Early Christians -- obviously -- did not have a "New Testament" except insofar as it consisted of new beliefs, new oral traditions, and a new liturgy. I read somewhere that under the best of circumstances, even someone like Augustine might have had some of the individual books in codex form, but I don't believe he would had the single book we know of as The Bible, all right there between two covers.
Remember too that each chapter is its own imaginative "book," and that it requires a work of collective meta-imagination to apprehend their inner unity and to bring them all together. Just because the book is a solid material object in space, it doesn't mean you have perceived its interior meta-unity! I mean, who has?
I think this is an important consideration, because the real action doesn't occur "in" scripture, but rather, in the imaginative space of the one who encounters and dwells in it. Unlike routine secular knowledge, it cannot be a one-way vector from book to head. Rather, it is always relational, transactional, intersubjective, alive.
This goes to the next aphorism that metaphorically leaps out at me, "Metaphor supposes a universe in which each object mysteriously contains the others."
I have discussed this idea in a number of posts, and it is indeed one of those things that earthlings simply take for granted, believer and infidel alike. How is it, say, that we can affirm -- accurately, I might add -- that the universe is a tree with its roots aloft, its branches down below?
This is a metaphor, but only because everything contains or refers to everything else; and the latter is true because of a trinitarian Godhead in whom persons are both distinct and yet interior to one another. It is why communication of any kind is possible, including metaphor (and really, virtually all communication is metaphorical, in the sense that one thing must stand for another).
The following aphorism also goes to the present discussion: "Serious books do not instruct, but interrogate." This relates to what was said above about the relationality of the Bible, and also about metaphor. A serious book doesn't literally interrogate us. But it might as well.
Another metaphorical truth: "We only dig the channels for a momentary torrent." It is up to us to clean out the rain gutters and flood channels for the orderly flow of (↓). Similarly, "We call abstract truths the dry channels through which the waters of any rain flow." The abstract truth is empty in order to be filled by experience, as we were discussing a few weeks back.
Note also that the point is not so much to be a lake or reservoir as a river. The flow never stops, so we can never be "filled" in this life. I mean, if self-emptying is good enough for God...
So, if there is no end to the flow, then "One philosophy surpasses others only when it defines more precisely the same insoluble mystery."
Normally we think of "precision" and "mystery" as being at opposite extremes, but in point of fact they are a dialectic -- perhaps the dialectic, to which I have assigned the "ultimate" abstraction of O <--> (¶). I don't see how there can be anything "beyond" this dialectic in this life, short of becoming God, which is not going to happen. But we can perpetually dig those channels and clean those gutters for the Flow.
The above dialectic could be encapsulated: "The soul is the task of man."
And -- if you're not careful -- "Thirst runs out before the water does." So stay thirsty, my friends.
Now, this I like: "Religion is not a set of solutions to known problems but a new dimension of the universe." This is precisely what I believe: you might say that it is to psychology or neurology what biology is to physics. Biology is not just statistically unlikely physics, but rather, an entirely new dimension of existence irreducible to physics, the biosphere. It is at a right angle, so to speak, to everything that came before.
So too is revelation, bearing in mind that I count no less than four Revelations, or dimensions of Revelation, 1) the miracle of creation, 2) the miracle of intelligibility, 3) the miracle of the human subject, and 4) the miracle of the divine murmurandoms known as revelation proper. Each of these can only be understood in reference to the verticality that is woven into the nature of things: reality is always pointing beyond itself in a bidirectional manner, toward its inspiraling goround and its perichoretic deustiny.
And speaking of trees and branches, "Religion is the tremor that the shaking of our roots transmits to our branches." Maybe we can't see the root, but we can certainly tell when the branches are atremble.
Now, assuming our roots are aloft, this makes absolutely perfect nonsense. It's a metaphor, but a realmetaphor -- just as the early fathers saw Jesus as the "true myth," or the primordial myth -- dimly apprehended or pre-viewed by earlier generations -- incarnate.
Because "'Intuition' is the perception of the invisible, just as 'perception' is the intuition of the visible." And "When imagination and perception coincide, the soul is burned."