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Charlotte Amos Summary Good

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February 6, 2011 Grammar OK

In the article titled “Second Isaiah Lands in Washington, D.C.: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘I have a dream’” as a Biblical Narrative and biblical hermeneutic. Keith Miller examines Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most memorable speech, the “I Have a Dream” speech which was delivered at the March on Washington in Washington D. C. in 1963. This particular speech is taught more often in schools and universities than any other speech. Even though this is an ever popular speech, it has not and is not understood by the students, teachers or the public who reads the words of the speech or hear the play of Dr. King’s eloquent oratory delivery. Keith Miller states that “I Have a Dream” and Dr. King’s other sermons or speeches have never been treated as biblical hermeneutic (interpretation). In preparation for hundreds of sermons, Dr. King was constantly sifting through passages and interpreting the Bible. In many of his speeches, especially those most recognizable, Dr. King was making scripture explicitly clear.

Dr. King’s approach to the Bible was not casual and entailed a tremendous amount of Bible study. In the “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King takes a biblical narrative and applies it to modern times through careful exegesis of the scripture. According to James Cone, among the blacks a separate faith emerged in the U.S. Black Christian’s could not accept that the God of the Exodus, God’s prophet, nor Jesus would condone the injustices perpetuated by their white counterparts. Dr. King took the narrative from the Bible, the Exodus, and applied it to a then current situation in which a people found themselves in oppressive situations through no fault of their own. Albert Raboteau stated: “Exodus functioned as an archetypal myth for the slaves” for whom the “sacred history of God’s liberation of his people would be or was being reenacted in the American South”. African American from the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation continued to relate to the sufferings of the Hebrews. This identification extended into the 1950’s and 1960’s. Oftentimes, Dr. King would insert modern characters into the script of the biblical narrative, particularly the Exodus. Dr. King skillfully pictured African Americans as breaking loose from the grips of Egypt until the Red Sea was crossed in expectation of their wilderness exploration.

Many of those who heard “I Have a Dream” had undoubtedly read the Bible attentively and conscientiously. Those who heard Dr. King’s oration noticed his carefully chosen and deliberately placed quotations. They were very noticeable because they were passages that were familiar and treasured. Dr. King also pointedly called attention to each quotation by strategically inserting them throughout his speech. Dr. King’s use of Amos’ 5:24 was a call for the same Mosaic justice that Amos demanded. Though the use of the words used by Amos, Dr. King calls upon Amos’ display of God’s concern for all people. Dr. King did not just use Amos, but also Isaiah for the scriptural backdrop of his message. His scholarly approach and vivid insight into the scriptures allowed him to use one of Amos few prophecies of hope. While avoiding Amos’ many more declarations of devastation. For the Christian listeners, the recurrence of Second Isaiah’s words in three of the gospel text only highlights and expands their significance. Dr. King’s use of Second Isaiah and Luke illustrates that the Exodus should not be understood literally involving the physical movement of a people from one physical place to another. He views the Exodus as imaginative, not literal.

Dr. King steadfastly held the position that Exodus/Babylonian narratives are not fundamentally tales about the past. He also affirms that the Bible intentionally reflects the past because it is necessary in the fulfillment of its primary goal of present analysis and possible projection of a future. Although fairly unnoticed, Dr. Kings’ biblical hermeneutic/interpretations anticipated and inspired the liberation theologies and liberator biblical hermeneutics that appeared shortly after his death. Many would benefit if the examination of “I Have a Dream” was encouraged as part of the Civil Rights struggle of the 1950’s and 1960’s as part of the African American Experience. Further examination will uncover how Dr. King crushed indifference and challenged the closed minds as he brought back to life the communicative relation among biblical authors.

I am inclined to agree with Keith Miller that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches are treasures to be studied. Through intentional study of his writings with an open mind would cause one to be in awe of his oratorical skill, knowledge of scripture, and the wisdom to apply that wisdom accurately. The use of the Exodus in illustrating the plight of the African American in America is an accurate portrayal and skillfully applied to make the situation vividly clear. In reading or hearing the words of his speech, a person familiar with the Bible would know that Dr. King is not a casual reader of the Bible and his hermeneutical skill is beyond question. Knowing the scriptures and being able to rightly divide the Word are two different things. Dr. King strategically and properly used the Word of God to get his message across and restate his message. Being familiar with Dr. King’s speeches and the passages he used in his messages, I would say that a careful examination of Dr. King’s messages would serve to give insight into the plight of African Americans, and what the Word of God has to say. Careful, intentional, and deliberate examination of “I Have a Dream” will spiritually bless whoever embarks on the journey in the study of Dr. King’s messages.

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