which I thought gave a great way to explain Girard’s view of the Bible in under 5 minutes:

Bridgeman also has a similar teaching video titled, “René Girard’s Mimetic Theory in 4 Minutes” which is also helpful in understanding Girard’s theories.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 41 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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6 Responses to Girard and the trajectory of Scriptural revelation

  1. John Branyan says:

    Interesting post, Mel. The uniqueness of Jesus is one of the compelling evidences that Christianity is true. It is unlikely that the Hebrews simply “made up” their faith by cobbling together bits and pieces of other religions. Judeo-Christianity goes too far afield of the other popular religions to be a copycat.

    • Mel Wild says:

      It is unlikely that the Hebrews simply “made up” their faith by cobbling together bits and pieces of other religions. Judeo-Christianity goes too far afield of the other popular religions to be a copycat.

      This is a very important point. I covered the bogus copycat argument in other posts, but I don’t think the Hebrews themselves fully understood what God was up to either. We need to understand it from a cultural standpoint. A lot of the narrative was written from their perspective, not God’s. As the clip shows, the prophets begin to pick up on this trajectory later, telling them that all God ever wanted was their heart, not their sacrifice. Even the creation story can be seen as a polemic against the creation myths of the surrounding nations. This was also understood by the early church fathers very early on with Origen and Irenaeus.

  2. Anthony Paul says:

    Mel, I totally enjoyed your latest post…. I had never heard of the Bible having a “trajectory” until I started reading Father Richard Rohr’s excellent books in which he quite often references Rene Girard who describes the Bible as “a text in travail”. What a wonderful revelation to discover that the Scriptures actually have a life (an arc, if you will) which moves and evolves and grows in maturity much as I suspect we as individuals are supposed to do. What troubled me for so many years was trying to reconcile some of the things Jesus said in His parables and how they didn’t quite relate to some ideas of the Old Testament God who always seemed so angry all the time. But I uncomfortably accepted this because I believed that the entire Bible was literally (as opposed to metaphor and symbol) a picture of the nature of God. Funny how we can go on holding on to two opposing views sometimes; but that’s what I was taught and that’s what I believed until one day I just decided that this was nonsense, and if the Bible was supposed to be telling us anything at all useful it wouldn’t be full of seeming contradictions along with a portrait of what appeared to me to be a God with severe bi-polar disorder. It takes a good deal of prayer and work, but there are real answers out there if we want them… “seek and you shall find… knock and it shall be opened unto you…” really does work. Because this kind of thinking is not very prevalent in churches I’ve attended, it truly is gratifying to find a pastor such as yourself who has so much to say to his people. I hope they’re listening…. there’s a lot of gold here, Mel. Thanks!!

    • Mel Wild says:

      “What troubled me for so many years was trying to reconcile some of the things Jesus said in His parables and how they didn’t quite relate to some ideas of the Old Testament God who always seemed so angry all the time. But I uncomfortably accepted this because I believed that the entire Bible was literally (as opposed to metaphor and symbol) a picture of the nature of God. Funny how we can go on holding on to two opposing views sometimes…”

      I think holding two opposing views is called cognitive dissonance! 🙂 And, sadly, it’s totally unnecessary. The idea of the Bible being true in a wooden literal sense (text is verbatim from God) was a modern invention of Biblicist fundamentalists in reaction to modern science, liberal theology, and textual criticism that came into vogue in the 17th and 18th centuries. It really started in rejection of the Pope’s authority in the Reformation. Some of this reaction was good but the Bible was propped up like a science/history book, which it’s meant to be neither. Historically speaking, this is not the way the inspiration of Scripture was understood by the early church fathers forward. And, ironically, I think it’s actually a superficial way of understanding Scripture that does it a disservice. The much greater inspiration is what it says about us–human relationships, culture, and how we experience God. There’s internal dispute and dialogue going on between priest and prophets that’s quite unique in ancient literature. It’s brilliant, to say the least!

      Here are a couple of other posts you may be interested in along these lines.

      The Nature of Biblical Inspiration

      How I Understand the Old Testament” There’s a video by Brad Jersak in this post that I think you’ll enjoy.

      • Anthony Paul says:

        Thanks Mel… I’ll check these out as well. BTW I mistakenly juxtaposed “metaphor and symbolism” for “literalism”…. I meant to say “cultural bias”.

  3. Thanks Mel, I enjoyed that.

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