Intertextuality is biblical

In my last post, I wrote about the need to make my clickable hypertext links more visible to the reader; yet there is another type of link that is invisible — the type made mentally in the reader’s mind.

I’ve spent the past few days reading about intertextuality:

On its most basic level, intertextuality is the concept of texts’ borrowing of each others’ words and concepts. This could mean as much as an entire ideological concept and as little as a word or phrase. As authors borrow pro-actively from previous texts, their work gains layers of meaning. Also, another feature of intertextuality reveals itself when a text is read in light of another text, in which case all of the assumptions and implications surrounding the other text shed light on and shape the way a text is interpreted.

Intertextuality is not new. Though it is common in postmodern television, it’s also present in poetry, literary classics, and the bible.

Intertextuality in Philippians 2:5-11 :

Paul’s letter to the Philippians urges the Philippians to stay faithful by reminding them how Jesus emptied himself.  Though not explicitly quoting Genesis, Paul’s listeners would have heard  Paul comparing Jesus with Adam (Philippians 2:5-11 vs Genesis 3):

  • Adam seized equality with God; Jesus already possessed equality with God, but did not exploit it
  • Adam was the form/image of God; Jesus is the form/image of God
  • Adam filled himself on the forbidden fruit; Jesus emptied himself
  • Adam was disobedient unto death; Jesus was obedient unto to the point of death — even death on a cross ..

Intertextuality: The Fulfillment

This invoking of Genesis is one example of how Paul re-con-textualizes much of the old testament.  What is so striking about this is that Paul had formerly been a a Pharasee, zealously devoted to a faith that was expecting a different kind of Messiah.

After Damascus, Paul’s understanding of the Word undergoes a radical transformation; and he dedicates himself to preaching that Jesus is the unexpected fulfillment of familiar scriptures.

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