The Everlasting Hobbit: Perspectives On The Human In Tolkien’s Mythos -- By: Donald T. Williams

Journal: Global Journal of Classical Theology
Volume: GJCT 06:3 (Jul 2008)
Article: The Everlasting Hobbit: Perspectives On The Human In Tolkien’s Mythos
Author: Donald T. Williams

The Everlasting Hobbit: Perspectives On The Human In Tolkien’s Mythos

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Professor of English and Director of the School of Arts and Sciences

Toccoa Falls College

Toccoa Falls, Georgia

“. . . What seest thou else

In the dark backward and abysm of time?”

-- Prospero

If you are not yet sufficiently awed by the profound depths of which the human mind is capable through the mystery of human creativity, ponder the fact that you have just successfully read this sentence. It has quite a complex structure, with an independent clause and three subordinate clauses, plus four prepositional phrases. It contains thirty different words used thirty-seven times. (We won’t even try to think about the phonemes and morphemes!) Five of the thirty words get multiple uses: the personal pronoun you, the preposition of, forms of the verb to be, and the adjective human appear twice each, the article the four times; twenty-five words are used once each. The odds that you have ever seen them before combined in precisely that order are, for all practical purposes, zero. I could spend a whole chapter just analyzing that one sentence without taxing my own patience (yours is another matter). Yet I created the sentence effortlessly, and most of you probably understood it with little or no conscious effort. Both of those facts are just plain stupefying. And usually we do not even waste the adjective creative on expository prose of the kind I am writing now! But without this almost indescribable human capacity for creativity, language could not work. Without consciously doing any of the formal analysis (until after the fact), I spontaneously created a structure that allowed you to recreate with some accuracy in your mind the fairly complex and sophisticated meaning I was attending to in mine.

Christians—including Tolkien—believe that Man’s creation in the image of God is the source of the difference between us and the rest of the animal creation. But what is this image, the imago Dei? Is it our amphibious nature combining matter and spirit, our rationality, our moral (or immoral) nature, our capacity for relationship with God, or is it simply the position we occupy as His regents, representing Him as stewards and governors of creation? None of these attributes is irrelevant to the imago, but neither is any of them its essence. Theologians (see Berkouwer, for example; contrast Hughes, who does better) can spend interminable pages debating the details to no purpose, because they have never bothered to read Genesis for its narrative flow in context. When we do, the answer is very plain.

The first statement that God intends to create Man in His own image oc...

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