The Power of Point of View

What Luke 24:51 is NOT trying to depict

by GARY YAMASAKI   Is it really true that biblical storytellers are able to manipulate point-of-view devices in a text to control even the angle from which their readers view a given scene in their mind’s eye? This is a claim made near the end of the post entitled “Perspective Criticism: Everything you never realized you wanted to know about ‘Point of View’,” and it appears at first glance to be a bit far-fetched; after all, how can mere words on a page possibly conjure up an image viewed from a particular angle?

To lend credence to this claim, I propose an experiment. I will provide the text of the account of Jesus’ ascension in the Gospel of Luke, and ask that as you read it, you allow the words to form an image of the event in your mind’s eye. Of course, you may have seen depictions of Jesus’ ascension in past movie-watching experiences, but try to set those aside, and simply allow the words of the passage create a fresh image for you. So here is the text:

And while Jesus was blessing them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.”

Now with your ascension image planted firmly in your mind, compare that to the ascension scene of the Jesus Film (1979): [Click here to view the scene]

Chances are strong that this does not match the image resulting from your reading of the text. While the film gives an image from the sky looking down, the text most likely gave you an image from the ground looking up at the parting Jesus. The reason I can say this so confidently is because the point-of-view crafting of this text is designed to establish the readers in a vantage point on the ground from which they are looking up into the sky, whereas different point-of-view crafting would be needed if the intention was to establish the readers in a position in the sky looking down toward the ground.

If the image in your mind’s eye was indeed from the ground looking up, you have experienced first-hand how the point-of-view crafting of a text does indeed have the ability to conjure up an image viewed from a particular angle.

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Categorised in: INTRODUCTION to point of view, point of view in BIBLICAL NARRATIVE

5 Responses »

  1. Do you happen to know the (in certain circles) famous statue of the Ascension in the pilgrimage shrine at Walsingham?? Talk about point-of-view!

    Thanks for this wonderful work,

    Ian Henderson, McGill University

  2. Hello! I’ve been reading your site for a long time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout
    out from Austin Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the fantastic work!

  3. Correct me if i’m mistaken, but isn’t the point of view in Lk 24.51 that of someone (the narrator, and with him, the audience/reader) looking across at Jesus and the disciples, as Jesus is parted from them?

    So the point of view is really neither that of the disciples nor that of Jesus.

    In other words, the point of view of the ascension story is Luke’s. And this is important because only Luke tells this story; it is Luke’s own unique way of talking about the final exaltation of Jesus the Messiah. The ascension belongs to Luke’s theology, not to those of Mark, Matthew, or John. You could even read Matthew 28.20, “Behold, I am with you all days”, as denying the ascension, except that Matthew was written first.

    The Jesus movie producers mix Jesus’ soliloquy in Matthew 28.20 with Luke’s ascension story to create a story of their own, which they frame as Jesus’ own, shown as if in the first person. It’s completely unscriptural, but then so is most of popular piety.

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