Logos and Literacy: A Tour Through The History Of The World’s Most Significant Book


The following is a transcript excerpt from Dr. Jordan Peterson’s series, Logos & Literacy. You can watch the special on DailyWire+.

Episode time: 00:05

Jordan Peterson:

You might ask why I would be concerned with bringing the history of the Bible to a more popular audience. We inevitably and must see the world through the lens of a story. A story is a description of the implicit structure through which we view the world, prioritize our perceptions, and determine how to act. Now, because you can act in a very large variety of ways, that plethora of possibility has to be limited and focused: it has to come to a point, it has to have a destination, it has to have a moral, it has to have an ethic. What a story is, is a description of an ethic of potential and action prioritization. Peace is dependent upon us being brought together under the rubric of a single centralizing narrative, much of which is reflected in the metanarrative that the Biblical library constitutes. So I hope you enjoy this tour through the history of the world’s most significant book.

Chapter I: Museum of the Bible

I did not really know what to think to begin with. Being a northern Albertan cynic, I thought of the Museum of the Bible as kind of a backwoods fundamentalist enterprise in all likelihood, and that turned out to be unbelievably wrong. I did not really understand until I walked through the museum — or I did not understand as deeply as I might have — how key the Bible was to the spread of literacy around the world.

Brian Hyland (curator, Medieval manuscripts):

I am Brian Hyland. I am the associate curator of medieval manuscripts here at Museum of the Bible. What that means is, I get to work with manuscripts that were produced in Western Europe from about the year 800 up to the 1500s.

When we walk into the fourth floor of the history of the Bible, we see in front of us a mural, and this mural encapsulates the entire history of the text. On the far left, what you see is the Great Isaiah Scroll. It is one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and it represents the original Hebrew texts. To its right, we have what we call the Bodner Psalms. The Bodner Psalms are actually a codex — so the idea of a modern, kind of hardcover book. And then to the right of that what you see is a medieval Psalter. This is the Rice Psalter; it is a 15th century Latin text. It represents the manuscript tradition. Immediately to its right, what we have is the Gutenberg Bible. We are going from manuscript to printing and the impact of the printing press. To the right of the Gutenberg, there is a leaf from the King James Bible. Printing kind of dominates the world down to the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Representing where we are today, at this moment, we have a cell phone. And on the cell phone, someone has a Bible app in Korean using the Hangul script.

Jordan Peterson:

Some of those online Biblical sites are extremely useful because you can go through the Biblical writings verse-by-verse with 50 translations simultaneously. It is so interesting to see the different interpretations of the translations because it fleshes out the connotations and the poetic allusions in the text — and cross-references as well.

Brian Hyland: 

And what this means is that the Bible is a text that reaches out, and it is still being interpreted today. 

Keith Getty (songwriter “In Christ Alone”):

If you look at the phone and the potential of the phone and you see all the languages, this is the first moment in history that the Bible has been available in almost every language and dialect. 

Chapter II: There Must Be Logos

Jordan Peterson:

I have read analyses of the story of Genesis, linking it to the Mesopotamian creation myth — the story of Marduk and Tiamat. Apparently, the word “Tiamat” is (what do they say?) etymologically cognate (I think that is the right phrase) with the Hebrew phrase, Tohu va-Vohu, and that is the chaos that God makes order out of at the beginning of time. And it looks like it is analogous symbolically with the idea that Marduk is contending with time at the force of chaos to bring about order and to reestablish it. I do not know if the Hebrew text was influenced by the Mesopotamian text or vice versa or if they both come out of an older historical tradition or if it is some combination of both.

Brian Hyland:

You have the Hebrews in a historical environment, and so you have ideas that are shared back and forth and common ways of looking at things. So, that idea of chaos, which you find also in so many creation stories from around the world, is that in the beginning there is this disordered state out of which comes the order. 

Keith Getty:

John 1 begins with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” God is before all time. If he is the creator of the world, he created beauty; beauty and truth are linked together. The post-modernists will tell us that beauty does not exist — that it only exists in whatever you can create for yourself in life. But we believe that all the evidence around us points to a world, to music, to human love, that all point to beauty, that point to a creator, God.

Brian Hyland:

In the Greek, it is “Én árchí ín ó lógos” — “In the beginning was the Word” — which Jerome had translated as in principio era verbum. Verbum just literally means “a word” where logos in Greek has so many broad intellectual contexts to it.

Vishal Mangalwadi (author, Christian philosopher):

If language is to make sense, logic is to make sense — beauty, music. There must be sense at the root of the universe. There must be logos — not just the spoken word, but also the unspoken word in the mind, which is the sense. In the beginning was reason; in the beginning was sense. Or, as the Old Testament said, “In the beginning was wisdom with God.” 

To hear the remaining seven chapters, watch Logos & Literacy on DailyWire+.

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. From 1993 to 1998 he served as assistant and then associate professor of psychology at Harvard. He is the international bestselling author of Maps of Meaning, 12 Rules For Life, and Beyond Order. You can now listen to or watch his popular lectures on DailyWire+.

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