I’ve been reading Joy Davidman’s Smoke on the Mountain: An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments while reading her letters compiled in a volume (i.e., Out of My Bone). It’s fascinating to see the author writing to a general audience about the Bible and then to read her mail to family and friends sometimes also on the Bible. In an earlier post I think, I noted how she interprets the commandment against taking God’s name in vain and how she uses words like goddam as as fairly regular part of her epistolary vocabulary, both before and after her Christian conversion and her interpretation of the Ten Commandments and her consistent insistence on obeying God in various contexts.
Sometime perhaps, I’ll blog more on her conversions, for example, on her being Jewish and becoming Christian. Here I’d like to quote her as a poet, a novelist, a writer, and a critic of literary works. She has a lot to say in her letters recently published. Here’s a bit:
Well, the Gospels are full of these little incongruities — like the cut-off ear of the high priest’s servant. That’s a thing that happened; no one could have invented it. The account of the Virgin Birth, not being eyewitness, seems on the other hand an invented and composed story, without a single false note. Everyone strikes exactly the right attitude, from Mary’s first words to the Angel on through that beautifully composed artistic climax. How artistically the contrast between the Prince of Peace and the Manger is worked out!
Whatever actually happened (and, frankly, I consider the Virgin Birth not unbelievable but merely irrelevant) that story as we have it is a work of art.
Now does Davidman make these remarks in her letter to a literary friend before or after she’s a Christian? Does it matter? Are the gospel authors (translating what Mary and Angels and Peter were saying and were doing) creating a work of art? How does that affect your reading of them? Your believing them?