restricted access Encoding and the Reader's Text
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NORTHROP FRYE AND THE BIBLE 135 think the universe is a message written in code, a cosmic code, and the scientist's job is to decipherthat code. This idea, that the universe is a message, is very old. It goes back to Greece, but its modern version was stated by the English empiricist Francis Bacon, who wrote that there are two revelations. The first is given to us in scripture and tradition, and it guided our thinking for centuries. The second revelation is given by the universe, and that book we are justbeginning to read. The sentences within this book are the physical laws those postulated and conflrmed by invariances of our experience. If there are those who claim a conversion experience through reading scripture, I would pointoutthat the book ofnature also has its converts' (p 343). The implications of the two revelations, as brought out by Pagels, are highly similar. Encoding and the Reader's Text DAVID L. JEFFREY It would be easy to mistake the nature of The Great Code. In his introduction to this volume of a continuing excursus Professor Frye tells us that the work attempts a study of the Bible from the point of view of a literary critic. He then goes on to say that the result is not a work either of biblical scholarship or of theology, that at 'no point does it speak with the authority of a scholarly consensus.' Rather, 'it expresses only my own personal encounter with the Bible' (p xi). The caveat is, of course, pre-emptive. It is difficult to take formal issue with a protestation of personal encounter: one cannot very effectively reason or examine evidence for subjectively acquired passions or belief; being outside the experience of the encounter, one is irrunediately disqualified. And this pre-empting continues to instruct Frye's reader throughout the book, which is neither a work ofliterarycriticism (although it is awork ofliterary theory) nor a study of the Bible and literature. In fact, if it were not for the subtitle, one might take The Great Code to be a treatise in hermeneutical theology compatible with the work of theorists such as Hegel, Derrida, and Kenneth Burke. As it is, Frye asks us to read his book as a species of philosophical reflection, and even if the result is not exactly the 'rewritten version of the Anatomy' (p xiv) he says he feared it might be, it does represent a reworking of that structure and body of ideas as the credo of a man who at some time has been keenly sensitive to theology, and who now happens to express those interests - with acuity and erudition- as a literary theorist. The Great Code asks to be read as a temoignage, a personal testament of vision, and read in this way it will be a significantaddition to the Frygian corpus. The theoretical strength of the book is most apparent, I think, in Frye's UNlVERSIT\' OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 52, NUMBER 2, WINTER 1982/3 0042-024718310200-0135-0141$01.50/0 C UNIVERSllY OP TORONTO PRESS discussion of metaphor. Always illuminating on this subject, he is here particularlylucidand provocative, introducing in the 'principle of implicit meaning conveyed by the juxtaposition of words' a paradigm for his later discussion of typology. Here, his understanding is rich and his exposition the most useful general aspect of this book for beginning students of the Bible. Arguing that typology is a form of rhetoric open to being studied critically like any other, Frye reminds us that it must nevertheless be understood in the Bible as far more than merely another form of rhetoric: 'The typological organization of the Bible does present the difficulty, to a secular literary critic, of being unique: no other book in the world, to my knowledge, has'a structure even remotely like that of the Christian Bible' (p 80). In the Bible typology is really 'a mode of thought,' ultimately a 'theory of history .. . an assumption that there is some meaning and point to history, and that sooner or later some event or events will occur which will indicate what that meaning or point is, and so become an antitype of what has...