Monday, 18 May 2009

Johnny Cash on scripture and commentaries

Did you know that Johnny Cash wrote a novel about the conversion of the apostle Paul? I hadn’t even heard of it until I was given a copy last week: the title is (of course) Man in White.

I haven’t read the novel yet – but there’s some great stuff in Cash’s introduction. He talks about the excitement of research (when June’s father died, he left his religious-historical library to Johnny); the impossibly difficult process of writing; the long years in which he lugged the manuscript around with him on tour; the way his writing ability was stifled during periods of drug dependence (“time after time I wrote dozens of pages while under the influence, but when I read them afterward with a clear mind, I burned them”); the way Billy Graham gently prodded him to keep writing; and finally, the way a vision of his deceased father (a vision of brilliant light streaming across an unbreachable gulf between them) inspired his description of Paul’s conversion experience.

Anyways, my favourite part of this introduction is Cash’s remark about commentaries on Paul (p. xvi): “I started reading books about Paul…. Then I got into the commentaries on Paul by Lange, Farrar, Barnes, Fleetwood, and others. I started making notes and writing my own thoughts on Paul when I saw so many different opinions in so many areas. Tons of material has been written …, but I discovered that the Bible can shed a lot of light on commentaries.”

This is a humorous observation, but I think it would actually be excellent advice for all those of us who study theology and the Bible: scripture can shed a lot of light on commentaries!

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