The December 13, 2021 edition of The New Yorker has an article about the famed actress Greta Garbo called “The Retiring Sort” by Margaret Talbot. She reveals that the film director of the 1933 film Queen Christina told Garbo that she must “make her mind and heart a complete blank, empty her face of expression, so that the audience could impose whatever emotion they wanted on it.” The audience would decide for themselves what her reaction was to the murder of her lover. The Bible is similar.
We need to understand that the Bible is obscure, think about what we are reading, decide how we want to interpret events and what people and God are doing, and learn from our thoughts. In the philosopher Plato’s book Apology, he tells us that his teacher, the great philosopher Socrates, was considered the wisest man because only he admitted being ignorant rather than pretending he knew something when he did not. As a result, Socrates asked questions, just as we should. Pointing out the obscurities in scripture should not be understood as being critical. It emphasizes that the Bible is prompting us to think.
Ambiguities and obscurities are present in virtually every situation and allow readers to imagine their own details. The narratives become like fascinating parables designed to attract readers using the startling unclear details that prompt thought about why the biblical character acted thus, and learn from their interpretations of these thoughts and acts how to behave. Dr. Drazin emphasizes that proper understanding can only be attained by asking questions and shows that contrary to what many think, the Hebrew Bible offers almost nothing about God, what God did, and what the founding patriarchs thought and did. With this understanding, readers will not be surprised that ancient and modern Bible commentators, religious and non-religious, have different interpretations of the Torah.