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Allegories ofScripture ALLEGORIES OF SCRIPTURE by James c. Nohrnberg James c. Nohrnberg has taught Bible and literature classes at Harvard (1967), Yale (1969-74), and the University of Virginia (where he has been Professor of English since 1975). He has published on Homer, Dante, Spenser, Milton, and Thomas Pynchon, and teaches Shakespeare. A student of the late Northrop Frye, he is the author of The AtUllogy of 'The Faerie Queene' (1976, Imt. pb. edn., 1981). The present paper is part of a long-term project on the Bible. He it is who fashioneth you in the wombs as pleaseth Him. There is no God save Him, the Almighty, the Wise. He it is Who hath revealed unto thee the Scripture wherein are clear revelations-They are the substance of the Book-and others allegorical. But those, in whose hearts is doubt, pursue, forsooth, that which is allegorical, seeking dissension by seeking to explain it. -The Koran, Surah nI, 6f., after M. M. Pickthall trans! I. 127 The Bible was written to be read, but it was also read in order to be written. God saw, as it were, that Israel could be brought into existence in the form of a story. From this proposition two corollaries follow. First, the act of reading the Bible, insofar as it is an appreciative one, co-operates with the activities of its internal, Yahwist agents; and second, the act of authoring the Bible co-operates with the activities of its God. Keeping 'The following paper is a version of a lecture given under the auspices of the Indiana University Institute of Advanced Studies in Fall 1991. The quote is adapted from The Meaning of the Glorious Koran: An Explanatory Translation, by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall (New York: The New American Library, 1953), p. 63. 128 SHOFAR Winter 1993 Vol. 11, No.2 God's law, for example, means keeping its text, as being a prophet meant uttering God's word, the word that God was uttering through the prophet. The Yahwist authors, the Yahwist readers, the Yahwist internal agents, and the deity himself are all committed, by the text and in the long run, to eliciting the same things. We can name the various installments upon this co-operative activity in terms that foreground the common purpose, as it appears over the course of the major narrative of the Old Testament: this purpose includes the authoring of the world, the concentrating and expanding of the seed of "Nahor,"2 the nominating of the Patriarchs, the blessing of Abraham, the remembering ofJoseph, the constituting of Moses and Mosaic Israel, the judging of Saul and the kingship, the "inventing" and founding of the throne of DaVid, the introducing of adversarial Yahwist prophecy into the life of the state, the exiling of the state to Babylon, and the post-exilic redemption of the captivity of the land. The purposes of the Biblical God are shadowed by a regular frustration of them from the start. The God who authored the world repents of having made man: the non-violent creator despairs of the subsequent violence in the earth. The election of Abraham for nationhood is reduced, by the story, to a promise of election deferred in the fulfilling. The Joseph who is remembered is partly remembered as the one who was no more, as the house of Joseph was itself to become, with the demise of the Northern kingdom. The Moses who is constituted by the various parties obtaining Mosaic endorsement is also the Moses who is replaced and dispersed by them. The Saul who is judged is also the king whom it is hardest to judge as a king, because he is so overshadowed by the office of the judge. The politics by which David is invented are also the politics by which David is usurped from-in more ways than one. The introduction of the judgmental prophets into the life of Israel betokens a fatal dissociation of Yahweh from the cultic order, on the one hand, and from the chief magistrates, on the other. Jesus of Nazareth, in this sense, is in the line of the prophets. Because the identity of Israel is projected back into a...


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