I had to look that word up. Being in seminary, words like “hermeneutics,” “exegetical,” and “soteriology” creep into your vocabulary to the point that friends and relatives are certain you are making stuff up, but I have never heard “anagogical.” It is the final of the four senses of Scripture in the classical model. It indicates a layer of meaning in the text that points to the End Times.
The End has always fascinated humankind, but it seems especially amped up today. The Mayan calendar, the Left Behind series, the predictions of Harold Camping – people want to know when it’s going to happen and how it’s going to go down. Early Christians, including Paul, were certain that Jesus would return in their lifetimes and finally set things right, finish the job he started. We’ve been waiting ever since. The one thing every prediction has in common is that it is ultimately wrong.
So you might think me skeptical of this layer of meaning. I’m not. I think it is the most important thing about the Bible, the “best” way to read it. When people speak of the End, they are always talking about who we are now and who we hope to be. It is our deepest longing made tangible. When we dare to hope for it with courage and tenacity, we become a little more like that end, we become the sort of people that can make it real.
At one point in history, a world without slavery was unthinkable. But as slaves learned the story of liberation and deliverance found in Exodus, they saw themselves. They repeated that story over and over. It found its way into their speeches and their prayers. In their most difficult hours, they were given courage and comfort by those words. They stood up to their oppressors and claimed their essential dignity, their right to freedom. And slavery is no more. This is what “anagogical” means: reading to become the End we wish to see.
Join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about what ends we hope for and how we might read Scripture to make them real.
Grace and Peace,
I haven’t had a chance to see this yet – I have my tickets for Saturday! – but our own Paul Semrad is in the Undermain Theatre’s current production of An Iliad, a poetic and musical meditation on war. It’s getting some excellent reviews, so get your tickets while they last!