Should it be mirror-read?
The first question that often arises is whether a book of the Bible should be mirror-read. The answer is always yes. However, it is the process of mirror-reading that will indicate whether mirror-reading a book of the Bible will be of any use. If, during the process, the mirror-reading doesn’t fulfill the criteria listed below, then mirror-reading is of no use in regards to that book of the Bible. I should note however, that I have not yet encountered a book of the Bible where mirror-reading was of no use.
I’ve reviewed the mirror-reading methodologies of John Barclay and Nijay Gupta previously. Of their criteria, I found 3 to be of primary importance: Frequency, Variety and Historical Plausibility. The rest of their criteria I find to be either too subjective or of secondary importance.
I’ve also developed two criteria of my own. Although they could be viewed as having similarities to criteria laid out by Barclay and Gupta, they are unique enough to stand on their own.
Types of Statements
This could be compared to Barclay’s “Types of Utterances”, however, I see “statements” as having a broader reach since I apply mirror-reading to narratives and other genres, not just polemics (although technically, I view every book of the Bible as a polemic to some extent). In addition, my “types” are different than Barclays with different definitions.
Mirror-reading does not demand that every statement be mirrored (there are other categories, see below), but rather, it assumes two premises: 1. The author is responding to an argument and/or actions. 2. We don’t know what those argument and/or actions are. In order to recreate the argument and/or actions, statements may need to be mirrored, echoed, or any of their supporting types.
The list below is subject to change as I am open to discovering additional types.
Mirror: A statement that is the opposite of a Biblical statement.
Biblical Statement: “She is a married woman”
Mirrored Statement: “She is not a married woman”
Echo: A point of common reference such as an Old Testament quote or a point of agreement, usually qualified with an alternative.
Alternative: An alternative explanation that qualifies an echo.
Echo: “She is my sister”
Alternative: “I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.”
Although the Biblical author would agree that Abraham said that Sarah was his sister, he would not agree that it is true and gives an alternative to explain why Abraham said that.
Denial: Something that wouldn't have happened or been said if a mirrored statement were true.
Mirrored Statement: “Abraham did not love Isaac”
Denial: “and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.”
If Abraham didn’t love Isaac then he wouldn’t have thrown a great feast.
Affirmation: Something that happened or was said because an echoed statement is true. Usually qualified with an alternative.
This is mostly theoretical of right now as I don't have any good examples.
Ghost: When a supporting statement (e.g. Alternative, Denial or Affirmation) doesn't have a corresponding mirror or echo, it's implied and called a ghost. Considered not as certain as a direct mirror or echo.
Ghost Statement: Abimelech had seized Abraham's well
Alternative: well of water that Abimelech’s servants had seized,
The Biblical narrative shows that it was Abimelech’s servants that seized the well and that Abimelech knew nothing about it.
Mirrored Action: An action that is the opposite of an action prescribed in the Biblical narrative.
Biblical Description: “now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my offspring or with my posterity, but as I have dealt loyally with you, you will deal with me and with the land where you have resided as an alien. And Abraham said, “I swear it.””
Mirrored Action: “Abraham's posterity were dealing with Abimelech's posterity falsely and not treating them loyally.”
Parallel: A parallel situation that is referenced in order to counter a mirrored statement or action.
now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my offspring or with my posterity, but as I have dealt loyally with you, you will deal with me and with the land where you have resided as an alien. And Abraham said, “I swear it.”
The logic here being, the Israelites should treat aliens (Abimelech’s descendants) well because Abraham was once an alien (in the land of Abimelech)
Although this criteria could be compared to Gupta’s “coherence” criteria, the emphasis here is on causality specifically.
A mirrored or echoed statement could be a cause or effect and if a mirrored/echoed statement forms a cause or effect relationship with another mirrored/echoed statement, then they validate each other. Causal inference to find the cause. Logical deduction to find the effects.
If a mirrored/echoed statement is the cause of multiple effects expressed in statements, then the probability of that mirrored/echoed statement being true increases.
If a mirrored/echoed statement is the effect of multiple causes expressed in statements, then the probability that the mirrored/echoed statement being true increases.
In order to causally connect two mirrored/echoed statements, a mirrored/echoed may be inferred but with less certainty. A mirrored/echoed statement may be inferred at the beginning or end of a causal chain with even less certainty. The further away from a mirrored/echoed statement that an inference is made, the less certain it is.
The larger the causal chain, the greater probability that the mirrored/echoed statements within it are true.
You can view this methodology applied to the Abraham Cycle.