This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Blake, author and artist, who believed that there was too much use of the Bible and theology to beat people around the head, and to keep them in their place, rather than to liberate them and enable them to know their worth.
Ekklesia, in an essay on Blake by Chris Rowland, the Dean Ireland's Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture at the University of Oxford, notes:
Blake loved the Bible because it acted as a stimulus to an imaginative engagement with society and also with the nature of God. Blake wrote that what he wanted to do in his art and poetry was "rouze the faculties to act". That meant empowering the readers and hearers of texts and pictures to have the courage of their convictions and not be dependent on the experts to tell them what a text or picture meant. The Bible fulfilled this function as well as any other text, because it was "addressed to the Imagination ... and but mediately to the understanding or reason".
Too much study of the Bible is either completely dismissive of it, or excessively reverential. It doesn't allow for creative, imaginative engagement with it, recognising its limitations and delighting in it as a resource through which to stimulate understanding, rather than a book of moral precepts. Blake is as indignant as anyone about those elements in the Bible which have been used to condone injustice, oppression and preoccupation with tradition.
Read the rest here.
An example of an image by William Blake is here.
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