The Power of Point of View

Article on “The Bible and Interpretation” Website Addresses P.O.V. Crafting in Gen. 22

nativity-scene-figures-570422_640by GARY YAMASAKI   “The Bible and Interpretation” is a website which endeavors “to bring the latest news and information in the field of biblical studies to a wide readership and to contact scholars for comment and analysis,” and one of their recent articles includes coverage of point-of-view crafting in biblical narrative. The article focuses on the cinematic-story approach to analyzing biblical narrative set forth in the recently-released Insights from Filmmaking for Analyzing Biblical Narrative, an approach which involves using what we know of how stories function in movies to analyze story material in the Bible, and the article demonstrates what happens when point-of-view crafting—one prominent feature of the functioning of cinematic stories—is considered in the analysis of a biblical story:

“. . .the idea that a story’s point-of-view crafting can be significant to the interpretation of the story is true for all types of stories, including biblical stories. Consider, for example, Charles Aaron’s point-of-view analysis of the story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac (Gen 22:1-19). Aaron begins by countering suggestions that the story is told through Abraham’s point of view. He points to the fact that Abraham’s emotions are revealed in the preceding account of Sarah sending away Hagar and Ishmael, but they are totally absent in the Genesis 22 account. From this, Aaron suggests a deliberate strategy in Genesis 22 to keep the readers from being exposed to Abraham’s inner life, a strategy that contributes toward the readers not experiencing the action through his point of view. Aaron also observes that at a number of places in the story, the readers are not made privy to certain pieces of information known to Abraham. For example, with reference to Abraham’s words, “the boy and I will walk up there, worship, and then come back to you” (v. 5), the readers do not know whether or not Abraham intended to deceive his servants. The readers are thus forced to experience the events from a point of view different from that of Abraham.

Aaron then highlights pieces of evidence pointing to the conclusion that the readers are actually led to experience the events through the point of view of God. The most prominent of these occurs after Abraham’s demonstration that he is willing to sacrifice Isaac. In verse 12, an angel is represented as announcing that God now knows. . . (v. 12), indicating that God did not previously know, just as the readers did not know. In other words, the readers have been led to experience the events from the same informational point of view as God. Aaron’s analysis of the point-of-view crafting thus results in a new interpretation: “The passage becomes, not so much an affirmation of Abraham’s faith and obedience, but of God’s relinquishment of control so that Abraham could make choices. . . . Throughout Genesis the narratives about the patriarchs affirm that God’s will cannot ultimately be thwarted. . . . Yet, here in Genesis 22 stands a powerful testimony that God does not determine our actions or take away our freedom to act and decide.”

For the rest of this article, please see Filmmaking as a Model for Analyzing Biblical Stories on The Bible and Interpretation website.


2 Responses »

  1. A small point, but the reader knows the whole thing is a test; Abraham does not. Otherwise, I appreciate this summary of my argument.

  2. Thanks for this point of clarification.

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