Holy Repetition

Psalm 78:1-7 – The 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, November 9, 2014

“I’ll declare riddles from days gone, ones that we’ve heard and learned about, ones that our ancestors told us . . .” (Psalms 78:2)

106098The writer of Psalm 78 wrote, “I’ll declare riddles from days gone, ones that we’ve heard and learned about, ones that our ancestors told us . . .”

And indeed the Bible does repeat (and repeat) those ancestral riddles, stories, parables, and more. How many times are the same stories shared, added to, referenced, and sometimes simply repeated throughout scripture? How often were the Israelites reminded they were the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? How often was the exodus referenced? David lived and died, and was never forgotten, in story after story.

Of course, it wasn’t just one person who wrote the Old Testament; instead the hands, hearts, hopes, and hubris from many went in the telling of the tales. The writing and revising of the books in the Biblical “library” took centuries. Even the New Testament, with Paul’s earliest letters likely written in the mid 50s CE and the final parts of the official Christian “canon” occurring well before the end of 200 CE, spanned several lifetimes. Everyone who had anything to do with putting words in the Bible wanted—needed—to include their version of events.

So, stories were repeated.

I’ve read that people need to hear about something at least six times before remembering that “something.” We require repetition for retention. I’m sure there are those who need to be told about a new event but once . . . well, good for them! However, a story repeated sixty times might be inadequate for the rest of us befuddled masses. We are overwhelmed by the endless torrent of new news (or recycled, rehashed, ridiculous junk) in this “information age.”

We often say we hear. But do we? Continue reading →