“Hearing the Silence”—A Book Review

First of a bit of a rant regarding WordPress.  For some unknown and utterly stupid reason (unless I am informed as to the reason and it is not stupid, but I choose to prejudge here without blushing) you cannot make a title be in Italics.  Hence, the use of quotes, which is improper and annoying to me.  End of my little rant.

One of the great parts of my job as pastor is that I am paid to read books.  In fact people see me reading and often do not realize that I am actually working.  It is a tough life but I was man enough to live it so someone else did not need to.  You can thank me later.
Anyhow, I read a lot and I tend to read relatively diversely because I have diverse interests.

I have books that I designate as “bathroom” books because their layout is good for short reads without losing your place (shocking admission I realize).  Then there are the books that sit by my chair in my office.  They require a bit more attention so when I have a hour to kill they get read.  There are the books that belong in my car so that when I am sitting in a parking lot waiting for someone, or at a restaurant, I have something to read.  If there is no real need to mark and comment on a book then I tend to buy those as Kindle editions. There are the study books that are carefully read for sermons and bible studies and the really fun books read for fun.  Woodworking books are found in my wood shop, and my bathroom.  Romance novels are never found anywhere.

All of this to say that one of my bathroom books was a good read and I though I would share it.  It was a little book by Bruce W. Longenecker, Hearing the Silence: Jesus on the Edge and God in the Gap—Luke 4 in Narrative Perspective.  Longenecker examines the little story in Luke 4 where Jesus is driven to the edge of a cliff, presumably to be thrown off of it, then suddenly the narrative then quietly informs the reader in verse 30 that Jesus passed from their midst and went on His way.

It is the abruptness of this story ending that captures his attention and the book focuses on the white space between the words.  Why does Luke do this?  Why is there no explanation of how he passed through their midst?  Was it a miracle?  Confusion? We don’t know.  And if you are a New Testament scholar this is the kind of thing you think about and then write a book on.

He sees that there are narrative gaps in the bible where we are left to wonder.  And he sees this as intentional because it draws the reader along, allowing the reader to engage with the story; rather than merely passively reading the information before him. As a side note, he does not use the typical masculine generic pronoun; rather he uses “her” , which was new to me and a bit distracting.

He then goes on to show how various people resolve the gap in Luke 4 by adding all sorts of explanations to it.  This was cleverly done by examining many novels that are based off of the life of Jesus.  Each of the ways explained show assumptions and presuppositions by the authors, some good and some not so much.

In the end, however, the point he makes is that of divine causality.  In these sorts of passages there is the intended purpose to cause you, as the reader, to pause and think.  And the conclusion that you should come to is that it was not Jesus’ ordained time to die and so he didn’t.  God was working in these events all moving toward the Cross. This involves what the author calls the “journey motif” in Luke where a large portion of the gospel is recording the journey to Jerusalem where Jesus will die. Longenecker interacts with several other small point of theology, most notably whether Psalm 91 is fulfilled Christologically, but the above is a sufficient summary of the book.

So what do I think about it?  I liked it overall.  It was a good read and it helped stretch my mind a bit more on understanding how narrative works in the bible.  That has always been a weak spot for me in my training and therefore I seek to grow it whenever possible.  I appreciated how he showed good interaction with both popular and scholarly material, making both very accessible to the reader.  He opened up my eyes to additional paths to pursue in future reading and my final thought when I finished the book was that I needed to put it up with my commentaries on Luke so that I did not forget about it.

About Matt Henry

Middle-aged pastor trying to figure out how to be missional in his world. Loves his wife, his children, and his dog Bear. I have a love of woodworking even though woodworking doesn't always love me. The name is xagete but is pronounced exegete.

Posted on August 26, 2012, in Bible Observations, Theology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Can you recommend a good book with just the white spaces?

    • Sadly no. But I can recommend the first of a trilogy called 100 Cupboards if you like excellent story-telling and a subtle allegory.

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