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Play It Again

“Play it again, Sam”—many say it, but it is not in Casablanca (1942). (There is an old Broadway musical (1969) and a film (1972) called “Play It Again, Sam,” which may partially explain our collective mis-memories.) 

            Rick and Elsa shared something special. They shared what they called “Paris,” because they shared a brief, romantic relationship. But then it was over, displaced by the war. But they were able to transcend the gap between the romantic relationship they had lost and their present situation through a song. When Sam would play "As Time Goes By" it would bring them back in their own minds, and bring the past into the present.
            A certain smell, a song, an element of life can bring back the past. There are some things that are so good or bad, we either want to relive them or we want to forget them.
            In the scriptures there are a variety of times where scriptural writers quote, allude to and expand upon other scriptures. This is extremely common. Beginning in the Five Books of Moses, the book of Deuteronomy is a discourse, an interpretation from Moses at the end of his life which reviews, rehearses, explains, and applies the things that are found in the first four books of the Bible. Later, the psalmists use passages and ideas from the writings of Moses in their poetic reflections. The same thing is true but even more so for the preachers of old Israel and Judah. The prophets constantly use the teachings of the scriptures in their poetic messages that they propounded in the last days of the two kingdoms. The same goes for the rest.
           Literary allusion, recycling, and repurposing can be technical and complicated so we will have to leave some of the complexities and the difficulties to the side. We will try to gain reference points, some ability to put things together and make connections across the scriptures and see how a teaching is used in one context and then in a whole new context. A few words about how these things work:
When scripture quotes scripture it makes a connection between the two contexts
One of the functions of noticing when one scripture uses another is seeing how these two contexts in the scriptures are drawn together and can be used not only to complement each other but to help us make sense by making connections.
When scripture quotes scripture the new context often expands or builds upon the former context
Another function of the scriptural use of scripture is to reveal greater truths. With respect to what God is trying to accomplish by the human writers, we call this progressive revelation, where God progressively unfolds what he wants to say to humans over the course of the ages. One function is to develop a dynamic understanding of these profound truths.
When scripture uses scripture readers must be careful in their interpretation
One of the difficulties that readers have sometimes is assuming that both contexts use the teaching in the same way. A cautious approach, trying to understand each teaching in its own context, requires work and patience on the part of readers, but that is really the nature of the scriptures. They are propounding the mysteries of God. While they are easy enough for a child to understand, the profoundness of what they speak of cannot be gotten through a lifetime of study. Yet, in this case, there are special dangers, not in the text itself, but in us thinking we know what these things mean because we understood them from another context.

For further student on biblical intertextuality see a bibliography on the scripture’s use of the scriptures.

(From a sermon, June 2010.)

Copyright 2010