Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Gospels and Dr. Seuss

I really like the children's books of Dr. Seuss, so much so that I recently purchased, for my own pleasure, The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories. I love his creativity, figurative use of language, and drawings - esp. the Seuss-colors!

I also love the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, so much so that I wrote my Ph.D dissertation on the use of figurative language (especially metaphor) in the resurrection accounts of Jesus. 

Recently one of my former philosophy of religion students made an analogy between Seuss and the Gospels that stunned me. He said: "I consider the biblical stories of Jesus and his resurrection as being no different than the writings of Dr. Seuss." This student made what in logic is referred to as a "weak analogy." 

I thought of this encounter while now reading more of Craig Keener's Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. I'm on Chapter 3: "Comparison of Early Christian and Other Ancient Miracle Accounts." The Gospel-accounts of Jesus are different from the miracle literature of the time. Craig writes:

"The difference in genre is a key issue. The Gospels are ancient biography about a recent character for whom many sources remained; they are thus not analagous to collections of mythography (like those by Apollodorus or Ovid) or novels (like those by Petronius or Heliodorus). They do not report fictions about exotic lands, do not report internal workings of divine courts, and do not report monsters or other fabulous creatures. They do report healings and prophecies, but we know from Paul's writings that early Christians truly believed that these events were genuinely occurring in their time, just as probably the majority of Christians in most parts of the world believe they are occurring today." (69)

The genre of Seuss is children's fantasy; the genre of the Gospels is ancient biography. Remember - we're talking literary genre here. The differences are massive. The analogy fails. The fact that an analogy was made at all... my student needs more study. Because: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” (From here.)