Did you ever have to write an acrostic poem in elementary school? You know, down the left side of the page you write your name and for each letter you write a word or phrase that describes you? I was never very impressed by our so-called poetic creations and I came to view acrostic poems as poetry-for-people-who-can’t-write-poetry.
Later, my opinion of acrostics recovered as I discovered poems where the initial letters didn’t stand out from the others and spelled a code or a series of words, such as in Geoffrey Trease’s Cue for Treason, or Lewis Carroll’s The Looking Glass. And the Bible is full of acrostics, too, though instead of spelling words, they are abecedarian, a list of the letters of the alphabet.
Two facts about the original languages of the Bible are important in appreciating God’s master plan. First, the fact that the New Testament was written in Greek, which had the same cross-cultural importance as English in the first century, meant that though few of the readers or writers spoke Greek as their mother tongue, everyone understood it and thus the gospel stories and the letters could rapidly and easily be disseminated all over the Roman world.
Second, the fact that much of the Old Testament is written in Hebrew, especially the works of poetry and prophecy, mean that readers of translations of these literary styles can still appreciate the beauty of the language. Why? Unlike English or many other languages, the poetic devices of Hebrew do not depend on the sounds of the original language. In English, traditionally, we have depended mostly on metre (how many syllables in a line and the pattern of stressed or unstressed syllables in a foot) and rhyme (same sounds at the end of a line). For example,
For a lot of people, the Bible is either art or truth. For me, it's both, and I hope to persuade readers in both camps to see the other perspective.