Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever. (Rev. 22:1-5)
Bible as Canon
The Bible as canon, according to John Dally of Bexley Seabury, provides a narrative arc offering salvation by helping us understand our place in the universe.
My notes from the first of three sessions of Fr. Dally’s “This Dangerous Book: Strategies for Teaching the Bible” are reproduced below.
The canonical story is organized into four parts: the creation of the world, the creation of Israel, the creation of the Church, and the end of the world.
The story begins in perfection, moves through imperfection, and ends in perfection.
Creation of the World
The creation of the world is characterized by intimacy, purpose, and naming.
The Lord God formed human beings and breathed life into us, invited us to name every other living creature, and walked in the garden with us at the time of the evening breeze (Gen. 3:8).
However, sin enters the story when Adam and Eve eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We were under the illusion of need, the illusion that the garden and the intimacy and the purpose were not enough.
Humankind is “cursed” by having to leave the garden and earn the knowledge that we stole.
Creation of Israel
Following the catastrophe of the Exile into Babylon, the people of Israel looked back over their history and came to understand their origins in the Exodus from Egypt.
During the Exodus, God freed the Hebrews from slavery and made them a chosen people in special relationship with him. God gave them the Law to guide them in that relationship.
Over time, the people of Israel came to desire a kingdom and anointed first Saul, then David, then Solomon as their kings.
The Temple — built eventually by King Solomon — grew in importance as evidence of God’s presence and as the focus of religious practice.
The simple relationship of covenant with God was not enough. Israel labored under the illusion of need and created a Kingdom and a Temple.
Creation of the Church
Jesus came in opposition to both the Temple and the Kingdom, and the catastrophe of the Cross revealed the depth of their violence.
Jesus spoke of living in direct relationship with God, praying in secret (intimacy with God), and giving away the knowledge that the kingdom of God is at hand.
The Temple fails to bring knowledge of God, and its hierarchy exploits the poor. Likewise, the Kingdom of the world (in Jesus’ time, the Roman Empire) rules through military might and exploitative power.
As the Church becomes linked with the Roman Empire under Constantine, Temple and Kingdom become one. The Church continues to obscure the believer’s direct relationship with God and to exploit the poor.
End of the World
The story begins in a garden, but it ends in a city.
The Kingdom and the Temple (which were never God’s idea) are taken up into “the holy city, the new Jerusalem,” but John says that “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev. 21:22).
In the center of the city are the river and the tree of life, just like in the garden … only this time, “the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
The perfect creation of the Garden is restored to perfection in the City, and humans are reconciled to God.
“The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”