English: Victoria College in the University To...

Victoria College at University of Toronto  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By the fall of 1947-48, ‘The Finest Generation’ had returned from WW II  and gone back to school, looking for knowledge and inspiration to lead a peacetime society.

At Victoria College in Toronto English Professor Northrop Frye was ready and welcoming. He had compiled a punchy Bible course in line with the college motto, ‘The Truth Shall Make You Free‘.

These students were the most brilliant he ever taught, his diaries say. After an hour-long lecture, they’d head for a coffee with friends who wanted to know what “God” said today.

This fall students’ notes of those 24 lectures (36 pp) edited by Professor Robert Denham have been posted online. They have not lost their punch. You can read and download them as a PDF without paying fees.  https://macblog.mcmaster.ca/fryeblog/aa/

Here’s what he told them in the beginning of his first lecture (direct,  unabridged quotes):

1. The Bible is the grammar of Western civilization; it brings down an entire culture and civilization to us.

2. The Bible  represents a vision of the whole of human life. Transcendental genius and ridiculous genealogies are side by side. It is crude, shocking, funny.  It has a beginning, a middle and an end. The narrative from Creation to Last Judgment takes an epic survey of time. The perspective is of eternity. Jesus is the center of the Bible. Jesus and the Bible are identical.

3. Several theological systems are based on the Bible and all claim to be equally correct. All religions are on a level as far as moral doctrines are concerned; the moral loftiness of the Bible is accidental, like its aesthetic beauty.

4. Recurrent symbols in the Bible form a single pattern. The structure is complicated and must be studied. The whole Bible is the history of man’s loss of freedom and organization and how he got it back.

5. There are two kinds of symmetry: (1) the chronological story of creation, etc., as a legendary, mythical story of the fortunes of the Jewish people from 2000 B.C. to 100 A.D.  and the spread of the Christian Church. (2) The second kind is circular. The conception of true and false as we think of it is not dealt with in the Bible. The fall of man and the apocalypse have nothing to do with history. The whole question of causation, order, purpose is not dealt with.

6. Christianity clings to revelation, and the only practical way to do this is in a book. All we know about God is in the Bible; there is no God in nature or “up there” in the sky. The association of God and Man is the basis of Christianity.

Frye gave his Bible course for decades and died twenty years ago. He became principal of the college; to honor him on an anniversary, the  motto carved in stone into the arch over Vic’s entrance door appeared almost miraculously to read ‘The Truth Shall Make You Frye’.

Click on this link to read all of the 24 lectures of Frye’s 1947-48 Bible course. The notes taken by students Margaret Gayfer and Richard Stingle are part of the Robert D. Denham collection in Moncton, NB, the birthplace of Frye.

Margaret Kell Virany, author of A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void

http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany  http://www.margaretvirany.com  http://www.cozybookbasics.wordpress.com

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