on being with eugene peterson (part 1): the prophets were poets!

eugene peterson’s interview on on being was unreal. it’s one of the only episodes i’ve listened to twice. the first time through was just to take it all in and the second time i took copious notes. here begins the download of all the thoughts that deeply resonated with me from his talk. each of these thoughts could be it’s own entire post but let’s see how it goes…

part 2

MR. PETERSON: All the prophets were poets. And if you don’t know that, you try to literalize everything and make shambles out of it.

MS. TIPPETT: Talk about what difference that makes, even to 21st-century people reading the prophets or having an imagination about prophets. What difference does it make to know that they were poets?

MR. PETERSON: Well, it means you’ll learn what the meaning of “metaphor” is. A metaphor is really a remarkable kind of formation because it both means what it says and what it doesn’t say. Those two things come together, and it creates an imagination which is active. You’re not trying to figure things out; you’re trying to enter into what’s there.

for the last few years, i’ve been getting much deeper into poetry. writing my own, reading others’, reading and listening about it, etc. and when eugene said this my jaw hit the floor. this had never occurred me. and it actually makes so much sense. in one sentence, he explained years of frustration i had with my old church community in bible studies. poetry’s main difference from prose is that it works by giving the reader/listener an opportunity to make the meaning. it doesn’t describe its subjects directly; it makes a metaphor and then allows the reader to think and imagine how the two things might be similar and in that thought the meaning is found.

i could go back and read the entire bible differently with this one insight. i always loved the prophets because they seemed to give no fucks and be super critical of their times. but i was scared by them because my church leaders taught us to be literal about their words. now i see how wrong that was and how much i probably missed out on in understanding.

furthermore, i don’t think we ever even talked about what poetry was or is in church. and it’s not like the teachers didn’t know; it just never came up (or i don’t remember it coming up) explicitly. what a loss…

words / writing / post-processing
317w / 9min / 6min